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Orchid-Speak or Why I Changed My FB Pic

May 5, 2015 5 comments

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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

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.

Just puzzling…

December 31, 2014 1 comment

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Here in my neck of the woods, it is C-O-L-D.  Tonight’s actual temp is predicted to be 15 below zero with a windchill of 35 below!!!!  I’ve been staying snug indoors with books, movies, and a puzzle.  And what a puzzle it is. One thousand pieces that when all put together will look like Mount Rushmore.

Yesterday I began sorting the 1000 pieces according to color and shapes. This afternoon I finally got to the fun part and have now succeeded in putting all the edge pieces together to form a completed frame.  Sort of.  A couple of the pieces had required force fitting and so don’t lie completely flat.  I’ve discovered that some of the pieces that look almost alike are not interchangeable.  Each of the lookalikes would really fit better and the puzzle would lie flat as intended, instead of with ever-so-tiny bumps,  if I found the correct place and switched the pieces.

As I was comparing pieces and moving them around, I realized the multi-colored puzzle is actually a good metaphor for where I am in life.

Where do I fit in this new, upcoming year? 

What/where can I make a contribution to this world I am part of? 

I don’t want to find that I’m forcing myself into a position that would appear at first glance to work only because I haven’t looked around to see what other options might be a better fit.

With six bowls filled with color-organized pieces and my mind filled with questions about the future, I’m aware that both the puzzle on my mat and the one in my spirit will probably take longer to figure out than the current cold snap will last.  That’s okay.

It is, after all, the time of year to sort things out and then start to put the pieces together. And to remember that — though sometimes frustrating — completing a puzzle is most often fun and rewarding.

Happy New Year to all!

What now.2

July 23, 2014 1 comment

My husband has been in the hospital for the past several days for a barrage of tests. I mention this because in my last post I asked, “What now, oldest daughter?” How are we to use the leadership and/or nurturing that is such a part of us? How are we to honor what makes us feel most alive? Especially when when uninvited interrupters shred our plans? That was the situation facing Judy, a professional musician, wife, mother and grandmother, who shares her story of “what now” in the following guest blog.

My husband, Leroy, and I had five children. Thirty years ago Sarah, our 15-year-old daughter was abducted walking home. They found her body five days later, but her killer has never been found. What happened affected us as parents, her younger sister and older brothers, all our friends, and even the people we tell now 30 years later.

After Sarah’s death, I became a leader with my husband in talking to young people and to parents and a nurturer in hopefully providing some comfort to those who are grieving the loss of a child or by grandchild by sharing our own loss with them and then helping them plan a meaningful memorial/funeral service to celebrate the life of the one they lost.

Our message to young people is three-fold:

1.  Sometimes your parents do know what they are talking about. They have your best interests at heart, so think before you do something you are told not to.  Our daughter went somewhere she was specifically told not to go and got herself into a situation she couldn’t handle.  Had she listened, she might be here today.  Instead she was abducted and murdered.

2.  You won’t get through this life without faith.  Even if life doesn’t deal you the hand we have been dealt, if you do have major events you sure will need faith.

3.  You may have seen us in church or me at the piano and had no idea this had happened in our life.  So if you see someone having a bad day, cut them a little slack, you never know what is going on in their life.

If we get one young person to listen it is worth telling our story.

I keep saying some day I am going to write a list of things NOT TO SAY when you offer condolences to someone who has lost a child.  I have a few doozies like “God didn’t give you more than you can handle.” (God didn’t give me this!) or “At least you have other children.” (We didn’t have spares. They’re not interchangeable.) People mean well, but the best thing is to say simply, “I’m sorry.”

What kept us going initially was the fact that we had four other children. We had to function – they needed us!
Now what motivates me – what makes me feel most alive – is doing things with my grandchildren. Plus panning services for the families makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.