Liebe, Liebchen.  Freizeit.

Liebe, Liebchen. Freizeit.

 

1.27.2019

January 27, 2019

The winter romances a person.  “Just for a bit, just a little,” begs January with the same light, from the same sun as summer.   Now that light teases as no warm kiss of air matches its brilliant, blinding light. The days lengthen to tease even more, but the wind persists with greater chill through February thaws, right up until those first ides of March.  I run outside for a moment, unable to control my longing for sunlight no matter how chilling.  I smile as I return to huddle indoors, hiding in sweaters among heaters and fireplaces.  And soup.  And hot cups of coffee.

Living in Wisconsin, I could care less at the duplicity of mother nature in winter  “Tickle me with chills.  Tease me with sunlight!” Minus thirty degrees Fahrenheit wind chills are nothing to fool with other than with my words.  “Oh, romance me winter.”

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  I think of my relatives.  I think of my father.  I think of the nostalgia of the 1940’s and the pain.  My eye catches the sunlight lighting my favorite chair, my spot for reading, writing and praying.  I think of my years of writing through my own distresses and my own pain.  I have so much more to write…

But today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  It is the day which marks the Liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz.  I know of pain and I know of distresses but I know nothing of such suffering.  And because I do not know such suffering, I wish to write today, of meaning and beauty.

I was a naive twenty-two year old when I married for the first time.  In that marriage I had formed a dangerous, volatile union.  I had been determined to prove something, I guess.  There had been moments of innocent love.  There had been moments of struggling as a couple to survive financially.  There had also been moments of danger and of anger.

As we were separating, my grandmother’s health began to decline.  My mother would travel to take care of her, then call so that my father and I could talk with both of them.  The last time I spoke to my grandmother, we spoke over the phone.

“You are a Jew,”  she stated simply.  “We are Jewish.  We are Polish Jews.”

“Are you safe, Stephie?” my grandmother asked.

“Yes, I am safe, Grandma.”

My mother returned to the other end of the phone.  “Are you okay?” she asked me.  “Did you hear?”

“Yes, mom.  We are Jewish?”

“Yes.”

Within a month, at the age of twenty-six, I was a divorcee.  I felt tainted, but I was safe.  And not too long after that conversation, my grandmother, Ida Agnes, passed away.

My grandmother’s father was not an upstanding Jewish man.  He was more of the gypsy-type, those that scrounged, picked, dealt and resold.  Commandeering a horse and buggy, he picked through others cast-offs.  If you needed rags, he would get you rags.  He dealt in rags.

Jews such as my great-grandfather were called ‘Sheenies”.  He might have also been a bit of a drunk.  There is no glory or glamour to what or who he was.

I never press my mother too much upon when she knew of our ancestry.  When she was growing up, she could not even reveal she was Polish.  She tells of the story when she was a high school student in the fifties, when her class studied ancestry.  When it came to her turn in class, she said that her family was Bohemian, Belgian, German and Polish.  When her father learned of her listing of nationalities, he demanded that when she return to school the next day, she must retract her statement.  If she did not, he would.  She was to say that she had been mistaken.  She was not Polish.  She was Bohemian.  She was Belgian.  She was German.

She was not Polish.  My mother did as she was told to do.

If a person put a positive spin on her father’s – my grandfather’s – actions, I could conclude that to reveal a Polish ancestry would also reveal that she was a Polish Jew.  Perhaps it was for her own protection.

Um. No.  She was also banned from learning Spanish.

During World War II my grandfather, along with many workers in eastern Wisconsin, worked in aluminum and metal work factories.  Building everything from ship propellers to weaponry casings to submarines, that part of the state immersed  themselves in the efforts of wartime supplies.  My grandfather – the same one who denied my Polish ancestry – was also a neighborhood watchman, patrolling streets during practice blackouts and alerts.  With government contracts, these factory cities readied themselves for air attacks.

I look out again, at my writing window.  I have written before of the humor my mother and I find, thinking of my grandfather’s fondness for my grandmother’s cooking of potato pancakes.  At Christmas time, along with candies and trees, we would be treated to specialty plates of dried fruits and fruit filled doughnuts, colorfully arranged on Depression glass trays.  Perhaps he knew he was eating Jewish food, perhaps not.  I will never know.

The romance of that winter sunshine.

But my grandmother was cagey enough, I would believe, to have never told anyone.  I would never have a chance to ask her questions.  I would never know more except her words, “You are a Jew.”

I think of her life, surrounded by her husband’s family – my Great Aunt Libby, my Great Uncle Stephen – who were possibly the most prejudiced people who, even as a child, confused me with their odd sounding pronunciations, mixtures of Bohemian and German, and stern harsh voices who both scared me and loved me, and surrounded with the characters found in her own family (my Great Uncle Johnny, my Great Uncle Emmet and of course, my favorite, my Great Aunt Mae).  Both families were full of secrets and scandals (someday I will tell you tales of her sister, my Great Aunt Mae, whose story could best be prefaced with a wink. Or two. And a giggle.)

facetune_27-01-2019-20-43-35
The gift she gave me.

How strange it all is, the legacies of hatred, fear and secrecy.  More so, how curiously strange was the notion of the acceptability of the necessity of it all.  Even now, the child within me reminds me that there are desk drawers you just do not open.  Or if you do, you never mention what your eyes have seen.

But within her story, within that drawer, within those deadliest of secrets, lies the beauty of character, of strength, of survival.  There is, within those papers, a spirit passed from her hand to my eyes; from her lips to my ears.  My grandmother, knowing we were safe, knew she was safe enough to tell me, “You are a Jew.  We are Polish Jews.”

Many years ago, my father decided to honor my mother with a gift of a bracelet upon which one charm was her Star of David.  I never knew what my father thought about my mother’s heritage.  He had been raised Roman Catholic with a prideful Polish Irish French ancestry which he seemed to both revere and begrudge.  His stance, I believe, was no stance.  But the charm and his reverence was an intimacy with which he shared and honored my mother.  After he passed away, my mother duplicated the gift to me.

Hmmm.  The International Holocaust Remembrance Day, or The Liberation of Auschwitz.  Or,

May we remember those feet.  May we remember the feet of all who walked under the infamous sign.

May we remember those hands.  May we remember those hands who worked.

May we remember those eyes.  May we remember those eyes who looked up to the sky.  May we remember those eyes who looked to the sky, who looked upward to pray, past the black iron words, “Arbeit mach Frei.”

“You are a Jew.”

Freizeit.

Liebe, Liebchen.

~ Stephanie.

 

 

 

The New Year of Corporate Entrepreneurship.

The New Year of Corporate Entrepreneurship.

The thriftiness of aquamarine blue foundations
The January treasure of aquamarine foundations

January 13, 2019

Nonsense. Or, I will find out that twenty books and MBA theses have already been written on the topic of “Corporate Entrepreneurship.”

Eh. (I would insert shoulder shrug here, but that’s not really my style.) I pause. Okay.

Entrepreneurship.

I mailed $215, the application for reinstatement, the declaration of the number of outstanding shares of stock (really?), a statement of the declaration of change in ‘registered agent’ from an unknown agent in Green Bay to me, and the annual report for the company.  (What is a registered agent and why do I need one? Please insert side research, but in short, a registered agent of a business is the legal agent who would receive notifications on behalf of the company.  In the beginning, the registered agent seemed insignificant and a detail.  I had paid a legal online entity to take care of such matters. I am an art gallery and a real estate owner.  I am not a manufacturer. Surely I do not need a registered agent).  I mailed the entire package to the state department of financial institutions so that officially my company would exist and not appear as ‘administratively dissolved’ since 2016.

This ‘status’ had seemed to be one of those sidebar, pointless items of conducting business until a person tries to change any banking in the name of a corporation.  Regularly filing income taxes did not mean the company was okay.  Refiling with the state department of revenue did not mean the company was okay.  The key was the department of financial institutions.  When my mortgage note matured on my Esther Building, the bank who held the note, had themselves gone through a change in ownership and now needed the dissolution undissolved.

Naturally.

Simply Christmas
Simply Christmas

Home.

My December marked family times with an unexpected homecoming of my brother and gatherings of family members who had every reason to tear out each others hearts, but chose not to.  Every single one of them chose peace.

Between working long hours and stretches of long days, the month trudged along with no complaints from me other than a persistent exhaustion and a scrambling of my usual routine which I had abandoned some time ago.  December seemed to pronounce that deviation even greater with disguises of bright lights and merriment.

But I had family.  I had togetherness.  Sure I also had exhaustion, but all seemed correct.  Please – do not wait for the shoe to drop.  There was no shoe dropping in this story.  And maybe that is the best lesson I have had since I last wrote.

No drop of the shoe.

I had prepared writings of Hanukkah which I never published.  I had written cleverly with quip galore, but I did not feel worthy of any wit.  And I learned a long time ago that I certainly am not funny or clever.  Would I be honest if I wrote as such?  Would I be honest in such an attempt?  How honest would I have been to write and post pictures of Hanukkah candles which I managed to light in the windows of the gallery-to-be, yet at home I managed only two and a half candles on the menorah.  How honest is that?

I worked my hours.  My son returned home from his first semester at college.  Both he and my ex-husband decorated the outdoor lights at my home while I prepared the building.  The holiday season was upon us and I never quite dug out the Dickens Village pieces, but I had family together and we were happy with red and white lights, Christmas trees and a quarter lit menorah.

  img_5219

2019.

I am fifty-three.  What happened to that old year, its energy, the memories, the lessons?  Waves.  Those 2018 waves which rushed through me are the same waves which now pull with fresh energy to embark.  Perhaps it is with age that I dream of bravery and an attempt at a sense of confidence.  Just as years tumble, wave rolling upon wave, new upon old, I tumble with wondering thoughts of dreams and my realities. My buildings, my dreams of the business of the gallery, and my dreams of my own creatives pursuits scare the creativity into me.  My family, my life and my career in a very corporate world scare the reality into me.

Corporate.

I am fifty-three loving a demanding management career in a corporate world.  In that world, I am a speck.  Not even a speck. I am a spec of a speck.  I could be spit out at a moments notice.  I could and will probably make no significant impact upon the corporate culture.  Yet, I love it.

From a corporation,  I have learned new lessons and remembered old lessons.  At first I thought I was too old for such experiences.  No amount of  “it is never too late” sayings could have convinced me otherwise.  I must admit that stayed in my craw as I toyed with the possibility that I am behind and past due.

But there was something about seeing Winds & Paradox being listed as ‘administratively dissolved’ on the state department’s website.  I had come so far.  While I had been busy through the years fighting to save a building or fighting for understanding of all what had happened to me or fighting myself to understand my life, I neglected something so rudimentary as the status of my business.

“My business”.  My creation. My Winds Paradox.  The memories spun the logic of ownership through me.  Winds Paradox was me. No, it was not me. Yes, yes it was.  Yes, it is a piece of me. Yes, it is an important piece of me.

The Matthias Building of Winds Paradox
The Matthias Building

And as I snapped some photos I allowed my heart and my head to engage as I attached the name, Winds Paradox.  It mattered.  It matters.

I filed the paperwork.  Well, truthfully, first I called the department.  (I might have called them four or five times because the first time I thought refiling with the department of revenue would reinstate the company.  I mean, I regularly pay my taxes, right? Of course I do.  I called the department of revenue, called the department of revenue again, then checked with my accountant who was filing an amendment to my taxes because we had made a mistake.  He instructed me to call the department of financial institutions.  Which I did. Four or five times.  To get it correct. To understand, of course.)

Now, you may think I am joking but I am serious.  I barraged them with calls because I really did not understand.  They explained and they explained again.  I understood a little more with each phone call.  And I filed the paperwork, on my own, the end of December 2018.

The check was cashed on Friday, January 4.  I checked the department website. No status change.

I called.

“Give us five working days.”

Wednesday I could wait no longer.  I know, I know.  My head does know mathematics and true, it was only three working days, but I was anxious.  Every time I checked, the status remained at “Administratively dissolved”.   I could feel my heart dropping.  I calibrated my own desire.  One lesson of these past few years is that I trust the human capacity for desire.  If a person desires, really wants, then a person will act.  I have learned that lesson in the most clumsy of fashions with my own excuses.  And I must confess I do not like them.

Wednesday marked my first day of my first five day vacation.  I really did not believe that in my first year on the job in corporate nirvana I would have any claim to personal days but I did.  And I took them to coincide with my son’s winter break between semesters.  Wednesday I began to recover from months of scrambling.

Another of my excuses.  Ugh.  Yuck and double yuck.  At fifty-three I had made my life so unmanageable and so scrambled…. Ugh! Excuses breed more excuses.  Boo hoo, Steph, get on with the story!  (I love rough talking myself. Grrr.)

Winds Paradox
Winds Paradox

As he looked over my paperwork, the department’s agent explained that they would be meeting on the corporate filings that Wednesday afternoon. He looked at my filing then proceeded to help me change wording which would have prevented it from approval.  I could not believe I was so close!  Three hours I would reach a goal!

Later that afternoon my phone rang with a number I knew from my four or five times calling.  The agent apologized.  He had missed that I had filed in 2018 but we were now in 2019.  I owed another $25 for the current year.  I would not be approved that afternoon.  I could, however, refile.  He emailed me my paperwork with department receipt stamps, a copy of his letter and instructions on how to expedite.  I was so close, I could feel the energy of success.  But I was not finished.  I had another step.  In a world of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ or ‘success’ and ‘failure’, I was still, well, a ‘no’.  How could one be so close yet not accomplished at all?

“Administratively dissolved” is one of those phrases which means nothing until it means everything.

No excuses.  Even in my small town, a person can mail a letter for overnight express delivery.  I needed to mail the forms and twenty-five dollars as soon as I could.  I suppose I could have waited, but that phrase hummed through my head.  The department would receive the letter by three in the afternoon on Thursday.  I mailed my submission.  I emailed the agent.  I checked the website on Thursday.  Still dissolved.

But on Friday, January 11th, after three in the afternoon, upon waking from a vacation midday nap, my company, Winds & Paradox Incorporated (dba Winds Paradox – but the state department does not, for financial purposes, concern itself with ‘dba’ …whew…) – my company, Winds & Paradox, was “Restored to Good Standing.”

In good standing.
In good standing.

I have wasted, unfortunately, $240, on many things in my life.  But not this.  I stare at the status no longer excusing myself.  But the status change cannot be a status.  I cannot stand.  I have to proceed.  No excuses.

Mistakes.  Gulp.  I look at that beautiful company status with worries of more mistakes to come and possible mistakes that will make me shake with deep fears of unveiling my supreme obvious stupidity and blatant, blind egotism and misguided notions of creative artistic abilities.

Excuses. No, Steph.

Mistakes?  Yes, Steph.  I will make mistakes.  And then, I will make more.

For 2019, I urge you:  Make mistakes!

Gosh, I love you.

Mwah,

~stephanie.

ps. Deserves repeating:  Please, go make mistakes…. I promise you I will be making them too..

Oh, and… I am writing again.  I am writing..

Birds of a Feather, Indeed.

Birds of a Feather, Indeed.

neighbor pigeons

Sunday, November 4, 2018

 

 

writing at home

Eleven people died this week at the hands of another person who never knew them, but identified them by their religious beliefs, their religious practices and their heritage.  As he awaits his processing in our legal system, one could debate about the moral response to his actions.  What is justice?

No clever words of mine could ever reason away the pain of the families in that Pittsburgh community.  In my world, a small world seemingly distant from theirs, I could only give them my participation in the reverence of those lives lost.

I am unsure of the exact time of the presidential order to lower the flags.  During my forty-five minute commute, the radio news announced the reminder to lower flags to half-mast through sunset on Halloween.  I am working a short stint on the overnight shift, along with a crew of employees from my own store as well as a half dozen from the  nearby area stores and a corporate planner, to remodel our apparel departments.   Arriving that night, I received the informal update on the day’s store happenings as I exchanged with the other manager, our need to lower the flag.  He remarked that the daytime assistant had been given the responsibility for the lowering.  Since I saw it at night, it now became mine.

Our maintenance crew lowered the flag to half-mast.

One of my former employers did not lower their flag.  It’s should be a bit of a detail, but in a small midwest town, the absence of action becomes more than a detail.  My mother, a feisty, softening, part Jewish mother, saw it.  She shared this observation with me during our almost daily phone conversation amid the buffet of topics as the latest gossip involving my brother, past gossip about distant family members, local news, elections, politics, our shared memories of my father, and any medical and/or dental concerns du jour.  My hear dropped when she told me.  This former employer is a non-profit institution which years ago showed me the same disrespect for my heritage in a Bible study required for staff members.  To keep my job as a teacher, saddened and fearful, I sat there. Quietly.

Shame on me.

New growth

Have your own words ever sneaked back to to haunt you?  I had reasoned with one of my current employees, after she had exchanged words with another, by posing this question, “What would it be like, to witness people punished for the wrong they have done to you?  Further I asked, “How would you feel, witnessing their punishment, to repeat what has been done to you, now being done to them?”

(Please note, this is not an argument for or against capital punishment.)  Would it change what they have done?  Would it change you?  Should it?  In the long run, after the rush of revenge enacted and justice served, what then?  After teaching for the institution, I had worked for a health insurance company which contracted with the Veterans’ Administration.  During the onboarding process, I had cried when human resources personnel covered the topics of EEOC and no tolerance for harassment.  It is federal law.  I would perform my job tasks and adjust claims.  I had no right to harass anyone and no one had a right to judge, harass or hurt me.  I was safe.

As I began my career at the store (the largest retail employer), tears – softer tears, diversity and equal employment opportunity were drilled into us management trainees.  I had silently vowed I would never allow the same behavior I had experienced.  But there are so many things to learn, not the least of all is the learning to lead.  I had approached all personnel matters with positivity and inclusion and with emphasis upon task management and shared responsibility.

I had been learning, I told myself.

Until this week.  Eleven Jewish human beings died because they are Jewish.  In my world, I have employees to protect and to serve.  I lead, therefore I serve.  I had paused in those overnight hours of remodeling, watching my crew and wondering at my own words.  Would an apology from the past, from those people in my past….well, the same circular reasoning encamped its own beginning question, a boomerang of emotion and morality and now, responsibility as a leader.

I had always prayed about my past experiences with that nonprofit organization.  I had forgiven them because, as those words of no greater truth demands, I am forgiven.  When my mother, with all her Polish Jewish Bohemian Belgian heritage told me calmly of the flag, we had a chance to share in the memories of my past experiences.  We relived them together.  Together.  Then we cried at the crude disrespect. But we were not surprised.

I think that is the telling moment…

a happy wind's paradox

 

Of buildings and Winds Paradox.

I had swallowed my pride a number of times.  In an equal amount of times I have but to only thank G~d for saving me from certain disasters.  In an equal share of experience, I thank G~d for my numerous lessons and Blessings.  I have been Blessed.  My latest ‘duh’ moment of entrepreneurial savvy is the filing of Winds Paradox as a corporation.  Sounds simple, right?  It is.  I am fast learning that, if I find a task too complicated, it is not a reflection upon my intellect.  Nope.  Ninety percent of the time complication signals to me that I am creating complication. But, in a wisecrack, half-hearted justification, there are many entities “out there” to help one “overcomplicate”.

Creating a business?  Please, you do not need one of those legal sites who charge hundreds of dollars to do so.  Please research. Please take time.  File for your federal employer identification number, also known as a FEIN, EIN, or TIN.  Go to your state’s government website.  Could be you need to do nothing. But check.  File with your state’s department of financial institutions to register your entity.  (I thought I was pretty wily filing to form as an S Corporation.  I was.  But there is more).  I did all that.  What had not been done – and I freely admit to the thinking that I believed it to be done for me – ew – was file with my state’s department of revenue.

So, my lovely business was officially and unofficially a business.  Yikes.  While I still scratch my head in wonderment that I could file taxes and sign legal documents, yet the company status with the state had not been verified.  Not even by me.  Owner. Founder. Dumbbell.  Laughable. Nosedive.

Learned a lesson. Swallow hard, Steph.  Pick yourself up. Fix it. Go on.  You have dreams you are fighting for, living for.

 

img_4653
Orange roses in a green beans tin can

Life Beauty Moments.

We all gathered, my family – my mother, my son, my ex-husband and I, to celebrate my son’s visit home from college.  It would have been my father’s eighty-fourth birthday.  I believe this is why I write, for those moments.  My family is the weirdest group of people who really should not get along, but we do.  We live in a world with horrific, nerve-rattling moments.  Eleven human beings.  I pray not to belittle them with my words here.  I pray not to condense their lives into a moment of horror, but I pray for the strength to become a better leader.  I pray for the silence of kindness and steadiness of intent and the grace bestowed with knowledge.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

Please turn back your clock on Sunday, November 4, 2018.  Please vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.  

Thank you for your time here today.  I wish you many Blessings and infinite amounts of love.  (Neither are pie, you know?)

And a kiss for the road.

Love always,

Stephanie

The Repercussion of Sarcastic Fashion

The Repercussion of Sarcastic Fashion

img_4264.jpg

September 19, 2018

I even get compliments. That’s how well I wear my fall favorite foot attire of rag socks and sandals. I cannot help it. It’s a “me” look. First wearing the coupled worn socks and sandals to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’, I quickly discovered that the fashion deities have their own sense of humor. I am now in lust permanently with socks and sandals…

……….

I could not get it out of my head, no matter how much I tried.  “Juvenile,” I scolded myself.  “Unnecessary,” I sneered with the worst self-loathing.  (As if the waste of time in my own expression somehow made the world turn slower).  “Pick it up,” I jeered again.  “You have better things to do and no one else is..” I drifted off in an argument quickly debunked by my own philosophy.  “Won’t you ever let this rest?”

Nope. I need to write.  For the ga-zillionth time I have wrestled with the replacement, any replacement – please! – for the need to write.

Nope. I need to write.  I would wish that urge on everyone although I would also pray for a dousing of talent to share the ride with such desire.  In my case I have discovered another unique desire of mine:  I need to struggle.  I will always and forever need to wrestle in my mind with thought, expression and words.

I think it is going to be a magical ride, indeed.

Enough commentary.  Let’s get on with life and my penchant for double negatives and redundant prepositions.  None of you are English teachers, are you?  I once was.  But that is another story.

Probably the most egotistical point in my life, among the many activities which I could label as ego-driven (but aren’t they all? Isn’t life just one ego-drive after another?  Especially if you are fortunate to have been born into civilization with immunizations and fresh water and no perpetual civil wars, you pretty much are engaged with yourself.  But not all humans are fortunate.  There are many who have none of the three conditions of modern life.  Miles to walk for fresh water.  Diseases spreading through populations.  Civil wars and corrupt governments with no moral codes or boundaries.)  The practice of selfie snapped portraits will never stop to amaze me.  And the ease of editting photography.

The clutter of Jeep dashboards – sharks, Snoopy and sunglasses…and the Son.

And the ease of communication.  And the various differences in the need of each of us to communicate.  I am astounded both at the existence of the variety of needs to reach out and the lessons the awareness of the variety of needs has taught me.  I am not the center of my universe although I could easily conclude so with the indulgence of social media.  But I like to think that it shows me even more than I am not.  The world is wide and inviting.  Even if I could not move or mobilize or be physical, I would still be both satisfied and grow even more desirous to explore the world.  What is Israel like?  I can take a virtual tour.  Satisfied? Yes.  But no.  I would like to see it again.  And now that I have seen it virtually thirty plus times, I would like to know how the wind across the Dead Sea smells.  What does the sand of the Jordan River feel like, pressed between my toes?

In these most recent years I have grown fond of sharing my life and chronicling daily.  At times I would write mercilessly every feeling, every thought, every situation.  Day after day.  Then I would combine stories with photography.  What does my world look like?  What are the every day things which inspire me?  Both practices answered the questions, “How do I get through the day?  How can I manage my feelings and my world?”

Today, like every day, I work and I write in my head and I take photos.  I am attending classes for my job in a city which is unfamiliar to me.  I love my work and I love the classes I am attending.  I am, again, fortunate, to work for a company which is providing me lodging and “per diem” to improve myself.  Oh sure, I am going to have to work hard. Of course, I am.  Of course!  And of course, I feel indebted.

That is kind of a nice feeling.

For my in-depth merchandising project, I am studying jewelry.  I have nine days to be as much of an expert as I possibly can be.  I found myself studying at lunch today.  Diagramming displays with my earbuds feeding my brain old Journey tunes, I wrote to my son a dream I have for him.  I hope he finds in life, moments in which he gives himself permission to be smart.  What an odd wish. I had hesitated to send it to him.  He never, I believe, had that issue.  But I had.  There are many reasons not to be smart which have nothing to do with anything.  But today, while diagramming, I gave myself permission to explore.  Not for even my own ego, not to show off, not to compete.  Not for my parents, not for a man, and not for spite.  Maybe for a company.  But maybe for me and my brain, to grow into myself.

Rain and coffee; angel and key.

And there is the regret, if I let it in.  I wish I had given that permission to myself years ago.  I wrote to my son, to please let himself be smart.  For him.  But I smiled as I wrote it for I saw that permission when we met over the weekend for supper.  (He is now away at college.) He brought his calculus with him.  I watched him solve problems while we waited for appetizers.  We talked of solutions while we ate.

I do believe that my son has taught me something too.  “Mom.”

“It’s ok to be smart.”

Blessings to you. I am grateful for your time here with me.

Love.  Lots and lots of love.  (After all, it’s not like pie!)

Just saying…giggle…

And a kiss.

~Stephanie

Abundantly Perfect, Like Bird Berries…

Abundantly Perfect, Like Bird Berries…

August 25, 2018

Handsome. Oh, that G~d had granted me a son.

Solid. He stood before me with a silent smile, curious and strong.  Ready.  He was ready.

The graduate and grandma

His father, my son and I arrived with plenty of time for pre-ceremony photos and for him to weave his way into the line up with gown, cap, tassels and robe.  My brother delivered my son’s grandmother.  She, our family’s matriarch of eighty-plus years who reigns with a wit only further sharpened by time, strode into the high school fieldhouse, each hand encircled by my brother on one side and my ex-husband on the other.  My mother had planned on her own failure rather than success at being able to physically walk the distance from curb to seat.  But she was doing it.  There she was – a matriarch of family and most importantly, a wizard of her own creation.  There she was, a young man’s first source of magic:  his grandmother.

We waited for the processional.  His smile widened. His face was maturing into a landscape of one man’s promise upon the slate of G-d’s blessings. His is an etching only beginning to be drawn.  A masterpiece slumbering within.

I took my place among mothers with over eager camera lens, fingers snapping upon shutters, clutching at moments to capture.  I snapped those same photos.  He was a man, dressed for his future.  He was a young man in whose eyes I still could see my boy.  And I realized then how ‘it’ happens.  I knew in a moment I will always see those eyes of depth as the eyes of my boy, my son, forever.  I knew in that moment I will watch him grow but I will see a boy in those deep eyes.  And for the first time in a long time, I was silenced.

I watched as he stood in line, his full name called.  He walked across the stage, shook hands with principal, school board and the evening’s dignitaries. I watched in silence with the hope that I had not failed him.  Where were my cheers, screams or tears?  It had been a selfish moment of terror wondering at the imperfection of parenting skills.  My mouth fell open as my memory played alongside the reality of unfolding events.  My memory replayed the moments of his birth.  I remembered the pain and the silence. I could not speak then either.  Not a word.  During labor I had stood in the hospital shower.  I hadn’t wished for drugs until it had been too late to use them.  With water rushing down my body, labor gripped at muscles one would had never thought to have been gripped.

All the while, I could not say a word.  My mind could not form words.  And the water ran over me until the moment of his arrival.  There he was, that miracle of biology and blessing of universal dust and hope.  He, in his own brain, with his own mind, waking into the world.

I watched the memory in the silence of my mind, a baby born and now a man walking –  striding – on his own terms.

Sigh.  Oh, that G-d had granted me a son.

…………………….

I have begun again.  It seems that the spirit of change, along with trees, tomatoes, and the bird berries, has been fertile this summer.  “Bird berries” have outlined my home in the woods rather cleverly.  For years, they have outlasted the mower’s blades to the joy of birds which feast upon them.  They are those berries whose proper identification I have never been compelled to discover even though as a child, I was always warned never to eat them.

The birds, however, sing a much different tune.  Literally.

……………………….

Coincidence.  Perhaps there are coincidences.  I tend to think not, but perhaps the true coincidence of the summer is the occurrence of summer’s spirit of change alongside an incredible circling of life events which I am only now starting to fully recognize.    I had thought the coincidence was the parallel of my son’s graduation with my own search for a new job.  There was no relationship between the two events.  Yet I had been amazed at the times in my life that there seemed to be an intervention, above my own abilities and above any theory of lady luck, in which the circles of life overlap perfectly.

Awareness? Genius?  Oh, please, no.  I had recognized that in order to survive I would need to change.  I had desired it.

I had wanted to change.

A job offer came.  After a month that felt like a year, an offer had come.  As I write now, I think of the panic, the anxiety, and the doubt.  Those were much easier states of mind as I rewrote resumes.  But the offer had come.  (Truthfully I was not even sure at the time it was an offer.  In such a short time I was more used to thinking negatively.  After some scrambling between phone messages and emails, I finally realized the offer was serious.)

I was hired by the largest retailer in the United States.  How fast did life change?  The company sent me to management training in city which always had scared and intrigued me.  For five weeks, I studied at one of their academy stores.  I wandered the city in my off-time and traveled home when I had any total days off.

I was fifty-three years old.  I have traveled and navigated New York City, Chicago, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Boston.  But Madison?  I will never understand why the city scared me.  And here I was.

At a beginning.  Again.  I had returned to a piece of me that I had long put away.  I had loved my MBA program but I had never thought I would be indulging my mind and my life with business studies and career again. Again, again.

I looked briefly in the mirror, at this woman I now am.  In one Wisconsin summer (in the condensed heat of two and one-half months) life burst with swirling cycles of change so unpredictably predictable, it was perfect.

Abundantly perfect.  Like bird berries…

Somehow.  For some reason. In some way, my life has become a bumper crop just like those berries.  Yep.  It is the summer in a year of plenty.  And in some comical twist of metaphor, thank goodness those berries are not meant for pie baking.

It’s not pie. Beginnings.  Circles. Commencements.

Happiness. Love.  “Choose the berries”

Love you lots, blessings to you and yours…

And a kiss for your journey.

~ Stephanie

ps. New writing goal.  Every two weeks.  One week to write;  another, to edit. (I dislike strongly, yet politely recognize and embrace the process of editing.)  Grrr…

“…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.