Monday, July 28, 2014

No Such Thing as a Non-Creative Person!!!

Our group, minus a few members, celebrating our first anniversary at the Chat House
It seems like just yesterday, but it actually was one whole year ago.  I had yet another of my "ideas" come to me in the shower.  This was a doozy and it was borne out of something I had heard on a podcast months before that.  I can't recall many of the details, don't even know the name of the person who was doing the presentation, but I do refer to him as a "Scientist" when I explain what I heard and where I went with it.

The "Scientist" was talking about my favorite subject.  Creativity.  So, I really tried hard to pay attention and to capture at least the essence of what he was about to say.  I wanted to come away with some gems, some new information from a person I was sure I could trust.  I wanted the "scientist" to validate my gut feeling that there were more creative people out there just waiting for their turn to prove it; that I wasn't the only one discovering something in myself that had been hidden so well for so long.  And bingo!  He said it.  Bada-bing-badda-boom, these words rolled off his tongue and I hung on every one of them:


I got goosebumps.  I broke out in a cold sweat.  I almost created a heart-attack but I was so over joyed and so ready to use that pearl and the next day, I took another shower and formulated a plan.

The plan was amazingly simple.  Contact a few friends and invite them to get together for a little meeting. Date and time were designated.  Friends were selected; some had already shown their creative sides, some had not yet but I had a hunch.  Everyone was game.  Five contacted.  Five agreed.  All showed up despite the fact that they did not know each other nor did they have so much as a hint about why they were asked to join on to this nefarious adventure.  Strangers with a common assignment to come with their own "creative" interpretation of the word SUNSET.  I asked that they conceal their finished product until it was time to present it to the group.  Adult version of "show-and-tell"?  Yes.

We met at a favorite meeting place here in the Mid-Cape.  The Cape Cod Chat House.  A place where it's easy to sit down with a great cup of coffee and five of your friends who are about to discover that they are creative, even if they believe differently or were told to get a real job.  Within minutes, following the introductions (I must admit, it sounded very much like a support group at that point), they heard my spiel about the "Scientist" and about the theory of creativity and then, one by one, they proved the theory.  Paintings, prose, quilts, poetry, collage.  Show and tell was shown and told and everyone was smiling and begging for more.  More became twice a month, same time, same place, new words.  And then, more became more "members" and we never missed a beat.  By Winter, we were up to twelve regulars and the words became more and more challenging.  The results, they were amazing.  Creativity oozed and leaked out of the corners.  More quilts, weavings, paintings, floral arrangements, collages, poems, stories and fairy houses were pulled out of bags, ooohed and aahed over.  Smiles, laughs, celebrations and bonding.  Oh, so much bonding.  What had started as a group of strangers is now a larger group of friends who love being together and most of all, love being creative.  Like kids in school, only so much better.

We celebrated our first anniversary last week.  We've named ourselves "Creative Chatters" after our beloved Chat House.  When it closes for the winter, we meet at the Cultural Center where we are more than welcomed.  They also "get it" and support our pursuits.  A huge thank you to Brett and John and Janet at the Chat House and Bob, Lauren and Robin at the Cultural Center and to all of the artists who knock themselves out each and every month to prove the science, thank you for supporting my theory.

Creativity is acceptable.  Everyone is creative.  And "maintenance" was one very hard word to create to!

Friday, July 25, 2014

On the Morning of Good and Evil

On a stunning morning, earlier this week, I set out to one of the loveliest little markets, not far from my home, to pick up a few items rather than do a larger grocery shopping.  The store is small, the aisles narrow and the selection, overpriced but interesting and perfect for a once-a-week splurge.

As I backed my car out of the garage, an elderly neighbor sat on a glider chair awaiting the completion of his laundry.  I don't know him well, don't even know his name or exactly where he lives in our complex of apartment buildings, but I am guessing he lives alone and from the way he speaks and walks with a cane, I'm also guessing he's probably had a good-sized stroke.  It's hard to tell when that accident might have occurred. Could have been years ago, leaving him with the aftermath with which he now deals daily.  I've watched him limp, laundry in hand, down the road that leads from the furthest group of buildings, to the little room behind the glider chair during all kinds of weather.  I've met up with him a few times, in the laundry room and have strained to understand him as he spoke.  He knows what he is saying and thinks that the words are coming out as he intends but aphasia plays funny tricks on the victim so I have to try very hard.  I'm also not sure of his ability to hear me causing me to shout back my responses to his questions and comments.

"Yes, it sure is a lovely day"

"Isn't it cold though? Snow must be on the way"

"Oh, you have a garden?  I must come see it sometime"

It's hard to resist, having a conversation with this anonymous person. He's always so happy and enthusiastic, wearing sunshine as if it were a suit of armor and I'm sure it isn't easy and I often wonder why he is so happy and so friendly, no matter what the day looks like or how hard he's struggled to arrive at the laundry room. He never seems angry at his lot in life and I'll wager that he could have some issues.  So, as I drove out, en-route to the market, I shouted out "you have a nice day too" and I waved as he sat and waved, a huge crooked smile across his bright and happy face.

The market has narrow aisles.  The baskets are not the kind you find in large supermarkets or big box stores.  Instead, they seem to have been custom-made for this particular venue.  The wheels are small.  She was standing in front of a refrigerated case when I arrived and I instantly made an assessment and started to pass her in the empty space, forgetting how bad I was at math and how one of my ears is higher than the other.Click. Ooops.  One of my little tiny wheels tapped the little tiny wheel furthest from her.  "Oh, I'm so sorry, eeks, excuse me."  And then......the face, the tsk, tsk from the tight and ugly lips.  Visibly and audibly, there were signs of her anger.  "Well, I did say I was sorry!!"  She stepped back from her cart now.  "I have a bad knee."  "Well, I wasn't anywhere near your knee, my little wheel hit your little wheel....barely. Again, I did say I was sorry."  Angrier at my assault now "just stop", as if I were running off with her baby.  "Well, we ALL have our problems" was all I could muster up as this seemingly healthy, athletic looking skinny woman effortlessly pushed her little cart off to another aisle, disappearing forever.  Not even a limp. And, just so you know, I do know that pain makes one cranky.I also know that disability can do the same.

Anger.  It's the deadliest of sins.  It gives me pause.  I can't help but compare and contrast and as I do, I think of the two scenes.  Me, with a car that at any moment could lose control and run over a smiling, happy, disabled individual sitting on a bench a few feet away and then me, with a little shopping cart, having made an error in spatial relationships.  Or, are we really talking about pride here?

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Thank You Katie Patricia

Every once in a while, I get an emergency call from my aged father.  It can come anytime and thankfully, so far, it does not happen all that often.  So far.  Usually, the plea is to come immediately because he has encountered something from the outside world that has completely boggled his mind.  It could be a total lapse in memory of how to write a check or something more complex, as it was this very morning after he forgot to go for annual blood work and rushed off to the doctor's office only to be handed a rather ornate "kit" for collecting a stool sample.  So, I jumped into my shower, dressed, and drove over to his house, knowing that he would be in one very twisted state, which of course, he was indeed.  The paperwork was confounding, never mind the directions to collect samples.  I dismissed it all in a nanno-second, put my nurse cap back on, and told him that he wasn't going to do "that".  That people who are almost 93 don't have to worry about detecting blood in their bowel.  What would he do with the information anyway?

As I drove over, I turned down a street that does not lead directly to his home. There are three streets to choose from and I try to alternate my route, if only for the change of scenery before entering the dull and draining hermitage of my father's.  And, as I drove this particular way today, I recalled a scene that is burned into my memory forever.  It was the route that my parents took when my mom returned from having been brutally discharged from a care facility during the final months of her life.  As I glanced out the window of their home, I caught sight of their car approaching, my mother, the passenger.  She had a look on her face that reflected the sheer terror that she was experiencing.  She knew the gravity of her illness and her rapid decline into total disability and she was dreading not only what was ahead in her home, but the impossible feat of getting out of the car and into that house.

What she did not know was that during her absence, her home was quietly converted into a safer place, one that now had grab bars and tub seats and a wheelchair.  Home health aids were lined up and we were prepared to allow her and my father to feel somewhat independent and to enjoy an easier and less stressful time.  It took a lot of work and a lot of fortitude because we had so many roadblocks to overcome.  My father's resistance was palpable.  He was in denial and confused and just as in a textbook, he took chose the default emotion, anger, coupled with rage that scared me to the point of reporting my fears for my safety to the Hospice nurses.  But, it got done.  Never once, was the simple phrase, "thank you" uttered by either one of them.  If anything, I was mocked for my un-wavering adherence to details, made fun of for being "organized" and belittled for "taking charge".  But never thanked.

So, this little trip in to rescue my father brought back that memory, two years later and still fresh as dew.  As I drove down the street, I thought of a scene from just last week.  In conversation with the mother of a friend, she told me in so many words, how she was proud of her daughter, that she thought something she recently did was a very good move.  I immediately told my friend what her mother had reported and she hugged me in response and thanked me for telling her that.  She was surprised and happy but she wondered out loud why her mom had not told her this herself.  I don't know the answer nor do I know why my own parents never told me if they were proud or grateful.  Is it something of their generation?  Why?

I just need to go on record here.  I have two children, both of whom I am very, very proud.  I am eternally grateful for everything they do for me and for others.  I love them and their spouses, two of God's other greatest gifts.  I only hope that they will never, ever have to hear that from someone other than myself.  If you haven't thanked someone lately, it is not too late.  If you haven't taken an inventory of all the great stuff you have in your life because of someone else, take the time and do it.  It feels good and who knows, maybe exercises like that will keep our brains alive and well because life isn't really that short.

P.S.  Only Katie Patricia will know what the title means.  Sorry everyone else.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Empty Nest

Last weekend, a friend and her husband gave a high school graduation party for their
son, the youngest of two children. He's going away to college in the Fall. She referred to the gala as a celebration of her "empty nest".  I could not help but she happy or sad about her entrance into this brave new world now that both of her chickadees have flown away? Or, perhaps she is a bit scared of the novelty of it all before her, in much the same way that women approach first pregnancies.

Will my friend spend the first few days, weeks or months as an independent woman, one finally unfettered and free of the demands of full-time motherhood, nights that went so swiftly from tending to wakeful babies to waiting up for teenagers, with a gigantic case of the blues?

 Will she take the burden on alone, without locking arms with her spouse,  moving from room-to-room in their home, lost in thoughts? She, never imagining how he feels.  Never asking.  Feeling foolish.  Crying in the bathroom, for what reason, she can't describe even to herself.

 Will she swear that she can smell baby powder in the air or the scent of a fresh, new Pamper plucked from a giant-economy-sized box?

 Will she succeed or fail miserably in pushing aside the memory of first days of school, kindergarten graduations, Popsicle stick gifts for Mommy, school plays and the hundreds of hours of sports?  Being there. Or, will she make room for and welcome new memories?

Will she feel that the years have passed by so quickly, as if they were grains of salt in a colander? Will the thought that the lives of her children will now be more exciting and productive than her own make her want to cry out loud, overshadowing the pride that she feels in their independence?

 And, will she be left behind, holding an empty box of Pampers next to her heart, or will she go, cry in the shower and look forward to the day after the party?

I wonder.  Was it just me?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My (Periwinkle) Blue Heaven

It's amazing, how quickly one can collect too many things to fit into one closet.  It's also amazing how, years after living with my parents, I am still a victim of my mother's need to never allow anyone to see the remnants of a real life going on in our home.  My mother was morbidly afraid that someone would "drop by" and see that we didn't always live in a perfectly clean, uncluttered and sweet-smelling house.

The last person who ever "dropped by" was my then-neighbor, Donna Zingarelli, when I was scrubbing my bathtub forty three years ago.  I wasn't totally unprepared for that one.  I had a premonition that she would be ringing my bell any minute so I used the name-brand cleanser instead of the cheap store-brand.  If you don't believe I am capable of such premonitions, just ask the two people who know me best in the world, Joe and my pal Jay and they'll tell you, without even rolling their eyes, that I'm "spooky" that way.  Nobody "drops by" nowadays do they?

Having to be a clean-neat-freak was really cramping my style.  Add that to the fact that we live in an apartment (don't feel sorry for us......we don't mow lawns or shovel snow) by choice and we love it. The only big problem I have with that is the fact that we can't really do too much creative decorating.  A little bit goes a long way here but I have so much more to give in that department. 

At the very start of the summer we actually considered...wait for it.....buying a house.  Yikes!  Why do that when we actually have a house here on the Cape.  There's an occupant in it and despite the fact that he is almost 93, we doubt he's leaving any time soon.....Let's re-think all of this, we re-thought.  We don't want a whole house.  We just want a place that I can mess up, leave messy, create stuff in and paint the walls. Periwinkle.  Fortunately, my plea for this "space" did not fall on deaf ears but on the lovely, sweet, sympathetic and wide-open ears of my gorgeous friend Nina who said

"Why don't you rent a room here?"

So, I moved it all out of the closet, boxes and boxes of it.......

"Here" is where she and her equally gorgeous friend, Jane, have established one very yummy business known as "Gatherings by the Sea", a short ride from my home. And, that is exactly what I did.  I rented a room, a "studio" an "atelier" a "get-away" and my loving, understanding and capable husband made it all happen.  And now, I can make art, MY art, the kind that spreads itself out, waits patiently to be finished, added to, embellished.  I don't have to clean up.  I need not explain anything to anybody.  It is, as Joe puts it "total" me and I'm loving it and am loving Nina and Jane and Joe, of course but most of all, I'm loving the fact that friends can, and do, "drop by" and share my joy.  Just knock on the door, any time I'm there and come on it.  It's air-conditioned and it's lovely. And I'm not cleaning up my mess.

Apologies for the blurred the color, the air-conditioner and the man who made both happen, his head in  lower right corner.....

And art is, once again, happening......YES, collage is ART!!! shell bowl on top of my favorite-ever piece of furniture

Down the hall view

Friday, July 11, 2014

Friday Assignment, an Unforgettable Person

Jesus of Newbury Street

It was the sweat that we noticed, the soaked tee shirt.  It wasn't the long, strawberry colored hair.  It was sweat, so much more than that day called for.  Together, we walked right past him and at the very same time, we stopped in our tracks.  Our eyes met and without a word, our direction reversed, as if we were on a conveyor belt.  Had it not, we would have missed the opportunity. 
He was standing in front of one of those trendy shops on Newbury Street. I want to say it was one of those places that sell overpriced housewares to upwardly-mobile newly proclaimed MBA’s.  Boston’s Back Bay.  Not a likely location for our man.  He was tall, thin, probably around thirty years old, more or less.  It was hard to tell, with his gaze locked downward. He was hard at work, totally engrossed in what he was trying to accomplish.   He wore a faded tee shirt, now two-toned, the center darkened from the moisture as it clung to his lean chest. He was fair-skinned, making him all the more vulnerable to the noon day sun.  As we cautiously approached him, we realized that he was trying to fasten both ends of a fanny pack around his waist, a task normally accomplished in one or maybe two seconds, one so easy a child could perform it.  Side A to Side B. A simple chore that an adult with what I surmised was a neuro-muscular disorder, would find difficult, sweat-provoking, anything but easily accomplished in crippled hands.  His frustration was apparent and instantly heart-breaking.

My daughter quietly asked if she may touch the straps and assist him. In return, an assent, “Yes, please “and  In one or maybe two seconds, both ends easily met and the mission that had been so daunting earlier was brought to completion. As he reassumed his upright position a tall man stood before us. A handsome face, beads of perspiration still glistening on his forehead, blue eyes that pierced us with precision caused us to step back.  He thanked us, humbly, with barely a whisper and we resumed our walk. Once more, mother-daughter eyes met.  I spoke first.  “Sara, I believe we just met Jesus”.  She nodded and we continued silently on our way into our futures, each of us knowing that one day we would be recounting this story, describing the most unforgettable person either of us had met.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Third

My daughter gave me a card, a post card, for Mother's Day this year.  It was so simple and sweet.  All it said was "Any Day is a Good Day to Have a Mom".  I practically sleep with it clutched in my hand, it is that dear to my heart.

And two years ago today, my mom passed away.  My one and only.  My first teacher.  My reluctant first-responder. My mentor. My role model.  The grandmother of my children.  The amazingly proud great-grandmother of my grandchildren.  The wife of my father, his only girlfriend.  A friend to everyone who ever met her.  The smartest woman I knew, filled with wisdom and good common sense.  Strict when she had to be.  Sensitive when she needed to be. Never one to be sloppy or demonstrative in her affection but I was always aware of her love and admiration.  Mothers and daughters, the slope is slippery at best.  Brave, brave, brave.  Brave and strong beyond words. A gift that I had to share with the world, my Angelina.

And, for those of you who are thinking that I am too focused on "death", oh, you are so wrong.  I'm focused on life and today, I am thinking about a life that was incredible and I feel so much stronger and confident as a woman because of that life.  My creative channel opened wide on this very day two years ago, my Muse took flight.

To all of you who have a mom, have lost a mom, or are a mom, a message from my mom......"today is a good day".  

R.I.P. Angelina Ballerina, you've earned your bliss.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Phoebe and Her Nonno

Oh Hell. It's true.  Why fight it?  Pictures really do speak better than words.  This past weekend provided perfect opportunities to tell a great story, in photos.  A grandfather who was a "manny" for a six-month-old, six years ago and an "almost" first-grader granddaugher,  with nothing but time together for two whole days.  So, I'm going to sit back, let my brain take a much-needed rest,  and let it roll........with a little help from the......remember it.....t.v. series.....Courtship of Eddie's Father....

People let me tell you 'bout my best friend
He's a warm-hearted person who'll love me to the end
People let me tell you 'bout my best friend
He's a one boy cuddly toy my up my down my pride and joy

The ultimate "Cuddly Toy"

Joe's favorite seat, ever

Who's teaching who what???

There has never been a more captive audience
Only a best friend would provide a warming car after an evening swim