The Fifty-Ninth Word

The Fifty-Ninth Word

 

I thank you, G~d.

April 20, 2019

For the umteenth time, I started writing my book.  Two days ago I began, my session ending with fifty nine words written.  Small potatoes in the written world, that land of writers.  But it was the best fifty-nine words I had written in quite a long time.  All the writing self-help tips were spot on.  I knew.  I knew I was writing the book.  I just knew. After all these years, I was finally writing the story.

Today I have written seven hundred words more.  It felt like nothing.  I stopped when my head began to swim and the world pressed into my conscience. I promised myself to stop paying attention to word count as I continue, but I had been curious.  I had been scared that this writing attempt was like the others, just another dead end road.  I would once again begin, then I would once again either find or devise my roadblock.  I would once again dead end myself into a writers block.  It was a heck of a mindset (I apologize for the language).

But two days ago I wanted to begin again.  Eventually, I kept thinking, that when I finally find my writer’s voice, I will write.  And my book began in my mind.  It began to weave.  Therefore, I celebrate not only the two days worth of writing sessions but the compelling force I had felt.  I knew.  And today I did not feel my day had begun until I continued writing.

It is Passover today.  And Saturday. And Four Twenty.  I think I am cool for about twenty seconds that I can feel rather modern or urban-esque in its reference.  Yes about twenty-one seconds and a roll of the eyes from my son tells me otherwise.  Thank goodness because at fifty-three it seems a person could put forth a great deal of effort into that facade.

I know I cannot “carry” that image but I can happily entertain myself with twenty-one seconds worth of an embarrassing version of urbanesque.  Aka my cosmopolitan charm. I am a bit laughable in that department especially since I am neither cosmopolitan or urban and the jury is still deliberating on the claim to ‘charming’!

It’s true.  The Christmas decorations are….coming down.  For Easter. It might be time… (In explanation, I live in the Wisconsin woods.  Not too long ago I had four feet of snow outside my doorstep. Merry Easter.)

Vayomer Eliohim.  I rolled those words around my mouth, listening to my voice pronounce differently while listening to several YouTube videos. I decided then to also listen to my own internal critic.  (Sometimes to be self-critical is a good thing.  Sometimes.).  I not only wanted to learn Hebrew but I wanted to teach myself to learn differently.  Yes, I embrace my scattering thoughts.  Yes I embrace my focus.  Yes, I embrace my energy and drive to detail.  But do I ever really ‘get there?’  Or, am I constantly making excuses?

I decided I wanted to ‘get there.’

I wrote in my last blog about learning Hebrew through those two words, Vayomer Eliohim, “G~d said.”  I pictured myself picking up the language.  Well, I saw myself possibly learning the language, with a mountain of emphasis on ‘possibly’.  But if I did pick up the language (translate:  If I really wanted to learn), I would do so by my roundabout way.  I would pick up phrases.  I would learn Hebrew by studying through the Bible.  After all, it would be a knowledge acquired through and with faith.  What could be better, right?

Um, hello Steph.  That is not going to work.  As noble as that may seem and as much as I told myself so, the methodology of learning a language means I needed to begin with a logical starting point.  I began with counting one through ten.

The first time I heard the numbers, I thought that there was no way I would learn them.  Nothing was familiar, the sounds seemed alien and there were no bridges between English and Hebrew.  Plus I felt a bit belittled.  “C’mon.  I’m how old and I am studying how to count to ten?”  Yes.  Yes, I am.

The first time through, I did not even parrot back to the pauses in the video.  Twice.  Nothing from my mouth.  Three times.  Four.  I repeated six.  I could not think fast enough to repeat until the number six.  “Shesh,” I said softly.  My first Hebrew number.  “Shesh” and I turned off the video.  I was frightened.  I had had no clue what lie in front of me.  I knew nothing.  But I wanted to know.

So I began counting while I drove.  In the weeks since I last wrote, I counted and counted.  I showed off for my son who with wit and obligation will tolerate his mother.  Then I listened to more of the Hebrew Bible for the sounds and the flavors of a language which seem locked in my tongue.

Four days ago I began the Hebrew alphabet.  While I ironed, I listened.  “No way,” I told myself.  I kept listening.  I remembered when I needed to board up window openings at the Matthias building.  Four years ago, with winter approaching, I constructed rather artsy boarded blockades in four, ten by eight foot, second story window openings.  I had been frightened, sure of disaster and failure, yet I convinced myself I needed to proceed.  And I did.  But I always need to withstand first moments of total fear.

The alphabet was no different.  Total fear.  Silly, is it not?  I kept ironing.  I repeatedly listened to the same lesson.  Never repeating aloud.  And then I did.  I softly began again.

Violets.

The miracle of these past weeks is not only in the languages and in the writing, but I am finding my own learning.  I did not excuse myself from logic.  I did not excuse myself.

Most importantly, I no longer needed to or desired to.  I would rather fail a few times.

Selah.

Happy Passover.  Happy Easter.

But mostly, lots of love.  I wish you love.

With a kiss, of course…

~Stephanie, tbd.

 

 

Vayomer Eliohim

Vayomer Eliohim

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Early

March 28, 2019

I hadn’t been certain ‘vayomer eliohim’ were even proper words.  Until three days ago I had been convinced the two words were phonetic aids to help visualize pronunciation.  I had not been too sure about anything regarding those two words at all.  In fact, I had thought I just created a title for my work in utter gibberish. (Utter, get it?)

In these past two months, I sighed at the realization that my current inspiration was drawn from these two words.  Out of the universe of potential topics and numerous events of life, I deride myself for choosing to post potential gibberish of unknown origins.  Yikes.

Then I researched.  They are words! “Vayomer eliohim” is Hebrew for “G~d said,” and by the likes of YouTube, I am not the first to be inspired by them.  Unreal.  I have not been without material upon which to write. Like billions of people on earth I have been working and living through everyday happenstances of life.  Yet I did not write.  For example, I could have written oodles about my softening disdain for Saint Valentine’s Day.  I could have written of the positive direction as my company, Winds Paradox, turned five years old.  Or I could have written about my career direction in retail management with lessons in leadership and team building. Hmm.

Writing in my head, yet writing to no one.  Desiring to write, yet not doing so.  “Symptomatic,” I reasoned.  “What an odd feeling and an illogical methodology to life.”  I examined myself further only to find quite a few goals which I desired for myself yet had not acted upon.

So I began the marvelously uncomfortable feeling of change.  First, health.  I am changing habits.

My business.  My sixty-eight year old mother (who is really eighty-four, but she and I are ladies.  We lie a bit about age and other topics!) gives me gift cards for gifts.  I squirrel  them away saving them for a ‘treat’.  But the treat I desired most was the re-design of my company logo.  With a fulfilling combination of my mother’s gifts and the five year anniversary of the company, the logo was redesigned.  Not the most graceful approach, but now I have a beautiful logo with the correct digital formats for websites, marketing materials and publications.  This new logo inspired me to hire professional website designers to organize, design and streamline the company website as well as train me.

My self-improvements, part b.  I have returned to try, in my own, weird pseudo-procrastination, graceless forward methodology to learn a language.  Years ago, I made myself a promise to not worry about personal issues such as romance and dating until I had learned languages.  (Yes, that is right, plural…languages.  I concluded to worry about those issues seemed rather meaningless in comparison to time spent on training myself. Besides, I am not ‘good’ at relationships..) In the last year, I had gotten too busy to even think of those promises.  Too busy until I realized those silly promises to myself were my promises.  Why would I not keep a promise to myself, for myself?

I had been listening and watching a five minute YouTube video of the first chapter of Genesis in Hebrew.  It is five minutes of the story of G~d making the seas, the animals, the stars.  “Vayomer eloihim” are indeed the words “G~d said”.  Two words.  Of all the parts of the Bible chapter and of all the Hebrew I have tried to grasp, these two words are my beginning.  They are all I have mastered.  (Ahem…Ok, I have not mastered them at all.  I remember them and, for two solid weeks I repeatedly listened and mimicked the video so that I might approach somewhere near a pronunciation of ‘Vayomer Eliohim’).  I walk around the house muttering to myself “Vayomer eloihim” while accustoming my ears to hear my voice pronounce differently and my mouth move differently.

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The magic of evening sunshine…

I had just begun this odd process of learning, marveling privately that I was ‘sort of / kind of’ following up on a promise I had made to myself.  “I will learn Hebrew one bit at a time, one word at a time if I have to.”  And as I brushed my teeth and searched for socks, I would repeat, trying to accustom myself to newness and learning a topic that has no presence in my everyday life.

I pondered the oddity of those two words staying with me as I went about my day.  The breakthrough moment – when I realized the words had stuck – came in a particularly peculiar moment. It had been a nothing sort of day, neither exciting nor traumatic, yet part of a string of pleasant, endless wonderful workdays.

Then it happened.  I found myself in one of “those” discussions when you find out what is on someones mind and it impacts you.  And it hurts badly.  You are stunned at their words.  But as they keep talking, you know in your heart of hearts that had you been honest with yourself from the very first, you would now not be surprised.

Argue? No. Tears? Almost.  Any words at all?  Also, no.  The person did not want my feedback nor did he realize what he had said.  All my head could produce was an internal echoing whisper of ‘Vayomer Eliohim.’  Vayomer eliohim. “G~d said” made no sense in the situation nor did those words present a solution nor did I consciously choose them.  My head repeated those two words.  My body and my brain were stilled, calmed.  My heart felt broken and my emotions were deflated, but I kept calm.

At fifty-three, I realize I am on the cusp of a new stage of acceptable social behavior.  (Or so I think!) I can almost claim to be old enough to say whatever pops in my head ala, “Been there, done that, honey” and get away with it.  I can also choose to totally not give a flying *bleep*.  I realize I could have all along, but somehow now I see the two options as choices.  Neither choice is me, at least not after thirty seconds.  I have grown quite accustomed to stillness.  It was all I could manage against the gales of a potential argument, against the blows of heated words.  My brain grasped onto the most solid point of reference.

‘Vayomer eliohim’.

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I wish I could say it was some moment of divine intervention which brought faith and kindness into a potentially volatile situation.  No.  I was not praying.  I wish I could say that I had been consciously trying to manage the situation. Nope.

I was blown away. I really was.  I stood face to face with someone, who was talking to me, blowing me away with his demeanor, his words and his desire for argument.

When he walked away from me, it was the first time I could think.  “I hadn’t broke.  I did not cry. I did not swear. I did not get scared. I felt no need to respond, defend or any action. I stood still.”  I ran through my checklist of behaviors. I felt strong.  I felt respect for myself.  And he had walked away in confusion, with the argument left in his hands.  I was proud of myself.  For the first time, with this person, I remained calm.  For the first time with this person, I managed myself.  For the first time with this person, I did not let his words get so deep into my soul as to send me reeling backwards.

‘Vayomer eliohim.’  Adrenaline subsiding, and after a psychological status check of self, I was struck by what had ‘saved’ me.  Yes, it was the closest branch for my brain to hang onto as the situation flooded around me.  But I believe it was no coincidence that the words which gave me strength were words of G-d.

No, I am not going to get all ‘religious’ on you.  That is not my way.  It is not a lesson in theology or faith.  Or is it?  I cannot deny that in the middle of a storm, my calming point was the only two Hebrew words of a Bible lesson I could remember.  I cannot deny the joy knowing how marvelously ridiculous (and effective!) my two words were.  Am I really reducing faith to two words?  Am I shucking the responsibility of the full realm of faith?  Am I really proposing to center ones faith on two words?

First, let me roll my eyes.  Second, let me say, “um, no, that is not what I am saying.”  Then third, let me question as to why that would be so bad.  Is not faith possibly boiled down to one word, that being “love”?  Ok, I will cease.  I am no Bible scholar.  Oh my, am I not.  What I do know is that two wonderful words from an ancient religion, learned in the context of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, no less – kept me calm and strong.  “Vayomer Eliohim,” whispered within me.

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The encounter’s impact has lasted through the weeks of February and March.  In many ways I owe the individual a note of gratitude as I have subsequently made a few decisions.

I apologize for my vagueness. But my details are insignificant.  Please do not be afraid of your own weird, calming points.  Don’t be afraid if the message you send back to yourself, to regain your focus, resist negativity and to grow…are ancient Hebrew words, two words of Biblical text.

And don’t be surprised if those words send you boldly and bravely back into the storm to fiercely command your ship.

“Vayomer eliohim yehi or vayehi or.”

Shalom.

Lots of love and a kiss,

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.

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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.

 

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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…

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.