In a turbulent household filled with people and animals, it is sometimes hard to find the eye of the storm, the quiet in the madness but fortunately I have been able to create a space with beloved artifacts and most importantly the writing desk, which belonged to my mother. I am intrigued by the drawers (11!) and the cubbies (4) and the objects within the drawers all ready for use and organized in a way that makes sense to me: lots of paper clips, sticky note pads, desk and writing utensils. The desk blotter is old and worn, but I’ll keep it anyways, for luck and for the feeling it gives me of having done this for a long time. Writing.
The corner is comfortable and the view is lovely with all the comforts I need: a desk lamp, a radio, a tray to set down my glass of water or tea, in anticipation of winter and colder times. The phone is handy, as are the files allowing business can be taken care of; bills organized and unwanted items safely shredded. My needed reference books are standing at attention on the credenza across from the desk: the writing books, creative inspiration from those who know better and others just because I like them near. This is my sacred space, my escape, my muse of sorts or a least a home for me, within my home, a home for my thoughts, my hopes, my insights and my observations.
Today I was looking for the perfect picture to put on the first page of the unveiling program I am creating for my mother’s unveiling this Sunday. It is her birthday today, and is a day charged with emotion and tender feelings that emerge from their hiding place slightly beneath the service. I sat on the floor in her now deserted living room on the other side of our family room and opened the doors to cupboards that house the memories. More than twenty photo albums lined up, dated and labeled. They are doors to the past and their somewhat faded pictures jolt memories bubbling up from deep places. The photographs are frozen moments, happy smiles, laughing at unknown jokes, glamorous figures holding burning cigarettes, frolicking children with secret stories and the cherished pets, long gone.
Where was my mother? In 1929, a little baby with a sister seven years older, a mother who was unpredictable and a father who traveled on trains selling women’s blouses. Who was my mother? A young woman in saddle shoes, knee socks and shorts pretending to play a guitar newly married in her new New York apartment. What was my mother? A young teacher with a picture of her Room 14 graduating class in the pages of her photo album mixed among her family photos: she cared that much. When was my mother? The happiest in her first real home on Ethel Avenue, decorated to her pleasure complete with a swimming pool, weekend barbecue parties, family holiday dinners and a sweet smelling orange tree outside her office window. Why was my mother? A curious woman, engaging others in conversation about books and politics, places she longed to see and some she had seen her whole life. How was my mother? A grandmother partial to lovely, signed, illustrated children’s books, tea parties, special day trips and newspaper clippings sent with the recipients name written on them, “For Amy.”
I found the picture of her with my oldest daughter on the day she moved away up north. My oldest in her college tee-shirt, my mother a good five inches shorter with a sad smile and the sleepy look of an early morning. My mother also took pictures of my daughter’s car, crammed with everything she owned, filling all of the places that we would no longer fill, and the last picture of her driving off, with the scared happiness of a life beginning.
My mother was good at observation, introspection and analysis. She could see inside where no one else was allowed to visit and she could share so much of herself that I have still kept some of her, safely tucked away inside of me. Happy Birthday Mom.
Today’s card, re-arrange, is about rearranging sequences in a story, or rearranging the story, starting, for example, at the end of the story instead of the beginning, but I am considering the rearrangement of my life, since I am not currently in the middle of a story or a novel. When you begin your adult life, you plan out a sort of sequence of events; getting a job, getting married, having children, and for the most part, in my life, things have progressed this way. But what happens when the raising of the children is complete? They say we are left with an “empty nest,” but I prefer to think we are give a chance to jump off the diving board into a pool of opportunities. Rearranging life goals in mid-life is an opportunity to rediscover the self, to take chances and risk the unknown. After years of playing it safe, of constant devotion to others, it is time to look inward, to ask questions, to look ahead.
It isn’t hard for me to think a conflict; it is just hard for me to choose only one conflict to write about, though one pops into my head on a daily basis. It is the conflict stemming from the advances in the technology I am definitely a fan of as is obvious from my love affair with my MacBook, my iPhone and my GPS. I often wonder where would I be without them as is exemplified by times like yesterday when, while riding as a passenger, I was using my iPhone to text my daughters and my email to communicate with various school officials while assisting a friend in the complicated process of obtaining an intradistrict permit. I checked the traffic, went to Google Maps to get directions and used Google to look up information. I was so smooth, so productive! I said to my driving friend, “Imagine how much time would have been wasted if we had to wait until we got home to take care of all this?”
On the other hand, I think that my daughters’ hands are now permanently in the shape of their iPhone, curved and gripping. It would break her heart to put the phone in her purse since they like to leave it on vibrate and if out of sight, they might miss one of the text messages, which come in droves, the animated clicking as she answers taps out a rhythm that is one could almost tap your foot too. Of course the “apps.” provide endless entertainment ranging from the social aspects of the Facebook application to the many games with cute names like “Sally’s Spa” or “Sneezies.” I long for the days of conversation and singing to music together in the car. I selfishly want to be the only one to talk to my daughter when we have the rare opportunity to ride together in the car, but I get the evil eye or heavy sign when asking who she is “talking” to. Ah the simple day of the past…
I find myself gravitating to iPhone applications as I wait for an opening in the texting frenzy, and end up downloading “nice” apps. Like “LiveHappy”, or “Gratitude” which allow me to receive positive messages and complete activities that will increase my happiness. I was sitting in the movies watching my daughters frantically racing to satisfy virtual clients in their “spa” and I got a little curious. I downloaded the application and tried it out while I was waiting for an appointment and I did really well! I moved the clients to the facialist, the hairdresser and the sauna and when they mechanically walked to the counter to pay, I had made more money than the required amount. The client left smiling and satisfied and I advanced to the “expert” level. It felt nice to provide a service and make people happy.
Technology has a place in my hand too, I suppose.
I read a quote today that really hit the nail on the head:
“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”
If I try to find myself, where should I look? At home? In my classroom? In the eyes of my students, colleagues, friends and family? Wherever I look I will see what is there but I won’t see me because I am not solely comprised of those things. I may be a combination of those things, or contain certain elements found there, but I am not defined by those specifics.
I am more excited about creating myself. Who do I want to be? What do I want to be known for? I am a writer, a teacher, a wife, a mother, a sister and a cousin. I am a want- to-be gardener, a sun lover, and a beachcomber. I seek knowledge and expanded learning opportunities in art, in writing, in reading and in craft making. I am creating myself built on the base of who I was born to be and the ingredients given to me for 53 years stirred with desire, curiosity and hope.
I read an article in the Topanga Messenger about a man named Michael O’Rourke. He was having a Tea at his Institute of Courage on Sunday, August 9th at 4:00. The event was free, but reservations were required. His topic:
High Tea, Scones and Recessionomics 101
Who was this man? What is the Institute of Courage? I had no idea, but I can’t help wanting to learn about everything to do with economics and reinventing myself to create a better life, a simpler life. So I asked my friends if they would want to go, but no one was interested in attending. I called to find out a little information and left my name on a voice mail. If I heard back, I would go, and if I didn’t hear back then I would have lost nothing. Around 3:00 on Saturday, I heard back and got the parking information, so, Sunday I drove to Topanga and went to the Institute of Courage; a beautiful building, a five-star building with a beautiful buffet of scones, tea and all the fixings. The hostess turned out to be my daughters’ former dance teacher and the coincidences didn’t stop there. There were many Topanga people I knew, including parents from school and other community members. It was a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and the scones were to die for! When Michael started talking, I realized why my attendance was meant to be. He talked to my situation and was so motivational-encouraging us to think outside the box, try something we haven’t done before. His advice to:
Drive away from fear.
Structure your life-downsize for now. “It’s not forever.”
He encouraged us to grow from the bottom (economically speaking) up, be thankful and realize we are blessed, stand up and be accounted for, and care about your neighbor and community.
What timely advice! I am interested in knowing this self-made man who has had his share of downs, but has turned it into an “up.” I am encouraged to develop my creative, artistic self and at the same time, to develop my intellectual self. The bottom really can be the beginning of a new life.
“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”
~ Bernard M. Baruch, 1870 – 1965, American Financier and Statesman
Listening can be a window to a new world and one of my favorite listening experiences is listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor. Years ago we listened, religiously, on Sunday nights throughout dinner. I now listen when ever I get a chance and luckily stumble upon the show on NPR. The soft, soothing voice of Garrison Keillor combined with his wonderful stories of life in a simpler place transport me and provide a relaxation similar to meditation or yoga. I feel relaxed and happy. One can’t help smiling as stories about the infamous Lake Wobegon are told, country music, or blues are played and corny radio sketches performed. It takes me back to a simpler time, when families sat around the radio and had an evening of entertainment. Now everyone is connected to their technology of choice, sometimes it is seemingly permanently connected to the hand, as eyes focus on small screens and fingers fly across the keypad.
Isn’t it nicer to just sit and relax and listen to a soft voice, letting your imagination draw the pictures and allowing your hand to cup a warm cup of tea? Sometimes isolating your senses, forces relaxation. In yoga, it can be breath, at the gym it can be the rhythm of the feet pumping up and down on the elliptical trainer, when cooking it can be the sense of smell, taking pictures it can be the narrowing of the eye as it focuses on the subject of the photo and at night it can be the soft, warm touch under the covers as we dream together.
“Instead of speeding up, slow yourself down. Don’t think about all the things you have to do, just focus on what you are doing at this very moment.”
This is good advice, especially for me with my endless to-do lists, today’s for example, had 11 items. Who in the heck schedules 11 things to do on a list? That is after teaching a two-hour class, lunching with a friend, picking my car up from the shop, picking up pool supplies and canvasing The Dollar Tree for art items. So upon arriving home at 3:00, the items I managed to cross off my list were: mop the kitchen floor, retrieve a book from the garage and send off two emails. That leaves 8 uncompleted items, including my pile of bills (how surprising!). I am setting myself up for failure, or maybe not. Maybe my list is just a revolving list, a to-be-continued list.
“The unconscious mind has no sense of time. One minute of clock time is all the time in the world to the self that thinks in nonliner imagery.”
Maybe the flow of time is only limited by the lined paper I use to write these lists, these ideas and notes to self. Maybe I have all the time I need to do what needs to be done. If I can transfer that frantic “not enough” feeling about time into the slower, all the time in the universe feeling, maybe I will slow down enough to let things unfold as they are meant too.
Today a new article came to me by way of an email and a link to a blog. I really like the analogy of pie. It is fitting considering my new baking endeavors.
I really like this blog and I like the insight about pie making. Stop to smell the pie, savor the fruit, taste the richness of life. Live simple, dream big.
Change Your Point of View
Today I selected this card that challenges me to see things from a different point of view. In case you did not read my very first post, I am writing on a topic each evening to challenge myself as a writer. So tonight, I immediately thought of my dog Charlie. For one thing, I entered him in a contest for the cutest dog
so please vote for him every day and hopefully he will win, for another thing, I have been spending a lot of time with him this summer as I am home alone with him. Charlie is the subject of my writing, which I have decided to do in poetry form tonight.
My favorite time of the day is morning,
Then you chase me in the yard and we play
Hide and go seek,
We have our breakfast together.
I am devoted and loyal,
And I will prove it by sitting right on your feet,
Following you wherever you go
Just so you know how much I love you.
Sometimes, I doze while you read,
Dreaming of running, chasing, protecting.
But I will wake instantly if you get up.
I love treats
And reluctantly accept them when you put me in the garage
Before you go.
I don’t know when you will be back
It feels like I am alone for a long time
When I hear the car
I jump up.
You open the door
To my wagging tail, and my smile.
My whiskers are gray now and
My hips stiff after my afternoon nap
Sleepy as I am, I will follow you
Into the bedroom at the end of the evening
And settle down in my bed
Comforted by the steady breathing,
The hum of the fan
The cool breeze