Clearly they have been traveling…

Whelks
by Mary Oliver

Here are the perfect
fans of the scallops,
quahogs, and weedy mussels
still holding their orange fruit –
and here are the whelks –
whirlwinds,
each the size of a fist,
but always cracked and broken –
clearly they have been traveling
under the sky-blue waves
for a long time.
All my life
I have been restless –
I have felt there is something
more wonderful than gloss –
than wholeness –
than staying at home.
I have not been sure what it is.
But every morning on the wide shore
I pass what is perfect and shining
to look for the whelks, whose edges
have rubbed so long against the world
they have snapped and crumbled –
they have almost vanished,
with the last relinquishing
of their unrepeatable energy,
back into everything else.
When I find one
I hold it in my hand,
I look out over that shanking fire,
I shut my eyes. Not often,
but now and again there’s a moment
when the heart cries aloud:
yes, I am willing to be
that wild darkness,
that long, blue body of light.

***

It’s been a long week of writing about home, or of trying to write about home. If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, then you know I have never had a good grasp on the idea of such a place to begin with.

Throughout the month of June I have been participating in a fun Instagram photo-a-day challenge and decided to use the above photo to define my version of “centered”. The whelk in the photograph is the literal center and my emotional center is the beach beyond. Just this morning I realized the whelk, in its battered and nearly broken shell, is always home no matter where the seas toss him out. That damn whelk gave me a clearer perspective on the whole idea of home.

Does home have to be a single place?

During my research on the definition of home (yes, I’m that bewildered by the topic that I had to do research), I began to feel a little less obligated to call out the name of a single place to point to as home which, to be honest, left me feeling guilty for not giving the designation to all the other places I’ve ever lived. Clearly, I have been traveling.

For the record, I haven’t yet figured out my own definition of home but I’m learning there is more than one way to define it.

Wind & Waves

Water-loving people must make do with what they have around them and this was evident to me the first time I saw a surfer in Lake Superior. The kinds of Nor’easters that I am only familiar with on the Florida coast make plenty of large waves on the Great Lakes, too (and are the reason most Lake Superior shipwrecks occurred). Oklahoma doesn’t get these Nor’easters, but she does get her fair share of wind. This, of course, makes windsurfing a pretty popular watersport around here.

washed up and cared for

Lake Hefner

Matt and I sat on a bench near the Lake Hefner lighthouse yesterday as I listened to the waves slapping the shore rocks. A few minutes later we hopped back onto our bicycles and headed into the wind for the 3-mile ride back to the truck. Naturally, we hadn’t noticed the wind during the first short leg of our trek as it was conveniently at our backs helping to move us along. Going into the wind – oh, it hurt and it burned. I even worried I wouldn’t be able to walk for days, but I couldn’t help but love being near the lake. Even one of my dearest cousins in Wisconsin gives her lake house all the credit for helping her get through some kick-in-the-gut life shit right now. Water and waves have some serious healing power, even if it is just to provide encouragement to pedal, pedal, pedal!

wind! of course.

Oklahoma wind. It is windy!

When Matt mentioned that our 6-mile round trip could have taken us almost completely around the lake, I was okay with that. There was no need to finish the entire trail on the first go. Besides, I’ll most definitely go back when the weather warms up again because I think it’s my new favorite nearby happy place.

Open Water | Open Spaces

lake hefner

A few days ago I realized that I have spent my entire pre-Oklahoma life on one peninsula or another. Peninsula – it’s such a romantic word, conjuring up thoughts of being surrounded almost entirely by calming, soothing water. Yes, this Floridian is still missing the water, but I was able to quell some of that homesickness last night at a lakeside restaurant by staring out at the sailboats and windsurfers and imagining the sound of the lapping waves left in their wake.

Oklahoma has a lot of lakes and rivers and they’ve been filling up, for the most part, with plenty of water, thanks to a few good downpours recently. The air has been warm and the sun has been shining and I am almost tempted to toss out my prescription Vitamin D supplements, but no! The forecast for Thursday is calling for a high of 46 degrees with lots of clouds. Because, well…why the *$#% not, right?

It’s been officially decided that I can probably be happy living near the coast, even if the weather isn’t ideal (New England – I’m looking at you!) or someplace with an ample amount of sunshine, but preferably in a sunny and small fishing village anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard.

That’s not happening anytime soon so I am happy to call Oklahoma City home as long as I can see scenes like this more often than not:

sailboat in lake hefner sun

lake hefner lighthouse

lake hefner

The little spit of land on which the Lake Hefner Lighthouse resides could very well be considered a tiny peninsula, a breakwater, or even a jetty, perhaps. There are no oceans or Great Lakes nearby so I have to find familiarity in small-scale ways. But where Oklahoma is lacking in big, open water she more than makes up for in big, open spaces. I’m hoping to get much more of that in the coming months!

Fleeting Spring

The two-day break in the winter weather could not have come at a better time. My spirits were already a bit down by mid-week and after a sleepless night on Friday, all thanks to some ill-settling Lortab, I woke up to a beautiful and warm Saturday morning wishing I could just feel somewhat human again. My husband convinced me to leave the house so we headed out to the Home and Garden show being held at the state fairgrounds (we still have that hot tub to install). That night, I finally managed to eat a full meal, read a number of essays on America’s moral decline, and write (and finish!) a critique for one of my classes.

At last, clarity!

I decided to reward myself, after all. That walk I missed taking on Friday really needed to happen, for my own mental health, and Sunday proved to be even more spring-like than Saturday. So I kissed my husband goodbye, dropped Elle off at her friend’s house, and headed into the woods.

Back in November I had visited this same park with my friend, Liz. Everything was still fairly green and lush then, which was surprising because we were months into fall and there was very little autumn color on the trees. This time around, though, the trees were bare enough to let in the sunshine. And, in a moment of perfect timing just as I was trying to decide if I should take one more trail before heading home, a church group with three vans of children swung open their doors and let loose a wild pack of screaming monsters. My outdoor therapy adventure had already done me some good (playing in the trees and tiny creeks can do that to you) so I took the screeching noise as my cue and left after my hour-long walk.

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white pumpkin in the woods

a white pumpkin just randomly resting in the woods

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Can anyone tell me what kind of grass this is? It sounds really cool when the wind rustles it.

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a restoration project filled with native grasses and wildflowers

tree limb reflection

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Teddy, who had been helping my husband and a friend dig a long line of holes into the backyard (I can’t wait for this hot tub to be installed), had already been in trouble with me once for leaving the yard (and quite casually, I might add!) to sniff around across the street. In a long moment of trying to drown out his sudden and incessant barking, I left dinner cooking on the stove for a minute and walked outside see what had caught his attention.

It seems we weren’t the only ones enjoying the sunshine. Look how happy Teddy is at such a discovery in the sky!

Mom, I'm going to bark at that thing until it drops!

hot air balloon over the house

Stone Cutting

Harriet Doerr

In a book recently given to me by my sister-in-law, I came across this quote by Harriet Doerr:

I’m quite happy working on a sentence for an hour or more, searching for the right phrase, the right word. I compare it to the work of a stone cutter, chipping away at the raw material until it’s just right, or as right as you can get it.

My very first college English class was taught by Diana Hacker, the author of several college textbooks (one of which, A Writer’s Reference, is a staple for most college freshmen) and the first person to ever tell me I was a good writer. More of my creative writing instructors would give me the same praise but none of it ever gave me a whole lot of confidence. So what if one instructor was a Pushcart Prize nominee and won The National Poetry Review Press Book Prize in 2010?

I am not lying when I say it feels good to be told such things, though. We all want to feel validated.

There has been no real desire in me to write, at least not as often as before. Before what? I have no idea. So, instead, I have been reading more. Is this a pattern for most writers? Is it because of the weather? I have been discouraged and unmotivated lately, unable to allow myself to be enthusiastic about much, although this could simply be a side effect of my existing depression. (There, I said it.)

But I do miss it. The writing. And I miss the validation from other people. At this point in my life, with what I do on a daily basis (studying, hanging laundry, fretting over dinner, following up on my kid’s reading assignments, wiping snot from my sick dog’s nose a dozen times), my routine hardly merits validation from others. If anything, I should be in awe of other parents who have children at home in diapers and still manage to make a full dinner in time for their spouse’s return from a day at the office (and I am!). To nobody’s surprise, inspiration falls short. Guilt, on the other hand, is plentiful.

Why guilt?

Because for over two hours I have been reading a book about writing dangerously and with abandon! while my husband is at work and my child is at school. I’m not vacuuming or cleaning floorboards or even walking the dogs (I have wiped the sick dog’s nose twice, however). Here I am, and here I have been, reading about how to write and then writing about it. And I’m always afraid it will be interpreted by someone as a waste of time.

By whom? Probably by people who don’t write. And they would never understand it anyway, not unless they are also driven by the same kind of force to do what they love, driven by a confusing pull that feels like inspiration and compulsion have merged.

It’s kind of unruly.

I don’t write for money (hey, wouldn’t that be nice?) and I don’t write to dazzle the masses with my wit (that would be nice, too). But if Harriet Doerr felt this way about how she spent her time, I guess I am in good company or, even better, we are in good company – the writers, the readers, the poets, the playwrights, the lyricists, the painters, the florists, the stone cutters. Maybe that is our validation.

We take our time to do a thing right, or as right as we can get it, and we hope it’s seen as right by others and not as a waste of time. Although those who would think it so are not the ones who motivate us to begin with, including ourselves.

This is my biggest hurdle.

The HAPPY Lamp

On Christmas morning, my husband gifted me with a light therapy lamp. For those of you who are not familiar with light therapy, it is a home-use lamp that helps combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I use my SAD lamp every day, but in this house, per the  husband’s request, we refer to it as the HAPPY lamp (oh, silly wordplay and optimism!) and that is how I will refer to it here.

While it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between my winter blues and my homesick-fueled pining to be back in Florida (where it is 74 degrees today, FYI), the HAPPY lamp was a justifiable purchase. We have jokingly suggested that it was a Christmas gift for the whole family because when I’m feeling a bit dispirited or wholly miserable, everyone knows it. I make sure to tell my family and do my best to convince them that they should also be miserable. Misery loves company, right? Well, the HAPPY lamp keeps me company these days, especially when I’m no fun to be around.

Does it work? A friend of mine in Pittsburgh asked me this the other day. Her husband is having a hard time this winter and she’s considering buying one for him. While I cannot say yes or no at this point (light therapy is recommended daily for 3-4 weeks before any positive changes are felt), I can make a few other suggestions, on top of the HAPPY lamp, that are helping me get through winter here in Oklahoma. If you have suggestions of your own, please share!

  • Candles: There is something comforting in soft light. I also heard a few days ago on some news show that lighting a candle that give off one’s favorite scent is an easy way to jolt one’s happiness levels. I believe this. Our house usually smells like red velvet cake, vanilla, pineapple-cilantro, or lemon-lavender at any given time.
  • Greenery: I love being surrounded by trees and flowers. Winter kills this for me and, in turn, I think it makes the world ugly to me for a few months. The palm trees and loblolly pines of the south don’t shed in the fall, so to be surrounded by bare trees (and no trees, sometimes) is challenging. I brought my potted plants indoors and tend to them every few days. In fact, I’m thinking of bringing in more (my husband doesn’t know this yet) and putting a plant in every room in the house. Yes, I would like a tree in here but I can’t promise Teddy won’t pee on it.
  • Comfort food: My daughter loves my homemade chicken soup. I love big, hearty breakfasts and biscuits with gravy. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn soufflé! Basically, I wish I could eat Thanksgiving dinner every day until spring, although I do find some comfort in the frozen bags of okra in my freezer and the citrus fruit my parents sent to us. Spring and summer are going to happen again, one day.
  • Wistful nostalgia: In the form of photographs, I’ve been reliving warmer, sunnier days here in Oklahoma. I figured I would share some of these photos with you, too. This gives me a boost when I realize that in only 3 months I might be able to start digging up my first Oklahoma garden (even though we’re actually considering trough gardening this year, but that’s another post for another day). I plan to grow sunflowers of all sizes and colors, hollyhock, more lavender, and native wildflowers. I can’t wait until my world looks like this again!
cape honeysuckle

cape honeysuckle

salt marsh caterpillar

salt marsh caterpillar on yellow mums

dayflowers

dayflowers

Indian Blanket

Indian Blanket

I’ve got a few months to go.

In the meantime, I will continue to follow through with my daily dose of HAPPY lamp rays. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of SAD include feelings of hopelessness, increased appetite and sleep (not decreased as with other forms of depression), social withdrawal, irritability, and quite a few others. I believe wholeheartedly that the purchase and daily use of a HAPPY lamp is worth the money and time spent in front of it (it only requires 30 minutes a day for 3-4 weeks to receive the full benefits of light therapy).

I want to love Oklahoma so I do not blame Oklahoma for this. I refuse to let winter thwart my attempts to feel at home here. I suffered the same ill-effects during our Florida winters when Nor’easters would drench our coastal city for days at a time or when temperatures fell to unusual lows resulting in ice on the roads. Jacksonville natives still talk about that day in 1989 when snow flurries fell as if it were the apocalypse.

Winter happens. The seasons happen. The cycle, the renewal, and the rebirth, blah blah blah. My husband occasionally brings up the idea of vacationing in Colorado for a ski trip. I cannot be tricked into this as I know skiing involves snow which involves cold. I counter that with an idea of my own, of vacationing somewhere not covered in snow, someplace warm!

Perhaps I’ll be converted. Perhaps I’ll come to enjoy winter. Perhaps I’ll need a bigger HAPPY lamp.

I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.

Over the weekend I received an excruciatingly long email from my Humanities professor. She imparted on us a ton of information, policies, course standards and, in the end, asked each of us to come up with one quote. Not just any quote, but one that revealed a bit about ourselves – what motivates us, inspires us, drives us to move forward in our educational endeavors. Naturally, I became anxious and didn’t want to choose the wrong quote or submit something to her that could be misinterpreted or that would give her a false impression of me based on someone else’s words.

I really tried not to think too hard about it and, after about 20 minutes or so, I replied back with this gem by Anthony Bourdain: I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.

This isn’t entirely true, but I want it to be. And terribly so. Here’s why:

On Saturday morning, my husband and I woke up the kiddo at 6:30 and dropped her off an hour and a half later at a school for three hours’ worth of intimidating placement tests. Then he and I went on a breakfast date, came home to play online and read books (his and my weekend hobbies, respectively), and went back to the school and waited until noon to collect our child. As the hopeful students filed into the gymnasium, Matt counted approximately 230-250 kids. I expect only about a third of them will be accepted. We hope ours is one of them.

Matt and I sat patiently on those hard bleachers and talked about our school experiences. Many of you may not be aware of this little fact, but my husband and I have known each other since we were freshmen in high school in the early 90s. Our fathers’ military retirements and subsequent departures from the Air Force took our families to different parts of the country and we lost touch for about 15 years or so. In those first years after high school, my husband befriended people who motivated him to go to college and now he has a master’s degree. I, for whatever reasons, was not so motivated by the people around me. In fact, my parents seemed much more concerned with getting me enlisted in the military than prepared for college. That is not meant to be a criticism. It’s just a fact. And a telling sign of how life is for many children of military families.

Our high school wasn’t exactly a breeding ground for young intellectuals. Very few people in my graduating class seemed destined for greatness out there in that big world of careers and academia. Some of my friends did enlist in the military because they felt they had so few options. A couple of girls were pregnant during senior year and were left with even fewer options. Still, others ended up dead, on drugs, or in jail for violent crimes. Me? I never applied myself in school and so little was expected of me. Truthfully, I hardly even showed up. Yet here I had a diploma and a letter declaring my place in the top 10% of my graduating class. What I didn’t have was a clue about what to do next.

So I went to work at my decent-paying military hotel job every day, the only civilian surrounded by people who had to follow protocols and procedures that would never apply to me. I enjoyed that freedom, no doubt, especially when they got deployed to awful places, but it only made me question things even more, particularly when I became good friends with the young airmen and enlisted singles who very much regretted not going down the other road, the college road. Other people’s regrets are remarkable learning tools, by the way.

I finally became serious about starting college when I was in my early twenties and worked out a few meager credits. In all honesty, I had set no goal to finish college; I simply wanted to get my feet wet. But then I became pregnant and soon after motherhood became single motherhood followed by a couple of years devoted only to working, working, and working harder for nothing less than chump change to keep the bills paid. When my daughter started school, so did I. AGAIN. It’s been a long time since her first day of kindergarten but she still sees me studying, striving, enduring (that’s a very appropriate word sometimes), and achieving something I didn’t know I ever wanted until recently, but probably because nobody around me told me I could do it. That is, until I figured it out for myself.

As a teenager, I struggled daily not to get punched in the face in school for being different.  I even once threw a spelling bee because I didn’t want everyone to know how smart I really was (seriously, I have this crazy natural ability to spell words I’ve never seen in my life and I’m quite proud of it). My early years of being in the upper math and reading courses only led people to befriend me so they could beg me for my help or, even worse, solicit me for my answers. Being smart was a pain in the ass.

What does this have to do with not being afraid to look like an idiot? Everything.

I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but my teenager-self was the biggest idiot of all my selves. Too much time was spent trying not to look like an idiot by personally pursuing something, anything, and letting people know that I actually had an interest in something other than what they thought about me (with the typical exception of my parents). I know better now and, while the fear of looking like an idiot still seeps into my precious ego sometimes, looking like an idiot means something different to me. It means giving a damn, going for it anyway, and hoping you walk away happy, successful, and unscathed (though that’s always an unlikely ending when the ride is worth all the hell involved).

Now, as parents, Matt and I have assembled a damn good cheerleading squad for Elle in all her pursuits, whether artistic or academic, in the family and friends we have chosen to surround ourselves with. We want her not only to hear us tell her it’s okay to be smart, eccentric, likable, creative, and all those wonderful things, but we desperately want her to believe us when we say it. Go off into the world! Be you!

Being self-conscious is not something we’re born into. I cannot go back into the far-reaching depths of my mind and pull out the memory of who first made me this way and how. Can any of us? It’s doubtful. But even as an adult, I often worry about how someone might look down on me for voicing an opposing view (no matter how well thought-out and rational I believe it to be) or for sharing my feelings (oh, help us all) through a blog post.

So, professor…you asked. I’m not afraid to look like an idiot – IN PROGRESS (end note mine). Because no matter how hard we work at trying to avoid this unfortunate label, it happens to the best of us, to all of us, whether we like it or not. Those who don’t understand your interests, your pursuits, will always think you’re wasting your time, throwing away your talents, or squandering precious hours toiling away on some nonsensical project. Someone will always think you look like an idiot. Just don’t let it be you who thinks this.

Note: While I have written about Anthony Bourdain a few times before on this blog, please believe that I am not a superfan. I simply just finished reading his book Medium Raw in which he apologizes to quite a number of people he feels he has wronged over the years by behaving like an ass. He has many regrets, too.

Perspectives and the Moons, Part Two

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Because I only have a limited time with this particular book, Earthtime Moontime by Annette Hinshaw, I know that I am rushing through it and focusing on the pages that relate directly to me. I hate to say it, but amidst final research papers and an upcoming trip to Dallas, I probably won’t have time to study the other pages as intently so I feel even more pressure to at least get something useful out of it before it’s due back at the library.

Only from a different perspective can we reach toward removing some of the invisible limits with which we bind ourselves. Putting ourselves inside the skin of another culture can open up our personal possibilities.

~ Annette Hinshaw

**********

If you were born between August 29 through November 26, some or all of this may apply to you.

I was born under the Harvest Moon and just before the Sorting Moon. If we’re talking horoscopes, I am a Libra.  My tarot card (Justice) tells me I believe in karma. Oh, do I ever.

All of this ties together in a neat little package. It’s so simple, but complex at the same time.  For now, I will write only about my moons.

My Harvest Moon tells me that I was born with four primary energies: gathering, ending, responsibility, and fulfillment. Each of them has everything to do with my sense of accomplishment. Gathering reflects my ability to accept praise or criticism, from myself or from others. Ending means that I have a difficult time coming to terms, not only with what I have, but also with what I don’t have. Responsibility highlights how I accept that things are what they are, favorable or not. Fulfillment highlights my ability to gain for myself what I may be jealous of others for already having. And, of course, there are contradicting energies that come from the Seed Moon, my Harvest Moon’s lunar opposite, the impatient part of my personality that also fears failure and running out of time.

Harvest Moon babies are strong believers in self-accountability. We also have a hard time bringing relationships to a proper closure. However, we know when to move forward and we know when to quit. Our lives are spent constantly questioning justice, believing that we get what we earn and pitying those who get more than their fair share. Again, there’s that karma. It’s a karmic kind of justice that we believe in so strongly.

My six Sorting Moon energies are all about choice (again, refer back to the self-accountability factor of Harvest Moon babies): discrimination, choice, analysis, specialization, free will, and order. Oh, do I ever love me some order.

“The Sorting Moon is about decisions and how we make them, free will and how we use it.” Sorting Moon babies collect and categorize outcomes from every other decision we have ever made (no matter how great or small) and determine how our choices affected us or others, good and bad. This wisdom helps us to recognize that we still (and always will) have a choice in how we shape our own lives, no matter what kind of decision we must make. Not all decisions are pleasant, but by accepting our own accountability (I’m such a Harvest Moon baby), we express our gained freedom by making a choice, any choice.

(My Libra brain does cause me to shut down when given too many choices, though. Keep that in mind when dealing with most people born in October, FYI. This also rings true for those born under the Sorting Moon as details tend to overwhelm us and cause procrastination, which is still considered to be a choice. Interesting…)

Sorting Moon babies have a “special talent” for analysis and evaluation. In more realistic terms, we are good at dissecting the fun out of nearly everything with our constant nitpicking and categorizing. We also see the hopeful bits of humanity, too, and this explains why sometimes decisions are difficult to act upon. We sit “on the fence” for longer periods of time. Notice, though, that when a choice has finally been made that the commitment to follow through is propelled by our loyalty to the choice. And intuition. Sorting Moon babies go from the gut sometimes but are very good at helping others focus on what details are more important than others. It seems easier for us to do this for other people than for ourselves, though.

Sadly, that isn’t explained at all. Maybe that has something to do with Scorpios, whom I’ve never really read much about. Also, the Sorting Moon’s lunar opposite is the Mating Moon. Those people tend to thrive in groups, in the kinds of activities that center around community and uniting with others to fulfill the needs of a group.  Sorting Moon people celebrate the individual. That doesn’t mean just ourselves, but other individuals as their own people. This is apparently our way of validating the choices we’ve made to assure ourselves (and each other) that we can continue to make good choices. And that is our contribution to the group, to society at large.

I have a difficult time believing I am a full-on Harvest Moon baby, because so much of the Sorting Moon seems to rule my life. But perhaps that’s the balance I must strike – learning how to feel comfortable as both, because it’s perfectly okay to do that. That’s the biggest Harvest Moon challenge, I think, is that ability to live in both worlds, under both moons, and accept it.

Thanks, Harvest Moon and Sorting Moon. There’s one less decision I have to make.

Perspectives and the Moons, Part One

The way people think about things, how a thousand individuals can experience the same event and walk away with a thousand different conclusions, completely fascinates me. It’s probably why I have been seeking out information in self-help books lately. At the moment, I am content with my life. Interestingly, my husband finds the word content to have a somewhat unfulfilled connotation, as if being content means one should still strive to seek out just a little bit more. I tend to use the word as meaning I am happily satisfied and in no need, for the moment, to seek out anything more. But that just encourages this idea of why I am so taken by perspectives and points of view.

I’m not sure that I would resort to a self-help book if I were ever in desperate need for answers on how to endure any hardships or other unfavorable aspects of my life. I have a deep well of contempt for diet and nutrition books and, to be fair, parenting books of all kinds (though I just finished Bringing up Bèbè and found it quite entertaining and enlightening) and I believe there is no such thing as a one-book-fits-all solution, no matter what you’re trying to do for yourself.  I simply like the idea of there being so many ideas!

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a bit more about other people’s struggles, their versions of the meaning of life, how they came to believe certain things about humankind and the world in general, and how to incorporate some of these trains of thought into my everyday life. (Of course, now that I read this sentence back to myself, it sounds like I am contradicting my previous statement about being content and my use of the word. Perhaps my husband and I can simply decide to agree on a middlemost.)

Again, I don’t think there is a one-book-fits-all solution, and that includes books on the meaning of life. But just as I am encouraging my daughter to accept some afterschool instruction to help her improve her art skills, I hold strong to the idea that perspective skills are just as important. If I am never introduced to another’s method of thinking, I may never know how comfortably (or uncomfortably) that method fits into my own.

Take, for example, Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I tried so hard to get through the first section of this book and I just couldn’t do it. For some reason, I even felt disrespectful for putting the book down, if just to rest my brain from his toggling back and forth from actual events to his professional psychological evaluation of one’s ability to endure hardship and survive, happily. He survived Auschwitz, for cryin’ out loud, and he’s happy and I could not bear to read anymore. I wasn’t put off by his descriptions of life in the camps (in fact, those are what made me want to keep reading) but I was put off by his belief that those who died did so because they lost the will to live.

And I disagree with that. Sometimes, a body just quits. It is likely I missed a particular point in the latter pages of this book that would have tied it all together, but I just couldn’t keep reading. I don’t think I even made it past the thirtieth page. For that, I am sorry. I want to know your story, Mr. Frankl, but perhaps we’ll meet in another way.

I moved on quickly to another book, one that actually seems to be more up my alley. While stacked on my bed’s headboard shelves are a number of non-fiction stories about yellow fever, the Great Influenza of 1918, and a few other books on epidemics (a shining gem featuring cholera is being held at my local library for me as I type this and I’m so excited!) so there is no shortage of morbidity and human suffering happening here, but I did manage to get my hands on an uplifting book called Earthtime Moontime by Annette Hinshaw. It turns out she’s a local celebrity of sorts and was a fervent activist for religious freedom in our neck of the woods (she passed away in 1999 but was a prominent member of the Pagan movement in nearby Tulsa, Okla.).  Unfortunately, my borrowing time has been reduced by the pesky but ever-so-helpful interlibrary loan by which the book was acquired. I have only a few weeks to study Hinshaw’s words before returning the book to its rightful home in the Dallas (Texas) library system. (Seriously, the whole state of Oklahoma has not one copy? Shameful.)

I will leave you with this, a blurb from Hinshaw’s book that captured my attention right away: “Once upon a time, there was no time…” Think about that. I’d be utterly lost without a clock but maybe we’d all be more in tune with the seasons and with ourselves. Even with each other? Hmm, thoughts for another time.

But now, says that darned clock, I must go pick up my daughter from her afterschool art instruction that I so feverishly pushed for her to attend. If I learned anything about myself from Hinshaw’s book (which whimsically describes me to a tee based on which moon I was born under in 1976), it is that I must be more assertive in my decisions and accepting of their consequences.  Or, as Hinshaw so delicately put it, “you may dissect things into so many pieces that you lose the beauty of the whole…”

Wasn’t I just writing about this a few weeks ago? I’ll promise to write more on this later, if anyone’s interested. And probably even if you aren’t.

36 before 36: An Update

It’s been staring me in the face, that 36 before 36 list. Not because I feel I’ve failed, but just because it’s time to retire it and move on with things. I’m happy to to do that but first, let’s take a look at some of the goals that were never met, either by chance or by choice. (What did get accomplished? Click here.)

Okay, so these things didn’t happen.

  1. Get a job that makes me happy (even if it takes a few tries) – I am not focusing on getting a job right now, unless you count being a wife and mom which, in that case, I’m very, very happy!
  2. Organize my entire postcard collection – they’re packed away somewhere in this house, or maybe on my bookshelf? Er…the basement? Obviously, unpacking and nesting became the priority, not organizing my postcards.
  3. Sell my entire Strawberry Shortcake collection of dolls and collectibles on Ebay – they’re the last link to my childhood (I’m very attached to them) and also being stored in my parents’ attic over a thousand miles away.
  4. Be debt-free (even if only for a short time) – IT HAPPENED! For two weeks in early November, albeit after my birthday, it happened! But then my dental insurance hit a snafu and, well…out of pocket expenses. Refund is forthcoming.
  5. Learn to accept myself as everyone else already has (for better or for worse) – I, like most other human beings, have self-esteem issues. We’ll continue to work on this one.
  6. Visit Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge – we all got busy and then it got cold outside. For the time being, Wichita Mountain is not going anywhere.
  7. See a buffalo in the wild – I have these grand fantasies that a buffalo will just walk up to me and allow me to touch its head ever so gently while someone takes a photograph of this moment (mountains and sunrise in the background, the animal’s breath visible in the cool morning air). Honestly, I’d be happy just seeing one from afar, the way I get when a Clydesdale walks past me in a parade. I don’t care how I see one, I just want it to happen.
  8. Write something really, really good and submit it for publication. If I’m rejected, submit it somewhere else – for the first time in my life as a college student, a professor criticized my writing. I was insulted and then realized he was right. I have things to learn.
  9. Make homemade ice cream – I was busy making delicious brownies and quiche and pot roasts, so forgive me if our ice cream came from cartons purchased at Braum’s.
  10. Instruct less, participate more – I’m a mom, therefore I’m a nag. I’m getting better at it, I hope. For my kid’s sake.
  11. Learn to walk in heels – Ha! I’m still trying to get used to wearing socks and real shoes now. Oklahoma isn’t exactly bursting at the seams with flipflop weather.
  12. Get rid of the chip on my shoulder – to be quite honest with you, I don’t even know for sure what that chip is so I cannot fix it. We’ll label this one In Progress.
  13. Learn to breathe and just enjoy – my brain is not hardwired for this and the stress of everyday life has caused my jaws to clench so tightly when I sleep that my face feels like it’s breaking the next morning. Instead, I’m just going to rewrite this goal as “drink a sufficient amount of wine before bed and hope for the best…”.