When we moved to my new beloved South, I threw out big box after big box of newspapers and magazines where my articles appeared. It was a virtual history of my world, my life, in writing. It was also a history of my writing timely pieces. I recall the first one published that had national scope, was about Elian Gonzales, the Cuban child who was sent back to Cuba.
Why did I do it … throw them away?
Because, sometimes, the baggage, even accomplishments of your past, must be let go to make room for future growth.
I do have copies of some of the pieces on a computer, but by no meas, all.
My kids didn’t want them. That was a lot of paper. And it was my take on life and not theirs. They are here to tell and write their own stories.
As I went through to lone box in our garage the other day, along with the Stars and Stripes, I found a newspaper artle written about me, not by me. It was from one of my previous lives, you know, a chapter of this one that was long ago.
There was a time when I sculpted people into puppets. Yep. And I do not like puppets. They are a notch beneath clowns. But I used them as a tool.
The firts year that Winterfest at Kings Islan opened, they put out a call for artists and craftspeople to have booths in the Festhaus, where people ate and a show was presented. To this day, if Nick or I hear the song, “Food glorious food,” we groan.
Weird thing happened, they seemed to like my work and invited me. So I sat in the lower level of our trip-level in Mason, and inhaled clay dust and sewed puppet outfits.
That hwole Chritsmas season, from Thanksgiving until New Years, I was at a booth at the Festhaus, schlepping my puppet people.
Because they were unique, the pr man from Kings Island, took a liking to them and had photographers take photos. We became friends and would have lunch for years. He was a good man.
Somehow, Ohio magazine got wind of them and shot theym and they appeared on their cover for unique gifts. There was a blurb about them in Cincinnati magazine, and that is how The Bob Braun show found me. I was then doing workshops with kids, using making puppets, to teach communication skills.
So, I was asked to bring a couple of the kids, make a puppet of Mr. Braun, and appear on the show.
When I told my mom, here comment was, “It s too bad you gained your weight back. That was a real boost. I was 6 ft. tall and weiged 155.
Oh, to weigh 155, again.
I was also asked to make puppets of Robert Taft’s family. He was governor of Ohio. Carl Lindner was another one I was asked to do and Willard Scott was created as Carmen Miranda. That one, I did for the heck of it, sent it to him, and never heard a word.
I didn’t like doing the workshops with kids. I had to haul a lot of stuff. And frankly, teaching a group of kids isn’t my thing. I just couldn’t let them know that. But I am fessing up. I love teaching workshops with adults, especially women.
I remember at sign0ups for the workshop, one mother, a snoot, said, “My boy doesn’t need communication help. He talks all of the time.”
Some people don’t understand that communication is more about listening than talking.
Making the puppets went well with my solitary-isn, personality. No, I am not a total lonaer. I am a leader, too, if I am in a group. But I find that that s more perfomance art for me, an energy expender, where creating alone, and being able to learn at my own speed, quickly, is what I like.
I didn’t know all of this at the time. I was young. I didn’t have a clue as to who I was, which made me sort of lost. My energies were spent having and raising children. That, I loved.
My kids, all small at the time, would be given a hunk of clay and they would sit with me and make a puppet head (or creature). They have always know that I was a clayhead.
Bob Braun was very nice to be with. He knew how to do a show and make his scared guest look good. They people in the audience didn’t bother me, but those cameras and lights were something I hadn’t experienced.
My foray into people puppets only lsted a year or so. For me, life has been about learning and practicing and then moving on and taking that experience with me.
Experience, not boxes of newspapers. It travels much lighter.
I thought about making up a story about a Finnish Christmas, complete with reindeers and dancing snowflakes and all, but then I started picturing the Flying Monkeys from “The Wizard of Oz,” a movie that scars me to this day, and decided to talk about other things.
This mornng, about 4, soon after Winston came head first onto the bed for his morning moments ot laying with his head on my pillow, I decided to get up and make ssome hot lemon water. I am not doing tea. I am not juge on herbal tea and am staying away from caffeine. I tuened on the hot pot and went through the old bag of lemons … threw out a couple of moldy ones and kept the good ones, then decided to go into the guest room and lie down on the bed.
It is a very quiet room. There was a new blanket that my daughter bought when she was here. I put that over me and thought of her and the kids and grandkids and decided to go into a bit of a relaxation mode. Have good thoughts. Work on it. And enjoy serenity.
There have been so many things that have looked like a scattering of pick-up sticks. Thoughts here, thoughts there, thoughts that didn’t do me any good, which I still think were anesthesia induced, plus fear and unsettledness. Yes, gratitude, too, but that hadn’t been at the forefront.
I was feeling that I was becoming a victim of myself.
I don’t do victim well … or for long.
So, as I lay there, I weeded through the garden in my head. It has gorgeous flowers, spikey weeds and wild flowers that pop up when I least expect them to.
Yes, the reset button was in gear
I figured out what was not working for me in my life, in my thoughts and behavior and habits. And then opened my heart to what could and should take their place. For slots I emptied of residue that just wasn’t cutting it, I fthought of an action or something easy, doable, to replace it.
As I mentioned to my family, of late, I finally know what my breaking point is. In a certain way. The way I have dealt with stress and hard situations , has been to stand strong, get through it, be a warrior.
That is all well and good, but if can also take a toll, if you don’t know how to release it.
So … that is part of my awakening.
It felt good to acknowledge that. The earth didn’t quake. The sun still didn’t come out from the grey. No leopard jumped into our car.
I can’t explain how I will deal with this, but I going to figure it out.
There are some steps I plan to take that will get me where I want to go in terms of health, joy, laughter and engagement. I feel lighter just thinking about it.
This year, I have laid my life into many people’s hands. People have tried to help “fix” me. Through most of it, I didn’t feel broken. I didn’t feel breast cancer. I didn’t get “hurt” in the car wreck. I didn’t have a heart attack. But things were going wrong.
People were there for me. When I think back on how well each of these, plus Nick’s medical problem, went, with people taking our hands and leading us through the medicals system maze, it is very, very life affirming, as far as humands and technology go.
They did their jobs.
And now, it is time for my growth spurt as a human, to begin, again.
It has taken me a while to see that this is a anew beginning. Yes, I see each day as a new beginning, but this is a NEW BEGINING.
It is up to me to write the next chapter of my life … in a new year. Pretty cool, huh?
Here is one for you. I am so into silence. I love peace. I love, love. I love joy. I don’t have time for so much of what is out there and thrown in our faces. I shall choose, more carefully, what I see, hear and read.
I am eso excited about focusing on love, joy, laughter, kindness and good things, that there is nothing but wonder ahead of me.
Oh yes, the shitzu will no doubt fall and I will find myself having to make choices about how will I react. What happens might not be up to me, but my reaction is. And that is what I will work on.
Time, has to be only of this moment. It can’t be projected or controlled or sat upon. I have to keep that in mind.
And frankly, I am glad I don’t have an IV stuck in the back of my hands.
It will be fine. It will all be fine.
The word for today is peristalsis. That came to mind about 4:30 this morning. I decided that I like the movement of the word, which is similar to its function.
Our internal glory, our place of joy, enlightenment and growth sometimes gets lost in the whiskers of life, changes and problems.
There are times when reassessment is in order … when things shift and what was … now, isn’t.
One of the interesting things about life, that I have found, is that not once in our lives, does time stop. Oh, yes, it seems to stand still, of we wish we could hold a moment in time, but we can’t. Time moves.
Our lives move, too. From birth until death.
Some humans work at planning their lives. One of our earliest forays into conversation is when someone asked us, as a child, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?
Another version of the question is “What do you want to DO when you grow up?
To a young mind, those questions seem the same. As children, I didn’t distinguish the two questions.
But now, I see them as very different. One is occupational and the other is our soul, beliefs, values and, well, who we are.
After having a lifetime of professions and titles for what I “do”, the stage I am in and on, is an extension of the question “What do you want to be?”
It has morphed into who I have become.
Many of the things I have done, occupation-wise, study-wise, experience-wise ,by choice or demand, has evolved into who I have become.
An interesting thought to me is that one of my occupations, took hold so much and gelled so deeply into me, that it actually has braided over to be part of who I have become.
There have been times when I have struggled. Just being, and being who I am, I felt, wasn’t enough. Simply being myself, without “doing” wasn’t enough.
I should do this. I should do that. Perpetual motion of the mind, placing more value on the what I do, versus who I am. Maybe it is or was an earning my keep thing. Perhaps it is societal rumblings and expectations. I have often felt that I needed to earn my right to life.
I look at the walls of my house, the art, the things that are around me and I see many things I have done.
In a way, they are me. But in a way, I can separate myself from them and not really recall making them.
When I think back to my occupations, the days I was in the workplace, I was never any of those occupations. They were skills. I did them to the best of my abilities for you I was at the time, but none of the occupations was me. Marketing director, sculptor, real estate broker, software company CEO, workshop teacher, etc … I did them all, but they weren’t me. With each, there came a point when I said, no more.
But in each one, I learned and what I learned, I put through a sieve, and brought onboard the parts that I would build into who I have become.
Why do these thought matter to me, now?
Because once again, the last four months or so, my life has taken unexpected turns.
Years ago, when I was in real estate, a friend who had gotten into the business because I had, dais, in a very distressed and exasperated way, “Why are there always so many problems?”
I laughed, looked at her and said … “That is wat we are paid to do … solve problems.”
She said that from that moment on, she got it.
And then, she quit.
That knowledge, that nugget, that life is often about solving problems, and releasing those you can’t solve, to a higher power, is something that plays out over and over. And I have to remember that when my blueberry basket gets tipped over.
There are times, such as recently, when I have had to dive under water with my eyes open, and do the breast stroke. I might not see clearly, but I must do it.
As humans, we often have to swim through uncharted emotional, fearful, uncertain waters. But in doing so, our muscles get stronger. We become stronger than we knew we could become.
After initial shock and a bit of flailing, I find that I get in a rhythm. The opposing currents subside andI get in a flow of the new and strange. And for a while, I have a new normal.
The new normal rarely lasts. Even life doesn’t last. But the ride, this wonderful ride, with its twists and turns and earthquakes and whirlwinds, when there are days that we wonder how we will get through, and times we wish would last for ever, is a real trip.
And for that, I say, Rejoice! Hallelujah!
Yesterday, a week ago, Nick thought he was dying.
I did, too.
But thank God and good doctors and support of his kids and caring neighbors, Nick lives to be quiet and then drop a zinger that makes people laugh.
He lived for another trip to Blowing Rock.
It has been a hot and cranky summer. Little rain, big water bills, and a rain dance or too, that involved a pool. I will not say if it were Nick or I, who did the pole dance. But I bet you could guess.
It was mountain type of day. Nick had rested all week and he was ready to see something different. Mountains. They have always been an elixir in our life. Some people love the beach. We love the mountains.
There was a buoyancy in the car that hadn’t been there for a long time. We played music. Nick didn’t even mind my opera. Pavarotti. Three Tenors. Me, screeching.
We didn’t stay long at Blowing Rock. I think we wanted to see if it was still there.
Oh gosh, there is my woodpecker. I love birds with long peckers.
I think I scared him with that remark. He flew back into the woods.
We walked just a bit in Blowing Rock and had to decide if we wanted to eat lunch in a restaurant or pick up a pizza from Mellow Mushroom and take it to the mountain lake that is covered in places, with water lilies, has a wide walking path, and makes you feel free and healthy.
We got the pizza and drove to the park. We ate by the car and thenNikc got his walking stick out that I bought him a few weeks ago at McDowellNature Preserve. I got out my walking sticks that I haven’t used since last summer.
And we hit the trail.
Nick has not been able to do this for a long time. His walking is mostly in shuffling steps. But since his episode last week, and treatment with strong antibiotics, he walks better. He still isn’t strong and he has to watch his balance, but he can move.
We walked toward what had been a fish hatcheries, but now, only has water and some crawdads.
Nick sat on benches or rock walls, to rest. I bopped along with my camera and found things to shoot.
We talked about a neat-o tree and the lilies and I pointed out things that others, without a camera, not see. That is the thing about taking photos … you look for what others might miss.
I played with settings and chatted-up a couple of passers-by.
We didn’t go far in distance, but we went an eternity away from where we were last weekend.
The drive home was delightful. Nick shut his eyes and rested and I drove along in silence. No opera. No lalalalala screeching from my throat.
It was great fun being a wife yesterday. Nick had a delightful time. Bonus time.
And now, I shall go make some scones, tend my diminishing garden, fold clothes and do whatever I have to do to live in gratitude.
Because we just never know.
A bit of death is in the air.
August does it to me. Most every year, the month of August brings a sullen, confused time into my life … into my state of mind.
This year, I lasted about a week into August before it really hit me. I am done with summer. Worn out from digging, bending, schlepping, lifting and tending the garden. Even the heat is different.
Yesterday, afternoon, I walked outside to try to get enthusiastic about something. I was hoping to feel the magic of the garden.
I looked around my yard. I walked to the wildflower garden, all spent from heat and exhaustion. Their bright colors had transpired to gray. Their heads, once bonnets of beauty, looked like me when I need to have my hair colored. Their posture was like mine, too. Bent.
The hydrangeas, which had been transplanted this year, and had been warding off the fungus, showed signs of weakness.
After. Few minutes, I walked into the house, noting that their was no air to breathe outside.
The garden had taken a toll on my body. I know, I know, I did it to myself. No one told me to haul bags of pea gravel, lift it and put it around. I didn’t have a gun at my head switch someone saying, dig deep into this clay to land this spires.
No, I was my own garden warden. The vision was strong. The body did most of what was asked. And now, it was revolting, telling me that it was time to rest.
There are times when I dance as fast as I can. I get a project, a vision in my mind and I go for it. I do what it takes for as long as I can.
Even if it involves trips to an orthopedic doctor and MRIs and. Probably, physical therapy.
Last week was also the week before my 6-month mammogram and visit with the surgeon. My first check-up since I was declared cancer free. And I had been cancer-free. Once the surgeon had said those words, after surgery and before radiation, I lived my life free of cancer. I simply went on.
The funny thing about many kinds of cancer is that you feel fine and dandy, even though a group of cells are gathering to form a convention of attackers, often you don’t know it. It is like walking in your yard, as you always do, but this time, you look at the grass and see a copperhead. Yikes. But you get rid of the copperhead and move on, perhaps with a slower speed because you realize that you need to slow down and feel life, or you speed up things because you hear tick-tock, tick-tock.
For me, it wasn’t so much the episode with cancer … it is age. No matter how much I want to believe that age is just a number … for me, it isn’t. It is trying to balance attitude, looks and body. I rarely have them all in sync.
And August is my month when I feel everything shift. It is my of uncertainty, a bit of a foggy head and a sense of loss … ad transition.
I see photos of my grandchildren heading back to school. A couple of days ago, I got a phi tire of my two oldest granddaughters standing by each other. One is a senior and one is a freshman. The senior was going to drive the freshman to high school. I couldn’t help but get misty.
It is so difficult for me to put my arms around the fact that one of my sons will have a daughter in college next year.
I guess that August is a melancholy month for me. The air even shifts. What was simply hot and humid, become stifling. The sounds of outside are different. The nights are loud with a cacophony of insects and their hallelujah chorus. And even now, as I sit on the screens porch, the sounds of insects drone, not allowing silence of any kind.
I tend to craw my way through August, waiting for it to end. If I acknowledge and embrace this weird sense that I feel, I can almost laugh at it. But mostly, I don’t think it is very funny.
The good news is that when September arrives, I have figured out my next chapter. I have let my mind and body regroup. At this moment, I am uncertain about what my next act on life’s stage will be. Will I continue to write and allow people to see some of the workings of my mind and heart, or will I hang that up? What will I do to move my life and thoughts forward? Or do I have to look at life that way?
There is something good that comes out of putting one’s shovel down for a while. Breathing deeply and taking stock. Maybe that is what August is about? Perhaps the discomfort and uncertainty of and uncomfortable feeling of this month is part of the growing process. It is a realization of the seasons. Seasons change. So must I.
But for now, I think I will rest.
PS. Winston feels this way, too.
It’s not an attractive color for me … green.
Especially, when it is caused by that green dye of a bit of envy.
Yesterday, I didn’t feel all that great. A summer bug, plus, my bones, joints, back, hips and leg, were revolting from what I have made them do this summer. My eyes were blurry, too, and I was out of sorts and just felt puny It was the second day of such nonsense.
But, I went to Lowes in the morning and nought big cement stones, came home, lugged them out of the wagon, and placed them where I had raked up pea gravel. I need them to make little spots for my two little chairs I had bought to sit by the garden. Unfortunately, my good buy chairs, had pointy feet,and if you sat in them, you went down through the pea gravel and into the dirt. Way down. Hence, the stones.
It worked. I covered the stones with pea gravel and placed the chairs on them and tested each one. Tick that box.
I bought two bags of black mulch that I wanted to spread around my 4 spires discount bushes that I had planted,but I didn’t have the energy and the sun was beating down and the humidity was oppressive.
Normally, I would push myself. But I couldn’t. I went into the house, took a shower and washed my hair and then did something that I don’t do … put some pajamas on, signed up for the PBS Passport and watched “The Great British Baking Show” for a couple of hours. I had no ppm and not only that, my body hurt.
I laughed when I thought, “Gardening is good for you.”
Uh-huh. Tell that to my back and bod.
In the afternoon, after watching John, a young British law student, win the contest, I went and sat on the screened porch, and looked at magazines.
I used to love magazine, but then my eyes went bad, so I had some years when I didn’t subscribe. I still don’t read that well off of paper, but I love to look at pictures, and will hone in on some articles or recipes.
“Southern Living” is one of my favorite magazines, as is “Southern Lady.”
I picked up the “Southern Living” and perused it. There is something fun about flipping the pages of a lovely magazine. I do anticipate finding something that I enjoy, on the next page.
That is when I came across som lovely pictures of gardens. I looked at the article. It was written by Francis Mayes, the author of “Under The Tuscan Sun.” Nick and I had seen her speak at an North Carolina event January, before last.
At first, I thought the article was about her. But Mayes turned out to be the author. The piece was about her home and the 30 acres she and her husband purchased in North Carolina.
That is when I noticed my skin turning green. It turned a deeper green as I continued to read.
Mayes’ house has beautiful gardens. Many were there when she bought the place. They were well taken care of, mature … just plain beautiful. I read how she had art shows at her place and had a nifty skeletal greenhouse structure where her artist friends hung their work. She mentioned the large number of people who would come and have drinks and look and buy art.
Her house had a wonderful look. It had been there a long, long time and had history, along with numerous outbuildings. One had been converted to a writing place and artist’s studio.
Double forest green.
Her husband gave her a chain saw for their anniversary.
And she had a bunch of workers to come in with big equipment to clean out and area that was towards the river at the back of their property.
I looked up. I tried to move my aching bones. Little twitchy impulses came to my legs, again. I think they are coming from a goofy nerve in my back. When I did get up, my hip caught. I walked like a question mark.
I saw a photo of Mayes, walking on a path by her glorious garden. Shedin’t look like Shrek, as I do. She didn’t have a bead of perspiration, much less. Sweat water-falling down her face.
I bet she didn’t stink … didn’t need a shower … and her body wasn’t revolting.
Gracious, I wasn’t. It would have been better if I hadn’t felt like I’d beaten hit by a rampaging flower cart.
But there I was, feeling puny, soaking in green envy.
Her writing had afforded her with a beautiful garden and a place I would love. By George, even a movie was made from her writing. People went on pilgrimages to Tuscany and women dreamed of a romantic life abroad. I know that when I was in Tuscany, in the town of Cortona, I thought of that book and movie and Mayes as I walked the cobbled streets.
For a moment, I felt a failure-ish feeling. I can do that to myself … especially if I am not feeling well.
The green color washed away as my thoughts changed. I made them change because I knew that kind of thinking was not in my best interest. Human? Yes. But by now, I should know better.
I immediately thought of Nick and my kids and grandkids and what Nick and I have created … given the world … four wonderful humans, who are giving, generous, kind and really do care about others.
They are my garden. They are the fruits of my labor, (literally).
Today, I go to the orthopedic doctor. I am sure he will look at me like I am an idiot as I tell him that I lifetime stones and dig and lift clay and big plants and bend over and weed and then sit slumped in a recliner.
Yep, some of this is self-inflicted.
So, around 1:30, I will wear anything but green, and go and complain to someone who is paid to listen and help me put things back into whack.
And then, when I get home, I will begin to write a book called, “Under The Compost Pile.”
It should be a best seller.
Just as there is a life cycle for a flower, in the public eye, or in the minds of some people, there is a time when people should exit the stage, leave, go fishing, take a hike.
Having written for going on 25 years, I am probably, one of those people who might have past their expiration date, as far as a reading audience goes.
I have thought about that, a lot, recently. Should I hang up my fingers and brain and words and exit the writing world, stage left? Are readers bored with me? Have I said everything ad nauseous? Have I told stories over and over and over?
Even as of yesterday, I mentioned to Nick, I think I am past my expiration date. I got off of Facebook for a purpose. Many people read my words and wrote that they enjoyed them. But that does not mean that they will follow you, stay with you, search you out, if you move from their comfort or energy zone.
That is humbling. But I also know that that is just people. Life is busy and priorities set in and lives take different directions. My life moths along. I move from different necceary duties and work and move on with new interest.
But writin. Writing and photography, have never abandoned me. Readers might disappear, publications I have written for have come and gone and changed and love fresh voices of a new generation.
I noticed the shift after 9-11. There was a seismic shift then and with the market kefuffle in 2008.. For a while, I changed with the market. I found publications for my work.
Then I developed a nice following of readers on my FB blog. But FB bothers me. I love it and hate it. It has good technology that is often used in a less than forthright way. Politically, and otherwise. So, jut as I am independent politically, I decided to write independently.
There are more formatting options. It is mine. and that is nice.
All of that being said, what I am learning from this little venture, is that the bottom line is … independent of whether a large number of people read my words, or only a few, I love to write. It really is a spiritual thing for me. Though I have retreated. Somewhat. From a busy life, to one of gardening, nature and nurturing in a smaller way, writing makes me feel alive. It is how I sort my thoughts and let the world know that I have been here, I have learned, done some things well and screwed up othert things, and that is all part of the life I have built.
It really is a joy to touch people in some way, to strike a note of life that rings true, or is absurd, or cracks people up.
In this world of marketing, social media, LIKES, SUBCRIBES, and GOOGLE ANALYTICS, sometimes the point gets lost in my head. Not everyething can be measured in numbers. If one person reads and it affects them, it is worth it. And if I write for myself, it is worth it, too.
I am still learning to figure out life and how to live in this technology driven, results oriented, society.
But as long as the birds fly, butterflies have magic wings and the preying mantis visit, you will find me working in my garden, finding love in some aspect, everyday, and sipping tea ,,, I will write and take photographs that bring me joy. Sharing it is just a bonus.