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.)

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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.

 

 

 

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.

Changing a nightmare into pink confection.

Changing a nightmare into pink confection.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

I decided to wear pink.

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

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

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

Easter’s eve.

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

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

Spring in the woods

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

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

 

Confection of pink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, the brick dandelion, at the Matthias Building.

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

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

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

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

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

And I smiled.

Love. Lots of Love.  Happy Easter.

~me.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

A Thoroughly Modern..Mensch.

Thursday, March 8, 2018.

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

………………………………

Mensch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was my former tenant’s turn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

………………………

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

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

I remembered months.  Then, I did not.

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

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

Thank you.

Love, lots and lots of love.

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

~Stephanie