Monthly Archives: May 2015

Patina

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Worn-in versus worn-out…

A friend and music colleague celebrated birthday number 51 earlier this year, which is the same birthday I am about to observe.  On social media, he posted that someone had told him that, at age 51, he was “officially on the downward slope of life”.  Odds are, this is true, if one does the math and considers the law of averages.  Still, while I know neither the context of the statement nor the person who made it, its tone sort of…crawled all over me!

Thoughts are like birds.  Some of them fly overhead quickly and are gone.  Some land on a person’s shoulder and stay a while.  This thought about the downward slope landed on my head, brought in twigs and mud, and nested.  

Our society is overly focused on beauty and youth, and usually the two are tied together.  We don’t hear much about the beauty that comes with time, wisdom and, yes, age.  I think we are cheating ourselves and the generation behind us when we tell ourselves and them that we lose beauty as we gain years.

All of this got me thinking about the many things in our lives that get better with age.  My favorite jeans, sweaters and t-shirts are the ones that have been worn-in over years, sometimes decades.  They are more comfortable, softer.  When I lost all my weight and I was replacing my wardrobe, I made many eBay purchases, and I purposely looked for jeans that had been “pre-loved”.

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I tend to gravitate toward things that show their marks.  Again, after my weight loss, I bought some new cowboy boots, but I bought a pair with a “distressed” look to the leather.  I wanted them to look a little beaten-up from the start, and I am enjoying the process of leaving more marks on them.  I think cowboy boots look better the more worn-in they are…but maybe that’s just me.

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I have always been a finger-tapper.  It’s just a nervous habit, I guess, but I find myself tapping my rings on my work surfaces.  As a result, my rings get little dings in them.  When I was a new bride, the first time I “ding’ed” my wedding band broke my heart, and I felt like I’d ruined it.  I realize now, though, that all those marks just tell its story.  Gold frequently worn develops a mellow glow that new gold cannot replicate.  I love and value every single scratch on my wedding ring, and on Mama’s chunky gold band, which bears both the marks of her decades of wear, and now the ones I have made on it.

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Part of the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “patina” is as follows:

“The surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”.

I love that.

Last week I had the blessing of enjoying some time with a couple of different longtime girlfriends who are also around my age.  As I sat with each of them, I appreciated the  various paths down which we have traveled.  Each journey is unique, leaving its marks behind, and we have all experienced both much joy and great heartache.  And I appreciated the radiant softness in their faces, a kind of beauty that can only be built by years and experiences.  Younger faces, younger hearts, lack the depth that only time can provide.

In a couple of days, I will no longer be simply 50.  I will be IN MY 50’s.  I look in the mirror sometimes and it scares me to death!  My lines and spots bug me, and it seems like I see new ones every day.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve never been “beautiful” in any conventional way, so losing my beauty is not my concern.  Sure, I want to look as good as I can for as long as I can.  But feeling healthy and strong, showing compassion, being open and tender with the people I love, singing with joy and gratitude to the God Who gave me my voice…those things are way more important.  And the ability to do those things has come with time and experience.  They are part of my unique patina.

More years of my life are indeed behind me than ahead of me.  That’s fine.  The fabric of my life is still being sewn, stitched into my body, my face…my heart.  Like that ancient flannel blanket my Mamaw made, I pray my life will be remembered by those close to me, and that its patina leaves a soft warmth that envelops everyone I have loved.

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Well Seasoned

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Some things improve over time…

I remember once

as a young bride

trying to fry up some potatoes

like Mama used to do.

I was using a brand-new

shiny skillet.

Mercy, that skillet was beautiful,

but my potatoes

stuck to the pan and

smoked up the whole kitchen.

My shiny new skillet

was not

well seasoned.

Now, nearly 30 years later,

I have some of Mama’s old skillets.

I think they were Granny’s first.

Any good cook knows

what a priceless treasure

a hand-me-down skillet is.

My favorite one

bears the scars of age and heat,

scraped mercilessly

as forks scrambled eggs

and that old metal spatula

flipped slices of bacon.

It’s the best skilllet in the whole kitchen.

It hasn’t been shiny in decades,

but it lends a

depth of flavor

to whatever is cooked in it.

Raw ingredients go in and get

transformed into

well seasoned food

for belly and soul.

No matter how hot the skillet gets,

nothng will stick to it anymore.

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Dear Me

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Advice to my younger self…

Dear Me,

You are about to turn 51 years old, which used to sound ancient but now seems merely middle-aged.  And over the decades you have managed to learn a few things that would have been really helpful had you known them earlier.  So here is a list of Do’s and Don’t’s from Present-Day Me to Younger Me.

Do take the nap.  Anytime the grown-ups encourage (i.e. try to force!) you to do so, TAKE THE NAP!  Someday you’ll be exhausted and wishing for the chance to nap and you won’t have the time to do it.

Do ask for piano lessons, as early as possible.  You will choose to study music in college and having some piano training will help you more than you can possibly imagine.  And keep asking until your parents let you do it.  Don’t take no for an answer.

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Do kiss that boy at the party.  He really likes you.  A lot.

The other boy at the other party…don’t kiss him.  And don’t give either of them your phone number!

When you find those perfect black pumps, the comfortable ones that make your legs look great and take you through countless performances, all four choir tours and both your recitals in college—do buy a second pair.  It’ll be more than worth the money and you’ll be glad to have a backup pair when the originals eventually wear out.  (I still miss those shoes.)

The same goes for any other “perfect thing” you find and love—your favorite pantyhose (especially in the most flattering shades of black and nude), good tweezers, the slumber mask that fits just right and provides comfort when you have a headache.  Do buy extras.

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Do get your bras custom fitted.  It’s not about vanity, it’s about your health.  Your neck, back and shoulders will thank you.  And follow the Lingerie Lady’s advice: always have at least 3 properly-fitting bras, 1 to wash, 1 to wear and 1 to spare.

Don’t wear a white slip under a black dress.  The last thing you want is for your underwear to glow in the dark.  And don’t skip the slip.  Mama was right about the need for one.

Do take care of your skin, remembering that your face extends down to your chest.  Your neck is especially vulnerable, and so are your hands.  Learn to be satisfied with the pale complexion God gave you.  Trying to get a tan is pointless for you, and you will regret it later when sun damage starts to show up.  Pray that spots and wrinkles are all you have to worry about!

People you love are going to get sick and die.  Your Dad, in his misplaced desire to protect you and keep things “normal” for you as long as possible, is going to tell you things that go against what your gut is tellling you.  Don’t listen to him.  He is WRONG.  (You will learn that he has been wrong about a lot of stuff.)  Follow your intuition.  Go and see Uncle J.B. in Texas while you can, even though your leg is in a cast.  Take time off from work sooner and spend more time with Mama before she goes back into the hospital.  And when she is gone, spend more time dealing with your own grief and less time worrying about Dad’s.  He will be just fine.

After Mama dies, you won’t feel like singing for a while.  That’s OK.  But don’t let it go for too long.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your dreams are foolish.  You can decide later on which ones are worth following and which ones are not.  But it’s your decision to make, not theirs.

Do have a plan…but be open to surprise.

Do start reading the Bible daily.  God will use this discipline to change your life.  It will become as vital as food, water and oxygen…and just as nourishing.

Always remember that God loves you.  There is nothing, NOTHING, He can’t forgive.  No tragedy, no crisis, no failure, is beyond redemption.

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Dear Lola

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Just In The Neighborhood…

I drove by your house the other day

I was just in the neighborhood

Had some time between errands

and thought about you

My car seemed to know the way

by itself

having gone to check the place

so often after you died

I was curious to see if

the new owners were changing things

A car sat in the driveway

and a wreath of yellow daisies

hung on the front door

limage

Not your style at all

but still

signs of new life

in your old house

and I thought

This is good

Someone is making

a fresh start here

Meanwhile

I snuggle under your blanket on my couch

I see my candle glowing inside

one of your wine glasses

and your drums and basket

nestle on my bookcase

And I too

try to

make a fresh start

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