Unanswerable Loss

DoubleTwo months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve sat before this computer and shared my thoughts, my life. One month. That’s how long it has been since I lost my Dad. I’ve been busy. We closed on our home the 7th of April, and made two trips to Chicago to see my Dad. Well, one to see him, and one to bury him. The truth is that I’ve been avoiding myself, avoiding this blog, because I wasn’t ready. Grief is a funny thing. It’s never the same for two people. I’ve written a lot about why people are who they are, and how experiences shape them. Grief has a way of pointing out the differences. Some take action and busy themselves to the tasks at hand, while others let grief surround them like a blanket held tight, waiting for comfort, but finding none. There are those who begin the desperate search to find answers, to question God, to layer the guilty “should haves”, “would haves”, and tear themselves apart. For me there is no anger. In our Dad’s final days we were all praying that he be released from his pain, and that he might be able to rejoin our Mother. Her loss was one he had never recovered from. Once those prayers were answered we were all left feeling the pain and emptiness that only death can deliver. For me there was additional sadness. Despite making two trips to Chicago in the weeks prior to his death, I had planned to go and be there for his final days. I had a flight scheduled for a Monday, he died the Friday before. The harsh reality of not living near family is that there are times when the distance causes one to feel like they aren’t quite part of things. Birthdays, graduations, the gradual growth of a child, are all things you witness from afar, and when someone you love falls ill it brings tremendous feelings of helplessness. With my Dad it was complicated further by our move. I wasn’t free to spend as much time with him as I would have liked. When our Mother died (forgive me if I have written of this before), Dad told me he couldn’t go to sleep. For more than fifty years the love of his life had been at his side, and now the bed was empty, there was no one to say goodnight to. My heart broke for him. He had always said that loneliness was the worst disease. I began to call him every night. I spoke about it at his funeral. In almost eight years I missed only a handful of nights, and when I knew in advance that I wouldn’t be able to make that call I asked someone else, usually my daughter, to make the call for me. Eventually those calls increased to every morning, and several throughout the day. I took every call he made. I wanted him to feel secure in knowing that someone would always be there. I would check the television schedule every day looking for his other great love, soccer. I would call with movies, history programs, anything to fill his empty days. There were times when we had great conversation. We would talk politics, religion, family history, and in particular movies. There were also difficult conversations. There were times when I sat here strangling the phone in frustration. Calls when he was angry at his loss, at his loneliness, and his bewilderment at God for taking “his Mary” first, and leaving him lost. Now I am the one feeling a little lost. For nearly eight years the first thing I did every morning was pick up the phone, and again every night, a call so he could hear the voice of someone he loved before he went to sleep. He isn’t lonely anymore, but I am. There is an emptiness in both the beginning and end of my day. I couldn’t call him in the final weeks before his death. I relied on my sisters to put the phone to his ear. On the morning that he died I told him I loved him and that it was time to let go. I told him it was time to go to Mommy and to his Big Mommy (his grandmother whom he adored). I had no way to know that would be our last call. He died about two hours later. Yesterday I called one of my sisters. I was the one feeling lost and lonely; I was the one who needed to hear the voice of someone I love. On the morning that my Dad passed away I was driving to the local mall. I’m sure everyone knows of the horrible drought here in Southern California, but that morning it was raining, raining hard. As I was driving my thoughts were on my Dad. I had only two hours before been telling him to let go. I thought to myself that the way it was raining reminded me of Ireland, and of course that reminded me of my Dad. I pulled into a parking space and said aloud, “These aren’t tears of sorrow; they are tears of joy, a good one is coming home.” I stepped out of my truck and my phone rang. It was my sister calling me to tell me that our father just died. Maybe in some way I knew. Maybe all of those phone calls gave us a connection that transcends this world. Dad if there was a direct line to Heaven I’d call you right now, but I know you are with Mom right where you need to be. I love you both, and I miss the sound of your voice.

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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.

When I Grow Up

When my son Brian was just short of his sixth birthday he came to me with a very earnest look on his face. “Mommy”, he said, “When I grow up should I be a taxi driver or a science test?” I told him that I wanted him to be a “science test”. He is now studying to be a sommelier. The memory of that conversation came to me in the middle of another sleepless night. I really believed for a very long time now that I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were of course flashes of interest, in the sixth grade it was archeology. I read everything I could get my hands on to do with ancient Rome and Greece. I knew Greek Mythology by heart. Then there was the realization that it might just involve science, somewhat doable, but in a round about way it might also involve (cue the dramatic music of dread)…math…Done! No math, no how! Then there was of course (as any good Catholic girl will tell you) the call to God. I thought for a very, very, very short time about becoming a nun. (Didn’t we all?) Trust me as a romanticizing, day dreaming, fourteen year old, the idea of becoming a “Bride of Christ” sounds wonderful and mysterious. You find yourself praying a lot and feeling very pious. I think a very short reflection on some of the bitter and angry nuns I had dealt with in my academic career brought that idea to a screeching halt. Don’t get me wrong. I have had the immense pleasure of being educated by some lovely human beings, who also happen to have been nuns, but in my young mind the bitter and angry ones far outweighed the nice ones. For a while I thought I might want to be a teacher. I think I would have been a good one, but in the summer that I was fifteen I taught art in a Chicago Park District program to children four through eight years old. I was bitten, kicked, and had my glasses broken by an obnoxious five-year old who thought that while flying high on the swing set it might be fun to hit my face with his feet. I was done yet again. The honest truth was I never really thought about an artistic career. Since I had no training I had no idea of the endless possibilities that were available to me. I did always have a flair for design. I think I may have mentioned here before that I didn’t like playing with Barbie dolls as much as I enjoyed decorating their house. In my sleeplessness last night I did a lot of thinking. I had a complete meltdown right before bed (which robbed my dear husband of some much-needed sleep, sorry Honey). I was bemoaning my fate as a lost human being wandering the earth with no focus, no plan, no home. (OK, so it wasn’t quite that dramatic) It’s just that I, like so many other women, are our families. We lost ourselves somewhere along the way of countless hours of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, laundry, homework, bedtime rituals, etc., we are made up of the pieces that address our family needs, and forget our own. I was feeling angry and frustrated last night. Last year when I started this blog and art project it was the first time in my adult life that I was solely focused on something for myself. Then fate stepped in, appearing in the form of unemployment, it laughed in my face, and it filled my mind with fear and worry and not so much with creativity. So many times over the course of the year I found myself pushing the project to the back burner because guilt wouldn’t allow me to put myself first. I wouldn’t let myself be first. Now Dan has a new job, Jessica has moved away, I am moving away from Brian, and I am also moving away from Gabby and Kingston, the motherless children I care for and have grown to love. The only thing I have been in thirty years is a wife and mother. I dabbled at my art, but I never fully committed myself to me. It all came to a head last night. As I sat here all night (quite frankly despicably full of self-pity) I remembered what Brian had said. In the last few weeks as I have been packing up our lives, I came across my diary. It’s the one I mentioned here before. Along with it were pages from other older, younger diaries. Amongst the writing on those pages were some dreams for the future. First and foremost was my goal of becoming Mrs. Robert Redford (Don’t worry. Dan is well aware of my love for “Bob”), but there was also an entry that while it has the day and month, it does not have the year. My Aunt Bernie had just given birth to my cousin Michael. In my little girl penmanship I wrote about what a beautiful baby he was, and that I wanted to be a mom when I grew up. So maybe I did know all along. I think I was pretty good at it. I’d like to think I’m still good at it, trying my best to not interfere, but to gently guide and suggest. I’m sure that many people would chalk this up to “empty nest syndrome”.  Sure, some of that might be true, but with me there has always been this feeling of unfulfilled promise. God-given talents that are sorely untapped. Dan got angry with me last night, and that isn’t something that happens often, but he was right. He said that I keep throwing up roadblocks for myself. He also said that I won’t let myself be first, and that he is my biggest supporter. All of that is true. It really is time to figure things out. I know I can’t blame anyone but myself, and I know only I can change me. Time to grow up, time for a new dream, and since Bob and I are both already married to other people, that ship has sailed. (Oh come on, Dan knows he is the love of my life.)

After my meltdown and sleepless night I sat on the couch this morning with my coffee and watched last night’s Project Runway. I love the show. I love to see the creativity and imagination at work. I also envy the amazing sewing talent. One of the lovelier nuns I have run across is Sr. Janelle. She was my sophomore year sewing teacher. Try as she might, as kind and patient as she was, I wasn’t very good. I have amazing talent in these hands as long as there isn’t an iota of math involved. Sewing can be very mathematical. On a commercial break in the show came an ad for AARP. (We are not members. It’s honestly a little upsetting when you get your first invite to join. You find yourself feeling angry and insulted that they would presume to think you are that “old”. I know there are many benefits, but my brain just doesn’t want to go there. I am after all, only 54!) The ad featured Tim Gunn, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. He talks about reinventing yourself, rolling the dice and taking a chance. He was a teacher for twenty-nine years, and he was fifty when Project Runway came along. It was just what I needed to hear. Maybe my former fiancée (God) is trying to send me a message. Now if He could just send me some movers….

Regaining Control

I’m usually pretty good at coming up with a title for a post. They come to me quickly, and I usually never second guess my choice. Today is a little different. I wasn’t sure whether to title this one as I did, “Regaining Control”, or my other thought which was  “Misconceptions.” What I need to get off my chest has a little to do with both. As I’ve pointed out before, this blog began as a way to force myself to work on my art. The unfortunate situation that we found ourselves in changed that. I still plan to return to my work, but there isn’t much time for creativity these days unless it is in the form of packing boxes. This blog instead has become a catharsis for my emotional well-being in a time of struggle. Pent up emotions do no one any good. I am a very “in your face” kind of person. I don’t believe in hiding the truth, I feel better when I am honest with people. That doesn’t mean that I go around insulting people by telling them something negative about themselves, some things are best left unsaid, but when I am upset with someone I don’t let it fester. When you don’t release your emotions I think little things tend to build into great big things, and then all kinds of unnecessary drama can ensue. I don’t know most of the people who read what I write, and that works for me. It just feels good to let it out, and if by chance someone else relates and it helps them in some way, that is amazing. I also don’t write looking for pity, which believe it or not I kind of think some people who I do know believe that I am. I’m a writer as well as an artist, so I am doing what a writer does, I write. I started keeping a journal at twelve, of course back then we didn’t have fancy names like “journal”, it was a diary. You know the kind where you talk about which boy is cute and how you hate your parents that day? I actually kept that diary for almost seven years. I’ve written a lot over the years. I’ve never attempted to have anything published, that lovely “you are good enough” voice that resides in my brain held me back. Short stories, poetry, and a few children’s books are all in a box. Someday I may let them out, but for now I write here. So with that rather long introduction I will begin.

I’ve had several people tell me to focus on the good in my life. Things such as, “Count your blessings.”,  “Look at all the love and kindness you’ve received.”,  “Stop focusing on the negative.” …and so on. The implication of course being that I spend my life in a complete state of “woe is me.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I guess I’ll address misconceptions first. I am grateful, I do count my blessings, I don’t always focus on the negative, and so on… This blog became a way to vent emotion. My lovely husband was struggling in his own way with his identity as the man of the house, the bread-winner, the guy who took care of everything. Did he need to be burdened with my worry wart ways? The answer is of course not. Venting here allowed me to blow off some worry as well as steam. Not that Dan didn’t always know what I was feeling, but this took the edge off. When I said that I felt my prayers weren’t being answered it didn’t mean that I suddenly stopped being Catholic. Trust me when I say I sometimes envy the faith that some people have. Mine is just a little shaky at the moment. I also believe something my sister said about God giving us free will. God does help them who help themselves, it’s just tough to get it going when no one will give you a chance, because guess what? The multitudes of people who turned Dan down for a job have free will too, the free will to not give him the job. I also in my beliefs think that God is a little busy right now with Gaza, the Ebola virus, the current crisis in Iraq, and the millions of poor starving babies in the world to be worried about whether or not I get to keep my 3000 square foot home. I wouldn’t expect that kind of attention. This is where the regaining control part comes in. I’m a self admitted control freak, and my life was way out of my control, that means I turn into a “basket-case”.  This was never about losing my big house, it was about worrying that I would have no house at all. This was about watching what the situation did to the person that I love, admire, and respect most in the world, Dan. It was about being scared. Loss of control is a big issue for me. It’s why I’m claustrophobic, I need the keys. The house will be on the market within a week. I’m exhausted, as is Dan, but (dare I say) we are also beginning to feel a little excited about the future. We went out last weekend to investigate potential places to move to, and quite frankly we fell in love. I won’t go into detail as of yet, but I am feeling hopeful, and just a little bit more in control. Now that there is a plan of sorts, it means that all is almost well in my world. We are helping ourselves and letting God take care of those who can’t and need Him way more than us.

Finally on this lovely Sunday morning a few words of wisdom from me.March 13 2010 079

 

A Gift

A few weeks ago when I hit the one year mark on this blog I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to take it in. I’m still not sure. My life has turned into something I never expected. It’s been a bittersweet week, and although I can’t explain what that means as of yet, it involves a major change. This blog has evolved from an art project into a daily journal of our life as a family going through the crisis of unemployment. Things had come to a head as of late and I was really feeling the stress of all of it. Things are no better as I write this. Dan and I are still looking for jobs without much luck. Just the other day I received a call back from a woman’s apparel store and was excited that something might be changing for us, but I didn’t get the job. The woman on the phone didn’t feel that I was qualified because I had never sold clothing before. That in spite of the fact that I worked customer service in a retail environment for more than eighteen years. I’m not quite sure what it is that she thought I was incapable of. I’ve been a wife and mother for thirty years, I have two grown children, I obviously have been in quite a few clothing stores, and have folded more than my share of laundry. In my job at the grocery store I handled thousands of monetary transactions, balanced daily sales reports, verified armor truck deliveries, and much, much more, but she wasn’t interested in anything I had to offer.

I’ve been losing faith. Faith in everything. Lately even my prayers are disrupted in my head by moments of doubt. There have been glimmers of hope, but I have seen them snatched away as quickly as they broke through the darkness. What has helped us through all of this is our deep love for each other, and the love and support of our families.

 

I wrote the words above three days ago and then I stopped writing. I quit, I let the weight of all of this get the best of me. I had given up. It has been so long since something positive has happened for us that I had fallen into a depression nearly as bad as the one I had suffered when my mother died. That was Friday. Saturday Dan and I headed down to San Diego. He has a job interview tomorrow and we were doing a little research on the product. He is well aware of the depths of my struggle, he is and always has been my lifeline. As we drove along I told him how much I wished something nice would happen for us, it has been so very long. Then we got the mail. Inside was a card from a friend. Inside the card was a gift beyond words. Yes there was money, not enough to start our business, but this isn’t about the money I found in the card, it’s about the hope. When I saw what was inside and read the words, I cried. It is enough to allow me to take a breath and believe in the future. We have gotten help from our families, they have been as generous as they can be both in support and varying amounts of cash. What made this different was that it was from someone who isn’t family, someone who knew my struggle and reached out to help. This person doesn’t want credit, and could barely take my thanks, but I have to be thankful to someone who gave me back my life, my hope, my faith. All we can do is move ahead. As our benefactor said, “Don’t look back, only look forward.”

 

So here we go. The burden feels a little lighter. Onward to better things.

As for tomorrow? Please pray for Dan for tomorrow’s interview. We need it, but in the mean time…The Curious Cat Books & Bistro is in the works. A few photos to share tonight, hopefully new art for tomorrow.

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce

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For lunch? Grape Almond Chicken Salad & Macaroni Salad

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Afternoon Tea

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and a late night cheese plate to share…

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Everything but the bread made from scratch.

Return To The Past

My writing has been a bit dreary as of late. I decided today to forgo any and all complaints, and instead write about my curiosity with human nature. I think I’ve mentioned once before my fascination of why people are who they are. I was reminded of it this morning when I was choosing what to wear today. I have a plaid black and white blouse. In fact I always seem to have a black and white something in my wardrobe. When I was a little girl my Dad took our clothes to the laundromat. (A momentous occasion I assure you) It wasn’t his habit to do the laundry, but I believe this particular incident happened around the time my youngest sister was born which means I’d have been five at the time. Dad put the wash in and went next door to where there happened to be an Irish pub. While he was at the pub the laundromat went on fire. Amongst the clothes that were in the laundry was my favorite dress, a black and white check with a red bow at the collar. I remember being very upset at the loss of that dress, and all these years later I still love black and white. It makes me wonder what little occurrences happen in our lives, some when we are too young to recall that shape the people we are to become. Wouldn’t it be interesting to visit our younger selves and discover secrets of why we are who we are? There is a book about what kind of advice that you would give your younger self, but the truth is that our journey makes us who we are, both the good things we’ve done and the ridiculous antics of our youth. I like who I am. I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes and some fairly stupid choices. I’ve also made some really spectacular choices. I’ve reached my age with a wonderful husband that I adore, two amazing children, and a very good man as a son-in-law. Any change that I would make in my past would change what became my future. I’m not interested in going back.

No boxes tonight! A return to fairyland. The show on Saturday is to benefit a Christian school. I came up with a new design for my fairies. My Mother would say a prayer with us at bedtime. It was the prayer she knew and said as a child. My Dad has a different prayer, one that his mother said with him. When I called him not long ago to get it he was rather upset with me for not knowing his mother’s prayer, but as I pointed out to him it was Mom putting us to bed. My new design pays homage to both. My fairies kneel before a prayer, half dedicated to my Mom’s prayer, half to my Dad. Some fairies, some elves. One day left to prepare, and I can’t wait, because I’m tired!

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The Hand Of God

Several months ago I wrote a post about my feelings of hopelessness due to our situation here. I received quite a bit of religious advice from people who read that post. At the time I said I appreciated the thoughts,prayers and support, and of course I still do. I bring it up because of some thoughts I had today. We spent most of the day in the car. We drove out into the desert to a place named Pioneer Town. It’s east of Palm Springs. Old westerns were filmed there in the 30’s and 40’s and the structures still stand. The scenery was starkly beautiful, pale sands, sage brush, and rocks and boulders changing color with the sun. Later we drove back to Temecula through a mountain back road, and again I marveled at beautiful skies and lush greenery. Finally we headed to dinner towards an incredibly beautiful setting sun. I do consider myself a spiritual person, it is just that like almost every other place in my life I am quiet. There are so many people who want to share their faith, or their version of faith with others. I am happy for anyone who has spirituality in their life, but I find that for me my spirituality is in the world around me and within me. I can sit in a church obeying laws of holy obligation, but my mind wanders. It is out in the world where I see, and hear God that I feel my faith. I have written quite a bit about feelings of poor self-worth, or lack of self-confidence in my artistic life. Tonight as I looked through photos I took today, and as I marveled at the magnificent sunset, the thought occurred to me that there is one way that my work will always be inadequate, but it isn’t because of lack of self-esteem. I just know that despite my talent, and no matter how hard I work, there are strokes of greatness that exist in nature that are beyond this world.

I didn’t have much time to work on art today. I worked a little bit on Mia’s portrait from last night, and a very small watercolor. I do however have a few photos from today’s beautiful drive.

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Writing By The Rules

I received an email not long ago from the folks at WordPress. I’m sure many of you may have received it as well. It was about avoiding the grammar police. I didn’t read the email, although maybe I should have, but I’m pretty sure my grammar isn’t all that terrible. I did of course have English in school, but I finished school more than thirty years ago. Sister Charlotte, my freshman year English teacher was deaf. Seriously deaf. So deaf that we obnoxious young ladies of St. Scholastica would run our pencils along the grated book holder attached to the desk when her back was turned just to make sure. She was a very sweet old woman, far nicer than we probably deserved. It was the year in high school that we were supposed to be focused on grammar, but sadly we didn’t learn a lot. It was there however that I discovered my favorite book, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. All these years later it is still my favorite. I reread it from time to time for pleasure.

The other year in my academic life that was focused on grammar was seventh grade. Mr. Helms, a former Boys Town educator, was my teacher. We were terrified of him. Rumor had it that he killed a kid at Boys Town. There was a boy in my class, Austin H., a troubled kid who I later heard sadly died young. He acted out in class one day and Mr. Helms took him out into the hallway. I’m not sure what happened, but everyone swore there was blood on the wall. I don’t think he even noticed me, well except to call me Marion. Marion is my older sister, she is blond, I was not. Unfortunately seventh grade was also the year my eyes abandoned me. I desperately needed glasses. It took me the entire school year to convince my Mom that I was blind, so essentially I missed the whole year. I couldn’t see the board if my life depended on it, and I was far too afraid of Mr. Helms to talk to him. I suffered in silence. These days thanks to “spell-check” my spelling is usually correct. Except that once in a while it changes a word on me that I don’t catch until the next day when Dan points it out. I don’t know about anyone else, but I swear I read and reread several times before I publish, yet there it is, the wrong word. It happened to me just last night. As for the spelling, I recently heard about a German study that is going on. The German scientists are testing their theory that when we get older our memories fail not because we are decrepit (my word, not an official study term), but because our brains have so much information in them that it takes time to push through all the clutter and find what we’re looking for. (Again, me) I love this theory, it makes me happy. As for grammar, I have been corrected from time to time by my children. They are very smart and educated people, so am I, I just don’t put as much thought into sentence structure. I write like I speak, although I probably don’t use as many commas or my infamous ” …’s” when I talk. (Is there a name for …? Dot, dot, dot?? Is it etc.? I forgot, it’s in the back of my cluttered brain) I do care that what I write is readable but I’m more interested in getting the thoughts out of my brain and onto the page than sweeping through the cobwebs in my mind to remember that I am writing a really, really, really run on sentence.

This morning Dan and I had a wonderful hike through the lovely Santa Rosa Plateau. We were fortunate enough to see the vernal pools. Vernal pools, also called vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. (That sounds really smart doesn’t it? It’s from Wikipedia.) We are lucky enough to have these pools at the Plateau in the Spring. We got out there at about eight thirty. It was sunny, but there was still fog billowing in from the coast. Just beautiful. I was inspired to try to capture some of what we saw in pastel. Pastels are not my strong suit. I find them a difficult medium and don’t understand why I torture myself with them. First photo is my pastel of the vernal pools. The second photo is God’s handiwork, I just snapped the picture.

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The Positives

Last night I said I would look at my work over the last (almost) year to find the positives. I am horribly hard on myself. As I said last night criticism sticks in our brains, it’s a scientific fact. What the piece about criticism I watched on Sunday Morning failed to address was whether our own criticism of ourselves sticks as well. I am here to say in my own private not so scientific study ( which means I talked to myself, Dan and our friend Lori), we do hang on to our own criticism. I think we are harder on ourselves than anyone else. But that begs the question why? Are we innately self-critical? Or are we the product of societies influences? Obviously mass media has a great influence, as do our parents, our friends, our teachers, the list could continue. How does it start? I again will make assumptions. My Mom spoiled my Dad horribly, I think Dan would be happy to agree that I do the same thing. I learned it from my Mom. My Mom was also very insecure…ditto. I knew that as I headed into motherhood. I tried my best to instill confidence in my kids. Did I succeed? Yes and no. Why? Because my children grew up watching me. I was very nobly self-sacrificing, not such a good example to set. That is why I am now on this journey of self-discovery that I should have been on twenty years ago. (Kids, if you’re listening, take time for yourself. Giving all of yourself away no matter how well-intentioned sets a terrible example, and in the end everyone pays.)

Has anyone noticed that I’m avoiding the question at hand? The homework I assigned myself? In my defense I will again explain the Catholic thing. I feel guilty if I feel like I’m bragging. If my history serves me right the original verse reads, Our Father who art in heaven, guilt is part of the game, Thy forbids some fun…oh come on, I’m just kidding. ( I’ve served my time, thirteen years of parochial school, I’m entitled.) Anyway, here goes….

I have discovered that I have a real talent for pen and ink.

My work is so much more alive, more textured, richer. I discovered how much I enjoy working with just a palette knife.

I’m actually finishing pieces. For so many years I left work half done in fear of being judged. This is one where I still struggle a bit, but again, acknowledging the problem is part of the solution.

If I actually take my time (and give myself the time) I can do some really nice work.

I’ve heard so many people say how hard watercolor is. I find it incredibly easy and enjoyable.

That very nasty word, perspective. It’s getting better, and more than that, I’m getting less hung up on it.

My biggest accomplishment is that I no longer feel like I need to be a human copy machine. Art is meant to be expressive, not replace a photograph.

These days I’m struggling on so many levels because of other stuff going on in my life, but I’m still doing this every single day.

As I try to write these positives, I find the little voice on my head saying, “But what about….?” The voice of “Not good enough” is making a case for herself, dropping negative bombs in my brain. Not today. Enforced self-esteem, that’s what I need.

Tonight a watercolor. New issue of Country Living arrived in the mail, this painting is inspired by a photo in the magazine.3 3 14

“As The Brush Speaks”

I did it, well half-assed did it. I put two things up on my etsy site, neither of which was my “fine art”, by which I mean paintings, drawings, or prints of those. I do intend to follow-up on those, but am still in the “how do I do it?” phase. I need to find a print shop to get prints made, and I need to find an inexpensive place to order mats from. As for other work that I was going to put up, it’s the shipping that is delaying me. Just when I think I have it all figured out I go to the post office and find out I charged too much for shipping and need to issue a refund. It happened to me several times over Christmas. I don’t care if it’s a dollar less than I posted, I issue a refund. I have too much Catholic guilt to hang onto money that belongs to someone else. Flat rate shipping sounds fabulous in theory, but I found it was cheaper to send things first class. I also need to find boxes to fit things that I want to ship in. Basically my life is a postal nightmare. I wish everyone who liked my stuff lived down the street and I could just drop it off. Just one more problem to solve.

I feel like I had a decent artistic day. I started to work on one of the orphans from this project, feeling all guilty that this little painting was sitting upstairs half painted, like some half-clothed Dickensian character. I sat and began to finish the piece, hating every minute of it. Why? Because I never really liked it in the first place. So I changed my mind, painted over the whole damn thing, and I didn’t feel a bit guilty. (after all fully covered in paint is fully clothed right?) I prepped the canvas to do an entirely different project tomorrow. Meanwhile I grabbed a new canvas, and just painted. Another episode of “As The Brush Speaks”. I didn’t think about it, I just worked. Eventually something began to appear as though out of a dream. I am a great lover of fog. Yes, fog, always have been. I think it is because I always liked hiding. Hiding is good when you are shy. I read a book when I was a kid called, “Fog Magic”. It was about a little girl in New England who could step back in time through the fog to Colonial Days. There were times as a kid that I wanted to disappear. Fog envelops everything around it like a cloak of secrecy, it appeals to me. On the canvas a secret forest of fog and color began to appear, I began to think of fireflies, and bright spots through the haze. A place of peace and tranquility. Once it began to take shape I continued the path. I think I came up with a place I would like to be.1 27