Everyone’s Cuba Curious

I went to Cuba about 20 years ago, and stayed for a week.

My welcome to Cuba was a threat from an armed guard that they would send us back home. I almost believed, at that moment, it would be for the best, but I persisted in convincing him that someone important was waiting for us beyond the wall. Later we found out they were excited by the packs of crayons that the x-ray machines picked up in our luggage– school supplies for our guests– that looked too much like ammo to eyes not accustomed to seeing neat boxes of crayons. The medicines we brought with us were most likely the deal closer.

I went out into the small villages, I visited their clinics, spoke with their doctors, walked newly-paved streets with bright curbs that merely delineated one parcel of hovels from another. Once, I slept in the only bed in the house of my guests. I have no idea where they slept that night. I washed myself from a basin on a pile of bricks in a cement block pile enclosure. I met hundreds of Cubans, spoke with them, ate with them, sang for them, prayed with them.

It’s been around 20 years since I left, weeping bitterly that I had to, so hard had I fallen in love with Cuba. The land is so fertile that the fence posts bloom, but there was no food to eat. The despair is as thick as the wafting smoke from their marijuana, and drowned in their rum. There is nothing to do so people marry, divorce, bed-hop, play dominoes, watch television in black and white, smoke, argue, and tell jokes. They told the best jokes about Castro, all of which escape me since I had to translate for others the entire trip. It makes for such a blur of memories that only impressions or singular moments stand out: a glass of agua ardiente with the local clinic’s doctor who seemed hopeful for more visits such as ours, a stroll through a garden, a mentally disabled child in a battered metal crib in a dank concrete room– a “home” for such; singing hymns for a crowd of people crammed into a small house in La Havana, filling the porch, spilling out into the street and other porches; an old woman with tears in her eyes, grabbing my arm, thanking me, thanking God for me, for my small gift of my voice opening up the big Gift of God’s love for Cuba.

How my heart breaks for them, knowing what full-on freedom would do to these children– for they are, in effect, all children now– if that day ever comes. Six generations of poverty, malnutrition, stunted education and isolation are not overcome in a moment of release. To think for oneself is a privilege never allowed them. They might still need a father-dictator, unfortunately, just a better one than Castro. But that was twenty-odd years ago, in far-flung villages. Havana’s elites and streets are still a wild mixture of anger, hope, and caution. The gulags are not yet full.

I Owe You This

So, I’m now in my fourth week of Learning Curve. I’d be pissed if I wasn’t so happy to have a job with a steep learning curve. You have to understand how underutilized I feel if I’m not being stretched like some canvas over a new frame. This job has that. And it’s fun, too. I get to form trusting relationships with folks who are leaving town. How great is that?! I get to use my charm and my brains and travel all over– I mean ALL over — my area of South Carolina.

I also get a good boss. She’s scrappy and A-type and older than I am, but she’s got vision for growth for a previously struggling company and she’s single-handedly turned it around. But I’m nothing if not a steel hone for strong personalities. I’m there to help her get her sense of proportion back. She’s been pushing hard, all alone, for a while so she’s wary of letting go of even the smallest task. So I gotta play her a bit. And she has a bad habit of feeling entitled to hammer every nail she sees. And we’re all nails. I just happen to be standing in a rock-hard knot. Not going down, not getting bent, but making sure her hand hurts every time she tries the hammer technique. We’d hate each other but we’re too much alike, so we’ve decided to like each other. It’s working. She’s a really good person.

Easter and Lent were such a wonderful respite and refueling that I just can’t get too wrapped up in politics. For now. I just Tweet my best bon mots and feel exhausted by the effort.

Anyway, the J.R. and I are neck-deep in work, church stuff and some mission travel. Just not by boat.

The boat. Ah, well. Let’s just say that hope is still deferred, but we’re so busy that we haven’t had time to worry much. Still seeking out a long block for the Crusader engine and a mechanic who needs the work. Gobsmacking in this economy, really. But it’s still in Florida and we’re still hoping to finish buying her an bringing her to Charleston. Soon. I see fishing in my future. Tired of the cold, too!

If you are the praying type, please keep our little family in your prayers. The Pepper Dog is still happy and vibrant, just blind and deaf now. Son and DIL are thriving– he just got a hefty raise and promotion– but they long for a child, and I have a pretty dire need to be a grandmama. Plus, the J.R. and I have two mission trips in the next six weeks. Any small supplications for safety and health for all of us would be appreciated.

I realize as I write this that I miss you guys. I miss commenting on your posts and just relaxing with you, or ranting with you. I’m not done writing, but I’m not sure where my heart is leading me to write at this time. Thanks for sticking around. I’m away until next Tuesday. More then.

Well, The Jolly Roger and I Have Lost Our Minds

We pulled the trigger on this:

Catalina

It’ll take us about 4 days to sail her to her berth here in Chucktown, where we will commence to live the pirate life full time aboard. We’re keeping our jobs, we’re just tired of living in a town without enjoying its soul. Or its fish. But this is just right for us and our budget–not to mention our temperament. Lovely amenities abound at the marina where we used to park the ‘Slack, so we’ll just make it our full-time hangout. It’s away from the crush of the city, but close to our jobs. It will take some adjusting to, but we feel we’re up for one more adventure or three.

Oh, and the Pepper Dog will come along, too, if she can tolerate being a pirate dog. If not, she is well-loved and loves well my son and his bride, where she can comfortably adjust to her fading senses. Poor dear is mostly blind and deaf now, but very active and happy. She just bumps into things and hasn’t learned to manage the handicap yet. She needs a seeing-eye dog!

As it is, we’re getting our minds around it. I figure putting it out on my blog will make it more real. We’ll have to take some time off work and do our homework for mastering the Intracoastal Waterway charts. But think of it! Four days to enjoy the South’s ineffable beauty along the banks and beaches of a Dixie Spring Fling. It should make for wonderful blog-fodder, since we’ve never done such a thing in our lives!

"That's alright, Kttty, they all do that! If anything's gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there!"

“That’s alright, Kttty, they all do that! If anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there!”

Stay tuned. It should get interesting. But not too interesting, I hope. Living small, and living well back from the mainstream. It’s not fancy, but I fancy it.

I’m thinking. . . Paraguay.

Or Russia, actually. Something about all the anarchy in the rest of the world makes my Teutonic underpinnings pine for some Nanny state that isn’t a pussy about its place in the world. Plus, vodka. [I keep changing my choices. Check back.] [From the comments: Bolivia!]

How ’bout you?

Nah, you’re not gonna shoot your neighbor, and you know it, tough guys. You’re going to pay your taxes, get your annual checkup, comply, comply, comply. Because this is home. Or it was.

Home, and all that word implies, is still quite dear. Your oligarchs know it.

So, you’re going to have to move out to somewhere, some state of being, where you don’t have to care about how your decisions impact your family or friends.

Emigrate.

Now you know what sorts of folks helped build this last century. Let’s find somewhere to build the next one.

***
Cappy-lanche! Thanks, Cap’n!

Imperfect implement in the hands of a perfect Craftsman.

Our big family was a reporter’s dream:

And this wasn’t even all of us. And where was mom?

Dad was just returned from nine months in Rota, Spain when the local paper saw our family awaiting his arrival so early that morning; you can see the long shadows of dawn spreading out beside us. With most of us in school uniforms, it was a picture waiting to happen. And it did.

It’s hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for him to be away from his kids. We were the backdrop to his own grand sense of himself; more than props– for surely he loved us– but we were sometimes expendable in his darker, weaker quest to feel sorry for himself. Still, the narcissism yielded the happy benefits of camping and picnics and road trips with all of us in tow because it was all of the part he loved to play and the excess energy he obviously possessed. The Navy suited that restless energy until they gave him permanent orders to serve as an instructor in electronics training school, so he dragged us to all sorts of outdoor adventures every weekend and summer to feed that restlessness.

He reveled in our rambunctious joy as we learned to ski and fish and snorkel and shoot, or just watch us rolling down the sand dunes at Fort Clinch. A former baker in his younger days, he delighted in rewarding the first child awake on a Saturday morning with a trip to the bakery for donuts. The lucky one would get a bear-claw pastry. Sure, we could be bought for the price of a pastry just so he’d have someone to talk to at 6:00 a.m. Of a balmy Florida evening he’d sidle up to a quietly bored and sweaty child and say, “Let’s go for a drive.” We’d head off down some county road to where the air was cooler at 60mph and he’d just talk about the universe and science and how to do speed math and why the future would be all credit and have no tangible currency. If ever there was a thespian who needed an audience, it was my dad. Even if he had to populate it himself. He was always waiting for our curiosity. He rarely lectured unless asked, and you could tell he loved to be asked. It was his way of rewarding what he felt to be the highest ability: the ability to be curious about the world. That’s an awesome legacy to leave a child.

He was far from perfect, but a better Hand was still guiding him. . . for my own sake. I thank God for the good bits that have stayed me and shaped me for the better.

At every funeral, this picture pops up and I get razzed endlessly about my panties shining in the full view of God and everyone. Last Thursday was no different. I informed one and all that at my funeral, I didn’t want to see this picture paraded yet again. I was assured that it most certainly would be, now, and it would include lines and arrows and exclamation points all over it.

Freedom Is A Default Setting From The Manufacturer.

Minding what's important.


This fleeting moment of pure freedom is brought to you by the many men and women of the United States military who have spent the strength of their youth, the blood of their inheritance, and the heart of their honor in defense of an Idea.

It’s not always all about crusaderism and “making the world a better place.” Sometimes, we need to see what we were created for; and if not for the occasional moment to contemplate pure joy, then what’s a Heaven for? Little glimpses of Heaven, of peace and holy silence– the supreme idea of just existing without someone else’s permission to do so– is a power that used to be reserved for kings. Our American Idea was that it should be available to anyone who valued it enough to go after it. If that’s not an Idea born right out of God’s Heaven, then I don’t know what else it could be.

Thank you, deeply and humbly, to all who fought and died to bring Heaven’s own Idea to earth: peace, dignity, freedom. For all.

Roller Coaster of Love

Without going into too many details, the past couple of months have been another round of interesting. And I hate blogging about the crappy things. The short version entails joblessness for one and looming rumors of joblessness for the other. So, watcha gonna do when the rent comes ’round? And root canals? We have some fallback room, but fallback is gettin’ old.

Thus, we sold The Slack about 5 days ago. [Insert sad face here. Very sad face.] We certainly wanted to hold ourselves open to buying another if things turned around. Still, it was the responsible thing to do: heave-to and wait for calmer financial seas.

Three days later, the J.R. landed a job. [Insert happy face here. Very happy face!] The next day he got a $2/hr raise and he hasn’t even started yet. Prospects for me seem to have steadied, and well, the next thing we knew, this boat sailed into our lives:

"I matter, dammit!"

28 Feet of Fun!

Squeee! It’s a ’78 Pearson 28, (since Yabu will want to know.) and cost very little more than what we got for The Slack. She’s a beauty, 2 feet longer than our last boat, with a prim interior in fine shape. Oh, it’s not much to brag about, but it is a symbol of my continual dedication to put my fist in the face of this crappy economy and wrest what bit of joy I can out of the situation.

More pics when we bring her to her berth. Once again, the boat will need a new name (don’t like the current name at.all.) and the traditional naming rituals will be invoked, Neptune appeased, rum poured out, rum consumed, naked bacchanalia commenced, etc.

Of course, you’re all invited. Like you have to ask?

Name suggestions being solicited. Bought her on the Fourth of July weekend, I’m thinking of naming her Declaration.