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Wednesday, November 24, 2010



Thanksgiving is tomorrow. It is 1:00 PM, and she has not yet brushed her teeth or changed from her pajamas, having spent the morning reading and responding to blog posts, then crawling back into bed with her dogs to watch recorded TV shows. She has errands but they can wait. How long can she put off dressing and going out of the house to fetch the cupcakes she ordered for Thanksgiving at the farm? The shop doesn’t close until 7 PM. She has time.

She is sad. She takes her mug of green tea and walks onto the deck, shooshing her ratty old Uggs through wet leaves fallen there. She sits under the canvas gazebo, sips tea, lights a cigarette, looks around at the gloom and light rain.

The tears begin, silent at first, followed by sobs. She bends her chest over her legs and muffles the sound, shaking with despondency, wishing she could scream but afraid of alarming the dogs and the neighbors. She aches with melancholy; she is heartbroken.

Why? She asks herself why she is doomed to be so sad some days. Thanksgiving? Yes, her second without her husband is worse than the first. Last year, she was still numb and in shock. This year, she can feel it all, the loneliness, the emptiness, the heartache of his loss.

But it is more than Thanksgiving. These days happen to her, not so much as before, but they still suck her down into dolefulness, paralyze her into inertia when she least expects it. She takes her drugs and mostly they help, but today she feels herself moving in slow motion, riddled with anxiety, feet stuck to the floor. What is it that she needs to do? Oh, yes, the cupcakes.

She dries her face on the sleeve of her jacket and shuffles back into the house, ignoring the rain, and stands at the kitchen sink, meaning to clean up the dishes stacked there, but she only stares out the window and hurts in every fiber of her being. Slowly, she begins to carelessly load the dishwasher. That slow motion thing again. Her tea grows cold as she labors over such a small task, seemingly insurmountable. The dishwasher is finally running, and she goes back to bed.

Later, after trying and failing to sleep, she once more hauls herself out of bed and begins to dress. She pulls on her scrubs, so like pajamas, brushes her teeth and peers into the mirror at her wretched reflection. A women stares back from hollow eyes. She tries to smile but instead weeps once more, bending over the sink and sobbing loudly.

She lifts her head and scans the bathroom counter with disinterest. It is scattered with cosmetics, a razor, the sunscreen she used yesterday when she walked the dogs, wrinkle cream and leave-in conditioner and two pairs of glasses. There is eyeglass cleaner, hair clips, a bottle of Aleve and one of Ativan. There is the canister of toothpaste, uncapped. In the other sink sits a bag of toiletries purchased yesterday at Wal-Mart. She makes no attempt to create order.

No makeup. Just a perfunctory pass at her hair. What is it that she needs to do? Oh, yes, the cupcakes.

She loads the dogs into the back seat and creeps along the street, out of the neighborhood, past the liquor store, Mama Lowe’s Home Cooking and where they are building the new Burger King. Only one left turn without a light. She glides her late husband’s 1997 Lincoln Continental into a parking space in front of Hello There, Cupcake, flashing smiles at the young women whose new business is clearly thriving. She decides to buy an extra cupcake to eat later and makes a fuss over all the varieties, finally deciding on one called Cinnimon Bun for herself. She departs, cheerfully wishing everyone “Happy Thanksgiving.”

At home, she makes coffee and puts the cupcake on a pretty plate. And looks at it. And looks at it some more. Then she throws it into the trash.

Author’s Note: So, it’s out there. Yes, this was written by the same author only three days after “Sunrise on the Hampton River.” If you suffer from depression, you know that it happens. If you think you are depressed, please get some help.

(Happy Thanksgiving).

© cj Schlottman

Sunrise on the Hampton River


I am spending the weekend with Deidra and Taylor at their home on the northern tip of Sea Island, where the mouth of the Hampton River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The drive into Ocean Forest, their neighborhood, takes you down Sea Island Drive, lined with spectacular houses and even more spectacular Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The terrain becomes more heavily forested as you approach their house, trees hanging over the road.

Across the river is Little Saint Simons Island, a tiny, privately owned wildlife preserve with a small lodge, which can accommodate about 30 guests. Years ago, Clint and I spent a weekend over there in April, when the migratory birds were moving, and with the help of an expert naturalist, increased our bird list by about half.

Yesterday morning, I took photos of the sun rise over the Atlantic, then cast its brilliance over the Hampton River. I watched a Wood Stork soar across the river toward Little Saint Simons, a most magnificent sight. When I walked my dogs yesterday afternoon, we ran across a Bald Eagle sitting on the bank of a pond. When he sensed our presence, he spread his incredible wings and planed off to the other end of the pond. Bird Nerd that I am, I was thrilled at both sightings.

In this incredible house, my room faces the river and the ocean, and I have my own porch from which to gaze out over the magnificent view. Every morning, I have gone downstairs for coffee and brought it back here to write and sit and think and be grateful, both for my delightful friends and their hospitality and the beauty all around.

Taylor and a friend went fishing yesterday morning and brought in some beautiful trout. Deidra took them to the chef at Ocean Forest, who cooked them for our dinner last night. Trout caught in the morning and consumed that night! Chef prepared the three ways for us - sautéed, broiled and very lightly Panko fried. We were in heaven.

Today, we went to a very interesting Sunday School class conducted my Deidra’s good friend and my pen pal, Mr. X. He doesn’t want to be mentioned on the internet, so I am honoring his wishes. Maybe one day I will convince him that all blogs are not created equal!

We lunched at Frederica, which is on the north end of Saint Simons Island and were once again surrounded by natural beauty - marsh views, magnificent Live Oaks, and ponds. We lingered over a second glass of wine, and when we returned home, Deidra and I lay around and played lazy while Taylor went to hit golf balls. I made mushroom risotto to go along with the steaks Taylor grilled for our dinner tonight, and after another relaxing evening, I am preparing for bed.

Tomorrow, I must return to Macon - and reality. I am refreshed and energized and very, very happy.

© cj Schlottman

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Child Who Chose Us - Part 3


This is a continuation of a series of post about our wonderful Deidra, the child who chose us. The series starts here.

So, time passed and Dej became a big part of our lives, spending several evenings with us almost every week. We would hear the front door open, and the clicking of her Jimmy Choos on the tile floor, as she called out “Honeys, I’m home!”

She would find us, bestowing hugs and kisses all around, then she would pull out the cocktail shaker and make Martinis for her and me. Poppy always drank a glass of white wine. We would sit on the deck and watch the sun go down and talk and talk.

We often went out to dinner. No John. He always had some excuse. And as time passed and her April wedding loomed, my concern that she was making a mistake galvanized. She even expressed doubts of her own. Three weeks before the wedding, we sat in her Yukon in a parking place in front of a shop where we had gone, and she cried and said she wasn’t sure about the marriage, but that she thought John would change, loosen up and be more social.

Having myself once been young and naive enough to think I could change a man, I knew my words were wasted, but I told her anyway that she had no power to change John, that she could only change herself. I knew my words fell on deaf ears, but I had to say them. I even told her that, if she wanted to call off or postpone the wedding, I would get with her mother and that the two of us would take care of everything.

The wedding took place, and for a while we saw less of Dej. After a few months, though, she, being the gregarious and social being that she is, once more started coming to see us often and going out with us. In spite of repeated invitations, John never darkened our door, and in the two years that the marriage lasted, he only visited her parents’ but home once.

During those two years, we became closer, more in love with this beautiful girl with a loving and giving heart. She became, indeed, the child who chose us. She came to me (Poppy was an emotional coward) for advice and I in turn learned a great deal from her. Never having been very outgoing, she taught me to plunge forward into social situations. I learned to smile from her, and it changed my perspective on life. Because of her, I smile and speak to nearly every person I meet. And they, for the most part, smile back.

Wonderful, isn’t it, to learn such a life lesson from a young person? As I get older, I treasure her friendship and love more and more, and I have made if a point to get to know younger people. One of my best friends now is 12 years my junior. Knowing it’s a cliché, I am going to say it anyway, because it is true. Younger friends keep me younger. Dej dresses me, for God’s sake - or she does her best. She is my fashion police, a challenge for her, for sure, she who wears Manolo Blahniks, trying to do something with me, who live in Birkenstocks and Uggs.

The next episode is here.

© cj Schlottman

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Cried Early and Often

The concert in Atlanta on Sunday was beyond my most enthusiastic expectations. On the drive up, Loren, who possesses great musical knowledge though he doesn’t play an instrument himself, gave me a crash course in the structure of a classical symphony. He explained the four movements and how they are connected, so I went into the concert hall armed with new knowledge of how to appreciate classical music.

First, though, we had lunch at the restaurant at Woodruff Hall, were the Atlanta Symphony performs. Loren, ever the carnivore, had some sort of exotic burger covered in bacon and cheese. I enjoyed a wild mushroom quiche, and we split a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. The champagne was divine and set the tone for the entire afternoon.

When Itzak Perlman took the stage, my heart swelled in my chest, and when he began Mozart’s Adagio in E Major, making his violin speak to my very heart, the tears came. No, no sobbing. I didn’t embarrass myself, and I was armed with tissues. He followed with the Rondo in C Major and I continued to weep silently as the music rolled over me, filling my soul.

Music is medicine for the soul, I think, especially classical music that has been touching hearts for centuries. Part of Perlman’s genius is in his ability to make one feel as though he is playing only to you, that you are the center of his energy.

It’s fortunate that I don’t wear much makeup, because the Symphony No. 25 in G minor (The Little G), brought more tears. (Do I really need that Restasis)? Perlman was conducting, and it was clear that every member of the orchestra was giving him his or her very best. He drew them together, and the result was magic. The symphony is not very long, but it is strong on emotion, and he brought it all to each of us. Amazing.

Intermission. A chance to breath and collect myself, ready myself for Perlman to conduct Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 - the Symphony for the New World, Clint’s favorite. I didn’t hold out much hope for keeping myself together.

But when the music once more began, I was surprised that my tears were fewer. Having heard the recorded version for so many years when Clint played it, it made me miss him, of course, but I came to understand why he loved it as he did. It is he - big and strong on the outside and warm and quirky in the middle. My husband was a symphony!

Tears sting behind my lids as I write this. I miss him so. But I smile to think how happy he would be to know that I had the thrill and privilege to hear his favorite work conducted by Itzak Perlman. I know he is smiling.

© cj Schlottman


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Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's Using Whom?


Two weeks ago, I broke up with my Friend Boy and renamed him my Man Friend - or M-F. Please excuse the double entendre, but it just seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

He rudely walked out of a restaurant where he and Lisa and I were having a late supper. Swine. (Thank God, Lisa had her car). He had been acting petulant and selfish for a couple of months, and that particular action sent me into a fury that I unleashed on him in a text message the next day. Move over, Julia Sugarbaker.

I harangued him about his rudeness, his changing of plans at the last minute, his excessive alcohol consumption, and I told him I could not be friends with someone who was bad for me. I explained that I felt used and taken for granted and that I needed friends who made me feel good about myself. I made it clear to him that he was not good for me. Then I thanked him for helping me get through the first year of my life without Clint, but reiterated that his recent behavior was intolerable to me.

So, there!

Well. After not seeing him for two weeks, and yes, I did miss him, but more like a toothache than anything else, I learned yesterday that we had been seated next to one another at an event this Friday night. What to do? I had not spoken to him, and as per my request, he had not tried to contact me. This could be awkward in about 14 different ways.

So, I texted him that I would be seeing him on Friday night, and that I wanted things to be civil, that he could count on me to be wearing my “company manners.” I said I would be willing to talk, if he were. He phoned me that evening and we chatted about insignificant things for a while - nothing about our problems - and he asked me to go to dinner with him.

On the way to the restaurant he invited me to the Atlanta Symphony on Sunday afternoon to hear Itzak Perlman do a program of Mozart and Devorak! The program consists of Mr. Perlman conducting and performing:
DVOJÁK: Symphony No. 9
MOZART: Adagio in E Major
MOZART: Rondo in C Major and
MOZART: Symphony No. 25 in G minor

We had a lovely evening, talked a little about reshaping our friendship and not seeing so much of each other, thinking we had supersaturated our friendship with too much together time.

I was ecstatic! The Symphony for the New Word was Clint’s favorite piece of symphonic music and he played it often, cranked up loud enough to rattle the windows! All I could think about was how thrilled he would be for me to have an opportunity to hear Perlman conduct it. Clint and I only had one opportunity to hear Mr. Perlman perform live, at the Kennedy Center in Washington back in the 1980’s, and it is a once in a life time opportunity for me to hear him live again.

It seems that good things come in bunches, so I reshaped my very important weekend in Savannah to make arrangements to be back in Macon in time to get to Atlanta to the concert. I even bought a new outfit - paid too much for it!

As for my friendship with the M-F, I am only cautiously optimistic. I'm afraid he has problems I can’t deal with in the long term. But, I am going with him to the symphony and enjoy the hell out of it. Maybe I am using him. I suppose I am, but it’s my turn.

We will see. Stay tuned.

© cj Schlottman