“…vinegar, including the Mother.”

“…vinegar, including the Mother.”

May 12, 2018

You may laugh about it, but my first health tip is the daily inclusion of cider vinegar.  I personally manage to gulp a morning tonic of two tablespoons of the stuff mixed with grapefruit juice and diluted somewhat with tap water.  I think a person should also add honey, but I do not.  I first read about the benefits of cider vinegar years ago, but the real testimony came from a dear elderly lady friend.

She, nearing ninety, exemplifies good health, good mind and excellent spirits (and elegant fashion sense, I may add).   As women, we do not often share our little secret routines, but she did.  Imagine my surprise, when, at a lady’s gathering of coffee, she proudly proclaimed her daily dose of cider vinegar.  I chimed in, but my testimony is secondary to the one of age and beauty.  I just smiled.

Major disclaimer needed.

With my unveiling of my daily habit of cider vinegar and with my writing today, I felt as though I needed to publish a disclaimer.  I am not at all a professional in the areas of counseling, psychiatry, spirituality or health care.  I never intend to present myself to you falsely as though I am a professional in any of those areas.

I apologize in advance, but I wish to cover this matter as completely as I possibly can.  Please, if you or any one in your daily life seems to be in need of the services of health care professionals, seek them out.  Really seek them out.  I would recommend starting with the websites of solid organizations such as these resources online:

http://www.mentalhealth.gov and http://www.psychiatry.org

You can also google a search by typing “mental health” or “counseling” or “health care” which will produce results geared to your particular geography.  Please, never hesitate to reach out.  At points in my life, I had done the same, from seeking the help of marriage counselors, developmental counselors / social workers, psychologists, priests, nuns and a kindly wise vicar.  Some were men;  some were women.  Each brought to our sessions unique perspectives which helped me heal, aided my growth and continued my development.

 

The Chaos of Spring

I have been rejoicing the budding leaves of those two towering maples which guard my front door.  Like the shells of peanuts on the floor of a hoedown, the walkways and steps are now littered with shed leaf coverings.  Spring has its own chaotic party with each dawn, every warmth of sunlight and every drop of cool rain.  Kisses of life, really.  Inspiring and happily infectious but also messy.

Chaotic.

So, the disclaimer is done and winter is over.  Now I claim, again, the rights to write.  I have decided that my recovery is over.  Done. Over. I am healed and ready to go on.

Finite.

Now that may or may not be true.  I am quite positive that I am deficient in a multitude of ways that I have not even fathomed.  Still, I realized I did not want to be in the stage of healing from the past.  I did not wish to keep internally comparing today with yesterday.  I did not wish to place the measuring tape of my life in the past.  Am I two steps away from what hurt me?  Am I now ten steps away?

How about I pick up that tape to place it beneath where my feet stand today?  Or maybe I should dare to keep that measuring tape in my backpack of tools or better yet, maybe I should hang it up on my workbench.  I will know where it is, in case I need a measuring tape.

As my son enters his final stages of high school, my ex-husband and I have been preparing him for college by monitoring sign-ups and registrations and applications.  There are final tests, placement exams, transfer credits and all the coordination of an ending and a beginning.  For him.

Coincidentally my life too turned.  I started looking ahead.  The three of us – my son, my ex-husband and I – had all been recovering and building, building and recovering.  The steadiness of the past three years in our family, now structured with two households, has allowed a path to be laid, like a brick walkway in spring, littered with the coverings of leaves which could no longer contain their joy of simply just being green and becoming.

 

The Growth of Dandelion.

Oh, I am frightened.  I am saddened at the thought of my son leaving for college.  He is ready for the world.  Well, he is ready for this step into the world.  He is, his own man.  I am mostly excited for him and his dreams.  I am excited for his soul.  And I pray for him and those of his age, that they have tremendous luck.  That somehow this generation is blessed with a peace of intellect, faith, grace, effort and love.  Not ease.  I do not wish them ease nor do I wish them toil.  But I do wish them the joys of the work of discovery.

I have been blessed with the days of being a mother for eighteen years.  Just one son.  I remember wanting another.  My son was four when….well, I miscarried.  I had been ‘glowing’ and everything seemed correct.  I remember starting my log so that I could plan the timing of a coming birth of another child.

I was married at the time.  We lived a different sort of life than the one I lead now and the life I led before I was married.  He was an executive at an insurance company and I was a stay at home mother.  I was blessed beyond measure.  Economics were, of course, always a concern.  I took care of the finances and the home budget.  But in reality, our household was blessed with income.

My husband had not wanted another child.  I could understand.  He, older than I by two decades, was practical.  I did.  As we attended summer gatherings, family members had commented that I looked like a mother to be.  “Were we expecting?”  I had just smiled.  And although he was scared, he had assured me we would figure it all out.

But another child was not to be.  I had prayed for a second child partially because I believed it to be a healthier balance for my son and I thought that was a part of marriage.  Yes, yes.  Another child would be the stable family size as though fulfilling some cosmic prescription of domestic bliss.

But I miscarried.  And (graphic alert – much like the spoiler alerts in movie critiques) I bled for the next year.  I had never shared with anyone the extend nor did I go to the doctor.  Seemed befitting, in some bizarre reasoning, I figured that I had deserved it.  I always felt as though I had taken my ex-husband from his prior life.  I had felt damaged from childhood memories.  And, I had felt as though I did not appreciate the one child I had by wanting another.

So I bled.  I never thought about having another child.  I finally did see a doctor.  By that time, my doctors – and by that time I needed multiple physicians – needed to test me for any abnormalities which could be causing the bleeding.  Anyone, and I was, would have been anemic.

I have a good ending to this episode.  I have a son.  And, I did not have cancer.  Every woman goes through a round of tests, of ‘those’ tests. I had been no exception.  Through months of rotations of intrauterine ultrasound testing, I had been scared to numbness.  It was a quiet sort of scare.  I went to the testing alone.

I remembered the darkened room in which a person becomes accustomed to watching monitors and accepting the cold glide of the wand.  I waited for a telltale monster glob or the reaction of the technician.

No, Steph. “It” does not work that way.

Looking back, I do not know when exactly that the bleeding stopped.  But it did.  After several rounds of careful diagnostics, there was nothing to be studied.  I did not have cancer.  And the bleeding stopped.

What a strange memory for Mother’s Day, except that a mother, any mother, and a woman, any woman, holds within her, the blood of her own healing and the trail of her own recovery.

To you, all you inhabitants of Mother Earth…

Love, lots and loads of love.

And a Kiss.

Yours,

Stephanie, the brick dandelion

PS. I will have to research, what exactly that means on the cider vinegar bottle “Includes the Mother.”  What I do know, is that is the vinegar you want.  And it is nasty, vile smelling.  I believe it to be incredibly healthful.

Weaving Your Tapestry from Joys and Fears

Weaving Your Tapestry from Joys and Fears

Pink Easter Confections
Easter Pink Confections

Eventually I slipped out of Easter’s pink confectionery dress.  But it left a desire imprinted within determination.  And within that determination, its own, my own permission to desire to wear pink again. And to celebrate.  It was Easter, after all.

As though pink Easter ink had bled through me, I really could not shake the haunting of the images of the day.  I could not turn away from the sweetness nor would it allow me.  A sticky mess, I was, of pink confectionery dreams, responsibilities, obligations, and creations.  All of which makes no sense whatsoever.

 

Snowbanks still remain here in the woods, although the rains chip at them.  Our first Wisconsin spring rains.  The first warm ones, at least.  The first waters which fall into puddles, polka-dotting rather than glazing every imaginable surface.  No more ice.

No more ice.

But I wish to tell you a story of ice, of the last snows, back here in the woods.  I would have thought that as I age, I might temper my enthusiasm for snow.  I look forward to summer, but I also look forward to that magical time right after the Fourth of July, when we are sweating through that rare heat.  As I watch fireworks, I always begin to dream about snow.

It’s true.

The Final Snow.

There had been weather warnings five days ahead of the snowstorm.  Berry-colored stripes banded across weather maps, daring the inhabitants of Wisconsin counties to locate themselves among the predictions.  Am I in the red band of most severe?  Am I in the purple six to eight inches or the blue of ‘less than four’? On and on.  We Wisconsinites are accustomed to the direst of storm predictions only to see minor blips of flakes.  Such faux blizzards cause a rather charming bout of the tales of ‘snowstorms past’, when ‘blizzards were real’ and ‘people really knew how to drive in them.’

A little snow?  Come on, please.  I could have not cared less to which color band I belonged.  I grew up with these seasons.  I love snow!

But this storm – a storm of three storms – became its own experience of faith!

The Peeling of Winter’s Desires

The tantalizing prowess of winter
I remembered the first time I had danced for the trees and learned to run down the lane.

Little white spots in the night, so subtly the snows crept in.  No wind;  only the stillness and steadiness of purposeful polka dots.

I had fallen asleep early to awaken in the darkest part of morning.  Soft but determined polka dots were replaced by the whitest of dropping petals, the peelings of winter’s desires.  Winter too was tired of holding back its powers.  It had restrained itself until finally daring to show off.  In spring’s fright, winter delighted and entranced.  They had spun together, spring and winter.  As I stared out the window, I realized the storm might be one last chance….I smiled at the thought.

I had adopted some quirky habits years ago, private little mini-celebrations.   From the outside, I suppose the practices would seem odd.  This year, as the winter progressed, I had thought maybe I was ‘growing out of the need or growing up’.  But at three in the morning, with eight inches of fresh snow, I felt the familiar tug of those beloved traditions.

Who knows when the next time may be?  Who knows if ever there will be a next time?  I smiled at the tugging whisper within my soul, “remember why”.

I grabbed my coat and slipped on the biggest Kodiak-version boots (rated to -30F, mind you).  Wally, my adventure dog, bounced happily by my side as we threw open the front door, ran down the steps, between the towering maple trees, then into the opening.  The trees surround us, back in the woods, but the house, garage, shed, garden and just enough lawn form a pleasant homestead-like oasis among the trees.  And there we were, my dog and I, at three in the morning, dancing in the storm, then running down the road, the lane, between the pines, poplars and maples.

"I Love Snow"
“I Love Snow”

Knees and snow petals

Years ago, I had discovered the joy of running in fresh snow.  I had undergone the second of two knee surgeries.  Years ago, my marriage was disintegrating and my knee was not healing.  (The marriage is another story for another time).  What made those years so critical was the torrent of difficulties.  One part of that tempest was my fear I would never walk without pain or that my mobility had already been irreparably compromised.

My physical therapist was wonderful, but part of my own rehabilitation was dancing.  I began to dance again.  Ballet.  And I began to walk.  Years ago I had discovered I could dance in the snow among the trees.  Not only could I dance for the trees and walk down the lane, but in the snow, I could run.

I did not have to be embarrassed.  I did not have to worry about wearing the correct clothes or being impressive.  I could just be me.

And my legs grew stronger.

Every year since I would find the time at least once a winter to grab either my furry winter coat or favorite old Pendleton woolen blanket.  And Wally, my faithful adventurer Wally, and I would charge into the night.  As I would reach the opening, I would turn my face toward the sky.  The snow petals kissed my cheeks and my forehead.  I would open my coat – or the blanket – to feel the bite of winter and more snow kisses upon my skin.  And I would remember the first time I did, so many years ago, when I first felt the joy of being blessed.  I ran without pain.  And I danced with only the trees watching.

Sunday Fears.

Who ever heard of Sunday fears?

The snow had stopped long enough on Saturday for plows and road crews to catch up.  With a Jeep and my attitude (which normally I try to keep hidden – the attitude), I can attest to a dozen more inches of snow.  Realistically I could have rammed the Jeep through, but I began to wonder why I would do such a thing.  My son, although missing his weekend time home, was tucked in safely at his father’s house.  My mother was warm and toasty in her home.

We had survived safely and with electricity;  Two factors one should never take for granted in a snowstorm.

The snow beautified the woods in such sudden abundance like the deftness of a masterful performing painter.  I felt like a spoiled child who receives every gift, every wish, every desire of her heart.  As I shoveled the front walk – in appropriate outerwear this time – I began a prayer which has lasted in the weeks to follow.  “Dear G~d,” I began with my eyes closed, feet buried in the foot of fresh snow. “I love snow.”

I had popped open my eyes to the masterpiece surrounding me.  As if in return, in the ultimate retort to any question of faith G~d had replied “Oh yeah?”

Abundance.  And I laughed.  Of course the snow also meant more shoveling but it also meant a chance to face one more fear.

The gift I had given remained for me.
Wally.

It wasn’t the Snowshoes.

I thought my Sunday fear was the pair of snowshoes.  During my ‘years of fears’ with knees and whatnot, I had purchased multiple pairs of snowshoes for family members.  There would be no reason they could not enjoy walking in the snow even if I could not.  But that reasoning was years ago and years old.  Passe.  G~d had given me snow which I knew would now, in April, be short-lived.  What if I don’t have another winter?

I will face the snowshoes.  I will wear the snowshoes, I declared in a bit of an imbecilic fashion, even for me, among these trees.  I had a bit of a self-check point.  “Steph.  Really. Go get the doggone snowshoes.”

In every garage there are storage spaces which seem like their own lost world.  My garage attic space is no different.  Wally and I strode into the middle of the garage.  I pulled on the ladder’s rope, unfolding it out then down.  It is a tidy ladder which nests nine feet above, between the roof rafters.  As I placed my booted foot on the first rung, Wally decided his curiosity was better placed in the banks of white outside the door.  As I climbed the ladder I could see him check, a pause between his laps around the garage.

I remembered my fears.

As I reached the top of the ladder, my hands automatically reached to grab the upper support of the trussed rafters.  I yelled to Wally, teasing him to look.  I stood now on the rafters, straddling my stance.  My eye caught the snowshoes.

My eye then caught the doorway light through the boards of the trussed rafters.  Tears filled my eyes.  I had been afraid.

There had been a time when I had been afraid to climb that ladder and never would have thought I could or would even stand…straddling the rafters.

I was no longer afraid.

Weave the tapestry of your joys and fears. 

Thank you. May you weave something beautiful from your joys..

and your fears.

Love. Lots of Love, and a kiss too.

~Stephanie

The Brick Dandelion.

Changing a nightmare into pink confection.

Changing a nightmare into pink confection.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

I decided to wear pink.

During the night of the blue moon, a snowstorm whitewashed every vertical and horizontal surface if not by the first fallen nine inches than by the whip of the wind which followed them.  From before dawn until the darkness of Easter’s eve the woods surrounding my home was transformed.  Despite today being April Fool’s Day, I would pin that label upon anyone banking that March would exit as a lamb.  Nope, March came in like a lion and sauntered out with the furious toss of a whitened mane. 

I wanted to write cleverly of any variety of topics such as womankind’s angst or my passion for my business pursuits.  I wanted to pen metaphorical faith journeys.  I wanted to spin tales of lush fantasies.  But all these topics began only to find their path cut short after four hundred words in each of their directions.  None of them were correct.

As I remove wood framing from the steel trusses – the ninety five year old markings of the saw.
Seventy-eight feet of ninety year old steel

Easter’s eve.

Now why is there not an Easter eve?  I do realize the eve of Easter is properly termed ‘Vigil’ but I still wonder why. 

I came to the ‘table’ of Easter Eve, my mind refocused in the past weeks upon tasks, goals and all sorts of to-do lists.  Throughout Holy Week I plodded along, cleaning, working, and shopping.  I attended services to practice my faith as well as observing Passover in homage to my Jewish heritage.  But change was nagging at the back recesses of my brain.  Change and a few other random topics along with memories simmered continuously.  Odd timing, I had thought to myself.  In the past week I had solved a business concern which I had needed to solve for three years.  Odd timing.  And I kept plodding along.

Spring in the woods

The Saturday of Easter weekend found me with time to myself.  I had tried on the dress I planned to wear only to find that despite pounds lost it still did not fit properly.  A wonderful A-line vintage-looking knee length gray satin dress skimmed my body nicely with a sheer silver overlay printed with magnolias.  I wasn’t terribly upset as for the first time I could get a glimpse of myself wearing it.  In the mirror I saw the impact of the feminine cut of an A-line silhouette.

I shrugged.  I would wear a white cardigan sweater worn with buttons to the back with a bold navy, white and sky blue print pencil skirt.  The late season snow almost dictated a shelving of any summer or even spring time dress.  Nope.  This is Wisconsin.  I needed sleeves.

 

Confection of pink

As the eve of Easter continued, I was saddened by a family matter.  Tensions and pre-holidays potentially ignite embers of any relationship but if that ember is fueled by an extended family and divorce, well one must always tend to keep it all a friendly fire. It was a situation reminiscent of Easters past.

I was hurt.  I had chosen to place  myself in a position to be vulnerable in an old pattern because I had thought it best.  Except this time I did not fight back.  This time I spoke once more then said nothing further.  These people, I thought to myself, should say “I am sorry.”  These people, as I remained as stone, should know how they hurt me.  These people did not.

The whitewashing of Easter snow.  “Just to be sure….nine inches!”

I walked away.  Something ended although I knew not what.  Something ended.  I drove to get coffee.  Throughout the night I cried, I created my springtime lights and eventually I returned home.  I slept, soothed by the light of a full blue moon upon the whitewashed woods.

Springtime lights – the blue of running waters and the garden’s growth.

There is nothing quite so reassuring as Easter morning before the dawn.  It was official.  Easter had arrived.  Nothing stopped Easter.

I felt better but wondered exactly why.  With plenty of time to prepare for services, but not enough to be time-lazy, I decided the morning was perfect.  The Saturday snows, although a powerful symbol of a lamb’s purity and the not so subtle nature of G~d, still caused some pragmatic concerns.  Cold.  Brr.  It was four degrees.  But it was Easter.  Showering, I had reconsidered my Easter outfit.  I would wear my robin egg blue dress which I had worn to past Easter services. 

I bounced down the steps to the cedar closet which holds my seasonal clothes as well as those I no longer wear daily.  I remembered that I had wished for the desire to wear pink. I had mooned and mooned about not having a man for which to wear pink.  (I know…) It has been some years since I remembered this point and equally many years since I wrote about it. 

I remembered Dave.  Dave was a man I knew many years ago and never did I know him romantically.  He was one of those people in a persons life – in my life – whom one holds as dear.  Time would pass.  I would not see him but when we would, we could talk and laugh and remind ourselves to tease one another a bit.  And if I am correct, his eyes would twinkle as the stars would in bewilderment to wonder why not us two?

But it was not so.  He was one of those people who you knew would wish you the best and tell you the truth and tackle life with hard working ethics and with enough sass to make it all interesting. As a woman, I always thought that he was the type of man for which I would wear pink. (For many years the idea of wearing pink totally disgusted me..)

Dave died several years ago of lung cancer which metastasized in his brain.

Me, the brick dandelion, at the Matthias Building.

On this Easter morning I remembered him again as I had in the past weeks.  I know many who have died and there is no memorial great enough to them, for what they have meant to me.

I opened the cedar closet door to blankets, velvet dresses and the cornucopia of styles which I have collected through the years.  My fingers lingered, paging through my wardrobe pieces like a fabric diary.  The robin egg blue dress with a lace overlay upon which I had focused, hung next to the perfect confection of a dress.  Long sleeves.  A heavier weighted knit with texture and a fitted silhouette.

And it was pink.  It was pink in a sugary blend of almost Chantilly and almost pearl.  (I had purchased it years ago, wearing it once during the Christmas season).

I smiled as I grabbed the beige leather heels and found the spring clutch to match.  I do have a reason to wear pink, in the memory of a man whose kindness graced my life then and reminded me now.  I remembered the value of that kindness.  And I smiled as I thought of wearing pink in tribute to the day.  

I chose to wear pink. Pink. Me. On Easter.

And I smiled.

Love. Lots of Love.  Happy Easter.

~me.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

Thursday, March 8, 2018.

Annual occurrence, with the additional pressure of McDonald’s.  Somehow a fast food chain can activate itself to flip its golden M arch into a busty golden W, but I can repeatedly miss the boat.  March 8, Steph.  Every year.  It is International Women’s Day. A day in which hashtags drum upon hashtags and postings pop and feminist ideals highlight the media.

………………………………

Mensch.

I walked into the courtroom with a first glance at the clock.  Scheduled for 9:30, I had arrived with a comfortable cushion of thirteen minutes or so.  The circuit court judge, the court reporter and the clerk of circuit courts were already seated.  Their casual talk was easily heard but I could not now remember nor would I have ever been able to remember exactly what they were saying.  Upon seeing me enter, they too checked the clock.

The three made note of the time and my presence by glance.  With the judge’s instruction and invitation, I walked through the gated area to one of the two desks before the bench.  The three excused themselves, disappearing into what I imagined to be chambers or prep rooms behind the judge’s bench.  In the more historical courtrooms of the courthouse building, this room would be larger.  But I was thankful this morning for the smaller space.

It was shockingly modern in a historic building and about as non-Perry Mason a courtroom as would ever be imagined.  Yet, the conveniences of technology and the necessities of security envelop me.  Entrances and exits are tightly spaced with safety glass and security scanners.  The deputy whose presence in prior versions of this case unnerved me, was now comforting.  Large screen televisions dotted spaces in front of  empty juror chairs and lined the edges of ceiling and wall behind the gated area.

The judge himself and the circuit court staff were seated physically close to me, with each station equipped with individual computer systems.  They were labyrinths and mountains in this small world.  I was comforted by the formality of the distance between my desk and those of the court.  As I looked around, I imagined each step in that room was weighted with the different meaning of placement.  Step too close to the next gate, the one which separated plaintiff and defendant from the court officers, and it would have caused the deputy to stand.  One step further would have caused alarm.  One step.  Four steps behind me, back through the gate, and I would have no longer been a plaintiff.

But I had minutes.  I decided to walk the room because there was no one there.  I studied the thickness of exterior walls.  I had heard that the building is constructed as a brick veneer which means that the structure itself is not masonry or brick upon brick, but a wooden frame with stone facing.  If so, the framing would be thick, at least a foot here on the first floor.  The windows are proud, turn of the nineteenth century, three part windows with the upper most being a lovely leaded transom.  The interior doors leading into the room match them.  The sashes of the windows are thick, well-maintained, corded and clean.  The foot thick wood sill is polished warm, tanned oak.

I prayed.  I was nervous.  I waited for the last minute cancellation of the defendants ( a tactic I have since learned about, from the beginning of this process).  I looked out the window into the traffic, thinking of how ridiculous prayer would be, at a time like this.  I thought, as I watched delivery trucks and loggers, of how ridiculous would be the notion to ‘give it to G~d’ at this point.  This was a court of man, I rationalized.  G~d would have no place here.  I kept thinking of how thankful I was, learning my lessons during this process, a process which had begun in April 2017.

Eleven months passed as I watched those cars, blurring by the windows.  I am a landlord.  In April 2017 my then tenants in the residential space of my building paid me with checks from a closed bank account.  They had then refused to pay utilities which, up until now, I had kept in my name.  (Yes, that is correct.  I learn my lessons hard.)  The months from April until the court eviction of August 1, 2017 had been a succession of lessons for me, lessons as tough and bombastic as the blockheaded and egotistical notions of my own ignorance.

There is no ‘nice guy’ to the law.  There is the law.  And that is nice.  Odd, isn’t it?  The law is law.  In April 2017 I wrote my then tenants a letter to either pay or leave.  I gave them thirty days.  (I thought I was nice).  I might have been nice but it was not the law.  My tenants knew law.  My tenants also knew about how the law is enforced.

From April to August 2017 I was in court four times.  I did not realize at the time, but the court was moving fast.  I read about state statutes, about notifications, about legal wording and about the law enforcement and service professionals who I needed to employ in order to proceed to the next step.  The Five Day Notice to Cure.  Fourteen Days Notice of Termination of Tenancy.  The Court ordered Eviction.

In August 2017 I earned, from a court of law, an eviction.  A court ordered eviction is now part of the record of my former tenants which will surface on their records.  That, and the court declared they owed me $3049.

Evasion.  I am not sure, but I believe, as I stare out the courtroom window, that my tenants may have evaded the law, but me?  Who was I kidding.  I evaded me.  And that may not be law, but it was my lesson.

The judge reappeared.  I scampered from my observation point at the window, to the plaintiff’s desk in time for the traditional “All rise.”  (I do believe I heard the deputy chuckle.)

As the case was re-introduced, one of my former tenants walks through the door.  He is late.  I proceeded to outline my request for an increase, an amendment to the monetary judgment due to damages, cleaning and the additional expenses.  I have photographs.  I finish speaking.

It was my former tenant’s turn.

At first I did not listen.  I remembered my thoughts at the window.  How silly, I thought, to pray before court.  I do not expect G~d to save me.  I do not expect G~d to give me a positive result. In the minutes my former tenant spoke, I remember the first time in court.  I remembered learning, as he spoke in court, that people may say anything about another person, about me.  I remembered the first time I heard him say things about me that were not true.  I remembered how it stung.

Still, I did not realize the significance.  I had sat there, emotional, on the brink of tears.  I remembered thinking ‘How can he possibly say these things?  How can he lie?”  I had begun to defend myself, my character, to the court.

In my memory, I cringed at the thought.  Here I am, today, listening to the same voice.  Nothing.  And again I thought to myself, why would I believe now, to give this – this situation here – why would I believe now, to give this to G~d?  Why would I be so, so arrogant and so blatantly self-serving, to give this situation, to G~d?

I had given the documents, my exhibits, to the court.  The court accepted them.  I had enough copies for the defendant and the court.  I could have been clearer and more exact on some of the dates.  I listened. (Ok, I interrupted once.  Advice – don’t do that.)  But by and large, I listened.

The judge and the court officers left to decide upon my request for amended judgment.  The defendant and I left.  I stretched, walking to slurp at the water fountain. (Plus, I liked the comforting sound of footsteps upon the marble floors in the hallway. Such an old building! I imagined, with the silly hope of its history, secrets to seep onto my skin).  I welcomed returning to the comfort of the empty room, with the structure details still in my head and thoughts of why on earth would I “give it up to G~d”.  I sat again at the plaintiff’s station, my own desk for possibly thirty more minutes.

With me, in my seven dollar chantilly pink faux leather tote that looks like ‘the bomb’ of an outfit with my twenty-five year old black leather coat and an equally pink faux fur stole (three dollars, thank you), I had packed extra paperwork, my weekly schedule, to complete during any wait time.  “Thank G~d” for my schedule which I never quite follow yet by which I feel totally guided.  I smiled.  “Thank G~d indeed.”  I had been praying all along as I reasoned about the silliness of prayer, here, in court, by myself.

 

The court awarded me an additional $450.  In order to collect the nearly four thousand dollars, I now need an attorney.  The money is a significant sum.   Greater is the lesson of  finding kindness in an increased knowledge of the law.  Along the way I found expertise and professionalism of others to a level of which I could only aspire.

In that courthouse, a building which I have passed by my whole life, I realized the truth of others lies and the warning, the reminder to myself, to never allow theirs to become  truths of my own.  I regret I had not learned these lessons earlier.

The court awarded me a resolution I sought but had not earned.

………………………

My son arrived home from school hours later.  He grabbed a broom to knock icicles off the eaves.  I stood in the doorway, watching for Wally, as we recounted our day.

He smiled that smile. And I remembered.  I remembered standing in the windows of a courtroom earlier.  I shut my eyes remembering the wonderment of giving it to G~d.  “Why should I pray in a courtroom?” I had thought as I had uncovered my stacks of attachments for my court exhibit.

I remembered months.  Then, I did not.

You see, the wind came up, through our woods. My ears tingled, tickling my eyes to open.

“You are welcome,” the Wind breathed in my ear.

Thank you.

Love, lots and lots of love.

And a kiss. (for luck, just saying.)

~Stephanie

 

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

Proposing a Lioness Adventure, (with soot. dirt. smudges.)

The vying of moon, buds to burst, sentinel pines and soot-stained stars and stripes.

March 1, 2018

Majestic.  The sky’s contest, a vying among the then waxing moon, the awakening buds of a virile maple, my ever-diligent sentinel pines and, of course, my old stars and stripes.  Which one is the prouder?  Which one is the most apt frame for bluest blue skies?  Majestic.  And a heady question to delight my eyes and tantalize my mind.

Nope. You haven’t missed a holiday. (At least I don’t think so.) I just liked the picture, my old flag with white stripes now stained with dirt blown through trees and the soot of smoke from bonfires.  Even though the metal clips are now replaced with unceremonious yellow plastic ties, it flaps through the breezes, royal, even if its permanent perch is the four by four post of my deck back in the woods.

I have stories to tell you and a promise to keep as I was thinking about writing.  As I wrote in my head – which I do a great deal of the time – I noticed how “nifty neato” it would be to tie things together with the proverbial “I awoke from the dream.  It had all been a dream.”

Um no.  I promise to never ever write that ending or those words.  That story line has to be the prayer of writers “Please, no matter what, please let me not resort to the ‘it had all been a dream”) We are, life is, my story, is not a dream.  Well, actually it sort of is. (Could I write any worse?)

‘One with the trusses.’ I had been wrong.  Higher up was easier.

The tempest of Wisconsin weather renewed my attention to the structure of the roof.  With earlier warmer temperatures, the roof scupper on the east side of the building had drained water.  I apologize for my attention to the roof, but I will not apologize.  The entire roof, 6800 square feet, had been replaced three years ago.  The roof is surprisingly peaked, not flat, supported underneath, in part, by four dramatically handsome 1923 steel Triple Howe trusses (I am still unsure about the type, but I believe I am on the right track).

After that thawing, the weather turned brutally cold.  My roofer, whom I almost have on speed dial in order to call through my panics about the roof, calmed my fears.  The new roof, although huge and with thick insulation (11 to 12 inches – R35 – thank you very much), is surprisingly light in comparison to the load of the old roof upon these same trusses and the roof’s supporting and stabilizing exterior walls.  I had time.

A longer thaw arrived five days ago. I turned up the temperature on the heaters I have placed near the roof drain pipes at the point in which they drop from the ceiling to the second, then first floor, and finally near the last larger six inch pipe in the basement which leads to the storm sewer in the alley.  I had bought two rolls of heat tape to attach to the east side drains which lead directly from two spots in the roof to the inside of the building.  I never had any freezing on the west side drains, but the east side I needed to prevent another ice build up as had happened last year.  Last year, the scuppers – the drain pipes which flow to the exterior, would spill off the water as the snow and ice melt.  A good fail safe to have, but not how a properly maintained roofing system should perform.

Four days ago I could procrastinate no longer.  The thaw was going to happen.  I needed to attach the heat tape.  It is one thing to climb a ladder to remove framing around the trusses but quite another to climb high enough to wrap electricians tape around the roof drain then attach the heat tape.  The end of the tape needed to go as high up as possible on the drain pipe, under the plywood decking, without actually touching that wood.

At first I allowed enough heat tape to extend upward.  I could not make myself climb higher than the first elbow in the pipe.  The piping’s elbow had iced the prior year, my roofer reminded me.  I climbed the ladder just high enough so that by stretching I could wrap the tape to secure the heating tape.  That particular drain pipe suspends above a clay-tiled closure which housed the old piping.  When you are above it, you can see straight down, two and one half stories, from underneath the roof to the basement floor.

Scared? I was oddly petrified. I hugged that ladder, proud with every wrap, yet scared.  And I knew I still had the worst to do.  I hadn’t wrapped from the elbow up to the roof, the most critical piece.

Two more days went by.  The day of the thaw.  I climbed, hugging the ladder.  I had forgotten or missed that there were old wooden rafters below that section of pipe.  My 18 foot ladder would not fit unless I aimed the ladder’s top into the spaces between those two by eights.  I aimed the ladder.  I walked the ladder.  This trial and error rearranging the ladder to fit in a spot I had not considered both drained and disgusted myself in myself.  But I had heat tape to attach.

I climbed.  Nor had I figured that I would need to go higher on the ladder.  Seemed like another obvious point, but I think I thought I could stretch a bit more to cover the last foot and a half of drain pipe.

I squeezed myself between the rafters and the ladder. I realized I was no longer looking up at the rafters nor a foot away from them.  I had pinned my body against the truss and hugged it.

I looked down.  I looked at the expanse across the tiled closure.  I hugged that truss.  Being higher up was easier.  I smiled.  I had ‘made it’ across the two and one half story drop.  I had left what I thought would be the most difficult because I was so scared of going higher.

No, Steph, no.  Smilingly, I reprimanded myself.  How thankful I was, that I had not wrapped the beginning part, the highest spot.  I would not have realized or appreciated it.  I had been terrified each step across the closure.  Here I was, higher up by at least two and half feet, but not reaching.  I was hugging the trusses.

 

 

Look closer.. the sunlight dances with the breath of ice crystal fog.

It is a non picture sort of picture, a Wisconsin day of snow among a line-up of such days, in a little piece of woods, in a non adventure of adventure.

I do happen to own two buildings, the youngest of which is a ninety five year old brick former armory and technical school, with the intent of really making my business a profitable one.  It could be a rather snobby existence but the business ownership and the creative processes are the personal passion.  I have a dream!

But the biggest adventure has been the adventures of nonadventure.  (Did I mention I am a huge fan of Yogi Berra-isms?  A sample, in case my references are dated, is “It isn’t over until it’s over.” Sigh.  Beautiful. True and succinct.)  Like these line-ups of Wisconsin snow days I have been recovering from years – no a lifetime – of, well, to state so politely, turbulence.  Of violence not of my own making.  Of harshness.

I love photography but rarely would I share, purposely, a nonpicture picture.  But to me it represents the beauty of my adventure as it really is.  Nothing about buildings (although I love them), but an adventure about building days upon days of nonadventure wholeness, a softness not of the pillow variety but a softness of the touch of persistent wind and softness of gentle determination.  A loud silence of ones own thought.

That and once in awhile a good belly laugh. (If I am going to be adventurous, I might as well write the book on ‘happy adventure’.  I mean, why not?)  So, please give me the adventure of walking through the woods during winter.  Let me walk down the road in a blizzard with the dog, my jacket wide open to feel the bite of winter wind upon my usually sheltered skin and my mouth just as wide open, scooping up snowflakes, giggling as I call after Wally, my dog.

I have nothing against the trips to Barbados and condos around the globe, but I think for ninety percent of us, that is not life.  And life gets pretty grey (and not in those ‘Shades of Grey’ grays either.)

 

 

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The above pictures?  Adventures of inspiration.  My annual experimentation with poinsettias and colors.  Softness and growth.  Adventures differ from person to person but that is itself a starting point.  Launch yourself into active observation.  Give yourself time.  Give your brain a chance to breathe.  Learn to make decisions.  Learn to think without stress.

 

So, I am on an adventure.  My own kind.  Depending upon how you look at it, I am either resetting or maybe, I finally found my path.  Oh, I do not think I messed up like ‘look at all the years I wasted.’  No, I think it took my lifetime to realize how greatly I wanted that path.

 

During a snowstorm on a Monday night with 1983 soft techno, instrumental vibey music videos with pre-digital art videos, with the smell of a cup of coffee I had spilled, and with the sounds of my son’s voice and the sight of Wally at my feet, I begin my nonadventure adventure.  Softly. Purposefully.

Lioness 101

Seems fitting, to choose a Monday adventure that which scares, yet calls to my heart.  To be lucky enough to have a chance to choose.

 

Lioness 102.

I have a long way, a long long road before I ever begin to write decently.  But that’s another point of my adventure – I have learned about myself.

The first thing I have learned?

I never give up.

(giggle).

Love.  Lots of love. And a kiss.

~Stephanie

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

February 14, 2018

Ah, Valentine’s Day. As long as I have been writing, Valentine’s Day wrenches the writer out of me whether I am in mode celebration or succumbing to a full-out rant.  Some years I ignored the day entirely or at least made appearances to do so.  One year I wrote that all-out rant as if by philosophically and emotionally shredding the day I could somehow show, beyond that doubt’s shadow, the meaninglessness of the day.

Nope, not a fan.  Not a fan of the day, I would write.  Not a fan of the openly, sometimes shallow demonstrativeness of the day and especially not a fan of inflated price tags.  Or I could have been a bit jealous.  I would not now deny that possibility.

But I smile remembering that there were years when I declared myself to be the love warrior.  I had believed in the greatest power on earth, that ability to love and be loved, and I was the champion of that cause.

Are you cringing yet?  Yes.  And then my world fell apart.  Ouch.

But all that is past tense.  This is 2018.  It is Valentine’s Day.  2018.  And…it is Ash Wednesday.  I am sure the two have collided along the way before, two holidays so hopelessly opposites, kissing each other like lovers caught in some sort of flaming dimension warped by time, pecking quickly at each other, reuniting in a twenty-four marathon until they spin off again.  Ashes and love, love and ashes. Surely there is a story there?

The imagery and colors of such a reunion is an artist’s orgasm of black and red;  the smoking embers glowing in the nests of the phoenix;  Cupids and Aphrodite pulling love from the burning hell of hatred.  (It is almost too much artistic possibility to process).

On the Valentines Day side, I do applaud the couples in my life.  Their unions are cheer worthy.  I remind myself that there are people who have found each other, and twirl through life in health, love, and adventures all their own.  In that manner, though, I have found, life feels as though I have drifted away from any thought of both love or the hurt with which I associate love.  I drift away from it all.  Yet life has gotten very sweet.

I had pulled out my selection of Valentine’s Day decorations, had laid them on the grey concrete, then arranged them all complete with lighting from two strings of gummy heart lights. I had in my mind those gooey red heart lights, five red tapered candles with as many red candle holders, heart dishes and cake pans and, of course, the stuffed black and white cat who, upon the pressing of a paw labelled with the instructions to press it, speaks in a charming voice to ‘love me, darling’.  I had wanted to photograph an explosion of valentines sentiments which I had kept for twenty years.  It had seemed jolly fun, smugly, tongue in cheek, which teetered neatly and abundantly upon sarcasm.

It would be my official Valentine’s Day photograph.

 

 

But, I could not do it.  Oh, I had taken the photographs.  But as I began to edit the reds and the adorable stuffed kitten and red tapers, my eye was captured by those strings of gooey red hearts.  As I looked at the photos, my eye kept latching to those hearts, especially to the few that held unto its cord back to the outlet, their gooey color, red flames upon the cold grey concrete.

I grabbed those hearts, stringing them against the brick of the fireplace.  There, there it was.  Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day.  Simply, with my heart smudged with soot.

I had built a beautiful light display with purple lights entitled “Glow”.  I meant it in tribute to a family who lost one of their family members too early.  She would have been the type of person who would have loved my building and the plans for the gallery.  She might have loved how bold the building is and how subtly it changes.  I think she would have really loved the story of how the building and business began and what has meant to my life.  I had meant to continue with the light display, but as I looked at the gallery space, I thought…

Well, I would have wanted her to see the work, the building first.  If I had but one chance for her to see the gallery, one chance for her to see or for anyone, I would want those eyes to see the building more than me or my lights.

So I decided to get to work.  I had read of a woman who had watched Youtube videos to build a home for her family. (She did it too).  Granted, I cannot do that with a commercial space, but I certainly did not have to wait.  As much as I love the artistry of lighting, if I had one chance, I would want to show those steel trusses.

So, for an early Valentines Day gift to myself, I rented a dumpster.  I am exposing those handsome ninety year old trusses and removing any materials I cannot salvage.  Step One.

How does one love Valentine’s Day?  “Oh let me count the ways,” or so the poem reads.  Imperfectly is the first thought that comes to my mind.  I have thought about the exotic combination of Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday 2018, an undeniable dance of color, philosophy, mysticism and even theology.  Woefully unqualified, I pray for the guidance of whether faith defines itself ultimately with a loving heart simply sewn with ash or our human hearts a speck among the loving ashes?

Hmm.  Those are questions to ponder.

My conclusion?

I found my answer in those gummy heart lights and in the cardinals which visit my birdfeeders at eleven in the morning, each morning.  I believe that I do not have magic seed for them, but I think I am graced with the perfect combination of food, quiet, and warm sunlight.  The male cardinals typify the angry bird character in their chubby brilliant red chests and blackened beards to outline proud orange beaks.  Stunning, sharp colors.

What I had not ever noticed were the colors of their backs and I have been fascinated by them ever since.

The male cardinals, their backs, are a beautiful grey.  It is a grey purpled, almost as if singed by the flame which colored their red chests.

Sooted.  A heart of soot.

 

Somehow, with that thought, I could love Valentine’s Day.  For me.  I could love Valentine’s Day with my heart of soot.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Love you. Lots.

Stephanie

 

Small Enough to Stand Tall

Small Enough to Stand Tall

For fifty cents, without guarantee, there is the possibility of a blue plastic alien…

February 3, 2018

Happy February! Happy First-Saturday-in-a-new-month! (The days are getting longer and I have been graced with fresh snow this morning.  Combined with Saturday itself, does life get any better?)

Today started, as many do, as “Tall Enough to Stand Small” and I am still uncertain as to which way is better.  As the days progress, and I continually debate about many life paradoxes, I lean toward the preference of feeling small to stand tall.   Days upon glorious days in which the only spectacular declaration or happening is the fact that I can say I am still here.  Marvelous!   I can walk in the moonlight, in the woods, feeling the strength of legs, torso, spine – feeling tall enough to walk with a bit of swing and a prideful chin.  In any instant I only need to look to stars and moonlight or the outline of majestic pines in reassurance of my own smallness.  I am but a speck, a drop, a piece of dust,  a mere mite alive for a flicker. My flicker, my flame. Me.

And, a small flicker is enough.

 

The steel trusses at Matthias. I am cutting away those lower boards, the old ceiling rafters, and the old framing around the bottom of the trusses.

The Brick Dandelion.

 

I confess that I never thought about being single for any length of time after the divorce.  I find that revelation about myself a little creepy.  I have been divorced for almost three years, in my fifties, working a daily job for an insurance company and creating my own business.  Again, uncomfortably I have realized that I never planned to create my life for me.  Not this life anyway.  My son grows more and more to be well on his way.  As a mother, I cycle through countless tears and joys as his growth signals successful parenting from both my ex-husband and I while also affirming the distance of his experiences in another impetus of life paradoxes. As a parent, I could not be prouder, happier and sadder.

But every day I thank G~d I got to be a mother in my life.  I got to be a mom.

(Please insert a big sigh, a sniffle and a grin.)

 

 

After the extreme upheavals of the past seven years, I am only now turning life into life by creating one worthy of the label a ‘journey’ (I know its one of those ‘ew’ words, but…)  And I have to admit to the happiness in my vacillating behavior worthy of being twelve, seventeen or once in awhile, a fifty-two year old woman.

……………….

 

 

 

 

I blame his “I’m sorry.”

With those simple words, cushioned by the safety in time’s passage, I did see, really see, without a smidgen of fear or doubt, that I had lived through some horrific times.

I blame his “I’m sorry” for a forgiveness within myself, in a strength of words which overcame any residual quest to unearth the culprits’ evils, to smear the bowels of their souls on…..

Oops.  Sorry.  Welcome to me. At twelve. A bit visceral. A bit?

“I’m sorry” could be its own chapter in my speck of life.  When faced with the truth, the settling of my continual churn, I finally declared “Enough.”  The truth is that I was finally ready to hear “I am sorry” both from him and from myself.

Ugh. Enter the period of my life in which I finally – again finally – decided to create my life as much as I had created for my world around me.  I gave myself permission. (Ew). I needed to learn to be my cheerleader.  Really?

Somehow being my own critic and naysayer was both more fun and cooler.  There’s something magically dark in the twisting of oneself. But in a days worth of both dark twisting and positivity, in the choice between how to spend time – fifteen minutes – I could no longer afford my usual plunge into the shredded pool of my own confidence.

Well actually, I could.  I can multi-task, remember?

I could, but – again in the most selfish way I have ever felt – I do not want to. (Huge gasp here).

I do not want to.

I cannot continually pull myself out of that cesspool.   I do not want to constantly search for the ladders all the while wondering why it took me so much time and energy to swim in the first place.

Ugh, Steph.  Cmon. Steph. Swim.

And I wished to live my life not as their victim.

I do not want to.

In the past weeks, I gave myself permission to want.  I want me.

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The dance of winter

I had always dreamed of spending a winter caretaking the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  What it would be like, roaming the halls, checking pipes and windows and the roof all winter, throughout blizzards with winds that roll across great lakes, meeting to tap at the windows and doors.  What it would be like, to write and read and walk all winter long…

I had forgotten that dream until this last snowstorm.  Seven or eight inches depending upon how you measure and my driveway was not plowed for a day and a half.  Honestly I have a jeep and an old 95 pickup truck which I am sure I could have bombed through drifts. But why?

I may never live the Grand Hotel winter caretaking dream but for two days Wally, Poesey and I rejoiced at the blowing snow circling around us in the woods.

“Permission Granted” was the original title to this article.  I am finally internalizing my own permission to take care of myself – all of me – my brain, my body, my soul, my ‘squad’…my beautiful flicker of life.

The Story of Es.

“Look,” Es tapped me on the shoulder. She had lifted her shirt to show the wound from the shadow beast.  The ooze of blood had disappeared with a curve of red and pink.  Only days before the wound looked battle-torn but now, as Es assessed her condition, she seemed pleased with the mending of new skin.

“Do you think it is a serpent or a flower?”  she asked, her eyes dancing while a finger traced the slice on her stomach.

Es laughed.

“Maybe it is the dance of both…”

All my love,

Stephanie