Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Patricia/Balisha

I took this picture two weeks ago today in the hopes of finding articulate--and ideally, beautiful--words to accompany it in honor of sweet Patricia of the blog "Simply Balisha" (and another blog for years before that one).  Only a month after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Pat has entered a hospice facility and has posted her goodbye in her final blog post.  She has found words, and I still have not.  Clergyman Phillips Brooks once shared his belief that none of us can be good without the world somehow being benefited by that person's goodness, and since I can't seem to find my own words this month, I'll simply agree with his as I nod toward Pat. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February

"Did you know," inquires my dad in his last letter, "that ice-chipping is much worse than snow-shoveling?  Well, it is.  75 lures later, I still have three weeks to kill before March 1st--my sanity cut-off date.  Pitchers and catchers report coming soon.  Cardinals are singing.  I'll cling to any ray of hope. "  Indeed.  I wasn't minding winter until this past week but now feel like I've gotten the gist--If I were in Boston, I'd say I've more than gotten the gist.  We got hit by our own three-feet-of-snow blizzard here in February 2010, so I empathize--and am ready to move on to spring.  This photo. . .after a mile-and-a-half walk a few days ago. 'Have been in a rotten mood all week, and it's not like me to be in one for this many days.  I blame the wind, the slippery sidewalks, everyday life nonsense in general, phantom wisdom tooth pain--they were removed thirteen years ago, but now and then, the site of one missing tooth starts aching--and lack of enough real walks.  Blehhh!  I echo Mom's postscript-drawing in Dad's letter below. 
My younger brother turns thirty-three today.  It is my father-in-law's birthday too.  And by Saturday, a small package containing chocolate-marshmallow hearts for my niece and my nephew and a copy of this sweet book will reach my niece Alyssa--of bat-and-cat-drawing fame--who turns eight this weekend.  Both my grandmothers, Mike's niece, a great-aunt, and my older brother have all had birthdays this month too, and each circled cake-and-ice-cream date on the calendar is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary month.  And thank God for that. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mom's Orange Sunset

My mom began oil painting when I was about five years old, and when I would return from school in the afternoons, she would be in the process of finishing a piece and arranging her makeshift kitchen table/studio back into its usual red or blue gingham tablecloth-covered self.  The smell of the turpentine she used to clean her paintbrushes instantly transports me to those afternoons, as do the voices of painting show hosts Bill Alexander and Bob Ross.  Their "happy little trees" were such a part of my childhood.  I can still hear the whippa-whippa-whippa as Mom's wide brush slapped back and forth against the canvases with the oils.  And how many times did I hear her comment that the only thing about oil was, it took the paintings forever to dry. . . .
Mom painted mountains and rivers and forest scenes and bodies of water.  Much later, by the time I was in high school, she would prefer painting in acrylics and would be selling her artwork--mostly landscapes and wildlife--in local shops and in both Farmington and Mystic, Connecticut, as well. 
While home a few months ago, I lamented that I hadn't saved any of her old paintings.  She had always sold them or given them as gifts, and it seemed such a loss that we had none of them--and not even pictures of any of them.  "Oh," she said looking pleased to have been asked, "I still have one canvas somewhere in the basement.  I don't know if it's in your colors, but you can have it if you want it."  She rummaged around downstairs for a few minutes before handing me this orange sunset. 
I treasure it, of course. 
Mom's paintings were beautiful, both in what they captured and in what they represent to me now:  My young mother--just-turned thirty--only thirty!  almost a decade younger than I am now--became interested in something, set out to learn how to do it, did it, and managed to do it without a proper or permanent work-space and while busy raising three young children.  My younger brother was only a newborn when she started, I was in kindergarten, and our older brother was around eight years old.  I think of my mom, getting us off to school, taking care of my then-baby brother, doing everything that needed to be done around the house, and still carving out the time to set up easel and paints in our little kitchen, only to disassemble it all each afternoon so she could be ready for us by the time we got home--and simply because it made her happy and she loved it. It mattered to her, and so, she made the time.  Beautiful. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Past Two (Lazy, Indoor) Weeks

Well, I highly recommend kicking off a new year by conquering one's fears and achieving something that's been on the To-Do list for ages.  It's infused the past two weeks with significantly more lightness and dance-around-the-apartment-to-my-favorite-songs JOY than I usually feel in January and February, for sure.  In the spirit of celebration last week, I treated Stuffed to a comfy new cat bed--and he's actually been curled up in it, wonder of wonders--and a catnip ball, and I gave Mike an amazon gift card.  We can all use some extra fun here in these weeks of day-after-day of forehead-freezing wind and back-wrenchingly slippery sidewalks.  I got my taxes done this week.  And filled out some student loan paperwork that had been on my to-do list too long.  And got another box of books and book characters ready to mail to the school.  And worked at my job, of course.  Otherwise, I have been lazily cuddled up with an afghan more often than not:  reading stretched out in bed, reading in my chair with my feet tucked under me, or refilling glass-after-glass of chocolate almond milk, hot chocolate, or iced tea while making my way through the episodes of "The West Wing" that I missed when it was still on TV.  In short, aside from a few must-do duties, I've spent the past two weeks vegging out, and it's been lovely.  I treated myself to the dvd of the first season of "Downton Abbey"--I've only ever seen some the first episode--and plan to relax with that sometime soon, as well.  Eleanor Roosevelt's book You Learn By Living is brilliant.  I admire her so, especially for her managing her shyness so beautifully.  I have only a few pages left in J.K. Rowling's The Silkworm, Steve Berry's The Lincoln Myth, and Steven Rigolosi's The Outsmarting of Criminals:  A Mystery Introducing Miss Felicity Prim.  I've been skipping around in Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun--one of your favorite books, Lisa, I know!--since around Thanksgiving, probably.  I'm a fast reader, but I like just reading a section or so of that book and waiting awhile to dip back into it.  It is a soothing read, with some of the most beautiful writing.  Patti Smith's Just Kids has been hauntingly beautiful too.  And "Mrs. Mimi's" teaching memoir, It's Not All Flowers and Sausages:  My Adventures in Second Grade, along with Searching for a Savior:  The Trials and Triumphs of a First-Year Teacher, because I've never been able to shake the idea of giving a teaching career a second go.  (I taught two months of middle school when I was twenty-four.)  We'll see.  For now, I'm reading and watching and thinking and daydreaming:  teaching kindergarteners how to read, solving mysteries with Cormoran Strike and other detectives who need my expertise, assisting Josh and Donna at the White House, falling asleep while an owl watches over me from my bedroom windowsill in Tuscany, discussing shyness and fear-conquering and driver's license-acquiring with Mrs. Roosevelt. . . .The rest of me continually re-wraps itself into a blanket, only getting up to pour another drink or to feed the cat, but my head--Well!  My head and I, we're GOING places, I tell you.  :)