...isn't as bad as you may think. In fact, it is actually quite a comfortable place to dwell, once you come in for a landing. The air isn't as thin as it is in higher loftier towers. The urge to jump disappears entirely as both feet are now firmly planted on the ground. Fear of flying and fear of open spaces and fear of failure and fear of heights and fear of the unknown all dissipate into the shadows. Not flying so close to the sun, without a parachute on. Not dancing on a wire without a net. Here is a much safer, calmer and potentially wiser place to be.
...the Land of Low Expectations is exactly where I started.
...after a long and somewhat frightening fall from the Land of High Expectations...
...other people's expectations of me as a child, a student, a teacher, a parent, a wife, a mother, and resident of the world at large.
...I spent a lifetime working very hard to meet the expectations of others because I was always told that living up to expectations equals success.
...and in most instances I think that's true.
...however, one day, later in life I landed in a spot where the only expectations were my own and the ground on which I stood was flat and vacant and as far and as wide as my eyes could see.
...out of that lowly place, where I expected nothing, had no need to attain anything, carried no particular wish for fame or fortune or fanfare, came an idea.
...an idea I put down on paper. Then because my words seemed so lonely on the page, I added photographs of flowers. Why? I don't know. It was just an idea that felt right. That fit my expectations of me. I wasn't thinking of anyone else, I wasn't talking to anyone else. I was simply having a conversation with myself. It was, perhaps, a selfish idea, but then aren't all ideas selfish in the beginning?
...without the accidental tourist, I would still be sitting here, having never flown or floundered or fallen. I would be just sitting here enjoying the simple pleasure of putting my thoughts down on paper and taking out of focus pictures of flowers in the Fall.
...someone accidentally saw my words, saw my pictures and said sell them. Or, more precisely, come with me and we will try to sell them. And I did. We did. My accidental tourist was flushed with success. I was flushed with surprise and flushed out from the Land of Low Expectations and back into the world where expectations are high.
...in the Land of High Expectations the air is thin and a person can get giddy and easily excited. I admit I did just that...but...this is very important...to me...what was the most exciting was another idea altogether...
...the idea that what I thought about...what I wrote about...what I photographed...connected me to the ideas in other people's heads. And hearts. That my idea, conceived in the Land of Low Expectations, could resonate with so many other people, filled me with joy. You know that moment at the beginning of a party, when you don't know anyone and everywhere you look, little groups are gathered in a circle of commonality and you stand quietly watching and waiting for a pause in the conversation. Where you eavesdrop for a moment to listen for a familiar subject, a topic you know something about. Something you have in common with all these other people. A word, a phrase, a nudge that gives you the courage to step forward, to lean in, to introduce yourself and hopefully be welcomed to the conversation.
...I was. Welcomed. To the world of conversation. And it was a joy.
...I took a seat in the first car of the fastest roller coaster on a rickety track click clack clicking its way up from the ground headed higher and higher and faster and faster.
...it was a fun ride.
...twists and turns...
...all the way to the TOP...
...the sky was blue...I could see it flash by...
...and right there at the crest of the climb, with my heart in my throat and all reason and control abandoned...no foot on the brake...
...I had another idea...CD greeting cards...and off I flew...no parachute...no net...
I love words. I love pictures. I love connecting. Word Art that I could share. Designs in my head. Words in my heart. And good intentions in my pocket. If you build it, they say...
Ten little cards picked fresh from the garden.
I thought most folks like me knew how or wanted to load pictures on a CD. Send it through the mail.
With a single stamp.
Everywhere I went and everyone I met asked me the same question...what's on the CD? And I would say...nothing...that's the cool part...YOU can put anything you want on it and send it to anyone you love or like or miss.
And to a person...everyone said...what a neat idea.
And it was...for awhile...except that the air on the top of the ride thinned out even more...all around me...it seemed that everyone was breathing a little harder and struggling not just to hang on for the ride...but to survive it.
Maybe fewer folks like me even think about sending cards these days. The Post Office going broke, empty mailboxes, technology racing so fast no one can keep up and photo sharing sites are easier, faster and less time consuming...
...and much cooler and less old fashioned than the mind behind the idea that took shape at the top of a fast moving roller coaster...
So...here...in the land of low expectations, I find myself with some beautiful cards and the need to move on.
I am happy here...I love my website...I love my blog...I love hearing from you...I love my artwork...going to shows and having conversations...seeing old friends and making new ones...but my cards...my sweet little cards need a home.
Here is where YOU come into the picture.
You can help me find a good home for the remaining CD Greetings. If you would like cards for your wedding, to announce a new baby, or a give away for a fundraiser. If you know of a charitable organization, a worthy cause, just email me by using the envelope link at the bottom of the page.
That's all you have to do.
I will send you the cards. FOR FREE. For you. From me.
This is my gift to you.
From my heart to yours.
Because in the Land of Low Expectations...
the only place left to go is UP.
And all I want to do
is tell a story.
The best is yet to come.
And buckle up.
A roller coaster of a ride.
that which must go up
in a flash
out of control
clenched hands on the bar.
The tunnel is ahead
The light appears
that undeniable force
cannot keep me down long.
I can fly.
In the front car.
On my way back up
Thursday, January 24, 2013
ONE. ONE. ONE.
One of this.
One of that.
One and one only.
I think I need at least TWO.
Up AND down.
In AND out.
Short AND tall.
Fat AND skinny.
Hot AND cold.
Small AND large.
Night AND day.
Black AND white.
On AND off.
Then at least I'd have a CHOICE.
This OR that.
One OR the other.
You OR me.
Left OR right.
Stay OR go.
Keep OR throw away.
Walk OR run.
But what about the stuff in between.
The stuff that doesn't fit.
In between ONE and TWO.
I'd be stuck.
In the middle.
What if ONE is wrong...
and TWO is right?
Or TWO is wrong
and ONE is right?
What if I make the wrong choice.
Did ONE but not TWO.
Chose TWO but not ONE.
I might get bored sitting between ONE and TWO.
Back and forth.
Forth and back.
Where would I keep my crayons?
My blue and green and yellow.
My tastes, smells, sounds and shapes
could only be
sweet or sour,
good or bad,
loud or soft,
circle or square?
My neck might get stiff looking down at my shoes
or looking up at the clouds.
My legs only good to run or walk.
No skipping or hopping.
My eyes only open or shut.
No blinking or winking.
I might wear out the grass
walking between ONE and TWO.
In a rut.
How many pieces are in ONE?
My Mom says I have to share my ONE candy bar with you, so I broke it. ONE for you and ONE for me. Only ONE isn't ONE anymore. Now ONE is TWO. No, this is HALF. Part of ONE. ONE broken into TWO parts. Even if MY half is slightly bigger than yours, because I didn't REALLY want to share at all, MY half is just a bit bigger than 0 which is NOTHING at all so...
If MOM wanted candy too,
she says I would have needed THREE equal pieces and
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THREE in this world of ONE and TWO.
So now there are all these pieces of candy that with some glue or tape could be put back together into ONE, but it is very messy work and I think Mom said something about FRACTIONS...
and my mind is stuck on ONE and TWO.
so now I am pacing back and forth
and feeling rather anxious and claustrophobic,
moving from Point A
to Point B to Point A to Point B.
My shoes have holes in the soles and my TWO feet hurt,
so I am going to sit down and take off my shoes,
for just ONE minute.
Wait just a minute.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
And outside my window...FOUR trees, with ELEVEN branches and SIX birds perched on the limbs while SEVEN squirrels chase each other across the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9........blades of grass...
I ran out of fingers and toes.
More than ONE.
More than TWO.
More than I can count.
Let me at 'em.
From ONE to TWO is....................................
I'll deal with that later.
I should have trusted my mother and shared my candy with her.
She knew. She knew there is more than ONE or TWO.
She knew there was PLENTY to go around.
That it is safe to share.
That there ARE choices.
That CHOICES are fun.
That NUMBERS are just CHOICES.
That NUMBERS are for EVERYONE
and EVERYTHING is welcome for consideration.
I'll need a bigger house to let all of the possibilities IN...
what I need to do is take myself OUT...
INTO the world of INFINITE possibilities.
where there is plenty of room for ALL of my crayons
and lots and lots of wonderful choices.
My mother said so.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Funny how one word can trigger a memory. Up late reading about a young boy bedeviled by behaviors beyond his control. I laid the book down across my lap, marked the page with my finger and closed my eyes.
I saw myself rocking in a chair with a feisty five year old boy, his black bangs sweaty against his forehead. Sweaty from struggling and wrestling his way out of my grasp. He was extremely agitated, chewing the graphite at the end of the pencil gripped tightly in his left hand, while slapping at my arm with his right.
I placed one arm around his waist to keep him on my lap as we rocked. I didn't know then what I know now about autism, but it would not have helped to have a technical diagnostic label. Not in that moment. In the moment we were in, rocking felt right. Simple. Back and forth. Repetitive. Soothing. A steady rocking in a safe firm embrace, his ankles still as I wrapped my own gently around his legs.
I whispered his name. Josh, Josh, Josh over and over and over in his ear. Softer and softer each time. Rock with me. Rock with me. Rock with me.
I knew to do this because I was a young and inexperienced teacher of the deaf, job sharing with a very experienced older teacher, my mentor, Marese. Sitting a few feet away, teaching the rest of the class and teaching me at the same time by example, as she rocked lightly back and forth in her chair, smiling all the while. I knew Josh could not hear the sound of his name, but he could feel my breath on his cheek, and see my fingers underneath his chin, fingerspelling to him, J-O-S-H, J-O-S-H, J-O-S-H.
Marese taught me everything about teaching. Simple things, soothing things, to over-prepare, to be flexible, to know when a lesson is lousy and to leave it, when the weather outside the window can teach more about Science in ten minutes than a textbook in a musty classroom can in days and days.
Learning by doing. Praise only when praiseworthy. No favorite students. Each a favorite for unique qualities and quirks. Rituals and rhythms and responsibilities. Sharing. Taking turns and lining up. Table etiquette. Kindness. Math in Nature. Reading lips, facial expressions and body language for visual clues so easily missed when busy trying to make a point. Poetry in motion.
Marese was tiny and quiet and calm. I stood next to her, tall and dramatic and loud. She was ready to retire. I was ready to return. I retired for nine years to raise my two boys. We met on her way out and my way back in. A very unlikely pair. A mismatched duo.
An imperfect perfect fit.
Marese was like me, a mother, a wfie, a teacher. She knew love and heartache, deceit and truth, and how to make me laugh until I thought I'd pee. She taught mornings. I taught afternoons. We were supposed to meet at noon for fifteen minutes to exchange our half day adventures. Eventually, I would come earlier and she would stay later. She had much to teach and I had much to learn. Our time was short. We made the most of it. Often ending up in her kitchen after school, like the just-one-more-chapter-before-lights-out book you are not ready to put down.
Then she got sick. Parkinson's. It hit her hard and it hit her fast. From mild tremors to shaking her body out of her chair and onto the floor. Some of our best and most memorable conversations ended up on the carpet in her living room as she undulated unwillingly from one corner to another, once wedging herself underneath the coffee table. I couldn't fix this with a rocking chair. A safe secure embrace. So I just scooted beside her, stayed close, within reach, saying her name. Smiling her name. Listening for mine.
And when the liars tell you that life cannot get worse, know this for sure, it can. And does. Marese needed open heart surgery. In order to survive the surgery, she had to stop her medication. Her body froze up like an icicle and when she finally thawed, she slowly slipped away.
When I saw her last, in her hospital room, I told her family I had come to say good-bye. They asked me to tell her unconscious self, that it was okay to stop fighting, to lie down and let go.
I did as I was asked out of the respect she taught me well.
When the family left me alone for a private good-bye, I leaned down close to her ear, took her hand in mine, and said...
Marese. I was lying.
Don't go. I don't want you to leave. I didn't mean any of it.
I can't imagine the world without you.
She squeezed my hand.
Always the last word.
Always the right answer.
Her leaving was none of my business.
My business was waiting for me at home, back in the classroom, out again in the world, where she taught me to be.
So I simply stood by the side of her bed and in my heart, I scooped her up in my arms, and rocked her to sleep.
Exactly what she would have done for me.
Said my name in hello, and followed with a hug.
You have people like this in your life.
You know you do.
The ones who teach not by what they say, but by what they do.
Take a moment to remember them.
Embrace the memory and wrap it around you like a hug.
You will be missed.
...because I am the one with the tears in my eyes...
Thursday, January 10, 2013
I've admitted to you before that I am a news junkie. I start my day reading headlines from all over the planet. A regular Lois Lane of the newsroom. Page after page, article after article. Line by byline.
Story after story. Until my vision blurs.
And I have come to a conclusion.
Rising up from the foggy bottom.
That would be Me rising up from MY foggy bottom.
And I think...
This is my Op-Ed.
My opinionated opinion.
We have reached the tipping point.
We are all standing right on the edge of the precipice.
Hanging on by our fingernails.
Holding our collective breath.
Waiting for the Prada pump to fall.
Playing an Ace on the top of the stacked deck of cards.
Wobble. Wobble. Wobble.
I think it's here.
The day that good news becomes breaking news.
My good news will have shock value.
Shock from everyone out there so shell shocked from the day to day nastiness that is the news...
Maybe I'll even have to start my own newspaper, or e-zine, because I have a feeling that the "good" news will melt the competition.
People will realize just what their lives have been missing and beg for more and more and more.
So here goes...
Tomorrow's Top Headlines...
Courtesy of an eternal optimist with a parakeet,
rather than a chip, on her shoulder.
"Couple Celebrates 25th Wedding Anniversary"
"Child Graduates From College, Gets A Job, And Moves Out"
"Child Moves Out Into New Apartment, Pays Rent, Buys Car, Does Laundry, Cooks Dinner After Depositing Money Left Over From First Paycheck Into Savings Account For Rainy Day"
"Roadwork Finished Ahead Of Schedule And Under Budget"
"Husband Puts Down Lid On Toilet Seat"
"Eating Is Good For You"
"Happy Meal Makes Child Happy"
"Son Calls Mother Just to Say Hello"
"Mother Keeps Opinions To Herself"
"Neighbors Act Neighborly"
"Family Eating Dinner Together Turns Out Well. Child Eats Peas"
"Power Outage. Mysterious Lights In Sky Turn Out To Be Stars"
I can sense that you are skeptical. That you will need a little more convincing, but I know you are smiling, because this is so different.
A skewed point of view.
A different perspective.
I said it was a tipping point.
A place to begin anew.
Good news is new.
Trending now on Twitter...
All the good news that is fit to print starts right here in the garden...
Courtesy of eternal optimists...
who watch the sun rise and the sun set in the garden ...
Thursday, January 3, 2013
You can start by being less photogenic.
Exhibiting non-model behavior.
Seeing the bigger picture.
So, before I lecture you on how to make a memory, I will provide you with a lecture on how NOT to make one, courtesy of my Mother.
Poor Mom, I write often of her and she can't get a word in edgewise anymore, but I am a Mom too and figure one day my own kids will tell tall tales about me, and I won't be able to shut them up. So all's fair in love, life and our family lore.
I have in my possession, should I be forced to take the stand, solid evidence of over 25 Thanksgiving dinner table settings at my parent's apartment. Photographic evidence. The only problem is that none of the pictures are time stamped. If a fork wasn't occasionally off kilter or the turkey sat to the left rather than the right of my Dad, there would be no way to tell what year the photo was taken. He wore the same red sweater, you can see his sleeve, the tablecloth is the same, the dinnerware ditto, and the side dishes, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries and dinner rolls are arranged three to the left of the centerpiece and three to the right. There are no human beings in the shot.
I also have about 25 pictures of the same dining room table covered with greeting cards for a birthday. No people. No balloons. No cake. Just the cards. Anniversary...25 more. Christmas...25 more. Valentine's Day...25 more. Mother's Day...25 more.
The table has been staged over and over again. It reminds me of an elderly Aunt of a relative of mine, who glued her placemats to her kitchen table, to make clean up less stressful. I envision my Mother drawing geometric shapes on her tabletop to insure a consistent landing pattern.
When I was young, the opening of the gifts ritual, meant sitting on the ottoman, in front of the non-functional fireplace, holding the gift up under my chin and smiling for the camera. Then my brother posed. Then my other brother posed. And finally my Mother posed. My Father must have been in the witness protection program as he never ever posed, keeping the lens at arms length by muttering indistinguishable curse words under his breath. Just loud enough that we ALL got the picture.
Some mothers have big bottomless purses to carry Kleenex and band aids and soccer socks, and pens and paper clips...my Mom carried rolls of undeveloped film. Rolls and rolls and rolls.
Mom never owned a digital anything. Not even a thermometer. But she was a movie making pioneer. She was the first, I swear it, to own a Super 8 movie camera. No sound. She not only knew how to use it, but became quite the editor, sitting at the above mentioned dining room table, splicing reel after reel and labeling each can with titles such as "Easter Memories" and "New Baby Memories" etc. etc. She loved these movies so much that she rented a safe deposit box, unbeknownst to her children, to store the cans of film. It was the largest safe deposit box in the bank.
I know this because after she died, I was notified by the bank to come in and to examine its contents.
I felt very badly for the bank employees as they hefted the box on the counter and we peeled open the top. I think they imagined, over the years, that my Mother had been hoarding gold bars. A virtual Fort Knox of wealth.
She had been.
A Fort Knox full of golden memories.
Here comes the punch line.
The punch to the stomach punch line.
Somewhere amidst all the shuffle and chaos of her final days, the movies went missing. Most of the photos too.
I have one album. About thirty photos.
And about twenty envelopes of the pictures of the dining room table.
Now before you are grief stricken and weeping uncontrollably, I do have pictures of my own from my grown up days. But her candid camera memory making days are long past and little remains of her desire to "capture" the moment. Her exact words. "I want to capture the moment."
And what I know, is how much I loved her for wanting to freeze time. To make a memory.
And that she was always the one behind the camera, freezing away.
I just wish we had the good sense my Father did, and had brought her in from the cold.
I must admit that I get a cold chill imagining my Mother as a resident of our digital age. Her presence on Facebook. Photo sharing websites. An iPhone. An iPad. Posting image after image after image of my childhood, my adolescence, close-ups of bell bottoms and really bad hair days. The 50's and the 60's and the 70's and oh dear the '80's. My kids would have loved it. Loved it.
Here I sit. Writing. And posting photographs. It must be a genetic disorder. My own grandmother played piano accompaniments for silent movies once upon a time.
So before you think I am a photophobic grinch, let me get to the point.
I love to flip through albums.
I like home movies.
But I would rather be busy making memories, than in the business of freezing time. I don't understand going to a concert and spending the entire time on your phone taking pictures and texting. How do you photograph the sound? The music. How do you capture the rapture?
Or at a restaurant. Or at the dinner table. Or up in the mountains at the top of the run. Or in the hospital with a new baby in your arms. Or gathered round the fireplace in a cabin in the woods. Or at the end of the dock with your feet dangling the water.
I want to remember. I do.
Especially at my age, when it gets easier and easier to forget and the past begins to dim.
However, I want to do something more than remember. I don't want the less stress of placemats glued to the table.
I want to make new memories.
I don't want to freeze time. I want to use up all the minutes I have left being next to, with, beside, near, close to, snuggled up against, hugged and jostled and tickled by sights yet unseen and just like Dr. Seuss, have my motto be "Oh the places I would go..."
Yes my friends, I have a flip phone. My bill is $35 a month. I could text if I tried, but I might as well be hammering out my message on a stone tablet, as I write in longhand and have to stop to choose between MNO and WXYZ.
Emoticons just don't do it for me, when I can hear your voice, or better, see your face.
So here's the deal...technology is a booming business. And I am an admirer of anything and everything that keeps us connected, opens lines of communication, bridges the gap, keeps us informed, but in order to make a memory...
Sometimes you have to push a few buttons...
Then refocus your eyes to the life going on around you,
the life spinning past you,
the loved ones sitting near you...
And make a memory in your mind...
The old adage "take a picture, it lasts longer"...is simply not true.
Images may fade over time...but...
...the memories you make with your whole heart,
are locked in the safe deposit box,