We left Iowa for Montana at the end of August. We’re now living in our own, small, home. Small means you have to be more ruthless about your belongings. I’m thinking of adding a few shelves on the living room wall and then rotating my art and tchatchkas [knick-knacks] so to have something new to look at, to inspire. It’s that or get rid of very dear art and objects. Not ready to clear out any more at this time. I like the notion I’ve come up with– at least for now.

The pine tree I planted in Iowa 4-5 years ago, survived a rough winter.

The pine tree I planted in Iowa 4-5 years ago.

Living in a motel for a week was … interesting. It was very well run. The people all kind, friendly, and dealt well with each of us; Nato and I. We’ve been in our new home for a bit over a month. We can look out the living room picture window and stare at the mountains, the sky, the clouds. When we drive out and down the hill or just around town, the mountains guarding our city are ever present, majestic, intriguing, timeless. I still wake up, look outside and feel surprised to remember we’re in Montana.

Looks like getting services for Nato will become my next occupation. Becoming involved on a local level; talking to people, starting a parent support group, finding folks who will take a little time to include Nate in their lives for a dinner or an activity. Then there is the state level; lobbying our legislature to become informed how their policies affect adults with disabilities who often cannot work at all, or who need a job coach and/or job slicing in order to work. (I just made up the phrase; job slicing, because there actually is one to denote taking a job and breaking it down into components and then hiring a disabled adult to do one component. I cannot remember the new technical term for what I’ve described, but it does exist!)

A Special Olympian winner - and a sweetheart.

A Special Olympian winner – and a sweetheart.

Those of you in the Y today, or in our neighborhood a bit later, who heard my son having a loud time… I apologize, but could you please not look so shocked? He does the best he can – but he’s not made to live an idle life. There’s only so much sitting he can do before he becomes frustrated. And the great state of Montana is ruled by legislators who have taken a very, VERY paternalistic attitude toward developmentally disabled adults. If they are in a safe place, even living with elderly parents, then they don’t need any public services such as a life skills coach, job training and support, or even transportation to social events in the community.

Imagine if you couldn’t drive, couldn’t read, couldn’t handle money [because you don’t understand any numbers/math], perhaps couldn’t call someone- a friend or family member on the phone because you can’t operate the dial pad… and there is nothing for you to do all day but sit in front of a television set? It gets old and boring very quickly. And the person doing the sitting vegetates. There’s no stimulation, nothing to get excited about, practically no reason to get up each day. That is what I hope to change.

Meanwhile I’m grateful for our new mountain home, and the friendly folks we’ve met so far, and the many more we hope to meet, work with, and get to know as friends and neighbors and co-workers. So, as I said in the title, life is weird, ornery [the temper tantrums] and beautiful. And bittersweet, as we both miss our midwest friends; Katie and family, Peggy and family, Leo, Niki [Nate’s college friend and all her buddies who became N’s buddies too], neighbors, and friendly acquaintances. All Nate’s friends at Hand-in-Hand. We miss you so much.

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A phone call last week created an opportunity. In my last post I explained a little about my family. Yet all relationships between people, I believe, are organic and can change, because we grow, change, experience and re-form. We experience loss, pain, grief, happiness, love, lust, anger, rage… [and more]. And these can create the  condition for change to happen.

So the chance to try and work things out between my mother/sisters and myself arose and was discussed. Ever since I’ve been thinking and thinking. I like my life even while I’m in the midst of change with preparing for the last geographical move coming up soon. (A year after divorce I moved, and then 3 more times after that over last 20 years.) And I especially like the creation of me as I am now; as person, mother, friend, etc. As a daughter and sister it has been difficult to impossible. I’ve been judged and found wanting because of my choices. I’ve been  treated like a second-tier relative instead of a member of the core group.  3 Widows

Two years ago I came to a grave decision. After all the years of criticism of everything from my art to my parenting, to my dating [and having sex while a single parent], even to  marital decisions made with my husband … I wanted to stop hoping. Hoping led to disappointment of hopes never coming to fruition. I gave up all communication with my mother/sisters. And still in the deep of night I would construct a letter, or come across the “perfect” phrase in a book I was reading- so that finally, finally I could get through to them. Yet I set it aside in the light of day– understanding it was more of the same hoping/disappointment hamster wheel that I’d chosen to stop running.

Everyone deserves a second chance, in my opinion, and maybe even a 26th chance? That’s the current dilemma. Do I go along with this new prospect. What if I’m the only one who truly is open to change? And really, why should I change when I’ve been the subject of their mistreatment for years and years.

A few weeks back I happened on a book; When All you’ve Wanted isn’t Enough, by Harold Kushner. Having read a  few of his books, and enjoyed them, I looked forward to this one. He writes;

“Sometimes in life we have to become less to be more. We become whole people, not on the basis of what we accumulate, but by getting rid of everything that is not really us, everything false and inauthentic. Sometimes to become whole, we have to give up the Dream. The Dream is the vision we had when we were young… that we would be somebody truly special…We will never be happy until we stop measuring our real-life achievements against that dream. We will never be comfortable with who we are until we realize that who we are is special enough… Being truly human is a much more impressive accomplishment.”

And in the last chapter called; Why I am Not Afraid to Die; he says this;  SewnInside

“I have no fear of death because I feel that I have lived. I have loved and I have been loved. I have been challenged in my personal and professional life and have managed, if not with a perfect score, at least a passing grade and perhaps a little bit better… I can look forward to the last act of my life, however long or short it may be, in the knowledge that I have finally figured out who I am and how to handle life.”

For now I may have a score less than perfect in regard to my family of origin, but I’m content with me. I was unable to be the water coursing over the rocks, smoothing and changing the rocks’ surfaces over time.  But I am the water flowing – seeking my path – traveling past plants reaching their faces to the sky, trees swaying to the rhythm of life – loving my course, the expected and unexpected – the purpose and the surprises. For now I’m okay just the way I am.

** I only included 2 pictures this time; one are the remnants of last summer’s Sunflowers, dried and weaving in the snowfall, which I named; The Three Widows. The other is the inside of a card with the sewing which keeps elements of the collage in place forming it’s own pattern on the painted paper. Beauty can be unexpected.

 

If you find your life difficult, I have a suggestion; come join me for my son’s Basketball practice. This is no ordinary sports practice. This is a group of adults with various disabilities, including the man who shoots baskets from his wheelchair, and the young woman who shoots with her only useable arm- and she’s actually very good! There’s a young man who can’t quite follow the instruction to raise his arms higher and put some “oomph” into his shot, so his ball routinely falls halfway between the basket and the floor. Val09:8stumb

You’re wondering what kind of thing this is? It is Basketball practice for Special Olympics competition. And it is filled with good humor and just plain goodness. In Special Olympics there may be a first place and second place winner, but if 12 compete, there is also an 11th and 12th place WINNER. And there is always as I said; goodness. There are hand slaps, high fives, shouts and cheers for everyone, no matter their success or lack of success in the tasks. At the events there are volunteer huggers who stand at the finish lines and yell and cheer every athlete on, and hug every winner!

How does this relate to your life? Okay think about what you would like to accomplish in your lifetime. There is a John Lennon quote that I really admire.

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was THE key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand
the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

Several years ago I was writing fiction, and I got stuck at the second chapter, and didn’t know how to get un-stuck. (This was after successfully completing a whole novel.) This had never happened before, perhaps because this fictional writing was based on aspects of my own life. So it seemed to me, I was lost without the direction of this work. In an attempt to rectify the situation I sat down and wrote the last chapter. Front card Oliver

At that time I was substitute teaching in public high schools, and a similar assignment, write your own obituary, was a standard one for high school students. A teenagers response would be quite different than mine, written at 50 years of age. Yet it is a reflective and introspective task that I think is worth the time and effort no matter your age.

Here’s what I believe about dreams and goals for our lives: we all need aspirations and dreams to help us on our life’s path. Sometimes we will find we need to change our goals, restructure, or just abandon something already completed or not working. That’s okay. Give yourself permission to change. Give yourself permission to be, in all life’s many permutations and aspects. Then create new paths, new shining stars to reach toward, and move on. I believe very strongly that as we watch the progression of seasonal changes, so our lives can be seen as having seasons. Change should not be optional – because without change there is stagnation. Think of a pool of water that refuses to seep away, that collects dead bugs, dripping car oil, bits of trash… Not a pretty picture. Change is/ can be/ scary, but also enlightening.

I’ll share with you another saying [by an unknown writer] that I keep in the Smile folder in my collection of sayings:

A smile can brighten the darkest day.

Think of my son and his fellow Special Olympians. A happy bunch of folks given extraordinary challenges, yet enjoying camaraderie, fellowship, belonging.  Why are some truths so simple, yet so profound?

* Cards here are from several years back. I love the sayings and visual impact.   This is my art – do not steal the images.   Thanks for respecting my talent and my wishes.