HORIZONTAL MYSTERY SHIP when you leave at seventeen rarely home more than two weeks at a time months, years and decades can be surprisingly unreliable markers of adulthood only once in the summer of ‘88 a recent college grad wide-eyed and wanderlust-fueled my tonsils required more I stayed a whole month once healed, packed, and in possession of necessary visas off to the southern hemisphere a young pioneer in search adventure and different stars now, when visiting after a lifetime lived elsewhere grey hairs visible no matter my efforts I find myself sliding into a peculiar second adolescence of sorts driving Dad’s truck windows down, hair blowing mile after mile of expansive, wild beauty the prairie a determined cellular homesteader forever staking a claim in my blood and bones I want to sneak out to the bar play Space Invaders sadly, no longer a standard unlike 1982 drink beer, eat junk food and avoid the endless expectations of being a grown-up Looking back with midlife sensibilities I realize those late nights in high school tenth grade, I believe laser focused, playing Space Invaders provided a surprisingly valuable education initials entered, quarters stacked protect the bunkers, defeat the aliens monitor the horizontal mystery ship with vigilance my peripheral vision unknowingly trained to notice things beyond immediate scope bonus points pinged while friends waited impatiently twenty more minutes, please under a waning August moon only one lunar phase ago I was still my father’s daughter a middle-aged, South Dakota teenager pretending time actually plays tricks wanting desperately to disregard reality one more visit on the calendar one more phone call cheeseburger or ice cream cone one more evening watching Everybody Loves Raymond M.A.S.H. or Mayberry RFD twenty more minutes, please quarters stacked no longer Space Invaders the nearly forgotten teenage relic of a heartbroken fifty-something fatherless daughter once again, I am protecting my bunkers monitoring a new horizontal mystery ship paying very close attention to what's just beyond my immediate scope just twenty more minutes, please
Thank you Ruby, Lena & BHS YES (year end studies) program.
I was very inspired talking about art and process.
Please Note: I’m off FACEBOOK, please contact me through e-mail, not messenger.
My twin girls are graduating from high school in a few weeks.
We noted when they were born that they would be the Class of 2018.
Lucy is on the left & Willa on the right—one hour old.
FLEDGE verb (Merriam Webster)
1: to rear until ready for flight or independent activity
This definition of fledge, makes the process sound so simple, so animal. I’m finding that this process is not so simple and requires some emotional skills far beyond natural animal instincts. A few questions keep coming up for me.
What do I need to let go of now?
What’s at stake by holding on to my girls too tightly? Too loosely?
What relationships do I desire moving forward?
Who am I when I no longer have kids at home?
I’m allowing myself to grieve the end of this stage of family life.
I know I won’t hang out in this emotional space forever.
If I stuff these feelings, they’ll leak out in remarkably weird ways.
Perhaps even weirder than usual lately.
Congratulations to fledglings throughout the land.
Happy Graduation 2018!
On this Mother’s Day, I really wanted to be honest with myself about it all. Mothering my kids has been heart-shatteringly beautiful and sometimes just plain heart-shattering, without the beauty part to soften the daily blows.
I can’t change anything and regret is a waste of energy anyway. If I try to tamp the regrets down, I know they will leak out in uncomfortable ways at inconvenient times.
Recently I noticed the TOP RACK ONLY button on the dishwasher. “Jeff and I will be a top rack only couple probably a few nights a week when the girls leave for college.” When I said this to myself, it made me cry inconsolably. Damn, that’s bleak.
These episodes are getting more frequent now as our nest nears it’s emptying…clearly a time for a little extra grace.
When Ellis, Lucy and Willa were growing up, I often did a quick review at the end of the day, asking myself one simple question: Did I love them more than I was pissed off at them? I don’t remember ever answering, NO. It was all the encouragement I needed to wake up and mother them another day.
Happy Mother’s Day 2018!
I’ve wasted some time not understanding (or maybe believing) this simple concept. Every day we wake up with a choice to be made, even when it doesn’t feel like a choice.
Who wants to wake up in the morning highly attuned to the things that make them feel like crap? I honestly don’t, and yet, sometimes I do that to myself.
I want my anger and resentment some days. I really want to hang out in the house of pain and suffering on occasion. In the last few years though, I’ve increasingly become aware of the toll those days take on me and everyone in my orbit. My dark days will obviously never go away completely, but thankfully, by noticing where my attention is directed, those days are finally getting to be fewer and far between.
Once I noticed my habits and patterns I couldn’t possibly un-notice them.
Damnit, I tried pretty hard. Trust me, I gave it a really good shot.
I love that knowledge can be brilliantly sneaky that way.
Good luck noticing, folks.
A NOTE OF COMPASSION: Many people suffer with devastating, lasting sadness that requires way more than just noticing habits and patterns. I don’t mean to diminish anyone’s experience. I’m only sharing what’s been helpful to me. I struggle with the blues, not prolonged clinical depression.
Sometimes I’m unable to sleep because I’m so jazzed about something I’m working on that sleep seems like a waste of time. However, this time it’s something else. I’m pretty sure it has to do with closing in on fifty-one, hormones, grief, puzzling rage, extraordinary joy, occasional alien identity theft and letting go.
Sometimes it all actually feels this alien to me and I barely recognize myself. I know that non middle-aged women tend to believe (at least from my experience) that menopause is an excuse to explain away shitty behavior, lack of energy or out of the blue tears. It’s really not an excuse and it’s often as confusing to me as it is to my poor family.
A generation ago, it was less frequent that Moms would be going through menopause with teenagers still in the house. Not that it didn’t happen, but it was less common. I feel sort of sorry for my twin daughters right now. My relationship was different with their brother. He was not twins. He was never a 17-year-old girl. He’s not living at home right now. He was not a mirror to me the way my girls are.
My girls are living with the Many Faces of Mom during their stressful last year of high school. Sometimes I freak out thinking that I haven’t taught them what they need to know before they head off to college in a year. I have to trust that I have and allow them to learn the rest on their own. It’s time to let go a little bit more.
However, I feel like after going through pregnancies, nursing and giving up my sense of self to care for these little monsters (that I heart breakingly love) that I’m due a little break now. Is that so wrong? Isn’t that what menopause is? Transition from one stage to another.
Nothing in my life has been as dramatic of a shift as becoming a Mom…and now in some weird way, when my girls are a year away from leaving home, my body is making me feel like I’m in the first trimester of my pregnancy.
Fatigue. Uncertainty. Cravings. More fatigue. Headaches and more even uncertainty.
Nature’s cruel joke or a reminder of how tied to them I am on a cellular level?
here in Burlington, Vermont. My twin girls will be seniors next year so I’m heading into my last year of parenting kids in high school. I’m finding myself feeling uniquely nostalgic. I’m not sad about the inevitable transition, but I am mindful.
I have friends whose oldest or only children are graduating on Friday. It’s big. When my son graduated from high school in 2014, I was sort of a mess. I believe there’s just something about transitions that requires us to take stock of our emotions.
The summer between my junior year and senior year of high school was rough for me. I had a lot of friends in the class above me and they were all leaving for college and other adventures. Every time during their senior year when we played a ball game, sang in a concert or went to the drive-in movie theater it felt like we were saying goodbye to our childhoods.
Last weekend in South Dakota I got to spend time with some of those friends who graduated a year ahead of me. It was great! I simply cannot believe how much time has passed…1983 and 1984 just don’t seem all that long ago in some ways. I’m very aware of how my daughters are feeling this last summer before they graduate from high school…perhaps even a little too aware.
I guess to honor life’s transitions, we need to slow down a little and try to understand what it is we’re feeling…the good, the bad and the slightly confusing.
Happy Graduation Class of 2017!
to my collection. I haven’t seen this scarf printed yet. I’ve placed an order though. It’s one of my favorite photographs that I’ve ever taken. I shot this one week after my 50th birthday. I didn’t intend for the title—fading beauty to sound like a lament of any kind. I truly find beauty when things are “fading” and changing. Although I miss a few things about being younger, I was fine saying goodbye to my forties. I like my fifties…so far anyway.
I wanted to share the image. Here’s the link to my site.
diagnosed with ADHD inattentive presentation. I’ve suspected this for years, but at this stage in my life it was becoming unmanageable. As an artist and mother of young kids I naturally had to shift gears constantly just to keep things running in our household. There were endless ways I could stave off boredom and feed my brain’s insatiable hunger for disruption, distraction and change.
I could hide my challenges quite easily because the whole universe was operating in a constantly distracted way. The endless buzz in the world rewarded my brain with “quick fixes” and made me believe I was managing just fine.
Then four things collided at roughly the same time.
1. My children became more independent and my day to day responsibilities shifted.
2. My husband, children and friends were telling me that I was leaving out crucial information in my communication AND I was getting defensive about it.
3. I studied positive psychology and the necessity on both a personal and societal level to quit spinning, slow down, reflect and get more focused on how I want to spend my energy and talents.
4. I turned fifty.
I know people joke about the endless diagnoses out there. I’m a little OCD or that’s my ADHD talking or I can’t get that done because of poor executive function etc. I was resistant for years because I didn’t want to be off the hook for the behaviors that were affecting my life and those around me. I did however, need some answers and solutions for help to narrow my focus and allow me to better utilize my skills in both my private and public life.
Now being able to look back at the ways ADHD manifested in my life has provided a certain amount of ease and less shame about my deficits than before. As a child I was highly adaptive, creative and curious about so many different things. However, I also was a day dreamer, a poor tester, I rarely followed directions and was often told that I wasn’t working to my potential. I was always armed with loads of ideas and didn’t follow through on them. I created a narrative around my deficits that I was less than.
I fell asleep during the science portion of my ACT test in high school. I got the minimum score required to go to private schools in South Dakota. I also dozed off during the ADHD test I recently took with a psychologist. I think my brain was bored and the competition of it all wasn’t enough motivation for me. I wasn’t getting any juice so my brain just shut it down.
I recently remembered as a high school kid reading one page of the dictionary before I went to sleep to boost my vocabulary. When I think of this now I believe I was trying to find ways to boost how my intelligence presented to others because it was less quantifiable than my siblings and my peers. The really smart kids wanted to be friends with me, but my grades were very average unless I loved the subject. Then I could focus. Thank you English and creative writing.
My husband remembered that my Dad told him when we got married that he would have to help me with certain things—paying bills, insurance and so on. My Dad knew on some level that I had some challenges with organization. I recently found insurance paperwork he had requested in the 1980s for me to sign and send back. I never did. I guess he asked me again.
I did all of the stuff I was told to do to quiet my brain and help my focus—manage stress, exercise, meditate, rest and eat well…and yet it just wasn’t quite enough. I’m taking a low dose of a psychostimulant on the days more focus is required of me. Now, with greater knowledge about my brain’s chemistry, I have renewed hope and focus about my life.
So, I’m unsure why I need to share this now on such a public forum. I guess I feel that storytelling is what we need now more than ever in this uncertain world. I believe that a willingness to be vulnerable and share our stories and fears is very important in 2017.
I don’t want to hide behind this diagnoses. I really am the only one that needs to understand my brain. However, if my story helps you share your story than this was well worth my time. We are all in this together.
Go forth and be bold and share something personal or painful from your story. That small act of courage could change someone’s life.
July: I worked on my coursework for my positive psychology class. I created a handbag out of a friend’s damaged Audi seat. I was generously given a huge amount of fabric that was just beautiful to work with for the SEABA fashion show coming up. I read a lot about the psychology of geography—the study of how we behave in relation to our environment. I traveled to South Dakota to visit my family and was lucky enough to get to shoot some photographs at the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Oh, cowboys…
August: I sketched, sewed, painted and made handbags…a big blitz of work. Using the company SPOONFLOWER I got photographs printed onto fabric. My daughter, Lucy wore a skirt I made with an abandoned farmhouse photo I shot in South Dakota on it. I used rust prints Elizabeth Bunsen created with Nebraska license plates to create fabric as well. Burlington master goldsmith— Jane Frank designed jewelry worn in the show—the pieces were such a beautiful compliment to the clothes.
September was a blur: The fashion show was entirely consuming the first 10 days of the the month. I love to be in flow and entirely focused on one thing. Deadlines are my jam. However, this year I also needed to create my final project for my Positive Psychology course at the same time . I graduated and got to spend a week at Kripalu in Lenox, Mass with a remarkable bunch of people from all around the world. Later in the month my husband and I went to the Champlain Valley Classic Car show, taking photos and talking to classic car enthusiasts was just great after being so busy.
October: I turned 50 on the 12th. I was taken to Martha’s Vineyard by friends. My husband surprised me by getting my folks, my sister and my brother-in-law to Vermont for a long weekend to celebrate with me. That was remarkable AND he threw a party complete with my friends putting on a musical review, poetry, singing songs and making me feel so unbelievably grateful for my life. I took a few of my favorite images ever and layered more photos. Jeff and I dressed as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo for Halloween.
November: I traveled to Burke, South Dakota. I took photos of Herrick that made current and former Herrick residents very happy and remarkably nostalgic. I got to hang out with my great nephew, Liam (oh, and the rest of my clan). I created digital images of my own planet based on a conversation with my son. The planet New Vagus is based on the vagus nerve—the power center of our nervous system. I wrote. I cried when Leonard Cohen died.
December: I made leather pendants for gifts. I kept playing with the image of a South Dakota two-lane road, layering the photo and playing with the visuals of memory. I created a line of scarves with my images on them. I will post the link soon if you are interested in ordering one.
January 2017 is off to an interesting start. I’m cleaning out the basement—sorting through letters, photos, the kids clothes I’ve saved, toys, books and all of the things I can’t believe I now have to deal with. I’m learning a lot about myself and why things seemed so very important to me.