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Last night, someone told me I looked “radiant.”  I haven’t heard that for years.  To what do I attribute my newfound radiance (apart from 10 fewer pounds and a lot of cold medicine)?

Yesterday was my last day at my full-time job.  Yes, my 8-month contract ended yesterday.  I had been there almost 9 years to the day (except for a relatively brief hiatus.)  And I haven’t shed a tear.  I haven’t felt awful or depressed or overly scared.  As I said before, I will miss the people and the paycheck, but not the job.

As I’ve been talking to people about my new business, I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback and encouragement.  In fact, I am meeting with my first potential client on Tuesday.  I’m excited!  And nervous.  As he described the project on the phone, I realized that it was something I could actually do.  In fact, it was very similar to a project I’d done before at my half-time job.  So I’m cautiously optimistic.

I met with my financial advisor (yikes, that sounds pretentious, given the teeny tiny amount of money I have) yesterday morning to talk about other things, and we wound up talking about starting my business.  He gave me fatherly advice, and asked me a lot of practical questions that I need to be able to answer for myself to make things run smoothly.

This weekend, I’ll be putting things together for the business-end of the dog.  Next week, I’ll start working on the barking-end of the dog.

I’m just feeling very, very positive, and after such a long dark spell, that’s a very good feeling.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my concern for my own mental health around the mourning of my Mother.  I did some research about the phenomenon that psychologists call “complicated grief” (which I labelled for myself “profound grief” because that’s how I felt it).

But that same day, I wrote about a dream I had.  A dream in which my Mother was hugging me.  A dream so vivid in its physical sensation that I could still feel her hugging me when I awoke.  A dream that was a visitation.  A dream that I never wanted to end.  But end it did. 

That day, the dream was on my mind quite a bit.  I felt odd.  And the next day, I felt….better.  I felt like, somehow, my Mother’s death had found its little nook in my soul, where I could tuck it and have it — and me — be comfortable, be at peace.

I’ve checked in since – it’s been over a week – and the sense of a weight being lifted is still there.  The darkness that has shifted in me like fine black sand since her passing is gone, faded, lightened.  I keep waiting for it to come back, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen.  It – or maybe I – just feel different.

When I was contemplating my complicated grief earlier, it was feeling unbearable.  I told a friend that I was concerned, that I felt stuck in it, and I didn’t want it anymore, but I didn’t know how to fix it.  That I was thinking about going back to a therapist to discuss it, even though that’s the last thing I can afford now.  We had that conversation the night before I had the dream.  Perhaps my Mother, or my subconscious, needed me to get to the point where I could say “I want this to stop.  I want to let this go,” before the universe could spin things around to a resolution.

I have not dreamed about her since, which is soothing and surprising, because I would dream about her most nights.  But Kelsea, my daughter with the shine, had a dream last night.  She dreamed I was standing in the doorway of her bedroom, and that my Mother was standing behind me.  And I didn’t notice my Mother.  And she was smiling at Kelsea.  She said it felt like a visitation, not a dream.  It made me feel like it was a sign that all is right in this cross-section of our spirits now.

It made me smile.  I think we have both found some peace.

I had an interesting writing experience, and I’m struggling with it.  And I’m hoping some of you writers out there can help.

I’m starting to write articles (on spec) that I want to pitch to magazines.  But what I’m discovering is that when I write with publication in mind, I seem to lose my voice, my spirit, the essence that comes through my words that, in my mind, makes my writing special.

With the trip reports that I’ve written in the past, some of which are posted here, readers have told me that my words transport them to the place about which I am writing.  That’s exactly what I want to do.  But when I think about writing for publication, my words seem to become stilted.  I lose my confidence in the appeal of my soul-level writing.  I think that the “specialness” of my words is too personal for a publication to purchase.

The piece that I wrote could probably sell.  It’s better than a lot of pieces that I’ve read that have sold.  But I wouldn’t be as proud of it as I would be were it soul-level writing.  It almost feels disingenuous.  It feels like I’m selling out somehow.

My sister-in-law is/was a great photographer, and many years ago, she used to sell some of her work.  She stopped when she realized that she was shooting to sell, not shooting what she loved, not shooting her passion any more.  It stopped being fun and started being work.

So where’s the balance?  More than that, what’s on the scales?  Is it work vs. play (as I’ve discussed before)?  Is it writing for yourself vs. writing for others?  I know that some writers can make that distinction – how did they get themselves to be able to do that?  Is it fitting into a formula vs. doing what you love and trusting that the money will follow?

Does anyone have the answer?  Is there an answer?  Is there more than one answer? 

Anybody?  Anybody?  Bueller?  Anybody?

I’ve been putting off writing this post — just kidding.

How many of us are lifelong procrastinators?  It starts with delaying brushing your teeth when you’re five, progresses to waiting until the hour before it’s due to type your term paper, matures to waiting until the last possible day to pay your bills, and concludes with the ultimate procrastinatory act — hanging onto a last thread of life when you should have died weeks ago.

I am guilty.  Yes, I am.  Have I passed this gene onto my daughter, or is it just something that comes naturally to her?  Or just something that comes naturally to teenagers, as a way of expressing their independence?

She has become a “just a sec” person.  You ask her to do something and it’s “hold on”, “just a sec” or “in a minute”.  What to do with this behavior?  Yelling seems pointless.  Punishment doesn’t work.  I am on the fence about it because I KNOW it’s one of the few ways she has to express that she guides her own life at this age.  And because I spent so many years not saying “how high?” when my ex said “jump.”

She had a project due today.  She’d had it for a month – read a book, do something creative to show the content, and answer eight questions.  She started one book, and switched to a different one midstream – I can understand that – it happens.  Especially when the first book is “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  But I told her last week that I did not want her finishing this at midnight on Tuesday night.  She’s had plenty of time.  So what did she do?  She finished it at 11:00 last night.  Perhaps I was not specific enough?

I told her yesterday that for the next project, things were going to be different.  I don’ t know HOW things are going to be different, just that I need to do something to try to drill some conscientious homework discipline into her.

And then I ask myself why I feel the need to be drill-sargeant in this area.  Do I have any right to, since I was the one who stayed up all night typing term papers until the ten-minute mark to class?  Am I trying to keep her from the discomfort of my own experience?  Am I trying to help her succeed?  She’s had straight A’s for years.  And some people do their best work under pressure – I’m one of them (at times) – perhaps she is as well.

I’m not a control freak Mom – in fact, I’m about the farthest thing from it.  I’ve got more of the hippie approach – live and let live, make your own mistakes, etc.  And I don’ t really feel that putting me off with “just a sec” is disrespectful (although her dad does.)  Maybe it’s that I want her to understand that some things, like your work, deserve a certain level of importance and attention.  She’ll find other things in life that do too, things that should not be treated with the same cavalier attitude, the attitude which implies that something else matters more than the task that duty requires.  Being a bit verbose, aren’t I?  I guess I’m trying to work this out in my own head. 

It may tie to my pet peeve of taking responsibility for your own actions, your own things.  It may be one of those lessons she’ll have to learn on her own when it backfires on her and she DOESN’T get the grades she so prides herself on.  Either way, I suppose I need to let her own the problem (as my buddy says), but that’s not what Moms do – though maybe it’s what they need to do. 

I was going to say that I trust that she’ll figure out what’s most important, and I was thinking that means work and duty and conforming to the requirements of society and adulthood.  Huh.  To that, I say “Bah!” and perhaps “Pah!”.  She’s already got her priorities straight.  Do your best, love the people around you, make time for nature and friends and follow your own star.  Isn’t that exactly what I’m fighting to do now that I am breaking out of the corporate coffin?  And isn’t that what we want our kids to do?  I don’t want her to be CEO of Nestle (though that would imply all the chocolate I want).  I just want her to be happy and independent and comfortable in every sense of the word.  I want her to be able to toss her hat up in the air, having made it on her own.

Just the things I have been procrastinating about for the last fifteen years.  Go figure.

Today’s guest poet – me.

Pretty Crones

They sway in a towering, tittering circle,
Their bitter souls and cold hearts naked
To anyone with untainted eyes.

Leeches,
They suck the life from you
But don’t respect you enough to swallow.

It doesn’t suit their purpose.

Sponges,
Their hollow softness soaks up
Everything you can give
and demands more.

Leaving you parched and skinned.

That pound of flesh that they extract
Is never exact
And so they return
Again
And again
Gnawing on your bones.

They gouge out the marrow
And cackle for more.

Remove the long locks,
soft skin and sinew underneath
and you will see the harridans within.

That’s the little sign on the corner of my computer monitor.  The little sign at the top of the computer monitor says “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.”  Both are pretty apt for me these days.

I am getting ready to leave my job – well, more accurately, my job is leaving me – on Friday.  I’ve been coming here off and on for almost nine years to the day.  That’s a long time.  It will be strange not to drive up, walk through the doors, settle at my desk.  Fortunately, at least in my head, the company is moving everyone into our “back-up” building, into a completely different environment/layout/set-up, so I comfort myself by thinking that it would be very different anyway.  Had I stayed, I might have switched to full-time work-at-home – which I’m going to do anyway with my own business.

But what I will really miss (aside from the steady paycheck) is the support system.  I’ve known the women I work with for a long time:

Kathy: 9 years – she heard my sorrow over losing my Mom daily; I’ve helped her through dating, marriage and two kids, and we’ve been each other’s moral support through some hellacious work schedules for the past 7 months
Kathy: 9 years – she was first my boss, and then she became my friend; she helped me move out when I left Pat
Denise: 5 years – very much like a sister to me
Kris: 20 years – we’ve been together at two companies and through the deaths of my parents and her dad
Debbie: 4 years – we compare notes about our kids
Colleen: 4 years – we’re talking about painting houses together in the summer
Christine: 5 year – we’ve always wanted to go out together, but we agree that might be dangerous – a big support for me during times of transition

With all of these women, I have shared tears, laughter, dreams, and rants.  At times, they were the only positive thing about coming to work.  While I know that I don’t need to let the relationships go, I’ve never been good at maintaining relationships, and the dynamic changes once you’re “out” when they’re still “in.”  I want to change my old pattern of letting people go, and try to keep these women in my life.

I know that some of them are closely following my plan for working independently, and wishing they could pursue their own dreams.  They’re watching to see how I do.  After all, if I can do it, they can do it.

So I owe it to them, as well as to myself, to be fearless.

Today is the birthday of the sewing machine, the telephone book and the Communist Manifesto. 

If you’re of a certain age, your mother probably had a sewing machine.  Mine did, and she made many of my clothes when I was small, as well as most of the clothes that my Barbie Dolls wore.  (As an aside, did you know there was actually a short-lived Trailer Trash Barbie?  I kid you not.  Someday, I’ll do a Barbie post.)

I actually did learn to use one – in high school, I created almost the entire wardrobe for the cast of one of the school plays.  That wound up being a very bittersweet experience for me, as I was somehow the only one of the crew who received NO recognition.  It pissed me off and embittered me towards sewing.  When I moved away, my Mom bought me a machine, but I could never get the hang of it.  I think it is still in Pat’s shed.  That’s sad because I enjoyed creating things.  Maybe someday, I’ll try again. I’m the only person I know with PTSD around sewing machines.  But then, I’m the only person I know with a fear of yeast.

Who can forget Steve Martin’s portrayal of “a poor black child” in “The Jerk”, yelling “The new phone book’s here!  The new phone book’s here!”?  On this day in 1878, the first phone book was published – it was one page and contained 50 listings for New Haven, Connecticut.  Just think, now we go to a lot of trouble to be sure no one can find our phone number unless we give it to them, yet at the same time, we are constantly connected to millions of strangers via social medium.  Ironic, isn’t it?

The Communist Manifesto was published today in 1848 by Karl Marx and Fredric Engels.  I’m not going to get into the details – you can find them elsewhere – but suffice it to say that pure Marxism promoted a classless society (in terms of segregated classes of people, not couthness), which, if it were somehow possible to abolish man’s natural tendency towards greed, might be the way to go, as it actually promotes democratic thinking. 

However, in Communist countries, the theory has been degraded and has resulted in the authoritarian, Big Brother types of societies that democracies find so objectionable.  (As I type this, “Dr. Zhivago” is beginning on TCM – one of my mother’s favorite movies, and one that demonstrates, with debatable accuracy, some of the tenets of communist society.)

It’s English poet W.H. Auden’s birthday.

In his honor, here’s one of his most beautiful and sorrowful works.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

And it’s the birthday of actor Alan Rickman, a.k.a. Snape from the Harry Potter movies – the character we love to hate. 

He actually has an extremely solid body of work, dating from 1978, even though most of his roles were rather villainous.  The Guardian named him as one of the finest actors never to have received an Academy Award.  He’s 64 and he looks very good for his age.

Today, we mourn the following individuals who have passed on:

Dutch philosopher Spinoza, best known for propagating the theory that God and Nature are just two names for the same thing.  I agree.

Dame Margot Fonteyn, prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet and partner extraordinaire of Rudolph Nureyev,

and Sunny Lowry, the first British woman to swim the English Channel.  At age 22, it took her 15 hours and 41 minutes, and society branded her a harlot for daring to wear a two-piece bathing suit that exposed her knees.  Talk about not having your priorities straight.

Lastly, it’s the day that the Carolina Parakeet, the only parrot native to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, passed into extinction in 1918.  May the beautiful little thing rest in peace.

Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

My poor Kelsea has been sick for a week.  And even though I haven’t been around her, other than a few hugs and a trip to the doctor’s office for a well visit, I think I am too.

It’s cold and gray (white actually – the snow is the same color as the sky.)

Just all ick.

On this day in 1847, the first group of rescuers reached the Donner Party.

Heavens, what a horrible trip these poor people had.  As you may know, the Donner Party is famous for having had to resort to cannibalism to survive when their overland journey from Illinois to California was stalled by deep snow in the Sierra Nevadas.  To me, one of the most unfortunate parts of this tale of woe is that, when the first rescue party arrived, while 14 of the emigrants had died, there had been no cannibalism.  However, in the week-long interval between the arrival of the first and the second relief parties, the survivors had begun to eat their dead.  Desperate times, desperate measures.  It’s not impossible to imagine. 

Today is the day that 30,000 United States Marines (boo-rah!) landed on Iwo Jima in 1945.  The image of the American Flag being raised by six soldiers was taken on the 5th day of the 35-day long battle by photographer Joe Rosenthal, and was the first photo to win a Pulitzer prize in the same year it was published.  Three of the six men in the photograph were killed in action during the conflict, which was ultimately a victory for the Allied Forces.

It’s the birthday of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, born in 1876.   Bohemian, with a rare ability to capture essence rather than appearance, Brancusi was a shepherd-turned-sculptor who excelled in carvings in wood, stone and bronze. 

He also made most of his own furniture and doorways, so he was clearly handy to have around the home.  A spiritual man, he nevertheless had a strong appreciation for wine, women and smokes. In the last 19 years of his career, Brancusi only made 15 sculptures, and in an interview towards the end of his life, was said to have been puttering around his studio, “communing with the silent host of fish, birds, heads and endless columns he’d created.” 

He’s known for having created the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction ($37.2 million).  Sorry to be a modern art ignoramus, but I have to ask why this piece sold for that much.

Brancusi’s grave is in Montparnasse in Paris, which ironically has several sculptures that he crafted as gravestones for others.  His grave is remarkably unadorned, and for a reason that I can’t identify, he appears to have been buried with abstract husband-and-wife painters Alexandre Istrati and Natalia Dumitresco.

Today is British actress Merle Oberon’s birthday (1911-1979).  Beautiful yes, but honestly, I never thought much of her acting skills.  She’s always seemed so wooden and as if she were overacting.  She was the mixed race child of a British subject and a Ceylonese/Maori Eurasian woman, though it is unclear if her mother was actually her mother or, in reality, her grandmother.  After a car crash in 1937 resulted in severe facial trauma, she was somewhat obsessed with film and lighting techniques that would minimize the appearance of her scars onscreen.  She died from a stroke at the age of 68 and is now a resident of the famous Forest Lawn Cemetary.  (I had a friend who urinated on graves there by accident once in the dark.)

Today in 1963, Betty Friedan’s groundbreaking feminist book “The Feminine Mystique” was published.

I waited on Betty Friedan back in 1981 when I worked at a clothing store in Harvard Square called Serendipity.  I recall sneaking peeks at her as I ran her credit card through the machine.  I have to say, and I truly, truly, mean no disrespect by saying this, that she was one of the ugliest women that I have ever seen.  Though I did compliment her on her book.  Even though I never read it. 

It’s Chocolate Mint Day.  If you’ve never grown it in your garden, I’d encourage you to do so.  It really does smell just like chocolate when you rub its little leaves.

And lastly, it’s the 12th anniversary of the death of Grandpa Jones.  Known as Grandpa due to his extreme grumpiness when he arrived for early-morning radio shows, he was a remarkable clawhammer banjo player and a longtime cast member of “Hee Haw”, which will, no doubt, only be familiar to Southerners of a certain age.

When I was 15, I was forced to participate in a “talent” show at Theosophy Camp in Hot Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, where I was staying with my grandmother one summer, and the skit in which I had to perform was a recreation of the singing washboard women from Hee-Haw.  Oh, dear.  I’ll leave the whole damn thing to your imagination.

Thus endeth the history lesson.  Hope you feel slightly enlightened.

It’s not as if cows hibernate.  But today is a day for a short cow write.  (Not a write about short cows, but a short write about cows.) 

Why?  A few reasons.

Today is the anniversary of the first and only cow being milked in flight.  Yes, 80 years ago today, Elm Farm Ollie, aka Nellie Jay aka Sky Queen, a docile half-ton Guernsey from Sunnymede Farms in Bismarck, Missouri, boarded a Ford Tri-Motor Airplane for the 72 mile flight to the International Air Festival in St. Louis. 

 

Nellie was an exceptionally productive milk cow, and couldn’t wait until she landed, so she produced 24 quarts of milk en route, which was then dropped to the ground in small paper containers attached to mini-parachutes.  Elsworth W. Bunce had the honor of milking the bovine aviatrix.  It is rumored that some of the milk was served to Charles Lindbergh at the festival. 

The anniversary of this historic event is celebrated annually in the small Wisconsin town of Mount Horeb at their Mustard Museum.  Nellie Jay also has had an opera written about her exploits, called Madam Butterfat.

So, that’s one reason.

BUT….

The second reason is even more important to me!  And it is this….

Calving season has begun!!!

Yes, perhaps it’s a little early, and no, I don’t own a cow, or a calf for that matter.  (Though I always said that if I ever had another baby (not going to happen) that I’d like for it to be born during calving season.)

When driving Highway 36 into Boulder, you pass by some open space that is still reserved for ranching.  Every winter, the farmers who graze their cattle in these wide, expansive fields move the herds elsewhere.  In the spring, when it’s calving time, they move them back, a few cows at a time.

Yesterday, I discovered that the first prodigal cows have returned, and with them are their itty-bitty calves.  They look like little spots on the grey-green grass, but soon there will be dozens of them, romping, kicking up their little calf heels and dozing in the bovine nurseries.  And THAT’S how you know that spring is really coming.

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