Monday, May 11, 2015


10 years 8 months in this house. The longest time I've been at any address. And the place I've most not wanted to be. My father and brother have lived here since 1992. My mother died in this house in 1998. I've struggled with learning about the father who was my mother's husband, and my brother's father. And with me. Saturday my sister-in-law and her daughter helped me with packing. We spent an afternoon in one closet, sorting the picture albums. All the pictures my parents moved from England, Finland and their last house. A long closet, with the top shelf stuffed to the ceiling with pictures covering over 100 years. Six generations. This picture is at one of my marital homes, with a big pool and time with the nieces and nephews and the happy memories. The little girl in the picture is the woman who helped with the pictures. My sister-in-law (who's been 40 years in the family) said "ah, look at this," at most albums, and I said, "take it, or pitch it." She's been my family for most of my adult life, and I love her most for her compassion. My niece took pictures of the cousins and put them on facebook, and held the garbage bags open. I took 20 garbage bags to the curb today, and they were heavy. The photos we ditched were 1) people we didn't know, 2) trips we didn't take, and 3) all my mother's church stuff. Both my wedding albums went in the trash, and they were my albums. Did my mother have a photo album of my weddings? No. Did my mother have any albums of any of our weddings? No. Me, two. John. Paul. David. Susan. No wedding pictures. Were there 10 garbage bags of church trips? Yes. There were photo albums of funerals - my great-grandmother and grandmother in coffins. Bizarre! I remember yelling at my mother at my grandmother's funeral as she snapped away. "What's wrong with you?" My sister-in-law remembered, too. So, all in the trash. 20 bags. I saved the albums of Aunt Suoma and her friends. Carefree, happy, kick-line beach bunny girlfriends in the 1920s in America. And the pictures of my grandmother Saima, strong, how I remembered her. And my niece was interested to hear. She shot meat, skinned it, caught fish, kick-sledded where she needed to go, didn't suffer fools lightly and loved me. Like I love my niece. Fierce. And proud. I saved pictures of my mother for me. Pictures of how I would have liked to know her. Strong. Not the strong that she made up as she went along, but truly strong. There's one picture in the box I saved that I will take to my grave. In this picture, the wind is in her hair. She smiles with the knowledge that she is invincible. That whatever life brings she will conquer. Before I knew her: before. We're moving. It is the last move for my father, who still can't sort out why his mother died when he was 13. It never changed for him. I wonder if women get over it? My brother, who may have lost what sense of the world he had when my grandmother died. He has Alzheimer's disease. And me. Is this my last house? Dad and Scott and me will move from the house where we lost. For a while, I hope it will be the house where we gain.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Evolution of Women and the Revelation of Change

This is a eukaryote: artist's rendering found browsing my art files for this blog post about Women After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy by Melvin Konner, M.D. He demonstrated how to pronounce it. You-carry-oats. My review on goodreads covers the basic info about how this book came home with me. This is about how glad I am. Dr. Konner steps on many toes covering biology, mating habits, leadership research–major tootsie squishing with the title alone. I loved it, mostly because I felt delighted to be reading. I am a feminist. Too much of the time I'm a discouraged, angry feminist, primarily because there is a lot of rage just in the discussion of what feminism is, who started it, whether 1st, 2nd or 19th wave, how inclusive feminism is regarding race, gender, age – it is daunting. Women After All is an opportunity to feel good. About our brains (bigger), our leadership skills (superior across domains and statistically significant female>male) and our opportunities in the near future. This book changed my body chemistry. I hope I can now bump into a discussion dumped into discord, and know that women's ascendancy will happen no matter if I get mad about it, if I push on it, or if I die tomorrow without seeing the outcome. While some of Dr. Konner's writing is densely academic, much is relieved with comedic reporting. Witness foreplay of the hemaphrodite red-tipped flatworm which lasts up to an hour and involves fencing (yeah, it's called that) with 2 - count 'em two penises each. Object: stab without getting stuck yourself. This behavior could be witnessed at any management meeting in any company anywhere in the USA in the 20th century. Or most episodes of Mad Men. I laughed, which maybe a red-tipped flatworm wouldn't appreciate, but I sure enjoyed the imagery. Flatworms in suits and ties. Snicker. Konner covers brain chemistry, history, the animal world today, and proposes that major change is happening right now, and an upheaval coming within 50 years. I like to think of it as a rebalancing. Weak yang for strong and equal yin:yang. How grand for our daughters, sons, granddaughters, grandsons! Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

PoetryArt Night in Milford Michigan

PoetryArt Night, an annual event during National Poetry Month organized by the Village Fine Arts Association of Milford, Michigan observed its 23rd year last night. The celebration of ekphrasis was begun by Thomas Lynch, poet and Suzanne Haskew, artist; both Milford residents. Our Sweetgrass Writers Group discovered the event several years ago. That year much of the poetry was borrowed from other sources. The art was, and is, original and current. Last night 88 percent of the poetry was original. For the last three years, we have submitted. I hadn't written a poem for over 40 years. My friend Geri is a beautiful poet and has written poetry continuously, quietly. We have all struggled with the idea of putting our writing out in the world. We received ribbons, and still we shy from other venues. Last year Geri and I brought home four poetry awards. We still hesitate to send our words elsewhere, for all the reasons every writer feels in whatever part of the body hesitation lives. Too personal, not good enough, why do it at all? Last night, Geri heard the poetry judge acclaim her poem, and next Saturday, when we pick up our accompanying art pieces, she'll take home a blue ribbon. I read my honoree, Once Upon a Timeless Sea. This year, for the first time, I sent poems to another venue - the spring anthology call for entries from Peninsula Poets. My poem Washing the Sun will be within. As a neophyte submitter, this publication acceptance feels enormous and lovely. I hope I'll be able to overcome those voices of too personal, not good enough and why more in the close future. I'm going to start with a baby/giant step and put the poems on my blog. Deep breath. Here goes.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Win an Inn with Writing

A friend posted on my timeline a photo of this inn and the caption "this has your name written on it." A 200 year old B&B in Maine available for the winning 200 word essay. The owner wants to retire after 22 years. She won the inn in the same way in 1992. The picture alone set me to dreaming big. First facts were fantasy-fulfilling. $125 entry fee, 7,000 entries (which will net the current innkeeper her retirement fund.) Favorable odds. And a beautiful story to share. The adrenalin raced through my system. Picture: writers' retreats. Plein air watercolor groups scattered on the lawn. Lending a hat to a painter who forgot hers. Equinox, solstice gatherings. My canoes back, settled on the lakeshore, eager for leisurely paddling. A barn to put the boats when the snow settles. Snowbound, reading seed catalogs and researching recipes. Chopping wood. A kitchen garden I do not have to abandon each year, planting perennials. My dad, having projects to choose from. Harmon House, with guest rooms becoming where we live. White Mountains. And so near, Hermit's Island where I fell in love with windy, rocky coasts and Maine at 16. I dreamed in color, seeing satisfied guests, worthy work, a beautiful setting. I had 24 hours of manifesting the vision. Then my Capricorn side stirred. Taxes, grass cutting, insurance, maintenance, isolation, laundry, dishes, cooking, coordinating healthcare for my brother, uprooting my 88 year old father away from local family. Hard work I can do, assuring contented guests I can do. Soothing disgruntled demanding people I can do. But I'm a senior citizen. Maybe the current owner who wants to retire is my age. It's a conundrum. My friends say go for it. My niece counseled perhaps there's another dream I can pursue. The deadline is May 7. I have a little while to discover which road I'll take. Is it worth $125 to stick a toe in a dream? Today I think yes. Tomorrow I may dare a different dream.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Tie-Dyed Eggs

That's what the box read. Couldn't resist bringing it home, even though I had coloring already. In practice, this was more plastic bag squished color dying, but that sensibly didn't pass marketing department muster. I set up the regular tablet cups as my brother and I have a tradition of dyeing Easter eggs. Scott said "forget it" when I asked if he wanted to color eggs. It was an answer. He made a choice, which is unusual and great, and I didn't take it personally, which is something.  I asked my father if he wanted to try the other method. He did. It was a wonderful experiment. He got to use his engineering skills to figure out how to use the blasted droppers, and I got to watch him engaged in a project. We both finished with hands the color of these eggs. We tried to wash it off. I was cutting radishes for potato salad, and the white flesh was taking on the blue, red, green of the dye. Next time, my Dad counseled, we use gloves.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Technology Woe

Who's running this show? The photo demonstrates how I have to deal with art. Center stage is the new iMac, which I am still trying to develop a relationship with. The laptop was the transition purchase I had to make in order to use the software (ancient) I already had. It runs Snow Leopard, which graphic designers hold onto for dear commercial life as Apple abandoned supporting a bunch of stuff after that cat. To the right is my brain in a jar - what was retrieved from the G5 that crashed permanently after 10 years. The arrow points to the least nimble of the 4. Me. The worst time to discover it was a good idea to keep up with technology as you go along is when it's too damn late to do anything but start over. Or operate with this mess of machines and wires and software that will not play nice with others. What isn't in the picture is the camera I was downloading pictures from - it too is ancient, and won't work with the new iMac, and when I force the issue by hand-downloading jpgs, the new iPhoto claims it has already downloaded the pictures (NOT) and that it cannot repair NO NAME. And the new scanner/printer/toaster combo I bought has a lousy scanner. Here's the list of tech I need: camera, scanner, photo editing and art creation software. Adobe stopped discounting a newer purchase of Creative Suite 3 versions ago. You can buy access to The Cloud for $29.99 if you have a license for CS3, but only one program of the entire offering. I can access all the products of the renamed Creative Cloud for $49.99 a month, which is more than my phone. Is it worth more than my phone? Probably. But I hate the idea of paying for access to a thing forever. That's a terrific scifi story concept. In future, we all have to have a subscription to our lives. Pay or lose access. Sure would handle population control. But in order to write the story I have to use Open Office because I am not paying for access to Microsoft Word forever. And forever isn't forever in technology. Forever is until the prices go up next year.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Aging Brain Workaround

Cancelled the website I tried to set up yesterday. I could not negotiate the instructions. I had a website with MacHighway (itsamac in 1998), and had to let it go when I no longer had current software needed to update the site, 5 or 6 years ago or more. Then a user could still reach one of the founders on the phone. Today, it's chat tech support. One issue is the knowledge base requires a fore-knowledge I don't have (cpanel is what? –your portal to edit the site, and it's a separate login) and the bigger issue is my brain. I'm so upset by this. I had an immediate empathetic reaction to my father's frustration which may be the source of his rage. So we talked about it. We commiserated. He said he's been trying to come up with the word for not being able to pay a mortgage for 2 days. And he cannot keep in his head the name of the town my sister lives in. Talking about it made us both feel better. I made a joke - foreclosure and Fraser (the town my sister lives in) both start with F, so perhaps his brain has offloaded that letter. Foreclosure is not in either of our futures, so that word can disappear. More good news: my sister is moving so that town name won't be needed. I don't need a website, so I don't need to fret about my lessened ability to make one work. As our brains are less nimble, we need to ratchet up the rationalization. Or take more yoga classes. Or be more Zen. And gently accept what we cannot change, knowing we're in good company.