The Makers

 

 They are most often conceived in that hour between morning and night, between light and dark, between rational and ecstasy. With a soft moan they spring forth from other dimensions where time, money, talent and energy are of no concern. They come from the land of flying boats, winged fairies, feasts, muses, mermaids and poetry, from a faraway place where everything is possible and nothing can stand in your path. They begin to stir and expand, grow and divide as you step in the shower. The water washes away the last traces of fear and trepidation leaving courage, resolution and clarity. You step out, dry off, double check the positive sign, dress for expansion put a secret smile on your face and a bounce in your step. There is an idea growing beneath your heart in your root chakra. Such is the quest of the entrepreneur, such is the joy of an artist, such are the stories of a writer ..and then morning sickness sets in.

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Weeks become months and the incubating idea begins to stir, to quicken, to expand, to show. It keeps you awake at night. You toss and turn and switch on the light. It is harder to conceal. Hastily written post-it notes and embryonic drawings on napkins become paragraphs and blueprints, sketches evolve to renderings, renderings to realities. And the ideas must be fed. A lot. Midnight cravings for capital. Searching the kitchen for words. Heartburn. Friends begin asking about due dates. Worries mount of bringing it to fruition. Showers of advice from relatives. Nesting. Advertising. Hiring. Firing. Deadlines. Rewrites. Redraws. Re-dos. Kicking. Hormonal imbalance. Breakdowns. Building. New life.

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 And then the contractions begin, subtlety at first, just a tightening. Headaches. Backaches. There is no backing out. They become more regular, contractors, contracts, connections, canvases. Call the midwife. Breathe in, breathe out, focus. We are getting nowhere. Permits. Inspections. Revisions. Proofs. We need more money; always more money….it will make the pain go away. What the hell were you thinking? Damn Muses. Nails dig into the flesh. Doulas speaking firmly, you can do this. Critical voices in the background….no you can’t! The pain is much more intense now. Push, push, finally progress, a soft opening, a first printing, an art show. Blood, sweat, tears, one final push. Birth. A company. A restaurant, A book. A painting. Completion. Creation. Smiles. Joy.

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Comfort Food

“What on earth is going on in here?” I felt the words rising in my throat, as I walked through the front door. But at that moment, I didn’t even have the breath to carry them out of my mouth, so quietly they slid back down to where they had come. Besides, I knew exactly what on earth was going on. I had been at this motherhood gig long enough; I didn’t even need to ask the question. I had left three teenage boys in charge of my two grandsons for several days in a row. What was going on was my sons were trying their best to be good uncles. The couch was balancing precariously at an angle, cushions were scattered across the floor, several large inflatable pool toys including a large slide added more obstacles to the course. A rope was thrown over an exposed beam in the ceiling so that young nephews could swing across alligator infested carpet. It was too cold to play outdoors in March, so the outdoors had no choice but to come indoors. My living room was a topsy-turvy playground. All that was missing was the Cat in the Hat!

Surveying the situation, I could see that my living room had become a reflection of my life. Nothing was in the right place. Everything was turned on end. I felt trapped in an obstacle course. Once more I could feel the questions rising from deep within my soul, almost coming to the surface, but with no energy to express them they just floated around inside. “What WAS going on here?”  “Why was everything turned upside down and inside out? Nothing was where it was supposed to be.  Arms that should have been cradling newborn babies were empty. Twins girls that should have been in two separate bodies were born in an embrace, their hearts beating as one, dying while holding tight to each other.  Mother’s milk, full of life sustaining nutrients, now dripped like salty tears from my daughter’s heart, running in rivulets over her stretched out skin.  Two grandmothers gently wrapped pink blankets around cold bodies; their combined love still not enough to absorb the pain for their grown children. Life, in that moment, seemed as out of my control as my living room.

Slowly, I stepped over a mattress and an inner tube, winding my way towards my kitchen where I took off my coat and mindlessly sifted through several days’ worth of mail that had accumulated on the table. It was only then I noticed the steaming dishes on the counter. Even in all the commotion, my first thought was who had seen my house in such chaos. “Where did this food come from?” I ask my son as he ran backwards through the kitchen, sword fighting a five year old with a pool noodle.  “I don’t know, some lady with short hair and glasses left it,” he said as he raced down the hall. “Angels have short hair and glasses these day,” I thought to myself.   Saying a silent prayer that if it was an earthly being that had delivered it, it was someone who had at least seen my home in more stable times. I lifted the lids from the dishes and the smell of a home cooked dinner wafted towards my nostrils. I began to feel some strength return to my limbs. How many nights had it been since my family had eaten a real meal…I wasn’t even sure.

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For several more days, the ritual continued. Women, some in short hair and glasses, some young and some old would ring my doorbell and hand me a casserole dish, a pot of soup, an angel food cake. Women would bring a ham, potatoes, a hug. Sustenance. Salads. Soul food.  As my questions reached out to the universe, my answers were coming from the earth and Kroger. As I ask why, neighbors showed me how. In times of crisis, comfort is often embodied in a casserole. Love is mixed into a batch of cookies and hope rises in a loaf of bread. Friends who do not know what to say, simply stand at the threshold and extend a chocolate cake. My sisters, who know me best, did the dishes. Day by day and bite by bite, strength returns to our bodies and our souls.

In the years that have passed there have been more births, more funerals, more sick days and more celebrations. I have stood on my friend’s doorsteps with potholders and Pyrex and I have smiled graciously as bread and fishes have been left at mine. I have welcomed new granddaughters and wrapped them in pink blankets. Today the couch and chairs are in an orderly U-shaped formation around a fireplace and when life becomes chaotic, I have a little deeper understanding of “what on earth is going on here.”

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect”

–Anais Nin

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Another New Years Day…

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Today is a new moon and a new year, time to let go of the old and bring in the new. My tradition in recent years has been to look back and see what I have learned. This has been more productive than spending the day making too many resolutions, which I am finding more and more, I have very little control over.  I think often of Herman Hesse’s classic novel Siddhartha. Siddhartha finally found peace at a river, where he realized we are carried through this life as the current carries water to the ocean. This past year, I feel like I have been moving a little further downstream, intermingling my voice and story with so many around me.

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Ironically, it is about looking to the future not the past, that has been  my greatest lesson this year. In “bearing another’s burden,” I have watched my son-in-law deal with a life changing event. We have joked that he has no other choice now, but to look forward. In that light-hearted kidding is a powerful truth. Life changes in an instant and when it does you do not have the luxury of asking, “what if” or saying “if only.” You simply deal with the new reality, look forward, not backwards (or up or down) and adjust. Dave has been an example to everyone he has come in contact with and has changed all of us—I learned that no matter how excruciating the pain or how dark the night—we can still dig deep enough to be gracious and gentle to those around us. And Heather, like a gently winding river, has taught us to “go with the flow.”Image

Through this and other challenges, I have felt the love and concern of friends and family and have realized that when someone sends their prayers, thoughts and love, it has been as if they are adding twigs to my nest, to hold and sustain me and my family while we are in a fragile place.

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And speaking of nests… many of my friends are dealing with the “empty nest.” I am also finding that mine has more space these days, but it certainly is not empty and my motherhood days are still demanding. At times, like when I am going to my umpteenth Parent -Teacher conference or helping Andy with his laundry, I feel like Mazie, the lazy bird in Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hatches and Egg!

I’m tired and I’m bored,

And I’ve kinks in my leg,

From sitting just sitting here day after day.

It’s work how I hate it, I’d much rather play,

I’d take a vacation, fly off for a rest,

If I could find someone to stay on my nest!

But, then I remember–I am not done yet and neither are my child-rearing days and like Horton, I remind myself, I meant what I said, and I said what I meant and I will keep at it 100%!

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On a lighter note, I discovered Lemy Shine and Quantum Finish this year. Keeping the nest eggs clean and spot free has been so much easier lately!!

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I also tried on several of those cute SouthWestern motifed sweaters that are so popular this year and learned that I look like a wall hanging in my Mom’s living room!

I rediscovered my love of Art! A love that was dormant for so long has been reawakened and has fed my soul many times this year. One day while making a mosaic table for my patio, Steve asked me, “Why are you doing this?” My mind quickly thought of all the academic reasons given by Ellen Dissananyake in a textbook I read in grad school, “What Is Art For?” and our ensuing discussions. But then, I quickly answered, “Because, there is not going to be another one like it in the entire world.” I love expressing myself. I find joy creating instead of duplicating. And, art helps me to look at people, at nature, at the beauty that surrounds me with a whole new set of eyes.

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While I am on the topic of “one of a kinds”—Katy Perry, cured my fear of spiders, among other things, in her music video Roar! Katy joined Helen Reddy in reminding me that I am a Leo—and you are going to hear me roar.

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I experienced “Poetry in a bottle” during a wine tasting tour in Sonoma and tasted the Food of the Gods at Kendall/Jackson. It is quality not quantity that enlivens the soul…and it must be done with dear friends.

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I went back to my high school reunion—and learned that in 35 years—life imparts wisdom to everyone—all those voices in the same river—(Everyone really needs to read Siddhartha again!!)

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I attended the TED-x conference in Salt Lake City—and partook of a huge dose of Hope for the future.

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I have learned about floor coverings, window covering, paint colors, fabrics, wallpaper, mirrors, lighting design and how they all work together to create “sacred space” for living, working, socializing and eating!!

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I have marveled at the passion of designers, gardeners, architects, teachers, chefs….and one amazing neurosurgeon who share their talents and gifts and devote so many, many years of their lives to studying and learning so they can bless lives!

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I learned that sometimes we must stop seeking God and let God find us. In the words of Meister Eckhart “the ultimate leave taking is the leaving of God for God.” And God has found me, in a sunset, in a frosty morning, in a grand child’s hand, in a flower and in an empty nest—who knew when I bought my Nikkon it would be my window to heaven!

ImageHappy New Year everyone! May 2014 be as much of a growing season as have all the previous years..somehow, I imagine it will!

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If I Could Do It All Again….

My muse finally reappeared this month. She was wearing a red, tailored suit with tennis shoes and holding a cigarette between her fingers in the exact same way my Grandma Bernie always did. Her smile and forthrightness broke down any excuses and her warm encouragement melted away my cowardliness. She let me know in no uncertain terms that I must start writing again.  Then a day later, an offhanded comment to a friend, was returned to me with a question—and my thoughts have been moving towards my fingers ever since.

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What began as a chat room on Facebook in the dead of winter, quickly moved to a ladies luncheon and then a long overdue high school reunion.  This summer, with my sister as my security blanket, I made my way home to Kentucky to reminisce and reunite with people I had not seen in over 35 years. It was a wonderful two days of renewing acquaintances and catching up with friends who had made my five years of living in the Bluegrass state memorable—and recent years on Facebook addicting. As I was leaving, I made the remark, “If we could only know then, what we know now”—it seemed like an intelligent thing to say for no particular reason. And my friend, Randy, shot back, “and if you did, what would you have done differently?”  Busted!! A very long airline ride home and a lot of weeding in my garden and I am still thinking of an answer.

I know I would have worn less polyester and purchased contact lens five years sooner!  I would have spent more time in the art room (did we even have an art room) and less time in the home ec department! I would have listened to Mrs. Stoehr, when she told me to compete in the broadcast journalism category at the State Speech Competition. (And been more grateful to her when she signed me up-without my permission!) I would have embraced those friends who would lead such very short lives after we graduated and tell them how much their friendship had meant to a displaced girl from Phoenix. Most important, I would realize then that life would have a great leveling effect on all of us. I wouldn’t have had to worry who was in the “in” group or who was sitting with the “cool kids.” Together, as the great class of “78, we would face it all– school, kids, death, divorce, jobs, illness, drugs, alcohol, success, failure, money, poverty, happiness and pain. And then we would come out on the other side, slightly heavier and greyer, but much more kind and humble. (I wouldn’t have told them over lunch what they would be up against though—or that John Travolta would go from being Danny Zuko to a middle-aged mom in Hairspray!) And oh the things I could share, if I had one more day in World Civ with Mrs. Simmerman standing at the chalkboard in her cheery voice asking, “What’s New!”  I wish I could have known then, what I know so well now, that encouraging and building someone else never diminishes or takes away from my own self-worth. I could have then walked the halls of Boyd County high school with a little more confidence and a lot more smiles.

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As I swept and pondered, watered flowers and contemplated, I wondered how I would answer the same question about my entire life. If I was to know then, what I know now what would I do differently? ….besides wearing a lot more sunscreen! I would understand that all of life’s experiences make us who we are and teach us to love a little deeper– so I guess I would still just go with them. But, with a little more knowledge I could fear less and trust more. I would follow my kid’s advice and worry less and chill more! I would certainly dance more, sing more, create more, write more and let go of the unimportant and unfulfilling. I would trust my own intuitions a whole lot more and other’s opinions quite a bit less. I would judge my neighbors less harshly (except for the one down the street) and refuse to let others define me. I would be much more concerned with nourishing my soul today and have less anxiety about the temperature of where it might land tomorrow. And, if I knew then what I know now … on cold, snowy days, I would let my father-in-law sit in the house, at my kitchen table and smoke a cigarette and drink a cup of coffee with me, instead of standing in the garage without me—who knows, maybe if I had, my muse would have shown up a lot sooner!!

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Feeling Somber

DSC_0014I often spend time with a thesaurus, the way some people use their scriptures—looking for the right word, the right expression to describe how I am feeling. I look for a particular word to describe a moment or a memory like an artist may look for the right color for a sunrise. I am still searching tonight for exactly what it is I feel, for a way to describe what is in my heart. Is it sadness? Is it melancholy? Pain may be too strong a word and gratitude doesn’t really bring my feelings into focus either—although that is a part of it. This unnamed feeling, has slowed me down (and I have a lot to do), it has kept me looking at the sunset, long after the sun has dropped behind the mountains. It has caused me to look at the birds in our trees and to listen to their song. I stared at the crocus coming up in my garden until I was so cold I had to come inside and wrap up.  I have talked on the phone to every single one of my children.

Today, I sat for the longest time watching out my window as a black, shiny suburban pulled into my neighbors driveway, as police officers came and went to their cars, as my dog paced like he knew something was amiss. I watched two men in black suits load my neighbor’s covered body into a car. I watched his friend making calls on a cell phone. It seemed surreal. Spring is in the air. The trees are budding. The grass which had been snow covered this morning was beginning to green. But my friend was now gone.

Just yesterday, we stood at the fence and talked. We talked about lawn fertilizer and ObamaCare. We talked about my kids going to the new high school and about how he wanted to hitch up his trailer and see the country. We talked about his swollen feet and how he needed to have his pacemaker reset. And, my parting words were, ‘I will see you next week, after your surgery, riding your lawnmower.” John and I had a guarded relationship as neighbors. He did not like my barking dog, but hey, he had the herd of deer living in his backyard. He was a single, quiet-loving bachelor—I had the herd of kids —who often drove too fast down the road. But still we were neighbors. He kept my fence repaired and helped us trim trees and I made sure he had fancy Christmas cookies. Most importantly, he was always kind to my boys and loved to share fishing stories and talk about water-skiing….and we all shared a love of the mountains and rivers and lakes—and rough hewn log cabins.

And tonight, when my son sent a text telling me he felt somber, I knew I found my word. I felt somber. Watching the sun set and the spring rise, I felt like a connection had been cut with a good man, a little gruff on the outside, but in my boy’s words—very kind underneath. John I hope you have found the perfect fishing hole today! I am going to miss my over-the-fence neighbor.

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Leaving the Inn–(for Zac, but really for me!)

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Recently, Zac lost his job as an innkeeper.  I have felt his pain in a corner of my heart as he has said goodbye to friends and associates who have become like family. I have been moved by something deep inside, as he has said farewell to his beloved mountain where he has spent so many, many hours. He knows every ridge, every run and every rock that needs to be jumped off of.  I have found myself wiping away a tear both for him, and for myself, as I also experience some of my own moving on and letting go. Because for both of us the reality of life is that inns are never places we are meant to stay in long term. Inns are stops along the way in this journey we call life.

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There are many kinds of inns. There are inns we go to as families ready for fun and excitement, swimming pools and ski slopes.  Some inns we arrive at “battered and bruised” like the man left by the Good Samaritan to be cared for and nursed back to health. Some inns, like in one of my favorite movies, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, are places to hear stories and partake of a good meal. And in other Inns, we share our stories, with fellow pilgrim like in Canterbury Tales. Some, like in the movie Groundhog Day, we may find impossible to leave until we have a change of heart. Whatever purpose they serve for us in life, they are always places of impermanence. They are a stopping place, a wayside, but never a destination. And sometimes we have to be “pushed’ out, so that we can continue our journey.

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Some inns we may be able to return to and experience in new ways.  Some inns we only go to one time, never to return. Some we stay at for a long time and some for only a night. At some we may make life long friends and at others we may not meet a single person.  Some we may enjoy a long and delicious meal while at others we are lucky if we get a continental breakfast. Some inns are plush and elegant. Others are sparse and bare. And some like one we stayed at in Paris may be charming and European on the inside while being located next door to a porn shop!

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Life is always more about the journey than the temporary places we find ourselves a long the way.  Zac is looking forward with excitement to the next phase of his life and I am feeling healed and mended and ready to pack my bags and move on to new adventures.  This blog has been a healing place for me on my journey, but therapy, vacations and most employment should never last forever. There are simply too many roads to follow and too many paths to explore to spend too much time on the wayside. Hopefully, in the future I will come back here….and Zac will return to his beloved Solitude, but we will be new people with new and fresh stories to tell of other mountains we have climbed and other slopes we have “shredded.” And until then, hopefully someone leaves the light on!

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To Market, To Market…..

DSC_0009One of my new “happy places” in Salt Lake City is the grocery store Trader Joe’sTrader Joe’s has been around for a long time in the surrounding states, but only recently came to our city, sans their famous wine. Even without it, they are doing a bustling business. From the burst of color in the floral department, to the uniqueness of the produce, to the friendly clerks in their Hawaiian shirts—the whole experience of walking through the doors puts a smile on my face. What I love most is the variety. I love the wide assortment of cheeses. I love the smells of the spices and the taster’s table of juices. I love the “testers” of lotions and potions and smelling like I have been on a Caribbean vacation when I leave. I love grabbing a box of something I have never tried before. I love the diversity of customers who frequent the store— the urban, the young and the hip folks.

DSC_0011 The size of my family has necessitated that I still make a bi-weekly pilgrimage to the “warehouse” store. When you are feeding a small army, you simply must shop where blocks of cheese weigh five pounds and bread and milk prices are slashed to bearable!  Unfortunately, thirty plus years of family life and buying enough Tide and toilet paper to reach to the moon and back—has led to a loss of sizzle in mine and Sam’s relationship. Like oil changes and teeth cleanings, shopping for dog food and frozen chicken breasts is just something you hold your nose and do to keep life running.  My spirit does not lend itself to the institutional and concrete. I much prefer the intimate and perishable.

produceFarmer’s markets, bakeries, nurseries, and delis, those on the other hand, are places I relish; I experience; I inhale. These are the places that feed my soul. Variety is the spice of life and it is in the small, the personal and the diverse that I find my taste buds enlivened—whether it is food for my body or food for my thoughts. As I carried my stuffed Trader Joe bags to the car last week, (Will I ever remember to bring along recycle grocery sacks when out and about?) I had the same happy feeling I always do when I leave the library, with my bag heavy and overflowing with a pile of new books.  Shopping at Trader Joes, gives me the same thrill that I find when shopping in an out of the way bookstore.  The smell of Freesia and roses stimulates the same pleasure place in my brain as musty books in the used book store that my mom always makes sure I visit near her home. I love living in a time and place where the world is my market and a bounty of ideas, smells, tastes and colors can be carried home in a canvas bag (o.k.—paper)!

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