What It’s Really All About

Merry Christmas to all!

Now that the frantic shopping has ceased (at least for a day), I thought it was time to reflect on what this holiday truly means. I have a very simple story to tell that will say it all…

As you may or may not know, this blog began as a way to force me to focus on my art for a year. I had spent a lifetime putting the needs of everyone in my life ahead of my creative dreams. It worked for a while, but then life thumbed it’s nose at me and the blog became more about my life’s journey. I have however in the process produced a lot of art, and some that I am quite proud of. I hope to return to its original purpose soon. For today I am posting art, it just isn’t mine.

I have never posted the work of another artist on my blog, until today. Last week my dear friend Theresa asked me to pick her daughter up from school. Emily is six. We had a great time together, we made matching poinsettia bracelets out of felt for both Emily and her mom, and with me handling the hot glue gun, and Emily choosing the silk flowers, we created an angel for her bedroom Christmas tree. We weren’t quite finished when Theresa came to get her. As we continued to work on Emily’s angel Theresa and I talked about the holiday. I mentioned that I wasn’t quite in the spirit, missing Jessica, Dan’s long commute keeping his days away from me quite long, and that because we had packed to move I couldn’t find half of my Christmas decorations. Among them my nativity set. Emily left the room and came back bearing a shoebox she had come out of school with. “You can have this.” I opened the shoe box to find a nativity scene she had created in school. I said, “Oh Honey thank you, but I’m sure your Mommy wants this.” Theresa said, “No, she wants you to have it.” I said that I would put it out every year. Emily cleverly pointed out that it was only paper and might not last. I said not to worry. Amongst the many, many art supplies that I own is a small machine to do lamination. This morning I laminated my nativity scene. I will keep it forever and display it with a warm spot in my heart. That lovely gesture from Emily is what Christmas is all about. No UPC code, no brand-name tag, no fancy wrap. A simple white shoe box filled with love from the heart of a six-year-old. You can’t get a better present than that. I bring you my first guest artist, Emily Navis. Have a Happy Holiday.

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Big Changes Ahead

Back from Fairyland. No time to write in the last two weeks, the weeks and weeks of fairy making have left me with a sore shoulder from crouching over, and a house full of sparkle, but I’m not complaining. I made enough money to finance Christmas. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half, and gratitude for the little things is on the top of the list. We packed up this house months ago, packing much of the clutter in order to make the house ready to sell. I haven’t seen much of my “stuff” in months, and the truth is that I’m not missing it so much. (Although when we went to our rented storage space to get the Christmas decorations I was admiring many of my own belongings. I told Dan I’d like to shop my own storage locker.) We are learning to live with less, and since we will be downsizing that’s a good thing.

It’s been a rather strange holiday season so far. Our son moved out this year, and our daughter and son-in-law are happily ensconced in New York. I found myself struggling for a little Christmas spirit. Brian has agreed to spend Christmas Eve in the guest room, and I am so very grateful for that. This will be our first Christmas without Jessica. Sometimes it seems strange that she is so far away. With all the means of communication available we talk a lot, text almost daily, Facebook, Skype, I even sent her some old-fashioned snail mail. I still miss her terribly. There’s nothing like seeing the people you love face to face.

One of the faces I miss very much belongs to my Dad. He is eighty-two now. I haven’t seen him since September of 2013. Our finances being what they are, and his health making it hard for him to travel, we have been be unable to see each other. I talk to him every day, actually several times every day. He is my first call every morning as soon as I wake, and I am the last voice he hears every night before he goes to bed, and sometimes many, many calls in-between. He knows that I will answer when I see it is him. He is having a harder time remembering things, and suffers from much confusion. Lately he has been having episodes of paranoia. I think his days of living alone are through. Dan and I decided this weekend to see if we can move him here with us. The timing seems right, we will be looking for a new home once this one sells, so I will now be looking for a home that we can share with him. I’m not sure if we can work out all the details, but I plan on doing my best to make it happen. My mom has been gone for more than seven years, and my sisters have been incredible in caring for him. I have the luxury of having a talent that allows me to work from home. I hope to move him from Chicago to California. No more long cold winters, and for him the security of having one of his “girls” around all the time. It will be a huge change in our lives, but one that I feel a call to do. It is the least I can do.

Like I said, I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half. Coming close to losing everything makes you really understand what matters in your life. It’s the people that we love, not the things that we own. Just remember that when you open “stuff” this Christmas.

Behind The Mask: Faceless Hatred

So here I go once again, just when I thought my words about words were over and done with. Not so fast. On Sunday in the New York Times magazine there was an article about a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court. It is about the 1st Amendment, and the individual right to free speech. Seems like a clear-cut case right? It isn’t. It seems a marriage dissolved, the male half of the couple went onto social media and posted about wanting to kill his ex-wife, he actually went into some detail, and more than that he made a video. He claims that he was venting anger and frustration, that he never actually intended to follow through on any of what he wrote. Meanwhile, the ex-wife was very frightened, enough to take out an order of protection. She does not feel that he should be able to terrorize her even if it is only through words. He served some jail time, and is now suing for his right to free speech. (This is a very simplified explanation of the case.) The case that will be presented to the Supreme Court is asking this question: What is more important, the right of the individual to express what he feels? Or the rights of the person that those words focus on who lives in fear of the threat?

I don’t think there is one among us who hasn’t said something in anger that we aren’t proud of, or wish we could take back. I’m pretty sure we have all also been rather casual in tossing around the word “hate”, “I hate him.” or “I hate you.” Sometimes in jest, sometimes in reference to an actor in a movie, someone we don’t even know, but for some reason there is something about that person you find distasteful. We don’t really hate them. I think for most people if they really did hate someone they would have a difficult time saying it to the person’s face. This is my issue with what this man did, and for that matter what people in my own life have done. I mentioned the family member in my last two posts who was saying hateful things. Do I really think he hates my husband? No I don’t. Social media have become society’s mask to hide behind. How easy it is to say mean and hateful things when you don’t have to look someone in the face. It makes bullying easier, it makes racism easier, it makes sitting in judgment easier. Think about it. Isn’t that the reason that a particular organization wears white hoods covering their faces? Would you have the nerve to walk up to someone you barely know and call them a coward and a liar? I am asking all of us to remember that behind that screen lies a human heart that can forever hold the scars of what it’s mind sees and reads.

I ask because someone I know has just had such an experience on Facebook. He wrote a remark on someone’s post. He did it because the person was mistaken, it was not his place to do so, and I have told him that. It didn’t end there. Someone else that it had nothing to do with joined in. The person I know sent a  private message that man and questioned why, but told this man he was doing it via private message as to not have a public discourse on a page that belongs to someone else. What he got in return was a message calling him a coward for not posting publicly, and calling him a liar. He is neither. He has not responded, although he wants to, but I have told him to let it go. This person doesn’t know him. I can only assume through connections that he may have heard things that aren’t true, but I can’t be sure. Fueling ignorance gives people more to feed on. Do I want to say something? You bet I do (Obviously I have a lot to say about a lot of things….), but I won’t.

As I said before, I don’t want hatred or anger in my life. I am just deeply disturbed by those who hide behind the mask. Why must people resort to name calling? When my husband was dealing with his family member he asked for facts. He never got any. He got name calling. What is wrong with old-fashioned debate? What happened to, “I believe you are mistaken for these reasons…fact…fact…fact.” In return, “I see your point, but were you aware of…fact…fact…fact.” It worked that way for a long time. I am aware that even facts can be skewed to one’s own perspective, but at least no one was calling anyone else a liar.

There is a loss of decorum in our society, a loss of self-respect, class, and by that I mean to present oneself to the world in our best sense, through the way we act, dress, and speak. It is becoming increasingly easier to spread untruth, to spread vile words, to spew hatred. I’m on the fence with the Supreme Court decision. I do believe in free speech, very much so as I write what I believe here on these pages, but I also feel a duty to not use my words to hurt people. Free speech was meant to make us a better people, a greater Nation, by giving us the right to criticize that Nation.  It was never meant as a blank check to use as a means to bully teenagers into killing themselves, or to cause fear in another because of anger and frustration, it was never intended to be used to dehumanize our fellow citizen. We live in a country that guarantees us the right to speak, but we should also as citizens not just of this Country, but as citizens of the world at large, use our words carefully. I sometimes write of spirituality and love, today I share wise words from some who are far wiser than I:

Matthew 15:10-11

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Sahih Muslim

He who believes in Allah and the Last Day should either utter good words or better keep silence.

Jewish Proverb

A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.

Dalai Lama

“Silence is sometimes the best answer.”

In the end I guess I do have a few more words, and quite possibly some wise ones at that.

Jacqueline Zuckerman

If you could plant a field of seeds would you sow? Roses or weeds? Remember that words are like seeds, once sown they take root in the hearts and minds of others.

And with that, I have no more words, I only offer you something lovely to plant in your mind for today.

Sunset over Temecula on Sunday, just breathtaking.IMG_1053

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

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:

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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.

Past Midnight

Happy Birthday to me today. Dan and I have a longtime affectionate argument about age. He is four months older than me, or one hundred twenty-five days (not that I’m counting). He will refer to us in age in some conversation, and I will immediately remind him that while he was out on the town (at four months old), I was still in utero awaiting my introduction to the world. Yesterday he said I was fifty-five, I said, “After midnight.” It’s past midnight, actually its five-thirty in the morning so it is official. I’m sort of old. I say sort of because apparently the rest of the world doesn’t know me. I am not in the least bit “old”, I may have some wrinkles, and definitely fifty-five year old knees, but I’d say in attitude I’m somewhere around thirty-five. I’ve been getting a lot of AARP stuff for years now, but my favorite mail is from funeral homes. It goes something like, “Hey now! You’re getting closer to death by the second. Don’t leave your loved ones in a lurch. Plan ahead.” I know I’m no spring chicken, but I’d like to think I have another decade or two. For those of you who are of the gloom and doom persuasion, yes, I realize I could get hit by a car tomorrow, I’m just not planning on it. I also received a reminder a few weeks back from our car insurance company. They wanted to let me know that life insurance rates would go sky-high as soon as I turned fifty-five. I called yesterday…it wasn’t midnight yet. That process was interesting. They are very happy to have you call them, they are very happy to sell you insurance, but then begins the inquisition. A questionnaire about my medical history. It seems that they need to know everything that has ever occurred to me medically. Now at fifty-four (remember it wasn’t midnight yet) a lot, and I mean a lot of stuff has gone on in my life. What I really enjoyed was the section where they asked if I’d ever had any X-rays. Seriously? Who hasn’t, oh the Amish (not to offend, but I’m sure they don’t read my blog anyway). I started filling out the X-ray section, which includes normal X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds, and so on. I have had two children, had a miscarriage, fallen down a flight of stairs on my hip, six knee surgeries, broken fingers, and…I could bore you with more medical details, because I am after all old now, and isn’t that what old people do? I won’t, I will remember my thirty-five year old mindset and stop. I called them back. I spoke to a very nice young man. Do they really need every X-ray ever? He was stumped. I have to call back Monday (I guess the inquisitor gets weekends off). I get it if they want to rule out something that will cost them, but if they insure me it will cost them in the end anyway, it’s not like I’m immortal or something. (Of course if my plan to rule the universe doesn’t happen soon I may have to figure that one out.) Rule out the biggies for the moment, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, but why make me relive some rather painful personal moments? Does it really matter that I was anemic when I was nineteen? Or that I was depressed for a while after my mom died, wouldn’t they be too? That I miscarried? What does any of that have to do with life insurance? Who needs to read the gory details of my five decades? Does the fact that I broke my index finger mean I could push the wrong elevator button and plunge to my death? Or will they use the fact that I snapped my ACL hanging a kitchen curtain as a reason for non-payment when I fall off a counter to my demise in my new home hanging new curtains?  I feel like the odds are stacked against me before I even begin. Maybe I should have signed up for life insurance at birth before my total lack of coordination was evident. I guess if I die too soon they will have to pay too soon. I have to say, I’m with them. I hope they make lots of money from me, but meanwhile a little privacy please. (Happy Sunday to all of you, but I feel better now. I needed to rant to someone.)

On to what really matters…

I’ve created a new ad for today’s post. It looks like this:

MISSING: ARTWORK

Last seen several months ago on this blog

Wearing coats of many colors.

Mediums of all kinds.

Subject matter varied upon mood of the artist.

If you have any information please contact the artist and ask “What’s up?”

I started this blog to force myself to create every day. Along the way the original purpose was usurped by my life heading off the deep end. I need to find it again. My art is my life’s saving grace. It has always been the thing that got me through. It hasn’t been a good year and a half for Dan and I. We are grateful for what we have. We talked last night about how close we came to losing everything. We didn’t, and we are stronger than ever, but I have been letting a very important part of myself slip away once again. I need to create. It is as important in my life as food is. I need that artistic nourishment, and I have been living on crumbs. My birthday, start of a new year in my life, an arbitrary benchmark of time passing, but today it becomes my new “start line”, my new 365 day project. Today I will be spending the day with Dan, so I will post a piece from last year. New work begins tomorrow.

10 26

The Pieces Of Me

I have often mentioned here on these pages that I like to think about where people come from, the who’s and why’s of the person they have become. I find it interesting that so many influences affect the people we are, like a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle that never ends, always adding pieces. We continue to evolve due to experiences we have, and by the people we associate with. I’m sure there may have been a moment in many people’s lives where their mother said something along the lines of, “You are the people you are with.” There may be some truth to that. I know that when I see a quality in another person that I like I try to emulate that behavior, and of course when I find a personality trait distasteful I look at myself to make sure that I’m not unknowingly acting the same way. As usual I am off on a physiological rant of sorts, which is never my intention, but I guess part of who I am. My first magazine subscription as a child was Highlights. My favorite parts? The “Hidden Objects” puzzle, and “Goofus and Gallant.” I’m a puzzle doer, love them, I can’t purchase a jigsaw puzzle. If I dare buy a puzzle I can kiss my day, and sometimes my night (all night), and possibly some of the next day off. I have to finish them obsessively. Goofus and Gallant? I think that might just be a little part of my immense sense of right and wrong. I have very little gray area in my life. My next subscription, at about age fifteen was Physiology Today. Even at that young age I was fascinated by the human mind. Just a few of the pieces that make up me.

Then there is Monty Hall. If you are too young to remember, Monty was the host of Let’s Make A Deal. Wayne Brady hosts the show now. When I was five it was my favorite show. My mother once told me that she had a hard time getting me to go to kindergarten because I didn’t want to leave my show. I think I may have loved the mystery of it. (See? Influences. I’m also a Nancy Drew Mysteries girl) I loved the reveal of what was in the boxes and behind the curtain. My sisters and I would pretend to be Carol Merrill, Monty’s sidekick model, we had the hand gesturing down to a science. My favorite part of the show was the end. Monty would travel through the audience and ask people for odd items, and if they had the safety-pin, or Buffalo nickel, etc…they were rewarded with cash. Influences once again. Like most women I carry a purse. My purse is an ode to Monty. I have safety pins, bandages, toothpicks, rubber bands, the list is tremendous. I think somewhere in my developing mind Monty was there urging me to always be prepared. I bring this up because of a situation that occurred over the weekend. I got a text message from my son Brian, it said that he had lost his glasses and did we happen to have a spare pair? Not only to I carry a purse, I also have a bag, let’s call it my Let’s Make A Deal bag. It contains all the stuff that my purse is too small to hold. (Trust me, I have a big purse) We were out in the car when the message came to my phone. Did I have glasses? Yes, six pairs. They were in my LMAD bag. We immediately drove to the winery where he works to drop off a pair. I believe this makes me eligible for “Mother of the Year”, who else can arrive with an assortment of eye wear at a moment’s notice? A Let’s Make A Deal girl, that’s who.

I do try to let the people in my life that I am grateful to know it. There are countless people who have been in my life that have contributed to the person I am, some I have of course known, but so many more that were in my life for a fleeting moment.  Susan Dey on the Partridge Family who I really wanted to be, because she seemed so cool, and I just wasn’t.  Princess Caroline of Monaco for being a princess with brown hair and brown eyes. Mrs. Weclew (I’m sure I’ve spelled her name wrong), she was my third grade teacher. The first to recognize that I had artistic talent. She was a lovely woman who would put her arms around the very shy little girl who became me, because I would cry when I had to stand in front of the chalkboard where everyone could see me. Iris Guerrero, the new girl when I was in 7th grade and had no friends. She didn’t know I was the kid everyone made fun of. She taught me to open my mouth and speak up for myself. Johnetta Jackson. My parents moved in the middle of my 7th grade year. It was my turn to be the new girl in eighth grade. Johnetta saw me the first day, she didn’t know me, didn’t know I was a terrified and shy girl,  she put her arm around me and began to introduce me to people. Turned out to be a good year, probably the best of my entire school career. I would love to thank her for that. There is of course my wonderful husband who has made me feel loved and secure every single day, believe me it makes a difference. Believe it or not my kids as well. Jessica heads out into the world so fearless. I love her energy, her intelligence, her creativity, and her kind heart. She makes me want to try new things. My son Brian, like his dad one of the smartest people I know, which is amazing because he hated school. Funny, charming, with a big warm heart (despite his efforts to look nonchalant). Brian was my sidekick for a long time. Jessica is older, and Dan traveled a lot. There’s something about Brian that makes me want to make him proud of me. I hope he is.

I could of course go on and on. Think about it. Who in their own way, in a single moment or with a single act, be it a moment of kindness or of something unpleasant, made an impression that shaped the person you are. Do we get to say, “Thank you.” or ,”You’ve hurt me.”, do we even recognize it in that second? Maybe all we can do is to try not to spread the unpleasantness, and maybe all we can do is be grateful for the good, thank them in ours minds and hearts, and try to be the kind of person that makes a difference in the life of someone else.

A Different Dialog

I’m not going to write today about my house. Sometimes things happen that resonate in my brain, and reorders my perspective about what is important in life. I went to the pharmacy today to pick up a prescription. An ordinary errand on an ordinary day. The woman behind the counter is not Caucasian, she is Middle Eastern. I’m not sure where she hails from, I will presume, although I do not know, that it isn’t from the U.S., she has just the hint of an accent. I have a hint of an accent myself, it’s a Midwestern twang with a touch of the Brogue, depending on which words stuck with me from my very Irish upbringing. None of that matters. She is a lovely woman, pleasant and nice. She always has a smile, and through the many years that I have been patronizing the pharmacy we have developed an easy rapport with one another. Today she seemed tired, and I thought I heard a trace of illness. I asked if she were coming down with something, and then she began to cry. Her nephew was killed in a motorcycle accident only two days ago. She told me he was only twenty five, she had so much pain in her eyes that I began to cry as well. I reached for her hand and held it just for a second, and for a moment she seemed surprised, and then pulled away. I told her I was sorry, I told her there were no answers. She lives amongst elderly relatives, some are sickly, but they are alive. She is at a loss, she doesn’t understand why this young man was taken when she has people in her life ready to move on. We stood for a few moments and talked about her nephew and my mother. I told her the one thing that I believe, that he will always live on in their hearts. I told her I talk to my mom all the time in my laundry room. With that I realized there was another customer behind me, a woman.  I wished the pharmacy tech well and stepped aside, and then the other woman looked at me and said, “I talk to my mother in the garden.”

I wrote about this incident because in that singular moment I wished that the world at large could share that human connection. I talked about the pharmacy tech’s heritage not because she was different, but because we are all the same. Her pain was my pain, the hole in my heart caused by my mother’s death is the same as the hole in her heart, and of the heart of the woman behind me. I am tired of reading, and so much more exhausted seeing the effort that is put into pointing out all of our differences. Bill Maher had a show on in which he and a guest were in essence laying a blanket definition of who Muslims are are what they believe. It wasn’t pretty. Ben Affleck was on the program and was challenging their statements. I’m with Ben. I’m a Catholic. Not really a practicing Catholic, but it is the foundation of who I am, and in how I choose to live my life. There are particular programs on these days where the hosts are “Christians”. There is nothing remotely “Christ-like” in how they portray the issues of today. One of the most spectacular qualities that we as humans have is our differences. God given differences. By that I don’t mean the stuff that interferes with leading a good, and God-like existence. Things like racism, ignorance, intolerance, violence…the list goes on and on. I mean the differences in each and everyone of us that makes us unique. It’s the reason that you can’t “blanket” any religion. I have three sisters, we all live our various levels of faith in our own manner. Does that make one of us a “good” Catholic, or another a “bad” Catholic? No it doesn’t, because according to what we believe it is not for us to judge. Would I be comfortable if because of the current pedophilia problem every priest was labeled a pedophile? Or by default that I am somehow responsible for what a number of sick individuals did? No I wouldn’t. I happen to have a dear friend who is a priest. He is a good and honorable man. I’m tired of everyone sitting in judgement of everyone else. What would it take to understand that because you worship differently than me you aren’t wrong? You are different in the magnificent way that God created you. We all hurt, we all bleed, we are all devastated by the loss of loved ones. We all love our children, we all want to be happy, we all want love. Here’s the other really great thing that God did. We’re all the same too. Let’s stop looking at the differences in the wrong way. Let’s celebrate our individuality, the many traditions of worship, the many expressions of love in whatever form they may take, the many colors of our skin (even for those of us that have no color in our skin), the way that each of us are different from the person next to us. Then let’s embrace what is the same. Let us comfort those who have lost, cheer for those who succeed, wrap ourselves in the connection we all have, the human experience. Finally, let’s begin to turn a deaf ear to those who would divide us, who would abuse the name of God, of Allah, of Jesus, or whomever one prays to, by turning them into weapons of divisiveness, or of judgement. Of turning our backs on what I believe everyone’s God teaches, and that is love.