M is for…

May 9, 2015 4 comments

More than the greeting-card line that will be read and heard countless times this Mother’s Day weekend.

And while I add my own praise and gratitude to the Mothers in my life, and the Million things they have done and continue to do, M is also the beginning of meaningful words that have nothing to do with maternity.  To name a few and what they’ve come to mean to me :

DSC03619-BM is for Money.  A mantra I recently coined for myself: Make sure I control Money.  Don’t let it control me.

M is for Math.

file0001330166183 Without it there wouldn’t be money.  But it’s more important than that.  Math is a key player in “The Theory of Everything” —  not justhe movie, but in the governing principles of the universe.

M is for Mentoring.  Mentoring is a word that regularly pops up on business, writing, and the business-of-writing sites.  I saw it on a blog post just last week. file000729042698  My online dictionary defines mentoring as advising or counseling a younger colleague.  It also points out that a mentor is someone trusted. Unsaid is that mentoring is usually unpaid.

It may be a newer buzz word, but Mentoring has been around as long as families. It’s what those of us who are oldest daughters grew up doing, though we didn’t volunteer for the position and I’m not sure our younger siblings would have called it that.  It usually manifested itself in mantras like “Do what your sister tells you to do.”  While that was sometimes seen by siblings as an invitation to tyranny,   it was more often viewed by those of us in that position as a mandate to set a responsible example, as in “You’re the oldest, you should know better.”  We were expected to pass along life lessons along with homework help.

And now I realize Mentoring is a life-long opportunity for everyone.

Before moving from Kansas to Colorado, I’d spent four years tutoring in a remarkable program that provided assistance to local community-college students struggling to learn despite being physically, emotionally, or cognitively challenged.  It was called tutoring, but it went far beyond explaining academic material.  It involved time, effort, encouragement and trust.  Those words sum up Mentoring.  I am not currently involved in any formal mentoring, but opportunities to do so informally, like Math, exist in everything.  I recently discovered them in the success stories shared in a support group.

On the coffee table in her living room, my mother kept a bowl of those little round candies imprinted with an M – you know the ones that melt in your mouth, etc.  Thanks, Mom, for an idea worth replicating. I’ve begun purchasing packages of the tempting morsels.  The contents now frequently spill into a bowl on my own living-room table, inviting others to share some sweetness and reminding me of the Many things I can count on in life.

Categories: General Tags: , , ,

Orchid-Speak or Why I Changed My FB Pic

May 5, 2015 5 comments

CAM00392 copy

Art imitates life, they say.  But in my home, life has become art.   Specifically,  an orchid that is now for me an objet d’art .   Arcing in hues  from boldest to barely blue, it commands the surrounding space, silently shouting “Pay attention to me.”   I’ve become enamored of this exotic plant.  So much so that I photographed it.

Which brings me to Facebook.    Previously an image of a blue butterfly served as  my FB “photo.”  It was a stock drawing, available to any and all for creative use.  I had chosen it because butterflies emerge from cocoons and fly free. I liked that symbolism.  It’s still a nice idea, but I no longer want someone else’s work (even at no charge) to represent me.  Nor is my self-image any longer that of a butterfly, social or otherwise.  Time to proclaim a new public persona.

If you look closely at  the above photo, you’ll see there’s a new, pale flower that doesn’t have the darker colors of its predecessors.  In fact, it’s not even from the same branch, but from a side off-shoot I had overlooked when I bought the plant.  Just above the newly emerging  blossom is a shriveled, not-going to-make-it floweret. Both of them are surrounded by an abundance of beautiful blooms.

In a thought-provoking little book, When I Loved Myself Enough, author Kim McMillen repeated the name of the book on each page and then added what she saw happening in herself as a result.  On one page she wrote, “I began seeing the abuse in trying to force something or someone who isn’t ready — including me.“  On a later page, she continued, “The impulsive part of me learned to wait for the right time.”

Maybe she had an orchid in her home.  Because as I’ve  learned from contemplating this exotic plant,  you don’t force an orchid.   It’s going to wait to open a pregnant bud and birth a beautiful blossom until it somehow knows the time is right.  So it is with me.

I’ll intuitively know when it’s time, so to speak,  to blossom socially again. And I’ve learned as a writer — sometimes to my dismay — that  I have to let some ideas  wither on the vine and focus instead on other ones that are appearing right before my eyes.

Before getting this plant, the only thing I knew about orchids was that they were the prized corsages at prom-time.  I had no idea they have a language of their own that I can hear if I sit quietly and listen.  It took a while to learn orchid-speak.

Now the more I sit silently with it, the more this orchid slowly reveals what’s budding in both of us.

Orchid-speak or Why I Changed My FB Pic

Categories: General

Orchid-speak or Why I Changed My FB Pic

CAM00392 copy

Art imitates life, they say.  But in my home, life has become art.   Specifically,  an orchid that is now for me an objet d’art .   Arcing in hues  from boldest to barely blue, it commands the surrounding space, silently shouting “Pay attention to me.”   I’ve become enamored of this exotic plant.  So much so that I photographed it.

Which brings me to Facebook.    Previously an image of a blue butterfly served as  my FB “photo.”  It was a stock drawing, available to any and all for creative use.  I had chosen it because butterflies emerge from cocoons and fly free. I liked that symbolism.  It’s still a nice idea, but I no longer want someone else’s work (even at no charge) to represent me.  Nor is my self-image any longer that of a butterfly, social or otherwise.  Time to proclaim a new public persona.

If you look closely at  the above photo, you’ll see there’s a new, pale flower that doesn’t have the darker colors of its predecessors.  In fact, it’s not even from the same branch, but from a side off-shoot I had overlooked when I bought the plant.  Just above the newly emerging  blossom is a shriveled, not-going to-make-it floweret. Both of them are surrounded by an abundance of beautiful blooms.

In a thought-provoking little book, When I Loved Myself Enough, author Kim McMillen repeated the name of the book on each page and then added what she saw happening in herself as a result.  On one page she wrote, “I began seeing the abuse in trying to force something or someone who isn’t ready — including me.“  On a later page, she continued, “The impulsive part of me learned to wait for the right time.”

Maybe she had an orchid in her home.  Because as I’ve  learned from contemplating this exotic plant,  you don’t force an orchid.   It’s going to wait to open a pregnant bud and birth a beautiful blossom until it somehow knows the time is right.  So it is with me.

I’ll intuitively know when it’s time, so to speak,  to blossom socially again. And I’ve learned as a writer — sometimes to my dismay — that  I have to let some ideas  wither on the vine and focus instead on other ones that are appearing right before my eyes.

Before getting this plant, the only thing I knew about orchids was that they were the prized corsages at prom-time.  I had no idea they have a language of their own that I can hear if I sit quietly and listen.  It took a while to learn orchid-speak.

Now the more I sit silently with it, the more this orchid slowly reveals what’s budding in both of us.

Not the usual bucket list

April 29, 2015 5 comments

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“Who am I?  Oh, that’s the great puzzle.”

Today I’m challenging the claim made in that famous quote from Lewis Carroll’s  Alice in Wonderland with my own newly discovered befuddler.   What do I want? Oh, that’s the great puzzle.

It’s the question a walking friend and I discussed as we summited an uphill path last week.  We weren’t talking about things.  We both meant what we wanted out of life. Neither of us answered our own question.  Maybe it was because we were at the end of our walk.  More likely it was that we didn’t feel confident that we knew.

I kept thinking about it after I returned home.   What do I want — out of life?  Hoping to find out, I made a list.   It included things I wanted to be, things I wanted to do.    Then like a child at Christmas, I began culling,  crossing off the ones that I knew in my core weren’t truly important. Two items remained: having meaningful relationships and being/doing what’s relevant.

As usual, whether I’m thinking with my fingers when writing or my feet when walking, quotes came to mind: “Do that which makes you feel most vitally alive” (William James). “You must do that which you think you cannot do  (Eleanor Roosevelt).

What makes me most vitally alive?  After relationships with family and friends — Writing.  Connecting and  communicating with people, sharing what I see as  Relevant. Through a blog, for example.  Or a book.

As many of you know, I began working several years ago on a book about oldest daughters.  I am convinced from personal experience, observation, research and interviews that the position of oldest daughters is unique in the way it impacts the three S’s in adult families — Self, Siblings, Spouses.   Relationships.

In the course of writing the book, my own oldest daughter who is a clinical psychologist specializing in women’s issues, joined me as co-author. She provides her professional perspective in our book through commentaries and questions for family reflection.   The book was finished last month.

What follows now is the search for just the right agent/publisher. It’s not what gives meaning to my life.  It’s not Writing for me.  It’s a combination of researching,  contacting,  and self-marketing.  That last is  something I’m not comfortable with.  Enter Eleanor’s mandate.  It’s not that I think I cannot do it .  It’s that I resist doing it.

So the question morphs.  Will I do What it Takes to get What I Want?

This past week a friend called, concerned about a blending of families that may be taking place in the  life of one of her children. I told her about an oldest daughter who’d become a middle child in a blended family.  “Tiffany’s” experiences, related in our book,  resonated with my friend.  The power of story.

However, such stories have no meaning unless they’re told and read.  And that won’t happen, dear Eleanor, unless I make myself fall through the looking glass into my relevant wonderland.

Discovering a new letter

April 16, 2015 9 comments

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Of the 26 letters in our alphabet, there are two I have recently found distasteful: W and V.   Like Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I’ve discovered each of these letters pinned to my chest in the last few months and I have wanted to rip them off.

The letter W— for Widow.   Did I think ignoring or getting rid of that one would somehow change my reality???!!!

The letter V— for Vulnerable.  A word that probably most people don’t want to have attached to themselves; and oldest daughters generally— and particularly this one — really reject.

Last week I watched an interview with NY Times columnist David Brooks about his new book, The Road to Character.  One of the key points he makes is that we are all flawed and that the key to becoming a better person is identifying your weak spot.

That’s where the V word comes back in. A definite weak spot for me.  I don’t like being vulnerable.  I much prefer being in control.  Ask for help? Huh uh.   Against my nature.  Lead the way. Meet challenges and plow right on through.

But God/the universe/whatever you choose as a name knows just when to step in. And nothing subtle .  After watching the interview, I couldn’t miss a regular, morning meditation that appeared that day in my inbox with the title, Ask for Help.

For the past several months I’d been ignoring a hospice-sponsored newsletter with information about grief-support groups. My thinking:  If I called them, if I went to a meeting, I’d just be reinforcing the W and V words. I so didn’t want to do that.  But I could no longer refuse.

Yesterday I went to my first meeting.  I cried through half of it.  It was a safe place to do so.  No need to put on a “just fine” face.  Everyone there — those mourning the loss of spouses, or a daughter, a son, a  parent,  a pet — understood.  The boxes of Kleenex at each end of the long table were reached for frequently.  As were the pitchers of water.  (Did you know that there’s a need for the body to replenish the water lost through tears?)

We are all in this Together.  It’s an expression I’ve heard so many times, it had lost it’s meaning. As  had the adage, It’s by our weakness that we are made strong.

I’ll go back to the meetings.  The W and V are still on my chest.  But I’ve added a bigger one: T.

The Power of the Pin

January 8, 2015 2 comments

An Arabic “N.” A single letter in red on a white background, graces a round, button-shaped pin that has been on my desk for the last several weeks.  The intended message of the pin:  “I am with you.”

The Arabic “N,” pronounced either “noon” or “nun,” is the letter with which ISIS marks the homes of those who follow the Nazarene (Christians) after overtaking a town.  The mark tells the marauding militants that everything and everyone within,  including the elderly, women and children, are there for the taking.  It doesn’t take much of an imagination to know what that means.

The pins are the project of a Colorado businessman who uses his own resources to produce them.  It’s his goal to raise awareness about the brutality occurring to those he calls “our brothers and sisters” and to promote solidarity with them.  I learned about the “N” buttons several weeks ago when Mike, the businessman, was making them available at the back of the church I attend. I made a donation and asked him for several to give to friends and family.  Handing the pins to me,  Mike said, “All I ask is that you wear the button and explain what’s going on when people ask.”

That should be the end of my story, but it’s not. As I headed for the mall the next day and started to put on the pin, I stopped.  What if people don’t ask and instead assume that this Arabic letter means that I’m a sympathizer with Islamic radicals? Or–and possibly more worrisome–What if by wearing it I make myself a target  for some faceless radical? 

An oldest daughter, I grew up with the expectation that I would do what is right, be an example for my younger siblings. Now suddenly, I was having to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Am I willing to forego the comfort of anonymity by taking even a small, personal yet visible stand against violence? I remembered the quote usually attributed to Gandhi, “The only thing worse than violence is cowardice in the face of violence.”

Yesterday Paris and much of the western world was shocked by the brutal slaughter of journalists by Islamic radicals.  The journalists, writers, editors, and especially cartoonists had used the power of the pen in ways that made them targets.  Today newspapers around the world, government officials, and tens of thousands on the streets of Paris and the tweets of social medial are finding ways to stand together for freedom of the press – to prove that “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

I don’t know if the pin can also be mightier than the sword; but it is one, small personal way I can stand with those whose very lives are threatened.  A pin is personal.  It says  something about what is valuable to the wearer.  Today I pinned the “N” to my jacket and headed for the mall.

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More information about the “N” project is available through nazarenenun@comcast.net .

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