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..

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

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

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

March 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

facetune_22-02-2018-15-36-55         img_0833

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

 

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

 

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

Lioness 101

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

 

Lioness 102.

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

The first thing I have learned?

I never give up.

(giggle).

Love.  Lots of love. And a kiss.

~Stephanie

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

How to love Valentines Day ~ from a Heart of Soot

February 14, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It would be my official Valentine’s Day photograph.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm.  Those are questions to ponder.

My conclusion?

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

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

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

Sooted.  A heart of soot.

 

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

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

Love you. Lots.

Stephanie

 

Small Enough to Stand Tall

Small Enough to Stand Tall

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

February 3, 2018

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

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

And, a small flicker is enough.

 

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

The Brick Dandelion.

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

……………….

 

 

 

 

I blame his “I’m sorry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do not want to.

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

Ugh, Steph.  Cmon. Steph. Swim.

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

I do not want to.

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

img_0419
The dance of winter

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

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

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

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

The Story of Es.

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

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

Es laughed.

“Maybe it is the dance of both…”

All my love,

Stephanie

Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Of building, bonfire and all that is bricked beautiful.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How dare we think of January only as a month to last through, as if the unfolding days are not worth their time.  I was a Christmas snob cloaked in my sentimentality of  holiday songs, warm passionate holiday colors and evergreen trees and boughs which adorned my home. Or perhaps I just really really like Christmas. (I am still brushing up piles of pine needles as I sweep carpets, floors and heat vents.)

Oh I know I lamented, refused even, to give into the crisp blues and sparkles of January, but I did.  (I did paint my nails the frostiest blue I could find).  It was time.  With ridiculous stubbornness, I unplugged the building light displays.

But subzero temperatures had delayed family Christmas season outings until Epiphany Saturday.  And while the meal, conversations and football games were more than enough, a true new tradition was born when everyone had left.  Everyone that is, except for my eighty-two year old mother and I.

With a fresh pot of coffee, the two of us packaged and organized Christmas village decorations back in red Christmas storage boxes.  She dusted tree ornaments, most of which had been given to me from her.  We both smiled.  I rewrapped.  Ornaments were retucked in their green plastic storage container.  In an epiphany of epiphanies, I saw spread out before me an organized color-coding of history, memories and a bit of the rights of womanhood.  From my mom.  From me.  From years ago.  Hmm. My excuse of not having the capacity for creativity, high intelligence and organization was becoming very flimsy (yes, please laugh and roll your eyes).

My mother and I packaged and talked until two in the morning.  We also managed to eat half a fruitcake.

Shhh.  I am recycling red and white.  Turns out, I will be early for Valentines Day.  Shhh….

Technically the days are again growing longer.  Every three days or so, almost by instinct or habit or both, I find myself measuring the sunset shadows from trees to snow, partnering with the hands on the clock.  A bit further.  A bit longer the day.  A bit brighter.  Unfortunately the day’s length has little impact upon the temperature; an inviting sparkling hand which tempts a person, “come nearer,” with the bitterest of freeze-dried soul.

I have found a peculiar new passion for January in Wisconsin in grilling experiments and bonfires.    There is something magical about both, in the subzero temperatures.  The night blackens so quickly with the sun disappearing to a mild glow through the wooded horizon.  And then the sky is black.  With a moonless night, the stars are diamond studs lain across black velvet.  There would be no other way to display the universe’s finest.  In the woods, all around you is blackness except the soft blue-white snow and the lights of the house.

And of a bonfire crispy licking at the eight degrees below zero air which surrounds its flames.

img_0274
Graduation Clock. When I was young, I enjoyed tinkering with clocks to the point of reading about their mechanics.  This repair was only the scratching of those battery points and their replacement, but I have to admit to a reawakening of the joy…..of timekeeping.

He said, “I’m sorry.” Words I had never heard from him about anything deeper than a forgotten orange juice.  And that even might be giving him credit where none is due.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.

I looked at him, stunned.  He had continued to explain he knew exactly when ‘it’ became clear.  I am not sure when he figured ‘it’ out but it had not been during months of marriage counseling.  During the thick of our battles, he had never been sorry.  Now you could be wondering about what type of shrew I would be, to not admit my faults.  Oh, I have plenty of ‘fault’.  I have plenty of sin and blame to place upon my shoulders.  I have no problem admitting it.

“I remember the night we went out to eat, for a Friday night fish fry.  It was just the two of us.  I messed up.  I’m sorry.”  Now, of course, the survival of a twenty year marriage does not depend upon one night out.  The spark is not lost on one incident.  Through the wretched last years of marriage, through the counseling and battles and attempts, it was an evening to which I kept referring.  We had gone to eat at a favorite country tavern.  It was one of those perfect ‘date like’ couple moments in which your top notch clothes and top-notch preparations are not demanded (because in reality, although a person loves Friday night, you have worked.  Best jeans, please.  Nice outfit.  Smell good.  Look smashing. Yes.  Black tie / pantyhose? Nope, save it.)  In Wisconsin the Friday night fish fry is a cultural staple.  Religious, not religious.  It does not matter.  Fridays are fish night.  A person may wonder at the quality but I assure you that this particular pub has the best baked scallops (and a wonderful whiskey, wink. ) and always the resounding echos of a week’s earned laughter.

It had been our chance at a romantic Friday evening so many years ago.  What happened I really wish not to write.  But it was not romantic and it was not salvageable.

We both began to cry, separated by the comfort of the distance of the kitchen island, a stove top width between us.  In a sappy romantic movie, the moment could have been a rush into each others arms.  A reconciliation.  It was reconciliation for us too, but it was a reconciling of one of the too many moments in our marriage which had been infliction rather than affection.

I let myself cry with him for the first time in three years, the distance he and I have traveled since the divorce. I did not rush into his arms. Nor did I run away.  I physically moved away from the kitchen island to the other side of the room in order to cry, still in the same room yet at a distance.  It was a space of a sorrowful kindness and tears of gratitude.  Healing in the first days of the new year.

Eventually our tears dried.  Managing the details of the business of raising our son replaced the scattering sentiments of our broken bond.  Our marriage was broken but not our family.  We have truly figured out how to be friends.

The beautiful blue white drama of Wisconsin’s January

“I’m sorry” had rung in my head.  For hours I was not really sure of neither how I felt nor of how I should feel.  I was stunned as if hit by bad news but I could not figure out why.  Was this not good news?

It took hours into the following day to realize the recognition of reality.  For the first time he had  admitted to what he had done.  Like a rope flung to another side of time, back to that time in my life, his apology secured a piece of my soul, bridging what I had written about to another perspective.  He had been a participant and a witness to the time when my whole world changed.  I had written journals during those days, trying to clear my own disbelief at the extreme nature of hatred I had felt from people who had called themselves my friends.  I had wrestled with understanding all of them, coupling their actions with justifications. I still held a smidgen of my own disbelief.

What happened to me professionally at that time was the literal icing on the cake.  I worked in a field, in a segment of society, which prides itself by the vows of its own doctrine, to lend a hand to those who had been downed.  I had been through years of a marriage in turmoil and during the last months of my marriage, my professional life and the life I had fell apart.  There had been no one to help me.  There was no hand, not to me, not to my husband, not to our marriage and especially not to our son.  In the months prior I reached for help to only find mockery and no one to help. Not from that part of my life.  Lately a new question popped in my head.

Why did not my friend, my boss, why did she not stand for me?  Why did she not reach out either to those above to assist me or to others around me? Another curiosity to which I no longer need an answer.

But I did find friends. I did. And I did hear an “I’m sorry” that seemed to be one of those blanketed apologies like an all-encompassing blanket property insurance policy.

It covered all damages.

 

His voiced words were like the painting of golden brushstrokes.  It was a moment of kintsugi. My wounds, my scars. I was sorry too.

Kintsugi.

My building, Matthias. Here, in the 1940’s, owned by a local national fox furrier company.  Rumor has it that Ms. Jayne Mansfield selected her furs here.
Me, the brick dandelion

 

Blessings to you.  May my life, to you,….well just know that anything is possible. Healing is possible. Have faith, work hard, believe, love.

Love you. Lots of love.

Stephanie

PS.  Oh! I almost forgot – the January vegetable grilling recipe.  Two red peppers for sweetness and color.  A large container of fresh baby bella mushrooms and a good sized head of broccoli.  Szechuan sauce and a bit of olive oil. Grill in aluminum or in a grilling vegetable basket alongside the meat.

Why do I feel like the adventure is just beginning? Hmm. Stay tuned. X

It was Reformation, Batman. 

It was Reformation, Batman. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation
Hallowed Wings of Reformation

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

I remember, Father.  I remember.

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

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

The understated mum
The Understated Mum

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

Or, you could grump about it.

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

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

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

 

Lights
Lighting the Darkness, the Truth

About Es.

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

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

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

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

“No,” I nodded back.

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

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

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

“People already know?”

“Of course, Es.”

“They already know what happened to me?”

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

“People already know I was fired?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she tore at another “nail”.

“Do people know how….”

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

 

Facepainting
A Garden Variety Mask.

Me. Lady. Now.

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

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

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

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

(Insert moment of pout).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes, we would even pretend it was the Batmobile.

Thank you and Happy Saints Day!

Love.  Lots and loads of love,

Stephanie.

#reformation #love #thesaints