This blog is dedicated to Joy Kennedy Perry, my mom. If she were still alive these are the details of my life that I would want to share with her. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Southern Sin

Hey Ya'll!  I wrote this for an essay contest.  The piece needed to revolve around being southern and sinnin'. 
Southern Sin


Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

 In the South there is sinnin’ of the salacious sort – lower case “s”, no “g”.  It rolls off the tongue like honey - easy to say, easy to do, easy to repent.  Sinnin’ is considered a mild infraction and an expected part of the culture, at least where I’m from.  We have it down to an art form.  I love that about the South.  We erect boundaries of propriety which seem to be set in place for the sole joy of pushing against them.  What is the fun in nudging against emptiness?  No walls of expectations equates to less frolicking, in my opinion.  A perfect example of sinnin’ would be missing Sunday Church due to a little unanticipated Saturday night hedonism and then blithely arriving at Sunday dinner with a dimpled smile and a kiss on the cheek for your mother as an apology.  She gives you a look, you give her some sugar and all is forgiven.  There is balance in the world.

On the other hand, there is Sinning-add the capital “S” to the beginning and a “g” on the end.  For those of you who don’t speak Southern-ese, I will pass along this tidbit:  it’s hard to say that last g in Sinning.  It takes a conscious stretching of the lips and a clenching of the jaw.  There is a required tension in the speaking that is physically uncomfortable – hard to say, hard to do, hard to repent of.  This Sinning with the capital “S” is a step above (or a step below, maybe) sinnin’ and is supported by fire and brimstone because there is no smile charming enough or sugar sweet enough to grant salvation.  It equates to a major action against God and country (and by country I mean the South, of course.)

Another thing about Southerners that maybe you didn’t know, they love to trace their genealogy.  Like sweet tea left to brew in the hot sun for most of the day, love for family and ancestry is strong and we like it that way.  We honor our roots and accept the warts – it is our tree and it is to be protected.  I currently live on the west coast and when I meet a Southerner out here there is an immediate connection to a common land and history that comes without effort.  It is lovely to behold and I count myself lucky to be included in that club.  The first giveaway in finding fellow displaced Southerners is the accent.  It is an accent that never fails to quicken my Southern DNA with a jolt and then comes the remembered relaxation of the South.  It is a way of being that can be unlearned but not forgotten.

And it is here, Dear Reader, that I confess to you that at the tender age of 18 I Sinned (note the capital “S”) against my 300 year Southern heritage. 

Before crucifying me, please hear my story as no action ever arrives without some previous provocation and mine arrived in the form of a university in the Southwestern US. 

“You’ll never go anywhere with an accent like that.” 

I sat in the cold, sterile room of my university advisor.  I stared at him at a complete loss. 

“What accent?” I replied.

It was my second day out of the South – ever.  I had arrived by plane the day before with clothes still very damp from the North Carolina humidity. They smelled so good like sawdust and honeysuckle.  His words struck me deep because my sole purpose for attending this university was to “go somewhere”.  Sadly, being young and na├»ve, I believed him - that the sum result of all of my ambition rested soley on the way my words sounded when they left my mouth.  I was never going to go anywhere because apparently no one out here could understand half the words in the sentences I uttered.  It made every interaction frustrating and prolonged.  I was gently teased and cruelly mocked.  I realized that I was viewed as lazy and dim-witted.  It was sad to be seen that way when I knew differently but I knew I needed to survive and “go somewhere”.  In order to survive I needed to thrive.

Certain other Southern idiosyncrasies also became apparent during my early days at university.  One of those was normal walking gate – some might call it sauntering.  Charging quickly across campus, head down, seemed a waste of opportunities to appreciate whatever happened to come my way.  But I was often tardy for class and I didn’t like that either.  Change was in order for me.   I had never had to briskly walk anywhere for any length of time before and I found that although I would start off at a quick gate, my natural stride asserted itself when I wasn’t paying attention.  After a few days of continued tardiness I learned to keep my head down and chant the word “go”, “go”, “go” as I walked.  It seemed to help keep my tempo up.   I also learned that replying “yes, ma’am” to the question of a professor will get you evicted from class.  Word of warning: in some parts of the country being polite can be rude.   It was a whole new world and I needed to learn it.

 After a semester of adjustment, I could now walk briskly, not be too polite to my elders, and not correct professors in their pronunciation of Appalachian Mountains.  I was making such progress!  I no longer went into grocery stores expecting grits or Cheerwine and I never considered ordering sweet tea at a restaurant.  What a quick learner!  I really should have been so proud.

But there was still the accent to consider and it was at this point, Dear Reader, that I sold my soul to devil for the “gift” of tongues.  I’d like to say it was an affectation that I wore and inside I stayed the same – role-playing.  But the devil is wily and in this trade it was my soul that was demanded and my soul he got.  In fact, it seemed to me that a Yankee soul for my Southern soul was to be the trade.  My speech became quick, bullet-like, every syllable enunciated.   My mannerisms followed.  My face even felt foreign as I learned to move it in unaccustomed ways as I adjusted to ending my words and not combining syllables.  My jaw tightened, my lips pursed.  I was efficient, hardened and cold.   In fact, I remember thinking, “This must be what it feels like to be a Yankee...” 

 My Sinning (with the hard "g" as a final punctuation) was complete.  Amen.  

Twenty years have passed since that time and I still don’t have a strong Southern accent.  I will forever carry around that 18 year old inside – her deal with the devil still stands.  It is like a tumor inside – black and ugly.  But as the years passed life experiences have allowed my soul to grow back bigger, more beautiful, warmer, more Southern.  My “Yes, Ma’am”s and “ya’ll”s are as prevalent as the “g”s are absent at the end of my sentences.  The 18 year old is there but so is the 21 year old, the 25, 31, 35…  And what a blessing that is – to more than what you were!   No incarnation is the final one.  Life changes us and that can be a gift – but it can also change us back and that is also a gift. 

Friday, June 22, 2012


Here is my Dad in Africa!  Yay, Dad!
You must keep your spirit of adventure alive.  Those are my words of advice today.  There have been times in my life when adventure bounced through my life, grabbed my hand and off we skipped - together, happily into the sunset.  BFFs.

family portrait
These days it is more difficult to grab onto adventure or at least my former definition of adventure.  I see her go bounding past but I can't quite reach her as I am pulled by many strings of natto.  You don't know what natto is, you say?  Well, count yourself lucky is my response.  It is a Japanese "delicacy" of fermented soybeans.  It has a distinctive aroma (read: nasty), a unique consistency (read: similar to snot), and a taste fit for only the most discerning (knee-buckling pungent - and not in a good way.)  Another characteristic of natto (similar to mucus and pine tar) is its ability to stick and string and not be washed away.  After my dear husband eats some and opens his mouth, like a horror movie monster, you see strings of it joining his upper palate and tongue. (He always offers a kiss at this moment and acts surprised when he is rejected.)    Again, nasty.

My husband, bless his soul, equates family with natto.  He describes it thusly:  The individual members may stretch in different directions but there is always a string of...well, snot connecting all the disparate entities. If you have some of that string connecting you to another then you have a responsibility to that person.   I suggest you find a different definition of family for yourself - but that is ours, or his, because I am not sure I claim it.  The ick factor is just too strong.
It seems as though you reach a time your life when those natto strings are especially taut and many. Primarily when your children are small and mortgage payments are high maybe. It is in times like these that you must make a concerted lunge toward it and keep it closer to you. Instead of using it all up in occasional large adventures, piece it out daily until that day comes when your strings loosen at bit and large adventures can happen more often.

Last year I went to Ireland - big adventure.
But sometimes your perception of adventure must be seen through new eyes.  What is adventure anyway?  I think it is anything that let's you see the world in a new way or even a thought that had never occurred to you. 

I try to seek out small daily adventures as they make me feel alive and invigorated. Sometimes they find me but I have to be aware, acknowledge.  The acknowledgement is important.   Why would I want this day to be the same as the last?  These moments must be sought out but are well worth your efforts. 

And I must say even though family is an adventure in and of itself  I still try to have  my own personal adventures.  Here is today's:

 I am going to try this drink. It may kill me but what is the fun if there is no inherent risk, right? 
What is most disturbing about this drink is that those flea-looking pods don't sink.  They are eternally suspended.  It looks about as good as natto but as Eleanor Roosevelt says "Do something you fear everyday."  I am truly "afeared".  Wish me luck.

Friday, December 23, 2011

"Weighting" for Christmas

"Christmas time's for dreaming
Thoughts of long ago...
Holidays of childhood
Memories all aglow"  

Alice Kennelly Roberts

This is our tree this year.  It smells divine but what I like more is that it is able to support the weight of our ornaments.  Not that we have an excessive amount, mind you, but some of them carry very precious cargo - our memories.  And then, some of them don't.   Take this one, for example:
Pretty and super sparkly (which pleases the magpie in me) but there are very few memories attached to it.  Very light, filler really. I don't mean to diminish the importance of filler. Filler is good and softens intensity. One day it may take on more meaning.  But right now it is a sparkly pinecone and I can't recall quite how it was acquired.

 But these next ones - my kids gain some muscle in the lifting of them.  The memories they carry are gaining heft and the tree is starting to feel it.

Tak and I bought this at Harrods.  It was the only thing we
could affort to buy there!  Good memories.

A child's small handprint.  This will gain more weight as soon as I remember which child's hand it is an imprint of...
(Did I mention I'm up for the Parent of the Year Award?)

My kids love putting ornaments on the tree.  They do most of the work while I act as facilitator and that is as it should be.  But there is one ornament that is just too heavy for them to manage and it rightfully falls to me to mount it on the tree.  No one but me could put it there. 

   For, you see, this unassuming little elf and I share a moment every year.  As I put him on the tree, years of memories flash through my mind.  He holds them all on his little shoulders without effort. The flashes look similar to this:

Can you see my sweet blue elf behind my head on the tree?  He didn't weigh much back then.  Maybe he was filler...

Jason and I trying to hurry Christmas by doing Santa and his elf's job ourselves. 
Sadly, the reindeer we made were 2" high and just couldn't pull us. 
We ended up having to wait for Santa regardless.


I hang him on the tree and am grateful for the joy that was mine growing up.  It inspires me to provide that for my own children.  And who knows what will weigh the most to them when they have grown - maybe that random sparkly pinecone.

As an aside, some of you may know, I have more than two brothers but that is all you see in the previous pictures - two were not yet born.   Below is a Perry celebration including ALL the brothers, two of their sweet wives, Mom and Dad and one guy in the back,to the left of my dad, I don't recognize.  As far as I know he isn't a brother - but sometimes I get confused.

Merry Christmas Everyone! 
Thanks for reading!

"When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness"  Bob Hope

This picture has nothing to do with Christmas but I love it.  The Brothers and I look ready to take on the world - or at least the 70's - but we happily paused before world domination to wait for my brother Ryan (the baby, not pictured) to grow up and join in the adventure.
Celebrate your Family!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Numerical Biography of My Father

My Dad, Doug Perry, and my brother, Jason, are both Veterans and I would like to let them know how much their sacrifice means to me.  I have always been a bit removed from my Dad's Vietnam experiences as I was so young but Jason is preparing to go to Afganistan once again and I am so proud of him but carry a consistent worry for him like a small pebble in a shoe until he returns.  But this write-up isn't about Jason, it's about my Dad.

Mom with her Marines.

Some would say that my father has accomplished much in his life.  I suppose.  I guess  if you are easily impressed by the obvious.  Some would say that 25 years as a Marine, 3 tours of Vietnam and 2 purple hearts is impressive.  Or you could possibly be swayed by the fact that in Vietnam he saw and experienced atrocities no human soul should absorb and then returned home to his wife and five children and had the strength of character to not take it out on them.  Whatever, I guess that could be considered grand...

Maybe the fact that when stationed in Okinawa he applied himself to the discipline of studying karate.  Everytime the military moved us my Dad would set up a Dojo of sorts and train.  He learned and he grew.  When he retired from the Military he set up the Dojo he has now and next year will mark 30 years in the same location.  There are those impressed by that.  Or maybe the fact that at the age of 72 he was promoted to 9th degree black belt - the only in the US of our system.  The masses might think the fact that many of his black belt students have been with him the full 30 years an indication of his generous, loyalty inspiring character.
 Maybe, whatever.

Being inducted into the Shagger's Hall of Fame might be memorable to some.  I am talking the Atlantic Beach Dance and not, for those of you whose minds are in the gutter <grin>, the British version of this word.  He and Mom were amazing to watch dancing.  We would yell out our favorite steps when the kids were watching them dance, "Sugar-foot!  Belly-roll!"  I could maybe see how people might think the Hall of Fame thing worth recognizing.  But not me.  I am having none of it.  I am here to write the first (and probably only) numerical biography of my Dad. 

Here are the things I feel are REALLY worth knowing:

1)  He has one daughter.  She has been given many names over the years:  Princess, Bill Bynshun, Bean Machine, Sweetest Darlin' in the Whole Wide World (I shared this one with the dog for a few years) and currently, Moonbaby.  But "there can be only one."  (Name that movie!) The End.

2)  Two is the number of dates said daughter had while in high school.  It was a difficult process to get a date.  I first had to convince the boy I was interested in that he wouldn't be killed on the spot as he asked my Dad's permission to take me out.  It was a difficult sell as guns were always close at hand.

3)  Three is the number of times I have seen him cry.  Twice was over his dogs - never get between a man and his dog was the lesson learned there.  The third time was five years ago when my mom passed away.  He tried so hard to be strong for us, as he has always been, but this time it wasn't necessary.

I love this picture!  Everyone should have crazy family shots.
And who dresses a one year old in pleather?
4) Dad and Mom gifted me with four fabulous, handsome, smart, talented, radically different and fun friends.  They also happen to be my brothers - bonus!

5)  This is number of tattoos my dad has, I think.  I am recalling this from memory as he doesn't know I am writing this "dedicatory piece in his honor".  I like his tattoos a lot because they are the "old school" kind.    I never even really noticed them until I was a teenager and someone pointed them out to me.  Kids just love their parents, they don't really see them.  Of course, I didn't realize my husband was Japanese until we were married five years so maybe the problem lies with me...(grin)

6)  I am going to multiply this 6 by 1,000 which will equal the number of Karate Camp T-shirts the man owns. The number boggles the mind.  He loves them all and there is no getting rid of a one. My mom certainly tried hard enough.  It was a storage issue.  I love that about him.  As an aside, I was at his last karate camp this summer and noticed a decided lack of cute T's for girls/women.  He and I need to have a chat about shirt cut and colors.  I could revolutionize the entire karate T'shirt industry!  Heads up!  Invest in Bedazzle!

7)  Seven is the number of high schools in Charlotte, NC he was kicked out of (probably for fighting)  AND how many times he was beat up while boxing under the name Lindsey Mushay (not sure I am spelling that correctly.)  He swears his trainer chose this name for him. What can we learn from this?  What I take from it is that my Dad is scrappy and I like that about him.  He had no good template after which to pattern himself and grew up under very harsh conditions.  He created his own template.  He did graduate from high school and he has many winning boxing trophies despite his unfortunate moniker.  One of those trophies sits on a shelf in my bedroom.

8)  He will at any one time have eight Louis L'Amour books by his bedside.  I think he owns a hundred.  Eight is also the number of times he has read each one.  Do the math - this man loves a spaghetti western.  Eight is also the number of grandchildren he is blessed with.

9)  The number of ice cubes required in his coke at night for dinner.  Nine cubes of ice with his coke, a piece of cheesetoast and a handfull of Cheese-Its.  He has been eating this meal for at least 30 years as I used to make it for him when I was young.  I also got to witness him teaching my daughter, Maya (at right), how to make the perfect piece of cheesetoast when we visited last.  It is an important lesson, I understand - I am just not sure why...

10)  He has 10 fingers and I am glad of that fact - although I have a brother and a friend with only nine so I would probably be fine with nine.  What is special about those fingers is that they are attached to his hands.  Daddy's hands are not pretty but I could pick them out in the dark or in a room of 1,000 other hands.  He bites his nails when he watches ball games, his knuckles are calloused from doing karate type things and knuckle push ups (not sure if this is a Marine or Karate thing but he is proud of those callouses!) His hands have a few tattoos as well.  But they are also the hands that held mine growing up, that used my leg as a guitar when I was 3, that played piano on my leg when we rode to the dojo together when I was 16 and that holds my hand still as he takes me on tours of his yard.  I love his hands - even if they could use a little moisturizer now and again...

A father is always making his baby into a little woman. And when she is a woman he turns her back again.
Enid Bagnold 
A heartfelt and gracious thank you to all military personnel and veterans. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Family Trips

Family Trips are awesome!....That's so funny I can't even type it with a straight face.  Let me try again....Family Trips are......nope, still not happening.  Family trips, in truth, are a mixed bag and must be approached like a wild animal - with extreme caution. (Some might even argue not at all!)

We went on a Family Trip recently to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Museum.  I thought it would be great and that everyone would find something enjoyable in the experience.  I mean life is about gathering stories for your bag of life, right?  The museum is the 1916 Steam Engine which takes you on a beautiful 9-mile round trip through hill and dale. 

This is how our trip played out:

My son Sean loves trains and we positioned ourselves right behind the engine to get the utmost enjoyment.  We could hear the whistle, feel the steam and wind in the open passenger car.  He was so excited he couldn't sit still. 

He laughed joyfully

He jumped joyfully

He embodied joy. 
He vibrated such joyful enthusiasm it wouldn't have surprised me if he couldn't hold his body together in one piece any longer.

But the true heros of the day were Tak and Maya.  For I firmly believe that if they hadn't made such a valiant effort to balance Sean's exuberance, the world as we know it would have ceased to existThey truly deserve an award.

"Relax in the open car behind the mesmerizing sounds of a 1916-vintage steam locomotive". (From their website.  I guess Maya did some research and took it to heart.)
In the end Maya was happy (because we were leaving most likely) and Sean was sad because he had fallen and skinned his knee.  Did I mention the mixed bag, wild animal analogy - approach with caution and no expectation.

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;  they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."  Marcel Proust

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Summer of Reckoning

There are many lives of mine that I won't live - and I hate that.  Mainly because they are all inside of me wanting to be let loose.  These "lives-that-won't-see-the-light-of-day" and I had it out this summer - toe to toe.  I call it my Summer of Reckoning.  We have always gotten along well, these lives and I, because I have kept promising them through the years that their time will come - I have plenty of time to make it all happen.  And then, in my 40th summer, I had to say goodbye to some really amazing versions of myself.  I liked them all and didn't want them to go.  I promised I would write while knowing in my heart the relationship was over.  They knew it, too, which was why there was lots of gnashing.

Here, for your viewing (possibly laughing) pleasure, are the versions of me that could have been.

I Reckon I won't experience being:

  1. Archeologist, digging for Celtic ruins in the UK.  This life appeared when I was 12.  I was in my first beauty pageant and needed to state on stage what I wanted to be. I thought this sounded fantastic and dreamed myself in this life for many years.
  2. Graphologist, at  a Ren Faire booth providing handwriting analysis.  This life also included a day job  using this skill but it was always really about getting access to Ren Faires.  Mainly because it combines my love of handwriting (and what it reveals about that person) and fascinating people watching.
  3. Large animal Veterinarian, preferably working alongside James Herriot (yes, he has passed but when this life was in full force he was still with us.)
  4. Rare Book Librarian at the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
  5. Book Conservator with a studio in my back yard where I fixed broken, hurt, old books - preferrably with an antique French book press.
  6. Professional Genealogist specializing in Gaelic Records.
  7. Genetic Counselor
  8. My own enchanted shop filled to the brim with papers, pens and books - and fairy lights.  They seem to go together in my head.
  9. 6th Grade Teacher:  but this was when I was in 6th grade and I only wanted to become this to torture some irritating boys.  What I didn't know then is that boys can be no other way at that age.  THANKFULLY I have not been set loose in the school system.
  10. I am only going to briefly mention wanting to be a backup singer with Paul McCartney, Irish Dancer with Michael Flately and research assistant for Diana Gabaldon.  I think those require talent!
My chickens who also nest - usually in my bushes!
The life I do have was/is also one of my dreams because I love to nest.  And I have always wanted to provide a nest for my family to flourish in.  That family would live on a little farm (which turned out to be a house in a neighborhood but I am good at pretending) with animals (trying to figure out if a miniature horse would work in my yard along with my chickens and dog) and an amazing community to help me raise them (the kids, not the animals). 
I am pretty lucky because I have lived these "livesthatwillneverseethelightofday" in little ways through the years.  I have volunteered at the San Diego Archives where I helped restore books and helped out a large animal vet.  I have taken Gaelic language classes, Genealogy classes, graphology classes, book-making classes.  I am the historian of my town.  I majored in Genetics.  I occassionally people watch at Ren Faires (how can I resist?)  And if I ever need to visit one of these lives they are only a bookshelf away.

My girls have decided they are done listening and are heading home - to nest!

"There are times when Life surprises one, and anything may happen, even what one had hoped for."  Ellen Glasgow
Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Joys of Summer

Maya and Sean getting ready for
the Preston water balloon fight.
It is 8 in the morning and my candles are lit;  my fire is roaring and my one, threadbare but very dear cashmere sweater is donned.  Fall has arrived in the Northwest.  It is time to bid summer farewell.  Summer has never been my most favorite season (I always say you can only remove so many clothes...and then you are still hot) but this summer took an unexpected twist and turned into my Summer of Reckoning (summon the dramatic music!)  But that is for another post.  Here I need to say goodbye to summer.  Thinking back, though, what I find fascinating is that although I can articulate why this summer wasn't my best one (not really even in my top 10) my specific memories only bring forth these images:
On the last day of school every year at the Preston Alley bus stop we have a water balloon fight.  The kids have a choice of either staying on the bus or getting off and getting drenched.  It is great as you can hear them screaming in excitement (or torment) before the bus is even in sight.  This is my offering, some moms bring wheelbarrows full.  Showoffs!!

This is the Fourth of July with many of our neighbors.  I love this picture most because they have both assumed mirroring Japanese squats.  She is so her Daddy's daughter.  Sorry for the blurriness!

There is no greater joy than being five!  Nothing gets in your way - what's a little wet grass on the face when there is fun to be had!

La Push Beach, WA

I do love my Daddy

Forget a bird in the bush - how about 16 eggs in the bush!
So what I mean to say, especially to myself (and, in fact, the point of this blog) is even in the throes of certain trials there is always joy to be had - whether and when we choose to see them is our choice.

"The cream of enjoyment in this life is always impromptu.  The chance walk, the unexpected visit, the unpremeditated journey;  the unsought conversation or aquaintance."  Fanny Fern

Thanks for reading!!