Archive for May, 2018



Artistic Confidence

potteryAre you creative? Are you artistic? Do you have an eye for balancing an image? My friend, the Fundy Migrant, 🙂 is taking a course on photography. I’ve always thought she took great pictures but I do see her skill growing rapidly. I think that supports the credo “Practice Makes Perfect”. Or at least leads to improvement. Those of you who only know her as the Fundy Migrant or “that woman” don’t know of her long history of creativity, but you will learn. My personal favorite, of course, were the Drama Dolls. And my very own special Drama Doll. But I digress (as usual). Because this post isn’t about her but about me (as usual). *grin*

I am very conflicted when I think about my artistic abilities. On the one hand, I think I’m creative. I’ve made and sold my own pottery (for real money to people who didn’t know me).dining room palette I think I have a good eye for my gardens. I learned to make virtual trees (thank you Fundy Migrant) and I learned to script so items I created would move. I made virtual hair which people wanted. I bake well also – ask my brother-in-law about my sugar free rugelach. On the other hand, I was NOT considered the artistic member of my family. Museums exhaust me mentally long before physical fatigue sets in. I passed up visiting Florence to go back to spend more time in Rome. You might remember a posting about a picture in our family home – the picture that my mother declared separated those with an artistic eye from those without. I loathed that picture. So you know where I was slotted on the spectrum. 🙂

I have been very slow to renovate my house. The house is nearly 100 years old. We’ve been there 34 years. We still have the original kitchen cabinets, kitchen counter, upstairs carpeting, and upstairs bathroom. For most people of my acquaintance, this is little short of heresy. Almost taboo. We did an addition to the house. We repainted the kitchen and changed the lights, and we’ve done other repairs and such over the years. tropical ceiling fanBut other than the addition, which we did nearly 30 years ago, I’ve not done anything BIG. Several years ago it was time to repaint the living room and dining room and my big-breakout designer action was to paint the walls something other than WHITE. I used TWO strong colors in the dining room, and the ceiling in the dining room was the same faint pink-overtones of white that were the walls in the living room. I loved it. I remember my mother making “a face” at the end result. I, however, felt vindicated and still love my palette to this day.

Last year about this time we needed a new chandelier for the dining room. While we were at the lighting store, I saw a ceiling fan that captured my heart. It had 5 blades, shaped like fat rubber tree leaves. We bought it and replaced the ceiling fan in the sunroom. I thought no more about it until my niece suggested that I make the sunroom my “beach getaway” room, my own little tropics in NJ. I’d never considered redoing an entire room with a theme. I know OTHER people do these things, but I never considered it. But the suggestion took root, especially when my niece gave me the color palette she thought I’d like. I redid the entire room, piece by piece, idea by idea, slowly but surely. Everything was done except…. except…. I wanted a big seascape above the windows across from my reading chair. ocean viewI didn’t find what I wanted at craft shows or online. I found wallpaper, however, that triggered some ideas. The wall is mostly windows. I wanted something more “ocean, beach” for the little bit of wall that remained. I bought wallpaper that looked like a weathered ocean fence, and a border that was ocean waves, sand dunes with beach grass and blue sky. I told folks that I was going to put the fencing down the wall and across the top of the wall above the windows, then put the border on top of that so it would look like I was looking out over the fence to the ocean. The reactions I received ranged from a slightly skeptical look to “that’s ridiculous, the ocean isn’t ABOVE the windows”. It looks great. I love it. It’s everything I wanted. People who see it love it too (okay, they might be humoring me but I don’t care. *I* LOVE it.)

Ahuva's cornerI’m feeling much more confident about my ability to design a room and pull the various pieces together. I have much more faith in my taste in furnishings and color and concept. That is a very good thing, too. Because in 2 weeks we will gut our entire kitchen, widen a doorway, and redo the kitchen we have had for 34 years. Big changes are coming….

Headlines I’d Have Preferred NOT to See

11+ Brutally Honest Tweets About Using A Menstrual Cup
Seriously – there is nothing I can add to that headline other than the fact I’d never heard of that particular approach. I was living a very full, productive life having never heard of that particular item.

Tourists In Utah Throw Dinosaur Tracks Into Lake Thinking That They’re Regular Rocks
It was a kid. Maybe we need to start vetting folks before we let them into our national parks. I’m not sure who is more culpable with these stories – the parents or the children. Disgusting.

Bounce house flies onto California highway with child inside
Yes – the child was safe.

He lured young men looking for weed. Their bodies turned up in a pig roaster.
Sigh. I can’t even…….

Ukraine says military dolphins captured by Russia went on hunger strike
Again – I can’t add to this. You needed to read the article, which was even more unbelievable than the headline.

Bear breaks into SUV, eats 24 cupcakes
Okay, the bear one made me smile. And then I read the article where it says this particular family has had the bear visit before and eat food, THAT THEY HAVE LEFT ACCESSIBLE. They want the bear killed. As one commentator said – why not STOP leaving food OUT???

A small personal history

May 13 is Mothers’ Day this year. May 13 also happens to be my mother’s yahrzeit. *rueful smile* My mother, may her memory be blessed, always understood the importance of timing. As an actress she knew that timing, delivery and performance were key to making a lasting impact. She always wanted everything to be “all about her”. With remarkable timing, she has ‘captured’ Mothers’ Day. I will never reach this date without thinking of her and reflecting on our lives together. (To be fair, my father also made sure I’d never forget his yahrzeit either – I turned 50 sitting shiva, instead of throwing the big birthday blow-out I’d started planning.)

I used to have such fun with my mother. When I was a toddler I wanted to grow up and be just like her. I wiggled my way into her newspaper interview (what an adorable photo we made). I cried at a play when she, in character, cried. My father had to carry me out. 🙂 I cued her for her plays, I went to every show she was in, I envied the times she and my big sister would go out shopping without me.

Even through grade school and high school we were best buddies. I could tell her any and every thing. My friends all thought she was incredibly cool and would confide in her. When I went off to college she wrote me letters every week, and sent me zillions of clippings from the newspaper. *laughing* My beloved advisor once said that my mother was the only mother he knew who could be replaced by a subscription to the NY Times. 🙂 She came out to visit me at college and I was so proud to introduce her to everyone.

I graduated, moved back home for grad school, got married, stayed home until my husband also graduated. All that time my mother and I played together, had fun, had key jokes (Mickey’s Donut Land was one), traditional shopping trips (Black Friday after Thanksgiving – a day we loved to go out because we didn’t NEED anything so we could be relaxed while everyone around us went crazy).

My husband and I bought a house in the same town where I was born, grew up, where my parents lived, where my sister and her husband lived. We were a very close family. We did a lot with my parents – my husband and father were close, both engineers, liking sports, politics, conversation. My son was born and Grandma and PopPop took care of him regularly.

But somewhere along the line things began to change. The seeds were always there. I have an ugly story about my graduation present from college. There were some other harsh memories of things said, selfish behavior, controlling emotions. Beginning after college I went into therapy. Years and years of therapy. What I learned there was to be NOT my mother. What I learned and began to see was how unhappy she was, how emotionally damaged she was from her childhood experiences. I had absorbed ALL of that myself, modeled myself that way, being just like her. But I wasn’t happy. She wasn’t happy. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to be happy more than I didn’t want to have to change myself. I spent years and years and years learning how to undo the self-destructive patterns.

As I changed, I saw my mother differently. I saw her unhappiness, and she always admitted that she was not happy. But she refused to look at herself for the source. She always felt that happiness is derived externally. I think too that she became more and more her negative qualities – selfish, emotionally controlling, putting down others to feel as if she were better, hurtful comments trying to be funny. The more time I spent with her, the worse I would feel. A lot of negativity and anger radiated from her. It was draining and dispiriting.

But it was tolerable. My father was there, my sister, her husband, her daughter, my husband, my son – we were family and we saw each other regularly and happily. Okay, sometimes annoyingly too. 🙂 After all, we were family.

You need to understand. My father adored my mother. He thought she was wonderful. One time my sister and I were talking and laughing with him and we both mentioned how we heard our mother “talking out of our mouths” and he didn’t understand why we thought that was NOT a good thing. I love you so much, Daddy. He would do anything for her. He was her security. He was her rock. She was the glamorous butterfly, flitting and flirting and exciting but she would always come home to him – her safe haven.

And then my father became ill, unable to travel a lot. My mother was cruel. Comments like “well we can’t do this now because of you”. It got worse. He was in the hospital, ill. She didn’t visit him because she didn’t feel up to it. My sister and I were sitting shifts at his bed, dropping in exhaustion so that he would not be alone but she couldn’t be troubled. Had the roles been reversed, he’d have been there every day, dragging a lung machine and any other apparatus just to be with her. When he finally came home, she wouldn’t let him back into their room. He lived downstairs on a hospital bed. She did cruel things like move his toaster to a storage area because it was “in her way”. Every morning he’d have to struggle with his walker to get the toaster, bring it out to the counter, and then struggle to bring it back. She raged when we added safety bars to the bathroom for him. It was ugly. Very very ugly.

She was so angry. So afraid. She couldn’t forgive him for being human and not being her rock. She was terrified. He was her safe haven. He was her security. Her life, as she saw it, was evaporating rapidly.

Then he died.

I’d like to say that things improved but that is not what happened. She turned her fear-fueled anger on my sister and me. There were more cruel words and selfish selfish behavior. It was very hard for several years, but she was our mother, and we loved her, and you do what you have to do. She was still active, going into the city for theater and art and friends.

Suddenly she was ill, in the hospital, emergency surgery – a perforated ulcer. Who even knew she had an ulcer? Recovery was slow, her spirits were poor. We tried to keep her home, but we had to keep upping her in-home care. Finally we moved her to a nursing home. The odd thing is, in hindsight, we think maybe she’d have wanted that immediately. We moved her to a second, better nursing home when it was available. And it was there, finally, that for me, things began to heal.

I could visit her, chat with her, talk to her as we had in the past. There were flashes of my mother there, her sense of humor, her intelligence. We’d have cheese and crackers, drink coffee, eat chocolate. I could even classify some visits as enjoyable. My own anger at her for her treatment of my father began to ease. My anger at her for her lack of commitment to trying to recover from her surgery began to ease. My compassion became dominant, as I saw her living the very life I knew she had dreaded forever.

She died last year, suddenly, the day before Mothers’ Day. On Sunday she’d been okay. On Saturday she was dead.

I miss her. When I think of her now, I don’t think of those last 12 years or so. I think of the fun things we did. Our little jokes. That she’d like this weather. She’d like knowing this event. When the rabbi came to talk to us about her in preparation for the funeral, he asked me if I had forgiven her. I thought about it for a moment and told him no, I had not. I will probably NEVER forgive her for how she treated my father. But that was not the whole of my relationship with her, even if it did poison so much of our time together. I am grateful for that last year in the nursing home. We had time to sit together. Smile. It was quiet then and peaceful and there was room for love and warmth. Time and space for the positive interactions to flourish and bloom. When they say time is the great healer, I think this might be what they mean.

I miss you, Mom. Happy mothers’ day.

Tag!

It only took 269 days but I managed to “payback” my sister and make her laugh. I confess I am grinning, too. You may recall from my Trans-Canada saga, that on our very first morning out on the open road, Honour and I stopped at Horseshoe Canyon. While we were there, enjoying the scenery and sights, my phone rang. It was my sister, pointing out that we had LEFT THE HIGHWAY!!!!! Did we KNOW we had left the highway??? Were we LOST?? *grin* Oh wow, I do love my sister.

My sister and her husband have taken off cross-country today. Mostly cross-country. They are going to Wisconsin. /me gestures vaguely, pointing somewhere west. You know – out THERE. They are in their RV, with only 1 dog. I do feel I need to point out they travel in luxury, compared to those of us who load up an unfamiliar SUV with 2 unhappy cats and an elderly unhappy dog, a companion we’ve never met F2F before, kitty litter and bags and shoes and set out across the BROAD part of the continent, driving through wild-fires. Just saying.

You may also recall that I installed a nifty app on my phone called Life360, that would enable my family to track me on my travels (in case of lunatic axe murderers). This app also means that *I* can track *them*. We use it all the time. We watch my niece (her daughter) as she comes and goes to visit us. We use it if we are supposed to be meeting up, and we try to find the other. My niece and her husband left this morning for a trip to Japan, and I watched their progress to the airport, to the terminal, and then got the selfie portrait from them before they shut down phones and took off to Japan!!

The Rv headed out this afternoon. While I ate lunch I checked on their progress. They were NOT on the highway!!!! They had crossed the Delaware and were pulled off in a small town in PA, NOT on the itinerary. I could not resist. At least I didn’t CALL. *grin* I texted and said: “YOU ARE OFF THE HIGHWAY!!! Do you KNOW you are off the highway?? Are you LOST???” Oh my, it was sooooo satisfying. 🙂

My sister’s sense of humor is akin to mine – I got back a laughing text, asking if I’d been WAITING for the moment to send this. Of course I’d been waiting – 269 days. 🙂

Everyone has taken off on their travels but they are not ‘away’. I’ve now received text messages about muffins and trail mix left in the car, lack of toilet paper and the non-printed itinerary. They also serve who stay home and wait. (with apologies to John Milton)


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