Is YOUR Name On The List?

When did your love of writing begin? Are certain people responsible? I’ve been thinking lately about how mine began. The presentation of Auntie Hazel’s flashy script and grandma’s heartfelt poems filtered down through dad (both links lead to Sass and Vinegar, a tribute to two creative sisters who loved wordplay). I figured my interest came from dad’s side. After all, they were the letter-writers. I figured they’d been my inspiration.

Maybe I forgot someone.

I found it the other day when I opened a kitchen drawer looking for scrap paper.

names grandma wrote down_May 2016Mom. I can hear her giggling. This is one of her lists. One of hundreds, I’m sure. She has collected unusual names for years. If it tickled her fancy, it went on the list. (Not to be confused with poking fun at. No. Mom isn’t like that. One of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met, mom doesn’t think like that, isn’t made that way. She has a hard time cussing properly (when she should). Odd…my sister and I don’t have that problem. So sad. Yes. Well, back to mom. While we were growing up, the worst I ever heard come out of her mouth was shite. Rhymes with polite. Figures. So, no making fun of here. Simply, mom enjoys unusual names and likes to keep a list.)

Where did she find these people? Newspapers, magazines, flyers, books, catalogs, and just about anything in print were fair game.

Mom is 87 and still an avid reader. They say that puzzles, reading, even learning another language contribute to brain health. Are there any studies about name lists and longevity?  I think I need to change that first sentence to “Mom is 87 and still an avid thinker.”

And that’s when it hit: Mom had a hand in my love of writing, words, and wordplay. Lists like this were all over the house when I was growing up.

names list_June 2016 (2)Ingo Lemme, Barbar Ibach, Robert Baller, Gary Spanks, and Karen Brecknock made the cut.

When I saw mom today, I asked her if she had any name lists handy. I didn’t have to explain; she knew exactly what I meant. Not only did she find the above, she’d also kept this:

names list_June 2016 (1)You may have noticed the handwriting is different. It’s mine. Holy buckets! This is genetic.

Mom and I must have been fiddle farting sitting around one day, and, talking about names, decided to look for more. The phone book must have been close.

We did a teensy weensy bit of shopping today and came across those journals people are charging an arm and a leg for, the ones made from old books. I couldn’t resist.

img_20160601_193039.jpg

 

What better way to keep a list of names.

It isn’t my fault. Really. (Thank you, mom). ❤

Sass and Vinegar

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”     

~Mark Twain

Creative Writing Siphoning. I’ve given this a lot of thought lately, tried to find a creative outlet for my stories–because that thing that’s buried deep inside, the collection of thoughts and experiences, life itself and that which makes me me–is no longer simmering. I feel a low, rolling boil. I want to spill. Do you know what I mean?

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been writing all my life. I am the highly proficient nocturnal collector of words and phrases (and tell myself with one eye open that in the morning I’ll remember the astonishingly perceptive phrase I’d just come up with describing the significance of humankind. Uh, huh). Scribbles and squiggles appear all over my house, on scraps of paper, in journals. Check out my Drafts tab:

photo of my drafts_May 2016

When thinking about my interest in writing and how it began, this is who came to mind.

Hazel_May 2016Look at her! The lady knew bling before bling became bling. From head to toe she oozed class. I used to watch her meticulously apply black mascara and blue eye shadow, something my grandmother never touched. She wasn’t finished until the foundation, rouge, and lipstick had been applied. The perfume, the outfit; there was always a hat.

She stood 4′ 10″ and weighed 110 pounds. Born with one leg shorter than the other, it is believed the family created a story that, as a baby, she was “dropped” causing injury to her hip. Given the stigma, lack of information, and fear about genetic deformities, she chose to forego having children. More likely, I later learned, she was born with a dislocated hip in a time when surgical corrections were rare. The result: her entire life, she walked with a significant limp.

There was little she couldn’t do. Little she didn’t do. Hazel de Helen Butterfield Kasae was my father’s aunt, and long after I towered over her, in my eyes, she was gargantuan. Had she lived, she would now be 114.

When necessary, she could be hell on wheels (but usually wasn’t). I loved her with all my heart, probably because she was full of sass and vinegar.


Wordplay. I knew where it came from, but I had forgotten how pervasive it had been in the scads of letters we exchanged. This was also true of my grandma, Hazel’s older sister. My father had a master’s in Zing, that uncanny ability to nail someone verbally before they knew they’d been “hit.” They were witty and sarcasm was an art. They loved words and they knew how to use them.

About 15 minutes after I asked grandma to sign my autograph book, this is what I received. Her biggest wish was that we’d lived closer. I later ripped out the page (thankfully, because I no longer have the book). I was nine.

First Prize poem_grandma Lalla_May 2016Grandma loved poetry, but it was Hazel who played. She would start on one page of a folded piece of stationary and move to the next without telling the recipient which page to read next. She kept us guessing. Her letters were so much fun to read it hardly mattered what she wrote. I loved her showy, floral script:

hazel and grandma letters_May 2016 (7)

hazel and grandma letters_May 2016 (1)Their personalities came through in their styles. Hazel’s flash and flare taught me to play with words, that the visual and how words appear on paper, makes a statement. Sometimes it was just a word, a name. Hazel called my father Slim. He wasn’t.

hazel and dad_May 2016Grandma’s artistry, her ability to put her heart into words and phrases, impacted me more than I realized. Grandma taught me how she put her heart into writing.

hazel and grandma letters_May 2016 (4)I received long, fun-filled letters from dad while I was in college. His style mirrored that of his predecessors. If you weren’t with someone, your words had to count. They were meant to sting or zing, cause a reaction, evoke laughter.

He would tell me about a weekend at the beach with mom, how they took long walks in the sand. Then he’d write, “I walked your mother’s ass off.” 


Grandma and Auntie Hazel left a legacy filled with sass, vinegar, love, and warmth. It’s all over the pages of their lives. Recent blood tests reveal high levels of sarcasm. It lives.


Whatever the story,

however expressed,

I rest in the knowledge

I learned from the best. 

hazeljune61_May 2016

A Horse of Another Color

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

Think about that. Has there been a time in your life when something catastrophic happened forcing you to make a major life decision, and you found yourself in a new situation with new people, yet, you revealed nothing? On advice of others who were quick to say, “Just move on,” or “It’s an opportunity to start over,” or “Don’t let it get to you,” you bore it all, alone. Have you had a similar experience? Have you remained silent because you didn’t want to bother others or you didn’t think they’d want to HEAR it? 

Maya is right. Silence can be pure agony. Well. She doesn’t have to tell me twice.

Some of you may have seen the poem I posted yesterday. It is called I. Am. Go ahead. Give her a click; the poem’s not very long. OK, now that you’re back, can you tell to whom it may have been directed? Does it scream scorned lover? Brutal landlord? Overbearing parent? Give me your best guess: _______________________.

Blatantly letting it all hang out is extremely therapeutic for some, but I need to mosey. I need time and mystery. There needs to be some question as if something isn’t quite clear. You’ve heard the term ‘fuzzy thinking’? I need fuzzy writing. Then it occurred to me: What better forum to tell a story than poetry? I’ve been trying to suppress a giggle ever since.

I have expanded the blog once again by adding a new category: CREATIVE WRITING. Yesterday’s I. Am. was the first poem I’ve written in some time. After thinking about poetry in general, I realized I’ve been dabbling for years, that I’ve been hoarding. I believe I wrote the following when I was about 12.

“Love is nature’s way, so beautiful and free,

like flowers, trees, and mountains, like you and me.”

~karenlee

My first thought is “Oh, brother,” and I’m a little embarrassed, but it shows I was thinking about rhyming and how words fit together from a very young age. That is a horse of another color.

I dug up my Sanford Lyne book. Inspiring! He authored this book about using poetry as a creative outlet.

Sanford Lyne book_May 2016

This drew me in:

page from S Lyne book_May 2016Miss Maya is right; concealing pain is ugly. When we are ready, though, when we dare to reveal, I believe positive changes will occur.

I challenge you to join me in my personal challenge of working through life issues through creative writing. It doesn’t have to be through poetry. It can be any form of writing you choose.

Taken from my front porch hanging basket, maybe the following will inspire (because this is so pretty it hurts):

This-n-that, July 2011 187

I. Am.

I. Am.

you think i need you.

how dare i disagree.

your smugness permeates

the air when i speak.

such grand, faux hauteur!

you say i don’t matter;

you yearn to shut me up.

our eyes lock; my tenacity shatters

your self-imposed, superior vantage.

you squirm that i see beyond the facade

of your fragile, padded ego.

i meet your insolent glare and

you’re nervous because you know that i know.

you know how long i’ve known.

you think i need you.

you want to silence my soul?

you don’t have permission.

only me. because

i. am.

~karenlee