Monday, December 26, 2011

Can Can Orchids

This photo is on my desktop. I took the picture at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. Every time I close out of a program, I smile because these flowers look like the Andrews Sisters doing le can can. Apologies to orchid fans, I added the legs and pistil stockings. I can hear the music that Shirley MacLaine danced to in the Can-Can movie - the one with Frank Sinatra? Or is it Louis Jourdan? Both and add Maurice Chevalier. Daah da de dah dah de de dah de dah dah...

2011 Wheel Comes Full Circle

Winter Solstice has been celebrated, the Long Night Moon rests until next season, we enter Candlemas, share Old Moon and meditate in the time of Spirit, contemplating North, listening to the Healing Warrior. Now are the days to smudge sweetgrass, to reflect on our journey this year, to calm ourselves as we wheel into 2012. Share quiet time with small gatherings of friends, journal the year and sleep long and deep.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Three Story Life: Christmas Eve

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, the lights went out. Again. My brother sat on my Dad's unmade bed naked - and well - not entirely sit-worthy, and laundry had to be done. The power blew because I put the oven on to make grandma's coffee cake for tomorrow morning. Dad's Christmas shopping amounted to getting the serial yapper dog a new bed. He won't sleep in it, spent his awake time yapping about not sleeping, so the dog, Dad and the rest of us underslept a little. The VA called, had found a spot on Dad's lung, along with his vascular problems, his stents are plugged. Doctor said, maybe I should have waited until after Christmas to call. Dad doesn't want to go out tomorrow, so I had to go grocery shopping today for dinner then. I also had to call everyone and tell them we were not going anywhere Christmas day; and no, please, you needn't come here. Dad said take my debit card to the store. I did. I did not listen to my inner voice telling me now is an excellent time to see Ephesus and Constantinople, and maybe Antikythera and the other Greek Isles enroute. So, I did not need the debit card. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Michigan, the electrician I had called went to his office to get a little privacy to wrap Christmas gifts, saw the blinking message light and called us. He came, he checked, he fixed, and as I was writing his check, the neighbor banged on the door with an eggplant to tell us she, lucky woman, was on her way to Chicago, and did we want her eggplant? The serial yapper dog was power yapping, Dad was yelling "Linda!" while on the phone because our neighbor was banging on the door with an eggplant, and, of course, I was not doing anything. But wait! Power on! Fire disaster averted! Coffee cake in oven! Coffee in microwave. Laundry in washer. Laundry in dryer. Gifts wrapped and put under tree. Got the wrong stuff at the grocery store for dinner; went back and got the right, after having already gone back because I forgot to buy the [wrong] stuff, lit grill to cook now-right stuff, and no propane. Back in house, broiler on, smoke fills house, but power stays lit, Lions are winning, dinner consumed. Sheets out of dryer, beds made, clothes folded, brother shiny, dog napping, Dad eating coffee cake, my back squished. I hear Ephesus is lovely this time of year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Caregiver Christmas

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
A day free of left brain chattering.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Two thank you notes.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Three big hugs.

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Four special smiles.

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Five blissful sighs.

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
6 bills a-paying

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Seven friends a-playing.

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Eight cares a-waying.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Nine salsa dances.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Ten peaceful glances.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Eleven laughing hours.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true self gave to me:
Twelve pretty flowers.

Eleven laughing hours
Ten peaceful glances
Nine salsa dances
Eight cares a-waying
Seven friends a-playing
Six bills a-paying
Five blissful sighs
Four special smiles
Three big hugs
Two thank you notes
And a day free of left brain chattering!

God bless us, every one!

A Three Story Life: Holidays

This year I understand that my life story is not the same story as my father's life story. Or my brother's. Who I am, how I operate in my world is about me. Our stories coincide, mesh often, and merge randomly, but the stories have their own lineage. In order to perform at optimum, I have to stay still in a swirl of episodes, a whirlwind of emotion, experience and realities. On holidays, that cyclone gets spinnier, when more family and circumstances expand the gear ratio. The wider the connections, the calmer I need to be. Perhaps all caregivers would find this feat daunting. Centering is necessary. Dancers can spin endlessly only by keeping eyes focused on a stationary object in the middle distance. Tightrope walkers can remain elevated by not looking down. Caregivers need to focus on their inner loci, the carer heart, the love that is central to being able to perform at all. Centered, calm, confident, compassionate. Compassionate first about you, and when you're calm and centered that compassion will shine out in a steady stream, rather than be scattered ineffectively to the gyroscopic distance. Take 3 deep breaths, focus, and calm yourself, and have a happier holiday season. Give yourself the gift of gently caring for you, and the care you give others will reflect that gentle regard.

Legislation to Include Home Health and Farm Workers

President Obama and Labor Secretary Solis introduced legislation to include home health and farm workers in the Fair Labor Standards Act. This will remedy the exclusion since 1937 of those occupational titles. If I'm going to lower my blood pressure, I need to stop reading New York Times articles on this or any subject. And government labor statistics about income. Republicans quoted are agin it because it will raise costs and cost jobs. Whatever. Isn't there a new argument in the GOP playbook? Or NYT reportage? The government indicates median incomes for home health care workers on the Bureau of Labor Statistics site. Median is an artificial percentage. A 4th grader can tell you median means the exact middle of the pack. To use another example, the median age of single people in Michigan might be 34. Ages above that number might average 68, and ages below average 6 months old, so the median age is 34, although there is not one single 34 year old person in Michigan. Or any age near 34. There are no statistics about how many people of any age who are providing care for those less fortunate or able are receiving no income at all. The government statistics only include those who are registered, employed by third party agencies that issue 1099s or W4s, or are union members of organizations like SEIU. I applaud President Obama and Secretary Hilda Solis, and hope this 112th Congress will somehow have a Christmas miracle delivered to them before the new year voting follies begin. There is one more blessing for me to count this holiday season: I am not an elderly relative of any of the Scrooges who want to deny minimum wages to caregivers, home health workers and farm workers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gifting The Empty Box

Organizing and wrapping the year in the waning days of 2011, I feel the greatest gift for me this year is an empty box. I've felt unreal for months. Now I think I know what that is. It's that I don't know me. My life as a perfectionist ended these last 18 months. The OCD stuff that littered my brain, world and ability to be calm and succeed is becoming the past. How can you fill your cup/realm/spirit when it's already full? Rife with perceptions, lies, and false realities imposed by everything external? We adapt to our family of origin, culture, schooling and career designed for societal success. We are trained in the roles that make it simple to keep a society asleep. I know nothing about the truth that is me. And that unknowing is a gift - a gift I can give only to myself. A big ol' box of the Linda to be. Already open. Infinitely enormous. Infinitesimally tiny. As 2012 dawns, I will treasure the not knowing in brighter light, quieter silence and joyicity.

Final Exams

For Michelle and Alexandra this day. And Thursday. And for everyone facing a final exam of any nature this week. Blessings, peace and a calming sense of hurdles leaped, obstacles overcome, and the finish line achieved.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ants and Ant Plants

Last week friends and I visited Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor. Carol had sent an article she found about ant plants. Ant plants have a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow on. As we were paying our entry, I told the woman we were there to visit the ant plants. She said we were in luck as the man who donated the plants was in the conservatory. Carol spotted one of the plants right away high in a tree. We wandered happily through the gardens, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of nature collected at Matthaei. Pineapples & Pincushions is on display through January 8, showcasing patterns in nature. You can pick up a frame on a stick to help children focus on repeated displays. For math detectives - Fibonacci numbers are involved. Christmas trees were decorated with cactus slices, wood pieces, and pressed Queen Anne's Lace. Poinsettiias nestled close in the shape of a tree. As we walked back to the front a man on a ladder was putting a piece of wood up in a tree. I asked "are you Frank?" He said yes, and traded us a tour for carrying the tools back to the workroom. Frank Omilian is a retired biology teacher whose passion is ant plants. He donated some of his collection to the botanical gardens. Matthaei accepted the donation on condition that the plants survive a year in the greenhouse, which they did. The slugs eat the leaves on some of the plants, but a copper nail behind the installation keeps them away. Good tip for gardeners! In the workroom, we were able to see some of the ants when Frank tapped on a plant. Tiny and fast, I did not get a good picture. A beautiful magical day shared with nature, ants and friends. Do visit your local botanical gardens this holiday season. Susan said she'd bring her grandchildren; it's a lovely place to share an afternoon with children and greenery, and an inspiration for artists with lots of beads and wire.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dollhouse Christmas 2011

The Christmas tree has been set on my desk for the last 6 holidays. I moved the dollhouse next to my workspace this year, so I decorated the living room of the house. I just have to open the front to see the holiday decorations. It's lovely by candlelight. A stocking is hung on the fireplace screen. The gingerbread man lost an arm and I'll make a new one before the decorations are put away for the year. The Christmas sheet music is on the piano, and Frosty the Snowman is up next. Wrapping paper, empty boxes, scissors and tape are on the coffee table, next to a glass of wine. There are more ornament boxes by the couch. It's my dream couch, made of copper leather. Friend Joel's Hanukkah gifts are on the right. Someone is getting Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. The clock on the mantel is a replica of a clock I made. I bought the real clock in 1980; it's made by a Wayne State University woodworking teacher from padauk and white oak. The torchiere lamp is a dowel, with a 2 liter pop bottle ring as the base, and a piece from my sisters' toy bucket (tiny pieces taken away from gifts to their little children.) The halogen lamp bulb is made of crystal seed beads. The real torchiere is in the living room upstairs. I made the Christmas tree before I found out that you can buy a craft tree at Michael's or JoAnn's! I made each of the ornaments on the tree, from beads and jewelry findings. The rug is a 1:12 scale Turkish rug from Turkey. A poinsettia plant I made is now available at my etsy shop! The paintings on the wall are miniature prints of my own paintings. It's a special time in the dollhouse! Happy full scale holidays to one and all, and best wishes for a happy and safe new year!

Caregiving Cards-A Friend Indeed

The first card in my art series "A Friend Indeed" was created because I could not find a card to send to my sister's friend Stacy, who was fighting her way through terminal breast cancer. Her courage was amazing, and I wanted to honor her humbly. The first card I sent read Some day I may know what you're going through, and the inside read And I will remember your strength. 13 cards created. I love the heartfelt sentiment on each, the truth of a life struggle respected. Along my own journey, I abandoned the cards. Recently I wanted cards to send to other caregiver friends. The loneliness, the doubt, guilt and heartbreak of caregivers is profound, and I needed cards to encourage and support my friends. My Friend Indeed cards came back, but the art was dated. I rounded up the collection of dolls I'd rescued, packed a wardrobe case and my camera and went to the parks. I fell back in love with the cards, and cried more than once, feeling the love caregivers share. As I was walking to find another location in Kensington Park, a man popped up from crouching in the bushes. Oh, oh, I thought. He looked sheepishly around, shrugged and held up a cutout. "My niece sent me Flat Stanley to take a picture of in Michigan." I love Flat Stanley! I said. He sighed, "thank goodness." At Island Lake State Park, a mountain biker saw me kneeling over a log getting the dolls to sit upright, and almost fell off his bike laughing. For one photograph, I was so convinced the dolls were live acting talent, I posed two standing, and was surprised when they both fell over. I have listed some of the cards in my shop on etsy, and will be posting more. In any way you're able, please give thanks and appreciation to those loved ones and friends who are in need of support indeed, especially this holiday season.