Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Movie Night

Dennis Cinema Photo courtesy of the Cape Cod Times

I met up with my long-time friend, Cindy, at the movie theater last night.  We're each other's default date for those films we know our spouses might not enjoy.  No, not "chick flicks".  Please.  We are so far beyond that and quite honestly, I would rather be locked in a room with a Judy Collins CD than be sitting in a room watching a Jennifer Aniston film.  Call me a snob, but I don't "do" first run movies unless I absolutely must.  If for no other reason, having to sit through  those trailers for the trashy films that will be arriving at that "theater near me" in too-short a time makes me crazy.  I "do" movies at a small art house, built in 1930. It is the home of an amazing 6,400 square foot mural, painted by Rockwell Kent, which graces the vaulted ceiling in a lavish display of comets, constellations and galaxies.  Looking up, one sees a modernistic concept of the heavens in blues, golds and oranges, grand in color and beauty.

The mural, the only one done by Rockwell Kent, is the largest of its kind in this country. It shows, among the constellations and other ethereal depictions, pairs of embracing lovers and free-flying individuals who seem to float through the atmosphere, hinting at a carefree lifestyle.  So, what does the mural, covering the ceiling of a movie house that was built in 1930 have to do with last night's film?  Hang on, there is a correlation coming......

The film, "Gloria", is a story set in Santiago. The story is centered on a sixty-something character named Gloria (who by the way, is in every scene, and there are lots of individual scenes in this film).  Gloria has been divorced for more than ten years and lives alone in an apartment beneath a young drug addict who has violent fights every night with whom, we never find out.  Is it the ugly, hairless cat that Gloria finds in her apartment every day when she returns from work?  How that cat gets into her home remains a mystery and why it shares so many of those scenes with Gloria, yet another.  But back to Gloria, the "free-spirited" woman who returns from a day at the office and heads out to an evening of clubbing, all by herself.  She never remains alone. She's attractive and, remember, she's "free-spirited" so she dances, drinks and makes small talk.  Eventually, she attracts another "older" and as we find out later, not-so-much, free spirited, gentleman and they fall in love or, as the graphic nude scenes (Gloria is in all of them) suggest, this could be "lust".  Long, long story (with Gloria in every scene) later, we find the romance over for nonsensical reasons, Gloria lying naked on her bed alongside the cat that she hated earlier on, and Gloria firing paint balls at her former lust-mate.  As the film closes, we find Gloria (in yet one more scene) dancing with wild abandon, at the wedding of someone we met earlier in the film but didn't know she and he were getting married.  Huh?  I don't have to say here that Gloria is dancing, very spirited and carefree, to the song "Gloria", do I? She never stopped smiling, except for the many times we saw her putting drops into her eyes.

Cindy and I looked at each other as the movie ended.  We laughed out loud as people (there weren't many) left the theater and we were joined by another pair of gal-pal movie goers two rows behind us.  We all started to laugh, questioned each other about what we had just sat through, and laughed some more.  At this point, I suggested that we needed a support group and one of the other women quickly came back with "no, I think we need a survivor's group!"  We did not like the film.  Obviously.  Did we miss something?  We're not stupid, we did not fall asleep, so I doubt it.  It just might not have been there.  Or, where we looking for more, something that wasn't going to happen, there or anywhere.

Maybe we were under the influence of the Rockwell Kent mural, studying those free-flying, carefree individuals who were housed in that old bastion of a movie theater.  Were we, and the ladies behind us, looking at Gloria and somehow thinking that life can really be carefree, that there are no real consequences to having fun and throwing it all to the wind in our "middle ages"?  Were we thinking that we are missing something by not dancing every night?  Are we unhappy, or was she, really? Perhaps that is why we all came away confused. We probably should have chosen the Lego Movie at the first run theater instead.

P.S. I don't think Gloria was all that happy.......

Friday, February 21, 2014

In the Shower

Bathroom shower

I phoned my daughter earlier this week. She's been suffering the perils of this cold and snow-filled winter and is ready to grab husband and children for a permanent exit from the Northeast. Normally, this would make me incredibly sad but my husband and I have also had it with this and the search has begun for our own future.  Sara asked if she might call me back in a little while.  She was about to take a shower because she was so cold.  I totally understood and as I stood in my own hot shower this morning, I thought back to that part of our conversation and wondered if she were even a bigger chip off the old block than her outward appearance reveals.

You see, I love my time in the shower.  I actually wish I could stay there all day with the warm water running over my body. I do my best thinking and planning under the spray. The shower is my favorite place in the house, in a hotel, or even in a hospital. A soothing memory comes to mind when I think of the first one I took after the birth of my son.  I can almost see myself standing there and wonder if I did not want to exit, knowing that my world had changed forever and I was scared to face what awaited me.  At home, during my early days as a new mother, my joy overshadowed by the postpartum "blues", the shower became my house of worship, my safe place, where I cried like a baby, allowing the stream of water to wash tears away as I let my emotions drain out of my body.  Sure, my eyes were reddened, that's what the water does, no further explanation was necessary.  It also hides the sounds of sobs.  Time in the shower allowed me to be counted among those who graced through this with the perfection that was in reality totally lacking.

It may come as no surprise that I also love soap. Like the kiss I can't resist, soap is at the top of my list of the best things in life.  I love the smell, the feel, the shape and I love receiving it as a gift.  I'm easily pleased.
I'd rather receive a beautiful bar of good soap than a piece of jewelry.  Lavender fragrance, verbena, ocean scents and my very favorite, Crabtree and Evelyn's Jojoba Oil cakes, shaped like perfect scallop shells.....Heavenly gifts.  There's a true story that I have tucked away in another writing collection, one that I don't tell everyone, but it probably accounts for this odd soap-worship.  Its a story about a little girl, a school nurse and a lifetime of anguish and I can still remember that woman's face, almost sixty years later.

My nursing career (yes, there probably is something about this choice in the above paragraph but this is not the time or place...) was a unique one.  I worked for a very short time in a traditional setting and spent my time as a childbirth educator (told many a new mamma to cry it out in the shower) and then, as an employee health nurse.  I've worked in the auto industry as a plant nurse.  I have practically no love for cars and wish I never had to own one.  I've worked in the communications industry as a nurse at a phone manufacture and repair site.  I do not like talking on the phone at home or anywhere else and won't even consider owning a "smart phone".  But, my biggest career move, the one I was most proud of and the one from which I eventually retired, was as the Occupational Health Specialist for the Colgate Palmolive Company in New York City.  Wonder of wonders, a very good job with one of the world's biggest producers of all-things- soap.  My office was located just steps away from the Company Store and the aroma, well it surpassed that of the cafeteria which was steps away also, in the opposite direction.  Soap powders, bars of soap, pump-dispensed, squeeze-bottled, they were all there, neatly arranged on shelves that I swear were magnetized, pulling me closer and closer.  Dirt cheap prices for what the consumer might have called luxury.  Brand names, not store brands.  Dirt cheap for soap.  Gotta love it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thank Heaven for Grown Up Girls

In the past two years, I've had lots of melt-downs, all associated with elder care issues.  Those are the things you read about, always wondering in the back of your own mind if you are going to be one of the less fortunate.  Of course, during the years that they are living among us, they swear, swear, double swear, that they are NOT going to be any trouble, whatsoever.  They, those dear parent-people, tell us over and over again about how they will not succumb to that kind of behavior and that they will remain independent and on their own until the day they die.  Strong, free, independent  home-owners who won't set foot in a senior center or consider for one tiny moment, the possibility that one day, down the road, they might find life in an assisted living complex appealing.  No, these people haven't any need for planning for their futures.  They are going to remain forever as they were on the day of their retirement.  Don't talk about the "future" kids, because you haven't any need to give it a second thought.  We're living forever and we're not going to become a burden. "Why we won't even tell you where the wills are because we aren't going to die"

And then, one day, it all falls apart at the seams and the reality continues to get brushed aside.  And they're old, much older than their parents ever were, much older than they could have envisioned themselves and they thank God for their health and they think they still have their wits about them and they fight,oh so hard, to prove it to what has become a limited audience.  They've outlived their friends, their spouses, most of their relatives, even some of their children and they still think they are fortunate and they still have just as much control over their children, now themselves elders, as they had on the day those children were born. And there's always the one child, the one who has the whole nut in the shell.  Siblings, they disappear, take vacations, tell you to do same and recommend therapy as a way to assuage your "guilt" that they don't "allow" themselves to have.

And so, the phone rings and the children only hear how negligent they are and how silly their dreams are and realize how alone they are in the caring for Dad or Mom.  The children don't hear many words of gratitude or many new ideas and they repeat and repeat and repeat every word that falls upon deaf ears and gets lost in the ruts of the dementing brains. And they shout to be heard, above the loud T.V. on the other end.  And they shout, to be heard because hearing aids, as we all know, never work right or is it that they cost so much?

And the adult children call, every day, to check up, cheer up and assuage their own guilt.  The guilt that gets thicker with each phone call, each visit to a sad and tightly closed home of a parent who swore that things would be different and continue to swear that everything is fine and there is no need to change one.single.thing.

This has been a long and difficult winter.  Most days have been filled with cold air and grey skies and the threat of snow, sleet or ice has cancelled or postponed many a diversion.  I watch the pond freeze, the ice growing thicker every day.  I watch the birds and the squirrels as they scamper around, their presence so much easier to detect as their bodies contrast with the white snow that has covered the ground for the longest time.  I envy them their freedom and their detachment from their parents, their total lack of responsibility and caring for anything other than themselves in only a few short weeks following the birth of their young.  Nests are built, babies born, and the flying away or the scampering through the woods begins. It seems to be a lovely pattern and I rue the day I was born a human rather than a blue jay or a cardinal.

Yesterday, I had one of those mornings after a visit with my father who has a "cold" and relentlessly expressed how he did not feel well, inviting me to stay a while, to not be in such a hurry, so that I could sit and listen to his child-like chorus of "ohhhhh, I have a cooooold", over and over and over.  With each incantation, I remembered how much my mother dreaded his getting sick because of this habit he has of moaning and groaning as if he were the one dying, and it made me angry, an anger that surpassed my need to be compassionate, as I thought of her, sitting in the same chair, bearing pain and indignity beyond words, without murmuring as much as one.  And from there, my thoughts flew to the words that I had heard from both of them, many times during their lives, words that have made today so very hard to bear......"You don't have to worry about us, we will not be a burden to our children...."  My anger became so evident as I became the victim once again.  I could not answer the question put to me.  "Why are you so angry and why are you in such a hurry?"  I could not and did not.

Instead, I had a standing date with four of my friends and I kept it.  I had a question of my own to put out to that group and did so as soon as I arrived because I was about to burst.....and did.  "Does anyone know where someone can go to get some counseling for what I am going through?"  And the answer, it came in unison, they did not skip one beat, those lovely women.

"Yes, it is here. Sit down"

To Lois, Pam, Joy and Ruth, my heartfelt thanks.  Hugs, kisses and prayers of thanksgiving for a gift that I knew I had but until I opened it, never knew how beautiful it was going to look on my life.  Bless you all.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Clean House

When I was growing up, my mother instilled in me the idea that it was necessary to always, always have your home clean and free of clutter.  Messiness was, as she described it, "a sign of a troubled mind".  So, we were taught to not make messes, and if we lapsed, to clean up immediately.  Her fear of having someone walk in to our home any minute of any day, was overwhelming and it became the operating principal for how we would live our lives.

My mother was a business woman, long before that was fashionable.  In fact, it was kind of odd to have a mother who went to work outside the home, full-time.  She held important positions and she enjoyed her life as a working woman.  Sure, there were things that I missed out on, but I must admit, there were also a lot of entries in the plus-column.  I was given huge amounts of trust and independence from an early age. Also,  I was afforded opportunities, courtesy of a second-income and we had some very nice vacations as a family.  I won't use this time to list the negative side of having a working mom but will say that there were a few and not least of all was the call to duty every Saturday when our house needed cleaning.

Mom did it all.  As I look back, I realize how incredible that was.  The microwave oven had not yet been invented.  We were lucky that we had T.V. and incredibly fortunate in that we had a washer, dryer and dishwasher.  Modernity had not yet come along and released my working mother from her duties.  She came home from a full day at the workplace and began her full time job as a wife, mother and homemaker.  We had full, home prepared meals every night.  Our clothes were washed, dried and ironed and in addition to all of our basic needs having been met, we also had entertainment, cultural excursions and lots of quality time with family and friends.  I cannot say that I recall ever hearing her complain about how difficult this all was to pull of or how tired she was at the end of the day.  She did what today's young mother would find impossible and I only regret that I did not fully give her the credit that she was due during her lifetime.

Getting back to the messy stuff that we were not allowed.  When it became my turn to maintain a home, I naturally followed in Mother's footsteps.  Oh, how I worried about the un-announced arrival of a visitor at our front door.  I prided myself on my own abilities to keep a clean and orderly home at the same time, making baby foods from scratch.  At the end of the day, toys were picked up and every vestige of the life that went on that day, vanished from sight.  Of course, I was exhausted at the end of the day and I did complain.....constantly.

But those days are as far gone as the Thursday evening late-openings of departments stores.  I'm a grandmother now.  I've learned a great number of things in my life so far but I know that there are so many more things that I still have to learn.  Life skills that have thus far eluded me.  I realize now that it is highly unlikely that there will be a knock on the door and that the only guests will be those who have been invited after mutual calendars were carefully reviewed and dates set, sometimes weeks in advance.  Life, after all, has changed very, very much.  Perhaps my mother was correct in her thinking.  Neighbors were more neighborly in her days as a young mother.  People actually did make spontaneous invitations after running into friends or neighbors out and about. "Come on over for cake and coffee when you're done here".  Mom thought nothing of it.  The invitee usually accepted the invitation, stopped by the bakery for a coffee cake, and came right on over.  Laughter and warmth are the things I best recall about these informal and unplanned gatherings.  The aroma of coffee and the cinnamon coffee cakes will forever remain in my memory.  Once in a while, a guest would bring Italian pastries, enough for the Italian Army!

And, the house was always ready for company.  Always.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Meet My Friend Laurie

Um, she's an AMAZING writing teacher.  I am so blessed.  I have had some great teachers and I am still in a great writing class with another AMAZING teacher named June Calendar.

June teaches me to pay attention, to write with my whole brain or what's left of it and Laurie, well, she's the one who teaches me to write the stuff you probably will never see.

So, without further ado........here's Laurie!!!

Wild Writing Into the Journey of Our Lives
Laurie Marks Wagner is a published writer, artist, and creativity coach who has been making things with her imagination, her hands and her heart for many years.
Raising children, writing books and stories, and working with thousands of writers over the years has nurtured her sense of herself as an artist and a teacher, and has helped her to understand what she cares about on the page and off.  
Besides coaching artists and writers on their projects, Laurie teaches all sorts of creative nonfiction classes online at writers.com, as well as Wild Writing classes at her home in Alameda, California.
Laurie also hosts the amazing 27 Powers Traveling Writers Series, which brings the brightest, grooviest, most unusual writers to Alameda to teach.  You can find out more about Laurie and her work at: www.27powers.org.
Starting on Sunday, November 9, 2014 a luxurious villa hotel in the central region of Umbria in beautiful Italy is the setting for a week of writing with Laurie Marks Wagner. Come and be creative, live, laugh, love and experience the hospitality of Umbria. If you are an experienced writer, a new writer or if you dream of writing, you will find the experience to be transformative in so many ways. 
You don’t have to be a writer to take the class… But merely someone who wants to let loose, take risks, push past well-worn territory and move into something new.
Here's what Laurie has to say about Wild Writing Into the Journey of Our Lives....

Writing has the capacity to open our eyes and wake us up. When we relax into our natural voice to tell our stories, we reveal who we are, where we’ve been, what we care about and how we live. It’s a beautiful way to locate the heart of who we are.

We’ll wake up each morning straight from the land of our dreams and move into our stories. We’ll start with a speaking practice called Story Slices, and move from there into Wild Writing, an automatic writing practice that easily unleashes words onto the page, bypassing the critical mind and allowing us to find our authentic, natural voice.

We’ll write about our lives, but we’ll also write about our adventures in Umbria as we explore the delicious food, the wine, the Italian people, the old ladies in doorways, the countryside, the way the moon looked, how the kitchen smelled, what we noticed, what surprised us and who we met along the way.

 We’ll meet experienced authors and poets who have made their homes in Italy and we’ll have the opportunity to build new networks and long-lasting friendships.

This is a perfect practice for beginning and even seasoned writers. It’s deeply healing and beautiful writing comes from it.
Join us on this amazing journey

As well as spending quality time in workshops with Laurie each morning until lunchtime, your week will include exciting afternoon trips, with visits to some of Umbria’s most fascinating hill towns, a day in the beautiful Assisi and a visit to a real working olive oil mill. You will be in Umbria for the olive harvest!  This area has fabulous wines. We have arranged an afternoon of tasting with local producers.  Meet the faces behind the wines! All your meals will be provided while you are in Umbria, some at the villa hotel, some at local authentic Umbrian restaurants! 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Love Thyself til Death

 I wrote this piece almost two whole years ago but I updated the age and still think it holds.  I felt the need to re-post it.  The other day, I was in the company of a group of fabulous "older" women. They are members of a creative group that meets twice each month to share their interpretations of a word or a theme.  When I suggested that, as February is the month of "love" and all things related to the heart, that they bring something that would show the rest of us something that they loved about themselves......you would have thought that I shot that arrow of Cupid's right through their hearts.  There was a resounding look of horror on their beautiful faces and each of them had at least one negative comment regarding my suggestion. 

"Oh, I could not do that"

"Oh, that would be bragging"

"Oh, I can't think of many things I love about MYself"

Shock, indignation, confusion.

Sad, very sad.
I am the mother of a fabulous old lady.  She's only 40 and is already fabulous.  If she stays on course, one day she will be a fabulous "old" lady.
It isn't easy, this route to FabulousGrannyVille.  There will be lots of road blocks along the way.  The route is for some, more tortuous than others.  Bad relationships, failed marriages, deaths of loved ones, financial problems, loneliness and that famous killer of Fabulous, illness.  But the effort will be worth it.  I'm glad she started early and like to think that I played a big role in mapping out the course, starting on the day she was born.