Tag Archives: writing

Touchstone [tuhch-stohn] – Noun

  1.  A test or criterion for the qualities of a thing.
  2.   A black siliceous stone formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the color of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal.

(Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged, Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.)


My mother died a year and a half ago and this weekend my sister and I thought it was time to go through the personal items that my sister had boxed up from her dresser when she died.  My sister brought the box in from the garage and gave it to me to open. The very first item I pulled out of the box was a simple, tiny, plastic stamp dispenser.  Like myself my mother was an avid writer but her writing took the form of letters.  Living over 2,000 miles away from her most of my adult life I’d gotten hundreds of letters from Mom.  Her letters were always engaging, entertaining and filled with humorous stories and vivid descriptions.

She probably wrote a letter to each person in her address book once a month.  So for years she had bought stamps in rolls of a hundred and used her stamp dispenser daily.  That stamp dispenser was such a tiny thing, yet such an enormous part of who my mother was that simply touching it brought tears to my eyes immediately.

I began crying, my sister began crying, and my sister’s little two year old granddaughter began slapping her grandmother on the leg because she thought Grandma had made Aunt McKenzie cry.  It was quite a scene which ended with us laughing at the baby girl and explaining to her that we were crying about our Mommy and that Grandma hadn’t hurt Aunt McKenzie.  We then put the box away to try again another time.

My mother was my touchstone.  She was my mirror to my place in the world. Being Lois’ youngest daughter — the attractive, successful happily married one who lived on the East Coast — was an enormous part of my identity.  She not only took pride in who I had become but reminded me always of where I came from.  With my mother’s passing I felt not only her loss, but without my tether to the past and my touchstone to reflect the purity of my beliefs, I lost a bit of my identity for a while as well.

Mom was a strong and independent woman who rarely asked anyone for help.  She survived a fractured skull in her twenties when she was hit by a car while on her bike.  Until the day she died she had slight hearing loss in one ear and dizziness when she turned her head to a certain angle from that accident.  She survived the loss of an infant child, WWII, the great depression, poverty, the loss of a spouse, raising six children alone, the death of her youngest child before his fortieth birthday, a dog attack, and at eighty was hit by a truck while out walking.  The doctors and physical therapists told us that no one else her age and in her condition would have walked again.  It was her sheer stubbornness that brought on her recovery and ability to walk again six months later.  She did all of these things, and others too numerous to mention, and carried on with a joy that brought tears to your eyes.

The one strong belief that my mother had that she passed on to me was that every day is a fresh start and a chance for renewed hope.  No matter how bad things get I realize that the very next morning I could wake up to a day that brings me infinite joy.  So it was with this belief that I put one foot in front of the other each day after my Mom’s death until the pain subsided and I was able to tether myself to my place in the world again.

I hope that one day very soon my sister and I can attempt to sort through Mom’s personal belongings once again.  Next time we’ll better prepare ourselves for the bittersweet memories we’re sure to experience and perhaps, without a toddler there, we’ll allow ourselves as many tears as we need to get through it and finish the job.

Reprinted below is the speech that I wrote for my mother’s 80th birthday celebration and gave again at her funeral.

My Mom was born on November 10th and shared her birthday with the United States Marine Corps.  These two events may seem to be unrelated to some, but not to those of us who know both the Marine Corps and Mom well.  Let me enumerate just a few of the characteristics they have in common.

 Courage – Whether attacked by the poverty of her early youth, distance between loved ones, government red tape, or the common hardships of everyday life, Mom always faced her enemies with courage and taught her children to do the same.

 Loyalty – Lord knows, each of us children tested the limits of our Mother’s loyalty and love and found it remained limitless and unwavering.

Honor – Mom’s honesty and integrity were beyond questions.  In fact, I’m sure there are those of us who wished at times that she had been a little less “honest’ since she tended to  “call ‘em as she saw ‘em”.  Her straight forward approach and homegrown advice usually hit the mark.

 Endurance – No matter how many times circumstances conspired to knock her down, she pulled herself up and never lost hope that things would get better.  In fact, it was because of her singular determination that many things in our lives WERE changed for the better.  Even getting hit by a truck couldn’t keep that woman down.  After her recovery, she continued to volunteer at St. Alice Parish and McKenzie Willamette Nursing Home.

 Strength – You can’t tell me that raising the flag at Iwo Jima was more difficult than raising six children to maturity (especially these particular children!).  As far as we’re concerned Mom deserves a monument in her honor as well.

 Through her 88 years she maintained a nobility of character that made us proud to call her Mom.  We’re proud today to celebrate her life.  She was a great mother, a great grandmother (in both senses of the term) and a friend to many.


Childhood Dreams

When I was six we moved to the small town that I grew up in, and I began first grade at the local elementary school. My dad was starting at the local college as a professor (or in my world, as a professional paperclip chain maker) and we lived in a large rambling house about four blocks from campus, and about eight blocks from my elementary school. Our landlord was this cantankerous old man who told amazing stories, so I never left the poor man alone. He’d been a WWII vet and looked older than my grandpa, which in my world meant he had lived forever. He couldn’t have been that old since he’s in his 90’s now and still kicking, but at six years of age he seemed to me to be the oldest and wisest person I knew. He moved slow and his skin cut in and out like tree bark as he wove stories about planes, enemies, and most importantly: Ninjas. He was the one who started my fascination with ninjas (looking back I realized he had completely made this story up because he was old and it was amusing), and from the ages of 6 to about 8 my main ambition in life was to become a ninja. Even when I was little, I was insanely curious about everything so when I started to get interested in things I would drag my mother to the library and look up every known fact about whatever it was that I was thinking about for that nanosecond. I dressed up like a ninja for Halloween for about three years in a row, my father was ecstatic and encouraged this growth by also incorporating adventure stories, Indiana Jones obsessions, and karate movies.

Then, in May, my grandmother came to visit. The house being so close to the school, I usually walked with my sister and the three friends that lived around the block from me, but they all had after school activities and normally my mom was the one who picked me up. It was about a week after my grandma had come into town, my dad was gone on a business trip, and it was actually starting to be sunny outside. School had just gotten out and I was so excited to get home because a) I had passed the highest reading level my teacher had which meant I could start reading my own books instead of those little one sentence books she made me read, and mainly because b) now I got to be a ninja. My teacher had said I could not pretend to karate kick the boys at school because my version of pretend was to have them pretend it didn’t hurt, and that wasn’t allowed. I ran around the outside of the school to get to the front because the door to the outside was closer, and I’d already gotten in trouble way too many times for running in the hallways (and about six bloody noses from falling down, the custodian and the nurse were well acquainted with me). I got to the front of the school where normally my mother was waiting for me, only today she wasn’t there. I sat down on the bench to wait, and after what I felt was an appropriate amount of grace period for her to show up with my grandma (read: 15 seconds) I got back up and decided that since I was definitely entering the superior ninja level, I could make it home just fine on my own and started walking. The crossing guard was the custodian who knew exactly who I was and high fived me for making it through the day with minimal injuries, and after I got past that busy street I began to meander my way to the house. I did somersaults, hid behind trees, and narrated how I was fighting off attacking forces the entire walk back. I bounded up our porch, and slammed my face into the door that was supposed to open and be unlocked and wasn’t, my face ricocheted off the door with a loud thud and I could feel my cheek protesting at what was sure to be yet another bruise. The door was not supposed to be locked, and the knob should have turned. This was odd, my mom hadn’t been at school, which meant she had to be at home. I ran to the back of the house to try the other door, thinking maybe she was in the backyard or doing laundry or in the kitchen with my grandma. Nothing. I knocked on all the windows and rang my doorbell eight trillion times, and no one answered. Starting to panic slightly, I decided that she had probably just shown up at the school and so I bolted back towards the school. When I got there, the crossing guard was gone and the place looked empty. I had taken a lot longer than intended ninja-ing my way home. I ran back and forth between the school and my house desperately looking for my mom, even ran to the university to see if I could find someone in my dad’s building who would let me call home, and didn’t find anyone. By this time, it had been about an two and a half hours, I was exhausted from running all over the place and terrified that I would never find my mom again and that I would have to fend for myself, even beginning to doubt my kung-fu bad ass levels when it came to actually making food and sleeping without my teddy bear and my dad in the next room in case I got nightmares. Walking down the street I started bawling, each breath getting more and more hysterical and my face red and sweaty from running, starting to bruise from face planting into a heavy oak door, and now soaked in the psychotic tears of a six year old. Then all of a sudden, I heard my name and looked up to see my mom in an equally hysterical state running towards me, and I have never felt such extreme relief. She just picked me up and carried this sobbing, crazed looking, non-ninja little girl back to the car. I didn’t stop crying for about an hour, not so much because I was so scared about being lost, but because when push had come to shove, I most certainly had not proven to be ninja material and was completely devastated. When my mother finally calmed me down enough to explain to her why exactly her baby girl had been missing for almost three hours, and where I had been, the devastating words slowly sputtered out:

“Mo-mo-mommy! I can’t-can’t-can’t be a ninja!”

Letters to Asher (A Series)


His name should not be capitalized. Not out of lack of respect, admiration, or love. Capitalizing a noun gives the assumption that it is tied to something concrete, or understood. He is none of these things.

Heaven has either decided to curse me or the fates have an extraordinarily cruel sense of humor. I have dreamt of him, tasted him for years, reached between my legs to feel that prohibitive moisture rise forward at the sensation of him being near me and yet, he lies next to me in this white bed and my hands seem to tremble in fear of their own desire. I attempt, over and over again, to explain to him how I feel. As if this simple naive art will be enough to enthrall and overwhelm him just for some measure of time. He’s never shown any form of terror to me, yet he has so much of mine. Those cold, breatheless nights when I wake up feeling that my life has ended, I am resentful of the fact that his hand calms me down.

If I were to leave him (or more likely, him me) would I have shaped him? Carved any small piece of him in a new way? I’m afraid of walking somewhere and not leaving any discernible trace, even though I may have lost my soul among those footsteps.

It was Borges, in his interminably frustrating wisdom that said “To fall in love is to create a religion with a fallible God”. I am raising my legs as temples to him and rewriting every book I own so they will sing his praises, and just like every other God ever imagined, he is above the clamor and the rude interruptions to his existence. But I would rather dedicate my life to the blinding slavery of faith to him than to exist as a cynic without him.


The Welcome Post

We are two women living in Weird Town, U.S.A. combatting the daily struggle of existence through friendship, laughter, wine, and the all important art of writing. Join us as we discuss anything and everything under the sun in an attempt to understand the world around us and strengthen ourselves through creativity.

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