Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Goldfinch

I started reading listening to The Goldfinch today. There will be very few spoilers, if any, because I just started reading listening to it today.

In the beginning, Theo tells of how his life is marked by his mother's death - life before she died, and life after she died. I think for anyone who has lost someone they love, someone who has always been a part of your life, an important part of your life, feels this way. He says that no one ever made him feel loved like his mother did. How she made the normal seem special. He states that she uses a Mary Poppins voice. He states that she was beautiful too. When he remembers her, he remembers what she had on that day and that is how he always pictures her, in those clothes.

In March, it will be two years since my mother died. The first three months following her death, I sobbed. I sobbed as I gardened. Doug would walk up to me with his arms outstretched saying "Oh, honey." I would wave him away. I needed to sob. I would sob at work - sitting before my two monitors, sniffing and staring straight ahead, blowing my nose. At the end of the day I would thank my colleagues for not making a fuss, not noticing that I sobbed all day. I couldn't really stop. Then her birthday rolled around and I hiked for her at a local state park. This is what I am going to do in her memory on her birthday as long as I am physically able. I went to my daughter's house for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I needed to be with her and her family and to be with people who love me. When someone I normally communicate with said I didn't get in touch that first year, I was shocked. I suppose it was true. The first year I muddled through. This second year has been easier.
I still miss her terribly, I think about her often, she is with me all the time. I see her in my face when I look into the mirror. I look just like her and when people tell me so, it is such a compliment. Like Theo, I always thought my mother was beautiful.

My mother was, for most of her life, very heavy. This led to a lot of the end of life problems she experienced - heart damage, joint issues, knee replacements. In the end, she walked with a walker with a swagger, moving side to side. Despite my mother's weight, I always thought she was beautiful. Oh, I hated it when she frosted her hair when that was popular and when she let the girls at the beauty school work on her, but to me, she was beautiful.
Like Theo, no one ever loved me as much as my mother. She was always there to listen to me. She would pet me over the phone when I would call her to complain of being ill. When I shut my finger in the trunk, I ran to her house so she could take care of it for me.

For most of my growing-up years, my family was very poor. My mother was a cafeteria worker in our school so that she could be off with us when we had school breaks. My dad was an insurance man for whom success came late in his career, coinciding with when all three of us left the house. Like Theo's mother, my mother made the ordinary feel oh so special. When I was very young, my dad worked in a factory. He must have worked the afternoon shift, because in the evenings, it was just mother and us kids. Mother would poor a little Dixie cup of pop or kool-aid for us and serve popcorn in Melmac bowls. She would play albums of classical music on the record player for us - Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Porgy and Bess. I loved those nights and from those nights with the record player began my love of music.

Mother wasn't a great cook, but on our birthdays, we could choose what we wanted to eat. There was one thing she made well and that is what I always requested - spaghetti. Her sauce would simmer on the stove all day long. Often when we went camping as a family, she would cook the sauce over the campfire and everyone camping around us would all talk about how delicious it smelled. She would make a home baked cake and while she cleaned up the kitchen, my dad would put the three of us in the car and we would drive to a drugstore called Hooks, (which is CVS these days,) and he would allow us to pick the ice-cream we wanted to eat.

Just as Theo states his mother used a Mary Poppins voice, I always called my mother Pollyanna. She was usually positive, no matter what - a trait she learned from her Grandma. Often I thought she was naive or unrealistic. At Christmas, no matter what was going on in our lives, it was supposed to be wonderful. I am mostly positive and get this from my mother's example.
Now when I think of her, I think of talks we had or how many times we told each other we loved each other - especially in the end, in the hospital. It was all we needed to say. Now, I mull over conversations, savoring every word. I recall disagreements we had and now that I don't have her any longer, I regret some of my negative behavior and bad attitude and smart mouth retorts, but this was in the years I was a teenager. I know now she was just trying to raise me up the best she could.

I'm fortunate that while doing my job I can listen to podcasts or books. I have a degree in English and used to be quite the snob about how the actual reading of a book was superior to listening to a book. I'm glad I got over this.

I've just started reading listening to this book and thus far, I like it. Today, it made me think of and remember my mother which is always good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Not this time.

As a girl, growing up in the 60's and 70's, I read this every day - sometimes several times a day. My dad taped this reminder on the bathroom cabinet. I hated reading it, but I always did. And, it stuck with me. I've already had skin cancer, myself. I had the Mohs procedure, and they got it, but it wasn't pleasant at all.

We were goofing off in the kitchen when I saw it. I'm certain it was because I said something derogatory like "you dumb ass." He hung his head - you know, chin to chest and I saw it. Across the room, it was very visible. I freaked and gasped saying "you have GOT to go to the doctor tomorrow." The spot was black. A small mole and two nickel sized circles with irregular edges. He is 6'1". I am 5'2". It isn't often that I see the top of his head. And who sees the top of their own head? What we couldn't figure out was that in the past few months, two different people cut his hair - his regular guy and a woman he had never seen. Neither had noticed or if they did, they didn't comment.

He got in to a doctor in two days time. The doctor referred him to a surgeon. Because he doesn't always get the facts straight and has always had memory issues, I went along. Plus, it is always good to have someone with you at such a scary time. We were called back and the surgeon told us he was going to remove it all and have it biopsied. In a short time, the black was gone, replaced by a nasty looking divot criss-crossed with a number of stitches. I commented "you have a divot in your head."

I also documented the situation, taking photos with my iPhone. I took photos before the surgery, the day of the surgery and following the surgery. "Why are we doing this?" he questioned. "Documentation." I answered. "Before, during and after." "Just don't put them on facebook" was his retort.

We waited for eight days. It was horrible. My mother has now been gone for sixteen months and all of those feelings returned. In my family, I have always been the strong one. That was/is my role. During my mother's illness and subsequent death, I had to be strong for her. I had to be there for my dad and be strong for him. As he grew more and more exhausted, I took as much responsibility as I could off of him. In the end, I was the contact person with the hospital and the one who received The Call. Sixteen months later, I like to think I'm in a better place but it all came rushing back to me.

I had to be the strong one for Doug. I worried and fussed and babied. My mind went to the darkest places - imagining inoperable tumors, illness, weight loss, even death. How would I deal with it all if that was to be? How would I have the strength? He walked through my skin cancer and surgery with me and I would do the same with him.  I told him no matter what, we would deal with it. We would do what we had to do.

They told us the biopsy results would be back 8-10 days. We went to have the stitches removed at eight days. We had no idea if they had the results or not. As the surgeon snipped stitches and pulled them out, carrying each one to the trash can before dropping it, he casually commented as if someone talking about the weather, "well, the biopsy came back completely benign." I felt my chest crumple. I leaned forward and felt it all go out of me in a rush. I almost cried. I definitely teared up. It was over.

Doug asked the surgeon if we had been too cautious. The surgeon smiled and said "well, at least you don't have to think or worry about it." I told Doug afterward that if he gets another black spot, I'll march his butt back over there and we will have it cut out, too.

We are as opposite as can be. But, somehow, it works. I'm one of those difficult women and he takes me in stride. Not too much ruffles this man. There are times he makes me insane and I get so mad I want to strangle him. But, I told him, "when faced with the thought of losing you, I decided I like having you around." We celebrated ten years this year and God willing, it looks like we'll have a few more.

Don't ignore the warning signs.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another reason to love Kelley Rae Roberts

Do you love Kelley Rae Roberts? Oh, my goodness. I do. She is such an inspirational person.

I just listened to the first two podcasts in this series. I encourage you to find her website and tune in.

I so relate to so many things that are discussed in these two podcasts. The first podcast, Kelley Rae talks about her journey to art. And, it caused me to think about my own journey into art.

Around eight years ago, about the time I moved to Bloomington, a friend of mine started to encourage me to create. Little did I know, I was already a collage artist - I just didn't realize it. My friend, Carol Trimmer, from Muncie, IN, makes beautiful cards. Ever little bit, she would give me a card and I would exclaim every time "oh, I wish I could make cards like this!" And every time, Carol would say the same response, which was "you can." So, little by little, I started to buy paper. And look at art and books about art and creativity. Kelley Rae's book, Taking Flight, was one of the first books that inspired me. She listed what you need to create and I ran out and bought it all. This led me to a shop in Nashville, IN, Papertrix. This led to my love and use of wooden stamps. I had no knowledge of how to stamp and the owner's husband, Wayne, sat down with me and taught me how to stamp and use some special inks and pens. In time, I would work at Papertrix and demo and teach others how to use stamps and inks and pens and all sorts of products. Oh, the encouragement the owner, Cindy, gave to me and everyone who entered her shop.

My first experience with collage was in high school. My mother allowed me to cover one wall with cork and it was an ever changing collage of photos, pictures and quotes clipped from magazines and news items. After my divorce, the inside door of my closet was my world, man-bashing cartoons, anything that made me smile during a tough time in my life. I also covered the entire side of our refrigerator with expressions de moi. I remember explaining to my son how anyone could look at the side of the refrigerator and learn a lot about who I was.

Once I started making cards, and canvas pieces, I was off and running. The dining room is the one room we have not tackled since I've moved in. We have not done one thing to it and it is in dire need of help. But it has become my art room. The table is my table. There is a bench behind the table with a lot of art materials, other carts and drawers hold additional materials. Now, I have taken up sewing - so my sewing table is there. Someone recently visited my home and asked her daughter, "is Cheryl an artist? What is all of that stuff." Her daughter's reply was "I thinks she makes cards."

I remember my son commenting "do you have to put your mark on everything? I was making cards and tags and I went to a party and the hostess had decorated her wine glasses with different color beads - I raced home and did the same. As a matter of fact, I do need to put my mark on everything.

Part of my artful journey has been others giving me permission to be more artful and me giving myself permission to be more artful. Learning from the example of others such as Kelley Rae Roberts.  As Kelley Rae has grown as an artist, she has encouraged others to grow as well.

I now pen a column in a magazine out of my home town. The name of my column is "Her Artful Heart." I have learned to see art all around me and the possibility of art. Today as I listened to Kelley Rae speak of possibiltarians, I realized, I have become one myself.

Here is a link to her podcasts. Tune in and tell me what you think. I want to listen all over again! Thank you, Kelley Rae!