Friday, November 29, 2013

sometimes when you don't publish

the timing is bad, but I am leaving it alone.

Summertime is Full of Grief This Year

One of my main goals in supporting those who have lost loved ones is to refrain from saying something stupid. Something insensitive. While giving my love and support. We've all heard them.
                                                                           God only gives you...
                                                                           God needed an angel...
                                                                           I can't think of all the stupid things I have heard, but I am sure you have a few yourself.(and no doubt I have not succeeded)   My friends and colleagues have been hit hard time after time for the past 2 years with shocking, unexpected, out of time loss. I have just returned from the visitation for a young man who disappeared 2 years ago after leaving his house without his seizure medication. His body was lost for over 2 years. And of course, even an expected death after a hard fought illness that devastates the body and mind is still so difficult for loved ones.
Many years ago my little niece, aged 4 at the time, received a terminal diagnosis. My son was 3, I had to study and learn how to deal with impending death and loss of someone like one's own, of someone like a sister to my son, of someone so small ravaged by cells that seemed so evil. I was forced to learn to deal as I had not been taught while growing up. Growing up it was "children have no business" with the business of death. I made a few regrettable decisions based on that rearing. I had to deal because I had to help my son. I read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, I talked, I took him to therapy in advance when he woke up one morning with his hair pulled out and laying on his pillow. He was only three and felt the fear without being told. My niece lived 4 years and the last bit was horrifying. I was allowed to make her dress and the dress her little sister wore to the funeral. I have always been grateful to my sister in law for allowing me to make those dresses. I picked her up from school on the very last day she ever attended, I remember clearly the song playing as I drove down the drive to gather her up.  The mental exhaustion after that was unbelievable. Another niece was murdered at age 8 and I had to stand by my baby sister because our mother would not. I had to be the mom my mom could not be. The very next year a student had a brother murdered and I remembered saying I know how that is and talk to me any time. The awful things that happen in one's life give you empathy for the awful things that happen in the lives of others.
Today I feel like I am reeling from all this. Last year I thought we needed a grief group at school for the adults.. maybe that is not a bad idea.
I would count the major losses for my colleagues, my students, my friends, but I would miss some.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving has changed over the years, mostly combined with loss. We used to do 2 in a day when Larry's parents were here, I could never miss my Aunt's with my cousins and often my mom. My children have warm warm memories of those Thanksgivings of long long ago. Aging parents moved away and died. My aunt died and all fell apart. One year we stayed home alone and stayed in bed with cheesecake and football and naps. It was lovely and very self indulgent in a different way than the usual over indulgence of T-day. This year my Chicago daughter is having Hanukkah at her house and it coincides with Thanksgiving. We will be going there soon, and looking forward to a great time. Her sister, my daughter with children and her family will be there. We don't usually get to see them on Thanksgiving as that is their paternal family holiday. This will be extra fun to see the boys in Leah's fun filled loft. My son and his children nearly grown, are out west and I hope they are sharing some time together. We have moved from my aunt's thanksgiving to Larry's aunt's thanksgiving. I have developed a couple of dishes I like to bring and the company, the ambiance, is great, I have watched those little cousins grow into young men and start out on their own. Another new generation was added this year, a sweet 3 week old baby. I love being in Tracy's cabin in the woods on Thanksgiving and I am grateful they include us. More fun ensues today and tomorrow, but NOT SHOPPING!

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Very Sad Day

One of the saddest things I have ever seen is a two year old in his terry cloth cape leaning over a casket calling "Daddy". A lift to his voice, I knew he expected Daddy to 'wake up'. but he never will. This family just had one massive loss, a retired teacher/coach from my school died behind the wheel of his car of a massive heart attack also critically injuring his wife who did manage to survive. Now her son has died of a heart attack on the very day he was cleared by his doctors to go back to work. This was the step dad of one of my students, a step dad who was adored-- I recognized my student's mother, the young widow because my student looks just like her! I came home, and, frankly, I think I am going to lie down and weep.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

By the Way, I am Painting

This summer I am taking 2 painting classes at our community arts program connected with our university. I have loved getting back in to oil paint, which I have not touched since the late 60's, oh the smell, a trip down memory lane. I am also taking water color. I take one class right after the other. I am coming to think that oil is it-- of course, there is a storage problem with oil paintings, they have to dry, not quickly like either water color or acrylic. It's an issue.

Today Obesity is Classified as a Disease

 I find that, like all things covered in shame and guilt, trainers I have known are coming out with their prejudices-- fat people are lazy. I am angry. The years of steeling my body shame to get the exercise I needed, to put a suit on that and get in the pool, to overcome the prejudices of the "trained world" to use the equipment I needed to use, getting fitter and fitter but still fat, it all comes rushing back to me today with the careless opinions of people who are hired to help people like me achieve their goals.  I struggled over and over so many years until I chose a medical solution which is another difficult decision. It doesn't really make things easier after a point, but people will call it an easy way out. It isn't. There is no easy way out.  I want to flame and I hate flaming so I will put it here. I won't still be around when the crossfitters lose their knees, shoulders and backs, and I hear, even their kidneys sometimes, but I also won't be going to the local hospital for training where trainers express this ignorant, and maybe just youthful prejudice.

I sat in the waiting room of a psychologists office waiting for my very young son who was getting therapy in advance of losing his very young cousin who was like a sister. I sat across from a woman so thin she looked harsh, and I was having mean judgmental thoughts about her thinness. (I came to the same office to deal with my fatness.) We chatted, a local OBGYN had cut her intestine during a cesarean or a hysterectomy and her thinness was a life threatening illness from that catastrophic event in her life. I learned some of my lesson then. I do not know where she is now, or if she even survived, but I thank  her for the lesson.

We are all one life threatening injury  or illness away from disability and having to live on the meager means of poverty. Sometimes kids who have grown up middle class and have known nothing else, moved from middle class with their parents to middle class themselves and can make the choices of healthful eating and constant exercise have no empathy for those who can't. I have noticed the same thing with health insurance, people who have always had it in their youth and in their adulthood have little or no empathy for those who do not or cannot get it.  Oops, oh well, takes one thing to stir up the shit in my brain!

I feel better now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I am so Cool I Have a Guest Blogger!

This is a guest post by a classmate of one of my daughters who has written all her life and is now working on novels and has given herself the fascinating assignment of writing on 256 blogs as a guest blogger! My street cred jumps so high on this I will try to not double space after a period! There I did it and I learned to type on a manual typewriter. Nath did tell me she couldn't figure out my blog's focus, hah, neither can I! Rayne DeVivo put me on to this, and much to my surprise, Nath accepted my invitation to my little insignificant blog. I think I just learned that the part of my brain that censors expression IS in overdrive and I am very inhibited here. 

Author bio: Best New American Voices nominee Nath Jones received an MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University. Her publishing credits include PANK Magazine, There Are No Rules, and Sailing World. She lives and writes in Chicago. 


Q: For good or ill— how has blogging changed or affected family life?

A: Well. It doesn’t much. My social life is what’s different now. But I like your question. It’s definitely worth exploring. 
Let’s do a post about Mom, me, and my writing and then we’ll branch out to other aspects of family. 

I write for a thousand people on Facebook. My Facebook writing is a personal sketchbook for the fiction.  But I do explore conflict and I’ve said some truly horrific things about my mother.

Identity cannot become a hang-up. The part of the brain that censors expression will go into overdrive. That cannot happen if you want to write work that matters. If I’m worried about whether or not everyone thinks I’m crazy, mean, hateful, ungrateful, conniving, two-faced, and hedonistic because of the themes I’m willing to explore, I’ll never explore them. 

Mom doesn’t have a problem with what I do now because she never had a problem with what I wrote. She encouraged me by nurturing my work, by taking it seriously when I was six, seven, and eight years old, and by never flinching at the chosen subject matter—regardless of how dark. 

And. Yes. Those stories were dark. I remember carefully drawing a noose in third grade. Kind of tough to detail the rope with those fat, unwieldy Crayola markers. 

I learned to write before Columbine, before Virginia Tech, before this God-awful incident in Newtown. And I’m so glad. I hate to think how children’s creative expression is now being policed.

I’d write a story, hand the pages to my mom, and she’d hand them back with grammatical corrections and ways to amplify the dramatic effect of the matricidal stabbing, or shooting, or hanging, or slow painful demise in relation to some fatal disease. She never once thought, “Wow. This kid hates me.” 

Why would she? I don’t. There were no doubt many reasons why I wrote what I wrote, and, yes, with the help of Dr. Phil, friends, self-help books, and various sessions with professionals I have unearthed my fair share of childhood trauma. Who cares?

“7 reasons why children should write stories (these reasons, of course, also apply to writing poetry): 1) to entertain; 2) to foster artistic expression; 3) to explore the functions and values of writing; 4) to stimulate imagination; 5) to clarify thinking; 6) tosearch for identity; and 7) to learn to read and write.”

Mom and I didn’t bother much with identity. We both have gargantuan egos, sure. But we have plenty of insecurity too. Mainly we were curious about how to make the stories work.

I don’t consider my plight any different from anyone else’s in any other family. So I have no qualms about exposing intimate facets of daily living that are generally left unarticulated. 

Okay. I’ve had plenty of less than lovely things to say about my mother online—in public, for an audience of her friends and mine. Mainly I wrote my way through the fears of what I felt could not ever be uttered. 

Sometimes readers leap to Mom’s defense. They know her. They love her. They don’t want her threatened in any way. Certainly not by her daughter, in public no less! But as often as people admonished me for what I expressed, I also got quiet personal messages from individuals struggling with their own familial relations.

 For me those connections are reason enough to do the work. The words are liberating. They offer permission for others to open up, to discuss hard truths, to be real about how our freedoms really can be constrained by the people who love us most.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day--MLK jr Day

More history being made today. I am grateful, I have high hopes for the next 4 years. I found the last 12 years from horrifying to disappointing. The determination of the the republicans to completely stop any progress has been stultifying. Maybe, just maybe, they can reach back across the aisle and relearn to compromise.
I am home, my eyes cannot leave the screen. A much older man is taking office today than four years ago. The weight of the world is so heavy, the crowd is fabulous! Maybe at the end of this term I can retire and not be afraid.
I remain stunned by the hatred that rears it's ugly head every day on facebook. I never really thought I'd find my blog a safer place to have an opinion.

4 years later and hate has elected a thug, a sexual predator, possibly a puppet of Putin, my country expressed its hate and prejudice, another MLK Jr. weekend. Facebook is worse than ever.