Wednesday, April 20, 2011
While I haven't taken a trip to Dairy Queen lately (where I need to report that my favorite blizzard flavor is Cappuccino Chip) - I did go to a fabric store and purchased material for the sudoku quilt idea. I am SO excited!
I spent this evening pre-washing the material, ironing, and cutting out.
I also have an idea of doing a quilt for my son using only black/white fabrics with a splash of red. We'll see how this one works out first.
So there you have my quilt idea. Not quite a literary concept - but it has been influenced by my novel idea that focuses on the Impressionists.
I will also share a few of the poems I have found this week in Caroline Kennedy's anthology, She Walks in Beauty. I am thoroughly enjoying this book - and I appreciate that Ms. Kennedy is teaching me to s-l-o-w down and enjoy the language and images of these thoughtful pieces.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
There....I said it. I have always thought that striving for perfection was a noble act - even one that should earn me extra points in life; but I have been deceiving myself.
I have lived my entire life following the adage If you are going to do something, then do it right the first time. As a young child this would apply to the chores that I was asked to do each week. If I knew that I had to vacuum the house - then I should vacuum the house right the first time. Otherwise, a haphazard job would require me to do it again - which would mean less time for fun.
As I grew older, Do it Right the First Time would have more pragmatic applications, such as, precisely follow the recipe for chocolate truffles or repurchase the expensive ingredients for round two.
Several years ago a group of friends took me to Dairy Queen for the first time (yes, I had lived a rather sheltered life). Some of the ladies knew that they were going to order their "usual" --- some knew they wanted to try the special of the month --- and some were pleased to develop their own concoction. I just stared at the menu in utter disbelief. I was told that I needed to order a blizzard - but where should I begin? Did I want to go the chocolate route - with chocolate syrup and candy fixings? Or did I want to appear more healthy by ordering a fruit blend with no syrup? The various combinations seemed too numerous for me to choose and so instead I chose to walk out with nothing. While I have since learned to navigate the ice cream menu, my first DQ visit continues to be the joke of the social circle.
But last night I realized that this is really not a laughing matter. As I was cleaning up the nook getting ready for bed I realized that I had no fewer than 8 different books on the couch next to me.
- I started reviewing Inner Excavation in the hopes that it might jog my memory for a writing prompt (and my journal was next to me just in case inspiration came).
- That then led me to read a bit more of Caroline Kennedy's collection of poems, She Walks in Beauty. While I enjoyed a few of these poems I remembered that ...
- I had borrowed one of Mary Oliver's books on poetry from the library and I thought I might be inspired to write if I read a few of her poems as well.
- So far, nothing really moved me to write myself so I decided to pick up Virginia Woolf's essay of women and fiction and began reading A Room of One's Own. I have never read Woolf and found the long paragraphs so dense that I could really only digest a few pages before I felt I needed to stop and mediate for awhile.
- Well, what better way to meditate than with a magazine? So I picked up the latest edition of Writer's Digest that I had just purchased and began reading. The article on Food Writing with Flavor reminded me that ...
- I had just picked up Molly Wizenberg's book, A Homemade Life, this week and that would be a great way to see in action what I had just read in theory. The thought of writing about food reminded me of my upcoming trip to Paris and the fact that I not only want to write - but I want to take pictures as well.
- This made me select Rick Sammon's Confessions of a Compact Camera Shooter off my shelf to educate myself on the proper composition of a good photo. Reading about taking pictures made me long for the day when I would actually get on the plane and fly to Paris so ...
- I decided to curb that longing by reading about the locale in the Impressionists' Paris. By this time it was nearly midnight and I was exhausted.
As I was cleaning up all these books before going to bed I realized my problem. No, I am not ADD, in fact I am the direct opposite. I am probably the most singularly focused person in my household. BUT...I am afraid that the book I am reading now is not the BEST book to read. There may be one that would suit me better -- and so I continue to go in search for fear that I am settling for just mediocre.
I look at the bookshelves that surround me. My book collection has grown exponentially in the past three years - and yet, I find that I am reading less. WHY? I think it is because choice stymies me. I am afraid to delve into one book because there may be another that is better - that is - perfect.
This pattern repeated itself again today - in the fabric store. I went with friends to the local quilt shop. I had a great idea to make a Sudoku Quilt (I am in love with this concept) and went in search of nine different fabrics. I even had the idea of using nine different watercolor fabrics (or batiks) in honor of the Impressionists. I also wanted to incorporate a lot of purple in honor of my new grandmother role. I had lots of ideas.
And when we got to the store I immediately headed for that aisle. And there I stood - for hours (well, minutes anyway). Pondering all the lovely colors but totally incapable of making any decisions. I left the store empty-handed - much like I left Dairy Queen several years ago.
I am obviously missing the boat. I have taken this perfectionism thing much too far. I am denying myself pleasure in life because I am afraid there is a better choice out there.
Why must I think of this as an either/or decision? So what if the blizzard flavor today isn't exactly what I want? I can always return next week and try something else. So what if the fabrics selected do not render a Impressionist painting? What have I learned from the mistake? How much did it cost me --- a twenty dollar bill and a few hours time?
I think that I am on to something --- but I am not sure where to go from here. Obviously changes need to take place; shifts in thought processing are in order. I think it is time to stop standing on the shore of life - stop dipping in the big toe and just jump in with both feet.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Today I thought I would share the eclectic assortment of reading material that I have gathered this week. It should be a fun weekend!
She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey through Poems by Caroline Kennedy. This was purely an impulse buy - I had a coupon that I desperately wanted to use but refused to buy another fiction book without reading some of the many I already own. This book caught my eye, however, because lately I have this desire to learn to appreciate poetry. Part of the reason is because I think as an English teacher I should have a comfort level with this mode of writing, but the other reason is because I feel that poetry will force me to slow down and notice the details of life that I have raced passed all these years. I like this anthology because it was written by a middle aged woman for middle aged women. There MUST be some poems in here that I can relate to! I plan to spend a few minutes each day reading through a poem or two and savoring the images and messages that are conveyed within.
Knopf Mapguides: Paris While I am not certain that my trip to Paris will take place this summer, I am still having fun planning it. I found this little gem at the "going out of business" sale at our local Borders *heavy sigh* and knew I had to have it. I love the size - it would fit in any size purse or backpack, including the Vera Bradley mini-hipster that I plan to carry at all times. The 19 Arrondissements are divided into 10 pull out maps - so that I can actually read the street names without having to use a high-powered magnifying glass. Each section includes a list of the top attractions - as well as a few local restaurants and cafes. I have even added a few attractions of my own on the corresponding maps which I found in Literary Cafes of Paris (Noel Fitch) and Markets of Paris (Dixon and Ruthanne Long).
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. JoAnn and Margot both reviewed this book a while back and I knew at the time that it was one I would enjoy. While my family would doubt that I truly have a love of cooking - given my lack of time in the kitchen these past few months (years?), I do harbor dreams of someday returning to gourmet creativity. The reason I decided to purchase this book now, however, is because I want to learn how to write about food before going on my Parisian holiday. I would like to know how to incorporate all the senses when describing the most simple meal of bread and cheese - in a way that would compliment my photos and create a fulfilling experience for anyone who cares to read of my adventures.
Inner Excavation by Liz Lamoreux. I found this book over the holidays while browsing the mixed media art shelves. I like that the author focuses on three aspects of the creative life in order to try to discover the person that lies within. She first focuses on photography and the idea of slowing down long enough to live in the present. She is teaching me to see beauty in every day life and to learn to be purposeful in my photography throughout the year, not just on special occasions. Then she encourages the reader to experiment with poetry - which can come from reading, journaling, or just allowing the mind to roam free. Finally she asks us to combine these two endeavors into a mixed media collage that offers ultimate freedom of expression through color, texture, words, images, .... well, you get the idea.
a new journal and matching pen: something in which I would normally never allow myself to indulge. In fact, after I bought these they sat on my table for weeks: I didn't want to write in it for fear of messing up something so beautiful. But as a statement of my new quest of adventure, I decided to just start writing - in pen of all things (I always write in pencil so that I can erase my mistakes). I have decided that it is time to start embracing my imperfections.
When I Grow Old, I Shall Wear Purple as my own (although I can vow that you will never see me in a red hat!!). I try to wear purple most days of the week (my wardrobe is a bit sparse of this color now - but I will slowly add pieces as time progresses) and I am also trying to "live" now rather than wait until "someday" And finally, I think it is significant that the background color is gray - and not white. White is stark and sometimes cold - whereas gray is softer, as though the wisdom that comes with age has mellowed its temperament. I would like to think that is what my gray hairs symbolize..
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
I understand the World Wide Web – I think. I mean, I know what is published on an open site is available for anyone – anywhere – to view. But somehow I never thought that pertained to me. What I mean to say is…it never occurred to me that anyone other than those who comment care to read what I have to say. But over the past few weeks I have been made aware that there are others - specifically, family members and friends from long ago.
So for these special people – and anyone else who might be interested – I am posting the eulogy that I read at my mom's memorial service. It was a small, private affair, and I thought that those who were unable to attend might appreciate being a part of the celebration of her life in this small way.
April 5, 2011
This is a bittersweet day for me – in many ways.
Many of you know Mom's one real wish was to live long enough to see her great-granddaughter born. Megan was her first grandchild and she desperately wanted to meet Megan's baby.
And many of you know that Mom had a difficult time these past few weeks letting go. She was ready to go – that was for sure – but the hospice workers were continually baffled by the fact that she lingered long after their medical knowledge thought possible.
Many times the nurse would ask me to try to think of who might need to say good-bye --- what significant dates might be looming in the distance --- what closure did Mom need before she could peacefully leave our world and journey to the next.
In response to all those questions, I decided that perhaps Mom was waiting to hear from me. So I wrote her this letter – which I will read in a moment. But that was obviously not the case – because Mom lived for nine more days. In analyzing this situation, something that I am prone to do, I reasoned that perhaps I was supposed to write the letter not necessarily to share with Mom – but to share with others.
But this morning I realized that Mom was not holding on for any of these reasons.
I believe that God's timing is always perfect --- I don't always FEEL that it is perfect, but I do believe that His timing is sovereign. And so I believe that Mom held on as long as she did because this date – April 5, 2011 – will not only be remembered as her Memorial Day, but as of 3:11 this morning, it is the date of her great-granddaughter's birth. Mom may not have lived to see Brynn – but Mom will most definitely be a significant part of her life.
March 17, 2011
It is St. Patrick's Day, but I suppose neither one of us feels very lucky today. I have struggled to know what to say these past couple of weeks; I am not a great conversationalist in the best of circumstances. But it occurred to me that I could write you a letter. We seem to have conducted most of our difficult matters through writing, and I thought this might be a more fitting way for us to say good-bye.
I have great admiration for you, Mom. We never openly discussed such complimentary thoughts in public, but I think deep down I knew you were proud of me – at least overall, I did make a few doozy mistakes – and I have been proud to call you my mom. I never tired of hearing your story – and when I would put it in my own words I called you the "modern day Cinderella" I can't imagine losing my dad at the age of eight and not being allowed to talk about my feelings. I can't imagine being sent away to live with an aunt at the age of eleven – and expected to wash her dishes as a proper payment. I'm not sure how I would react if my mother remarried and had children at the time that I was of child-bearing age. In today's world I believe this would be labeled a dysfunctional family – and quite often in these kinds of situations the cycle just repeats itself. You were not properly mothered – yet somehow you learned to become a proper mother. You were there for us and always put our welfare before your own. This is probably the biggest life lesson that I learned by watching you.
You allowed me to follow my own dreams – without commentary on their impracticality. I distinctly remember sitting in the Freeman's house when I was 8 years old and their oldest son showing me postcards of his year in France and I vowed in that moment that I would one day do the exact same thing. This was my first stirring of the travel bug – which has only grown stronger as I have grown older. You allowed me to take a trip of a lifetime to Paris my junior year of high school and that still remains one of the highlights of my life. You allowed me to major in French in college – not a degree with a lot of practical application – but a degree of the heart. And even recently, you allowed me to pursue an advanced degree in English literature – a dream that I did know that I had until later in life. Your heartfelt encouragement, and your financial assistance, helped to make this dream another reality. While I may not finish the degree, I have gained all that I had hoped to. I learned that I am indeed qualified to teach literature even if I am not certified, and I have been given the opportunity to teach at the college level – a dream that I never expected to become real.
Watching you model motherhood and experiencing your quiet faith in my own talents, you have also shown me how to help my own children develop wings – and when they were old enough – you showed me how to instill in them the courage to fly away on their own. While I know that I made many mothering mistakes, I do believe that equipping children to be independent citizens is the priority of the mothering profession, and you modeled that perfectly for me.
When Rodger and I grew older you instinctively knew that it was now time to do for yourself. All the sacrifice that you willingly made during our formative years now grew into a need to give back to you. I remember when you took the job at Mitchells and how much you enjoyed that bit of freedom. You developed your own friends and you were appreciated for your own talents. You began collecting angels – such a fitting theme for you – and you even traveled to conventions and made friends across the country. You modeled for me that life does not end after the children are grown; in fact in some ways, life begins. I have taken this to heart now that I have reached that magic "half century" mark, and I am trying to find interests outside the family and my profession that will bring me as much joy and happiness as I believe these endeavors brought to you. You have modeled for me how to grow old gracefully and how to accept each situation as it presents itself.
And you continue to teach me lessons even through these last few months. You have taught me that sometimes we must be willing to let go of our independence in order to receive the help we need. As someone who has always been fiercely independent, I truly know what a personal sacrifice this has been. I know that it was not easy to have total strangers come into your home and invade your space for 24 hours a day, and yet you not only accepted them -- you befriended them. I know that Yeme, Meg, and Jane consider you a friend – not just a patient. I have heard it said that our true personality comes out when we are sick, and your true personality is a kind, caring, southern woman who is soft-spoken , introverted, but willing to reach out and make a friend in any circumstance. Yeme has shared with me that she has learned how to be more organized because you have modeled that for her. You have impacted more people that you realize.
But I do believe, Mom, the most important lesson that you have taught me – and the one that I most respect – is you have taught me how to be brave enough to die with dignity. I still don't understand how you thought asking for hospice was selfish. Asking for hospice was the courageous thing to do. You fought the good fight – you gave each hospital round all the energy you had – you rebounded each time and made the most of each new day you were given. But you also knew when enough was enough – and with that insight you took the most noble step.
I have given lots of thought to this heritance that you and Dad have left behind. Your generosity is astounding and I want to make you proud. I know how hard you both worked and sacrificed for that money, and I do not want to disappoint either of you. There is a part of me that just wants to save it all – but I am not sure that is what you want. You have mentioned several times that you hope it makes my life more comfortable. It will. I thought perhaps you might want to hear some of the considerations I have made: I want to use a portion of the money – over the next few years – to make some much needed home improvements. We have sacrificed all our money for our kids – as was modeled for me in your home – and as a result these maintenance expenditures have taken a back seat for far too long. We will side the house and purchase new windows. It will be wonderful to once again sit in the family room in the winter and not feel the cold north wind blow past my ear. We will upgrade the kids bathroom where there is a bathtub that I will actually use and each relaxing soak will be thanks to you. We will update the kitchen – not elaborately, but I do want to repaint the walls, replace the floor, and brighten up the cabinets with a pastel color and new hardware. Each holiday gathering as I bake the turkey and prepare the vigil, will remind us of your generosity.
And I want to travel, Mom. I want to see all those places that I have dreamed of since I was eight. I want to return to London and spend considerable time there – researching the London of Dickens and Bronte and Austen. I want to return to Paris with Geoff and show him the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. I want to spend hours at the Musee d'Orsay looking at all the Impressionists and I want to picnic on the square of Sacre Coeur. I want to visit Italy and not only see the historical ruins of Rome and the waterways of Venice – but I want to visit the areas of Italy where Nana and Poppy lived. I want to experience that kind of rich heritage – even if it is vicariously through Geoff's family. I think if I visit those three countries I will feel satisfied. But I also want to visit our country. I want to visit Yellowstone for the first time and see all the wildlife and Old Faithful. I want to return to New York City for an extended period of time and take advantage of the culture --- see a play or two or three and visit the museums.
I have developed an interest in photography because I want to visit all these places and somehow capture the magic to bring back home. I want to hone my writing skills so that I can recall those memories in such vivid words that others can see the sites as clearly as I did. ALL these dreams will be made possible because of you and Dad --- and each and every trip will be dedicated to you.
I have even given some thought to using a portion of the money to purchase a lake house. I'm not sure that we would return to Bella Vista – but I do want to return to the memories that you established with each of the grandchildren. Those are the most fond memories they have – and I would like for your money to help cultivate fond memories for the next generation. Gram and Graddy will indeed live on – you can be certain of that.
I do not know what lies ahead for you – I don't think anyone does – but I do have faith that I will see you again. It may be years (I at least hope it is a few years way) – but those are earthly years. I believe that time in heaven is measured differently – and when we see one another again, it will be as if it was just a few short hours ago. I believe that Dad will be waiting for you at the gates, and when they discover your name written in the book of Life – and they WILL discover your name – you will be reunited with him and it will seem as if it has only been a few minutes since the last you time you spoke – rather than over five years. I believe the life you experience in Heaven will be all the joy of earth – times one hundred. I love the verse that tells us there will be no more sickness or death – or worry! Can you imagine that, Mom – there will be nothing for you to worry about J
And I believe that you will be able to look down and see all the milestones of this earth. You will see baby Brynn and you will have a significant role in her life. She will constantly hear stories of Gram and Graddy and she will love you as much as Megan, Brian, and Mandy loved you. You will see Brian's successes – and his marriage. You will see Mandy's graduation, and her baking adventures, and her marriage. You will witness all these glorious events from paradise and you will be assured that one day all of these people whom you love will join you in heaven as well.
This is what I wanted you to know, Mom. Perhaps it is more information than you cared to hear – but I think it is all the information that I cared to share. You have been a wonderful mother – and an even more wonderful Gram. You have impacted many for the good. You will be sorely missed.
And yet….I refuse to say Good-Bye for that sounds so final – and I truly do believe that this is not a final good-bye. We will see each other once again and we will live together in perfect harmony. So instead I will say, See you soon, Mom. Save a place for me….
Saturday, April 9, 2011
And while I am still uncertain where Molly fits in the world ...I am taking steps to finding myself again. My typical Method of Operation is to remain stoic during the crisis and then run away when it is passed. Since I must remain in town to complete my teaching duties, I have chosen to do a bit of 'virtual' escaping.
So to that end, I thought I might share some of the pursuits that I have undertaken in order to develop a bit of fun in my life again.
- Great Photos with Any Camera offered by Elisha Snow through Big Picture Classes and Alchemy: The Art and Craft of Writing offered by Jenna McGuiggan of The Word Cellar. It is my hope that both of these classes will help me to hone some practical skills so that I can truly develop these personal interests into full fledged passions. While school continues to keep me busy this last quarter of the year, I know that it is important to do something for me and both of these classes will aid me this summer when...
- I hope to take a third online class, Unravelling by Susannah Conway. My sister-in-law took this class a while ago and absolutely loved it. I shall take her advice and do this for myself as well.
I also plan to finally learn to let go of perfectionism - at least when it comes to doing activities that I enjoy like photography, writing, scrapbooking, and (now) quilting and (hopefully) mixed media art. I need to drop the constant comparison of my efforts to those of professionals - and give myself a break. I need to realize that it is acceptable to do these things because I want to - not because there is a looming deadline that I must meet. I have so many projects that are in various stages of completion - and many others than I have not yet begun. What am I waiting for?
Paris, France this summer for a two week extended stay at this lovely apartment in the heart of Monmartre - my favorite Parisian neighborhood.
I dream of walking along the Seine, capturing the emotion of the scene with photographs and writing intimate thoughts in my journal. I long to visit the Musee d'Orsay for an extended period of time - perhaps completing the research that I think I need in order to start writing the novel that I envisioned eighteen months ago. I imagine myself visiting the small grocery each morning - finding just the right baguette, small wedge of brie, and piece of fruit, and setting off in search of the perfect park in which to enjoy this simple lunch, perhaps with a glass of Bordeaux, and watch the European people saunter through their day. I may even be brave enough to try to use my rusty French once again.
Literary Cafes of Paris, which I plan to absorb over the next few days. I have already poured over the book, The Impressionists' Paris and have mentally taken each of the three walking tours. I have researched Rue Mouffetard, an open air market that I have wanted to visit since I was in high school, in the book Markets of Paris, and have even discovered a few others to add to the list.
I feel as though these past few weeks have been the pupal stage of my butterfly existence. I have been a cocooned puddle of goo. But I feel my wings developing and I know that over time I will indeed emerge transformed into the Molly that I am meant to be.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Life has been speeding by these past two weeks and I feel as though I have become lost in the fray. Where's Molly? or more appropriately, Who's Molly? This morning I will officially say good-bye to my mom at a memorial service. The role of Molly the Daughter is now retired.
This morning at 3:11AM Maebrynn Grace was born and the role of Molly the Grandmother began. Somehow the adage, "You're only as old as you feel" seems a stretch right now. I feel 35 --- yet the mirror, and the new title, tell me otherwise.
It is a day full of conflicting emotions, and yet no matter how I respond it will not be appropriate. I should cry for my mother - somehow that will make others feel better. But the truth of the matter is that I believe my mother is in a far better place - free from pain, sickness, and worry. That sounds wonderful to me - not sad. A new baby has been welcomed into this world - my baby has given birth to a baby - and I should be filled with joy and excitement. No one seems to understand my hesitant stance. I feel as though others judge my reserved demeanor as insensitive and uncaring.
My daughter was hospitalized last Wednesday with toxemia; relatives starting arriving on Friday to help clean out Mom's apartment. I have spent the past three days sorting and packing and pitching and reminiscing and preserving. The role of Molly the Organizer has been in full gear - but that will come to an abrupt halt this evening as everyone returns to their hometown and I somehow must try to return to a normal routine of Molly the Teacher.
Parisian vacation retreat. I actually found one - and it was available for dates that work in my summer schedule. Molly the World Traveler was alive and well and looking forward to a relaxing get-away that would include writing in literary cafes and absorbing beautiful works of art in the Musee d'Orsay.
But over the weekend the car engine light appeared and the mechanic said that the cost of repairs far outweighs the value of my PT Cruiser. So Molly the Pragmatic decides to put Paris on hold in favor of a working vehicle.
Molly the Mother has tried to help manage the drama that is an inevitable part of a high school senior, but emotions are raw and patience is at a premium. Just making sure that there is enough toilet paper in the house and milk in the frig is a challenge.
So as I get dressed in my black dress to head out and greet a newborn and say a final good-bye, I question if I really know who Molly the Person really is.