the art of being my mother

Centered on the living room wall when I was growing up was a drawing that tore at me. It was of a woman, clearly weary, her head in one hand looking off to her left, a sleeping child draped over the other arm.

Not sure what was going  on here, but it was clearly important.
Not sure what was going on here, but it was clearly important.

While I now see the beauty in this art, as a child I believed my mother identified with it because of her own weariness with her lot in life, namely, me, and I felt a great deal of guilt over what I’d done to her.

We didn’t get along, my mother and me, until after my stepfather died when I was 28. By her own admission, her focus then changed from wife to mother.  It took us years to work through all the barriers. Issues remain today, but they aren’t the structure of our relationship.

I see her getting older and I’m constantly mindful of the fact she’s only a few years away from the age her parents were when they died. She’s on a fixed income and can barely afford her own needs month to month, yet she still jumps at the chance to give to me.

That’s what moms do, I guess, at least it’s what my mom does. I resisted it inside myself until I realized how important it was to her. I turn around and send her money when I can to help her in any small way.

A few years ago I went through terrible times, and it left its mark on me long after that. I was so deep in the pain of it myself I didn’t fully realize what my mom went through each day, wondering what I was undergoing and imagining the worst.

I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

I hold back on telling her everything because it is too difficult to express. I don’t know that she should know all the details. I need to keep to myself what is mine to know.

Perhaps she did identify with the woman in that drawing, for reasons I’ll never really know. As one of the few pieces of art she’s kept through the years, it seemingly has meant something to her. Just as I don’t fully involve her in my experience, certainly she hasn’t fully involved me in hers.

I told her once, in a moment of reflection, what it had made me feel, and she simply said, “Really? I never knew.” Then smiled a little. “I always loved that picture.”

Tough Zebras, Sexy Coquettes and Frozen Judges

I have a new obsession.

It’s pangrams, sentences that include every letter of the alphabet. You can use letters twice (you pretty much have to), but you can’t include proper names, foreign words or abbreviations. The goal is for them to make sense (relatively speaking) and to have as few letters as possible.

The most famous of these is “the quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.”

I think my lowest count is 39 letters. I have a friend who claims her 32-word sentences are clear and logical, but they have no verbs, so I’ve disqualified them. From what, I’m not sure, but she’s going to have to do better.

Here’s one of my early (that would be yesterday) pangrams:

“Valued oxen graze quietly before heckling jumpy cows.” (45 letters)

Paints a picture, right? There’s a story there. I’m just not sure I’m the one to tell it.

Here’s one we all can relate to:

“Sexy coquettes dazzle big jocks when frumps arrive.” (43  letters)

The 39-letter pangram is a little disturbing, so I’m not going to include it. In fact, I’d prefer to forget it, so it may be burned before you have a chance to read this post. I have another one, but it’s a stretch to say it makes sense:

“Tough zebras vow to just mix funky cupid liquor.”

Here’s a headline you have to hope you never see:

“Quickly Hide Frozen Judge Mix Up, Beasts Vow.”

I’ve learned something with this little mind game. The obvious — and perhaps smartest — thing to do is to choose the words with q, x and z first, then maybe w and y. I typically start a sentence with the more challenging words, then write down the letters I’m missing. Sometimes filling in the blank is a clear choice, such as when I needed a word (or words) with m, p, r, and t in it.

I promptly figured that one out.

I seem to often get stuck with the letters c, g, k, and j. Putting the c and the k together seems obvious enough, but what do I do with the g and j? As seen above, “jock” is one answer, but there aren’t a sloughful of others.

(Sloughful — that’s a good word for this game, and I swear I’ve heard it many times before. But when I looked it up, I couldn’t find it. If any of you are familiar with it, I’d love to hear from you.)

There is a serious side to this fun. Word games are valuable exercise for our brain, and we all know brain health is important. So keep your mind active, and maybe give this addictive game a try.

Start with “wizards” or “zebras.”


Images courtesy of Pixabay, except for Young Woman — © micro – Fotolia

 

Perception

This was one of those weeks.

I’m working a temp job now, one I think I’d like to last awhile. It’s an interesting group I work with, primarily young…and poor. I’m doing admin work, but my desk is smack dab in the middle of a warehouse.

There are a handful of people my age, a few older, but for the most part, of the 120 or so employees there, more than 100 are probably under 35, if not under 30. We get along fine. I’m grateful the man who hired me looked at my skill set and not my wrinkles.

Anyway, the facility manager jokingly told me he thought I was about 33. I don’t kid myself; I know he was joking. But later that day while in line to pay a bill, I was asked for my birthdate, and after giving it, the young man in line behind me said, “Ma’am, I would’ve guessed you to be about 35.”

So I was feeling pretty good.

At church today, I was sitting in back with a woman, her daughter and 4-month-old grandson. I’d never met them before, and this adorable little baby was smiling and flirting with me. Of course I smiled back, and the baby’s grandma asked me, “do your grandchildren live in the area?”

I was so startled, I just said no. I don’t have any grandchildren. I don’t have any children. And yes, friends my age all pretty much have a passel of grandbabies, but no one has ever assumed I was a grandma before.

Where does the truth lie? How old do I look?

Autumn walk
How do we view those around us?

Several years ago, when I was working as a reporter, I covered the local community theater group’s most recent production, and got a wonderful photo during rehearsal of the lead actress. It turned out she’d had some Top 40 hits years ago (don’t ask me what), so I ended up doing a story just about her.

When I interviewed her, I mentioned the photo I’d taken earlier. She frowned.

I asked if she had been unhappy with it, and she said no, it was a good photo. She paused, and added, “I just didn’t think I looked that old.”

I look in the mirror and I trust I see an honest reflection of what I look like, but I know I don’t see myself as others do. That carries over to other aspects of my life as well. I don’t know how people perceive me. I have a pretty good self-image, and I believe I understand my strengths and weaknesses. But I have no idea how I’m viewed by my co-workers, for example.

I’m not talking age here. I’m talking how they see me as a person. Serious or flighty? I can pretty much guarantee they’ll say nice, but how does that translate?

Right before I sat down to write this, I had stopped in the grocery store and ran into a former boss, someone who would have heard lies and rumors about me from a few years back. I was immediately on guard.

No worries. He spun around so quickly it was like a blur. I passed him in the parking lot a few minutes later, and he ignored me.

How does he view me, in light of the falsehoods I know he’s heard?

Girl with a jug

It isn’t something I worry about or feel any great concern over. I have people who know me and love me, and what anyone thinks of me is their business. How they see me is colored by how they see themselves.

I just wonder about it sometimes.

What is important to me is honesty with myself, accepting myself, forgiving myself, improving myself. I want to be better when I turn 60 than I am today.

That’s not too far away…better get on it.


Image credits: © maiko62 – stock.adobe.com

The Ideal(istic) Adult

Being thirty was about the best thing that ever happened to me.

I’d set goals and achieved them, and the world seemed like a welcome place, with manifold glorious destinations. My mind was likely at its sharpest (although admittedly, I still had much to learn), Me c 1989I’ve probably never looked better, before or since, and I’d started to make some money. Not a lot, but more than ever before, and it seemed like a fortune.

If I could live forever in that magical world, that’s where I’d be. Has my life gone downhill since? No, not really. I’ve had ups and downs — that’s the way life is — but I’ve never regained that sense of optimism, my belief in the future and my own potential.

That glory must have been more than reaching my goals, because I’ve set goals and achieved them since that time, goals that were further out of reach and potentially more rewarding.

The problem with that sort of idealism is the world is more complex and more ordinary than our dreams. Jobs don’t deliver, people disappoint us, relationships fail. Of course then we find better work, more rewarding and lasting, we discover friends who stand beside us through thick & thin, and new relationships begin, with all the hope they hold at the start. But it’s the first time the world looks good that we’re happiest, because we don’t have the cynicism of experience.

Yet the wisdom we gain over the years benefits us, too. We see that hard times end, and impossible situations are resolved through perseverance and yes, some luck. Pain beats at us persistently, but in the end we overcome it, newly girded with the wisdom of survival.

Looking in the mirror can be discouraging. Our looks fade. It costs more money to maintain a lesser appearance. It’s hard sometimes to remember you’re 55 and not 35, who your peers actually are and what you can & can’t do anymore.

Given the choice, I’d always prefer to be an adult, but can I specify a few things? I’d like to have the physical and physiological benefits of being 30, with the wisdom and maturity that comes from living.

Of course we’re not given any such choice, or anything like it, and I’m aware many have the same thoughts as they get older. Makes me wonder what I need to appreciate about being the age I am now, and what I’ll miss about it 20 or 30 years from now.


Image Credit:  © justdd — Bigstock

Whooz da prettumzist?

Da kittums, dat’s who.

I confess, I tried to set up a cute picture of one of my cats looking in the mirror for today’s prompt (Primp). It didn’t work. I guess they aren’t as vain as their mama.

So let’s move on from the kittens, and on to me…

AdobeStock_98604038 [Converted]

I spend less time these days in front of mirror than I did years ago, although of course, in my younger years I was working with better material. Most of us hit our peak before 50. It’s just a fact. These days, looking at my neck depresses me.

Fixing myself up used to be a lot more fun.

When I get my hair cut, I make sure I’m wearing the full visage. Too much time staring at that mirror under those lights. I don’t know what it is about salons and retail stores, but the lighting is always so harsh. Okay, salons, maybe they need it to accurately see what they’re doing, and I’ll forgive them for that reason. But why should The Gap make me feel bad about myself when I’m trying on jeans?

It isn’t the visible signs of aging that concern me as much as the time that is passing by without achieving what I believe I’m capable of doing. Yet I hold fast to my belief in the power of subtle changes.

There are days when your world might completely turn around for the better, and it’s possible all good things will come to you in short order. Generally, however, the gifts in life are given to us one at a time, until one day we look back and say, “hey, my life is growing stronger.”

Where I am today is far better than where I was five years ago. Some of it feels the same, but the reality is, it simply isn’t. Yes, there are stresses in my life, but I believe things will work out. That’s been my experience in far worse circumstances than what I’m facing today.

hen-and-chickies-sm
Guess what I know that you don’t??

Thank God for the power of experience. It’s–no other word for it here–a relief. Okay, other words fit, too–it’s a comfort. It’s confidence. It helps you sort out what matters. You don’t worry so much about what’s going on outside your control.

But today I think I’ll spend a little extra time in front of the mirror and see where that gets me. A little primping might do my heart good.


Image Credit: © sapunkele — Adobe Stock

Warning: Limited Warranty

Today I discovered the injury to my thumb that has been plaguing me for the last several weeks is likely due to decades of avid knitting. I saw a physical therapist, and with the help  of some special tools, she was able feel an unusual number of bumps in the muscle that goes from my thumb to my wrist. These bumps are typically due to tiny tears in the muscle that heal over and form scar tissue. Over time, it can cause tendonitis.

Throughout your lifetime you’re warned to eat right, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid stress. Of course you may or may not pay attention to this advice, and as you age, you could find yourself paying the price of a lifetime of bad habits. That’s expected.

girl-knitting-smBut nobody told me to moderate my knitting lest my thumb pay the price. Nobody.

There’s a limited warranty on our bodies, and not a whole lot of recourse with any of it. There are some relatively guaranteed benefits of healthy living, although disease can hit any of us and counteract those benefits at any time.

For the rest of our physical well-being, it’s basically planned obsolescence.

How many other surprise aches and pains await me in the coming years? This is annoying, I have to say it.  I’ve been drying my hair in the same manner since I was a teenager. Is that going to cause a problem someday?

I should regain full use of my thumb, but it may take weeks. In the meantime, knitting is out, which is like taking away a part of my spirit. I find myself getting a little depressed, not being able to use the soothing therapy of creating with beautiful fiber.

Yes,  I know, there are many more serious problems, and I do have proper perspective on this. It is wear and tear, literally, not chronic or terminal disease. Overall, I remain basically a healthy person. My heart is in good shape. My screening tests come back negative, and that’s positive. I don’t have diabetes, cancer or glaucoma, and I am grateful. Truly, deeply grateful.

But this aspect of getting older — pooh.


Tiny


Image Credit: © sapunkele — fotolia

Feeling Grown-Up Ain’t What It Used To Be

I’m feeling like a grown-up today, and I don’t like it.

My mom had hip surgery last week, and I went to stay with her during her recovery. That’s a much shorter period of time these days, in part, thankfully, because of advancements in procedure. The surgery went beautifully, and she’s experienced only a moderate amount of pain.

christmas c 1965
Not sure what was going on here, but it was clearly important.

Until now, the day after I had to leave. Actually,  I didn’t have to leave, I planned to stay a day or two (or three) longer. But the weather was worsening, Mom was worried, and  she insisted I leave. So I did.

She also confessed that as long as I was there, she’d depend on me, and she couldn’t do that any longer. So I made the long drive home, normally one I somewhat enjoy, feeling guilty, even knowing I did what she wanted.

Or said she wanted.

It leaves me to muddle through from my home 700 miles away. She’s my mom, and I could never do enough for her. Yet I’m being called on to be responsible for at least part of her care, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’m muddling with the help of others, but putting those pieces together weighs on me. Do I move to be closer to her? It’s what she wants, but is it what I want? Is what I want important here? Would I regret not moving after she’s gone? I have to make adult decisions and it’s hard.

Me & Mom Jan 2004 cropped
About ten years ago, on my birthday

Should I have insisted I stay longer? At what point, as the daughter, do I call the shots? Aside from this surgery, my mom is perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She’s proven that, time and again.

What decisions lay ahead? Will she be able to live on her own until she dies? Family history says yes, but that isn’t a true predictor of her situation.

How could I move her out of her home? I couldn’t.

I’m feeling like an adult, and I don’t like it.

 

 

on aging–don’t make me say it–gracefully

I’m glad fall is near for one simple reason: I look so much better in fall & winter clothes.

I’m not particularly thrilled my ego is that sensitive, but at the same time, I dread the day I no longer care about my appearance at all.

time and tideIt would be nice to start caring a little less as a I get older, and I think I probably already do, or I’d be in a panic as I watched the signs of aging creep in on me. I don’t recall ever believing I’d get this old. Not that I thought I’d die young, I just didn’t think I’d ever age. Yes, logically I knew I would, but my mind generally wouldn’t go there.

It still doesn’t, until I look in the mirror and can no longer deny it. I’m in my 50s. How the hell did that happen so soon? It’s not going to get better, so I need to figure out how to deal with the disappointment. Just why does it bother me?

Part of it, I suppose, is being single. Like it or not, how you look affects your ability to captivate the opposite sex, and I’m not feeling the same power I used to. Not that I ever felt powerful, but still, on a good day I felt competitive.

So to keep from getting lonely, I need to look good? I don’t think that’s a truth I want to start believing.

But here’s the other thing: aging gracefully is a requirement for people older and wiser than I (believe I) am. The driver’s license isn’t letting me get away with thinking I’m any younger, but wiser is harder to assess, and I just don’t know if I measure up.

I don’t want to be an old fool. I know a few of those, and becoming one probably scares me more than anything else.

There is one piece of wisdom I’ve acquired. All the plastic surgery in the world isn’t going to keep you from looking older. It has its benefits for some, but it’s not likely it will ever be something I’ll consider. I’m looking for other alternatives, including attitude, to take its place.

Attitude, and hair color.


Image Credit: (clock) © Jakub Krechowicz; (water) © JulietPhotography; (sky) © Kirsty Pargeter; (wood) © Filip Miletic–all, Fotolia