The Gang of Three

SoccerandChincoteague 143 copy

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with soccer!. I just happen to like the photo, and it does have 3 kiddos in it!

Three ring circus.

Three blind mice.

Three French hens.

Three dog night.

Three little pigs.

Three ring circus.

And then...well, then, there's the "Gang of Three," which nearly drove me to be "three sheets to the wind."

First up: "Dyson," who happens to generally be a trustworthy soul. Not so much the other day. Dyson seemed to be in a royal snit.

We started out okay, although in retrospect, he didn't seem to be quite himself. I needed to get the darn house vacuumed though, and as I'm not likely to want to do it another day, I persisted.

One room down. The second down. And on to the middle floor we went, which is where Dyson just lost it. I'd tell you he blew his top, but truthfully, it was a front piece.

Back and forth, back and fourth, and then, "Bam!" With a great show of force, Shark hurled his front rib cage cover across my dining room floor.

I paused, turned him off, put his cover back on him, thinking that maybe I had caught it on the edge of a door frame or something.

Nope. Within 10 seconds, off his cover flew again. Repeat several times just to be "sure."  Well, crap, Dyson meant business.

I pushed Dyson into a corner, then headed to the lowest level and grabbed Shark. Shark and I had not spent any quality time together lately, so I felt about leery, but darn it, I needed to get the house swept.

So, off we went. Shark seemed amiable enough at first, and we managed to do the dining room, when he just up and quit.

Oh, yeah. Now, I remembered. Shark never did like the long term haul. Short and sweet, maybe one room. He felt absolutely no need to exert himself. None. He simply turned himself off when he'd had enough.

Off into the corner he went to trade stories with Dyson.

Back downstairs I faced Dirt Devil. Dirt Devil had all his parts, and he ran like a champ during the long haul.

But....

Well, Dirt Devil's problem was that he sucked because he didn't suck. He glided over the floor, failing to pick up anything. He simply could not be bothered.

At this point, a slew of words flew across the room, words not to be shared aloud since this happens to be a family friendly blog.

I emailed the love of my life, stating firmly that having three vacuum cleaners, none of which worked did not equal a good time no matter how you looked at it.

I reminded him that he had numerous reminders to take apart Dyson, clean him up, and get him ready to roll.

I reminded him that Shark frequently shut down, but I'd been assured that he (the love of my life) had also promised to investigate.

I reminded him why Dirt Devil sucked...or didn't.

I firmly stated that he (the love of my life) had better not tell me that he "forgot" since he remembered the dates and time of every hockey game played by Pittsburgh. Yep, I was at my finest.

I left the gang of three front and center so that they'd be the first thing he saw when he opened the door.

The love of my life....without a word being said...took Dyson apart to clean him. I think Dyson still might be apart, and that needs to be fixed.

He coaxed Shark into submission long enough to finish vacuuming the house at 11 P.M. that night.

He performed surgery on Dirt Devil, locating a ball point pen in his innards, removing it, and pronouncing him "good to go." I haven't investigated that either.

I plan to vacuum tomorrow. If you hear not so nice words coming out of Northern Virginia, you can safely assume I'm battling the "Gang of Three" yet once again.

And, I just might be working on becoming "three sheets to the wind!"


Hello, Journals, My Old Friends

I don't know the when, and I don't know the why. But, here's the what: I stopped working in my art journals and working in those journals happened pretty much daily. Somehow, gradually over time, this thing that was beyond important to me simply ceased.

Yesterday morning, I pulled one out of its hiding place - one made up of mostly blank pages. I thought about getting a new one; you know the drill - new and exciting would make me dive in, but I quickly realized that I owned enough journals to start my own little art store. Some new, some old. Some professionally bound, others handmade by me or another artist. Some sported line paper, others watercolor paper.

Pretty much, my studio offered up an all you can eat buffet of journals.

My art room exists in a state of semi-chaos right now. I've been tossing or donating bags of stuff, whittling it down to what I truly love. Piles teeter in several places; the art room lives in that state of it gets better before it gets worse.

Heartheroses1

So, I cleared a few piles off the table, and I sat there staring at the blank page, not sure where to begin, and not sure what I wanted to do. Other than knowing I felt hungry for mixed media, no plan existed.

I started collaging...wax paper that served as under paper in a previous life, deli paper that once protected other journal pages or acted as palette sheets, a few scraps of fun papers, some clippings from magazines, some previously stamped images on maps and texts.

Glue. Paint. Move everything around.

Decide I didn't like it; cover it up. Add some paint, and oh, God, why did I do that?

Pull out the stencils.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Lord, I'm rusty!

Eventually, I coaxed her into an appearance - a rather wonky "angel" of sorts. I don't normally "crown" my ladies, but she was too short for the page, just out of whack  proportionally. I gave her roses and then antlers. I'm not sure why, but she told me she needed some. And, then, some wings fashioned from flower petals.

Heartheroses2

She sat for a bit in all her glory yesterday because I needed to figure out what to do with the other half of this spread. This morning, going back through some notes from last weekend's art retreat, I came across the quote you see above, and how very cool...a quote about roses for a lady wearing them on her head!

She's not what I envisioned or expected when I put her face down. She morphed into other creatures several times, until we both agreed on her appearance. When I look at her, I see the "mistakes" that exist simply because I haven't done this in such a long time.

But, I also see something beautiful, something that makes me happy.

I think maybe she's the guardian of more to come.

Notes: My wonky sweet angel began as an image stamped onto an old map. After I glued her down, I "touched up" her face with water soluble crayons and a Derwent sketching pencil followed by some micron pens. Her wings lived as flower petals in a previous life; her crown and antlers came from magazine clippings of things that appealed to me, cut out long ago. Stencils came into play, layered over so many papers, it would require an archaeological dig to name them all!


I Just Want to Say

Luckettstree

Death has been dancing on the fringes of my life for these past few weeks...an uncle of a family member, a friend of my sister's, people related to those I've come to know on line.

But, last night, he sucker punched me, even though I knew he lurked nearby for someone I loved dearly, my dad.

We're never ready, really ready, I think. I wasn't.

Logically, we all know death is inevitable. Logically.

But, not emotionally.

Because even though I knew it was time, really well past time, it seemed, I'm just not ready.

But, ready or not, death claimed my dad last night.

Right now, I'm a bit adrift and caught up in all that death entails. So many arrangements to be made. A jugging of who can be there, and who can't. Figuring out who will play what part in the days to come.

The business of death keeps everyone moving and doing. The emotional crash will come sometime next week, I think.

For now, I'm focusing on what needs to be done.

The monkeys seem to be in control of my mind, willy nilly tossing out thoughts and memories like so many seeds scattered on the spring breezes.

For now, from my heart to his, because in so many senses, he'll always be with me:

 

Now that you've gone,

I just want to say that I loved you,

And that I woke up thinking that you can't possibly not be here with me.

 

I want you to know now that you've left,

That you taught me so much

Lessons tucked here and there in the busy-ness of life.

 

I love the memories of you leaving everyone laughing

As you walked away, a twinkle in your dark brown eyes

And a shit eating grin on your face.

 

Let me just say that the days ahead

Are going to be incredibly tough

Gathering together to honor not your passing, but your life.

 

I've always thought that funerals should be

More about celebrating

And less about dark clothes and gloomy faces.

You loved to laugh, to dance, and

You took every chance to be ornery that you could find.

 

Let me just say,

That I know you had faults.

Don't we all?

But you never left me feeling unloved.

 

Now, that you're gone,

I want to tell you thank you

For teaching me that this world holds so much magic

And that I need to get out and see it.

 

Know that I loved it all

The hot dog pieces floating in Campbell's chicken noodle soup.

I thought you quite the chef.

The beach trips with all of us tucked

Into that one tiny trailer, like sardines in a can.

The gift of photography and

The ability to capture light.

 

Let me just say,

That I'll hold these memories and more,

Tucked into my soul and my heart

And, I'll toss them into the air

Like confetti

And capture all of their magic in my hands.

 

 


Monday, Monday

Squaree

Outside my window, bare branches rest against a heavy gray sky, looking far more winter like than the first day of spring.

I am thinking that this budget bit is a load of crap and in now way compassionate. It seems to strike at those who need the help the most. No kid should be hungry, nor should any senior. Such tiny parts of the budget in the grand scheme of things. It breaks my heart.

I am thankful for what I have, and I'm struggling to keep that in the front of my mind and to not let worry overwhelm me. Yes, I'm thinking about myself here, the potential for horrible health care costs just when we need it the most. Who knows about social security....not an entitlement in my mind. I've paid into that baby for years and years and years. So many friends and relatives in the same boat. So, I pray for them, for us, and for everyone, really.

Squaref

I am wearing jeans, an old school t-shirt, and a sweater to take off the chill. Cleaning clothes that I don't need to worry about as I delve into closets to de-clutter and sort. There's a pile of packages ready for Goodwill.

I am creating clean space to rest my eyes on. I love seeing this space come into being. And, of course, I'm creating these tiny stitch as meditation squares. They calm my monkey mind and make me happy. So much color and texture, and the in and out repetition of the hand stitching soothes my soul.

Squareh

I am reading the New York Times and Washington Post to try to stay informed. I am not reading most of what flies across Facebook, no matter what the party. Fake news seems to be a mainstay of both sides, and it's all a lesson in patience and trying to figure out what's really happening. It's also enough to make my eyes cross.

I am hoping people can learn to think a bit more and not just react. To work for what's good for us as a country, not just what our particular party wants to happen. Mostly, I hope people can really begin to just be kind to one another. It doesn't cost much to do so, and the pay off is huge.

Squareg

I am hearing traffic make its way along Old Keene Mill Road, and the voices of students walking home. A few birds chatter noisily, and Mr. Crow scolds us all.

Around the house, floors wait to be mopped, laundry piles up, and boxes wait to be carted away. The twits' toys can be found almost anywhere, including robotic monkeys and Native American projects. Crayons, glue, felt, and more give evidence that creativity happened, and that makes me smile. Other things wait for their assigned spots as I continue this de-cluttering project.

Squarej

One of my favorite things, homemade nut roll, whispers, "Come eat me," from the kitchen. I don't think it has to worry; I've already put a healthy dent into it!

A few plans for this week:

 - more decluttering and sorting

 - a start to spring cleaning

 - editing photos

 - creating and sending snail mail

 - stitch meditations each day

 - grocery shopping and more

Squarei

Happy Spring!!!


Inspiration in the Form of a Rusty Red Car

Selfieatbrunswick

Assignment: Create a mixed Media Self-Portrait

Reaction: UGH!

And then the universe stepped in: within a week the concept of self portraits showed up three times - the assignment in Lesley Riley's 52 Pick Up class, a friend's visit to the National Portrait Gallery, and another artist showing a book of self portraits as inspiration.

Message received, and I got busy.

This "self-portrait" is a veritable mish mash of all sorts of bits and pieces.

The greenish blue background is a gelli plate print created earlier this summer. I generally have a stash of them, and they never fail to delight me.

The brownish black and brown  background is an Iphone shot of this beauty at Lucketts Market.

Rustycarfullshot

I cropped it to this:

Rusty car

I cropped it again, rotated it, and then digitally manipulated it using PhotoLabPro on my Ipad, and ta-da....got this!

Carab4

Is this not ever so cool? I quite fell in love with it, and came up with several other variations on the theme using the same app.

Now, down to the nitty gritty of it. I needed a photo of me, and I really didn't want to start shooting more selfies, so I grabbed another Iphone image shot in a silly moment last weekend.

I began with this:

Me

then manipulated it with the same app to what you see in the final portrait. I cut myself out and glued it to the brown background.

And then the fun began: white Uniball signo pens, black sharpies, a word sticker,  a rub on of the word "Focus" altered with more white pen, a tiny paper butterfly...well, you get the idea!

I threw a black mat over it to look official, and well, just because I could.

Thank you, rusty red card. You can count on showing up in my artwork again and again and again, sometimes altered beyond belief!

 

 


Old Men Talking

Brunswick, MD 021

Puff, puff.

Chug, chug.

I think I can. I think I....

Well, maybe if I just stopped to admire this porch, a wonderful wrap around porch, the kind you sit on and watch the world go by, well, maybe I could. Brunswick, MD's hills provided quite the workout.

Just then, a quavery voice rang out. "Hello there, it's a beautiful morning."

I grinned at the elderly man rocking away this February day.

"Hello," I answered. "Hello. I'm just admiring this wonderful porch: I love it. " I didn't go into the specifics of needing to catch my breath.

"Yes, I've been here 8 months now. When I was looking for a place to stay, I saw this porch. And, I thought, this will work. Yes, this will work." He continued on, sharing a bit of his story, and I listened contentedly, whispering a pray of thanks for this elderly man wanting to talk.

At the end of it all, he wished Phil and I  a good day, and we responded likewise. I love small towns for this reason; everyone enjoys a good visit.

Making our way up the rest of that dratted hill, and loving the fact that the return trip would be downhill, Phil and I reached Beans in the Belfry. We'd found quite by accident one winter's day, hoping to visit a nearby rail museum.  Despite its website stating it would be open, we found the building shuttered and dark. In search of things to do, we'd found this coffee shop. Intrigued by the name, and the obvious fact that at one point in history, it had lived its life as a church, we wandered into an eclectic mix of various tables, sofas, chairs, and the most wonderful aroma imaginable. Sounds of a blue grass band mingled with conversation and the clanking of dishes.

And, here we were again, hoping for more of the same.

Phil grabbed a menu, and just as we began to figure out what we'd eat, another elderly voice inquired, "What sort of photos do you take?"

I looked up into steel blue eyes and a very wrinkled face. Leaning against a walker, he went onto tell me he photographed all sorts of things, but mostly trains. He collected them, you see, and he'd been a worker on a train once.

I happen to love old people, and full disclaimer, I happen to be well on my way to being one. Despite my 60 plus years, this gentleman obviously had at least 20 on me.

Phil and I put down our menus, both being well trained in manners, respect, and both of us, lovers of stories. We didn't have a firm agenda, and well, how long could a man, dependent on a walker, stand and talk?

It turns out to be a very long time.

I saw my dad in him - the somewhat rumpled mish mash of clothes, funny tufts of hair in odd places, and the crazy meandering threads of conversation.

Where were we from? Did we come here often? He came every Sunday; he'd been coming for years now, ever since the place opened.

Gesturing toward a chair, he explained he'd written most of his novel there.

What trains had we ridden? He'd been on one that traveled across most of Alaska, a special train just for his group. It reminded him of when he worked on a train, supervising the dining car. He had to get there early, to begin breakfast and have it ready. The bosses got to know him, let him ride in the engine, but he couldn't stay too long. So much of his help was teenagers, you see, and they required close supervision.

His voice often got lost in the din of cutlery, the sounds of nearby conversation, and the live music. My mind kept flitting back to my dad and his love of stories, to all the times he'd converse with anyone and everyone. He wanted to make someone laugh, often reminding us that if you made someone laugh,  you'd done good work.

Most of all, I knew this man needed to be heard; Phil and I took delight in obliging.

A worker walked by, asking where he would like his order. He pointed to the chair he mentioned earlier, explaining that the person seated nearby would be sure to watch it for him.

I think the conversation continued for a half hour before he left us, stopping promptly at the next table with another opening conversational gambit.

Phil and I just grinned at each other; I pointed out that he would be that same type of old man, talking to everyone.

His response? "I already am!"

As we ate, I'd turn around now and then, to check on our new friend, always finding him engrossed in conversation with someone. As we left, Phil reached out to shake the old man's hand and thank him for his conversation with us.

With a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and reminded us that he'd be here every Sunday and would love to talk with us again.

Much to Phil's delight, we found the train museum open, and lo and behold, volunteers wandered about in the form of little old men, anxious to share the place. They firmly corralled us, along with a few others, and new conversations began.

I have to admit, after a few minutes, I excused myself.

I can talk cameras and photography. I can also talk train rides.

Scale and layouts baffle me, and headaches follow as I try to make sense of it all.

So, I left Phil happily engrossed in it all, followed around by said volunteers, chattering away.

Instead, I wandered the second floor, admiring bits and snippets of the past and indulging myself in playing dress up in the kids' corner.

And, I thought a good bit about the elderly and their love of stories, their wanting to be seen, heard, and valued. It costs so little to sit and listen, a bit of time mostly.

I thought about all the wonderful folks who'd given my father that time, and I said a quick prayer for all those who had no one to listen to them.

Old Men Talking.

Probably Old Women as well, but for some reason, I seem to come across the men more often. I've heard wonderful tales told of days growing up as a slave, and how proud one man was to be a house slave after growing up picking cotton in the fields. It brought history home and made it real.

Old Men Talking.

Stop to listen; they tell the best stories.

IF you and I are lucky enough, we'll be the ones telling the stories someday.

And, hopefully, someone will stop to listen.

 

 


Stitching Like A Drunken Sailor

I've been itching for some time to play with needles, thread, and material. Just plain itching to play. But - I grew up when you took Home Ec in high school, and when cross stitching was the rage. Everyone, every teacher, particularly Anna Hamilton, my high school home ec gal, emphasized precision. Each and every stitch needed to be just so: the perfect exact length, the perfect spacing, and by God, what ever it was I did had to look just as good from the back. My backs were a holy mess, designed to make poor Anna shudder in dismay.

No one had yet to embrace the wabi sabi approach. No one liked, yet alone loved, wonky stitches.

My work always looked like a drunken sailor had gone at it.

Now, no offense to sailors, drunk or otherwise. "Like a drunken sailor" happens to be one of my dad's pet phrases. He took great delight in using it, especially when he viewed his offspring's and their children's first attempt at navigating kayaks. Since dad dropped out of high school to join the navy during WWII and told stories of his youthful escapades while on active duty, I suspect he knows a great deal about sailors, drunk or otherwise.

Squarea

Then, just a few weeks ago, I found Liz Kettle and slow stitching. My Lord, I love this woman. She embraces wonky stitches, explaining that each needle went in and out just where it was supposed to be. She emphasizes that your stitches can be differently sized, uneven, crooked or more. And, as you can see, I embraced this process with a passion.

Liz just follows a few basic rules:

  1. Don't spend more than two or three minutes picking out you fabric remnants.
  2. Never, ever, rip out a stitch. It's fine.
  3. It doesn't matter what color thread you use. Just grab one and get started.
  4. The piece will let you know when it's finished; trust your gut.

Squareb

Liz's slow stitching is her meditation, her way to ground herself each morning. She completes a square each morning before she goes running. I complete one every few days.

Stitching is so new to me; I did cross stitch, but there are wonderful little grids to follow when you cross stitch. I stand a fighting chance to make respectable looking stitches, at least on the front. Just don't look at the back, okay? Miss Anna Hamilton will be shuddering in her grave if you do that, and she'll claim no knowledge what so ever of me.

True confession time - I break Liz's rules.

I can spend a long time choosing my fabric, playing with one color after another, mixing and matching my pieces. This morning, for the first time, I managed to choose quickly. Maybe it comes with practice?

I loved her class at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA. (If you are a fabric and thread lover, this is your place. It's like going to heaven...fabrics from all over the world. Heaven in the form of colors and textures!)

I loved the class, but I tried to kind of hide myself. This group of women seriously knew what they were doing. Awesome, tiny, straight stitches completed in a heart beat. This newbie stood out and not in the star of the class type of way.

Squarec

Another part of my confession: I rip out stitches. They're still wonky, they're still looking like a drunken sailor took this class. But, the more of these little babies I do, the less ripping out I do.

I'm learning to live with the wabi-sabi-ness of it all and have managed to deafen my inner critic (aka Anna Hamilton). And the stitches are getting smaller, tinier, and just looking better. Not great, but better. I can live with better.

And, even though these ladies overwhelmed me with their talent and expertise, they were a friendly bunch, and never criticized my feeble attempts.

Thank you, ladies!

Squared

As I worked my way through the class, fortified with a bit of wine, (These ladies know how to have a class on a Friday night. The wine certainly didn't help my stitching, and I never came anywhere near the drunken sailor level, but it helped with not completely despairing of it all.) I learned a lot.

I learned that cheap needles will create headaches. They don't go through the fabric as smoothly; they tend to snag. I now own some Tulip brand needles.

I also learned that crewel needles are awesome; no matter the size of the needle tip, they have a really huge eye. For those of us whose own eyes are lacking in sharpness, crewel needles are a blessing.

I learned that I love these little square works of art. They're 4" X 4", so that they don't become a "project."

And, I learned that I love fabric, and I love hand stitching.

Right now, I'm pretty focused on making the needle do what I want it to do, but with 4 pieces down and 1 started this morning, I'm finding a rhythm, and things are going more quickly and easily.

Even though I have to work at it, or think about it, there's a calmness about it all, and a timelessness as well. It's certainly a one of a kind result.

If you're intrigued, Liz has a wonderful video on the whole process, and she explains it far better than I can here. You can find her video at: http://www.textileevolution.com/index.php/easyblog/entry/stitch-meditations (Sorry, it doesn't seem to want to hyperlink!)

The site is a wealth of info on stitching, hand and by machine. Liz has published some great books, and you'll also find samples of her own squares.

A few notes:

I didn't include my class square. That poor baby just wants to hide her pathetic-ness away from the world. I'm keeping her to remind me of how far I'm coming, but I'm letting her hide.

The squares appear in the order I've completed them.

Square 1: that awesome piece of netting like material comes from an old bridal gown donated to a thrift shop. The gown was so badly stained, that the shop could not sell it. I got it in another class, where we ripped up that gown and used ever bit we could. This netting comes from the crinoline under the gown! Lesson learned: I need to haunt thrift shops to get my fabric stash where it needs to be.

Square 2: the material that forms the smallest dotted rectangle is a piece of an old scarf. Fun!

Square 3: Ah...fibers! I can use funky fibers that I love, but that I have no idea what to do with. I've never mastered knitting, crochet, etc.

Square 4: The blue piece with black "flowers" is a piece I created in a fabric gelli printing class. It began as white muslin.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                  


Finding Beauty in the Season of Brown

Novthanksgiving2016 012

I'm looking at brown - brown tree limbs, brown leaves dangling and then letting go to drift slowly down to carpet the grass. The same grass bare of leaves just a few days ago. Only the sky differs, and it's gray and heavy with another bout of rain.

A hint of green lingers on the grass but will disappear all too quickly.

I'm not fond of this season; I just want to curl up under flannel sheets with a steaming cup of coffee by my side and just read. Mostly, I inhale books that provide mindless entertainment, the type that I send tumbling to the floor when I fall asleep and roll over. The type that when I pick them up, it doesn't matter if I find the "right" spot, because I won't miss much if I don't. Somehow, they're soothing at this time of year.

Right now, those flannel sheets tumble in the dryer, shedding lint like a dog leaving a trail of fur. I love these sheets, soft and rich to the touch, and ready to cocoon me in layers of warmth. But, being new, they take what seems like forever to dry.

Downstairs, traces of last night's homemade turkey soup linger. Each time I wander into the kitchen, the aroma teases my nose and taste buds. I know I can grab another bowl for lunch, and I just might do that. It's more than a bowl of soup; it's all the love that Phil put into this past summer's herbs, the slow and steady mincing of fresh veggies, and the patient wait for it all to blend into something wonderful. Good things really do come to those that wait.

Last Friday, the infamous "Black Friday" that will find me anywhere but a mall, we went a wandering in Virginia's wine country. A Facebook write up intrigued me, inviting me to "walk off my wobble" by climbing a small hill, grabbing a ticket to prove I'd made it to the top, trotting back, and then claiming a house made truffle. I can assure you that the truffle was well worth my climb!

And, I have to fess up, that Phil and I had avoided this winery for the longest time, visiting several others in the area instead. For some reason, its write up had me thinking that it leaned toward the snobby side. (We've inadvertently landed at some of those!), and blue jean clad me wanted to be able to relax...and to afford some wine! 868 Estate Vineyards...doesn't that name sound snobby?...pleasantly surprised us. It has an onsite restaurant to be explore later, but also tons of picnic tables for casual (and inexpensive!) fun, and just a great friendly air about it. The "868" turns out to be the elevation of where their new tasting room will be built, and where we had to climb to claim our truffle. So, a good lesson learned: First impressions aren't always spot on.

I'm meandering here, but then so are my thoughts. Some of them are working on convincing me that it might be a good idea to get at least one set of my physical therapy exercises done. Other thoughts, and rather louder thoughts, take great pleasure in reminding me that I'm going to hurt when I'm done. And, then the first thoughts come back and chortle, "No pain, no gain!" So, at some point, I'll great my teeth and get them done.

Okay, self, it's time to wrap this up. The dryer's buzzing impatiently. Floors desperately need vacuuming and mopping or both.

And those damn exercises need to be done.


He Sang to Me



Nov2016backyard 058


Just 7 days ago found us on the road to Pennsylvania and to my dad.

Dad's beat the averages several times; most patients admitted to a dementia ward live about 18 months. Dad's well past that, and although the mental decline grows rapidly, he's a strong old man and a force to be reckoned with when he doesn't feel like complying. Having blood drawn or his fingernails cut invoke his wrath, but so does simply getting out of bed some mornings. The nurses and aides learned to read his moods years ago, and they know when to let him just be.

I never know which dad I'll find; I do know, with certainty that it won't be the one I grew up or the one I knew even 10-15 years ago. I enter through Wallingford's doors just hoping that he'll acknowledge my presence. During many visits, he's simply sat in his chair, not making eye contact, not saying a word, even when spoken to. Other visits, he's slept through, so I just sit vigil for a bit and then leave.

This was a "good" visit. I found him wide awake, a twinkle in his eye, and full of things to say. His voice is weaker now, and so soft, that we have to lean forward to begin to figure out what he's saying. Most of the time, it's sheer and utter nonsense, random babblings of a mind that's gone missing.

He talked, talked, and talked some more. At times, he was back during the time of WWII and on a naval carrier. Other times, he'd gone dancing and looking for girls. He proudly informed me that he never had trouble finding a girl since he could dance so well. And, when they got tired of dancing, they'd go walking and do "other things." Usually at this point, I'd try to distract him, because it's definitely uncomfortable to hear those exploits from your dad!

He informed Phil that he had some lovely daughters back in Parkesburg and invited him to come home with him and pick one out. Phil assured him he'd do so, and then turned and grinned at me.

Dad then turned to me, and softly said that the best thing he'd ever done was to marry me, and I knew that he thought I was my mother, so I sat up a bit straighter and really tried to hear what he was saying. In all his years since the stroke that accelerated his dementia and landed him in Wallingford, he's very rarely mentioned my mother.

And, then, he began to croon songs to me, mostly nonsensical words, but I rarely heard Dad sing while growing up, and I never heard him sing to my mother.

Did he sing to her while he courted her? I'll never know for sure, but I think he must have.

His voice shifted a bit, a subtle change, and as I listened I heard, "I love you, I love you, I love you."

I don't know what look was on my face; it must have been a mixture of sheer and utter disbelief mixed with happiness.

Dad was definitely a product of his times; he never said, "I love you" aloud. I knew I was loved, well and truly loved, but the words never got said, on his end anyway. Even well after I grew up, when I'd kiss him, he'd nod his head, and say, "mmm...hmmm."

I wish I had thought to record him, but I was so completely caught up in the moment, I just sat, smiled, and told him that I loved him back.

He'll never know the gifts he gave me last Friday...being present to me, his voice and non stop chatter, his talking of my mother. But, most of all, those words.

"I love you, I love you, I love you," he sang, complete with a few blown kisses my way.

Oh, Dad, I love you, too. Somewhere in the deep nooks and crannies of a mind gone astray, I hope you know that.

I love you.


Muddled Thoughts

October and November 2016 105

I've been sitting with the election results for nearly a week now. Each time that I think I may have come to grips with it...not liking it...just sort of internalizing it, something else happens. And, before I know it, my monkey mind is spinning like an unbalanced load of laundry. It's gone completely amok, trying to process it all.

Full disclosure here: Trump was not my candidate of choice. Not because he's Republican, but simply because he made my stomach clench with what I perceived his character to be. I'm not okay with public bullying, poking fun at others, etc. He simply goes against so many of my own personal beliefs, and this is where I'll ask you to not post any sort of hateful comments. I just don't go there, okay? And, my hope is not that he fails big time, so that I can go...Aha! See?

Because if he fails, we all go down big time.

Don't get me wrong; I'm scared. I'm just not going to let that fear control my life. I want to somehow harness this fear, make it fuel me to work for change.

I've written and re-written this post so many times in my mind. I still don't have the right words, but here is what I do know.

I loathe and detest the hate filled comments I've seen, before, during, and after the election. There are ways to state your case, what ever that case might be. It simply does not have to be hateful or demeaning. I've seen both parties do it; both are still doing it.

Public shaming is awful; people have a right to be disheartened, to grieve an outcome. And, I think that they're grieving far more than Secretary Clinton not being the president elect. I'm one of those people; it's just that my grief happens to be more private. People are grieving what seems to be a complete rejection of values important to them, a way of life.

But, I'm seeing the term crybabies being thrown around, and people being told to "grow up" already. Photos, of course, are nearly always attached.

The grief may seem excessive to you or to me; it doesn't matter. Nothing gives us the right to shame the ones grieving.

Much of this type of shaming comes backed up with comments on a generation that has been always given their trophy, always told they're wonderful, that have been excessively coddled. I happen to agree with some of this; I've seen it far too often in a classroom setting. The thought has crossed my mind that we're blaming the wrong folks here; these people didn't raise themselves, and sometimes, they were never given the tools to "get over it." And, I bet that the very folks posting this sort of crud would be horrified if someone publicly shamed them or theirs because the shamer felt that someone had been too easy on them, or raised them poorly.

Public shaming is just not the answer; it sure as hell is not going to cure anything.

I also believe in the right to protest peacefully. It's built into our government; our voices always need to be heard.

What I don't agree with is violent protests, the burning of the flag, or defacing property. Destruction solves nothing here. Nothing.

And, let's stop the public gloating, okay?

So, where does this all leave me? Like I said above, still confused, still grieving, and worried about my the direction my country seems to be moving.

I'm worried about minority groups, about children, about the lack of respect given to women. I'm more than worried about this white supremacy bit. It makes my skin crawl.

For me, it comes down to this. I need to get more involved with what I care about - the hungry, the poor, human rights in general. I need to get active in a big way, and to do it more than at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I need to do more than what I'm doing now.

I need to do more than "talk the talk." Talking is easy; sometimes, doing is not.

I need to stand up for what I believe in, and I need, at least for now, to limit my contact with Facebook rantings. It's not sticking my head in the sand; I'll be reading and researching, but choosing the sources of my information carefully. Not that I'll just stick to what I happen to agree with...now, that would be sticking my head in the sand! But, I need to not let this hate soak into my pores and fill my days.

Do I need to address this hate? Yes, there's not doubt that I do, but I don't think slinging words back and forth on Facebook will do the trick.

I'm really tied up with what to do with this one...I do need to be able to say "I don't agree." But, it needs to be more of a conversation, not what could well be perceived as a public attack on a person. So, how to do this, I'm just not sure yet, but I need to begin with my own corner of this world.

Most of all, I need to take that good hard look at me, at how I'm living my life, at the prejudices I didn't think I had in any way or fashion. I need to decide the person I'm going to be in what feels like a really bad situation. 

I refuse to say that nothing good has come out of this seeming mess, because I believe that the first step in moving past the ugliness in acknowledging it still does exist, whatever form it takes. Logically, I know this; I've always known it, but I buried it.

I need to step up my game, that's for sure.

And, I refuse to let go of hope.

I'm still sorting this all out in my mind, but I just refuse to let go of hope.