The Reality of Pies, A Year Later and….Toilet Seat Repair

The Reality of Pies, A Year Later and….Toilet Seat Repair

December 10, 2017

When I am really lucky, I get to write while my son writes.  He, his homework.  Me, writing or accounting.  Today for me, it is writing. I have recovered from my Thanksgiving overdose in which I ate the entire bowl of leftover stuffing and an equal overdose of pie baking which lasted for an entire week.

Some of the best work I can do for my business is really in the taking care of myself.  And oh my have I been learning!  So, in the lessons of my extreme pie baking marathon from Thanksgiving to Advent, I also came face to face with reality.

It was the painful realization that what had mattered to me a year ago had only been important to me.  I have had a few of those experiences – when the day, the hour of an ‘anniversary’ comes along.  I had waited for a sign of a moment to share in the reverie  of both the experience of a year ago and for the time which had passed since in an awareness as the aging of that epic harvest of wine.

My answer came in the painful silence of baking pies and a year’s passing which makes no sense to anyone else.  To me, both held…well, held me.  But is that not life?

I do realize that I draw the last drops of meaning out of these nothing moments and I know I am overly sensitive but these events caused me to remember the vow to myself about how I wanted to live.  In the baking of pies and in the once hopeful memory of a year ago, I remembered my lessons of “twenty-five thousand times”.

 

In ten days I baked two pumpkin pies, two pecan pies, two cherry pies, one blueberry pies, one peach pie, and the finale dutch apple pie with the finest homemade pie crust you have ever tasted.  I was in baking nirvana.

My mother’s recipe, touched up by me:

PIECRUST

2/3 cup lard

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons sparkling water, ice cold.

Enough for two pie crusts. Combine flour and salt. Cut mixture with the lard until you get a pebble looking mixture.  Add tablespoons of water one at a time (that is the official wording…it always ends up being four tablespoons.)  I think the crust is better with the sparkling water.

…………………………………………..

We had walked past the beginning excitement of new direction with its energy barely being contained, yet we had not arrived at that point of tiring, a soreness of the mind in which one numbs all senses in order to make progress, one simple step after another.  Our journey had felt as though the path, once obscured, now reached up to our feet to guide us.  We never hurried, we never stopped.  We kept walking.  I had been unsure if I had ever experienced quite a journey.

The path had been simple with stones flattened by time, laid in perfect succession for us, the travelers. Es had remained focused on the path ahead of her.  I had seen her, rarely looking  to the horizon either left or right of us.  I had never seen her alarmed nor her gaze to catch anything to steer her interest away from the stones which lie directly in her feet’s course. 

“This isn’t right,” she had turned to me.  “This isn’t right.”  For the first time we had stopped.  My heart had started to sink.  I had felt a heaviness in my limbs that I had not felt since we escaped the Shadow Beast attack.  But I had known she would not hide what she meant nor would she sugarcoat it. 

I had braced myself and the heaviness of what I was about to hear; my mind locking down its own protection to what I already knew was coming.

“We need to go back.  I was wrong.  I need to go back to the beast, to the shadows.”

“No, Es, no. What would you hope to accomplish? Why do you need to go back?”  And I had to add with all superiority and with equal amounts of silly, phony authoritarianism, “Don’t you remember what they did to you?  Don’t you remember?”

“Going back is the mistake.  Going back is wrong.”

There. I had given my vote and opinion in declaration to the winds.  Es would consider my words but I had known nothing would counter her intuition.

“Why would you go back?” I asked with expectation of an answer of philosophy.

Es turned to me with total comfort and conclusion, “I don’t know. All I know is that this, this is wrong and I need to go back.”

I had not meant to groan –  at least aloud – and if she had heard it, Es had made no mention.

………………………………..

We had begun, to climb, the retracing, the agonizing reversal of our path.  Where the path’s stones had risen to hold our feet, they now teetered as our feet had landed upon them. Where the path once had sloped indistinctly with unnoticeable tips and slants, it had then seemed tiring and wearing upon our legs and our spirits.  Our energy had dipped.  Es had checked on me.  This reverse journey had shown to be difficult for us both.

All the distance, all the positive energy of the path since we had left the Shadow Beast in the field of flowers, we had returned it as an insult to the energy it had given us.  By returning, we had destroyed this relationship with our path.  We had not realized, but we destroyed our energy. 

The beast had been recognizable from the hill.  Among the flowers of the field, its dark body stumbled, turning and twisting just as we had left it.  Es was committed to her dream, to an image held in her mind, to the promise of the dream and a mission only she could feel.

“What now?”

“I don’t really know.”

“Please, Es. Please, Es. No.” But even before I could finish those five short words, she had descended to the hill’s foot.  I had followed her to the edge.  Es shook in fear as she took her first step in the field of flowers.  I would not go any further into the field with her, but stood again on the edge as I had when she had escaped the first time.

“Es, please.”

Her mission emboldened her with a resolute happiness of responsibility and duty, in a way I would have never understood.  I had watched.  Her presence had become apparent to the beast.  Its movements stopped.  The air was void of bird songs, but had held the wind which brushed the flowers in announcement of Es’s arrival.

Es had paused.  She was close to the beast, standing less than an automobile length away.  She had known that the beast acknowledged her.

Es had stretched out her hand to the beast.  I had imagined being by her side.  I had imagined what it would have been like, to feel bravery while shaking uncontrollably.  I had imagined what it must be like to have been that stubborn.  Her expectation of the beast had been clear.  And although she, with the naivety of simple right and wrong and her own blind egotism, had seen no alternate outcome, she stood.

And the wind kept brushing the flowers.

The beast had moved almost to what had looked like an assessment of Es.  She had smiled at it, then had held out both her hands. Later she would tell me that she had seen the beast moving closer to her under the brushing of the flowers.  She had noticed the darkness now camouflaged under the soft petals of field flowers.  She had stood, waiting.  The beast, she would recall, had twisted among and back toward itself, folding inward.  It had reached out to her, under those petals, but her feet did not move.  By this time, the beginning, the head of the shadow beast, was only the point in which darkness overlapped the sky.  It had folded back again, among and into itself.

I had watched with mild alarm, an orange level alert if you will, as the shadows had folded over and over upon themselves in a beast of beasts and a shadow of shadows.  At the time I never had thought that perhaps Es would have joined the beast.  She backed away from the shadows, it caught up in itself.  It began to move again, shifting, sliding and folding its large body bending the flowers as it rearranged the shadows under the petals.  It never really moved any distance.  It never traveled further although that fact took us a long time of observation to realize.  The beast itself had been an ominous companion of ours.

Es had stepped with me up the hill.  “Can we just sit for a bit to watch them? she asked me sadly.

My agreement had come in our shared silence.  “It was at that moment I had known once again, how wrong I was.”

 

 

“As I had stood with my hands outstretched, as I saw my hands outlined with the dark body of shadows, my skin, I wondered what I was doing.  And then I realized I was wrong.  Again.  Again I was wrong.”

“I did not feel gentle.  I had stood there, holding my hand out.  I had thought of retracing our steps.  I destroyed a path that had risen up for our feet.  The trip to return had not been gentle.   And that is a contradiction.  As I stood watching the shadows fold back among  itself I realized I had made a mistake.  Either of egotism or self-righteousness, I made a mistake.  I was wrong to return.”

“I had felt….like a trespasser to both the shadow beast and the field of flowers.”

“I had had a dream.  I had dreamed that someone called to me for an adventure, for fun.  I dreamed of the perfect fun.”  Es smiling as though the dream’s memory were a reality only meant for her mind to play with and distant enough for her to never experience.  Her skin may never wear that adventure, but her soul would.  Her spirit recognized it.

“I had dreamed of the perfect fun, of someone reaching out to me to pull me up.   Instead of taking the hand of adventure, I had turned.  With the permission and invitation of adventure, I had turned to pull them.  I had scooped them, the smallest ones.  I had been strong enough to grab their hands to share my adventure.”

Es smiled.

“I had then turned to the shadow beast. And in my dream I had found a strength I did not know I had.  I turned to the shadow beast and held out my hand.  I had helped them.  They had only needed my hand.”

After all she had been through and after she had wished for so long to have the hand of adventure, to have the hand of fun and life extend to her, a reciprocation of her life’s karma, as she had her whole life without any extension back to her, she chose not to take the hand of life but to pass the others to it.

“In the dream I made sure they were all safe.  And adventure..” Es grew silent, her voice breaking a bit.  “Adventure pulled me too.  Adventure’s hand extended to me, had rejoiced in me, and held me fast.”

“I had watched the others, the small ones and the beast.  I watched them smile.  I saw the beast smile.  In the dream, I had fallen asleep in the arms of adventure.”

………………………

Ah, but such is the life of a dream and its dreamer.

………………..

Sometime ago I estimated it took me two years worth of forty times per day or twenty five thousand times before I became proficient.  That is what my work now has taught me.  Twenty five thousand times it taught me.

I love creating my life.  I love the challenges of entrepreneurship, motherhood and womanhood – of life!  Some of the best lessons I have ever had have come from my current job.  I remember starting again in the insurance field after an almost two decade absence and in a role I have never had, in an environment I have never known.  I always hear how a person should never give up on their dreams.  Then the motivational speaker swipes ahead to the examples of Walt Disney, Edison and Oprah – all memorable, all geniuses, and all – well, huge!

No doubt they are inspiring but sometimes those examples leap too far.  I’m no Edison.  I’m no Oprah or Disney.  I’m just me.

But I did have inspiration.  I have worked at my current job for a hair longer than two years.  In that time, I have grown due to my job.  I had figured along the way that my progress was due to doing the same exact function every work day, for at least forty times per day for two years.

That, my lovelies, calculates to twenty five thousand.

These past weeks I began to apply the lesson for myself.  Why just be staggered by a large number?  Why not do something for myself with it?  I began to apply my “twenty five thousand” standard to my business, to everything.  Writers block?  Write five hundred words and I would bet you will want to write a thousand.

Have a huge mess to clean up? Um, do something about it every day. Might take two times two years, but you will never know unless you try.

Feel like giving up?  Ok.  After twenty five thousand times.  Then you can.

The only task I have not found which fits this model is fixing a toilet seat.  I finally replaced the toilet seat.  It is not a hard job but there was something symbolic about it which interfered with getting it done.  But its done now.  It may be one toilet seat, but how many times have I worked through a building problem only to realize the answer was there all along.

And, it may be one toilet seat but I believe I have worked through thousands of screws, thousands of toy assemblies and countless little projects. (Including a birdfeeder that my feathered friends still dislike. Hmm…..)

Es looked at me.  “I realized I no longer need to destroy myself.  I had realized I do not need to violate my own gentleness and my own vow.  I remembered that I did not need to trespass my own life of peace and my own vows.”

For the first time Es reached out to me.  

“Please, would you help me get up?”

Love and Blessings! Happy Advent!

Lots and Loads of Love and a kiss to boot,

Stephanie

 

 

The Leavening of Gratitude. (132 Shades of Truth).

The Leavening of Gratitude. (132 Shades of Truth).

November 24, 2017

“I know why it happened,” Es said as she raised her head slightly as if the smell of truth had caught her senses.  “The truth needed this particular wind, this particular time.  And now I know the truth.”

For the first time since we sat talking on the rocks, she now looked at me directly.  Her eyes were filled with a depth of sparkling clarity that I had not seen in a long time.  Normally I would have been suspicious of anyone not wishing to look me straight, square on, but I could see, as we had walked along, that hers was a practiced walk.  She had grown used to hanging her head, lowering her gaze in the years that had passed.  She had been judged over and over by unspoken words which betrayed the silence she wore as her protection.  Her body, it had seemed, grew accustomed to the familiarity of that yoke.

IMG_9433
Leavening. I finally made bread.

The baking of bread is a personal victory, one which reminds me of my ex-mother-in-law, rest her soul.  Not a perfect woman, by any means, but she and I did share adventures and I believe she liked to show off a bit to me.  I was the perfect daughter-in-law as I could not hide both my admiration and my irritation.  Today, for Thanksgiving, in her honor, I baked bread.

“All this time.” she added with a note of sadness and resolve.  “There is only one reason they did what they did.”  I looked at her, her words not of the declaration of grand discovery;  her eyes, not of the sudden clearing of fogginess.  No, she had been a student studying finally grasping the significance of a basic theorem.  We both half-grinned at even the moment’s truth.  It needed no bravado except only the greatest celebration – that moment of understanding.

“And now I know the truth.”

Up to that time when her voice echoed those words into the wind, we sat upon the rocks.  I watched the shadow beast crawling in the flowery field below us.  It was easily distinguished from where we sat, its dark body stumbling through the swaying dance of colors which surrounded its every movement.  It could not move undetected among the battlements of flowers and grasses, a shifting outline guarded continuously.

Her eyes had never looked at me directly.  You would have thought that she would have had that far-away gaze people sometimes get when recalling troublesome memories, their gaze somehow flinging those recollections as far away a place as possible.  But no, she never once wished those hauntings further from her nor did she wish to hand them directly to my own eyes.  She kept them and her eyes, downward, and just within her arm’s reach.

The memories of that year tumbled from her mouth in a voice normally not accustomed to telling much of her own story.  At least not more than a few carefully analyzed words.  But the pace of the stories slowed and eventually even her jaw seemed to tire.  She rested her chin upon her crossed arms, themselves propped by her folded knees.

As we sat, the wind regained its power, switching now from the south.  Warmth.  She sat a while longer, now mixing the memories of children, her students, with the stories of the betrayals she had faced.  And then the memories she recounted grew older.  The sufferings of her soul dribbled into the warmth of the wind.  I felt no sorrow for her as I watched her now nor did she expect it.  I felt no confusion from her even though she told me about how confusing that time in her life had been.  I felt no pity for her today, but even I now, wished I could reach back to those times which had grown root in her soul.

Her memories made her eerily calm.  Not much time had passed since the beast which sang to her and mocked her had itself been attacked by another beast.  Es had escaped the clutches of both.  She sat here now with the repose of her own battlefields.  Winning, losing, she never thought in those terms as they had almost become equated with forgiveness and sin.  Which quality partners with which other quality depends upon the owners choice;   she wore the face of one who knew both.   Sometimes to lose is forgivable and not sins are so easily defined.

She would have welcomed my own stories – in fact she would have preferred them – but I wished to listen to hers.  Her voice trembled a bit at the beginning of each as though one needed to wiggle the key.  Her doors had never been opened.  Not once.

I noticed the irony of her, almost as if the moments here on the rocks, had, with intention and with the sharpest of pains made her softer.

IMG_9377
Level first. Victory.

I do not really know if it was the bear of months ago, but I had lost track of how exactly my old birdfeeder was damaged.  For twenty years it had weathered extremes of weather, countless chickadees and cardinals and a few random bear attacks.  There is only so much a simple spring can handle.  

My home is a clear spot among the woods, on the edge of semi-wooded neighboring properties, cradled by the towering of older maples and guarded – I like to imagine – by the encampment of my proud sentinel pine trees.  There is a line of them which grace the skyline with continual green.  I am fortunate to have the responsibility to keep feeding the dazzling variety of birds which visit my spot.  

I finally bought a replacement bird feeder.  Months ago.  Months.  I did not hang it up.  I needed to remove the old damaged feeder.  I could not bring myself to do it.  I dismantled the tray portion.  I maneuvered with psychological strategies to bring myself to fix it.  I moved the new feeder, with all its parts, to the front stoop.  I spent weeks walking over the new feeder.

And then, one day last week, I grabbed a crowbar to pry off the old feeder.  Its mounting screws had rusted to the frame and their heads had stripped.  The next day I grabbed the level to mark the post.  The feeder was hung later that same day.  The birds are back at the other feeders.  (It helps, now that I am maintaining them.)  Such a small personal victory.  I smile every day looking at it.  Oh, the birds still hate the new one, but eventually a hungry chickadee will brave it.

IMG_9406

It was time to walk on.

Es stood up, stretching her legs, rubbing her knees to awaken them.  She turned not to the path, not into the winds which called, carving through the stilled air where we stood.  “Es?  Es, the path is that way. That is the path down the hill.”

Es looked in the field at the shadow beast.  We would never know if it simply stopped wanting to track us or if it had given up, yielding to the hillside upon which we stood.

“You know I never could help, I never could help them.  I was not supposed to.”  She looked at what would be her last glance at the beast.

“All I was meant to do was to bring the shadow beast to the field of flowers.”

With a tear and a smile she pointed to a line of rocks.  I saw nothing except rocks and told her so.

She laughed, still with a tear which made her eyes sparkle even more as if the darkest truth had sharpened the twinkle of her soul.

It was time to walk on.

Thank you. Many Blessings and lots of love,

Stephanie

 

It was Reformation, Batman. 

It was Reformation, Batman. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation
Hallowed Wings of Reformation

“Slow down,”  He would say.  “Just slow down, Missy,” He would repeat to me, with the most gentle motion of a hand slicing air which seemed to stop the currents of time if even for a breath in ones mind.

I remember, Father.  I remember.

This past weekend I heard a prayer which I had loved from the moment I first heard it not many years ago.  I decided to not forget it again.

“I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger;  and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You.  For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.”

The understated mum
The Understated Mum

From the date of my father’s birthday through Halloween to my son’s birthday always feels like a cornerstone of time, a marker of the changing seasons.  In Wisconsin it is dramatic shift of necessity.  A person has to release summer.  A person has to open ones coat a bit to feel the chill in the magnificent ability of the earth to decorate itself with white.

Or, you could grump about it.

Halloween was always one of his favorites, my fathers, and his students’, even his students’ children too.  Giving out candy?  Children in costumes?  My father’s bliss.

The mum plant by his grave, once jammed with beautiful dusky rose pink blooms, now stands naked, its green and brown exposed since the pastel frivolity has been nipped by morning frosts.  I missed that dash of light color as I walked toward his stone.  “Seems like everything goes too quickly, huh, Pop?”

There is a funny thing about mums though.  Underneath, in the green and brown nakedness, were buds.  Buds.  I could feel my cheeks burn with shame that I could have ever grumbled at the missing blooms.  It was the most beautiful and uneventful sight.  Ever.  On a Sunday.

 

Lights
Lighting the Darkness, the Truth

About Es.

“Es! Stop! You don’t need to scream. I can hear you.”  But the wind kept howling around us and she kept screaming in response, hoping to out blast its fury.  

We had made our way for quite some distance, steadily and without event on the path which seemed to rise up to her feet while the beast of shadows labored with its darkness just far enough away yet near enough.    Just when the path might have become monotonous, the grade started to slope upwards.  Not steep enough for us to need to use our hands, but it was steep enough to feel that semi-pleasant burn of a hill climb in our thighs.  It was the first time the beast did not flank us.  We watched for a bit as it headed in our similar direction but it would not climb the hill.  I could have wondered more about the beast but the slope of the hill and my unused muscles demanded more of my attention.  Watching and wondering the beast for Es would have to wait.  I was not sure I could make it up the hill.

We kept hiking.  The path never got steeper and seemed to never hint at leveling off at a pinnacle.  With determination Es stepped.  The path had changed from the softness of green covered earthiness to the harsh crumbles of stone-pummeled stone, yet the way cleared with each step she took.

When the wind began to whistle through the rocks above our head we realized there were no more rocks above us, only along side.  We had reached the pinnacle as the wind now howled, enveloping us.  Es shouted about the beast.  

“No,” I nodded back.

Es shouted again to me. “I have to tell them.  I have to tell them what happened.  I have to tell the truth.”

“Es,” I grabbed her shoulder.  “Es, you do not need to.  They already know.”

We looked at each other with disbelief.  I, saying words which I did not necessarily believe and she, with a gaze of shock.  The wind howled again, switching direction as quickly as it seemed it could.  Before either of us could respond to the other’s gaze we began the descent.  There below us, further out and further away from us , the beast’s darkened slithering body crept through the flower field.  We watched it as we moved to a rock perched beside the path.  There we sat, blanketed by stones, watching the dark shadow.

“People already know?”

“Of course, Es.”

“They already know what happened to me?”

“Maybe not specifically, but you are not the only one who has been hurt like this and anyone who has been hurt recognizes pain in another.”

“People already know I was fired?”

“No, but they do know that what happened is not what it seemed to be.  People know you.”

“People will know how it happened?  Will they know how cruel it all was and I never knew it was happening?  Will they know that I had not had an evaluation in six, maybe seven years because I was ‘that good’ and I was friends with everyone?”

I stared at her.  I watched her eyes.  I had told her beforehand, I had warned her, but she had wanted to teach so intensely and she loved children so much and…she was smart.  But she had not been wise.

“Do people know how it was done to me?  Do they know that I was caring for the children of the same people who were going to fire me, at a staff Christmas party, swimming with their children, while they were meeting to fire me? Do they know that ten days prior to being fired I was publicly praised by my friend, my boss, about what a great asset I was to the school? Do they know we, and other female teachers, went out for drinks to celebrate that same evening? Do they know that upon request from my friend, my boss, I wrote the Common Core curriculum for mathematics, language arts, art, and computer science?  And then I was fired?”

“Do they know about the months of intensifying, bullying behavior as I was going through a heartbreaking divorce?  Do they know how I reported the bullying behavior of one teacher with students?”

“Do they know about required staff meetings, study sessions,  in which my Jewish heritage was made fun of?  Do they know how they laughed at Judaism?”

With this proclamation, her tears began.  She continued with the next nail.

“Do they know how I told my friend, I kept telling her about what was going on.  She was my friend.  Do people know she continually called me ‘weird’?”

“Do they know how my life was shattering, that my nineteen year marriage was disintegrating?”

“Do people know I was sexually assaulted in the same year? Do they know I told my friend, my boss?”

“Do people know, that when I was fired, I thought of my father? Do they know that  I said nothing during the meeting.  I had nothing to say.  Do people know that I had already told everything to my friend who was my boss? Do people know I ‘took the fall’ for the lack of student skill development from other years?  Do people know that I was blamed, that within three months, I was the blame for skills that should have been taught two years prior? Do people know that I took the fall for a mother not knowing her child had failed a mathematics placement exam?  Do people know this mother was a part of the same group who decided to fire me? “

“Do people know that I was never asked, not once, by any of the group who did fire me or any official, any leader, about any events?  Do people know that no one, not once, wanted to talk to me, ask me directly?  Do people know I was never warned?  Do people know about,” and her voice broke, “that a fellow teacher – in front of children – hummed the Bridal March to me?  Do people know she laughed as I began to cry?”

“Do people know?  Do people know how I was threatened?”

“Es.” I said to her flatly, as flatly as I could.  “Es, people know it never quite added up.  You don’t need to justify.”

“I have justified my whole path. All of these years.”

Then she tore at another “nail”.

“Do people know how….”

But she stopped. We were looking downhill when the blackened outline of the shadow figure caught our eyes.  Its movements had always been, if not beautiful or graceful, at least steady.  Now it seemed rather confused, as if a shadow can possess such a quality.  The more we watched, the further we seemed to be away from it, as if our attachment was a stone to be thrown or the know of a safety rope.

 

Facepainting
A Garden Variety Mask.

Me. Lady. Now.

I had this brainy idea to paint my face for Halloween or Hallowed Eve or Reformation – whichever you decide to celebrate, if you should choose to do so.  I am rather fond of celebrations, personally.

After writing about my Saint Paul trip, I must admit to being hit rather hard with a realization.  Along that trip I had visited a Catholic church, having been raised Catholic.  I had visited the synagogue out of reverence and a continued curiosity at a piece of my heritage.  My faith was still poking me, wondering if this is me or this is me.  I had treated my faith like a Goldilocks quest.  The significance of these habits played with me in the days to follow my return home.  How long have I sought to justify not only who I was but who I am?  Everything I write, everything I do, my life I have bent for that sole purpose.

I have been rather confused by that realization.  How undeniably spoiled I must be, to trivialize life and yet how dishonest I have been to call that justification, itself, to be of any meaning, any significance?

Stephanie.  You are better than that.  Stephanie!  Your path is not and should not and you better not, be one of that type of justification.  Because that… is just an excuse.

(Insert moment of pout).

But I had not put the pieces together until today (technically, yesterday).  I had been stopping my own growth with the reference point of not what they had done to me or what I have experienced in my life, but really I had been stopping my own growth by justification.  I am not justified.  Those experiences do not entitle me.  Those experiences do not pardon me from development.

“Do people know, that I believe they made up things about me? Yet, some of those same people had called me the kindest person they ever knew?”

“Es, I am pretty certain people know, even if they do not know.”

“Do people know that despite my marriage counselor, my soon to be ex-husband and my attorney’s advise to file a lawsuit, I chose to forgive?”

“Do people know that I packed my whole computer lab and all my teacher supplies in one night, through the night because I was so scared?  Do people know how I cried?  Do they know…how I drew comfort, through hours of the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Amazing Grace and Hebrew chants?”

Es sniffed a bit, wiping the tears from her eyes.  We watched again, wordlessly, the shadow beast in the flower field.  It stumbled, slowing, uncertain of its own direction now not being able to see ours.

Es turned to me with the warmth of a slow grin and the eyes now of a gently justified soul.

“Do people know how I had driven three youngsters in my Jeep every morning to school?  They were young, very young, from preschool to kindergarten.  The teachers from the primary grades had gathered three car seats so that I might legally transport them.  Each morning I would swoop in and each morning they would hop, backpacks and all, from house to Jeep.  Every morning, for ten minutes, we were transported, pretending that as we arrived at drop off in back of school, along with all the other students, we were landing safely in our jet airplane….if only for ten minutes…”

Sometimes, we would even pretend it was the Batmobile.

Thank you and Happy Saints Day!

Love.  Lots and loads of love,

Stephanie.

#reformation #love #thesaints

The Silhouette of Closed Doors

The Silhouette of Closed Doors

winged

Thursday, October 26, 2017

“Just because you can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”

Try.

Almost every inch of my essence, all that I was, screamed “I cannot.”  Happened a lot.  I cannot survive, I cannot live, I cannot live well enough, I cannot be happy, I cannot work my own business, I cannot….  But over and over, all those times I started to take care of whatever seemed to be needing to be taken care of or all those times when I faced a problem or situation which needed to be handled;  well, I found out I could.

Seems to be the opposite of the age-old positivity “if you can, then you should.”  But what if you are so low that ‘can’ seems like the impossible mountain?  What if almost every inch of your sense says “I cannot?”  The key is “almost”.  That is why, I learned to start with the state of “cannot”.

“Just because you can’t doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.”

The Ladyship

I was heading out of town, toward my concert of my dreams and toward a city I knew nothing about.  Before I married my ex-husband, I had vowed to myself that I would have left my hometown to move to Red Wing Minnesota, a city known for noteworthy leather work shoes and for its beautiful crocks.  I picked Red Wing because I could never, at that time, imagine myself surviving in Minneapolis, much less Saint Paul.  And how many times did I overlook Saint Paul totally?

Nope I was going to Saint Paul.

I told a friend of my adventure.  “Who are you going with?  A group of friends?”  “No, just me.”  Her face relaxed as she saw that my solo trip was by choice rather than a fallback.  “Shopping, working, museum wandering and the concert!”  Strange how those closest to me are as accustomed to the solo me as I am.

I started the trip in my usual fashion, with too many pieces of luggage and backpacks (yes, plural on the backpack) yet I did not panic.  There was no need to rush.  Inside my Jeep were all those pieces with my blankets, way too many shoes, the rest of my bedding from home, two laptops, and my Snoopy.

Tickets! (Yes, I did eventually find them when I calmed my mind down.)

I followed a familiar route on a major thoroughfare that slices the state in half, north to south.  It’s a major artery.  Forty five minutes or ten songs worth into the trip, I celebrated a ‘crossing of the bar’ moment as I drove under that last well-known underpass. I kept driving. Hour. Hour number two.

I had settled into a drivers nirvana;  the point when the vibrating engine and tires upon pavement lull ones body enough to relax yet so fresh into the trip ones nerve endings perk with every bump.  My mind hummed with music and sights of trees, farms and construction equipment.

I wondered the last time I had been this way.  Was it a school trip in which I was one of two chaperones? I remembered.  The male teacher drove the two female students, and I drove my son and his three male classmates.  What I remember was the irreverent fun of four young men.  And I let them.  We left at an ungodly early hour with the typical teenage field trip contraband of spicy nachos and heavy caffeinated citrus soda.   My son, I am sure, guaranteed them their loot would be acceptable in our truck. I savored every bit of the recollection as I did then, as the field trip was happening.  I drove slower at the irritation of my counterpart, hoping that he would never find out we played every rap song as loudly as possible and screamed under the jets which were landing and taking off over the highway.  Oh, to give them a moment of the wild innocence of youth.

I laughed at the memory, especially at the memory of laughter.  They talked and laughed the entire drive.  As a teacher my goal was to tire students out.  I would like to say I am sorry, but I am not.  I always tried to engage them, especially their minds. A successful field trip meant that students slept the entire way home. That they did.

But that was not the last time I had traveled west.  “Pack one suitcase” I had told my son in the summer of 2014.  I had never spontaneously road-tripped.  For years my husband and I had promised him we would drive west.  Every year we broke that promise.  In a year in which either I broke everything or everything broke around me, I told my son “Pack one suitcase.”   In our old 1995 Jeep my son and I drove past all familiar points to the Badlands of South Dakota.

But I had never been west by myself.  I am unsure why that is even important but it became more so the further along in my trip I drove.  I celebrated each mile resting back a bit more in the drivers seat with my snoopy by my side.  By the time I reached the Mississippi River it felt like a new threshold.

The Adventure

 

I had an eighth floor room with a wonderful view which I insisted to myself must face east.  (Um,no). I was in the midst of concert halls and museums and shops and buildings.  Finding the concert would be a cinch;  a fact confirmed by my phone maps and doubly verified the hotel front desk.

I quickly discovered a theme which would last my whole stay in Saint Paul.  I got lost. I began walking.  I asked directions again.  Then I proceeded to not follow those directions.  Over and over again, I had no sense of direction.  None.  I walked  I looped around the Xcel Energy Center until a kindly doorman at the Civic Arts Center asked if I was arriving for jazz. His soft, kind voice, like steeping tea, filtered warmly in the evening breeze.  He pointed me down the block, to the giant glass doors.

img_8846

I approached the next day peculiarly, in almost a ‘death walk’ or last meal.  I could not figure out why and more so, I could not understand why I craved the feeling so badly.  Only if I went against every ounce of gut instinct would I have not followed that sense.

After three changes I decided upon the Saturday look:  an old black suit jacket, blue jeans, black cami, sparkly sandals with a bit of a heel and an autumn printed scarf of muted orange and mauve flowers.  My first stop along my ‘deathwalk’ was breakfast in a downtown Irish pub restaurant.  Any apology for my macabre thoughts would sacrifice their sincerity.  I am following doctors orders, I reasoned as I drenched blueberry pancakes with the heavy soup of perfect syrup and softened butter.  I am following doctors orders, I reminded myself as I feasted on foods I hadn’t allowed for myself and will not again.

So I ate blueberry pancakes.  Doctors orders.

The Silhouettes of Closed Doors.

The modern art museum reminded, even scolded me to always remember what art is – the truth of experience and expression with equal abilities to both comfort and unsettle.  What one takes from art is proportional to what one brings to it, no matter if you are artist or spectator.

Two exhibits caught me.  One was a Jenga-ish stack of breast-looking pieces entitled “Something for Everyone” which powered the space in front of a large window.

The other piece looked like a creation of charcoal drawing.  A large, traditionally framed and of impeccable portraiture, the focus was a man, a beautiful man wrapped in tulle wearing rubber gloves.  His gaze was an unnerving, yet saddened pride.  I wondered at the lack of our society’s vigilance upon its own worth.  Do we not remember the solid promise of that unnerving pride, in its beautiful, loud silence?

Can you tell I was feeling inspired?  I would shortly wish that my driving would have been equally so, as I continued to not follow street signs and any other modern convenient navigation tool.  I had never driven worse, assuming, of course that I ever had driven correctly to begin with.  I had never miscalculated so many directions and distances.  Ugh.

I really had wanted to see the design museum.  Plenty of time.  I began west only to miss an exit, bound into a land of refurbishment and renovation which grabbed me first with awe and inspiration until I realized I had misread my phone maps.  (The swearing had begun.)  Fifteen minutes at the design museum would be worth it.

As I re-entered where I had mistakenly exited, I merged – um, cut-off would be more accurate – in front of a lovely white, large truck whose driver urged his vehicle to curse at me through insistent, rhythmic honking in what I could only imagine be a Morse code of expletives.

The list of traffic violations continued with my turn into a the wrong way on a one way street.  Have I mentioned the U-turn I proudly performed behind a Minnesota-proud purple and gold city bus which was backing up at that very moment?  I could not even bear to look at the driver.

By the time I found the design museum, any sense I once had of navigation prowess was gone.  It was closed.  It was closed.  I stood there.  Tears.  Tears which surprised tears.  The best gift I have had in a long time was a museum with its doors closed.  I had not known how much it had mattered.  I had begun the search for the design museum as almost a thoughtless itinerary checkmark.  I had not known my heart until I stood there, in front of the Goldstein Building, the Museum of Design.  It had mattered to me.  And I had thanked G~d for an answer to a question about which I had not known.

 

 

………………

I had found Saint Agnes.  Too late for my confessional but a short self assessment and comparison study, comforted me that although I was not dressed for mass, I reasoned that I could probably fit in.  I was on time.  I walked to the door.  I did not go in.  The chapel door was open.  I peaked, then walked in, down the stairs to a good sized basement chapel.  I was too late to confess my sins as I had planned but I dipped my fingers in the holy water, walked to the altar to kneel.  I could still be on time to mass.

Instead I left, patting the beautiful side of the building as though saying good bye to an old friend I never had known. Good bye.   I wondered at these times I have searched, in distress or in the joyful torture of curiosity? I wondered at the necessity I continually felt to exhume my soul’s rest.  Nevertheless I continued.  As I have always done to each trip to Two Rivers, I did the same thing in Saint Paul.  I tapped ‘synagogue’ into my phone map.

Only four minutes away.  I again circled.  I drove in opposite directions.  I found a boulevard of historically reverent homes edged in an outline of churches and houses of prayer.  I saw the poses of a new bride and groom who may have had one too many photos and poses;  he with a molded youthful grin and she with determined gaze of the achievement of bridal couture.  They, in white and black, were beautifully back-dropped with golden maple leaves and the soft lights of early evening.  It was the wrong day for the synagogue to be open, I knew.  My only intention had been to drive by, but I stopped.  As I walked to the door, I once again began to cry.  In the safety of silhouettes and closed doors I had allowed myself one last time to mourn the fact I had not stood up to people who had laughed at my heritage.  One last time to cry.  I held the imagery of the burning bush statue and the metal symbolism of the tablets.  I cried to realize how much it had meant.

 

We are always taught about open doors.  When all is aligned with G~d and the universe, then the doors of ones path will be opened.  A person needs to knock at life’s doors to determine your direction while stopping one from repeatedly banging on doors that don’t belong to you or are not meant for you.   But perhaps I needed the deathwalk to the closed doors.  Perhaps I needed to complete those silhouettes.

The Silhouette of Es.

“I’m not sure either, Es.”  In the grey light of evening I could clearly see the sharpness of her look to me.  The beast, that shadow of entities, could be anywhere.  And that was the only guarantee.  That type of hatred could be anywhere.  We could sing-song our way, pretending to not see in stubborn refusal to acknowledge.  But that would be the ultimate lie.   

“I’m not sure,” she answered to me with eyes that lied in a comforting dishonesty.  Es seemed innocently horrified but her voice was absent of any fear.  Her steps were even more a lie.  With each step she seemed more sure, more stable as if the strange path came up from below to mark her way. 

I followed Es a bit, mimicking her as we walked side by side.  She never looked again for the shadow beast.  I kept looking, maneuvering my glances over, around and behind her.  I did not want her to know that while I trusted her, I could not stop looking for the Shadow.

The same soil which released a path to Es now weighted the Shadow beast.  Es kept walking with steps lightened by the guidance of her part of the earth.

“I will let its darkness swallow itself.” 

…………..

As a lady, I had walked what might have been a bit too far than I should have at night.  I guess that is not true or I am just lucky because I had found the perfect Italian restaurant.   Forgetting that it was a Saturday night – the official date night or night out – I walked into the restaurant alone.  I never intend my presence as a test but my solo adventures seem to be a curiosity…for two minutes.  I think I just surprise people.  I have learned to not appear to either be a lost sheep in search of anyone nor to appear as a harsh testimony to the world.  I feel neither.  I am just alone. I have found that I seem to be a curiosity here as well.  I do not intend my presence as a test.  (I have learned to tip hostesses who sit me at a table or a window booth.  I have also learned to occupy myself with thoughts and observations rather than the automatic tapping on my phone, unless I am truly uncomfortable.)

I had not realized I needed those closed doors.

 

Much love.  Lots and loads of love, plus one good kiss.

Stephanie

PS.  You might be wondering.  The concert?  I might have shimmied a bit….

 

 

The Shadows of October

The Shadows of October

October 8, 2017

I drove on this weekend morning to catch-up on an oil change that is two months and one thousand miles past due.  Recent events warn me not to belabor how much I love the rain, but these soft October rains paint the streets and sidewalks with a reflective first coat.  The skies lied:  I should have been grabbing for insulated raincoats, but it was unseasonably warm, matching the warmth of golden leaves.  The autumn colors glistened above and below.  It has been no secret how much I love the rain – the sound upon roof or a tent’s canvas; the sparkle it brings to harsh, dull concrete and asphalt.

About October 2017.

And in Wisconsin, October rains are nature’s natural to-do list.  A warm rain this time of year reminds of winter to come.  Puddles that a few short months ago invited bare feet to splash in now call out a reminder of ‘where are your boots?’

I drove past familiar sights – small town gas stations and businesses – thinking how lucky I was to still love the rain because I knew nothing of the tragedy of ‘too much’.  I do not know what flood waters are nor do I know what hurricanes are.  I do not know about coastline surges.

Too much rain. Too much storm. Too much.  Such beautiful happenings turn…horrific.

I do not know what it is like, to attend an event….a beautiful event.  Then to have it turn..

I do not know.

……………………………

I do know that with catastrophes, I am fortunate to not know.  I have been through many upheavals, assaults and witnessed a bucket load of horrible things but that is in itself the blessing.  I can write the words “I made it through.”  I am lucky.  I get to reduce them to ‘instances’.

The day following last week’s tragic event, I finally made arrangements to attend a concert.  It seems to be a habit of mine and one I can imagine carrying the rest of my life that one or two times in a year, I need a live performance of some kind:  a concert in any genre, or live performances of symphony orchestras or operas or ballets.  Maybe it is the preparations or the travel.  The day after last Sunday’s tragedies… I ordered my ticket.

I listened to the remix of this, my Wisconsin woods, in October.  A gentle wind flutters the turning leaves – one more breeze for nature’s laundry on the line.  Birds blissfully chirp perhaps in a small talk of their own, gathering stories dependent upon time of day and the weather.  And from rooms away I hear teenage sounds of the computer.

Instances.  I am blessed with instances.

You know, I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life.  I used to wonder a lot about the bad that has happened.  There are surely worse possibilities.  Again the trump of all trumps – that I even have a life is miraculous biology.

About Es.

We could hear them, muffled and muddled, their tongues slurping blindly in fervor;  their voices rumbling in undercurrents.  The woman and the rest and the beast were practiced in their low choirs of insults;  a quiet hymn they could hum just loud enough for their prey but soft enough to appear saintly.  Although she thought otherwise, the woman’s siren song no longer called to Es but to the beast;  their words tethered themselves lowly now not to the ears of innocents but to a beast of which they did not know.  The more they chanted, the more the beast swirled.  The more the beast swirled, the more they sang.  In a storm their own dirt swallowed them both.  

We were hypnotized by the sight of dirt, woman and the rest and the beast, now an entire entity of itself.  Es did not watch it, but I did.  Once I saw an outline of the woman, a darkened shadow against the cloud which she had created.  The rest were indistinguishable in her cloud, their figures blended together.  For a moment my heart ached for her.  Her command of the rest meant she alone must be distinguishable.  And it was true.  I sadly looked at her darkened outline again.  The swirling entity growled.  Her features snapped harshly as she turned.

We should have been running away but we stood.  Our egos could not let go that we were so easily dismissed.  It almost hurt our feelings.

We began to walk away not in victory, not in fear, rather in the resignation of a fight we no longer needed to battle.  Plus, we had somewhere we needed to be.  The snarls dimmed and the dirt storm calmed as we just walked away.  The air was getting lighter.  The wind changed direction and we both heard the song which filtered through.

“Wind….”

We paused at the first notes.  I stood confused at what I was hearing – a melody so out of place.  Es looked at me with horror.  “She hummed Mendelssohn.  It is the same song!  She hummed and grinned as I cried.”  They had attacked her while the woman hummed the ‘Wedding March’ to Es.

I did not have the heart to tell her it was actually “The Bridal Processional” by Richard Wagner which the woman and the rest had used as their battle cry.  Seems to me that either selection was cruel given what had happened to Es.

The winds direction changed again and the air grew lighter still.  The dirt and dust cleared a bit more.  The blessed fragrance of nothingness.  Not a flower nor grass nor dirt nor iron blood.  Just air.

As Es turned to look at me, I was afraid to meet her gaze.  I was frightened to see in her eyes that life had robbed them of their shine, like sandpapering a glass tabletop.  I kept walking but I did not have the stomach to look at her eyes.

“Es?”

She looked at me.  I had not looked her in the eyes since she told me of the wedding song which had been hummed to hurt her.  Her eyes answered without words.

She had seen it too.

“Yes.” She finally replied.

Over Es’s shoulder it galloped in the field, its black shadow riding through wildflowers.  Its darkened, crisp outline gave away the identity.  It had stayed hidden when it was beast individual from the woman and the rest.  The entity now called upon itself.  It could never hide.  Anywhere.  Its shadows had imprisoned itself with the barbs it had once flung upon the world.  If it hummed the bridal processional I could no longer hear it.  For some reason I think it did but that would be my imagination rather than reality.

img_8659Forgiveness.  Es had told me long ago she prayed forgiveness for them, even for the woman who mocked her with the bridal song.  She would actually correct herself.  “In my heart of hearts, forgiveness was never a problem.  What I really wished for, was that G~d would never know what they did to me.”

Somehow I could not imagine a worse karma than that of a shadow-being who only remembered playing one song, one melody meant for an announcement of love but a melody that had been turned into daggers of mockery.

I watched over Es’s shoulder as we walked.  The entity, the shadow, slid among the wild flowers and grasses.  It never came any nearer.  The shadow was a reminder, that the past was not to be forgotten.  It would be allowed to become a shadow cloud among the wildflowers.  Whether it sang or not, we did not know.  

Es turned back to me.  I saw there then, in her eyes the score for the Bridal Processional written in the deepest black blue ink irises upon white linen.  It was there in that twinkle where there should no longer be one.

In mockery it was given to her, to hurt her.  And her soul held onto their laughter.  And her eyes?  Her eyes deepened with the darkness of their shadows.  They had given her their exclusions.  They had called her names.  They had bullied her for months.

In their darkness they gave her the twinkle of what was supposed to be – not as a sad reminder of Es’s own silent denial, but as a reminder of what should have been but was not.  A shadow was now imprisoned.  With its own barbs.

Among the wildflowers.

That was Es’s power.  The love that was supposed to have been.

Over her shoulder I could faintly see the shadow pause.  Es paused too. She pointed to the long open field in front of us.

Es leaned to me, whispering with the deepest of smiles and even deeper twinkle and a bit of a giggle to boot.

“It’s okay.”

Lots and loads of love (because it’s not pie, you know?)

Stephanie

….mwah…

 

 

The Owl Dress.

The Owl Dress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

 

She escaped.  Es, unaware of her placement in the shadows of cross hairs of crossfires, dove into the clay;  its chocolaty thickness reminiscent of her Jewish grandmas old-school malteds.  Clamping her lips tighter and tighter she nuzzled into the nether regions of the earth.

Safe.

Each of the warring sides believed in the justification of their snares.  Es had not even seen it coming, the battle to ensue.  They were two distinct entities, each with their own placement in her life like alternating cans of corn and sweet peas upon grocery store shelves.

I had yelled for her to stop. “Es, please don’t. Es. Es!” But she had already known.  She had ducked, then dove.

Es had been readying herself for the battle.  She was determined not necessarily to defeat but to weaken so that no harm would ever come to another from their hands.

……………………………

Weeks have passed.  Call it ‘writer’s block’.  I would not call it that, but the phrase sounds intelligent enough.  Weeks have passed in which I have felt I could not get anything right.  It is an over exaggeration and really among the possible worries one could have, I decided to latch myself to the ‘not getting it right’ boat.  But to remain purposely in its safety seemed to block my own current.  As the saying goes, “do not forget how much you love to swim.”

After months of court battles, city battles, financial concerns, and inner life questioning, any extra time to latch seemed justifiable.  That may not have been the wisest notion I have ever had but I realize this time gave me a peace I had never known in my whole life.  It is a peace to savor, a peace to live in, a peace upon which to build and mostly, a peace to share.

(Peace, like love, is not like pie.  There is not a finite number of slices. Hmm. I had some learning to do.)

…………………………

I saved for the dress – for a dress, really.

The owl dress is beautiful with a silky soft georgette overlay upon a similar printed nylon shell.  Oh, I know ‘nylon’ is not the attractive word, but it is what it is.  And it is fabulous fabric, hugging ones skin underneath while the filmy overlay catches even the slightest body movement and slightest wind.  Upon the fabric is dyed midnight colors of owl feathers and softened, swirled owl faces.

I walked through my routine, unplugging lights and examining walls, realizing that one day I will trade my overalls at the Matthias Building for my dresses.  There would always be days of work jeans but I knew for the first time I could let those days go.  I could really replace those days with the days to come, with days I had only imagined but not felt, days like this one, wearing a midnight owl dress, dyed with the colors of deep ink feathers and clothing a body who, herself, had been carved from the haunts of nighttime.

……………………….

We had been walking along, pleasantly breathing in the valley air.  So thick the air with smells of green growth one could imagine it always smelling this way and could not imagine it ever smelling any differently.

I begged Es to stop.  “Please Es, I need to sit.”  She smiled, pointing at a granite ledge poking through the grasses of the hillside.  Odd that the stone should be there but for once I would not analyze its peculiarity.  I just wanted to sit.

Es waved then continued her study of hilltops, birds flying and clouds passing.  How old was she? I chuckled to myself.  As I sat I realized our walk had paused in a bowl formed by hills of granite exposed by wind and hidden slightly from ones first glance by waving tall grasses.

The warmth of the sun baked through my thighs as I sat. I closed my eyes to raise my face to the sky.  My hair blew gently, tickling my neck pleasantly.  Peace.  I could still hear Es, her giggles at whatever discovery she was making.  Peace.

I think I opened my eyes when I heard her gasp.  My ears would have ignored a jet engine but not her frightened gasp. I looked at her and she at me.  I saw the beast before she had;  her body had frozen as one is trained to do when you feel the eyes of a grizzly or a mountain cat upon your skin.  “Stand still. Don’t move.  It is your movement which attracts the hunter.”

Es had not even seen her predator.  But she knew she was in its cross hairs.

“Es.” I trembled.  “Es.” I stood. “Es! Es!” I bellowed for both of their attentions.  But the beast was a beast of many and would not be distracted.

…………………………

Es had forgiven them years ago.  It was all she had which itself was perfection.  The only way to learn of the faith of forgiveness is in the state of forgiveness.  Unconditional forgiveness is the foundation of ones faith, not to be bartered or sullied or especially not to be expected or advertised.  And the cost of forgiveness is within oneself not to words or beings.  At the time, forgiveness was all Es had.

For years she fought the memory of those few months which turned decades of her life upside down.  She reasoned with invisible justifications like shadow boxing in rounds that never heard the bell nor felt the slam of a knockout.

Over and over, for years she would wonder why they had done it to her. She could only imagine what they had said among themselves, to each other as those telephone calls or care to her would never come. She would never hear explanations because there were none.

…………………………

When Es fell the first time, the blow caught her off guard.  She expected it to be some joke and looked back at the face who had dealt the first hit.  Her face outlined mockery in thick, no-nonsense coloring book style lines.  That face, that body, that heart had known how to hurt.  The seasoned mixture of her glee at my shocked expression showed years of practice.  This was no accident, Es realized.  This woman joked meanly for pleasure.  

I wished for Es to stand up, take a swing at her.

But I knew better.  I watched as tears filled her eyes. She would rather take that blow than return in kind.  Partially because Es knew she could not match the veil.  No, Es was not that kind of fighter.  Nor was I.  Still, as I watched, I wished for both of us that she would have swung.  

Es rose with tears in her eyes, puddles gathered on lower lids that could easily yet be explained away for anyone close enough to notice.  Of course her attacker knew she would never strike back.  She had known Es would never return fire.  It took us both years to understand that the woman had known that fact.  Es was the one person she could attack with full knowledge she herself would be safe.  Safe from Es and safe from any question from anyone else.  This woman was given the trump card of cards.  She would never be questioned and never be accused.

No matter what she did.

Es was horrified at this realization.  Later she would hear it, in the voice of mockery at Es’s family heritage.  And the joining of laughter of those around her.

Es remained silent.  She never cried out for help.  Not once.  I watched as they turned away from her.  At one point during the fight, Es lay in the mud.  The woman and those around her ate their lunch.  They stopped the fight.  Never offered her a morsel, a crumb to eat.  No water to drink.  They seemed amused that although to the world they called her comrade, now they made sure she did not and could not eat with them.

She had been hungry.  They had refused her.  She had been alone in the mud.  They mocked her.  And when she was fallen,

she kicked at Es once more.

The one friend who could have helped her, came to her. She too had watched the fight but when she hovered over Es, she asked Es

“Do you know how weird you are?”

Es said nothing.  Her friend did not reach out to help her stand.  Es watched as they ate.  In the dark of night Es heard their steps approach nearer to her.  Now they came, all at once.  It was a remarkable sight, the many against the one.  Es was weakened, assaulted in every way a woman could have been.  She lay in the mud.  I watched as they came back, their bellies full of feasting but wishing more.

“Es!” I cried out. “Es, please!”

On and on.  Es would not stop.  She would get up, swing with varying degrees of strength, missing most of the time, once in awhile landing a strike square on.  But they would nip at her.  Her feet were bloodied as they bit and lashed.  Es was unreasonable.  We could have walked away, but no.  She chose to fight.

“Es, please.”

She never answered me. But I waited. And I prayed for her safety.  I had never seen anything like it in my whole life.  Fruitless fighting for the beast of decorated righteousness.  But it was more than that.

Not one.  Not one saw anything wrong with their attack upon her.  Not one.  Not one reached out.  Not one.

It changed.

The woman and the others….changed.  I saw them look at her a bit differently, softer maybe.  Es saw it too.  The drying blood of her wounds crusted on her skin.  The attacks had ceased. Es stood in her mud, a body length away from the woman and the rest.  I froze at the sight, my mind racing forward with imagination wondering at what would happen.  They would not expect her to reawaken the battle and she would.  They would not expect her to remember the unforgettables which they had already forgotten.

As Es brushed off the dried blood.  Her wounds, I saw were not completely healed.  New blood trickled upon her skin.  The woman and the rest smelled her perfume, a delicate iron protein signal for vulnerability.

“Es,please…”

As quickly as was the brush of dried blood, the trickling of new blood and the awakening of the woman and the rest, was as quickly as the moment the earth seemed to turn.  Behind the rocks stalked a beast larger than the woman and the rest.

Sometimes I would wonder at Es’s collection of memories.  Es knew the beast and the beast knew her.  As quickly as I recognized the possibility that she had summoned a compatriot, as quickly as my body sighed in relief for the first time in ages, was as quickly as I became aware that this was no compatriot of Es’s.

“Es!”  This time I screamed.  “Es!”  For the beast was coming for her, the smell of her blood awakening both the beast and the woman with the rest.

“Es!”

The beast with the fury of truly, I do not know of what, came, outstretched arms, clasping into its own dust storm for Es’s flesh.  The woman and the rest, greedily clawed at the same air, not wishing to share the prized prey they had beaten, dirtied and outnumbered.  But in the storm of dust and rubble and in the sounds of too many noises of greed and territorial roaring, Es dove.

As quietly as she had fought and as quietly as she ever was, in the middle of the greed and revenge, in the middle of misjudgment, lies and false righteousness, she escaped.

Es, unaware of her placement in the shadows of cross hairs of crossfires, dove into the clay;  its chocolaty thickness reminiscent of her Jewish grandmas homemade old-school malteds.  Clamping her lips tighter and tighter she nuzzled into the nether regions of the earth.

I stood dumbly.  “Es,” I whispered in silent prayer. “Es.”

We left them there, the beast and the woman with the rest.  They stood fighting over mud in the middle of dirt and noises of greed.  They never realized we had left.  What they had prized all along had simply and quietly…

Walked away.

Es looked like hell.  And I never ever say that word but there was none other to describe.  After all this time it had taken another monster, a bigger beast, with a hunger as equal to the woman and the rest, to free Es.

“Come on,” she finally said.  “No Es, we cannot get back to the tree this way.”

“We are not going back.”

Es smiled through dried clay and blood.

“We are going to find Wind.”

Lots of love and loads of peace,

With tears and smiles,

Stephanie

(mwah).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Lavender and Red Lipstick Rain

Of Lavender and Red Lipstick Rain

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August 11, 2017

I was writing numbers for research on a piece of paper at work with computers all around me.  “Careful.  Careful, Steph,”  I kept reminding myself.  I printed careful numbers.  I checkmarked then cautiously proceeded through a list.  After a lifetime of years and only a few years of realization that I was being careful.  Cautious.  With the simplest parts of jobs, procedures and life, I was desperately cautious.

That’s when it hit me. 

“I think I could look stupid. There is no reason for this, Steph.  This task does not require it.  You are plodding, Steph.”  I was slow, methodical and extremely accurate.  I could have cried had I the time.  “I think this makes me look stupid.  This is stupid Steph.  Quit. Quit it. Quit this. Stop it. Quit.”

Go, Steph.  Go faster.  Go on.

Now sometimes it is the most trivial of tasks which are welcome cognitive warm-ups.  But in my case that is an excuse. The only reason I kept my brain cautious was out of fright.  I would like to say that I never knew that before today.  That may or may not be true.  Even if it is, the bigger truth is that never before today had I ever made myself feel safe enough to do something about that nauseating and unnecessary habit.  Not until I was writing numbers, feeling perfectly safe.

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The Courthouse.  “Fondness”.

About buildings.

In the past weeks my buildings and my lessons tangoed with each other in the most wicked and telling sort of dance.

 

I returned to court for the third time to resolve a tenancy issue in one of the buildings.  A person may be nice, beautiful, kind, smart and all those lovely gooey adjectives – it means nothing in a court room.  You might say I have been learning new lessons.  First an appreciation for law,  the detail of our legal system and the resultant strengths upheld by such a system.  I think every halfway intelligent person goes through a period of time when they imagine being a lawyer and those wonderful movie-moment speeches they would give – the summations and the stunning cross examinations they would unleash.

Guilty, your Honor.

The reality is much different.  And in all the court cases in the world this one, mine, is known, at least in the state of Wisconsin, as being one of the nitziest – nasty, detailed and not exceptionally high on meaningfulness or on legal desirability.  It is like the sewer of legal matters.

Ongoing. Dirty. Unglamorous.  And no way around it except through.  And I better learn it.

Esther, to me, was always the ballet madame.  She has taught me with the harshest, swiftest lessons.  Here we went again.  No way to go except through.  So I kept going.

Since the end of April this situation has overwhelmed my life.  I let it.  I did this to myself – allowing my life and my business to be compromised and to be dirtied a bit.  During the course of the steps along the way, I had to serve people with papers.  Turns out there are certain ways to do it – certain ways which are acceptable and legally meaningful.  Nice does not matter.  Besides the fact that a person can write the papers themselves – there is specific language which must be used and online resources.., but there are ways to serve papers.  Certified mail. What is the true definition of ‘certified’?  Certified means someone must sign for the mail upon receipt.  Registered mail means that the mail is ‘under lock and key’ the whole time in transit, in delivery.  And then there are the legal definitions of ‘posting notice.’  What does it mean to ‘post notice’?  A person may be able to post the paperwork.  The surest of ways is the hiring people to serve the papers – process servers and law enforcement.

Then I learned that people do not always come to the door when they see a uniformed individual.  I learned who is defined as able to accept papers.  Did you know, for example, that the law defines it acceptable that anyone over 14 years old may accept the papers?  Did you also know that there exist people who will state that they will send their nine year old daughter to the door rather than accepting the papers themselves?

Frankly, I wanted to barf at the suggestion of adults sending children to the door to accept legal papers in order to avoid implicating themselves. (Please forgive the language.)

Yep.  It has been a lesson.

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I finished work Tuesday at nineteen hundred hours.  I needed to check on the buildings then run one errand.  Earlier in the morning the court granted the formal eviction.  In my true life’s fashion the process took twice in the same morning.  I arrived at the courthouse, checked in unnecessarily at the clerk’s office then walked in to the courtroom with my plastic container of four copies each of billing statements, leases, Five day Cure notices, and Fourteen Day Termination of Tenancy notices.  I nervously chatted with the deputy who arrived behind me as I had grown a bit paranoid that each time I was in a courtroom, the officer seemed to appear.  ‘No,’ he assured me.

The judge and clerks entered the room, but no tenants, the respondents or defendants in this case.  I was declared the court eviction, damages awarded and twenty one days to amend the damage claim.  My plastic container and I treaded softly out the courtroom, grateful.  Relief.  I made it out the door, into the hallway and at most, ten steps into the womens restroom which was tucked into the northern most corner of the building before I sobbed.  I cared not about my tears but tried to keep a lid on the sound.  It was over.

I still needed to work.  I had to get to work.  I straightened myself up, checked my make-up, then opened the door to step into the hallway just outside of the first floor rotunda.  My eye caught a figure pacing alongside the railing of the second story rotunda.  A distinguishable figure, my tenant had mistakenly waited at the wrong courtroom.

“Damn.”

I walked back into the first floor courtroom, still emptied of any respondents, plaintiffs, defendants and petitioners.  The court staff and judge and deputy waited for any representatives in any of the cases on their docket to appear.  The sight of me was not on their schedule.

“Excuse me.”  As soon as the words left my mouth, my brain was already in court with my soul.  “Why is it, we are always in these situations?  Who else does this?”  The soul inevitably responds, “Yep, this is how you earn it.  It’s the only way. You don’t look back. You do it as right as you can.”

“Excuse me.  I believe my tenant had gone to the incorrect courtroom.  He is upstairs.”  If there was disbelief in the whole scenario I would not have been wise enough to know it.  I had no clue what I was doing.  In the months which had past I had not known what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to learn.  I knew I needed to read those state statutes and understand them as best as I could.

The judge sent the deputy upstairs to escort my tenant to the courtroom.  And we began again.

About lessons.

There were moments in the past three months with the court actions, filings and paperwork when I would read the counter claims of my tenants.  They would barrage me with text messages from family ‘representatives’ and family members.  Ridiculous statements but they admittedly frightened me.  Their words and claims caused me to retrace my leases and communications.  Months. Days.  Repeatedly.

“Wait. Wait.”  A tiny voice in my head. “This makes no sense.  But they said it.  They stated it. They wrote it.  People do not just state things about another person.  People do not do that without reason.  Oh, I must have done something.”

And I retraced again.  Steph. Stephanie. Steph. Stop. What are the facts?  Stephanie, what are the facts?  I was not going to run to someone for advice.  I wanted to figure this out.

Stephanie.  It is not true.  Look. You have your paperwork in front of you.  Here are the facts supported by external sources.  Besides, Stephanie, you know you.  

My tenant seemed opposed to the necessity of a court eviction.  I insisted upon it.  The judge granted it.  Now it was truly over.  Face to face, fair and square.

Before I ran that errand, I needed kettlecorn.  The darkening clouds should have been foreboding but instead seemed welcoming.  I have had some aspects of my life always wired such as the availability of my favorite slightly sweet popcorn at the local drugstore, always at its special ‘two for’ price.  Even so, I wrestled with the necessity of stopping when all I wanted to do was check on property then get home.  The darkened clouds now tumbled overhead.  I would not have to think as I grabbed my kettlecorn and favorite sparkling water (also, by the way, always at a ‘two for’ price).  Grab, pay, run.

Perfect.

I walked across the parking lot with the nudging of light raindrops to hurry my shopping.  But upon entering the drugstore I saw the drugstore clerk with the best shade of red lipstick.  Now I know there are better shades – I have tried them.  But this one I knew would look acceptable on me and I would actually wear it.

I was running back to the Jeep in a cloud unleashing downpour.  I laughed but mused at why on earth I felt it necessary to succumb to my popcorn urgings.  Mmm, I sat in the Jeep, warm and drying myself with my old sweatshirt as the rain pelted the roof.  I laughed as I experimented with my new red lipstick.  As I approved myself in the mirror I saw why I sat there.  I cried at the sight of the courthouse across the street.  Almost a half day ago I had learned.  I had earned a legal declaration.  I had learned.

 

About me, woman.

The lollipop fetish has now transferred to gum chewing and popcorn eating.  The weight gain has thankfully stopped.  I have come face to face with my lack of self-care on many fronts.

In the midst of all the legal work I also came face to face with a memory of December 2014.  I had perched myself on a bench alongside the courthouse rotunda.  I was fairly certain I had every lease, every receipt, and every letter I had sent to my tenants in my plastic container.  I had given up on briefcases, rolling suitcases and chic totes.  I just wanted to be prepared and I could never be certain that I was prepared enough.  I had even begun to transcribe the text messages I had received.  I had completed papers for a restraining order.  I was in the middle of hell.  Again.

I had gone through months of hell – my marriage was broken, the distress of home life was unraveling and going through the necessary blowing apart.  The violent honesty..

In the fall of 2014 I was also going through a certain kind of hell where I was working. At the same time, my marriage was broken and my home life was in the midst of the violent honesty necessary to blow apart.  Two and half years later as I sat on the courthouse rotunda bench I put together a piece from that time – an event that had never quite made sense but the trauma blinded comprehension.  The guilt of divorce and shame of failure had clouded it further.  Ironic for the memory now, in this past week.

 

 

Funny how a memory can change you.  It changed everything.  I had sought, praying for the reasons why people did what they did to me and reasons why I let them.  This one detail washed that need away.

 

With red lipsticked lips, I sat, crying in the rain, under the seemingly proud face of a certain courthouse building.

Remember, Stephanie.  This was your lesson.  Stephanie, you knew the facts.  Stephanie, you knew your head, you knew your heart.  You stopped the intrusions.  You stopped the assaults on your being – physical and otherwise.  You did not ask for any of it, but you did allow it.

I sat in the rain, smiling with tears at memories.

 

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Reformation. 

About Es.

Five hundred years ago people used lavender to scent the air, perhaps only masking the odors of plagues and dark sicknesses of soul and body.  Five hundred years ago mankind not only wrestled mindfully of good and evil, not only waded through it all,…no, five hundred years ago it was a world of thought and change in which the worlds best minds dove into the sewers of humanity.

I needed to walk outside. The normal office work days of nine hours grew long in the late afternoon.  As long as I can get outside, I walk outside.  The annuals of the manicured gardens are at their summer’s fullest.  Rarely are there lawn clippings or branches left on the grounds.  It is not perfect grounds in which a person feels ill at ease among perfection but a welcoming comfort of care.  I walked among the smells of sun warmed sidewalk concrete and the warming sugars of pine sap.  That is when I saw the perfect pine cone.  I picked it up, remembering.

Es had a budget, like the other teachers, of near to nothing.  That is almost a rule of thumb in public schools and doubly so in parochial schools.  “That’s okay,” was her mantra.  “There are plenty of scraps to make do with.  Art. Math. Literature. Computers. We have plenty.”

Es waited, but she realized the project would really be up to her.  The end of October was nearing.  You cannot celebrate Halloween in a parochial school, at least of this denomination.  That’s okay too, she figured.   Once in a while she missed a good old-fashioned frankenstein or a witch or superheros, but she had her fill of hatchet bearing zombies with syrupy faux blood.  Still, why should her students miss the celebrations of October, especially since one of the most famous and vibrant celebrations of their particular church was on October 31?

Es planned her teaching unit on Reformation, surprised that no one joined her.  From the beginning of the school year to the end of October, Es finally realized that no matter how many letters home to parents requesting sacks of scraps of fabrics or pine cones, she would need to provide the supplies.  That’s okay too.  Es was a parent.  She knew the stresses.  At first she thought it was her failure, a testimony to her personality which had never been known to be strict, cruel or harsh.  She only expected good behavior out of her students.  She expected what she gave them and they returned as such.  No she would would just announce the project, a celebration of Reformation.  If her seventh and eighth grade students wished, they could dress up in a period costume.  

Admittedly Es was smug on the whole idea.  Faith? Pfft. “We are not just going to sit around and learn about faith. Nope, we are going to live it.  We are going to make it come alive, love it as it does and oh yeah…have fun learning about it too.” Plus, no one under her charge would miss all of the hoopla of the end of October.  She could describe ‘Hallow’s Eve’ until she was blue in the face.  Or, she could have a Reformation Party.

They were going to have Reformation with Es.  G~d would smile upon them, carrying on about reformation.  Now a person might wonder about how much could one do and how can one teacher engage the minds of seventh and eighth grade students with a religious holiday.

“Hmm. You didn’t know Es, now did you?”

They made lavender sachets of purple and ivory fabric scraps tied with ribbons of lilac, filling them with lavender scented carpet powder.  Oh, there were the standard stations of church window coloring and readings.  (She had to have some calming stations too.)  They made dirt cake worm cups (crushed Oreo cookies with gummy worms) to symbolize The Edict of Worms.  Es tread carefully on the line of religious teaching.  Formal Bible study was not her strength nor was it her job.  She aligned her subject matter to compliment and weave with the children’s religious studies.

Only one student showed up in costume.  That’s okay.  But not one lavender sachet became a projectile or pseudo-hacky sack.  

Es laughed and carried on with them as they listened to music from five hundred years ago, eating worms and smelling of lavender.  She also noticed that their hallway of seventh and eighth grade lockers never smelled better.

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Smiling, I picked up the pinecone, naturally beautiful but still imagining how precious it would have been three years ago as part of a Christmas art project.  I rather enjoy it now, placed among photos and collections and computers at my work desk.

I think I am going to always remember.  That’s okay.  I am safe now to remember.

But I also I think I am going to teach myself to move faster.

I might even test myself.

Smiling I say,

Love to you.

The brick dandelion,

stephanie