Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…


Tuesday By Any Other Name…

Depending on where you spent Tuesday, February 21, 2012 it was either Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fasnacht Day or Kinkling Day.  If you celebrated any of these days heartily you are most likely spending Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in a carb and grease coma!  This day has been celebrated since the middle ages as a time to confess our sins and to clear the pantry of lard, sugar, butter and fat before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Lent can then begin with a clear conscience and an attitude of sacrifice.

Basel, Switzerland has an annual Fasnacht Festival.  The 19th century immigrants settling in the Mid-Atlantic States in America became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch in the area of Lancaster County, PA.  They brought to America their recipes for fasnachts, donuts made with potato based dough and cut into square or rectangular shapes.  They are either uncoated or coated with table sugar or powdered sugar.  Fasnachts are synonymous with Carnival in Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria.

A long-time friend and former co-worker grew up in this area of Pennsylvania.  Karen used to spoil our team and bring us fasnachts on Fat Tuesday each year.  They were wonderful and have left an imprint that will cause me to celebrate her salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs automatically on Fat Tuesday.  Each year going forward I celebrate (and will continue to celebrate) Karen’s culinary skills and friendship.  Thank you Karen for all of those gastronomically delightful Tuesday mornings!!

In the state of Maryland, especially in the area of Frederick, you would find Kinklings on Fat Tuesday.  They are, in essence, identical to fasnachts.  Fasnachts have some other relatives.

Paczki  is a Polish cousin of the fasnacht.  They are traditional round donuts (no hole) made with yeast dough and filled with either fruit jelly or crème.  They are often covered with powdered sugar.

On Fat Tuesday in America we always think of Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras brings forth images of the King Cake.  King Cake originated in the middle ages as an oval shaped braided cake decorated with cinnamon sugar in the official Mardi Gras colors of gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice).  In medieval times there would be a coin hidden in the cake.  Today, it is a small plastic baby, the person who gets the slice of cake with the baby must host the next party and may be crowned King or Queen of the Mardi Gras party.  King Cake, although associated with Shrove Tuesday, traditionally was eaten between the Twelfth Night (after Christmas) until Fat Tuesday.

In the United Kingdom, Tuesday was referred to as Pancake Day including games and races involving airborne flapjacks.

The French celebration involved a large meal including crepes and waffles.

In Northern Sweden they were most likely dining on a meat stew.

In Southern Sweden there are Shrove Tuesday buns called semlor.  These buns are filled with an almond paste and whipped cream.

Finland they dined on pea soup with a blini (a rich pancake) served with caviar and Smetana (sour cream).

What did you eat today that you will be wearing on your thighs throughout Lent?


¿Back From the Future?

It began as an ordinary enough morning.  I awoke, went into the bathroom to take care of business.  I pulled on sweats and took the dog for a walk, fed her and the cats and fixed a cup of Earl Grey tea with a wedge of Meyer lemon.  I’ve had a respiratory infection and have been trying to drive the evil yuck from my upper respiratory track by any and every means possible.

I imagined myself sitting across the dining room table from Andy Wyeth discussing upcoming festivities for Groundhog Day.  The only difference between his scene and mine is that no one is past my dining room window chopping wood, it is a parking space my window oversees.  The price of life in a coastal beach town condo.

I looked up and noticed a car in the parking space beyond the window.  The car door opened, a woman approached my breezeway, opened the door and rang the bell.  My curiosity was ignited!  I grabbed Gracie, my over enthusiastic and gregarious golden, turned the knob and opened the back door.  My brain buzzed, my eyes spun in my head and I could have sworn I saw Marty McFly shove me into the back of a DeLorean piloted by Doc Brown!  When my body settled, I was looking at an oddly familiar looking nurse-like-figure.

“My name is Mildred” she said.  I waited, anticipating the next thought, sentence, word, explanation as to why shy is standing in my breezeway.  Nothing…  As I waited, so did Mildred.  Obviously  the mention of the name “Mildred”  was expected to bring a reaction and/or response.  It meant nothing to me.

“Ratched.”  My eyebrows took that quizical stance as I mumbled, “Excuse me.”  “Ratched, my name is Mildred Ratched.”  Then, silence.  Okay, where do I go from here?  Do I say, “Congratulations,”  or “Nice name,” or “and you are standing in my breezeway because…” waiting for her to fill in the blank?  My forehead furrowed, my left eyebrow arched as high as it could and I chose to stare her down.  Finally, after what felt like an hour the silence broke.  “I’m Mildred Ratched.  I’m your new home health care worker and I’m here to help you wash and get dressed for the day.”  I didn’t mean to be rude, but I couldn’t help quickly glancing down.  Okay, I thought, I haven’t had my shower yet, but I did run a brush through my hair and a different one around my teeth and, while not exactly business casual, I thought I WAS dressed!  I maintained the quizical affect, the furrowed forehead, the arched left brow and added a slight squint while tilting my head and turning from side to side like a pigeon before settling in to wait her out again.  (Don’t ask where that pigeon reference came from)

The absence of sound was once again broken by Mildred’s voice… “I spoke to your son yesterday.  He said you lived in #108.”  Mildred is now doing with the right corner of her mouth what I have been doing with my left eyebrow,  as if to say, “they didn’t tell me she had dementia.”

My face indicated that a light had indeed gone on – must have been a CFL bulb as the light was a little slow to reach my brain.  “Mildred, I do not have a son, this is #208 not #108 and I am not receiving home health care services.”  Mildred replied, “Oh.” turned around got in her car and drove away.  I felt that buzz in my head again and landed back in my kitchen after another quick trip in the DeLorean.  If Mildred was a foreshadowing, I am afraid, I am very afraid.  As she backed out of the parking space she gave me a terminator look, “I’ll be back.”

I looked all through the literature.  This was not listed in any of the information on that antibiotic zip-pak.  I am going to maintain a positive attitude.  I am going to tell myself that Mildred needs a GPS and this is not a forewarning of things to come.  There is not a Nurse Ratched in my future, there is not a Nurse Ratched in my future, there is not a Nurse Ratched in my future… and no more rides in that DeLorean, McFly!!!

Photo Credits: 1. Groundhog Day, a painting by Andrew Wyeth; 2. Louis Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Liebster Blog Award

I want to thank one of my fellow bloggers, Sylvia at  Sylvia Morice’s Blog for choosing my blog as a winner of the Liebster blog award! I must admit to being initially confused, thinking I had been recognized for a Lobster Blog Award!!  When you come from Maine, it’s all about the red crustacean!  Four other great blogs were also honored, so I also recommend that you check those out by visiting Sylvia’s blog-she has good taste!  If I could, I would add her to my list below with a “Right Back AtYa Sylvia.”  We virtually connected through one of her award winning blog entries, “I Have Met the Enemy and She is Mosquito.”

 The Liebster award is a way for bloggers to help each other out by spreading the word about their blogs.

The rules for this award are:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated your blog by linking back to them (see above).
  2. Nominate 5 other blogs (with less than 200 followers each, though I’m not entirely sure how to estimate this) and post a comment on their sites.
  3. Copy & Paste the award on your blog.
  4. Hope that the 5 you nominate will keep the cycle going to spread all that good blogging karma!

Okay, so here are my five nominees:

Kimberly Robinson is a bit of nepotism.  She is my niece.  Kim is one of the finest writers I know, and I don’t just say that  because she is a relative… and in many aspects a clone of myself.  I bought Kim her first journal, therefore I would like to take credit for every profound word she writes!  Kim can take such mundane subjects as canning jars and create a blog that is profound and hysterically funny at the same time.

Peg-O-Leg is not only a good writer, she creates the most wonderful original artwork to illustrate her blog.  Peg faces the world and it’s happenings with a wonderful sense of humor.  She always leaves me with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  This links to her post “Little Red Hen’s Christmas Tale” – destined to become a true classic among hens!

Susan Okaty is first of all to be congratulated for completing the 50,000 word National Novel Writing Month challenge during November… and still she found time to post more blog entries than I did!  What a woman, and what a writer!   Her blog, Coming East: Living One Sunrise at a Time says it all.  Susan is attentive to every aspect of the world around her and fortunately shares her perspective with us.  Finding an old box of wax paper in the back of a drawer can unleash a wealth of memories!

Jenni moved from a house in town to a farm and just gave birth to a beautiful son, her first child.  She describes this year as her experiment in simple living.  I love the quiet gentleness of her writing as she strives to “see the grace in ordinary things.”  She brings us with her in her blog “Under the Apricot Tree: Savoring the Abundance of Simple Living.”

Margie is a writer whose blog, “A Lighter Shade of Grey” I have just recently discovered.  Not only is she a thoughtful and insightful writer, I love her photographs.  I think I’ve linked to her blog for 2 reasons, I also am at that invisible age (see About on her blog) and she finds researching and writing as the means to discover what she believes.  As a visual learner, I often don’t know what I think until I write about it to process my thoughts.  Only upon proof-reading do I discover the evolution of my ideas.

Those are the five blogs that are receiving the Liebster Award from me. There are so many other great blogs and bloggers out there that are worth checking out….often when I’m visiting a blog I’ll click on the links in that person’s ‘blogroll’ and find more amazing writers and blogs to read.

There are outstanding writers out there in cyberspace to speak to every interest and aspect of you as a person.  Happy reading, and have fun exploring!


A Bucket Full of Blooms…

Many bloggers have recently been writing about Bucket Lists.  A fellow blogger, Sylvia Morice chose to turn that empty bucket into a list of completed Bucket List items.  I like the idea of focusing on the blessings we have received rather than that which is not yet ready to “bloom.”  Thus, I started my own list of blooms in my bucket.  Looking back on my life I am grateful for these experiences:

1.  I live a mile from the beach on the coast of Maine
2. I heard Pavarotti sing his first comedic opera (L’Elisir di Amore) at the Metropolitan Opera
3. I have always been loved and supported by those around me
4. While on a trip to France I:

  • Had a picnic dinner at the base of the Eiffel Tower
  • Walked through Monet’s gardens in Giverney
  • Visited the Louve, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Art Center, Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe , Montmarte and the Basilique du Sacré Cœr and Versailles

5. I Met Ansel Adams

6. I Saw Katharine Hepburn on stage

7. I have watched several sunrises from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, ME ~ the first place in the eastern United States to see the light of day.

8. I have collected 12 place settings of handmade pottery from potters in America, Ireland and the Netherlands… and donated my mass produced dishes to Goodwill

9. While on a trip to the Netherlands I:

  • Visited a diamond factory and got to “play with” the diamond rings
  • Visited Rembrandt’s house
  • Bought, and can walk in, wooden shoes
  • Visited Delft and watched the artists at work, selecting several small pieces that
    wanted to move to America
  • Visited the fields of tulips in bloom

10. I flew in a single engine plane over Louis, MO

11. I sang with Marion Williams in a gospel workshop

12. Watercolor was a medium that always challenged me.  I created a self-imposed goal of creating a watercolor I could exhibit with pride.  I created a painting of Pebble Beach on Monhegan Island which was in a show at the Saco Museum in Maine

13. While on a trip to Ireland I:

  • Visited Northern Ireland on the day of the election resulting from the Good Friday Agreement
  • Sat on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher with my feet dangling 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean
  • Raised a pint in numerous pubs
  • Followed the path of Patrick Pearse, leader of the Easter Uprising of 1916, poet and an educator decades ahead of the rest of the world

14. Saw a moose that was not in the “wildlife park.”

15. Spent a weekend in the World Trade Center hotel in New York in a photography workshop.

16. Was the co-owner/designer of a business, Christmas, Etc. designing and creating much of the merchandise

17. Have been on numerous whale watches off of the coast of Maine and have watched dolphin pods swimming and Minke, Humpback, Fin and endangered Right whales in my travels

18. Saw Michaelangelo’s Pietá at the New York World’s Fair

19. Have been blessed with jobs that met my creative needs and allowed me to put my knowledge and experience to work

20. Presented workshops at 2 national and numerous state professional conventions

21. Was privileged to be able to participate in Pow-Wows with fellow graduate students in education at Penn State.  They represented the Navaho, Hopi, and Kiowa nations.

22. Have visited and walked through Christina Olson’s house as well as Karl Keurner’s home ~ walking through Andrew Wyeth paintings.  I have watched Jamie Wyeth painting a portrait on the deck of his home on Monhegan Island

23. I have hiked through the Cathedral Woods and the high cliffs rising above the sea on Monhegan Island following rock cairns for direction and taken a tidal pool tour tasting sea urchin

24. I have watched Charles Dent live his dream in the construction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse and donated the horse to the Italian people.

25. Have been educated and mentored by masters in their field

26. Spent an incredible evening with Dr. Selma Burke, an African American sculptor whose life spanned the 20th century.  She was an integral part of the Harlem Renaissance and touched the lives of the most influential creative people of the 20th century.  Her most notable work was the bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt which appears on the dime.  I am working on a book about her.

Indeed, I have not lived a life with my bucket half empty.  While there are still goals and dreams to pursue I am comfortable with the knowledge that the new blooms in the bucket will avail themselves at the appropriate time.

What’s blooming in your bucket??


5 Books That Made a Difference

I begin with a disclaimer.  This list assumes that you, dear reader, know that the Bible is at the top of this list.  It will not be discussed in this blog.  The topic of 5 books that have made a difference in my life comes from Oprah and from WordPress suggestions.  I found it an interesting exercise from the standpoint that I found definite links between the books/characters that describe my evolution to who I am.  I have received strength from these books and their characters.  Their characters created models of who I wanted to be, and the role I wanted to play in the world.  They simultaneously provided a concrete example to work toward and a community created (be that fictional or non-fictional) to support me when the “authentic me” was at odds with the those around me in the real world, and more secure in the company of the literary world.

There is a bit of Howard Roarke within me.  Thanks to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead Roarke’s creativity, conviction and passion were at the core of his life.  The word compromise was not a part of his vocabulary.  Roarke lived in a world that found compromise a much easier path.  There was a price to pay for their decisions, and one to pay for Roarke’s.  While one can be admired for their strength in conviction, there is not always a reward for the Howard Roarke’s of the world.  I have found that admiring another person’s strength of purpose, passion and conviction is not the same as having the strength to support them in their passion.

I first found the writings of Hermann Hesse and specifically, his book Siddhartha, as a college student.  As a young man, Siddhartha left his family to go out into the world to “find himself.”  Who among us has not been there?  The journey is not always a clear path, at times it becomes a “deer path” coming to a dead end rather than an opening to wisdom and life lessons.  Siddhartha became known as a “wandering ascetic.”  Siddhartha’s path brought him to his life path, to seek, and share his gathered wisdom.

Gaelic for “soul friend” anam cara and John O’Donohue introduce us to what it means to be human.  In the Celtic world we are more than flesh and bone, we are linked to both the physical and spiritual world.  O’Donohue lead me into the Celtic world on a journey toward understanding my world view and where that world view fits into the universe.  He presents a new/ancient world view which awakens the Celt within and offers an explanation for undiscovered sources of connection to the earth on the spiritual and metaphysical planes.

The iconic novel and Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960.  I was 11 years old and questioning why the athletic club linked to my father’s employer had a separate club across the street for negro employees and their families.  My oldest brother’s senior class trip involved students staying in two separate hotels in our nations capital because Negroes were not permitted in the original hotel booked.  Through the eyes of young girl named Scout we meet the principled attorney Atticus Finch who provides a model for upholding justice and human dignity.

While awaiting his departure for his homeland, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet seeks to offer not his possessions, because he has none, but his gift of wisdom.  A woman in the crowd at the dock offers questions for this mysterious prophet to answer.  He speaks to us: on Beauty, on Love, on Marriage, on Children, on Friendship, on Work and on Joy and Sorrow.  Although originally published in 1923, The Prophet became the guide for the children of the 60’s.  Gibran continues to inspire new generations and to rejuvenate baby-boomers.

The 5 books that made a difference to me are united by brilliant authors who have created timeless characters of great strength, integrity and conviction.  These characters have become the prize on which I focus my vision.  I crave books with characters, real or fiction, who inspire me to be a better me.  These are five old friends to whom I return repeatedly for guidance and inspiration.

What are you reading???


Scenes from a Bookstore Café

I was originally attracted to the purple fleece jacket he was wearing (I LOVE anything purple!).  He was sitting at a table alone reading a magazine, hand covering the side of his face from the sun rather than getting up from the table and closing the shade.  He was an attractive enough man with salt and pepper hair and a grey mustache.  My imagination pegged him a professional with multiple degrees and certifications.  There was something strange about his appearance though…

He looked as though he had been shot between the eyes by a 1.5″ X 4″ cardboard bullet.  I recognized the problem.  He’d done what I too often do…walked out of the house heading for a bookstore and left his glasses laying on the dining room table.  He was wearing “loaners” taken from the spinning rack of readers near the check-out line.  I can often be caught in the same eye wardrobe, although I usually try to cover the evidence of memory loss by pinching the bridge of my nose trying to leave the impression of a severe sinus headache.  If I have one complaint, those tags are HUGE!!

Okay, so I’m sipping my hazelnut coffee, trying to do some serious writing a la J K Rowling.  I’ve been distracted by a nice looking man with a huge white cardboard tag dangling between his eyes.  Looks like a good match for Minnie Pearl!  The slight murmurings of conversation throughout the café were interrupted by a cell phone ringing.  He reached into his pocket, flipped his phone open and yelled “HELLO!”

At the same time he’s greeting his caller 2 women at an adjacent table increased their volume to drown out all other conversations, face-to-face or digital attracting my auditory attention.  They were discussing the pros and cons of the new age of electronic communication ~ email, Facebook, blackberries, twitter and the family of i’s (pod, phone, pad, etc.).

Six feet away was a woman blocking the doorway to enter/exit the store so she could yell into her cell phone in an attempt to rise above the voices in the café.  Her elevated volume was alternating between “I can’t hear you!” and “Can you hear me now?” and finally settled into the task of finding someone home and available to walk her dog.

The heavy glass door swings opens, a man walks in and has to squeeze around the lady who needs her dog walked while talking on his own cell phone held against his ear.  He walks through the café creating an invisible rhythm, a cadence of words.  It gets louder and more coherent as he weaves a path around the mixture of round, square and rectangular tables to sit across from the good looking Tagman.  They continue their phone conversation with each other as their knees come to within 2″ of meeting under the table.  Looking into each others’ eyes they end their digital conversation and continue their conversation about the Vietnam War face-to-face.

By the time the Doorblocker had found someone to walk her poor dog who was home with his legs crossed wondering when relief would arrive, the photographer at the big table had sold the biggest wedding album he had to offer with video, the two men in the over-stuffed chairs against the wall had discussed the day’s news, debated both sides of the issues and devised a plan to heal the world.  Two tables over was the babysitter reading magazines while a nine year old was doing his homework.

I never did get my writing done.  I was too distracted by the digital/human symphony in the café.  It did, however, have it’s own new age charm!

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Magical Places, Part I

One of the spiritual highlights of my life evolved from a kismet moment.  While travelling through Ireland I walked into the bookstore in a small town where we were staying.  Piled on a table were autographed copies of a book written by an Irish author and scholar who had made a book appearance the day before.  The book had to do with Celtic spirituality, an interest of mine, and was autographed by a local Irish author…done deal ~ a unique memento of my trip.

The book was anam cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue.  My life was forever changed by the book and the connection to John O’Donohue.  The term anam cara is Gaelic meaning “soul friend.”  These are the people with whom we share a sacred connection.

O’Donohue talks about our connection to the landscape.  He writes, “Even in the ruins long since vacated, are the souls of those who had once lived there, still had a particular affinity and attachment to this place.  The life and passion of a person leaves an imprint on the ether of a place.  Love does not remain within the heart; it flows out to build secret tabernacles in the landscape.”

Throughout my life I have come upon geographic areas for the first time and felt a sense of belonging immediately upon placing my foot on the earth.  There is a sense of deja vu, of meeting an old friend after many years apart.  Yet, oddly, it is a connection to a place I have never been. There is a profoundly deep connection that has nothing to do with current residents, fun things to do, gastronomical delights or even beautiful landscape (which coincidentally is usually found).  The connection is rooted deep within the sand, soil and clay.  It rises from the ocean or lake.  It is the connection to the soul(s) of the land.

This sense of belonging explains our connection to the land where deeply held religious beliefs and events have taken place.  It is the reason for religious pilgrimages.  Unfortunately, it is also the reason for religious wars over control of land that continues for centuries.  Sometimes the connection is more subtle.

I later met John O’Donohue at Omega Institute and spent 3 days in a workshop with him centered on the concept of anam cara and Celtic Spirituality.  We later met again at a poetry reading he gave at NYU.  Unfortunately, John O’Donohue left this life in January 2008, far too soon.

The sense of place that John writes about leads me to question, Why do we choose the places we visit?  Are we looking for a spiritual connection to the land?  Are we looking for excitement and adventure?  Are we content to find a life style and pace in a perfect climate?  Are we looking to retrace historic places and events that have captured our imaginations?  Or, do we plan our travels to give our lives a mixture of all of those situations?

Prior to my move to Maine I vacationed here for 30 years.  It was a place I returned to every summer.  If a vacation was for new adventure, it was always in addition to a trip to Maine.  I was never able to return to my teaching/administrative position until I had breathed some Maine air.  Now I get the opportunity daily.

Maine for me is my spiritual center.  It is a culture and pace of life that suits who I am and where I am in my life.  Aspects of Maine  are a constant stable force in an ever changing life and world.  It is a place that keeps me grounded and connected to my core beliefs.  There needs to be a physical place of connection to that which we value and fear is slipping away from the world at large.  These are our magical places.

Periodically over the next few months I will blog about some of my “magical places.”  Please come along.  Please also post comments about your magical places and why you travel where you travel.

John O’Donohue had a wonderful lyrical voice.  I am grateful that the sound of that voice is deeply imprinted in my brain.  I can pick up one of his books or poems and hear it in his voice.  That is a blessing in itself.  If you would like to hear John talk about his beloved Burren in the west of Ireland, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtEL7u1BnTQ.

For more information about John O’Donohue and his writings, http://www.johnodonohue.com.


Me’s Pop

  He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.                  ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Throughout my life it was a surprise to me when I would meet girls/women who were so deeply bonded with their mothers.  They always made me feel separate, that there was a “female club” of which I was not a member.  I came to realize the difference between them and me was that I was part of another “club” ~ a group of women who were “Father’s Daughters.”

In the psyche of familial evolution, Father’s Daughters see the world in terms of ideologies more historically linked to men.  Fathers raised their daughters to be strong, capable and independent people.  They taught them that the world is full of infinite possibilities and that they were entitled to partake of any of those possibilities.  In the 21st century, (following an evolving definition of the role of women in the family, society and the world) the group known as “Father’s Daughters,” is becoming a historical marker in the sociological evolution of society.

As far back into childhood as I can remember, I wanted to model my life after my father.  He was a quiet man, but as Kelland states in the above quote, he didn’t need to speak to teach.

The top 10 Reason’s he improved my life:

  1. “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
  2. In the time before the Civil Rights movement and the term “racial equality” was a common part of vocabulary, his best friend was of a different race, he was the only “white brother” in his Christian Brotherhood Breakfast group and he spoke out against injustice at a time when it wasn’t acceptable to do so
  3. He exhibited and honored the integrity of all peoples
  4. He believed that education must include the “soft” subjects: art, music, great writing, philosophy, psychology, and to use “mistakes” as lessons
  5. He believed that success in work (be it professional, personal or recreational) is to “do your homework” and give your all to being the best you can be at every stage of development
  6. He modeled the Shaker phrase, “Hands to Work, Hearts to God”
  7. He was creative, believing that doing only what was expected or “usual” wasn’t worth the effort ~ that we needed to make the investment in making each task our own
  8. He spent his life looking outside of himself to “pay it forward” in his community and society
  9. He held his children to high standards of behavior, but knew when to scold and when to hug
  10. He worked hard and with a passion, but he also knew when it was more important to turn off the motor to idle in a boat with a fishing pole or sitting silently waiting for what Henri Cartier Bresson called the decisive moment when all elements move into optimal space

It will be ten years in November since I lost my father.  While I still miss him desperately, I am grateful for the blessing of having him as my father, my teacher, and my mentor.  I am grateful that with every off-the-wall, out-of-the-box idea or plan I came up with he supported my right to explore that idea or plan and stood beside me for gentle support during it’s evolution… if he felt it was really out of line, I would get suggestions of approaches I might try also.  (That being said, if I wanted to ride my tricycle out into traffic I would get more than gentle suggestions!)

Happy Father’s Day Pop!

Love,  Me

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How Did I Get To Be The Rebellious Child?

My mother used to describe me as her “rebellious child.”  Of course, I protested against that label.  Until adulthood, I perceived myself to be shy and quiet child who did what she was told to do.  The reality is, speaking is not a prerequisite for expressing oneself!  In my early twenties I found my voice… look out world!!

I have always been involved in protesting one injustice or another.  I have fought passionately, at times loudly, always persistently and often successfully.  The price has been some desired opportunities lost.  What is right and just does not always win in the game of life. It also usually does not put one in the best financial situation.   I have been able to gather followers, but often not those in power.  They’ve had their own agenda, and usually not one we shared.

I remember graduating from college and beginning the process of generating enough resumes to place end to end stretching “from sea to shining sea.”  My degree was in Art Education, I was in search of a job as an elementary school art teacher.  My first interview was with an outstanding school district in a desirable area of suburban Philadelphia.  I met with the Superintendent first, then the Assistant Superintendent.  They were impressed!  I convinced myself I had the job offer locked up.  In this particular school district the building administrators had the final say as to hiring.

I met with the principal.  He took me on a tour of the building.  The art teacher had been with the district since the dawn of time, had opened the art department of four of the district’s elementary schools.  She was retiring having been worshiped by the current building principal.  When we stopped in the art room to observe her for a few minutes I observed the entire class of fourth graders drawing every line together following the teachers example on the chalkboard.  Her philosophy of art education was the polar opposite of mine! 

“What would you do if little Johnny refused to draw that branch of pussy willow with the rest of the class and insisted he was going to draw a boat?”  I was frozen in my chair.  I really wanted this job and I knew what I had to do to get it.  Yet, to do so would compromise who I am and what I believe.  I had seconds to make a major decision that would affect a career I was just beginning.  I deliberately forfeited the job.  My life has been a repetition of these experiences.  Despite the losses of jobs and opportunities, I have not regretted my path.  I don’t know where this _______ comes from.  I would fill in that space with the word “strength,” others would fill in the blank with “stubborn stupidity.”  Is it integrity that causes me to walk away, or is it a mental defect that prevents me from “playing well with others and going with the flow?”

My latest theory is that sometimes children absorb the regrets of the parents.  My father worked for a large company in Philadelphia in his twenties.  He was married with two young sons.  He was hired to work as a photographer on a special top secret project.  There were no conversations, no explanations, simply directions as to his tasks.  He worked with armed guards flanking his sides while he took the specified photographs, developed the film and printed his pictures which he never saw again.  The company was surrounded by high fences and armed guards.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1956 by Yousuf Karsh

Years ago I had taken a trip to Ottawa and visited the National Gallery of Art.  An extraordinary building with an exhibition close to my heart, Karsh: The Art of the Portrait.  My father and I shared a love of photography.  I shared the catalog from the exhibition with him when I returned.  He turned a page to a portrait of a man who had one hand on his hip, one holding a pipe in front of a chalkboard with formulas and calculations covering the chalkboard.  A small wooden sign rested in the chalk tray, “Do Not Erase.”  My father was brought to tears as what may have been one of his greatest unresolved conflicts rose to the surface.

The photograph of what appeared to be a professor of chemistry or math was J. Robert Oppenheimer.  My father lived to the age of 84 believing that he had worked on the Manhattan Project ~ the development of the atom bombs that were later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.   He saw his involvement in this secret project as the ultimate betrayal.  I often wonder if that sense of betrayal was imbedded in his DNA when I was conceived.  Once born I began my journey of questioning and refusing to participate in any project I could not successfully integrate into my core being.

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Right-Brain/Left-Brain, Who’s In Charge?

A friend once described the difference between right brain dominant people and left brain dominant people in terms of butterflies and gardens.  Lenny the left-brain dominant butterfly is a winged creature on a mission.  If Lenny’s goal is to get from side A of the garden to side B of the garden he will warm up his wings, make a sequential list of the steps necessary to complete the task, file a flight plan, visualize himself landing on the fence post on side B of the garden and take off.  Lenny Leftbrain will keep his eye on the goal and go to the B fence post, directly to the B fence post without stopping for nectar, without pollinating.

Conversely, Rita the right-brain dominant butterfly is a little random and, quite frankly, a flight risk.  Rita will sit atop fence post A to survey the route she will take to fence post B.  Rita is more interested in getting the most from her trip than flying in a straight line with the goal of arriving in a timely manner.  Life is too short not to explore, inspect and examine every flower in the garden before arriving at her destination.  Rita tries to focus on fence post B, but the scents arising from the garden keep drawing her attention away.  The air traffic controller in tower A asks for a flight plan.

“Ah-h-h-h, B, I’m flying to B.”


“Soon.”  The controller in tower B breaks in.

”Rita, what is your ETA for B post?”

“Today, it’s definitely today.”

“Rita, what time today?”

“I don’t know, when I get there.”

Rita Rightbrain will indeed “get there” but not before she has visited every flower in the garden.

We are all born with a predisposition to be either left or right brain dominant.  We do however have some control over these mental processes.  In my own life I have found that depending on my current life work, I will lean to the left or right.  (Please note I am talking brain processes, not political stance.  That does not sway side to side.)

If I am performing a job that requires superior organizational skills, sequential tasks requiring mastery of language I will not only exhibit impeccable organization, I will test dead center between left and right brain dominance or further to the left.  If I am on my own to design tasks (or not), or involved in work that requires forming relationships between things, artistic or creative endeavors, I will test to the far right in brain function.

We’ve taken a trip to the garden to tell you, dear readers, that I have three other blog posts started this week that I intended to finish and post.  They sit as drafts with no endings because I’m still visiting flowers.  The air traffic controller in tower B has lost sight of me.  Like Rita, I have no ETA.  I’ve been listed as MIA.  Perhaps in the interim I will just send postcards from the garden.

“What did you say Katherine?”

” Oh, wow, Katherine says the calla lilies are in bloom!!”

Love those calla lilies… I think they are over in that corner…