Category Archives: And so it goes…

Saving My Soul For Whom, Exactly?

By Joetta Currie

I was twelve years old living an ordinary, boring life, trying to get above average grades in school, hang with my friends and stay off my mom and dad’s radar. It was working–not great, but working. 

Then I became the target of a sober, fist pounding, secret group within a large, other-worldly organization whose members walked among us, free to exercise their will.

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The group was an ad hoc committee of my church. A few select members of the congregation dedicated to saving the souls of the un-baptized youth. They thought twelve was much too old not to be a bona fide Christian. They snuck up on me after Sunday school, wrapped their flabby, perfumed arms around me and whispered in my ear.

“Jesus wants you for a Sunbeam.”

Or, “The way of the cross leads home.”

And my least favorite, “You must be washed in the blood of the lamb.”

Seriously?

I must have been absent that Sunday, because I wasn’t even sure what that meant.

I WASN”T READY.

I didn’t care how old I was, I had questions. Questions that had not been answered. NO, wait, not unanswered–ignored, brushed off and belittled.

“We are not supposed to question God’s ways,” they said. 

“Shame on you for asking such a thing,” they said.

“You must have faith,” they said.

I had faith. I believed that God was good. Period. One big, fat, shining ball of goodness. God was every good thought, every good deed, idea, act, intention and all things that were kind and caring in this world. I believed that if I was good and encouraged goodness in others (I didn’t always of course, I was a kid.) that when my time came to die I would end up in a peaceful state. That was enough for me.

But I needed answers if I was going to buy all the rhetoric and fanfare of the Baptist Church, or any “church,”  I genuinely wanted to understand a few important things like: How exactly did Jesus walk on water and later turn it into wine? How did he bring a guy back from the dead? How did he touch somebody and cure leprosy? How was Mary a virgin? And the big one…how did he rise up from the dead? Were these literal things or religious symbology?

My dad was a biology teacher, my mom a nurse. I had facts that were totally incongruent with those so called miracles and NOBODY at church would help me out. I’m sorry, but “just have faith” didn’t cut it. Frankly, it made me very suspicious. I thought if God was what they said, why did he need cheap parlor tricks to make people believe?

The onslaught of hand holding and praying never let up. The “Pity her poor soul” look in their eyes made me miserable. But I couldn’t do it, if I didn’t believe in it. I figured if anything made God mad it was faking something so important. 

My best friend, Bonnie went to the same church and she had already done it. She said it was no big deal. Just go up to the preacher at the end of service and tell him you want to be saved, and then your parents will buy you a new dress so you can be baptized in church the next Sunday—in cold water—in front of everybody—and then you get to eat cake. I’ve always been more of a pie person myself so the confectionary aspect didn’t appeal to me.

The committee didn’t let up. I dreaded going to church because I knew I would be singled out. If I fell on the playground and skinned my knees or was passed over for a part in the Easter play, they told me it probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d been saved. Once after we sang the Jesus Loves Me song, my Sunday school teacher whispered in my ear, “He loves you too, but not as much as all the other girls and boys.”

I still feel the punch in my gut when I think about it.

On Monday nights I went to Bonnie’s house to watch The Monkees (she had a color TV.) Her mom, a sweet, well-meaning woman, tried to help put me on the path of righteousness. 

Please don’t talk to me about Jesus in front of Davy Jones. I’m in the middle of a very different, emotional experience right now.

I tried asking God to get these people off my back until I figured some things out. I prayed that I would get to go to summer camp and get some relief. That backfired, big time. 

Bonnie, my older sister Debbie and I got to spend a week at church camp in the beautiful hills of Kentucky. We stayed in cabins, slept in bunk beds and got to take all kinds of fun classes. I enrolled in art, archery, canoeing and horseback riding. I didn’t mind a couple of hours of Bible study in the morning. I enjoyed learning the Beatitudes, verses from Psalms and The New Testament. We had recitation competitions everyday. I won some, Debbie and Bonnie won more, but it was a great time. Camp was fun. The food was good, we had campfires and singalongs at night. Our counselors were college students from a nearby Baptist Seminary. The guys were cute (we all had crushes), the girls like big sisters. I finally felt the pressure of Christendom ascend from my shoulders.

Until mid week when, once again, I was singled out for not being baptized. My home church committee had given a heads up to the camp counselors. They swooped in with more hand holding, prayers for guidance and veiled threats of eternal damnation. I think they secretly took bets on who would win me over for Jesus.

The last night was the worst. There was a rallying ceremony at dusk when every girl was given a little cardboard boat with a candle. We all gathered at the lake, lit the candles in our boat and set them sail. It was a beautiful and symbolic event. We were sending the Light of the Jesus out into the world. If yours sunk too soon, you did not carry the light in your heart.

I swear they put a hole in my boat. It was one of the first to sink. The counselors gathered EVERYONE around me to sing and pray. I was sick. 

After the lake, we all went to the amphitheater for a final benediction. The camp minister made his final call for sinners to come forward. Everybody was looking at me.

Debbie was getting mad at the way I was being treated and kept whispering, 

“Don’t do it, Jo, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

But I caved. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I went down front and did what was expected of me. It was the most hypocritical thing I have ever done. The fact that everyone was so proud and happy for me, especially after I got back home, was heart wrenching.

I got a new dress, was dunked in the cold water, ate the cake and the church committee moved on to saving the next wayward soul. They completely left me alone after that.They no longer needed to concern themselves with me since there was no un-baptized twelve year old muddying up their congregation.

My relationship with God hadn’t changed but I no longer had faith in my church. The more I examined various religions, the less I felt connected to any of them.

I no longer asked questions. I figured out the miracle issues on my own and over the years have resolved most of my doubts and fears by believing in the one simple concept that I knew all along.

God is good. Period.

Writing about my early experience in the Baptist church may make me seem resentful. I am not. Nor were there hurtful intentions by the committee. I’m sure they had a graceful heart and meant only the best in doing what their faith led them to do. I have many fond memories of my church, and friends with whom I still maintain contact.  I am a better person because of the fellowship, albeit struggle, that led me to the place I am in today-solid in my belief that God is good.

“Hello, my name is _______________ and I’m a Projectoholic.” 

There’s something wrong with me.

Don’t worry. I’m not sick and dying, or wanted by the police, pregnant, having an affair, or in need of a sex change. For God’s sake I’m too old to be having a baby. But, I do have a terrible, life long problem.

I must have a project. I need to design, demo, upgrade, fix, dig, plant, paint, repair, or caulk (Oh God, how I love caulk)!  I get the shakes just thinking about it.

nashphotoMy husband and I bought a sixty year old cottage in a small town in Texas, a few years ago. We were living in California at the time, but knew we were coming back to Texas and wanted to downsize and have a good place to retire and raise chickens.

Well, I wanted to raise chickens, but that’s a conversation for another time.

We took a 1500 square foot, two bed, one bath home, and made simple, but glorious, modifications. We gutted and redid the hall bath, installed a tankless water heater, (whoo hoo! ) created a master suite with a claw foot tub, marble tile and pedestal sinks, upgraded the kitchen with new appliances and counter tops, knocked down walls, added all new lighting, refinished our red oak floors, and painted and painted and painted.

bathunderconstrDuring most of the renovation, I had an upper respiratory infection. Parlay that with, no bathroom, except for a lone toilet in the middle of open stud walls, termites, and large holes in the floor that let in hungry creatures who scurried around in the middle of the night.  Add extreme noise and strange men (men who were strangers) in and out of our home, ten hours a day, I was in absolute misery. When I hit bottom, we checked into a hotel, just so I could take a bath and breathe dust free air.

Then we set our sights on the exterior. After eight pallets of sod, four new hallbathafterplanting beds,

twenty four Earth Kind roses (that now struggle with Rosette’s Disease) and a white picket fence, we were finished. We looked at what we had done, and saw that it was good.

We were happy. I was happy…for a while. Then..I hear my self say, “you know honey, it would look nice if we could…”

My husband cringes, but he sighs, nods and goes to Home Depot with me. He’s a fricking saint.

I wanted a fire pit, a deck and outside lighting. I knew the porches would look much better if we added a little slate tile and a wicker swing. And why stop with the porch? Just look at the front walkway. Slate and brick pavers (that I found for a steal, on Craig’s List) would truly enhance our curb appeal.

Then of course, I needed a garden to grow tomatoes, a hammock when I wanted to nap, and studio space for my art work and classes. I couldn’t stop myself. I dreamt about it at night, waking up each morning with a drill in my hand and a metallic gleam in my eye.

It’s been over a year and I’m still coughing from the dust, my knees hurt, my husband’s back is shot and he pretends he can’t hear me most of the time. But we soldier on.  Because, if we just did this one more thing…

Some think I need professional intervention, but I can stop any time I want, and as soon as we finish this last project, I promise, I’m going to stop.

For sure.

The Power of a Whisper

I get along with most people. Most people get along with me. But every once in a while I’ll run across someone evil. Cruella d’Vil kind of evil, soap opera villain evil. You know the type. Smart, driven, and friendly on the outside, but on the inside, a mean spirited, back stabbing, manipulative, soul sucking witch, with a capital B.Cruella

Usually, I see them coming and head the other way. But recently, I walked smack dab into a couple of bad ones. One female, the other male. Their gender helped to determine their motive and aggressive styles, but the effects of their nastiness were very similar.

I have to believe that Cruella, was manipulating the male, because he was not smart enough to do much more than yell and scream (literally) and act like a schoolyard bully. It was a unpleasant situation and frankly a waste of my time, money and effort. I’m glad to be free of it.

But that isn’t the point of this article, just the impetus for it.

Back in the early 90’s, I had the pleasure of being asked to teach art at a local elementary school.  It was a new school in our growing community and they needed a part time art teacher. I had been teaching for a while at my gallery. But, never in public school and never six hundred students-twenty five at a time.

I learned a lot my first year from the principal and other teachers. I learned more from my students. The most important thing they taught me was: they will listen if you whisper.Godfather

Being an art class, the students claimed a certain sense of freedom from the regular classroom rules. That and the fact they could smell a new teacher a mile down the hall, evoked a collective, “let’s see how much we can get away with…”

It was only a few days into the school year when I admitted to myself, I had no control over them. I didn’t know what to do when my class refused to settle down. Boys were shouting and sword fighting with paint brushes, girls were squealing and painting their faces to look like makeup. It was chaos.

I tried ringing a bell, holding up my hand, putting my fingers to my lips, writing names on the board and even yelling a little myself. None of those techniques met with success.

But as soon as I walked over to a student in the middle of the class and started to speak in a low voice about a painting I was working on with a warrior queen and evil shape shifters, the class got quiet.  Row by row, student by student, they started to listen. As I gained their attention, I started asking questions: “What color do you think the eyes should be? How would you transform the shapes? Should the queen have magical powers? What else would you add?”

As long as I whispered, they spoke in a low voice too, in turn, and in awe. They were excited to have input on such a cool idea. Each week they would ask about the painting and offer suggestions. They wanted to create their own “story art” and did so in a focused, calm manner. They seemed to connect the whisper with the painting. Did they still get a little crazy sometimes?  Sure, but all I had to do was make them want to listen by whispering about an interesting idea.  I love working with children. They are so open, so eager to learn and offer up their ideas in an open and ungarnished way.

Adults, not always the case. I forgot the power of a whisper in my recent experience. Although, I’m not sure any amount of whispering would have worked. Some of us, at a certain point in our lives, close ourselves off to listening, exploring and learning, and resort to nasty behavior. Next time I get in a toxic situation, I will speak in a low voice, share ideas, listen, and observe. Perhaps I can get others to build up, not tear down and offer solutions, instead of creating problems. If not, I will pick up my marbles and go home; another lesson I learned from children.

Wrinkle Day

I don’t mind getting older because the alternative is death, but that’s where my tolerance ends.

I don’t like taking pills to maintain bodily functions.  I don’t like waking up at four in the morning and not able to go back to sleep.  I don’t like peeing a bit when I cough or sneeze. (sometimes, not ALL the time)

And I don’t like getting wrinkles. Wrinkles on my face, my neck, my hands…they’re annoying and distract me from believing I’m still an attractive, smart, capable woman.  They distract other people from seeing it as well.  I get 20-year-old dental hygienists calling me “sweetie” and patting my shoulder, bag boys asking if I need help to my car, and sales clerks directing me with, “you might like some things in THIS part of the store” (sweetie, pat, pat).

I’m fifty freaking eight, not a hundred and two!

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Photographer Unknown

In her later years, my paternal grandmother had the most beautiful network of wrinkles on her face.  A Kentucky farmer, she worked in the sun most of the day, working the tobacco and tending to the large vegetable garden out behind the stable. Long before sunscreen, she wore a bonnet to keep the sun out of her eyes, more than protecting her face, and never used anything other than Corn Husker’s Lotion to soothe rough or reddened areas of skin.   My sisters and I used to help her by pulling the seedlings from the fabric covered beds so my dad and Aunt Hazel could set them in the field.  We tormented the caterpillars dining on our tomato plants, dug potatoes, picked and shelled peas and counted our sweat bee stings.  The one with the most was the winner as long as she didn’t cry.

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The American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, 1967 (Photo by Philippe Halsman)

Wrinkles, although probably not welcomed, were accepted, like the hard wind and rain that came in late spring, washing deep gullies in the plowed fields. Honestly, I think a face with wrinkles can reveal so much about a person.  A testament to their life’s adventures, to their “hard wind and rain.”

It’s deemed unacceptable today.  Wrinkles are bad.  We must minimize, abbreviate, eliminate, and eradicate.  We spend thousands to do this, without much success.  It makes me mad (frown line) to see the commercials depicting young, smooth-skinned women, touting a product that reveals their “younger, smoother, looking skin.  Big Woo!

I don’t hate wrinkles.  I just don’t like getting them one…by one…by one.

I propose, “Wrinkle Day”

In my perfect world, no one would get a single wrinkle anywhere, until they wake up on their 65th birthday. Then VOILA!  All of the wrinkles they will ever get in their lifetime will appear on their face.  No one could postpone or avoid it. No miracle creams, syringes or surgical procedures could change it.

One thing I know for sure. If there is something that is inevitable for everyone, everywhere.  Society will put a positive spin on it.  It will be a day of celebration, Wrinkle Day parties with a cake and presents, photographers, caterers, friends, booze and medicinal marijuana, in certain states.  Wrinkle Day greeting cards, T-shirts and restaurant specials will all boost the economy and make old people feel good about the arduous process of aging.   It can become a fundraising event for sexagenarian charities.  “Guess how many wrinkles the mayor will get on his Wrinkle Day!  Dollar A Guess! (Ten for $7)

Sexagenarian, yes it is the word for people in their 60’s.  We don’t use it often now, but individuals will embrace it on Wrinkle Day.  This would open up a whole new path for the personal intimacy market, i.e. vibrating canes, silver-streaked dildos, two-seater, walk-in tubs, and edible Depends. Well, maybe not that last one.

I’ve just purchased www.wrinkleday.com and am ready to begin a mass marketing campaign once I figure out how to make it all happen. I believe with the exploration of geonomics and the determination of this aging quinquagenerian there is hope for the future of Wrinkle Day.

It makes me happy just to think about it. (crows feet)

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Photographer Unknown

HELP! MURDER! POLICE…

Help! Murder! Police!  My wife fell in the grease.  I laughed so hard, I fell in the lard.  Help! Murder! Police!

I kid you not.

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This is what we chanted in 2nd grade, on the playground at Woodleigh Elementary in my small Kentucky town.  I guess every generation has their share of quirks or sayings they used for social interaction and parental confusion. Looking back, some of ours bordered on cruel and unusual. For example:

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We used to touch something or someone we thought gross or stinky or inferior in some way, then touch someone else, cross our fingers and yell,” POSTED”.  That child then, had to find another person with uncrossed fingers and pass the stinky germs on to them. I spent a big part of my young academic life with a watchful eye and crossed fingers. I’m sure those so called “inferior” people felt the brunt of it and I feel ashamed.  But, I was a dumb kid.  What did I know?  It seemed to be accepted by teachers and parents.  I don’t ever remember a teacher taking a proactive step to stop us and I do remember Mrs. Collins having her fingers crossed behind her back on the playground one time.  But, that was probably for something else.

Then there were Slam Books.

A Slam Book was a spiral bound note book, usually decorated by the owner (girls of course, boys didn’t own them, but did sign them) The first page was a numbered column in which kids put their name, to get assigned a number. Consecutive pages had a random persons name at the top and everyone who signed in on the first page, could write a comment on each person’s using their assigned number as their signature.

Oh the nasty things people would say with 2 minutes of anonymity. Things like:

Cute, but fat  #12

or

I’m never speaking to her again. #3

and

She should put on nicer underwear if she’s going to climb up the slide.  # 11

Yes, really.

My page got mostly favorable comments, but there were a few:

Nice but weird  #9

or

Skinny Minnie # 6

and

Jesus doesn’t love you anymore #22

That last one worried me for a while because the blasphemous kid signed in as God on #22.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all mean spirited.  Who can forget that flavorful tune?

“Great, green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts, marinated monkey meat, little dirty birdie feet.   All this good food I would like to eat, but I forgot my spoon.” 

Pure poetry.

Through a Rolling Donut Hole

My son and I love and respect one another.

We had a good conversation yesterday.  We talked, listened and ignored each other.  I was trying to give him advice and he was trying not to take it.  I was hoping to broaden his understanding of the workings of this world and he was letting me know that he already knew and what he didn’t know, he wanted to find out on his own. We are so much alike.

My son, Jackson is a good looking, highly intelligent, articulate and talented young man, confident in his abilities and determined to live life, his way.  We are so much alike…now.

His nineteen, is miles ahead of mine.  At nineteen, I was a smart mouth, college sophomore, unsure of myself and my abilities, easily manipulated and lead astray by anyone who said, “let’s party”.  I was irrational, hot tempered and slightly histrionic.  I had little understanding of the world, didn’t know where I was going and didn’t give a flying f#!*k what people thought.  A lovely young woman.

If I’d known then what I know now.  Right?  I understand why I didn’t have a clue.  But why is his view of the world so much keener than mine, at the time?  The Internet? Reddit? Facebook? video games, explicit movies? Blatant TV ?

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Yeah, I think so.  I grew up with Donna Reed, Father Knows Best and The Brady Bunch. Happy families with little depth, trivial conflicts and a pristine facade.  Sure, they made you feel, warm and fuzzy, but they presented such a false pretense of reality. The conflict was always resolved. There was always a happy ending.

Life just wasn’t like that and it caused problems.  First, those programs set high standards, too high.  Donna Reed  was beautiful, happily married to a doctor with a pretty, “do no wrong” daughter and a lovable, son.  She wore a dress and heels everyday, cooked big family meals and had a spotless house.  That’s a hard act to follow.  Most real families paled in comparison. Second, a kid grew up not knowing how bogus that was until they got far enough away from the nest to find out on their own.  Finding out was difficult.  You got advice from elders, which you didn’t want or employed the trial and error method and learned the hard way.  Although, there is something to be said for learning the hard way, it often produced devastating consequences.

Frankly, I’m a little jealous.  I’m not saying that it’s easier for my son.  The Information Age creates it’s own set of pitfalls and problems, but it does arm you with reality, the good, the bad and the ugliness of it all.  My husband and I started him off in the right direction.  Knowing what’s out there before he goes, gives him a better chance of making good decisions.

I hope my son and I will continue to talk, listen and ignore each other with love and respect.