Old Souls

December 8, 2013 at 12:15 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Been ThereTitle:Been There, Done That, Really!

Author: Paulette Camnetar Meeks

Publisher: Xulon Press

Genre: Memoirs/ Short Stories/ Christian Living/ Large Print

Length: 496 pages

Paulette Meeks stood at the table of books at the bookstore after her signing, “Pick one you think you’ll like.” She is in her seventies, has several titles out, and has recently become a writing machine though she’ll tell you, “I never thought I’d be a writer, but God gave me these stories.”


Paulette and her friends. (Ms. Meeks is on the far left.)

I looked over the books.  One is fit for a Sunday School class, one looks fun and spunky featuring a nun zooming by on a motorcycle.  I picked Been There, Done That, Really!  It has an elderly couple, the sort you imagine have grown old together, looking off into the distance over what I presume is a cup of coffee (could be tea, but I’m partial to coffee drinkers).  Obviously, this appeals to me.

I always thought there were two kinds of people in the world – those that prefer the very young and those who prefer the very old.  I’m of the old variety.  I love my child, but I’ve never been a natural nurturer to children.  To me they are just little people who haven’t learned how to function well in society.  They don’t yet look beyond their own noses, they are selfish and self-serving.  Thanks to hormones and motherhood that view has changed a bit – my daughter is indeed a little person, but I can see the wise woman she will one day be.  And the cute, snuggly factor helps.


This picture was taken about thirteen years ago, but I remember this woman vividly.

The elderly, though, have always intrigued me.  Even as a very small child, I preferred white hair and wrinkles to the company of my peers.  I learned to count by playing SkipBo with a woman who was born at the turn of the century – the 1899 to 1900 one, I realize I have to specify these days.  In high school when I did community service projects, I always opted for cleaning homes for assisted living homes in low income neighborhoods over playground session with tiny people.  I enjoyed the conversations.  Then and now, I like hearing the stories.

If you’re one of those people too, the kind who likes to hear about a lifetime of adventures from someone interested in sharing them, Paulette Meeks’ collection of stories are for you.  They are sweet, simple tales from people who just want to talk about their lives a little bit.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.

My favorite story was Paulette’s own: Never Too Old to Be Smitten.  There is a picture at the start of the story of Paulette and her husband Bill on their wedding day June 29th in 2001.  I found the idea of finding love in your sixties so wonderfully sweet.  Bill was a widower before Paulette, and I hope that if I die first, my husband finds someone to keep him company before he leaves this world.  (We wives like to believe our men can’t live without us. ) More than anything, the word ‘smitten’ is a magical word and it is easy to get caught up in the romance of the meaning while you read the story of their first meeting and first date.

Reading through these stories reminded me of another book I’ve reviewed here before, Rich Fabric, a series of stories about quilting.  The proceeds of Rich Fabric go to the Twilight Wish Foundation, and if you’ve read it I think Been There, Done That, Really! will appeal to you.

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February 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm (In So Many Words, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , )

Memories of My College Years…

Four hours is a good nights rest, she tried to tell him. They told her she was an insomniac… or maybe she told her that. But she knew she wasn’t really. She could sleep; she just wasn’t good at it. Sleeping was some kind of secret art that people withheld teaching her. Any good sleep she got happened in the late afternoon or early evening hours. Not in the night, when her beloved moon she never saw was awake, not then. Sleep could not or would not come to her then, at least not until 3:00 or 4:00, well 4:00, sometimes 5:00 in the morning.

She liked his tie. It was checkered… shiny… mesmerizing – “What?” she was in class. Oh yeah, class. But she knew that, she had been there all along, and before that in the library, and before that in her room, and before that lunch where she had told them, “Four hours is a good nights rest.” More than she’d had all week. Three hours at a time was usually an accomplishment and that usually only happened after she worked out. She’d work out, and then pass out. If she didn’t run three miles a day, she’d never sleep.

… I don’t miss it.

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February 11, 2010 at 1:07 am (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

(Book Review meets a Life Review)

Jasper held my hand as we eyed curtains at Dillard’s. I said “Oooh” and she “Awed” a moment, and then continued on. Bustling through the food court on the second level, she stopped and looked at me and began to giggle, “We know our way around by food and draperies. We’re fat old women, Andi, fat old women whose husbands are either dead or really, really rich and having an affair.”

We had continued walking and I tried to picture that, looking into the window of some overpriced clothing store geared towards people our age… the twenty-one and almost twenty, actually more for the sixteen to twenties to be correct. I looked at our slender bodies, linked together at the elbow as we walked hurriedly through the one place we despised equally – the mall.

What would it be like to have a really, really rich husband who was having an affair? Probably because you were overweight and did know your way around the mall by the food court and the draperies, a little too well. That would be awful.

A man on the sidewalk told us we had beautiful eyes as we burst out of the palace of materialism and into the warm autumn sun. It was too hot outside to be November.

In the car, we probably played Bright Eyes. Jasper was obsessed with them. Jasper was “obsessed” with everything she liked. She didn’t just like The Nightmare Before Christmas, she had a collection of Jack dolls. She didn’t just like Bright Eyes, she had to go to all their shows. She didn’t just like men, she had to devour them – and Jasper needed a good ‘wing man’ (one like myself). That’s how I found myself going to shopping malls with her arm in arm, listening to songs like “Lover I don’t have to love” as loud as the stereo would go, and hanging out at karaoke bars on Maple Point.

November 17, 2006, finishing one of the many books I dived into post college-graduation, Narcissus Ascending, I sat stunned by how reminded of Jasper I was. I felt like Karen McKinnon took a year of my life and hyperbolized (if that’s not a word, it should be) it into two hundred and twelve pages.

Jasper would catch you with her eyes; men fell towards those thick dark lashes batting around the intoxicating green of her iris. I’d watch her then touch their arm while saying something witty, rude, seductive, or maybe all three simultaneously. Before they knew what hit them, they had caught her scent, rich perfume, hair product, and what my virgin self assumed was sex. It was a good scent, a teasing scent; years later friends would mutter to themselves or to each other in crowds, “I thought I just smelled Jasper.” She stays with you, a sexual assault on all your senses at once – I don’t remember seeing anyone meet her for the first (second, third, fourth…) time without seeing their face express just that feeling.

With Jasper, there usually came drinking, drinking to be with her, drinking to get away from her. Many of my liquor experiences I either associate with her, or I blame on her, I blame my blaming on being histrionic. She would like that, me letting her be my bad guy, knowing that its what I do as to not dismiss her from my life entirely; even if I never speak to her again, she would at least have my guilt. She’d say something like, “Oh Andi, its because you’re histrionic like me. Here, I’ll blame you, too. Let’s blame each other, it’ll be fun.” We’d make a joke of it or something, and tell people in each other’s presence, maybe when introducing or being introduced, “This is Andi, I love her, she’s wonderful, I blame her for all my problems. We’re both histrionic.” Or vice versa, “This is Jasper, I love her, she’s awesome, and she’s the bane of my existence.” Everyone would laugh and find it funny, because we’re crazy enough to find that funny, and everyone else would be drunk and have no idea what we were talking about.

In that way she conquers us all, becoming her own legend. If she read my book, which she would if it got published, she would hate me for these words, call me up, disown me as a friend, call me a bitch at what I have done to her, saying she didn’t think I would say something like that about her. Or maybe, she’d do the opposite, call me up and tell me she loved me and thought my book was wonderful. Either way she would really love it, knowing that the world now knows who she is, she would tell stories about her bitchy friend who wrote about her in her bitchy book. If she ever did get mad about anything I wrote, she’d probably call back later and want me to explain, forgive me without saying the words and love me all over again. She would be proud. So, I have to be honest. It would be easy to say she’s like Callie, that she’s that screwed up and leave it at that, and it would be easy to pretend I’m Becky, capable of walking away.

But Jasper is Jasper and even if I can’t be around her all the time like I was then, I’ll still always love her somewhere in the strange corners of my heart. I needed her friendship then, I needed her so I could still be the good one, the tease, and the better person. My sister even told me that after she met Jasper, told me that I needed her because I don’t like things being my fault, because I needed to get a mean streak out of me, but I didn’t want to be responsible for my actions. I let Jasper lead. I handed her the reigns for almost a year. And then I was done, and when I was done, I was able to say I had done those things because of Jasper, even if it was only half true, even if it wasn’t true at all.

My friend Danielle thinks I read her wrong, because I’m usually good at knowing people when I see them. I didn’t. Jasper was exactly what I thought she was, and I was narcissistic enough to want her to be my friend because of it. Just like my first boyfriend, who wanted me around because it made him feel better, in the end he knew things couldn’t go on that way because in the end it just makes everyone feel worse. In the end, we all realize we’ve been narcissists at some time or another, falling in love with our own reflections – or the reflections we created for other people to see.

We’ve grown up since then. I married my love, she married her’s – and no they are not cheating on us and we are not fat old ladies shopping for drapes. But I can’t see drapes without giggling or hear Bright Eyes without sulking, and we still call each other every few months to make sure that one isn’t up to no good without the other.

Karen McKinnon’s book still sits on my shelf. I’m quite certain I’ll never read it again, but I like having it around.  Buy it here:

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I’m That Girl

February 7, 2010 at 6:14 am (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I am the kind of girl who drinks brandy out of martini glasses when her husband isn’t home. I buy betta fish when I’m sad, which I pet periodically as though they were cats, they arch their backs and like it, too. People label me a clean freak, but most the time I don’t see how because my house is never clean enough. I eat my grapefruit pulp by pulp, literally, never with a spoon and never with sugar. I compulsively buy shampoo and conditioner, and am obsessive about using the same amount simultaneously – I hate running out of one before the other, and my head can never be filled with multiple smells. But am more compulsive about buying and using what I call “smell goodness” for my house (plug-ins, oil burners and oil, candles, incense, room sprays, etc.). I swear I can smell cashmere sweaters on rich women, which no one believed me until Emily on the patio of Hoffbrau Steaks. I like my dog more than most human beings, will carry him in my arms like a baby, but wont touch a human baby unless I have to. And I cannot live without a to do list. I’m that kind of girl.

I’m the kind of girl who people laugh at a lot, not because I’ve made a joke, or because they are making fun of me, but because somehow things I say are funny to them. My favorite explanation so far has been by a co-worker, Jana, “I find your neurosis humorous.” She’s talking about the fact that I judge my books by the cover, and they cannot feature children’s faces on the front, but feet are ok. I’ll buy any book that has cool shoes on the front (but they can’t be leopard print, modern high heels, or pink). I awkwardly told a supervisor of mine that he’s probably ‘pleasant’ when he hits on people. The same night another kid I worked with called me a ‘job-lover’ and I couldn’t decide whether it was an insult or not. Pecans creep me out. I like to watch people floss their teeth, especially if they’re doing it at work. I hate to cook, but I love to eat and I love to feed people, therefore I cook a lot. I invite people to my house that will never come over, for the sake of inviting them and hoping they’ll show up. I’m that girl.

The funny thing is, although I’ve changed and look very different to the public eye, I’ve been pretty much the same my whole life. I always was a bit of a geek; I will always be a bit of a geek. But the reason I am who I am are different than the reasons I was what I was. Now, I’m a geek because I want to be one, I cherish it, the books the reading, the learning, the art of it all. I’m that girl.

I’m the girl who was raised by a bloodline obsessed father.
Daddy was really into genealogy. He still is. It’s truly his passion. It completely makes sense, he loves history and he loves himself – so researching his own history is the perfect past time for him. As much as we tease him about it, it made for some really memorable family vacations. We got to meet a lot of people, we visited lots of museums and libraries, we hung out with really old people with fascinating life stories and pictures in shoe boxes to back them up, and the best part – cemeteries.

To this day, I love cemeteries.
We would hike through the woods and find the old family plots that had stones from the early 1800’s rolling down the hill. We would piece tombstones together and make rubbings of them and take the rubbings home as evidence of the find. Some of my fondest memories of my parents involve my mom and I trekking through a cemetery to find the most interesting life story, or the plot with the best tree nearby. Southern heat is a good reason to find shade and sit down when outdoors, and a lot of my shade and sitting was done next to a grave site. I usually hung out with the dead and read a good book. I liked intense and gory mystery thrillers and historical fiction that involved girls in big dresses. Essentially, I liked a good book of any genre (still do), and I liked reading under a tree (still do), and I loved being in cemeteries when I did it (still do?).

The best cemetery trip ever, my Grandma happened to be there. It got to be lunch time and she pulled a beach towel out of my mom’s van, spread it on the grass and started making a picnic lunch. It was a hot summer in Alabama and I went to sit in the grass and use the towel as a table. “Get off that grass, you’re gonna get red-bug.” Texans call them chiggers. I scooted over to the towel and my grandma fed me lunch in the grass of a cemetery.
“Grandma, we’re on graves.”
“Their dead, they don’t care.”
It was ironic and struck me so even at the time. My grandmother was one of the most superstitious southerners I had ever met, and here she was not caring about something that even un-superstitious people would care about. I ate my egg salad sandwich in peace and enjoyed the hot sun.

What’s strange about our memories is that I remember my sister being there with us. I remember Daddy hunting down the right gravesite and mom in tow with her camera to take pictures of it. There was no one else in sight, although my grandfather had to have been somewhere if my grandma was there.

My sister does not remember this at all. In fact, she insists she wasn’t there.

She wasn’t. She would have already been in college at the age that I remember myself being in that moment. So why is this memory so warped from time? I remember it so clearly, if I think really hard I can actually feel the sun on my shoulders that day and the texture of the beach towel. I can even remember which beach towel it was. I can hear my grandma say the phrase “red bug” like a true southerner.

Its so much a part of me and who I am, this memory. Its a moment of bliss. Its a moment that I’ve held onto for a long time. Because I’m nostalgic that way, and when I think of myself, I think of myself as a girl eating an egg salad sandwich with her grandma, her parents hunting down dead relatives, enjoying the grass, the sun, the trees, and the south. I think of myself hanging out in a cemetery. I’m that girl.

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