Moving On

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You know when you were a kid and you’d outgrow a pair of shoes? Well, I suppose the same thing happens to writers. I was told once that every writer writes because they have something to work out in their lives. In this case, I would have to agree.

I started lifeonespoonfulatatime at a time when I was trying to determine the source of a deep unhappiness. The writing I did here allowed me to do just that and gave me something invaluable along the way. Thanks for stopping by, reading a bit and sharing your comments over the past few years, but, it is time for this middle-class American white girl to move on.

I will now write under my own name, Amber Curry Gracia and I invite you to follow me at my new blog: www.ambercurrygracia.com. There will still be the same amount of narcissism and sarcasm, but with far less fear and resentment.

Go check it out!


On Love and Wandering {or the hardest thing I have ever written}

My father died suddenly on August 5, 2013, at the young age of 61. Aside from what appears below, I have not written anything since this day. What follows was  the hardest thing I have ever or may ever write in my lifetime. I hope that by putting it out there, I might be freed to write once again.

– a

On Love and Wandering

A Eulogy for My Father

August 10, 2013

My father was a man who lived life on his terms. I am the one he called Bones. Why Bones? He says it was because I was a tiny little child with the skinniest frame – so much so that you could see my bones. Maybe so, but as I stand before you here today, 40-ish and fitting oh-so-snuggly into this dress, my nickname seems a whole lot more like sarcasm than endearment.

But let’s go with it…

I have been around pretty much from the start – give or take a few months. In the beginning, I was the first born to a long-haired child bride and a curly-headed hooligan. We didn’t have much back then – no, not much at all. My parents married in March 1972 and my father was drafted into the Army soon after. He reported for basic training in Georgia in July 1972 and I was born in late August. As the story goes, when the service wouldn’t allow him leave to be with Mom, he went AWOL to meet me for the first time. The way he told it, when he got back to Georgia, they ran him and ran him and ran him. They ran him almost to death. He survived though. He always did. Shortly after, he was stationed in Germany where my mother and I joined him. We were a family of three children living in very adult circumstances.

After my father was discharged from the service, we lived in a small tattered house owned by my grandmother along a not-so-kind street. It was a place one might call “the other side of the tracks”. I don’t want to imply that it was a mean or dangerous like the Bronx or South Central, just a bit unkind. You know, more like lacking manicured lawns, gas lamps and programmed sprinkler systems. This was the time of motocross, late-night jam sessions, friends and wild parties – really wild parties. I think Mom would describe it as a time when there weren’t two pennies to rub together and Dad would recall it as the time when a full set of drums occupied our living room. I would take naps in the base drum with one, two or twelve stray kittens that I found along the way. The three of us were young, poor and figuring it all out together. They were young times, they were tough times, but I was convinced that I was the queen of our shabby kingdom. Thanks to my parents who never let me know I was poor and partly because I may have been a bit delusional.

Circumstances as they were in those times, we lived mostly on love.

As you know, my father passed away suddenly on Monday. Since that moment, I have been walking around in a fog, mostly disassociated from my body. Do you remember how old vinyl albums would skip when the needle hit a nasty scratch? Well, it seems a lot like that since Monday. Like I am living in that skip. Over and over, like I am stuck in something like a melancholy fold in time. But I suppose that is just part of it and eventually I will move on to the rest of the songs on this album.

As I stand before you today in my skip, it is important that I share my memories. So that we might celebrate something about my father that perhaps you already knew or maybe share something about him that you might not have known. His death was abrupt and we lacked the awareness to settle our poignant truths – something so often part of the journey when a loved one has a long illness. There was simply never the time. When I sat down to put pen to paper, there were so many things, so many memories all with seemingly the same importance. Then, I went through text messages between my father and I over the last six months and the answer jumped out at me, like he was screaming it from beyond.

Love.

I just called to tell you I loved you.

(January 29, 2013)

         Have I told you lately that I love you?

         (March 15, 2013)

         Faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love.

         (March 17, 2013)

         Have I told you lately that I love you?

         (June 24, 2013)

         I love you.

         (July 31, 2013)

Six months worth of words that reminded me that my father never shied from this word. I heard it from his mouth almost every time I spoke to or saw him. He wasn’t afraid to tell us how he felt. Some might say that when you say a word too often it loses its impact, perhaps becoming only a hollow expression to those who hear it. Actually, I believe that my father’s emotions ran deeper than most and that these expressions were only the slightest, most visible tip of the great depths of his emotion. It was deep, but it wasn’t always easy.

I suppose it never is.

I thought about the love he had for his mother and father. As the youngest of four, they spoiled him rotten. As they grew older, he was always there to care for the garden when they were too weak to do so and finally as he sat by their side during their final last days.

I thought about the love he had for his brothers and sisters. He always told them how much he loved them – they never questioned it. But he also showed them by building a pump house or mowing the grass. They knew and they know now.

I thought about the love he had for my mother.  She will say that even though their marriage ended after 30 years, they never stopped loving one another. Circumstances being as they were, this she knows and will forever know.

I thought about the love he had for my siblings. We are all as different as the day is long and each one of us has our own story of my father. As it should be I suppose. But one thing we share is that we live who we are – out loud – due in part to his love.

I thought about the love he had for my children. After my father passed, my son told me that even though he may not have been there for school plays and birthday parties, he knew Grandpa loved him.

And, finally I thought about the love he had for me. I attempted to reconcile our profound, often troubled relationship in preparation for standing before you today. I soon faced the fact that this is impossible and it will take years for me to fully understand this aspect of my life. But, what I was able to understand is that my father’s love had three forms.

My father’s love had grit. As a child of 8 or 9, he could be seen dragging the family Christmas tree home from the mill miles away and constructing a homemade tree stand by his own hand. Or, as a young father, he could be seen in the shed at the back of our property sanding my childhood bed with those damn scrolled bedposts until his fingers bled. 

My father’s love was spontaneous. Like on days when I was 4 or 5 and he picked me up unannounced at my preschool for a motorcycle ride (of course with no helmet) through the East Texas piney woods on a not-so-average-afternoon kind of afternoon. Or, on my wedding day when he attempted to bust me out the door right before I walked down the aisle. Sorry babe, but it’s true.

Finally, my father’s love was misunderstood. Whereas everyone loved him, I dare say no one fully understood him. I believe he had an infinite capacity for love and felt deeper than most, but he also had a thirst for solitude and often lived deep in the well of depression. It often felt like he would push us away so he could be alone inside his own head. He also seemed to sometimes speak in rhymes and riddles. It was like a language I couldn’t understand no matter how hard I tried. I have thought long and hard about this aspect of his love and have some to one conclusion. That is that my father was a poet and his muse was the natural world. Looking back now, it doesn’t really matter for I know who he was and how this aspect of him is also, in many ways, an aspect of myself.

Anyway, it’s all very complicated…

Through it all, I have learned much from my father. Grit, survival, spontaneity, how to live life on my own terms. I have also learned that sometimes love can be overwhelming. Sometimes love can hurt. Sometimes the language of love is felt, not spoken. Sometimes you have to walk away. Sometimes love can even be dangerous. Ultimately, he taught me about the complexity of love. To me, there is something poetic about knowing what I know because of him.

My father and I had a meaningful connection, but we also had our differences. Oh man, did we have our differences. He raised me to be headstrong, which he both scorned and celebrated. As our family of children grew, my siblings were born and life changed, things got infinitely more complex – as it always does. Many of you may know the tremendous battles my father fought with addiction. This addiction drove a wedge between us and over the years, the distance grew and grew. In the six months leading up to his sudden death, our relationship became the most difficult it had ever been, but also the most real. We spoke about truths and we tried our best to heal. Although this process was cut short, I never for a moment doubted his love for me. And I never will.

Toward the end, my father looked to the Bible in his search for truth and understanding. One of our recent discussions reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:

         “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

      And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I am Bones and as I stand before you today in the skip, I can tell you, without a doubt, that LOVE was my father’s supreme value. Deeper than most, often complex, sometimes misunderstood and always spontaneous, this is what I will remember most. This is also what I hope you remember most too.


Ebb and Flow

A while back I heard a piece about the differences in the way Eastern cultures and Western cultures view their lives. It boils down to this. Eastern cultures tend to accept the ebb and flow – the natural process of destruction, cleansing and rebirth that often happens several times throughout the course of one’s life. Conversely, Western cultures (in this case, the US being the comparison) tend to see life as a linear process of sustained upward development. One in which we (those experiencing life) exert control over our position and outcomes. The first view is naturalistic or even perhaps fatalistic. The other, while vastly more egocentric, holds within it the promise of self-made progress, or Manifest Destiny. Also sometimes known as C-O-N-T-R-O-L. I suspect religion has a large influence here, but I won’t even go there.

It seems to me that we Western sorts have a rather dismal record of dealing with uncertainty. We have been conditioned to stand in judgement of ourselves (or others) when faced with setbacks or restarts. What I find perplexing is how we don’t see the silliness of it all. How we have been sold a bill of goods that keeps us weighed down rather than that life-affirming chance at a big flush of the toilet.  We have been trained to think up is the only way and down is a dirty secret. Rather than seeing setbacks or natural cycles as grand opportunities for cleansing and renewal, instead we let our internal jury convict with little to no evidence – leading to shame, depression and despair. Then, when we are unable to live in the constant upside, we seek solace in our consumption – whether alcohol, IKEA, drugs, sex or the Kardashians, the numbing ensues and the Technicolor of life in either direction grows dim. For there is no true joy without true sorrow and by buffering one we also buffer the other.

What we are left with is a watered down and backed up mess.

But, nature has in her toolbox an infinite number of devices for resetting the stage. She uses them all constantly. From the extreme such as earthquakes, hurricanes and forest fires, to the twice daily rise and fall of the ocean tides. Today, I had the opportunity (or perhaps they had the misfortune) of explaining the concept of high and low tide to my small children. Remember these are seriously land-locked offspring, so this is not a concept with which they are intimately familiar. My explanation would have probably made my sixth grade science teacher wonder why she wasted her time, but to illustrate my Neanderthal explanation, we visited the same beach in British Columbia twice in one day.

Once in the morning during low tide.

Low Tide

And again in the afternoon during high tide.

High Tide

The tide went out leaving colonies of mussels exposed, huge driftwood timbers tossed about like tidily winks and the floor of the sea to air dry. Only hours later, it came rushing back in all its power and filled it all in again. Rinse and repeat. Twice daily. This experience and my infantile attempt to explain the magnificence of the natural world reminded me once again of the notable difference between the Eastern and Western way of thinking.

My take is that nature is a bad ass bitch that creates and destroys on cue. It seems only reasonable that the human experience should be the same. There are forces at work so vastly out of our control, yet our control-obsessed culture teaches us nothing of surrender. It seems this tool doesn’t fit neatly into the contemporary American toolbox.

So why can’t we just let go and ride the tide?

Being from Texas, I am all for making my own way in this life. Hell this is me down to the molecular level. I bet if you were to view my blood under a microscope, it might look something like Wiley Coyote whistling Dixie. Obviously I am no scientist and anyway, perhaps this is too personal, but I have found an ounce of peace in the surrender. Now, hey there, don’t go crazy and think I won’t fight when a fight is called for, but I no longer try to fight the natural course of things. For inevitably, the tide will go out and the tide will come in twice daily – ebb and flow. As it is in nature, it is in human life.

At least that’s the way I see it.


Growing Up at the Airport

I grew up a bit today. As I watched my first born walk away, passport in hand with the bags I packed just so, I felt my legs grow slightly. As he passed through airport security, my heart skipped a beat. As he turned the corner and went out of sight, I lost my breath.

For this adventure he goes solo, beyond the bounds of my watchful eye. This time, he will double bounce with others and hopefully remember to change his underwear. But as he walked towards his adventure and away from me, I saw him grow a mile. Or two. Or maybe three.

Me? Well, I just stood there and grew – inch by painful inch.

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The day I met my first born marks a milestone in my life. A day after which, I was no longer the person I was before. An anniversary of my becoming conscious of complete and utter vulnerability. Upon meeting him, I would never again walk this Earth with the same sense of complete confidence. The physical scars have long since healed, but I remain tragically aware of how profoundly wounded I could be because of this most precious being.

My deep vulnerability is packaged neatly and poetically with the laughter – sometimes a chuckle, sometimes absurd, full-on, side-splitting belly laughs. Belly laughs like when we discovered that I pee (just) a little bit when he double bounces me on the trampoline. That’s right, I pee, just enough to make me laugh out loud.

So double bounce away, little man, ’cause the mixture of belly-filling laughter and slight humiliation is truly sublime.

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I am {not} a runner

I have this dream where I am running on a beach. Damp sand kicking up on my heels, I glide along the misty coastline with the sun rising to my right and frothy sea lapping to my left. My taut muscles flex with every stride like a majestic mare. The skin on my shoulders glistens slightly from small beads of sweat. The air is cool. Each breath is controlled and steady and produces a small cloud in front of my mouth, serving as symbol that I am living my life at full throttle. I run…and run…and run. Not a jog, a full run.

Do you like to run? I do not. Not inside, outside, uphill or downhill. I do not like to run.

I know people who run. As a matter of fact, I know lots of people who run a lot – 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon. Even a few Ironmen, those who run after tons of other crazy shit. It seems like there are more people now who run more than ever before. These are the “running people.” They all just run, run, run. They run when it’s hot. They run when it’s not. They run in the sun, snow and rain. Many run for fitness, others run simply because they can.

Sometimes I envision myself as Forest Gump. Not the shrimp fisherman, but the running Forest. I think to myself, “so I just started running.” Then come images of all the majestic things I see when I am running out in the world – across the Painted Desert, along the lakes of Minnesota, through the streets of New York City. In this vision, I can real-ly run. Once I finish running and have seen all that I want to see, I just stop. I turnaround to the group of people that I have inspired to run alongside me on this magnificent journey. They wait with bated breath for me to speak and I say with muffled voice, “I’m tired. I’m going home now.” And that would be it, my running days would be over.

Those “running people” say once you pass the first few miles, it gets easier. They claim there is a point at which running becomes pleasant, even addictive. I think they are lying to me. I have done one official “run” in my life – 12 miles with a lot of obstacles thrown in for giggles. It was a team event so you can ask my teammates about my stellar performance. Then there was a 1-mile fun run. You read that right, one mile. Yes, I walked some of the way. I ran cross country in junior high, but didn’t everyone? I have no idea what that was about. Hated every minute of it.

The marathon is a symbol to me. A great goal, but something I have convinced myself I will never accomplish. That it is not in my cards. I would love to be a a person who says, “oh, I was up early this morning because I had to get in my 15 miles before breakfast. You know, I am training for a marathon.” Or like the young woman I stood next to in line recently. She was sporting a boot brace on her leg, so I asked her how she hurt herself. She said, “I got a stress fracture while running a half marathon last weekend. I overdid it a bit when I got to the finish line and just kept going and ran the full thing.”

Who are these people?

There is a running-friendly mix on my iPod with copious amounts of Usher, Ludacris and Pitbull, which works well for picking up my feet, but nothing for my disdain for the activity. I feel less like the majestic mare on the misty beach and more like a beached seal on dry land.

Fo-rr-eeeee-sssss-ttttt!

As you can clearly see, I have convinced myself that am not and will never be a runner. Precisely because I believe in the image of the beached seal, I have little chance of ever becoming the majestic mare. A reality which lies just a few miles and a looping Pitbull and JoLo remix away from where I stand today. Each of us have false narratives. Those stories we tell ourselves so many times that we begin to believe them.

This is {one of} mine. What’s yours?


Summer’s Winter in Paris

Paris is bewitching.

A thought which is far from original, but nonetheless, truer than the day is long. Throughout history, many a poet, artist, musician or otherwise have looked to and inhabited her for inspiration. The images and recollections are countless. I love to think about what life may have been like in the Paris of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. A talented, young and “lost” lot living along her two banks and lingering within her cafes. They came to her seeking the mental freedom and imagination with which to carve their places in literary history.

Ernest Hemingway once said of her:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A moveable feast. A veritable trove that leaves a deep and lasting impression. One that be called upon whenever and from wherever when you need a dose of inspiration. That is solid gold.

I had been to Paris once before, over a decade ago. But when I arrived this past July, with a prepaid 5e address, plenty of time and impressionable offspring, it was an altogether different experience. This time it was Paris in the summer. This time I was thirstier. This time she affected me.

I pulled up to her table, watched carefully and became forever intoxicated by what I saw.

I saw her feast.

Strolling along the narrow streets of Montmartre

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Sunning in the Parc de la Tour Saint-Jacques in Le Marais

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Clowning across the Pont des Artes

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Performing in the Place de Tertre

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Reading at a café in the 5e arrondissement

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Mooning along the Rive Gauche

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Standing behind the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

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And reclining in the Jardin du Luxembourg

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Sure she contains amazing buildings and more famous art than you can shake a stick at. And the food, well it makes a girl scream with ecstasy. But, for me, the real moveable feast lies in her stories. Those etched forever in her mortar and written upon the faces of her people – both native and immigrant.

Wait, who is that?  She’s not a Parisian. How’d she get in here?  My oh my, she has more lines around her eyes than I remember, especially when she smiles. Looks like the girl hiding behind that cotton candy became a woman while no one was looking. Then fell in love with Paris in the summer. She came looking for her own kind of mental freedom and was lucky enough to take the feast with her.

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Summer is long gone and it is now the dead of winter. Mental freedom has given way to something more akin to the Twilight Zone. One continuous abstraction with absurd twists, copious doses of reality and a touch of the macabre. It seems the girl with the newish laugh lines now finds herself standing in the mud out in the pouring rain. But perhaps the rain is not real, only imagined. Maybe it’s just a technically-sophisticated special effect in the new plot line being filmed on Soundstage 4. Maybe there is an escape hatch just under foot or a vintage Monte Carlo around the next corner, gassed up and ready to play the getaway car. Maybe, just maybe.

Weeks back, I wandered around the Dallas Museum of Art for a bit. The first work I laid my eyes upon was a print by the French artist, Félix Buhot, entitled Winter in Paris (1879). I studied it closely.

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Such a very different era. One with horses not cars and stuck stagecoaches being pushed through the deep snow. Life in a by-gone Paris in the dead of winter. I stood motionless before this timeless work and was struck by its intense melancholy. But mostly I stood transfixed by the woman in the elegant coat holding her young daughter’s hand, crossing the street and looking straight at me. She was and remains part of the feast.

Then I remembered the feast I took with me. The one that lives inside me, for all seasons. Which now serves as my summer’s winter in Paris.


Happy, Shining Grizzly Bears

Scene opens.

I am riding in a late model car with an open roof. Could have been the rented 2012 Peugeot recently dropped off at Charles de Gaulle Roissy 2. I seem to remember tossing the keys to the agent and hauling ass into the terminal before he had the chance to survey the vehicle. We rode that car hard and something about hanging up something wet…oh, I don’t know. Maybe I have guilt issues. Read the rest of this entry »