Saturday, June 17, 2017

It Needs a Frame

Traveling friends and children have bestowed upon me several fascinating pieces of art from various exotic places.

My son, a professional photographer, gave me a large, matted photograph he took of the Pacific Ocean at sunset from the vantage point of a large sailboat floating somewhere in between Hawaii and Seattle, a vessel on which he crewed. Right smack dab in the middle of the sea. It's the kind of photo you sort of get lost in. It's both haunting and soothing. I love it! But it needs to be framed.

A little Italian man paints Italian scenes on paper and sells them in front of the Coliseum in Rome. A friend bought one of the Coliseum lit up at night and gave it to my family as a souvenir. Bright primary colors draw me in and make me smile. I can almost feel Italy's warmth and laid-back energy. This painting needs a frame to protect it.

A long-time dear friend hunted through the stores of Florence, Italy, for a gift for me. Finally, she came upon a below-ground-level, cave-like shop full of souvenir-type items. In this dark, musty, cluttered little hide-away she found a selection of prints. My generous and kind friend purchased a lovely print for me, a sketched and subtly-colored scene of Old Florence. Gazing at this artwork stirs my imagination. It needs a frame to bring out its glory.

While shuffling through the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this spring, I accidentally took an amazingly surreal photo of my husband and son as they studied some of Warhol's artwork. I have no idea what I did, but the effect in my photo thrills me! Weird stripes of light and color envelope the two figures while a sort of mist swirls around them. An enlargement sits right here on my desk. It needs a frame.

A daughter visited Claude Monet's home in Giverny, France, last autumn. Knowing he is my favorite painter of all time, she bought a large print of Poppy Field, painted in 1873. I adore this gift especially knowing it came from inside Monet's famous home, carried with pleasure through his enchanting gardens by my beloved daughter. It needs a glittering gold frame.

Always keeping an eye on expenses, I have been negligent in protecting my artwork. No more! I bit the bullet and forked out the dough to purchase perfect frames for each piece. They are to arrive next week.

Noble is the task of keeping art alive. Glorious is the participation in recording and preserving one's times and experiences, however humble the endeavor.

Soul-stirring artwork displayed in average homes inspires the curiosity of ordinary people, sets imagination a-flight, replaces fustiness with aspiration. Creating a moment of newness, of otherness, of far-away dreams stumbled upon, an expression simply hanging on a wall can draw our hearts into unknown delight, speaking to us of things not yet encountered but somehow yearned for. This is the stuff of personal growth, of stretched horizons, of ordinary becoming extraordinary.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of displayed art in my home is the remembrance of the occasion when the art was received, and of the love for those who gave it to me.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Possessing It All

I know four families who are moving this summer. Three are downsizing. Sorting ensues upon mountains of collected this-and-that.

Surprisingly, these families report astonishment at the number of items they possess that they forgot they owned, and haven't seen in decades. This mass of belongings has to be dealt with as there is no room for it in the new lodgings.

Sales abound. Give-aways to friends and families. Stress, labor, and money go into finding ways to dispose of material possessions, most of which probably should never have been procured in the first place. The money wasted in buying and then discarding the goods, whether sold for a fraction of the cost or given away, floors me.

Let me be clear, I understand acquiring useful things. Art, tools, furniture, clothing, and other things that have a place in day-to-day living. Even souvenirs. No, I'm referring, in this post, to things which cause a near obsessive urge to obtain but which quickly lose their sparkle, only to be relegated to deep, dark spaces for storage. Not sold or given away, kept. Possessed.

As one who is not into possessing things for the sake of possessing them, and as one who prefers clutter-free living, I am a bit mystified and amused by the degree of overwhelm these families face.

"We have so much stuff we haven't used in years!"

"Why are they stupefied?" I ask myself. Don't they see this stuff kicking around their home? Where is it kept that they aren't aware of it? Do they really have a black hole somewhere where useless-to-them items are stored out of sight?

My mindset differs dramatically. Because I have a pack-rat husband and four children, I regularly clean out and tidy closets, the storage shed, my attic, drawers, and cabinets. Before I buy anything I ask myself where will I store it? If I can't find a good answer, I rethink the purchase. I don't understand the possess-and-store mindset at all. Is it compulsive shopping? Is it keeping up with the Joneses? Is it a desperate need to be trendy, fashionable, ahead-of-the-crowd? Is it an insecure show of wealth or power? Is it a deep-seated fear that someday the obscure item may be needed so you'd better keep it or you'll be in big trouble, as if you couldn't go buy one if that day ever came? Or, is it perhaps, the sheer joy in acquiring a shiny new object? The hormonal rush?

What is the psychology behind the need to posses things? There seems to be some sort of gratification in acquiring and holding onto certain items. Does it make people feel superior? "I have [fill in the blank] taking up space and gathering dust in my [fill in the blank] and you don't. Ha!"

It isn't uncommon for family members to aggressively battle over estates of the recently deceased. These disagreeable tussles make me think there must be a perceived power in grabbing things from others' hands, and then, just having them forevermore. But how is that power? Unless the item is somehow useful and needed, what is the gain in storing it? In having it? People hoodwink others out of clothing, vehicles, trinkets, heirlooms, tools, furniture, sports equipment, photo albums, and other memorabilia. They store these things. These things collect dust, take up space. One day, they will have to be jettisoned as excess baggage.

Where is the sense, the logic in possessing unneeded, unused, unimportant things?

I stroke my chin in wonder.

In case you are wondering about the fourth family, yes, they are upsizing.  A larger house awaits them, its spaces filling up with.....stuff.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Hush, You Lying Voices

I'm off track. Backtracking a bit to find the place and time I stepped away.

So many voices screaming at me to ACHIEVE, to be SUCCESSFUL, to WORK HARD, to DO DO DO. Those voices give me anxiety. Big time.

I find myself confused between what I know and what is screamed at me.

Today, I am remembering the quiet, wise voices which whisper to me of humility, kindness, calmness, self-evaluation, compassion, relationship, struggling and striving to know what is True. I am aware of the eyes of my heart which beckon me to BE BE BE.

My purpose as a follower of Jesus is not to achieve greatness in the eyes of this world, but to pursue goodness for this and the next world. Goodness comes from God. Its pursuit takes a lifetime and is only fully realized in the Age to Come. No trophies in this realm. No accolades.

Looking back, I think I see where I strayed. Yes. There is the place where I lost my focus, where I turned and followed the lie.

And now, to walk aright, as best I can.

I live for God, not for the screamers.

It is well with my soul.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ben and Anna

Twice this week the idea of a particular habit of successful people has been put before me. My mind has been ruminating on it ever since.

The habit? Going to bed early and rising early.

In an old book I ran across Benjamin Franklin's famous adage, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." I've heard Ben's 18th century adage so often that it's lost some of its punch, I'm afraid.

Along comes Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue magazine, speaking in a documentary, stating that she goes to bed around 10:15 each evening and arises at 5:45 in the morning. Religiously. She believes this habit contributes to her success.

There is definitely something to this early/early bedtime regimen.

I'm going to try this routine for awhile and see what happens. More structure would be good. Better sleep. I read somewhere that the hours before midnight are when a body receives the most from its sleep, more healing, more rest. That would be great!

I'd also like to peacefully accomplish more in a day. When I arise after the rest of the world, I feel like I'm behind. All day. The day begins not in calm reflection and the freedom to control my time, not in caring for myself through a good breakfast and a bit of stretching, and not in the leisure to enjoy the garden and breathe the fresh air. Rather than allowing the morning to tickle me awake, I am at the mercy of whatever and whomever needs me right then and right there. Instant fast track in pajamas! I hate it.

On the days when I do arise earlier, I am stunned at how much I get done before lunch. Refreshed, energized, and in control, I feel like I am more useful to myself and others, less grumpy, too. When I retire to bed after an early morning day, the accomplishments rock me to sleep with a smile on my face.

Right now my computer clock reads 10:20 at night. Rather than stay up until the wee hours of the morning as I've been doing, I shall have a quick shower and settle into bed. Lights out by 10:45.

Sounds heavenly!

Friday, May 05, 2017

Empty Nest Perk

There are perks to kids leaving home for nests of their own.

One I reveled in today? Deleting all the movies the kids put on various streaming queues.

Oh, the smug smirk on my face as I deleted things my husband and I will never watch.

There's something magical in having a list of your own, after having to share with various aged kids.

Don't get me wrong. I loved my child-rearing years.

But I'm tired.

I'm tired of sharing my toys.

To have a refuge of my own again, with complete control of the toys and such, after nearly 40 years, well, it's like reuniting with an old friend.

Today, with the last sweet birdie on the cusp of flying away, in a quiet moment here at home, all alone, it felt good to have a little of that control back, to do some tiny reuniting.

A whole new world.

(It's gonna be bad when all the kids are gone, isn't it. This is just me, trying to make an upcoming tidal wave of emotion into a little splish splash kiddie pool. I know it. But let me pretend just a little longer that that lump that's trying to form in my throat is just, oh, I don't know, allergies?)

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Stirrings - Both Literally and Figuratively

I baked a cake today.

I cannot even remember the last time I baked a cake.

With two daughters at home, the cake baking seemed to do itself.

Mostly it was brownies, though.

I like cake better.

So, today, I baked one.

Why is this momentous? Because it marks a returning of me to me, that's why.

My husband and I have had 10 months of childless marriage in 37 years. You no doubt deduced that our firstborn came along right at the start. So, look at it this way, my husband and I have had one month of childless marriage in 37 years. The rest of the time I was either expecting a precious bundle - and all four were so very very precious to us, still are - or I was an active parent.

No complaints from me. None. At all. My kids make me so happy. Most of the time. Hey, I'm just being honest here.

As usual, I digress.

I baked a cake. But the important thing is that I felt like baking a cake. Normally such an endeavor would be required; birthday, anniversary, special occasion of some sort. But today, the kitchen called to me just as it did when I was a single girl living on my own.

I have to tell you, this feels really great, if unexpected.

My youngest child is getting married this fall. She's the last birdie in the nest. Her sister was married only one month ago. It's all rather sudden, this second wedding, even though I could see it coming. Daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law are very much in love and perfectly suited. They need to be together, walking through life as husband and wife.

Everything is as it should be. And, happily, I'm fine with it. I've been told that the empty nest is a killer. I do not think it will be for me. My little growing family gets along really well, and we keep in close touch. So, there shouldn't be any drastic missings on my part. Plus, my husband and I are 60 now. Our kids came spaced apart by 14 years between the oldest and the youngest. We are ready to lighten our load. It feels awesome!

My kitchen feels like it's mine again. Mine as in Cherie's, as opposed to Mom's or Wife's or Daughter's.

I like this!

Creativity stirs in me. I feel like I'm gingerly stepping out from the shadows, squinting at the sun, testing the stability of the earth beneath my cautious feet. I've done a good job as parent and daughter, and will continue to do a good job as a wife. I'm looking forward to being able to focus all my daily energy on my husband and myself. He's been awfully patient sharing the spotlight with the kids all these years. Oh, who am I kidding. Tom was even further back in the shadows than was I, faithfully supporting us, going without, hanging in there right along with me. Yes, we are both coming out from the shadows.

Tom and I have decided upon a new motto for our life in the sunshine: Put our health first. Yes, I know, it's not really new, but it is to us. We've been very sacrificial parents, and it's paid off. The kids are awesome. Our life is lined up for a happy future, Lord willing and the creek don't rise. But now, we know if we don't take care of our health, what good is free time?

I shall use this blog as my place to chronicle the returning of me to me. While the future is not at all certain, I am eager to take the first few steps.

Like baking a cake.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Unexpected Freedom

Freedom comes my way. A certain freedom I've never known in all my life.

This may sound really horrible, but since both my parents have passed away quietly in their old age - and I do miss them because I loved them with all my heart - a new freedom smoothes over me like cool water sliding along a sticky body diving into a delicious lake on a hot summer's day. It feels really good, this freedom.

Before you conclude that I'm an uncaring daughter, let me explain that the family home of my childhood was a very competitive place, a dangerous place for a highly sensitive person such as I, a happiness destroying, identity crushing environment due to sibling jealousy, manipulation, and dysfunction. It formed in me traits I have hated - and successfully battled - all my life.

On the day we buried my dad, my spirit knew before my mind did, that the weight of hierarchy and competition had given way to immense freedom.

My parents are safe with Jesus now, and I am free. While I miss my parents, I am free from the sibling dysfunction that robbed me of happiness and serenity for six decades. No longer is it big sister/little sister, big brother/little sister, or big sister/little brother battling for parental favoritism (for that is what it looked like to me). Nope. Now we are equals. There is no one to tattle to. There is no mountain to be king of. There are no parents to seek favor from. We are four people, with a shared childhood, some shared adult moments, and the rest of our lives to make our own choices.

I've always known how much Mom and Dad loved me. They told me so. As the last child to leave the nest I had a few extra years with Mom and Dad while they were relaxed and invigorated in their early retirement years. We had a blast! We became very close and more friends than parents and child. Each of my parents shared things with me in confidence about their lives before they'd met each other, things I have only told my husband and kids in strictest confidence. Special moments, for sure.

Mom and Dad repeatedly let me know they respected me, respected my decisions, loved my choice of a husband, were crazy about my kids. They were proud of the financial choices my husband and I made. They were pleased with our lifestyle and bragged about us to their friends and family. I always loved how candid I could be with my parents, how they would open up to me in ways they didn't with anyone else. The last time I saw my dad he told me he enjoys visits from my little family because, "you enliven me." And that we did. And that we had been doing for decades. The last time I saw each of my parents their parting words were that they loved me. "I love you, kiddo," Mom said with a lovely smile and a kiss.

And now that love is free to flow all through me, unpolluted, unquestioned. It cannot be twisted or stolen. It is safe. Just as it's always been. I don't have to defend it against intruders ever again.

The truth soothes. Memories embrace.

It would have been nice to have lived in a kinder home as a child, but I didn't. The consolation is that now I get to live in the balm of freedom that was denied to me then. God is kind that way. Even as He took my parents away, He gave relief from a burden.

Mom told me to just consider the source and be patient when I bemoaned the sibling dysfunction, even as a young adult. "In time, Cherie, in time," she'd say.

Dad told me the entire story hasn't been written yet, to wait and things would get better. "Trust the Lord and wait."

This was their advice to me, their highly sensitive child, who had a hard time in that competitive environment, because I didn't like the way I acted there. I didn't like my behavior when the others competed with me.

Thanks for consoling me all those times, Mom and Dad. You were right. It just took time. I'm glad it took as long as it did. I wouldn't have wanted to miss all the wonderful years with you. You had to go. But you left freedom behind for me. I appreciate it.

See you soon!