Giving Thanks

Last year about his time I found myself repeatedly saying that 2014 would be a better year. That didn’t exactly turn out to be true. Yes, Dan did get a job, but it got just a little too close to the edge for my comfort level, things aren’t nearly the way I had hoped, we still need to move because his job is too far away, but that being said I am truly thankful for many, many things. At the risk of being cliché I will give you my top ten.

10. We came awfully close to losing our home, but we didn’t, and we will celebrate that tonight.

9. For all the friends and family who reached out in our hour of need.

8. Despite the weird and unexplained aches and pains that come with age, we are healthy.

7. Dan’s job. It isn’t great, but at least he has one.

6. My friends. I’ve got a couple of really good ones, and that is invaluable.

5. For my sisters, for the one who fought and won the fight against cancer, the one who makes me laugh until I cry, and the one who is always supportive of my artistic endeavors.

4. My Dad. Still feisty, alive and kicking. Sometimes maddeningly frustrating, sometimes very funny, sometimes incredibly sweet.

3. My son in-law John. He loves my daughter and makes her incredibly happy. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

2. My amazing kids. Jessica has grown into a beautiful,intelligent, kind, and lovely woman. I am so proud. Brian, who is so funny, quirky, intelligent and thoughtful. Again I am proud. I always said when they were small that I didn’t care if they were rich and successful, it was more important to me to raise nice people. I did it, I’m pretty proud of myself.

1. If you know me, then you know where this is going. Dan. There aren’t enough words for what I feel for my husband. Its been 25 years of marriage. I hear marriage is work, maybe a little in the beginning, but now? Wonderful beyond words.  I give thanks for him every single day.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Maybe 2015 will be the one….

Advertisements

The Theory Of Three

It seems I am obsessing once again. My last post about a family member is still bugging me. I get obsessed the way some people get fleas, it itches and itches, and never seems to go away, unless of course something new happens for me to obsess over.

My mother always said that everything comes in threes. If there was a plane crash you can bet she was waiting for two more. We are Catholic, and Irish so there is the legend of St. Patrick and the shamrocks that represent the Holy Trinity. There is the rule of thirds in photography and art. If you are a collector then you know that three makes a collection. If you are a driver’s ed student there is of course the dreaded three-point turn. I started thinking about this today as I was driving through a parking lot. What triggered my thoughts were the people crossing through the lot as I stopped to let them pass, and how this can be related to people in our every day lives.

There is the apologetic one. You know, the person who scurries as fast as possible as if apologizing for getting in your way, head down, quick steps, glancing nervously sideways to make sure you haven’t changed your mind and are going to plow them down any moment. Then there are those I consider “normal”. They appreciate that you’ve stopped, they give a quick smile and a wave, and continue on their way. Finally there are those that act superior. They step in front of your vehicle nose in air, refuse to look your way, and stroll leisurely (sometimes on an angle!) in front of your car, as if they are the most important person in the world and you are an inconvenience in their day. I began to think that maybe people come in threes as well. There are of course existing socioeconomic groupings, Rich, middle-class, and poor, but I think in general the rule of thirds can be applied to many of us. There are the life of the party people, friendly, out-going individuals, who seem to fit in everywhere, former cheer leaders, high school quarterback types, they ooze charisma, and when you stand next to the finer examples of them you feel horribly inadequate. (I say finer examples, because aside from the rule of thirds, there also exists a sliding scale, some people are on the bottom of their group, some are on the top.) Then there are what I shall refer to as the “Norms”. Regular people who try to live their best life, they are friendly, nice, will go out of their way to help in any way they can, feel more comfortable in a small group, and don’t enjoy all the attention. Applying my sliding scale once again, there are people in every group that bear traits from another. Finally, there are the people I will refer to as the “Eeyores”, you know Winnie the Pooh’s com padre. Nothing is ever good enough, everyone is out to get them, cheat them, they never get a break, think everyone else has it better, I could go on, but I’m sure you may know an Eeyore, and understand what I’m talking about.

Back to my obsessive point. Religion. It can be a wonderful mysterious loving thing. It can also be an excuse for doing the wrong things. My three people rule again. There are people like me. I have my beliefs, I live what I hope is a life that includes doing good things for others, and caring for others needs. Loving my family, my friends, trying to be a good member of humanity at large, but not feeling the need to shout what I feel and believe off the rooftops, or to force what I believe on others. I am a firm believer in “to each his own.” No one knows what is going on behind the closed doors of another house. No one knows what resides in the hidden parts of the individual hearts and minds of others. I say, “Do not judge, less thee be judged.” Returning to the family member who made the remark about Dan going to hell for not accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior, I have a question. (Not for him in particular but to the universe at large.) What if say you were born into a family that practices Judaism? Are you wrong for believing what you were taught and raised up in? Are your parents and ancestors liars? The answer is an unequivocal no. What if you were born in one of those South American tribes that are deep within a jungle and never heard of Jesus? Anyone? Locked out of heaven because you didn’t get the memo? My husband asked his brother at the time if a man who harmed a child, someone who did a horrible thing, but who accepted Jesus was going to heaven? He said, “Yes.” ( I say again here, for that man who is guilty of harming a child? Hate what you did, I can be angry, I can have intolerance for the act, but not my place to judge. I don’t know where you came from, I don’t know if you are mentally ill, or if you were a tortured child yourself. God will decide.) But Dan, Dan who stops to help old people in grocery store parking lots, who can’t pass a homeless person without giving them whatever he can, or buying them a sandwich, Dan who is a great and loyal husband, a very loving and giving father, he’s going to hell. That would be my number two kind of religious person. The kind that hold themselves above others because they believe. They wield their faith like a hammer ready to pound it down in judgement against others. I envy the faith that some people have. Mine tends to be a little shaky at times, but what I don’t agree with is the superiority complex that sometimes is part of the package. There are amongst that group some who spit fire about God and the bible, but then would deny aid to those in need. Senator______(fill in the blank). Finally, the worst in my book. (And that would just be in my book, my personal opinion, trying not to judge, but sometimes….) The religious zealot who uses the words of their God, whomever that God should be, to twist them in to a crusade of harming others in God’s name. I’m not judging here, I’m right, you’re wrong. We are all God’s creatures, even the ones who don’t believe exactly like you do. Not your place to decide who gets to stay and who needs to go. Stop hurting people, stop killing children, stop claiming to be acting in the name of God when you do horrendous things. No God, I mean no God at all, wants us to hurt one another. Religion and faith are about peace and love. I have mentioned these wise words before, they come from my dad (and as always must have a soccer reference. I’m paraphrasing here), “It doesn’t matter what color jersey you are wearing, as long as you play the game.” He was talking about faith and spirituality, and I’m with him. I don’t care who you believe in or how, that is up to you. I believe in a loving God, a forgiving God, a God who knows what is in your heart and in mine. What I do care about is when people hurt each other no matter what the weapon of choice, a sharp tongue can make a deeper cut sometimes than a sharp sword, remember that.

 

Putting An End To Hatred

Before I say anything I want to say that I am not above reproach.  I make mistakes, I hurt people (though never intentionally), I say thoughtless things without thinking, in other words I am human. I am also angry this morning. We have a family member who has upset me. I will only say that he knows who he is. I am taking him to task publicly because I know there are others out there like him. He doesn’t agree with the political beliefs held by our family. That is his right and his privilege, as it is our right and our privilege to feel what we feel and believe. Yet this individual believes it is somehow justified to call my husband names, to spew hatred, to try to demean those beliefs that my husband holds dear. By the way, he calls himself a Christian. The Christ I know and believe in is a man of love, of charity, of kindness, of self-sacrifice for his human brother and sister. I am amazed that someone would call himself a believer, a follower, and find it acceptable to attack his family member in such a manner. You know who you are. I am ashamed for you. The vile and inappropriate remarks that have been leveled verbally, via email, and by text are deplorable.  I am asking you to stop, I am asking you to remember your faith, I am asking you to show your family member some respect. I have sent a text to this person this morning because I picked up my husband’s phone to call my elderly father, and I saw the message that was sent to Dan. My husband is a good, decent, loving, hardworking man. He is kind and compassionate. This person also told my husband a few years ago that he is condemned to hell because he hasn’t chosen Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I have news for you, not your call. While my husband is not a man of faith he lives his life in a manner that God would want.  I am asking, no I am telling you, and everyone like you who thinks it is OK to present yourself to the world as a Christian, but to privately express yourself in a less than Christ-like way, that you so don’t get it. Maybe you need to reread that bible of yours. Hatred doesn’t work, judgement doesn’t work, the only thing that works, the only things that matter in this life are love, compassion, faith, and family. If you wish to continue to be part of mine you will stop. I don’t want another word of hatred to cross my door. You are someone who my husband respected and admired, he was mistaken. I will no longer allow you to hurt the person who means the most to me in this world. As I told you via text this morning, he is not “stupid”, he chose me.

If you are not my family member, but any of this rings a bell, think about it. Examine your own behavior. As I said above, I am not above reproach. I simply feel that there are those who are mistaken in their beliefs, I also believe it is not my place to judge them. I do not hate them, I don’t demean them, I don’t stoop to inexcusably childish name calling. I try to live my life caring for those I love, but also caring for the less fortunate. I am asking everyone who reads this to remember the season, remember what it is about, remember that you shouldn’t treat someone else in a manner that you would not want to be treated. I will also say that even if you are not a Christian there is the way that Jesus asked us to live our lives. There are ways in many religions that speak to the core of who we all should be, loving, kind, compassionate, and caring human beings. It is the way we should all live, believers or not.

Obsessing Once Again

It’s me again. Have I mentioned that I obsess? Last night I wrote about making the realtor cry. When I said I didn’t feel good about it I wasn’t kidding. It isn’t who I am. I do have a horrendous temper, but it doesn’t lie close to the surface, it is deep within me. When I was a kid and my dad was getting mad he would say, “The worm is turning.” I guess in that way I am much like him, but the truth is that I don’t want the worm to turn. It doesn’t feel good to get that angry and upset. It was never my intention to have someone leave my house in tears. I would blame some of what I’m feeling on Catholic guilt (actually probably a lot of what I’m feeling), but there is also the fact that I am really one of the nicest people you could meet. I am compassionate, loving, and generous to a fault. I don’t want to be the angry person. I went to bed feeling really bad last night. I woke at 2:15 in the morning feeling troubled and stressed. Even though the woman who came here last night presented herself with intentions other than the truth, I feel bad for upsetting her. I told Dan this morning that I think I vented a little frustration at her last night. He on the other hand doesn’t feel bad at all. He told her prior to coming to our house that she shouldn’t try to ask to list our house. I had told her myself that it wouldn’t happen, I had told her several times in fact. Part of what really got to me last night was the callous way she offered us what she called an “option”. I have probably talked to upwards of a dozen realtors at this point. About half have heard me say that my friend will get the listing and then quit asking. The other half try to convince me that real estate and friendship don’t mix and make their pitch to get the listing. What made the difference last night was that she knew my friend had buried her dad earlier in the day. It was heartless, and then she tells me that only God knows what is in her heart. My friend is from Illinois, I grew up in Chicago, she at the complete opposite end of the state. She has no family here. Actually that isn’t true, she is part of my family. We have been friends for several years. I am a very protective mom, and while we are a little too close in age to say she is like one of my kids, she is like a younger sister to me. We have been through much together, and we will be through even more…together. I wish I could shake this. I have considered calling an offering an apology, but in the end what she was trying to do wasn’t very nice, and it would have hurt my friend. So I obsess.

It is later in the day and quite frankly my day hasn’t been good. I enjoyed some one on one with my dear friend Theresa this morning and into the afternoon. While we were together my mind was occupied, but later I still found myself feeling unsettled. I can’t undo last night, but I think I learned a lesson from it. I need to listen a little closer to my inner voice, the one that told me that I shouldn’t have let her come over. I always want to think the best of people. I want to believe that their intentions are what they say they are, but in the end people are people. I sometimes think even people with the best of hearts lose sight of what the right choice is when there is a dollar sign attached.

Still later yet…I am letting go of a little of my worry. I spent the evening making a gift for my dad. It isn’t for any other reason than that there are many nights that he breaks my heart. He misses my mother more than I can say. He tells me that he talks to her every night. Theresa and I worked on crafting projects this morning involving photos and fabric. Last year while I was in Chicago visiting my dad I was looking through an old box of cards. The inscriptions to my parents from each other touched me very much. I grabbed my cell phone and took photos of all of them. I printed one on fabric for this pillow, along with photos of my parents together through the years. I know he will love this. Finally an art project of sorts to post, a little something for my dad to take to bed with him at night. Working on this pillow took my mind off my obsessive worrying. There’s nothing like doing something for someone else to make me feel better.IMG_1176

I’m Just Tired

It was bound to happen, after weeks and weeks of disrespect, weeks and weeks of being treated like I don’t have a brain in my head, weeks and weeks of having realtors call and be rude to me on the phone, it had to happen. I made a realtor cry. I don’t necessarily feel good about it. In fact I’ve been feeling lousy since the woman left, but she crossed a line. I mentioned here the other day that it isn’t a good idea to make me mad. I guess she doesn’t read my blog. This realtor had called several weeks ago. She was very nice on the phone. I made it clear to her, as I do with all who call, that if I indeed decide to not sell my own house, the listing will go to my friend. This woman called again two weeks ago. She offered to host an open house for us as a “buyers” realtor. I was so suspicious of her motives that I contacted another friend who is a very successful realtor to ask her opinion. She thought it was unusual, but she said she didn’t see any reason not to. At the last-minute the realtor cancelled. A. Because she “forgot” it was her husband’s birthday. B. She “forgot” it was Halloween (even though she told me she had two young ones). We just figured she came to her senses. I didn’t expect to hear from her again. She called the other day and wanted to talk to Dan and I. Again I reiterated that my friend would be my realtor. She asked about my friend as I had mentioned she was out-of-town for a family emergency. I told her my friends dad had sadly passed. She offered her sympathies, and then made plans to come to my home tonight. When she came here this evening she asked to see my home. Every detail, every upgrade that I pointed out was dismissed. She came here with a price. She hadn’t even seen our home. As she sat with us showing us listing after listing of homes she was comparing us to, Dan asked about her motives. (The truth shall set you free.) She was here out of the “goodness of her heart”, well that and, “Just in case something happens between you and your friend. You never know what will happen.” Dan flat-out repeated again that she wasn’t getting our listing, that we love our friend, and he knew what she wanted. “No, of course not, I’m just saying you never know what will happen.” I could feel my leg begin to twitch. I was trying, I really was. I was hoping she would finish her pitch and get out. Then she gave us the price. Twenty four thousand dollars less than we are listed for. I’ve met this person before in Chicago. The realtor who had us list twenty thousand less so he could get a quick sale. I was beginning to think the same thing was happening again. I couldn’t stand another minute of it. I called her on her crap. I asked her why she would try to get our listing when we told her she couldn’t have it. I told her that if she had come as a buyers realtor, she of course wanted me to lower the price. She insisted that it wasn’t true. If she came to try to get us to list with her she was lowering the price for a quick sale. Dan stepped in and essentially told her to cut her losses. He told her in sales there is a moment when you know the deal is over. This was the moment. She didn’t quit. She was still insistent that she only wanted to help. I told her she lost me as soon as she said that sometimes things happen between friends, and maybe then we would think of her. I said, “You know my friend buried her dad today, and now you want me to say, “Oh, I’m sorry your dad passed away, but I met this nice lady…”. She claimed she didn’t know, that isn’t true. She had asked if my friend were back while we were in my garden, and I had told her he was buried today. She became indignant and said that only her mother and God know what is in her heart. Maybe I’m wrong, but I honestly don’t think so. I did tell her I understand this is her job and she is trying to make a living, but I also told her that I know my own heart, and that I wouldn’t hurt a friend. That’s not who I am. She gathered up her things, and pretty much ran out my door. I’m sorry it happened. I’m sorry she cried. I’m sorry that no one seems to believe me when I say no, or when I say I am loyal to my friend. I am tired of this. I just want to sell my house. If just one person put as much effort into finding someone to buy it as they do trying to convince me to give them the listing, they would be about ten thousand dollars richer by now. I will repeat for the tenth time. Not all realtors are bad. Not every realtor I’ve come across has been rude and disrespectful. Some have been lovely and understanding.  I don’t like losing my temper. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that life is too short to be mad. I should have just asked her to leave, it probably would have been the best thing for both of us.

Life Moves On

I have friend, she landed in Paris this morning. I have another who is burying her dad today. One friend facing probably one of the worst days of her life, and the other experiencing immense happiness. The world never stops. Sunday I went to a concert, but as we drove there I thought about the friend of mine who just that morning had lost her dad. I was reminded of when my mother died. I remember thinking about how in a single moment my life was changed forever, yet for the rest of the world outside my family life was continuing on as normal. I remember thinking, “How can this be? Shouldn’t everyone know that a beautiful person had just left this earth?”, but here I was on the way to a concert, my friend’s world changed forever, mine continuing on. It’s a strange place to be. You know your life will never be the same, but the people who see you on the street have no idea of the profound loss you’ve just experienced. For the friend that is burying her dad, actually her step-dad (you know those unsung heroes that step into a family and make all the difference in the world?), I am sure she is in a similar place to where I was. I think I have posted this poem before, or at the very least mentioned it. I heard it in the movie Four Weddings and A Funeral and it stuck with me since:

1

It’s been seven years since I lost my mom. When my friend sent a text to let me know her dad had passed I cried. I cried for her loss, but also for my own. Reopening a wound a little. I still wonder about the world that continues on without my mom. I still ache to her voice, to wrap my arms around her, to give her one more kiss. Monday was a little cold here. I grabbed a scarf from my drawer, it was my mother’s. It still smelled of smoke, hairspray, and of her perfume. I haven’t washed it in all the time I’ve had it, and I never will. It carries traces of her and if that is all I can have I will treasure it forever.

To my friend in Paris. I love Paris, I hope you will love it as much as I did. Treasure that you are there with someone you love, I hope you have thousands of beautiful memories.

To my friend who is burying her dad. I think I’ve told you more than once, my mom knew how much I loved her. In some small way that helps. Your dad knew you loved him. He knows you are a fine and good woman. Dark skies ahead, but time truly helps, focus on the good stuff, the love, the laughter, even the stuff that annoyed the heck out of you. It’s life, it’s moving on, it will continue to move on, it will be a little emptier, but he will live on in your heart and mind. He has left this world with the gift of your love and the love of your family, and in return has left some love of his own. Prayers are with you all today.

 

Before I end this post a word about stepfathers. My husband is one, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. Like my friends dad he made sure that my daughter knew he loved her. Most stepfathers love all of their children, not just the ones that are “blood” relatives. Stepfathers usually end up in the movies as creepy guys who are up to no good, when in everyday life they are men made of something special. It isn’t easy to step into a family, and when your stepchild loves you immensely it means you have done something really right. When your stepchild refers to you as “Dad” it means you have crossed the boundary of blood lines and brought something wonderful into the life of someone else. I’m not forgetting the step-moms either. My daughter has a really terrific one named Valerie, who is one of the finest women I know, and my very dear friend. I couldn’t have asked for a better influence in Jessica’s life.

Life will move on. Stop breathe, appreciate, offer gratitude, and most of all love. I never want someone I know to leave this earth not knowing what they mean to me.

She Speaks

After a year of blogging every single day, and then a couple of times a week, it might seem like I am running out of things to say. That isn’t true of course, although I am much less of a “talker” than most. I am comfortable in my own silence (and even more comfortable in the silence of some others…) The truth is that things haven’t changed. Our life is still on hold as we try to sell our home. At the risk of offending some very dear friends (who happen to be decent human beings and realtors), I will say that we are beginning to feel a bit like shark bait for the local realtors. We continue to have people contact us about our home, always starting out as if they have a possible buyer, ask lots of questions and then go for the kill. When I explained to a caller the other day that I had a realtor in line, a best friend in line for the sale of our home should we decide to go that route, she began to badger me on the whys and hows of why in her opinion, “That just doesn’t work.” I explained that my dear friend is away for family medical reasons. I explained that I had already made the promise to my friend that the listing would be hers. I explained about a bad realtor experience back in Chicago that made me wary. None of that mattered. She simply ignored everything I said and told me that I needed to have an “open mind” when her boss came to preview my property. I was losing my temper (which is never, ever a good thing for the person on the other end of it), I was trying to be as pleasant as possible, but I could feel my blood pressure begin to rise. If this particular caller had her way I would be greeting my returning friend with, “Sorry your family member was gravely ill, by the way our friendship of nine years means nothing, and I’m giving someone else my house to list.” I actually thanked this person for her professionalism (which she wasn’t), but I find myself in a very awkward position. I want to tell these people exactly what I think of them and their “ethics”, but if I do that I risk alienating them even farther. I just don’t understand. Why is my need to sell my own house such a bad thing? We are offering compensation to the buyer’s realtor. We don’t expect these people to work for nothing, but not a single realtor in the area has brought a client to our home. One realtor went as far as telling us that we weren’t worth his time. Since when is a paycheck of nearly ten thousand dollars not worth someones time? We aren’t against someone earning a living, but we are people who had very little income for sixteen months and need to keep as much of our money as we can for ourselves. I’m angry and frustrated. I want and need to move ahead with our life, but I am also as stubborn as they come. So I will sit in my beautiful home with my heels dug in and wait for the buyer to find us without any help from anyone else, because ten thousand dollars is definitely worth my time.

Breathe….now I feel better.

Art! There hasn’t been a piece every day. There have been fairies and other things. I will share the photo from my altered art piece from my daughter’s birthday. (She may kill me for it, but if you don’t think she was one of the cutest toddlers ever…) This was the cover on one of thirty gifts I sent her. A small cigar box that contained a little tiny set of pages where I wrote out the story of her birth. One thing that the last year and a half has taught me is that “things” don’t matter. People matter, memories matter, spirituality matters. The things that mean the most are the things that cannot be held in our hands, but only in our hearts and minds. Happy Birthday Jessica.

bday project.jpg 1

An Update From The World Of Uncertainty

It’s been one week since I pledged to start another year-long art project. You may be wondering where all the art is. Some of it is in a box, actually boxes, on their merry way to New York in time (hopefully) for my daughter’s birthday on Tuesday. It’s a big one for her, and for me as well. She is turning thirty. (Sorry Jessica, I know you look seventeen, I’m letting the cat out of the bag.) It has only been a week since I turned fifty-five. It honestly didn’t bother me a bit. What does horrify me is the fact that I am about to be the mother of a thirty year old, because I’m not that old! It will also be a first for us. Jessica and her husband, John, moved to New York in June. It will be the first time in thirty years that I won’t be with my daughter for her birthday. That’s a tough one, so I did what any completely insane mother would do…I sent her thirty presents. Some are homemade (the previously mentioned art), some are silly, some are meant to share with John. I was broke when his birthday came around in August, so I wanted to wish him a little belated birthday. I can’t share and ruin the surprise, so….Tuesday.

I am also at the beginning of the holiday show season. You know what that means, if you come in my house you are guaranteed to leave looking like you’ve just left Tinkerbell’s house. Glitter, glitter everywhere! Which brings me to another subject, my house. We had our fifth week of open house. I am attempting to keep the glitter at bay by working outside, but glitter is the infectious disease of craft supplies. It spreads despite all containment efforts. Every time I walked in the house today there was a sparkly dusting in my wake. There isn’t too much I can do, I need to work, I have a show next week. As for the house…it’s still ours. We actually thought that we had some people interested yesterday, but it failed to materialize. I find myself waffling between being happy that I’m not leaving my house yet, and anxious to move on. It feels like our life is on hold for the moment. I keep waiting for things to get better, or at least different. Believe me I know there are so many people who are far worse off, I am grateful for what we have, but I am a bit of a control freak. We are now into seventeen months of drastic life changing circumstances, I think any normal human being would begin to become a bit frustrated. I long for normalcy, or whatever “normal” will turn out to be once the dust has settled.

As for tonight, I am tired, discouraged, impatient, and a little anxious. I am also hopeful. I had a moment a few days ago when a feeling that everything would be OK came over me. I have no explanation, I only know it changed my mood and mindset tremendously, and for that I am particularly grateful.

It rained Friday and for a bit on Saturday. We need it here in Southern California, but it gave us much more than water, we had incredible clouds yesterday, and spectacular color. Of course I had to capture some of it. I have no paintings or drawings to share yet, but a little bit of God’s handiwork instead. Plenty of inspiration for painting, and more than enough beauty to make me happy just to be alive.911 crop

IMG_0801

IMG_0805

779 crop

IMG_0917