Friday, July 3, 2015

Sit DOWN: The Early Bird Gets The Worm

For the past several days, I have been observing the little slice of nature that sits outside my kitchen door. My favorite swinging bench is tucked into a corner near the vegetable garden, and if I sit in just the right spot the sun hits my back as it begins to peek over the trees to my east at sunrise. This week I have been watching an overly attentive Robin dad doing his dad thing. I do not know whether Junior left the nest early and caused the concern, or whether this is just a natural part of the maturation process for the suburban American Robin, but it has been a delight to witness his parenting prowess.

Junior is not all that adept at the whole flying thing just yet. The highest I have seen him go is the top of the chicken coop. The first day I noticed Dad, he sat high in the trees and gave a few tut, tut, tuts until Junior let out a little chirp in response. Dad dutifully dove to the ground on the other side of my fence and came back with a nice worm. By the second day, Junior was less obedient and less prompt with his response. He hopped around on the ground near me for a while (Dad's tuts becoming increasingly loud) until he made his way to the raspberry patch. At this point, I can tell that Dad is still leery of my presence and proximity to Junior, so he stays high in the branches. Like an impish toddler, hiding under the bathroom sink, ignoring his father's entreat, "Come out, come out, wherever you are." Junior kept silent. Dad's incessant tut, tut, tut, became a more shrill and obviously annoyed yeep, yeep, yeep. I believe this translates to the ubiquitous but somewhat ironic paternal admonition, "Get out here now, or I will give you a reason to hide!"

Eventually, Junior conceded and let out one small chirp. Probably more relieved than angry, Dad again, left the safety of the tree, ducked behind the fence and came back with a nice earthworm, tugged from the ground at risk of his own life and limb.

Today, Dad is again in the trees, but obviously more comfortable with my presence as he is now pulling the worms from my garden, nearly at my feet and venturing to the lower branches. He spent most of the morning fending off a giant squirrel. And I do mean giant...that thing is as big as a cat! So far so good. I have held still in my spot every morning for several days. I guess I am blending in now, becoming part of the scene. I like that.

Quote of the Day: "Be still and know that I am God." Psalms 46:10

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

GrowingUP: A Rose is a Rose

What's in a name?

A question I have often pondered actually. I have a bit of a fascination with names. Where they come from. Why they rise and fall in popularity. How people choose names for their children. Why they choose names for their children when they know full well they will call them something else. I am not talking about nicknames. I mean naming a kid John Jacob knowing full well you will call him Jacob. Stuff like that.

I grew up with a nickname that has stuck with me for 45 years now. I don't mind. I have grown accustomed to it. It is Leli. As in jelly.  My given name is Leslie. I could not pronunce the 'S' when I was little and Leli stuck. Yes, I know it looks like Lee-Lie. I felt like using the spelling Lelly was not true to my name unless it had been spelled Leslly. I also felt like Lelie just looked like I forgot the 'S'. Also, I recently saw a store clerk whose name was Anjelyka. Go ahead, sound it out. I'll wait. Leli is looking pretty good huh?

Leslie was a long time family name, mostly male ancestors of course, but it is also my mother's middle name, so it was carefully chosen for me. My middle name? Not so much. My folks passed a liquor store on the way to the hospital. Cameron Liquor apparently. I am glad they went with just Cameron.

I searched a baby name book once when I was a kid to find the meaning of my given monikers. Leslie means "Dweller of the grey fortress." Adorable, right? Cameron references "a man with a crooked nose." Equally as lovely. I shall not mention Little Sister's given names but they mean "Epitome of femininity" and "Womanly." Have I mentioned I am saving for therapy?

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

This implies that the name of something does not really affect who or what they are. I don't know. Can our names affect our personalities? Maybe. What do you think? I really want to know. For real.

Quote of the Day: “I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” --Anne Shirley 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


"So, what do you do?" (Do? Golly. I DO a lot of things!)

"I am a mom and a yoga instructor and a writer."

"A writer? Really? What have you written?"

See, now that is the dreaded question. It says to the writer, "Unless I have heard of your writing, you are not a writer." Well screw you. I am a writer if I want to be one. I write stuff, therefore, I am a writer. No one questions your validity as a talker if you say, "I am a talker." Clearly you are made a talker simply by the act of talking. Why do we feel that we have to have validation of our work to be a writer? Because it is a profession. But that is different. "I am a professional writer" implies something different. That feels like, "I am a doctor." or "I am a lawyer." It feels like we have to have training or some sort of proof of our claim. But that is ridiculous. No one will be hurt by the amateur practice of authoring. It differs from medicine in that respect.

So,  make the declaration. I am a writer. Just BE one and then go on being one even if you have not put pen to paper in days or weeks. Have the mind and heart of a writer. Have the senses of a writer. Observe, daydream, live, try new things, eat new foods, go new places. These are writer things. Read. Read. Read. This is a writer thing. When a doctor is out of the operating room or a minister away from the pulpit he does not cease to be what he is. You are a writer without pen in hand. Writing is sometimes something you do, but it is always something you are. Be it. Be it unashamedly. Declare it today. I am a writer, and let yourself totally be a writer from now on.

Quote of the Day: "I am a writer."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Growing UP: Hell's Angels and Slurpees. (yes, you read that right)

I have mentioned several times, that the intention of this blog is to get down a few old family stories before everyone has on to greener pastures, or no longer able to remember the stories with any amount of accuracy. Now, keep in mind that my family has natural tendencies toward hyperbole as it is, old age and memory loss can only intensify this proclivity. I assure you, however, that the story I am about to relate is told with complete veracity. I am of course, the only one in my entire family without that tendency toward hyperbole.

Northern California in the 1970's was a magical place for me and my siblings and cousins. We spent many years living all together in our little neighborhood. Our family business was construction, and so there were always any number of homes under construction in the hood. We spent a lot of time on the home sites. We would roller-skate on the newly poured slabs the minute they were dry. Oh how smooth they were compared to the sidewalks! We collected the discarded nails that were still straight into little piles, cleared wood and trash from the job sites and helped keep the crew well hydrated. This is where this story begins...

The crew. 

Now of course, guys came and went, but there were some who were always on the job. Buffalo, Bitter, Coyote and Carl to name a few. All their real names, except Carl. All hard workers and fond of the seven of us Cowperthwaite kids. (That is the family name, yes. No, I am not kidding. Really. Thirteen. Sound it out.) We called ourselves the 7C's. During the summers, we were not really allowed to be indoors, so we spent a great deal of our time hounding entertaining the crew. They were good-natured and appeased us with conversation when they had time. I should mention here, that all of these good-natured framers, roofers and concrete guys were full-fledged members of the Hell's Angels. A little rough around the edges is putting it as nicely as I can. No one would want to meet any of them in the proverbial dark alley. But they were good to us. When the Friday afternoon whistle finally blew, all of us kids would climb, barefooted and fairly filthy from the day of playing in the dirt,  into the back of one of the pickup trucks and Carl and the gang would drive us to 7-Eleven for refreshments. Slurpees for the kids...alternative hydration for the adults. The sight of five, six or seven windblown, sunburnt, blue-lipped kids with smiles as wide as their faces was likely something to behold. The joy we felt from freedom mixed with blue icy refreshment was matched only by the horror felt by our school chums' moms who had happened to witness the outing. Their horror did not go unexpressed. At least one of our moms would be on the phone with an outraged concerned neighbor every time we arrived back home, Slurpees in hand, lips still blue and smiles still wide.

Quote of the Day: "Stupid is as stupid does." --Mrs. Gump

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Get It DOWN: The Artful Practice of Avoidance

I have been somewhat willfully practicing the art of avoidance. I have it nearly down to a science but the flair and showmanship with which I practice, keeps it in the realm of art, I believe. I have been avoiding writing. You see, my editor voice is powerful, so powerful that it eclipses my creative know, the one that actually puts pen to paper and well, writes stuff. The editor is constantly talking, "That stinks. Who told you to write? Your grammar is atrocious and you have quite a limited vocabulary. No one wants to read this have nothing to say." She is a little obnoxious but I have grown so accustomed to her nearly constant bullying that we are now BFF's. Of course, nothing gets done when she is around, but whatever. Except, Little Brother is also a rather strong voice in my head, and also my phone. He is constantly sending me texts and quotes reminding me to just do it. In an attempt to actually finish something...anything, I decided to write the world's shortest short story, just to have a beginning, middle and end. I am the queen of starting stuff that I never finish. In my defense, Little Sister and Little Brother are the prince and princess of this kingdom. We will get group therapy as soon as we can afford it.

Daily Standoff

Sally Buckley was nobody’s mother. She was nobody’s wife either. She had been once, but that was over. She was nobody’s anything. Sally Buckley simply was. And today, as usual, she was walking up Highland Street. She walked up Highland Street because down Highland Street was a dead end.

“Good marnin’ Ms. Buckley.”
“And to you, Alfred.”
“Shall I be gettin’ yer usual, Ma’am?”
“Aye. And I’ll be needin’ a roll of Polos as well.”
“Here you are, Ms. Buckley.”
“Obliged, Sir.”

She tucked the Daily Inquisitor under her arm and the mints into her brassiere.

Rube, he thought.
Dullard, she thought

Each smiled at the other. With that, Sally Buckley walked away from Alfred Buckley’s newsstand and down Highland Street. She walked down Highland Street because her flat was one block shy of the dead end.

Quote of the Day: "When it is your time to write, write." Natalie Goldberg writer

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing UP: The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of

I am really not sure I can do this story justice. I do not think that I have the vocabulary or skill necessary to relate the sheer terror and absolute horror that my cousins, siblings and I experienced the summer of 1979. We were living in that quaint northern California town in our little family commune as I have previously described. We were free and happy. Life was idyllic in nearly every way that our young bodies and minds cared about. We played in the dirt, ran and skated in the streets with reckless abandon day after day. That is, until they came.

Crickets. Lots of them. So many that even extreme use of forced hyperbole will not make you see the extent to which we suffered. They loved dusk. It was their time. You need to understand something. To outsiders, California seems like a lovely place where the weather is a perfect 80 degrees all the time and everyone spends their time at the beach. Ok, let's get one thing straight. That is SoCal. The valley of NoCal is hot. Blisteringly, menacingly, uncomfortably hot. So, we children were often forced indoors during the worst part of the heat and let out again at dusk when it started to cool down to a nice manageable 95. But, they loved dusk too. As far as we could see, nothing but crickets. The sidewalks and driveways were relatively cool compared to the asphalt, so they congregated there like some evil assembly of devoted worshipers waiting for their master to arrive. Waiting for their master. Waiting for the children.

I can still hear the crunch of cricket bodies, large and small, give way under the weight of even the tiniest feet. We were not accustomed to shoes. I do not remember if we even owned any. Usually shoes were outgrown by the end of the school year and our folks just waited until fall to buy new ones. Crunch, crunch, crack. Those that did not immediately meet their demise jumped frantically in what I am sure was an attempt at attack in retaliation of their fallen. Smack, smack, sting. We could feel their tiny sharp bodies hitting our bare legs, some clinging to our clothes and skin in an endeavor to avoid the onslaught of children running for safer ground. Little Brother, the youngest and smallest of our gang, often received the worst of the pelting as the creatures jumped high enough to pepper his bare belly, chest and back. Sometimes one of the older kids would go back in a valiant attempt at heroism and carry the little man to safety. It was by sheer grit that we made it through that summer alive. We were Cowperthwaites and we were determined. Not even an invasion of the most menacing kind could keep us from a good pile of dirt.

Of course, if any of them read this, I am very sure they will not be sleeping tonight!

Quote of the Day: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. And also crickets." --Me

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

UPdog: Keep Calm and Follow Through

In an attempt to follow through with yesterday's post, I have made a step forward. A tiny step, but a step. I am hoping to challenge myself a little bit with a new project. It is nothing fancy...kinda like me, but I hope that it will keep that evolution going and that it will keep my creative juices flowing. I am an expert daydreamer but not much of a followthrough-er. Hopefully, this will help me overcoming a few shortcomings in that department.

Anyway, if you have any interest in learning more about yoga, find my new endeavor here on Facebook.

Quote of the Day: "I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering."
--Steven Wright comedian

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

UP UP and Away: The Theory of Evolution
I have been thinking lately about evolution. No, not that evolution, although only my hair dresser knows how dangerously close I am coming to having but a single eyebrow. No, the evolution of me as a person, as a Christian, as a yogi, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer etc. All the things that make me, me. And you, you. I do not think that my ideas about important things have really changed much, but in some ways, as I learn more about stuff, my ideas have evolved. Certain ideas have broadened and expanded while others have come into sharper focus.

I love learning. Sometimes to my detriment because I often jump from subject to subject and I find myself in middle age, the pupil of numerous subjects, but an expert of none. But maybe that is ok. Maybe it is ok to be the student. Perhaps it is a great thing to keep evolving and learning. Gosh, how boring would it be if we didn't continually grow and change and become. If we didn't take a few chances now and then, learn something new, try something different! The world is our classroom and all that jazz. Just a thought.

Quote of the Day: "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
--Pablo Picasso

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Growing UP and Other Shenanigans

In an attempt to get down a few family stories (which was the original intention of this blog in the first place) I asked my siblings and cousins for a few memories to share. One actually came as a surprise to me today. Well, the memory did not come as a surprise, the fact that none of the grown-ups knew about it was the surprise. Surprise!

I need to preface this narrative with a little back story...
NatureGirl--4th grade

I spent quite a few of my very most formative childhood years living in a little bit of a commune. Not a commune in the strictest sense of the word perhaps, but quite communal nonetheless. We had a family business in construction and in that work, we built a subdivision and all lived in that neighborhood together. We had our house, next door was my aunt and uncle and two cousins. The next house was Mr. Toy, the mailman. Next door to that was my other aunt and uncle and two more cousins, and across the street was my grandfather, Papa. We lived like this for quite a few years rather happily, likely because, as I mentioned in the last post, we had very little supervision.

To get a sense of the fact that it was less like 4 families living near each other, and more like one rather large family, the cousins were at one point, ages 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 & 5. (Truth be told, I wish my mother had tricked my dad into having my brother a little sooner, so that there was no dangler, but nothing is perfect.) The family joke is that when the street lights came on and it was time to go in for the night that the moms would just open the door and yell out the number of kids that belonged in that house. When they had the right number, they shut the door. It did not really matter which kids they had as long as it matched the number chairs at the dinner table.

The memory that all 7 of us cousins share, but that the grown-ups were oblivious to, is the nudist. Yes, nudist. As in naked guy. Naked Guy lived one street over from where our homes were and we had to pass his house on the walk home from school. No one ever sold Girl Scout cookies or went trick-or-treating there. Not more than once anyway.  He did a lot of stuff naked. Worked on his car, luckily in the garage. He mowed the lawn au natural, thankfully he had a four foot privacy fence around the front of his yard. It was certain though, that every kid walking by would attempt a peek through the slats in the fence by means of a carefully honed sideways glance, mindful of the need to appear completely uninterested! 

For the most part he really did keep to himself and we saw very little of his birthday suit, with one exception. He had the tendency to talk on the phone standing in front of his floor to ceiling second-story window. Now, I do not want to jump to any kind of conclusions, but he seemed to talk on the phone a lot. So, now you know what we were exposed to as Californian children of the 70's. The surprise part of this story is that apparently, as I just learned, the grown-ups had no idea! Hilarious, or extremely creepy. Either way, memorable.

Quote of the Day: "If you never jumped from one couch to the other to save yourself from the lava, you did not have a childhood."--Unknown

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Bike DOWN Memory Lane

I really should have put this thought to paper when it actually happened, but I did not and so I am saying to myself, "Better late than never, right?" I have been plagued as of late (40 years or so) by what could be called a wee bit of self doubt, but is actually a huge, enormous elephant sized helping of such. And because of this doubt, I stopped writing in public. Little Brother's rather stern lecture today has all but forced me back in the game.

There is something about smell that has the ability to transport us instantly to another time and place. It is usually, for me, a nostalgic conveyance back to a specific and often intense memory. While out on a bike ride this summer, I was stopped mid pedal-stroke by a smell that brought vivid memories to mind and made me almost laugh aloud. I stopped on the side of the trail and backtracked until I found the small clump of yellow flowers that had sparked the memory.

When I was a kid, we lived in a subdivision that still had several undeveloped acres surrounding the new homes. Those plats were overgrown as far as the eye could see with what we called mustard flowers. The plants were over my head, and it was the most amazing playground a kid could have asked for. My siblings, cousins and I spent countless hours making forts in those weeds. We would stamp down the plants flat to create different rooms in our weed mansion. A living room and kitchen. Bedrooms, playrooms and even a bathroom, which I hate to admit we used, but we did. Don't judge, it was the 70's and we had very little supervision. The smell of the mustard flowers was intense and by the time we were done flattening the stems to the ground, romping through the rooms we had created and sleeping atop beds of flowers, we were sticky with the scent. Catching that scent in the air that day on my bike, brought me back in an instant to those fields.

I should have put this thought to paper the moment it happened, for in that brief moment, by the side of the road, the memory was as thick as that smell had been then. I was 9 years old again, and all was right with the world.

Quote of the Day: "If you carry your childhood with you, you never become older."
--Tom Stoppard playwright