There is a story; A middle-aged woman is preparing a festive meal and she cuts the meat in a certain odd way and puts it in the pan to be cooked. Why does she cut it in this peculiar manner? Vintage Kitchen Because that is how her mother always did it. One day she asks her elderly mother why. Her mother says; I had to cut it to fit in the pan I was using.

I was cleaning my candlestick holders and wondered as I scraped off accumulated layers of wax, what was causing the build-up. I always line the inside with foil, just as my mother did. Then I remembered the story above. So I pried out wax and foil, cleaned the outside and the bottom of each one. When I light candles this coming Sabbath I’ll be using my now pristine glass candle holders. Hopefully there will not be unsightly wax drips all over the place.

And this double lesson gave me time to think about;  when we do without forethought, or when we don’t stop to question why, or when we’re too busy to come up with alternatives to “the way it’s always been done.” This reminds me of many years ago and the “new math.” Child ReadingThere was a meeting at  school to explain the new curriculum to parents and get us to approve or at least go along with the new methods. And older gentleman stood up and said he was opposed to the change because the older custom had been good enough for his father, good enough for him, and would be good enough for his child[ren].

This morning reading a favorite blog and one particular post inside. The heading jumped off the page [okay, computer screen] at me. “Bringing Travel Lessons Home.”  I’ll admit I love adventure and the less planned it is, well, the more scary and possibly more fun. Oh no, I’m not trying to test myself and any limits imposed by people or circumstances outside myself. I happen to like learning and doing and trying. If successful; yeah! If not, well unless there was grave harm, it was still a bit of learning.

I feel very fortunate that I have always wanted to learn who I am, what I stand for, Pinnedwhat I need in life. And as I get older; what I don’t need [extra aggravation from bad service, spammers, people who judge, ignorance, intolerance…]. So back to Bringing Travel Lessons Home. We can decide to learn about ourselves; our motivations, our needs and wants, what makes us happy, sad, irritable, jealous, etc. And we can decide how to earn our way, live our lives, give back [or not]. It’s all within our reach, our grasp. That’s if we want to have a “well-lived” life.

 

Top 2 illustrations; copyright-free from Google images. Last is handmade card-in-the-making [before being sewn]. Quote by Ella Fitzgerald;  “Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Please don’t copy my creative work.

An NPR article this morning with 3 questions; What are your fears? How will you overcome your fears? What will “the unique you” bring to…[family, circle of friends, Peace2classroom, work, world] ? Last night I was thinking about one of my 5 children and that person’s traits; strengths and difficulties, depth of compassion and caring, family ties. I believe this child has fears, has overcome some that I know about, and brings “depth of compassion and caring” to relationships with others. It is this that I most appreciate. Perhaps this grown child and I can talk in the near future and I can express this and listen to the responses.

No political talk here, I’m more interested in what, why, and when people do what they do. The woman who took or was illegally given a baby she’d not birthed, then proceeded to raise for 20 years has now been sentenced to prison for 10 yGiftBookBeLoved2ears. The babe, now grown, expressed strong desire to stay with this “foster” mother. How does love speak? Do we let it speak? Do we value love above all? Sad to say the answers to these questions are as difficult as those in the 1st paragraph, I believe.

“Someday this moment is going to count as the good old days.” This quote by William Irvine from an Atlantic article May 2015; What good is thinking about death? So the question is; “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?” This takes us back to the question; What do you fear? For me the next question is; Why do people do what they do? This is also in the article. To be aware of the finite quality of all life can lead one to treat all life as precious. I’ve used the quote below which is funny, but resonates for many;

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.    -Erma Bombeck

When I’d been diagnosed with cancer and spoke with a friend who had also had a cancer diagnosis I asked her; How do we maintain the attitude we have now because our Dog Lake Montana 2010lives have been threatened? The desire to live each day as a gift, a blessing, an awareness of the possibility for everything to abruptly end when we’re not ready for it to be over? My very wise friend said we must force ourselves to remember the question: What is most important to us this very moment of our lives? That will help to bring us back to the fear of death and the need to live as vibrantly and with as much awareness as possible.

There are days when you don’t have
a song in your heart. Sing anyway.
-Emory Austin

*Middle picture of original Esther’s Girls: Handmade Journals and Cards artwork. Do not copy. Bottom photo; Dog Lake, Flathead Indian Reservation, Western Montana

 

Paying attention: My middle son with Downs now wears hearing aids, which makes me sad, because it feels like another sign, along with the streak of silver grey in his hair, of his rapid aging. This is common in folks born with Down syndrome. The other recent change; I’m frequently telling him to “pay attention.”   NateRobot

Bearing witness: I was telling a friend about a movie I’d seen -based on a true story- of the war in Afghanistan. She asked why I would see something that disturbed me so much that  I had to close my eyes several times to get through it. For me it’s about bearing witness to events in our lives that are so momentous, we need to be aware, be involved, pay attention. Bernie Glassman says; “We bear witness to the joy and suffering that we encounter. Rather than observing the situation, we become the situation. We became intimate with whatever it is – disease, war, poverty, death. When you bear witness you’re simply there, you don’t flee.”

Elie Wiesel: In an online search with the phrase, bearing witness, you might find billy’s blog,  you will certainly find many items about the Holocaust that decimated the Jewish population in Europe during World War 2, and photographer Lisa Kristine’s  TED talk about modern slavery. And many more subjects beside those mentioned. Learning about the Holocaust was an important part of my religious school classes as a teenager. Yet to learn of how we humans treat each other, is to know there have always been holocausts and perhaps always will? I sincerely hope not.

Friends and enemies: This is an Elie Wiesel quote, There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.” In light of facing a former friend last week, who along with several others I’d met, worked with and socialized in a religious context,  have shunned me because their leader has shunned me? Maybe. Seems odd that intelligent people can’t make up their own minds, but hey, what do I know? It is harder for me to believe that though I lost so-called friends I’ve still won… but maybe knowing I’m true to myself, my friends, the people I love and care about is a win for me.     RowanLegos

Gratitude and hope: I live in the land of joy for my life, the hope, sorrows and absurdities that occur while taking each day as it comes. And the mingled joy and and difficulty of the great task of caring for my Nato. The gratefulness for sunshine, trees in leaf outside my windows, breath in my lungs, our cat who likes to cuddle with me, my grandson building legos to conform to imaginary things… Mostly grateful for life.

And here in closing; one last quote by Elie Wiesel; “Look, if I were alone in the world, I would have the right to choose despair, solitude and self-fulfillment. But I am not alone.”

If only we could be good and kind to one another…

 

 

I had a lonely childhood. Had to fill time, usually with my 3 year younger sister without parental help. We would walk very long distances; to the library, to the pool in summer, or the ice skating rink in winter. Then I made a group of friends and we regularly rode 2 buses downtown and went to free kids movies at a museum. The Pink Panther is the only one I recall. My mother was like a background figure throughout my childhood with a few exceptions.

At age 13 I began menstruating. Upon telling her I was bleeding [and shocked at that first occurrence] she promptly slapped me across the face, welcomed me to womanly adulthood, and went back to her cigarette burning in the ashtray, and the telephone receiver sitting on the kitchen counter where her best friend waited to resume their phone conversation.  KindCard-12c

I tried out a few curse words around the same time; and had to carry the 1,000+ page dictionary upstairs or downstairs [it was always opposite where my mother was castigating me], to read aloud the word and definition. I’m unsure if I remember my mouth being soaped. I also know I stole a few candy bars from a small store in our neighborhood, and was found out and my mother made me go and apologize.

A bit later I was made to sit at the kitchen table while my mother drew diagrams of a woman’s reproductive organs– her means of teaching me about sex. The first time I actually had sex I had no clue what was meant by the statement; don’t worry, I used protection. So much for my education.

I quit college without talking to my parents. How could they possibly understand? They never really got involved in my present/future. My mother had taken my to a high school guidance counselor for tests and then to explain what I would be good at in adulthood. My father told me I should take courses to get a teaching degree, as a fall-back to help my husband, in case he needed me to work.

Both the vocational testing, and teaching degree fulfilled the “womanly” accepted role of nurturing others, prevalent thinking at the time I was growing up. Yet I filledCard 9-2015-5b.jpg my own emotional needs as a volunteer worker with children with disabilities beginning in my early teens onward. A college course stating psychiatric language placing people with low levels of cognition [due to disabilities] in “idiot” and “moron” boxes was the reason I left college. Had these superior people no humanity, I wondered? 

It seemed obvious to me that I was alone in the world. Decisions were on my shoulders alone. And I couldn’t find my way through a dense forest of expectations and lack of help finding alternatives.

What I DID decide/ know was that if I ever became a mother, I would really, truly love my children, talk to them about anything and everything, not judge them, not put impossible demands on them of what I wanted for them, instead helping them find what they wanted, what they cared about, where each thought they might excel.

Today’s post came about after reading a comment on someone else’s post. Here’s an excerpt of the comment by Heather; “I want to say that this idea that love can come from the inside is a great one! But, it does not replace the very real pain of having a mother who doesn’t love you. And, worse, living in a society that says all mothers love you, you just don’t realize it! ”

Stay tuned for the next chapter in this story.

Cards here; created by me. First saying; “No act of kindness, no matter how small is every wasted.” by Aesop. Second saying; We’re every one of us imperfect. We’re every one of us, in some way, wounded animals. The most important thing is to take care of each other. ” by Barry Lopez.

 

 

 

Cultivating the opposite of hopelessness looks different for each of us. For you it might be cultivating joy. Or vulnerability. Or compassion. Enthusiasm. Wisdom. Or creative problem solving. Pick what helps you when faced with something that scalds you with anger or drowns you in hopelessness, and dedicate yourself there.  (You can read the rest of Jen Louden’s post here.)     KindCard-4b

It seems to me you could read my posts and wonder at my frequent bouts of positivity, hopefulness, cheer. Is she for real, you might be asking? Well, actually, yes. I am glad to have been blessed with a sense of wonder, willingness to adventure, and a deep love of color  and texture which pushes me to create.

My dearest friend, a professional photographer, taught me how to take risks, in the way no one else had ever modeled for me. She was so proud of the deck her husband built for her. So she took photos in a rotation to encompass the entirety of the structure. She printed them on paper then placed them arranged and rearranged the photos. When pleased with her arrangement she made a new print on a piece of white silk. And that silk she placed on a wall in her house. So, I thought, you can hang anything you like on a wall in your home, it’s okay. Sounds naive, but it never occurred to me before that. My friend’s concept of a wall hanging doesn’t sound risky, but she taught me; ownership of myself and my choices and my ideas of what I liked enough to display it, or not, as I wished.        kind-6b

I haven’t explained the “adventuring” in today’s title. I’ve come to believe that adventuring is as important to me as what I treasure; a home, love, gratitude for each day, the sun shining… Lately adventuring means taking my art to new places, pushing those limits I imposed on myself. To be honest I will say I’ve found it difficult since our move here to find my niche; where to sell my art, where to teach, etc. So I’m adventuring once again into uncharted [for me] seas, and writing some new art class curriculum and creating new art to see where I can go with these “creations” of my mind.

Here’s how I see my life; worth living, even through the most difficult moments, and worth all the loss and hurt and pain I’ve experienced to have the joy of looking at the trees dusted with snow, the sound of a friendly voice on the phone, the joy of sharing my thoughts here, with you, my anonymous reader. Write back, and share yourself with me, if you can.

For illustration today I have copies of cards I’ve completed for a special order, all bearing the same quote by Aesop; “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

 

A friend said to me; You’ve been your son’s only parent for a long time. How old is he now? I replied; He is 33. She said; That’s like a marriage. Well, not really. He is my son and one of my 5 adult children, but unable to go out into the world on his own. His other parent stepped out of his life 13 years ago. And really what other choice did I have? He is my son and he requires aid.

I believe we have choices in this life… and I have tried to choose on the side of loving kindness (chesed) and with the thought in mind; what would I want if I were in the position of needing help in order to live my best life?  NateBowlingTrophy2013

Holidays have been difficult times for me. I miss the noise and bustle of my children when most of them were home. Yet I remember wishing for peace and quiet, which has only come since they’ve all grown up and left for their own, independent lives, away from me. Ironic. Beware what you wish for, it may come true and then you wonder; is this truly what I wanted after all?

And much to my chagrin, I once told a friend I couldn’t deal with too much of her “wonderful marriage talk” because I haven’t had that option. I am — have been alone for 21 years, a considerable length of time. Of course I haven’t been alone at all. I raised each of the 4 others until they turned 18 and stepped off the edge of the world of childhood and into the pool; of life as an adult. Only my Nato remains and he currently has a busier life than I do.

I now have the somewhat idle life I dreamed of through the years I had to be 2 loving, sane parents to my children. Those were the days I had to have unlimited patience and tolerance, and keep a “clean-enough” house and work outside of it to pay for necessities of living; clean underwear, auto insurance, mortgage payments, summer camp. Now I am my son’s calendar minder, appointment setter and chauffeur and not least; soother and/or interpreter of his temperamental outbursts.

Living can be messy, contradictory, full of anguish, a time/place when dreams are so far away as to never be obtainable, yet it is also so many other things; our one and only life to be clay in our hands, filled with the awe and wonder of nature at best and worst, and everything, anything, in-between. CardJuly31- 13

What I love most about living is the wonder, the unexpected joyful moments, the gratitude that drops on me like a soft gauzy curtain; not obscuring reality, but reminding me of the worth of unexpected joy especially in the midst of a life of service to another.

I choose service because the options are not affordable. Neither to “place” my son with strangers who may not be patient enough to allow him to be who he is, and hope they use gentleness to curb his extremes, nor… But there is nothing else.  I have looked high and low. I could send him to another state far away, depend on financial assistance, take out loans, bankrupt the rest of my life, and again hope that strangers will treat him with dignity and credit him with knowing what he wants, but none of these are options seem right.

And so, life is both the past which is already written, and the present which we live moment by moment, and the future which is ephemeral, a dream, a hoped for unreality perhaps awaiting us, perhaps not. Nato and I, are I think, engaged in each living the moments, occasionally laughing at each others jokes, and what I’ve come to realize; enriching our days with the presence of the other. And thankfully we each have our art, we have music, we have laughter…

I want to end with a poem by W.H. Auden, entitled September 1, 1939.

And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
*       *       *       *       *       *
Picture of Nato with bowling trophy, and handmade card with saying by Bob Dylan; May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung.

How do you like the title? Do you agree or disagree? I was going to call this blog post; You are who You Choose to Be. In my opinion both titles start at the same place, with YOU.

It’s the last night of Chanukah. The candles have already burned down and out. Quite soon the days will begin to get longer– though here in the Western mountains of the U.S. we are guaranteed very cold weather, snow, some ice… and some beautiful views of the mountains, trees, night scenes, children sledding… on and on.   I Believe

Personally I’m not too thrilled with cold winters. Perhaps all those years in North Carolina spoiled me. Fairly quickly I remembered how to dress in layers, though my feet get very cold just as I get into bed at night and one day soon I WILL replace the last hot water bottle. What I love are seasonal changes in the environment around me. I’m inspired by nature. This winter I’m going to focus on NOT building up my store of fat, like a hibernating bear,  to stay warm.

I’m wondering if you see a common theme; between the titles and my attitude about the cold season now upon us in North America? I have the ability to think myself out of dislike, out of sleeplessness, out of nasty thinking that will depress me. So for the sleeplessness I turn over in bed, lay my head on the fluffy pillow my grandchild uses when visiting, and tell myself; “go to sleep.” My wonderful grandmother would say; “gey shluffin.” That was one of her Yiddish phrases, she didn’t have many. Same meaning as my English command. And it works for me.

Similarly, I tell myself to stop when I’m letting my mind operate the record player that clicks on and whines with every complaint on a subject that is years old and notGrandM and me-Med worth listening to any more. I really, really believe we can control our thoughts, and by extension our feelings.

And now back to; You are Who you Choose to Be. I loved being a mother with a large brood of children. I still love my kids, but they are all grown up, some having their own kids,  out in the world. I’m actively working on making my life meaningful. It’s a work in progress. As is all of living. Pretty cool, that. We can make it up as we go along. I’ve recently chosen to change friends and change activities. There wasn’t enough compassion in the folks or the circumstances that brought us together.

And so I changed what I was doing; because it’s more important to me than most any other aspect, that the people I spend time with have and show compassion, empathy, caring, and love. Perhaps not directed at me, as long as it is there.  I also believe in peace, and the only road leading to peace, I believe, is carved of compassion, empathy, caring and love. And that’s what I’m choosing to do– to be– to want in the people I spend time with– and in the people I love.

Pick your emotions carefully. Be who you choose to be.

Picture of card with saying: “I believe we are always attracted to what we need most, an instinct leading us toward the persons who are open to new vistas in our lives and fill them with new knowledge.” -Helene Iswolsky. Second is photo of my grandmother and me, Atlantic City Boardwalk, eons ago.