Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Three Story Life: The Play

In a recent writing workshop, a woman suggested that A Three Story Life is a play. She saw it as a play immediately. It was an exciting concept. I'd like to write a play, have begun a couple over the years, or maybe I've recreated an existing one floating around in my semiconscious serially. When she said play, I saw the scenery for the song "Did You Hear About Kim?" from an Osborne High School production of Bye Bye Birdie, circa 1969. The darkened stage was set in cubicles, like a window box, spotlight bouncing from one singer to another. It was genius set design. I'm intimidated by the idea of formatting a play document. Being intimidated by minutiae is a lifelong stopper for me. But a play! I started one for my 50th birthday. I started one during April's Script Frenzy a few years ago. My brain is churning with ideas. And my brain is churning with stoppers. Which me will triumph this time? And who do I blame when the wrong one succeeds? 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bianca's Baby Shower

Lawson James Williams has not made his debut in the world yet, and many people already love him. His mother, so young, so tender and compassionate, with her beautiful laugh and shining soul. His father. Grandmas and Grandpas in waiting. Great-grandparents. Great-aunts, great-uncles, uncles and aunts, cousins, second cousins. Lots of arms are longing to hold this little boy, dreaming of his life, hoping for his life. When his mother was a baby, I made her a dinosaur. When my friend Beckie's first-born wore a cast with dinosaurs on it, I made him a dinosaur wearing a tshirt that had a picture of Jacob on it. Jake wore dinosaurs; the dinosaur wore Jake. Today I finished making a dinosaur for Lawson. It was made with great and mighty intention - love, tears, dreams, worry and more love. The body is a sweatshirt someone I love and who loves me gave me. The tshirt is made from a shirt of my mother's that had a handpainted Betty Boop in a heart on the front. Right behind the heart on Lawson's dinosaur is the picture; my mother's gift to the great-grandson she will not meet, but loves, I know. The scales on the back are from my favorite tshirts that do not fit me anymore, but fit just fine where each is now. He's stuffed with favorite shirts to teach him that love will always cover him, that warmth and comfort are his to have. Socks so that he will know that whatever life may bring, he can stand on his own two feet. His initial is there so that he will learn his name, and that who he is, and will be, matters most of all. Every stitch in this dinosaur is sewn with love, with hope, and with joy. We can barely wait to meet you, Lawson James, and hug you welcome to the world.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's My Job to Speak Against Hatred

We were raised to believe all people are equal. My mother spoke out to relatives who used words that were not allowed in our house. I did not find out until much later that she denied my father on this subject. It has taken years of caring talk to change Dad's false assumptions. He was raised with the easy, ignorant usage of epithets and superiority too common to simple working people. Some of my cousins have carried on this lazy prejudice, despite being more educated, despite presenting an inclusive face in their churches and communities. White people assume other white people are included in the hatred; a secret exclusive club. Although they whisper. Oh, yes, they whisper; courageous enough to hate, but not to be overheard. And they teach their children to look down on people not like them. Long ago, walking Beaner home from kindergarten, little Rachel running in circles, and Bianca in her stroller, another student's mother whispered something to me. The school was in a white neighborhood, so she felt an automatic kinship. She whispered in the presence of her two sons. And the next week she said another stupid thing. I struggled with what to say to her that did not include punching her, because punching is not a teaching tool, as my wiser sister has to remind me. So I said to her, "Shirley, not all people feel the way you do." I use that phrase now. It's soft and gives the speaker a chance to think clearly. It also serves to evaporate my rage at people who hate at leisure. It took decades to help my Dad understand that what his family taught him is not really how he feels, because I love him. George Zimmerman is a whisperer with no one who cared enough for him to turn him away from hatred. And Trayvon Martin is dead because no one spoke against hatred to George Zimmerman. It's my job to speak against hatred. And it is your job, too. If not for yourself, than for your children and grandchildren, and all children who, because we chose to be complicit with silence, risk their lives walking a neighborhood street.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Other People vs Me

We are raised, hopefully, to be considerate. Maybe some miss out on this character building chance, but there is opportunity in a lifetime to improve. Some people get the idea via behavior modification experience that other people matter more than self, and it's tough to overcome. I've heard several times in the last month the other people trope used to pacify me. I pulled hard to get a book out of my post office box that had been bent in the middle to shove it in. It was clearly a book. I took the now delta-winged package to the desk. I didn't yet know what I could do about it, or what I wanted done. I showed it to the man. He shrugged his shoulders. The woman next to him said, other people do not want to wait in line to get a package too big for the box. At that point I knew what I wanted to accomplish. No more folded books. I said I want my box tagged as a no stuffing box. Today I was describing a life situation, and the person I was talking with said, "many people have these phases." This is behavior modification dialectics. I am verbally coached to give up my goal, rethink priorities, pull back and be quiet because other people do something or don't do something? It's interesting. Think of a lifetime with this messaging. How do we stand out, feel good about our successes, and get what we want? We learn to ignore the other people dialogue, and focus on what it is we need to have solved at that moment in time, and use our personal power to solve it.

It's All About the Cake

Beautiful friend Geri says birthdays are all about the cake. When I was 5, I wanted to make my own cake. I've discovered that delicious cake is cake you get from a bakery you've searched for, found and pray will stay in business. I love Buttercream Bakeshop in Wixom, MI and the last cake I got for myself was from there. It had blue sky, puffy white clouds, and sunflowers all around the sides. It was scrumptious as well as lovely. This year I had no cake or pie either, and I missed that treat a week later. 61 years old, and I still want to make my own cake. Last night I warmed the oven, made not one cake, but three. One for my dollhouse, and 2 to sell on etsy for other people who know that birthdays are all about the cake. This cake is hazelnut with mango and blueberry cream filling, cream cheese frosting with sprinkles on top. Hmm. Happy birthday this week to Michelle, Jane, Carol and Paul! Wishing you all a wonderful year. And cake.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Out of Patience. Ditto Girlish Laughter.

If I see that ad with a 57/53 year old mom who looks 27/25 again today, I'm going to hit something. And the belly shrinking ads. Ugh. And where are the women in the streets, protesting the deluge of anti-women federal and state legislation? I'd write my congressman, but that just gets me back on his mailing list. And my father has given up using plates and utensils to eat. If I see one more piece of buttered toast on the arm of the couch... And I have lost my drawing skills as well as my writing chops. And who knew a baby car seat costs $189? And what is a Sprinter Go-Lightly Travel System? And who do I have to stomp on to get a shower that doesn't switch to boiling hot or freezing cold for no good reason? And why isn't there a decent sushi place in this town? Okay. Whew. I feel better. Maybe I need a walk or a nap. Maybe a walk and a nap.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Martha Graham Inspiration

Martha Graham quote from Hayden's Ferry Review today.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. No artist is pleased. There is only the queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than others. ~ Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer

How Do We Self Identify?

I thought of this for 24 hours while I was obsessively thinking about a shirt I saw yesterday and did not buy. It is not a tailored garment that fits within an inch of its (and my) life. Beloved Beckie's grandmother Shirley said that people miss most at the end of life what they held in high esteem about themselves throughout their existence. If you loved power, you miss it. Value your beauty, and losing it will drive you melancholic. Fame, control, lover worship - whatever illusions blew your skirt up, you will mourn that loss in elder years. How do I self identify? My sister said that if you are unaware of something you don't like about yourself, you point it out in another person. Spot it, got it. A therapist asked me to define myself, and before I took a breath, she said "and don't start with I'm not." I drove back to the store to buy the shirt today. I thought about what I was doing the entire way, pausing occasionally to remind myself to enjoy the snow, the wind, the trees, the late winter sky. How do I self identify? Is my labeling external? Is it what I wear? I loved labels. Labels at a bargain, naturally. What does a label mean? To me it meant exquisite tailoring, fine fabric, and fit & finish in a timeless elegant profile. I know quality. I know tailoring. But I no longer prefer tailored. The shirt I bought today is free form, loose, rumpled, not tailored, bohemian, and comfortable. I don't know the label. And I think it suits me just fine with the self I identify now.

Detachment, Decadence and Dystopia

Scott, my brother, had to sign his name a lot this week. We had the annual review of his living situation through the agency that supports him. Scott has Down's Syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. His mind is disconnecting itself from his beautiful soul. As time moves along, we see his behavior become more rote, less personal. He holds on to his training. Thank you is his response to almost all communication. He signs as much of his name as his focus can handle. I wondered this week whether he feels connected to his name, to the person with his moniker, to his identity as a human, a man, a son, a beloved brother. His brain is trying to keep up. We do not know where his emotions are just now. This week I am making a habit of calling my brother Scott, rather than the affectionate diminutives I have been. I wonder if our world is in the same sort of shape. Detachment. We experience more incivility in the world, more disconnection from humanity. I wonder if there is a correlation between people who type hateful comments and use the nonidentity anonymous to hide behind. We see profile pictures that are just an eye, or the back of a short skirt, but not the whole person. We couldn't identify them in a line-up. A man who missed the parking space I got felt just fine yelling "bitch" through the windshield. Our college grads are failing job interviews because they do not know how to communicate face to face. With what are we connecting? What is the psychological and sociological result of solo existence? We know some of the answer. If a person cannot bond successfully with a loved one at an early age, one possible result is sociopathy. We are experiencing the pop emergence of violent dystopian scenarios in literature and media. We are experiencing the rise of violence against women, both physically and legislatively. Someone actually used the search phrase "funny pictures of bullying" and I'm sure was disappointed to find my blog. What happens to a culture that disintegrates into its component cliques? We've seen the results in history. Chaos. And the rise of weak yang dictators. How do we encourage, support and find new avenues of connectedness in the face of artificial social networking? How do we reverse this 3D trend of anonymity and isolation and the violence that supports?

Happy Birthday Pisces

If we could just relax and enjoy being the wildly imaginative, otherworldly, dreamy idealists we are, we could get that opposing fish to swim the other way. But then we wouldn't be Piscean. Pisces is a water sign, the 12th house of the zodiac. We are currently still in the vernal equinox position of the constellation Pisces, and will be perhaps for another 600 years. In 2600 we will enter the Age of Aquarius, despite the fact that I sang about the dawning of the age of Aquarius back in 1969, and the industrial revolution was part of the chaos of Pisces ending, and Aquarius beginning. Being the 12th house might indicate a bunch of stuff, depending on who you listen to and believe. Pisces may be the last incarnation of earth life for us, perhaps you've learned all the lessons required for ascension in the previous 11 houses and you don't have to come back here again. I'm liking that idea, although I doubt I've learned many lessons at all. My neighbor says it is still a choice to come back or not, and I'm good with that. Pisces is a water sign. The water element is shared with Cancer and Scorpio. Cancer is a Cardinal sign (initiate first wave), Scorpio is a Fixed sign (reach the shore) and Pisces is Mutable (wave pattern.) Pisces is the ocean, Scorpio the big lake, and Cancer, the river. That's my water analogy. Pisces are intuitive and depending on the position of other planets at the time of your birth, you may be completely untethered to this dimension, or you may be driven to achieve in the earthly plane, or you may drown yourself in substance abuse. There is choice and chance involved in all of it. I am a double Pisces, sun and moon both in Pisces, and those pesky intrusive planets Mercury and Jupiter in Pisces as well. What keeps me from floating straight out of this nonreality is Capricorn ascendant, and Mars in Aries. I have weaknesses I haven't managed to pump up the strength on so far. I have gifts. So do you. The trick is not to accentuate the positive, but shore up the traits that keep you from your goals. Water is subtle and seems formless, but it can wear down rock over time. We are intuitive, kind, and people who take the time to know us, like us. We are good to children, all underdogs, and have a rich spiritual inner life. We can achieve when we set our minds to success. Happy birthday Pisces. I'm glad to be among you all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Three Story Life: Diapers

Dad got an evening call from the caseworker at MORC last week. Scott's health services personal companion had called her boss to find out what she could do about the smell in her car. I heard this second/third hand narrative as I walked in the door, still with my coat on. Dad asked if I'd gotten an email from Mary. I looked at my coat, the door. "Get an email when, where, from Mary who?" He started to tell the story, and I stopped him, said I'd make dinner and do dishes and then we'd talk. I asked Dad then to repeat the story, the sequence of contacts. Scott's personal companion (PC here on out) said Scott urinates in her car. This is what she relayed to her boss, who in turn called MORC. Still don't know the story from the concerned parties because right now it's hearsay from an unreliable narrator, but I've got the gist. Dad said he was depressed. I said "what are you depressed about? This isn't about you. This is about Scott and his dignity. Let's talk about solutions." First decision made: get the PC's car cleaned and de-stinked. The fact is Scott drops his pants to pee and stands sort of close to the toilet. He occasionally gets his pants. Diapers are not going to fix that. What are the alternatives? Retrain Scott to pee sitting down. Put diapers on him. Have the companion use my car. Get a great pad for the PC's car. Check on new PC because her limited schedule is part of the issue, and where they go (for 3 hr. coffee, with many pants peeing ops.) We will talk with Mary tomorrow, and the companion as well. I need to hear the other reporters' stories, then we will take appropriate action. Today I found out I bought tabbed diapers which won't work at all - Scott will just tear the tabs. So he and I talked about trying to sit on the toilet to pee. I don't have much hope for success, but I still want him to have options. I'll exchange the diapers. We'll talk to everyone. I'm damn proud of me. I switched my anger at the PC for not coming to us first to positive action. She did what seemed reasonable to her. I bushwhacked Dad's inability to cope by involving him in discussion and decision-making, and put aside my quaking heart to involve Scott in making choices about his dignity and freedom. Dad is calmer. I am calmer. Scott hopefully will remain calm. Anyone else's comfort is not my concern.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When Reality Unravels

Reality isn't real. What I see, understand and tell myself is true does not fit for anyone else. I get this in my head in whichever firing range the neurons that handle unreality operate. A Course in Miracles teaches this. Nothing is real. Nothing is real here. So there's an implication that there is real reality somewhere else. Fine. Deepak Chopra teaches this. When we navigate from true self we can feel the centeredness. Fine. We are one with the universe. Okay. Is the universe real? Depends on who you ask. Black holes exist but we can't see them. Dark matter exists. We know this because we can measure what's not visible. The speed of light calculus is real. Nobody's going to get a ticket for exceeding the speed of light any time soon. We can follow the experiments at CERN as scientists endeavor to see what can't be seen, and get paid for it. The universe as we know it is about to change, CERN declares. But we know the universe is changing all the time. I'm changing. You're changing. How do we measure that? If what I cannot see may be more real than what I can see, how am I supposed to drive to the grocery store? How am I going to be serene in my place in the universe? Especially if the universe is expanding. Am I expanding, too? Do I exist outside of my true self? And if I don't, who's going to introduce me to my true self, a serene being deeply immersed in the witness protection program?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Birthday and St. Patrick's Day

After a certain age birthdays are about getting license tabs. My friend Geri says birthdays are all about the cake, and she gets herself a dazzling one each year. I'm looking at my tab on my desk, hoping I remember to put it on the car when it stops raining, and already hoping I have the money to get a new one in 2013. And wondering if I'll get myself a cake this year. Which brings us to 4-leaf clovers. How? Luck. My Aunt Suoma gave me a 4-leaf clover decades ago. I kept it in my wallet. When my wallet croaked, I took out all its precious stuff, and found the clover was dust. Lucky dust? I don't know. Did carrying it keep me from a fatal car crash somewhere in time? From a heart-crunching relationship? From a terrible job that would have broken my spirit? Maybe. I made two shamrock plants this week. One is for sale on etsy. And one is on my dollhouse front lawn. I have a new literary journal to review this month and it arrived yesterday. My first one was published last month for The Review Review. This new journal is about luck. I'm excited to read it, and glad I don't have an opinion on luck right at the moment. That's lucky already, isn't it?