“To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is . . . at last, to love it for what it is.” ~Virginia Woolf

Carnations by Zengame (FCC)

                   

“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” ~ Honoré de Balzac

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you out there.

My youngest son Brett informed me today that he believes Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to be stupid holidays as they are all about making people spend money . . . Okay . . .

I told him that I agreed that most holidays are greeting card conspiracies for commercialization, but that I was pretty certain that Mother’s Day did not begin that way. And guess what? I was right.

After doing a bit of quick Internet research, this is what I learned about the holiday:

After the Civil War, some attempts were made by women’s peace groups who held meetings attended by mothers whose sons had fought or died in the Civil War. The practice did not extend beyond local level. In 1868, Ann Jarvis (mother of Anna Marie) “created a committee to establish a ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’  to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.” Mother Jarvis had plans to expand the Friendship Day into an annual celebration for mothers, but her death in 1905 prevented her from seeing her dream realized.

Others who were involved in the creation of Mother’s Day include Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day proclamation in 1872, as well as Juliet Calhoun Blakely and her two traveling salesmen sons in 1877. Frank Hering called for a “national day to honor our mothers in 1904.” However, the elder Jarvis’s daughter Anna Marie took up her mother’s cause and is recognized as the creator of the holiday that became national and then international.

Jarvis came up with the idea for a day to honor mothers on the second Sunday in May 1907, which was the first anniversary of her mother’s death. Supposedly, Jarvis persuaded a Philadelphia church to hold a special service for her mother. Subsequently, every church in the country was holding special services. Jarvis even obtained a copyright on the phrase “Mother’s Day” from the Patent Office.

Finally, on On May 9, 1914 after years of letter writing and campaigning by the younger Jarvis, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson issued the official proclamation declaring the first Mother’s Day as a day for citizens to show the American flag in honor of sons who had died in war.

In an article in Time magazine in 1938, Anna Marie Jarvis is indeed recognized as the creator of the holiday; however, by the time of the article, Jarvis declared that “whenever she thinks of what the flower shops, the candy stores, the telegraph companies have done with her idea, she is disgusted.” (Brett would have probably liked Anna Jarvis.) Jarvis spent most of her remaining money in her continued efforts to fight to keep Mother’s Day from being promoted as nothing more than another occasion for people to buy expensive gifts, and as we now know, she didn’t succeed.

Border Carnation

Interestingly, Eleanor Roosevelt is pointed out in the same article as saying that flowers are “sweet and nice” but that something “ought to be done for the 14,000 mothers who die every year from childbirth.” I think that many of us have forgotten just how dangerous the entire act of becoming a mother used to be. According to Wikipedia (yes, I used Wikipedia; it’s not a thesis for god’s sake), “global maternal mortality in 2008 at 342,900 (down from 526,300 in 1980), of which less than 1 percent occurred in the developed world.”

As a side note, carnations are considered the official flower of the holiday. The younger Jarvis delivered 500 of them in 1908 as carnations had been her mother’s favorite flower. Today, of course, florists push any flower available, and it was florists in the early part of the century who pushed red carnations for women whose mother’s were still living, and white carnations for women who had lost their mothers.

Now, armed with this information, go buy a single carnation for your mother, and instead of candy or perfume, wash her car or her windows. She’ll thank you for it.

More later. Peace.

P.S. Brett, in the end, every celebration becomes a mere bastardized version of its former self. It is up to you to interpret holidays as you wish, not to follow the prescribed path of those who have trodden before you. You will find that when you attach your own meaning and your own memories to something, in the end, what is precious belongs to you. What Mother’s Day means to me is not what is means to you, and it shouldn’t be. For me, it is a bittersweet day fraught with love and sadness. That is mine. What it becomes for you only time will reveal.

Music by Ronan Keating, “This Is Your Song”

                   

Cradle Song

Her grandfather
had crafted the bed from the hardwood trees
in the dense woods behind the house.
Her mother had lain securely in its curves,
and she, too, had been comforted by its gentle sway.
Years later, spring brought her own girl child.
Each night, she would lay the baby in the cradle,
cover her with a soft blanket,
and soothe her with hushed lullabies
whispered in the summer twilight.

With her hand on the knotted wood
worn smooth by time and love,
the woman would rock the bed gently,
and guide her babe into untroubled slumber.
The tranquility of this evening ritual
became the woman’s talisman for her babe
against the dark and unknown.
Until the day arrived
when the girl-child became ill,
and was taken away
to be succored by strangers.
never to return to the enfolding arms
of the woman or the idle cradle.

After that,
the woman would stand by the cradle in the evening,
and sing quiet songs to the air made silent by her loss.
Alone in the terrible stillness,
she would gather the blanket in her arms,
and inhale deeply—searching for the essence
that might still cling to the barren cloth.
Sometimes, she would stroke the sheets,
her hands seeking warmth
from the hollow where the baby’s head had lain.
Once, she found a single, dark hair,
She wrapped it in white tissue and placed it in a box,
along with a small, cloth doll
and a faded red bow she had tied in her daughter’s hair
one fall morning.

Her husband never understood
her need to find solace from things no longer used.
He wanted to remove the cradle,
the source of her pain.
But she asked him to leave it
until the trees were heavy again with spring blooms,
until she could imprint all that the child had been,
before time began to fade the image,
and she would be left alone,
with nothing but remembrance, an empty cradle
and echoes of soft night songs of love.

Lolita Liwag

“By contemplating the impermanence of everything in the world, we are forced to recognize that every time we do something could be the last time we do it, and this recognition can invest the things we do with a significance and intensity that would otherwise be absent. We will no longer sleepwalk through our life.” ~ William B. Irvine


Freshly Cut Pink Peonies
                   

“And the hands pick flowers
And the soul takes no notice.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Peony Rose by MinimialistPhotography101.com (Flckr creative commons)

Saturday, early evening. Sunny and mild, 71° F

What a long strange week it’s been. Corey worked two double shifts, and as a result, is dead tired. Brett finished his exams for spring semester and is now preparing to take the summer off from studies. He finished the year with a 3.5 GPA, an A-/B+, which I think is terribly impressive.

Eamonn did not do as well, although he did do better than he has been doing. I’m not sure if his GPA will be strong enough for him to transfer to ODU this semester, but we are going to apply in the hopes that he can get in. I really think that he would like ODU better than community college as it will feel more like he is in college than continuing high school.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the U.S., and I am really not looking forward to it, mostly for reasons that I will elaborate on further later. I was hoping that we would have the pool open for Mother’s Day, but it doesn’t look as if that’s going to be possible. We had to order a part for the filter (luckily under $10), and that hasn’t arrived yet. Of course, not having the pool cleaned hasn’t stopped Tillie from accidentally/on purpose jumping into the pool and making big splashes. She is growing impatient with us as she is obviously ready for swimming season.

“The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.” ~ Basso

Mobara Peony Garden Mobara-shi (city), Chiba-ken,(Prefecture), Japan by TANAKA Juuyoh FCC

On Friday, I went to see my other m-in-law at the rehab center. Ann, my sister-in-law told me on Wednesday that Yvonne will not be coming home. She has stopped trying to feed herself, and she won’t do physical therapy. She has also been having problems with swallowing. I had planned to visit on Thursday with Ann, but unfortunately, I had one of my sleepless nights and was completely out of it Thursday morning. Amazingly, Alexis went with her Aunt Ann to visit.

Since I wasn’t sleeping, I called our s-in-law in Germany at 2:30 a.m. (8:30 their time). Ann had called last time, so I told her I would do it this time. She seem prepared for the news. Her own mother had died of Parkinson’s about five years ago, and Helma had been the primary caretaker. The plans are for the Germans to come at the end of July; we’re all hoping that they will not have to come sooner.

I cut some fresh peonies from the front yard and took them with me when I visited. Yvonne has always loved peonies. When I arrived at 11:30, my m-in-law was still asleep in bed. Her nurse came in and asked me if I would mind leaving the room for a bit as she was going to get her up and dressed so that she could go to speech therapy for lunch.

We went to the speech therapy room on the first floor, and the therapist put my m-in-law’s food tray in front of her. She reached for the fork and began to feed herself. I have never been so glad to see such a small victory in my life. She did really well, but got tired about half way through, so I fed her the rest of her lunch. She had no problems in swallowing anything.

After her meal, of which she ate almost all, I took her back to the room, and we talked. She was very coherent and not her usually mumbling self. I told her about all of the outrageous hats at the royal wedding, and she laughed. We talked about the flowers that are in bloom, and a few other things, and for the most part, she was with me.

It’s probably one of the best conversations that I’ve had with her in a while.

“I don’t trust the truth of memories
because what leaves us
departs
forever ” ~ Anna Kamienska, from “A Path in the Woods”

Peonies at Window by Muffet (FCC)

Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to leave, I leaned in to hug and kiss her, and she jumped. I had scared her; then she told me something that really bothered me. I won’t go into the details because it’s private, but the gist is that she thinks someone is coming into her room at night.

Now ordinarily I might say that it’s the dementia that was talking, but I don’t think so. She was completely coherent and cogent the entire time we were together. She remembered names, and she even asked how her old house was doing without her.

I had to stop myself from marching down to the administrator’s office and raising hell as it isn’t my place to do so. But I didn’t want to leave her alone. These are the very reasons that so many people do not feel comfortable in placing their elderly and disabled relatives in homes. What goes on when you aren’t there?

The population in rehabilitative facilities is completely at risk in so many ways: fires, natural disasters, caregivers who do not care, and caregivers who abuse.

I am sick with anger, sick with guilt over my helplessness in this situation. This is not how I want this woman to spend her final days. No one deserves to be helpless, at the mercy of people who ignore their plights, or worse, who take advantage of such helplessness. I debated whether to call Ann, who was on her way to Blacksburg to pick up my niece from Virginia Tech. Finally, I called. At the very least, she could make a telephone call and request that her mother not have a male nurse.

I mean, if it is dementia, which is what abusers hope such things will be chalked up to, and it is merely a male nurse who is getting her ready for bed, then if she doesn’t have a male nurse, then she won’t misconstrue the situation. But if it’s something else, it is going to be damned hard to prove.

“At the doorstep you will know
the moment we have
 left to live.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from “The Stranger”

Peonies by Narith5 (FCC)

I just don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to call my ex, but I know that he will not react well, and I don’t know if that would upset my sister-in-law. The family dynamics are so touchy. Ann has been in charge of making all of the decisions as she is the one who has been there full-time caring for her mother.

None of us can be at the facility all of the time. If she really isn’t coming home again, then what is the best thing to do? I cannot stand the thoughts of anyone trespassing on this woman’s privacy, and she has always been a very private, proper woman. At the same time, she was always a woman who took no gruff from anyone.

So you see why Mother’s Day does not really feel like a time to celebrate for me. Eamonn asked me to take him to see his grandmother on Mother’s Day as he was supposed to go with Alexis on Friday morning before he had to go to work, but surprise! She didn’t wake up. I told him that I would take him. Brett is still grappling over whether or not he wants to go. He knows that he should go, but doesn’t know if he is able after how traumatized he was last time.

I cannot really help with this as there is absolutely no way of predicting what shape she will be in on any given day. She could be having a great day, like she did with me, or she could be having a terrible day, like she was earlier in the week. I know that it had to be bad for Ann to go ahead and sign the papers committing her to long-term care, which, by the way, will cost $7,000 a month.

A month. That’s horrible. As long as she still owns half of her house, then Medicaid will consider that an asset. So now the decision over what to do with the house arises: Let my father-in-law have it completely . . . The thought of that really irks me.

“No, none of us seem so very real.
We’re only supporting characters in the lives of each other.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

Pink Peonies in Mason Jar

I haven’t really spoken of my other father-in-law in this blog, and that’s because I lost tremendous respect for him when he walked out on my m-in-law in 1992 for a younger woman with whom he had been having an affair.

He now lives in a big house on the water thanks to the other woman’s money (which she inherited from her dead ex-husband, whom she left for my f-in-law, as well as some money from relatives). This is the same woman (who looks remarkably like Camilla Parker Bowles, I kid you not), who uninvited me from the family party last summer, so definitely no love lost between us.

Anyway, my ex-f-in-law doesn’t need the money from the house my m-in-law was living in as he is taken care of quite well. He has half of his Navy retirement, half of his school retirement, and all that he does any more is hang out on the back porch and smoke (his health has declined badly, as well).

I don’t hate the man; I loved and admired him greatly at one time. But I have never forgiven him for what he did to my m-in-law. It’s that blind loyalty thing of mine kicking in once again. That and the fact that he completely lost contact with his grandchildren when he left. At the time, the boys were babies, but Alexis was used to spending time with her grandfather, and he made no effort to do anything with her, not until years later after he married his true love and they set up in the big house.

Bitter? A wee bit.

” . . . the old heart

In which I sleep, in which my sleep increases, in which
My grief is ponderous, in which the leaves are falling,
In which the streets are long, in
which the night

Is dark, in which the sky is great, the old heart
That murmurs to me of
what cannot go on,
Of the dancing, of the inmost dancing.”  ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor: A Poem”

Pale Pink Peony in Bloom by Muffet (FCC)

Family dynamics are so hard and so complicated, a bit like eggs really. Eggs in the wild bring new life, but cracked, the process of development stops abruptly. Conversely, the eggs that we eat become stronger when immersed in hot water, as if the very process of being exposed to harsh elements toughens both the outside and the inside.

People can be fragile, or they can be tough, and sometimes, they can be both at the same time. Put into a basket together, some fare better than others, as is the case in families.

We come together, and at times it can be precarious, and sometimes it seems as if we are safer when we are apart. But who among us does not sigh a bit sadly when coming upon a small blue cracked egg upon the ground beneath a tree because we know that but for the elements or the creatures in the night, a baby robin’s song would have become part of the background music of life.

Sorry, a bit sappy, I know.

More later. Peace.

Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Hope for the Hopeless”

                    

What Kinds of Times are These

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.

~ Adrienne Rich

“It is the bruises that allow us to recognize the value of the discovery.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Those Who Dance . . .*

                   

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost

Sunday afternoon. Chilly and cloudy.

Surf Near Eyries on the Beara Peninsula, Ireland

I awoke with a migraine, this after not falling asleep until well after 4 a.m. Not the best night.

I dreamed about a neighbor’s yard sale in which couches of all kinds were spread across the lawn for sale. As I moved among the couches, I began to encounter pianos of all ages and in various states. Most of the couches were ugly, and most of the pianos were beautiful. It was a strange dream.

Corey is just coming off a double shift (16 hours straight), so I imagine that he will be going to bed after spending a little time playing with Tillie. All three dogs had baths yesterday so that we could administer flea medicine before fleas become a problem; living so near a marsh, fleas abound in this area. Shakes always has the worst time with any kind of biting insect, but today he is already noticeably scratching less.

I have two upcoming doctors’ appointments this week, but I will have to postpone both as the input of cash did not stretch far enough for the output demands. Hate it when that happens.

And yes, I will freely admit it: I watched the royal nuptials, and realized a few things: I am old enough to remember the wedding between Diana and Charles (hated that dress), and the princes being born, and the new Duchess’s dress had the same Queen Anne neckline and Chantilly lace that my first wedding dress had. Was she retro, or was I ahead of my time?

“Today I’m mixed up, like someone who thought something and grasped it, then lost  it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Peak

So I haven’t really moved beyond this downturn in my mood, and the fact that this computer is really acting up today is not helping anything. For example, the poem excerpt that I have included below—I’m searching on key lines to find the title of the poem, not just the title of the book, but I’m getting absolutely nowhere. I hope that I am able to post without going through hours of aggravation. I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens.

I think that part of it is that I’m having lots of work dreams again, and in these dreams my consciousness always interrupts and says you can’t be working because you’re on disability. I’ve done this again and again in my dreams: gone back to one of my former jobs, not told anyone that I was on disability, lost my benefits. It happened again last night.

And then I remember all of those years while I was working, and I wished so badly that I didn’t have to work so that I would have the time to write. Yep. See how that’s working out for me?

Do I even know what I’m saying? Probably not.

Mother’s day is coming up, and to be truthful, I’m approaching it with a sense of dread, a sense that something is going to happen. You see, several years ago after Alexis graduated and before she was dating Mike, she spent about half a year living with various friends, sometimes sleeping in her car because she didn’t want to have to follow any rules.

Then when Mother’s Day came, and I was certain that I wouldn’t hear from her, I came home and found a long letter from her in which she apologized for how she had been acting. I called her and asked her to come back home. I don’t want one of those letters this year, mostly because I don’t want to have to react, don’t know how I would react.

This whole situation gives me such angst. If I can keep myself from dwelling on it, I find that I am better.

“A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves.  That’s all any room is.” ~ Jean Rhys, from Good Morning, Midnight, 1939

Surf Running: Oregon Coast Storm November 2009

I’ve been thinking about Belgium. Don’t know why really other than it seems that it would be a lovely place to live or at least, to visit, near France without being in France. Of course, I know nothing about Belgium other than what I see in pictures.

Do you know what I really want at this moment? I want windows. How very boring of me, right? You see, our windows are very old storm windows, and most of the screens are gone or torn, which means that opening windows on a day such as today is worthless; the lack of screens means that all kinds of flying critters could come in. Not being able to open the windows means that I cannot sit on my bed and read while enjoying a fresh breeze.

I used to love morning breezes that made the curtains sway ever so slightly, the scents from the roses and the jasmine wafting in subtly on the breeze. I miss that.

It’s such a simple thing; I know, but I miss many simple things. I miss our drives to the Outer Banks when the boys were young, how we would spend Sundays on the beach, climbing the dunes, having dinner and then driving home tired and sandy. Of course, I miss the boys being boys and not the young men they are now, with their own lives, their own favorite things to do that have nothing to do with me or Corey.

I miss so much and so little that it’s hard to discern between the two. Is my longing to be back in front of a classroom a small or a big thing? My dreams of pianos, which I have been having of late, do they signify my longing to get back to playing Chopin and Beethoven, or is it just the idea of sitting at the piano that I miss?

I miss friendship on a daily basis, friendship with Mari, our lunches together at the cafeteria, sitting in her back yard in the Adirondack chairs, drinking tea or Lime Rickeys, talking about everything.

I miss: such a powerful phrase, loaded with meaning and intent.

“And more and more my language appears to me like a veil which  one has to tear apart in order to get to those things (or the nothingness) lying behind it.” ~ Samuel Beckett, The Letters

No Fear

So many words, so many possible interpretations.

When Corey and I first married, we had such plans to do so many things. Some of them we have done, yet so many are yet to be realized. Our tenth anniversary is in two weeks. We’ve been together eleven years. But the reality is that the past three years have been to a great extent years of being on hold, waiting for circumstances to change, to get better, so that we can . . . fill in the blank here.

Life on hold isn’t living, not really. And I fear that both of us have become so used to living this way that we have become gun shy, hesitant to bank on too much for fear of yet again being unable to make the dream a reality. This isn’t living; it’s existing, and that isn’t how it was supposed to be.

So many things beyond our control on which to affix the blame, and then how much of the blame is ours? I fear that we have become inured to hardship, so much so that we have begun to forget how to dream. That saddens me more than I can begin to express.

I know that I wear my heart upon my sleeve; that is quite obvious by the things that I write here, that I put out into the ether for general consumption. I have always been this way, but that’s not to say that it is a good thing as I know that it can be painful, that it can feed that pain. This is why I chose the particular passage that I did to accompany this post: at times, I am like Hamlet: both melancholy and in need of vengeance, the two opposing emotions constantly at battle.

But at times I feel that I am also like Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, stranded on an island for so long that my vision has become occluded, in the midst of a storm of my own creation, with some of my books and a daughter who longs to know who she is. Past is prologue . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Lizz Wright, “When I Fall”

                   

Do you, like Hamlet, dread the unknown?
But what is known? What do you really
know
Such that you can call anything “unknown”?
Do you, like Falstaff,
love life with all its fat?
If you love it so materially, then love it even
more materially
By becoming a bodily part of the earth and of
things!
Scatter yourself, O physicochemical system
Of nocturnally
conscious cells,
Over the nocturnal consciousness of the unconsciousness of

bodies,
Over the huge blanket of appearances that blankets
nothing,
Over the grass and weeds of proliferating beings,
Over the atomic
fog of things,
Over the whirling walls
Of the dynamic void that’s the
world . . .

~ Fernando Pessoa, from A Little Larger Than the Entire  Universe

                   

*All pictures in this post used with permission from russell.tomlin, whose pictures can also be found on Solitary Vision