Sunday, May 29, 2011

lightening the load

I read an article suggesting I ask my readers what they like about my writing, what kind of mood it leaves them in and if they would return to read more of what I write. Those are scary questions but I will put them out there to see if any of you want to respond.

I know I am very selective about what I read and getting more so as the calendar years slip by. I purchase used magazines as I cancel my annual subscriptions because I just don't use much of my time reading magazines anymore. When the New York Times arrives, I scan the first two sections and if there isn't an editorial piece (Rural Life) by Verlyn Klinenborg, I skip the editorials entirely. I always read the local Lifestyle section and the Comics.

So, although I am a bit bummed by my limited, obviously selective, "followers" numbers, I know that a couple of you do read what I write because you write back to me on my gmail account and I really appreciate you sharing your time to write back to me in any way.

Today, I feel like I am lightening the load I have been carrying around since Mark's job was eliminated at the UA. I have worked through some of my own work challenges and the seasonal shift to summer has set in for Tucson. I know this is our rough season and many dread it, but, for me, it's a time of neighborhood swimming, sweet summer nights and that ever-lingering adolescent memory of what summers used to bring: leisure time, good movies and the bounty of ripe tomatoes, berries and corn-on-the-cob. So I embrace the summer with a smile in late May/early June, knowing that by late August, I am counting the minutes of darkening evenings and dropping temperatures (from 110 to 90 degrees:).

Last Sunday, Mark and I went to Mt. Lemmon and had a wonderful time among the green grasses, shimmering aspen leaves and slopes dotted with white snow-drop wildflowers. Since we had a dry winter season, the creeks were thin and trickling and wildflowers were sparse but loved the more because of their scarcity. I was able to do the hike in Bear Wallow without any ankle swelling or new aches so I feel another healing milestone has been met. We sat out on a Winterhaven cafe patio, savoring the softness of a freshly baked peanut butter cookie and drinking our canned cafe lattes, listening to the international language shifting of patrons from the valley and watching toddlers try to touch butterflies as they circled the flowerbeds of petunias and roses.

For this week's Writers Digest Poetry prompts, the prompt was "priorities" and so, I share mine here. I encourage my readers to think about their own priorities for the day or week ahead:

My Priority

Feeding the birds is the way I start my day.
My husband says it's a silly thing to do:
I am enabling creatures who
should be able to forage for their own food.

But I treasure the texture of the seeds
as they slip through my fingers
and bounce into the feeder.
The feel and sound remind me
of my Grandmother Dice as she
chucked corn every morning to her chickens.

So if it's a silly thing to do,
it's also a priority
and a solemn act of love.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

between light and shadow

Last night we had dinner with friends and watched two episodes of "The Twilight Zone" (1959) via Netflix. The opening lines describe the twilight zone as that space between light and shadow. This is a good description of where I feel I have been living this past week.

Light has been my time with the fifth graders at Pueblo Gardens Elementary School as they prepare to read a scene from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". It includes my swimming at the Y, coffee with my son and yesterday with a friend, my blooming flowers, my second to the last physical therapy session, my in-the-moment work with Imagine Greater Tucson.

Shadow has been keeping on my side of the street as Mark deals with his loss of job reality, not getting sucked into fixing my dad's minor concerns with ill-fitting tennis shoes, slow weight gain as I seek comfort in carbs from the challenges of future implications of my professional life--or the lack thereof, including my shelving writing due to increased pressures of consulting billable tasks.

That "twilight zone" space in between surfaces in my dreams which have been vivid narratives that are patchworked like the quilts I continue to study as a link to my inherited past. I observed from the two episodes we watched last night that mirrors are used a lot in the narrative of the twilight zone. Also a theme seemed to be loss of individual identity. The show was done in 1959 and we were living at a time of the Cold War with WW II only a decade behind. We had not yet expanded our frontiers to space, although the possiblity was looming.

Now we are in a time when our NASA program has launched one of its last manned/womanned spacecraft. We are looking beyond the moon to Mars and yet, we are tethered to Earth by wars and diminishing natural resources. Our time for self-reflection (aka, looking into the mirror to see a) if we exist and b) if we do exist, who we are) takes place on the Internet (here, I am doing that with you) via blogs, Facebook, twitter, etc. I still write the old-fashioned daily journal and memoir-writing is a popular genre, so some of us continue to seek self-definition in our lives.

I guess that's a good thing. I experienced the seduction of Rod Serling's voice last night as he opened and closed his show with the narrative explanation of the twilight zone. Having a start and finish to the stories offers me comfort of rationality in an often irrational daily life.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

ironing and a-mending

On Saturday mornings, when the timing works, I try to watch PBS' shows on quilting and needle crafts. As much as the show is about the projects that are demonstrated, the voices of the women on the show are melodic, rhythmic and relaxing. On yesterday's Pons and Porter show there was the rare sight of a man who was an expert on the history of the iron. He talked about its evolution from one solid iron piece heated over coals, to one with a wood handle (easier to hold), to one with coals inside of it (still used in parts of the Third World today), to the various stages of the electric iron.

When I was young we used to sing the song about "monday is wash day, tuesday is ironing day...". He explained that, at the beginning of electricity in the homes, electricity was only turned on at night so that people could read. But a man who developed the first electric iron (sorry, forgot his name), lobbied for the day of Tuesday to have electricity all day so that women could buy and use his irons. What a story!!!

In the song, there is a mending day (can a reader tell me which day that is?) and the woman on the show talked about how menders really aren't the patient people others think they are. Menders want to get things fixed and finished.

I remember my grandmother mending my grandad's heavy winter socks. She would pull the sock over a mending gourd and stitch as she told us stories or, later, as she watched the Ed Sullivan Show. My mom mended for awhile, too. Mending a few of my dad's socks, as I recall, and stitching hems and buttons into her eighties. I inherited most of her sewing and mending supplies along with the walnut sewing cabinet dad crafted in high school.

These facts and memories reassure me today and I contemplate my own practices of ironing and a-mending. Raised in the midwest, we ironed our own gym uniforms on Sunday night for Monday's PE inspection. Later, I ironed my nursing aide uniform, making sure the green belt had no creases, which my Irish nurse supervisor keenly monitored. Of course, I ironed my other clothes, too, and when I moved out of the house, I left many of my ironing practices behind. I have an ironing board but it hasn't been out of the closet in years. I made sure the small sleeve-styled ironing board that both my grandmother and mom used didn't get tossed into the Goodwill when mom died and it, too, in the closet. When I do my rare ironings, I toss a towel on the kitchen island counter and lay the clothing item casually and clumsily across the towel to iron. It's an act of stubborness against the mandatory past to not use the ironing board.

As for mending, I even more rarely do that. I can and do sew on buttons and occasionally stitch the torn fabric of my bed's storemade quilt. So the summer project idea of making a block quilt basket pattern seems a bit farfetched. Still, the project intriques me and I sense that rediscovering these lost domestic arts have something to do with my overall spiritual recovery. So, I will keep watching the Saturday shows and see where their stories and sewings take me.

In the meantime, the NY TIMES on Friday had a review of the American Folk Art Museum's exhibit on quilts. Check it out at:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

pilgrimages of remembrance

I read an editorial in today's NY Times where the writer was recalling his trips to a Jewish deli in Cleveland Heights, Ohio where his mom would search out her favorite snacks, Jewish tongue, Pringles, Milano cookies. He goes there still, though she died in 2004.

And as I woke up, lingering in bed a bit with my hubby, recalling our different early memories of Mother's Day, and those we shared with our son when he was small and both our mothers were still with us--I realize now, I was, like the NY Times writer, making a pilgimage of remembrance of my grandmother, my mother, my mother-in-law and my early days of being a mom.

Those are good memories, sweetened by time. I have forgotten arguments I probably had with my mom or sister as we dressed for Church and then to go out to eat with my grandparents in Crystal Lake, Illinois. I have forgotten (mostly), the shifting of rhythms I experienced with my mother-in-law as I learned to include her uncomfortablity with the "holiday" which meant a working day for a waitress, as she used to be, with multiple plates to juggle and few tips to bring home in her pocket.

Memory helps me shift through what I liked and will keep and let go of the rest. I like to focus on the sight, sound and taste of gathering at Reid Park with both of our moms, my sister and her young family and we with ours. We would share friend chicken, potato salad and crisply cut veggies, watermelon and chocolate iced cupcakes, settling in to our lounge chairs or stretching out on blankets to listen to "Music Under the Starts" with the Tucson Pops Orchestra.

I could do that tonight, with just Mark and I under the stars, but the absences on this day, are still too deep to feel. We'll find our own path through the day--a late brunch at Coco's, a movie about Tuscany, a visit to the bookstore, and, if I am lucky, a text from my son who, like his Grandmother Grushka used to have to do, is working a 12 hour day in the restaurant business. Yesterday, I planted new flowers, moved others into new pots that shine crystalline blue in the morning sun. In my own way, I continued on my maternal traditions--rooting for my favorite at the Kentucky Derby and recalling how my Methodist Grandmother Dice used to bend her "no gambling" rule at this one race and bet pennies with us on the ponies.

So, whether you are a mom of the garden, of pets or children--enjoy mothering in your own way and be open to being mothered and loved by others today and everyday.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the dust has yet to settle

As an update on the list of "how the west winds blew" last week:

1. My friend's excellent breast specialist did rush the results and she found out that her diagnosis is treatable. He is sending her to the only MRI service in the state (not in Tucson but in Scottsdale) who will give MRI test results on the spot. So there is hope that we humans can get quick-care equal to those of our pets.

2. In an ironic turn of fate, my husband received an award this week for the Arizona Safety Engineer's "Safety Professional of the Year." Apparently they had notified his boss at the UA to invite her to the dinner, but knowing she was going to not renew his contract, she declined the invitation. So his job search begins in earnest and we may throw the net wider to include out of Arizona possibilities. Geographic locations I told him I would consider are: California, New Orleans, and the Philly area. We hope to have our feet on solid ground by the end of the summer.

Not on the blog list last week but now I am sharing--I made my goal of a poem a day for April thanks to the Writer's Digest Poetic Asides prompts. I am going to submit 5 of them by 5/5 for that contest and I did submit a short short story to another contest on Friday. With work hours expanding right now (which is a good thing and keeps my mind from slithering down a cliff), creative writing has been squeezed, but I took some self-care time on Friday and yesterday and so, I have some products to submit. Here is one I will not be submitting so I can share it here. Just know that I scribbled my poems everyday before 8 a.m.!

from 4/28's prompt for "a world without something".

A world without chocoloate
would be like a garden without green sprouts,
a car without wheels,
a bird without wings,
a cat without whiskers,
a night without a moon.

So, for you readers to think about--what would your world look like "without something"?