I’ve heard that creative people are creative in multiple ways and so we should not be surprised to find that Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan also paint pictures. But when you are struggling to be the artist you imagine yourself to be, like me, writing a memoir and telling a story I very much want to share, finding that I have hidden talents is confirmational.
In cleaning out an old trunk in the spare bedroom I came upon this drawing I made when I was sixteen. I’d forgotten that I once believed myself capable of such creations because honestly, right now, I can barely play Pictionary. But possibly if I renewed that notion that I can draw and I put my mind to it, I might win a few rounds.
This sketch is the result of the one drawing class I had in high school, with Robin Burkhardt, who insisted it was about taking the time and seeing clearly. And voila, she was kind of correct! This Bonwit Teller department store ad is a direct mimic of one I saw in the newspaper at the time. The coloring-outside-the-lines I allow occasionally suggests a little artsyness!
Believing in yourself is half the battle.
Comparing myself to others just doesn’t work.
I am moving along after my own dreams and my dreams for my kids. It’s easy because they are all the same. I wish for each to feel such security in love, such safety, that he has the freedom of spirit to follow his heart and be whomever he truly is inside. And in this, I feel so confident that each will be satisfied with the person he finds. That each may give and take love with joy. That each may love himself and the thrill of life as all children, of every age, should.
I have had friends who it turned out were near me simply to get a closer look at the competition. And here I thought we were hanging around together because we both shared the thrill of having kids, of being human, of living life together. I didn’t notice their preoccupation with my accomplishments and those of my children, because I was too busy directing my own life to compare myself with them.
I never thought that when I was talking about my son’s excitement, years ago, at learning to be a keyboardist at an after-school performance program, that it would become cause for jealousy. After all, even I questioned the value of encouraging my son to dream of growing up to be a rock star. It felt great, I thought, that those around me saw the real value in it too. That is, that it was really about celebrating his opportunity to take risks and master something as a young adult, to envision himself as a successful person, not the literal idea of being ‘the best keyboardist ever’. For me, the idea that my son was excited about something and felt an apparent joie de vivre that led him to apply himself and try hard at something, was worth celebrating no matter what it was or how well he’d do at it. It was cause for celebration, not bragging.
And by the way, it’s tough to get me jealous. So many of my dreams have already come true. And when I don’t have everything I want, I go out and get it. I go out and fulfill my own dreams one baby step at a time. I do this by keeping my wants realistic. I get rid of wants like beautiful legs, and a cure for my sugar addiction. They are not worthy goals so I reject them in favor of others I can truly be proud of, like becoming a parent who understands what kids need and putting that before my own needs without denying myself in the process. That’s definitely worth the effort that could have gone into those legs.
Why not be jealous of the fact that I’m turning my life into what I want it to be? It’s not happening to me; I’m making it happen. God gives everyone gifts. Learning how to appreciate them is not a competition. Find your gift and those of your children and go be a star shining brightly enough to help illuminate your life AND mine.
We’ve had a Mother’s Day re-do recently. I didn’t like Mother’s Day that much this year because I spent too much of it crying. Yeah, usually I like Mother’s Day, but this time I wasn’t feeling the love. Not that my kids aren’t good to me, but really, the effort was so low it hurt.
My husband does a great job of making me a super breakfast and showering me with gifts of flowers and such, but maybe because he’s taken on this job, my kids have not felt the need to rise to the occasion. In any case, even though I thought I made it clear that I wanted hard copy photos of my kids in their lives away from me, it didn’t really happen. Somehow it got lost in translation, and on Mother’s Day I had a beautiful computer file of photos from one of my kids and no hard copies from anybody. This is not a big request, folks.
I also asked for the ability to have a five-way Skype-like phone call since we are not living together anymore, and that is what led me to tears. It actually fell to me on that day to figure out how to do it. Yikes. It took an hour for the five of us to ascertain that we could not manage a five-way phone call because of various technical shortcomings in our respective hardware. I was so frustrated at my inability to communicate my desire for the photos, or the phone call, my inability to execute this desire when it fell to me, and the whole ‘lameness’ of the situation we refer to as ‘Mother’s Day’.
So, I called for a Mother’s Day re-do. This time I was definitely explicit about what I wanted. Hard copy photos, please. Many arrived in my hands just days after my breakdown with the kids. This time I wanted more than just a phone call, too. I wanted a real in-person fun day together where it was evident that kids went out of their way to celebrate their mom. I wanted kids to cook a meal for me, sit in the backyard enjoying it, and I wanted to know we have the capability, really this time, of having a five-way call once everyone goes back to college or their lives or whatever.
Given that everyone was poised to make a super looking meal, at my request, I felt free that morning to do something I have always wanted to do. Even though I wanted the kids to cook for me, I got up extra-early and made homemade cinnamon buns complete with a double rising (went back to bed for the 2 1/2 hours of risings) that I served piping hot, to my own delight!
I have failed to insist on being shown the love I know my kids have for me. And I have not adequately taught them how to demonstrate this love. I might have taught them inadvertently to take me for granted. I know my kids just needed me to tell them this. They just needed me to be explicit about my feelings, to let them know that ‘not much’ wasn’t enough, and that I feel I deserve more. I know I deserve more because I have tried hard to raise my kids with love and kindness and thoughtfulness, and even if I haven’t been successful at that, my effort has been stellar.
We had a wonderful day of cooking, eating, and hanging out in the yard. I had the unusual experience of sitting at my own kitchen table really getting to know my sons’ girlfriends, while others cooked. I was a guest in my own kitchen, and I loved it.
I proposed that this be our first annual Mother’s Day re-do, and everyone agreed to make it a re-do on the first try next time.
Today I told my daughter I was concerned that I might be living my life vicariously through her. Because that’s a thing. You can do that. And I really don’t want to.
It stems from the idea that I want her to be fully informed about her choices in life, as a teen, since there are so many opportunities for teens, and for students, that go away when you grow up. School groups are always getting free looks behind the scenes at the quarry or the theatre or the kitchen of a restaurant. You can shadow people in their jobs as a student, and there are plenty of things kids get to do that grown-ups are not allowed to do so freely.
When I was a teen I had no idea what the choices were. I made decisions based on fear. I chose a college on the fear of leaving my boyfriend too far behind, and on the fear of costing my parents too much even though we didn’t discuss that (I tried to guess), and on the fear that I couldn’t get into the school I really wanted to go to (I didn’t even try). My decisions were based on fear and on ignorance. I had no idea how the world worked and had no one to ask for clarification.
So it thrills me, this is the living vicariously part, to be able to explain the world to my daughter, and to offer her suggestions on how to make a decision. It’s usually about gathering facts and listening to your gut. In one second’s time we have the answer to the question, “I wonder what it’s like to be a Rotary exchange student in Poland” by searching the internet for a blog of just such an experience. Voila! Complete with pictures. There, go now and weed the garden, pondering all you’ve seen, mulling it over so you get a little bit closer to having enough info to make a decision.
See what I mean. I am living vicariously on the idea that she is getting to do what I never got to do. It isn’t, ‘be a Rotary exchange student in Poland’, ‘it’s make decisions with the help of a grown-up’. She gets to make decisions that suit her because she’s making them as an informed individual.
Yay! Wish I’d had that.
For the first time I feel old and I know that Mother’s Day is doing it because I can see that my role as mother is diminishing. I have a son out in the world fully independent for Pete’s sake!
I have an embarrassment of wealth, joy that is, at what God has handed me in three great kids who are healthy and happy and here with me. We are skyping to be together today but will see each other for real next week for my eldest’s college graduation, and I am overcome with joy at the thought of all that. It’s too sweet to accept this gift from God. Such joy I cannot truly deserve. To get to see the graduations, to get to see all the proms, and to get to see all the successes of my almost-adult children is way more than I prayed God would give me.
When the kids were babies I prayed he’d let me live long enough to see them to the point where they’d at least remember me. When they passed that I wanted to live long enough so they’d remember my lessons, and after that I wanted to live long enough so they’d be able to make some of their own decisions, and after that it is all gravy – that we get to share even more of the joys of life together is making me more grateful than I can say.
About thirty parents were standing around the softball fields with rakes and shovels yesterday morning, poised to groom the fields after a winter of abuse, to help our girls have a place to play ball this spring. The turnout was great and everyone was in the spirit to be outside and help one another get the job done. There was one big problem however and that was that we had only one wheelbarrow. So one load of dirt at a time was being hauled from the parking lot all the way out to the infield. Six or eight people with rakes would attack it and level it in moments and then they and the other twenty or so folks would stand around waiting for another load to show up. It would take all day to get the job done at this rate and it was apparent that we should have brought more wheelbarrows.
It seemed like an easy enough problem to solve though, since the field is surrounded by a neighborhood. Wearing my dirt-covered work gloves, in my dirty jeans and with windblown hair, I knocked on doors. The first lady I got was in curlers and an old-fashioned duster and seemed flustered that someone was outside the door. But when I told her we were cleaning up the fields behind her house and that we were short some wheelbarrows she gladly offered hers. I should have targeted folks with better wheelbarrows though because hers actually had holes in it, and although we used it we were afraid we’d break it. That sent me to some more houses and I found Louis answering his door. He was so glad to help he got out his pump and inflated the flat tire on his. When I came running across the field with a second quite functional wheelbarrow the folks standing at the dirt pile cheered.
Before long I’d secured another even larger wheelbarrow along with another set of hands in the owner of that one. All told we had three extra wheelbarrows, and suddenly the job was going by at a rate three times faster.
People I found at home that morning couldn’t wait to help a crowd of folks cleaning up the park they lived next to. When they heard we were picking up garbage and grooming the fields they were delighted to help.
Everyone wants to be a hero and by asking neighbors to loan us their tools, admitting we had many hands but had neglected to come prepared, these folks were eager to jump in and save the day. I mean it. Every person I asked either agreed to loan us their wheelbarrow, or if they didn’t have one suggested a neighbor who did.
My crowd of parents thought I was the hero. But the truth is all I did was ask.
I loved seeing how eager people were to help out, and I loved seeing how easy it was to make that happen. My colleagues marveled at this simple task of asking for what we wanted, but by admitting we were ill-prepared yet determined to get the job done folks saw an opportunity to be heroes. Who wouldn’t take that?
The thing I learned yesterday morning is that you just have to ask for what you want because good will begets good will.
I posted this a few years ago but not much has changed in terms of my teenage boy challenging me.
I just started in cataloging all the boys and men I’d ever dated. We were alone in the car with 90 minutes in front of us, just my teenage boy and myself, so I started in. I knew of no other way to impress upon him the concerns I had about his relationship with his current girlfriend. You don’t tell teenagers directly what you want because they in turn, in keeping with their job in life to separate from you after a childhood of deliberate bonding, reject it. So the next best thing is to open myself up and share my personal experiences.
Turns out my litany of boyfriends, and there were not that many really, seemed a little interesting. And I say that not because of anything my son said, instead it was because of what he didn’t say. He didn’t say a word. For over an hour he said nothing as I detailed the reasons why one guy was good and another not, from my perspective as as teen and young adult, back in the day. I explained about the one who dropped cigarette ash on my rug, the one who was a high school dropout but doted on me like I was a queen so I stayed with him for five years, the one who had tons of money and a Porsche but his friends didn’t like him, the one who couldn’t ever find time for me, and those that had only one thing on their minds. I told him the entire experience of meeting his father and how we developed our relationship and why I liked him better than the others even though at first it was not so clear. I told it all minus the sexy parts. And he remained silent. But I could tell he was listening, and he even had a few questions, particularly about his father and me. He said it was cool that Dad really liked me even though I wasn’t that sure at first. He liked that part. The tenacity of his father, in love. Hmmmm.
The point is I needed him to know that staying with a girl for years, because it is easier than breaking up, is not that great an idea, and why. I threw in some examples amidst the smokescreen.
A few months later he broke up with his girlfriend. I was surprised, that is, until he pointed out that it was me who told him to do it.
My writer’s group, the Main Line Writers, has put out an anthology of poetry and short stories. I’d love for you to come and support me as I take my first steps into sharing work from the memoir I am writing. My piece, Rolling in the Meadows of Our Minds, tells the story of my first date, at the age of fourteen, with a boy I have only met moments before on the telephone. Revelations follow as I discover a social world far different from the one I know on the vast isolated estate I live on miles away, where my family seem to be serfs in a feudal kingdom. How can I ever go back after that?
Come join us at our book release party at Nestology (a cool pop culture store) in the King of Prussia Mall this Sunday, 27 October, from 1 to 3 pm!
Here’s our facebook page:
and here are the details of the book launch:
UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE: Voices of the Main Line Writers
Baggage. We hide our treasures inside it when we travel. But sometimes fate makes us leave it behind. It becomes unclaimed baggage waiting for a new owner.
Inside this collection are 21 treasures from the authors of the Main Line Writers Group. Open Unclaimed Baggage and you will find stories of bravery and horror, loss and reconciliation, ghosts and demons, racial violence in Malvern and death in Amsterdam.
Hope you can come and cheer me on. If you cannot and would like a book, let me know and I’ll get you a copy ($9.00-ish) or you can get a copy for your Kindle after the launch. Wish us luck!
Today I am doing a happy dance because I just came back from a visit with the folks who live in the house I grew up in. They welcomed us to see all that they have done in the way of changes. My kids and husband came, all of us delighted at the notion of a family there breathing a new life into the place.
We brought Mom’s famous spare ribs and cole slaw dinner and sat on Mom and Dad’s old picnic table in the yard with our new friends who grilled corn in the smoker/grill they built in the yard, and served a divine gingerbread with whipped cream. All the kids trekked to the creek while the adults got to know each other in the garden and hen house. And through it all I walked around feeling free. Because so much has changed.
I wanted to do all this to help me see the changes that time has allowed. In this setting, with my kids and husband around me it is easy to see my life in perspective. I can be in this old home now with a self-awareness I never had before, an understanding of what it is to be alive and to be present in time appreciating what I have and who I am with. I am old enough and experienced enough to consciously share my love with my family and my new friends. To get to do so in this gorgeous setting filled with memories of much less clear days, creating new memories in precisely the same place, is priceless.