This Is Your Party, Mom!

My grandfather’s little tax deduction for the year 1934 arrived on New Year’s Eve.  Anne Louise McFarland, my mother, grew up believing that all the fireworks and shouting every year on this day was in honor of her birthday.  I grew up believing something very similar.  My parents didn’t dress up and go out on New Year’s Eve…they dined at home on champagne and escargot and caviar and other delectable treats while listening to “The Midnight Special” on WFMT or to “Die Fledermaus” on TV or video.  When I was old enough to stay up with them, we would sometimes catch the Times Square celebration and then declare East Coast midnight and go to bed an hour early.  But the reason for the season was my mother, not the march of time.  In my late teens, I didn’t go to other people’s parties, I still stayed home…and my boyfriend (soon to be husband) joined us.  We enjoyed the best food and champagne and music and silliness and company without ever having to contend with drunk drivers on the roads.  My mom lives 2,205 miles away from me now, but I am still planning to stay home and drink champagne and eat salmon and listen to wonderful music and think of her.  She is still reason enough for all the joy and love and delight you might see tonight.  I’ll show you why:

Graduation, Radcliffe Class of 1955

Graduation, Radcliffe Class of 1955

This is my mom and dad at her college graduation.  That’s right, she graduated from Radcliffe, the female component to Harvard, at the age of 20.  The woman has brains.  With her late birthday and having skipped a year in elementary school, that means she went to college at age 16, all naive and nerdy with bad teeth and a lazy eye and glasses, but with a curiosity and charm that matured and eventually proved irresistible to my father, who, with money and pedigree and a Harvard degree, was “quite a catch”.  

Ten years later, the family

Ten years later, the family

So, by 1965, she’s a mother of 4 little girls (that’s me, the baby, blonde, aged 3), running a household, volunteering with Eastern Star and the church and a host of other things.  So stylish, so Jackie!  This was Massachusetts, you know. 

Acadia National Park, I think

Acadia National Park, I think

And she’s not afraid to go camping, either.  This was a picnic picture taken by her mother-in-law.  That would explain the handbags and the dress.  My grandmother was never seen anywhere without a handbag and make-up.  My mother was…often!

1978 in California

1978 in California

Fast forward 13 years.  My mother gave birth to a boy when she was 38She had 4 willing babysitters surrounding her and a handsome husband now sporting a beard.  She’d also picked up a Masters degree in Church Music.  We moved from Chicago to California where she became more adventurous in cuisine and hiking and music and new volunteer opportunities.  This photo was taken the last Christmas that all her children were alive.  My sister Alice (far left) died the next August.

1985 - Proud grandparents

1985 – Proud grandparents

A month after she’d turned 50, my mother became a grandmother for the first time.  She’d also survived breast cancer by electing to have major surgery, something her own mother had done 10 years earlier.  She was housing and caring for her barely mobile mother and raising a pre-teen son at this time as well.  Do you see a grey hair?  No?  Neither do I.  My mother is amazing.

1989b

Christmas and New Year's 1989

Christmas and New Year’s 1989

Mom turns 55.   She has 4 grandchildren, a 16-yr old son, and her mother has just died.  She’s volunteering as a docent at the San Jose Historical Museum, a position she will hold for more than 20 years, specializing in their music department. 

Summer 1994 - babysitting the grandkids

Summer 1994 – babysitting the grandkids

Here, she’s 60.  My husband and I are traveling in Europe for our 10th anniversary, and she and Dad take our kids to the beach cottage for a few weeks.  My husband survived double bypass surgery on his heart two years earlier.  Yeah, Mom came out then, too, to take care of the kids…and me.  Who has the energy to be with 4 kids (aged 3, 5, 7, & 9) at the beach for two weeks at the age of 30, let alone twice that?  My mother.  Although she did let me know (graciously) that it wasn’t easy. 

13 years later, back at the beach

13 years later, back at the beach

In 2007, Mom came out with my sister and brother to see my daughter graduate from college.  We all went to the cottage together again.  This was my husband’s last trip: he died the following February.  My father is not with us on this vacation.  He is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition he had for 7 years before his death.  My mother visited him several times a week while he needed skilled care and played the piano for all the residents, jogging memories with old popular tunes and supporting the hymns during chapel services.

March 2010 - photo credit DKK

March 2010 – photo credit DKK

My father died in March of 2010.  I had been widowed for 2 years.  My kids and I flew back to California for his memorial service, and Dad’s ashes were buried next to my sister’s and my husband’s.  My mother invited the family back to her house and we gathered around the piano again.  She played and sang and laughed and cried, and I did, too, right by her side.  My mother and I are alike in many ways, and I am so glad, proud and grateful to be a woman like her.  I see her smile, I hear her voice, I taste her cooking and her tears, and feel her spirit flowing around and through me all the time.  We’re going to party tonight, Mom.  Miles be damned!  Happy Birthday!  I love you!

 

 

Blog Of The Year – one star so far!

Blog of the Year Award 1 star jpegNaomi Baltuck of Writing Between the Lines has nominated me for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award!  Apparently, this is an award which can be conferred multiple times.  I think Naomi has gotten nominated 7 times in the year she’s been blogging.  I’ve been blogging for a year and one third, and this is my first star.  Naomi is a published author and professional storyteller.  How cool is that?!  Her blog is a delightful place where family, food, twinkly lights, travel adventures and costumes all blend into a magic world of pictures and words that reminds me that the real world is actually that enchanted kingdom where our dreams come true.   In her Blog of the Year post, she cites a list of nominations that is currently serving as my map to blog exploration.  I have already discovered a poet to follow from her recommendations, and I’m looking forward to that enrichment!

To read more about this award, click here.

I just nominated a few bloggers for The Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, but I follow another whom I will nominate for this award: Elena Caravela.   Elena is an artist who shares her imagination in the form of sketches, watercolors, photographs, oils, and digital blends of all these techniques.  I am awed at her skills and humbled by her collaborative spirit.  When I write stories and poems for children (which I plan to submit for publishing as part of a New Year’s goal), I imagine her illustrating them because she is all about encouraging the artistic talents of others (see her blog & book: Portrait of a Girl and Her Art).   

So, blog on! all you artistic, creative souls out there.  “We are made of star stuff.” – Carl Sagan 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

This week’s challenge is to create a gallery of pictures representing 2012.  These are my favorite shots from each month’s posts, taken with my Lumix for the first nine months and then with the Canon Rebel.  Captions will appear as you hold your cursor over each image, or click on the first one to view a slideshow.  I think they make a nice calendar!  (And I’m really proud that I figured out how to put the gallery together again after WordPress changed the process a bit from their first version.)

Wonderful Team Member Readership Award

wonderful-readership-award2

I received a gift from one of my readers this Christmas: the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award.  The kid in me who loved earning ‘A’s and other awards is absolutely beaming.  A gold star to show my Mom and Dad!  Pat myself on the head, spin around and pose with a smile!  Okay, now that I’ve gotten that ego bit out of the way…

I owe this honor to lisalday111711 who writes not one, not two, but THREE blogs featuring her photography, her stalwart Weimaraner, and her spiritual journey.  The award encourages recipients to do the following: 

  • Display the logo on his/her post/page and/or sidebar

  • The Nominee must finish this sentence and post: ”A Great reader is…”

  • Nominate 14 readers they appreciate over a period of 7 days (1 week) – this can be done at any rate during the week. It can be ALL on one day or a few on one day and a few on another day, etc., naming his or her nominees on a post or on posts during the 1 week period.

  • The Nominee shall make these rules, or amended rules, keeping to the spirit of the Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, known to each reader s/he nominates.

So here I go with item #2…

 A great reader is not a stereotype.  A great reader is anyone who begins a relationship with a writer.   To be honest, when I first learned that I had been nominated for this award, I thought “I am so NOT a great blog reader, and I haven’t even read this person’s blog!  Why on earth did she nominate me?!”  A while ago, I decided to purge my “follows” because I found myself getting way too many e-mails in my inbox.  I didn’t want to spend so many minutes every day feeling obligated to open and like and respond to every one of those posts.   I am one of those introverts who have traded a massive list of acquaintances for a few close, deep relationships.  I do not have a Facebook account, and I do not receive phone calls on a daily basis.  I am not a great reader of blogs for quantity, but I may be a great blog reader for quality.  I am looking for a relationship, for kindred spirits and non-kindred spirits who are honest, vulnerable, interesting, interested and willing to engage.  The fact that they post anything at all shows some inclination to self-revelation in all bloggers, so I don’t have to look very far.  And like picking out a Christmas tree, I don’t keep on looking after I’ve found a suitable match; after all, it’s cold out here and I’d rather settle down with some hot chocolate under the twinkly lights!  So, I don’t claim to have sorted through a million blogs to follow the very best of anything.  Maybe I simply develop loyalty quickly.  But that’s just me.  I like to discover a blog,  follow, go deeper and learn more about the person over time.  I am not the standard of The Great Reader; I am perhaps just A Great Reader to one person.  And that’s fine, I think. 

My Great Readers are very personal.  Some of them may not even be known to me, as the one who nominated me wasn’t.  How do I nominate 14?  I suppose I can only mention the known ones, the ones who identify themselves with ‘likes’ or comments or direct e-mails.  I am absolutely thrilled when my family members and friends far away read my blog.   My mother reads my blog faithfully.  It is how we keep in touch week by week, and she sends me her periodic responses by e-mail.  My late husband’s cousin in France is one of my readers.  My 2 sisters, my brother, my four children.  I have developed a daily comment exchange with a blogger who lives in the U.K.  We have grown quite close over the space of a little over a year.  She doesn’t accept blog awards, but I have her link in my sidebar.  I am hoping to meet her in person one day.  That’s 10 great readers right there.  Here are 4 more whom I follow, who also follow me, with links to their blogs:

R. from Wood Rabbit Journey

Doree from conquistadoree

Stephen G. Hipperson

Naomi Baltuck

These readers will visit eventually and can do as they please with this information as they accept my sincere gratitude and recognition for their readership!  I thank ALL of my readers for beginning some kind of relationship with me.  I am honored by your visits and hope that we can edify one another, be open to one another and “inter-be” (as Thich Nhat Hahn would say) with joy. Huzzah!

Winter Holy Days

The world did not end yesterday. We are in a new cycle, heading closer to the Sun once more.

In years past, I would have spent this day at an Episcopal church, practicing with the choir, ushering my children through the Christmas pageant, greeting friends, and sneaking private moments in the candlelit darkness whispering devotions to Jesus and His Father. I would have sent more than a hundred letters through the mail to people far and wide with Scriptural messages and personal anecdotes illustrating the great salvific actions of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the world. I would have asked for and promised prayers for numerous specific ailments and misfortunes. I would have spoken and written my heartfelt greetings using words like “blessings”, “gifts”, “faith”, “Emmanuel” and “Savior”.

 This year is different.

 I have no tree; I have no gifts wrapped and waiting; I have not sung a hymn or carol; I have no creche with empty manger awaiting the figure of a baby. I am the same person, though, with the same heart and breath and life blood. I use a different language now to try to express my deepest hope for peace and love to rule my life and the lives of those with whom I share this planet. I no longer profess to know a single Truth; I no longer presume to belong to a select portion of humanity; I no longer pretend that the concepts in my brain adequately reflect very much at all of reality.

 The posture I hope to adopt is openness. To face the world, the people in it, the marvel of change and mystery beyond my control, without hiding behind a mask or label or system, is a severe challenge. Had I not already buried a husband, fledged a flock of four, sold a home I had for 20 years, and left employment, I might not believe that I could live without clinging to conventional structure. I test my ability to be flexible, graceful, alive and aware every day. I hope to learn. I hope to grow. I hope to love the world (and myself) more genuinely as I do. This is my holy quest, and every day is a holiday. I celebrate the mingling of material and spirit, the incarnation of life in the substances of Earth. I will eat and drink and hug the bodies of people I love with festive joy as before – but differently.

 I include the entire Universe in this celebration. Yes, this means you! Peace to you all. Love, joy, humility and grace be with us all together….scillagrace.

front porch view

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise!

Life continues; a new cycle begins.  It’s the shortest day of the year.  Imagine our ancestors noting the the diminishing of  light and wondering anxiously if the sun would return…and it does!  We are so used to “knowing” all this that we can grow so jaded and incapable of surprise and awe.  But why not retain the ability to be surprised, delighted, bowled over by the wonder of Life?!  And also to include Death in that cycle.  One of my favorite passages from Walt Whitman (from Leaves of Grass, “Song of Myself”):

“What do you think has become of the young and old men?

And what do you think has become of the women and children?

They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it,
And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.

All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”

Looking through my files of photos, I found two that I remember as being surprising moments of serendipity, both of which are of birds.  Birds are surprising.  They alight and fly off at their own whim, so catching one on camera is a gift.  The first shot is one I took with the little Lumix when a hawk landed in the maple tree right outside my bedroom window.  To have this elegant wild predator just a few feet from my hidden wide-eyed face was a real treat.  I had to take the shot through a dirty window, but still…

hawk surprise

This second shot is one I took the first time I went to a State Park with my brand new Canon Rebel T3i in hand.  Sandhill cranes were flying overhead, and I took a chance that perhaps with this new camera, I would actually get a clear image.

cranes

Dance like it’s the last night of the world

A song from “Miss Saigon” is running through my head… ‘a song, played on a solo saxophone…so hold me tight and dance like it’s the last night of the world’.  Not that I seriously think the world will end tomorrow.  Aside from the darkness and the rain (instead of snow) here in Milwaukee, all seems fairly normal. 

But it raises a good question.  What would you do on the last night of the world?  What would you want to be doing any or every night of the world? 

My husband sang that song from Miss Saigon on a recital one February, a snowy scene visible through the plate glass window behind him.  The tune was a tad high for him; his sweet tenor voice seemed a little strained.  He lived only another 7 years after that day. 

I would want to dance with him and Steve and my children and my mother, to hold them tight and look into their eyes until there was nothing else to see. 

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