Life Lessons With Mom

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Mom - 1992

A year has passed.

No, you didn’t sleep through the last several weeks of the year as well as New Year’s Eve.  The year that has passed is unlike any other I have marked.   It has been a year of knowing that the woman who raised and loved me was no longer physically present.  In the first hours after sunrise on this day last year she breathed her last breath.

In the year since that day I have breathed.  I have breathed in the love of family and friends.  I have breathed out frustration, sorrow, and peace.  In that year I have also thought much about my mother’s life and how it impacted mine and that of many others.  The choices she made.  The way she faced her many days of pain and illness.  And I have thought about what she taught me.

My mother taught me to call people older than me by their last name prefaced with either Mr. or Mrs.  She taught me to not talk when I had food in my mouth.  She taught me to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’.  But she also taught me to dance, to keep a clean room, and to do my homework before going out to play.

Most of the lessons my mother gave me were intentional but many were taught without either of us realizing it at the time.

She had to come and get me on my first day of school because I was sobbing so hard the teacher thought I was going to make myself sick.  When we got out of the car at home, with tears in her own eyes, she scolded and spanked me and told me what had happened that day would NOT happen again.  The lesson she intended was to make sure I went to school and not to think I could get out of it just because I missed her.  The real lesson she taught me was that sometimes we have to do things we don’t like.  Sometimes life hurts but, as the current saying goes, we just have to “put on our big girl panties and deal with it”.

When I was older I would often call her to find out how she made a particular dish.  Her instructions would basically include the ingredients, how to mix them together, and at what temperature to cook them (if the ‘recipe’ included baking).   Her recipes didn’t include X-number of teaspoons, cups or tablespoons.  She taught me that cooking was learned by trial-and-error and by the taste of the outcome.  But the larger lesson was that what goes into doing something isn’t always as important as the result.

As I’ve mentioned in other pieces about my mom when we had housework to complete it was often accompanied by 1950’s music from her collection of ’45 rpm records.  Housework was serious business in our home.  It was well-known that you could safely eat off of the floors in our house at any given time.  My mom was an immaculate housekeeper so we dusted, cleaned bathrooms, vacuumed floors every Saturday.  And when I say we dusted that means every item on any surface was dusted, removed from where it rested, and then the surface dusted.  Moving items on the surface or dusting around them was considered ‘half-assed’ by my Mom.  Once a month we dusted all baseboards in every room.  I remember this vividly because one of my ‘jobs’ was to crawl under the beds and make sure the baseboards behind them were cleaned.  I don’t keep house as meticulously as my Mom but she taught me how to do so if necessary.   The lesson she didn’t know she was teaching me was that any arduous task could be made more endurable just by adding a little music, a touch of laughter and maybe a dance step or two.

I watched my mother go through many illnesses; back surgery, broken collar-bone, TIA’s and Myasthenia Gravis.  I never heard her complain.  In fact, she always had a ready smile, was extremely kind to everyone around her, and took even the smallest gestures of care as though they were invaluable gifts.  Through her attitude and endurance she taught me that it is possible to be kind and thankful even when enduring severe pain.

The nature of humor and the value of laughter run through a lifetime of lessons.  Mom didn’t tell jokes but she had a unique way of relating things that displayed a wry wit.  Many times she didn’t intend to cause laughter but if such a situation arose she would end up laughing with everyone else – even laughing at herself.  Through that she taught me that when things don’t go quite like you plan a good laugh can smooth over the rough spots.  She also taught me it isn’t always the best route to take oneself too seriously.

Her blood may not flow through my veins but something more important flows in and out of me.  Her lessons – intended or involuntary – which helped shape the person I am today.

I miss you Mommy.  Not a day passes that I am not reminded of you and that is the last lesson you taught me.  You don’t have to be physically present to be loved.   Once you have known true, deep, and abiding love it surrounds you all of your life.

 

The Making of Trio

Another in the series of how one of my paintings came to fruition.

I’ve done several of these pieces in which I share how a particular piece of artwork came into being.  This is one of the paintings I created as part of a series (Caprine Colors) from photographs I had taken of some of my goats which I raised for eight years.

There aren’t as many photographs of the process because once I began painting I didn’t think about taking interim pictures.  This was one of those paintings that flowed and was finished within a day.

Below are the photograph source, the sketch, and the completed painting.

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365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-eight January 10, 2018

Today I am thankful for my impulsive decision to visit southern California when I was twenty-one.

I didn’t have the money to spend but I had a ride back across country so I took my first ever plane trip alone – all the way across the country.  From Greensboro to Atlanta to LA on a night flight.  I almost don’t recognize the girl who had the courage to do that with no companion and no experience flying.

I did the tourist things – Hollywood, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knotts Berry Farm.  I also took my one, and to date only, sail boat ride at Newport Beach and almost drowned when I decided to swim back to the shore.  Having never been swimming in the ocean I found my strength as a swimmer tested to its limits. I still don’t swim in the ocean because of the impact that had on me.

I spent some time seeing sights not so much on the “tourist trail” – Big Bear Mountain, Dana Point Lookout, and Long Beach.  The drive down the coast and seeing the red tile roofs of the houses along the way to San Diego and La Jolla (and eventually Tijuana) was mesmerizing to this east coast girl.

While I would pick a very different companion if I had it to do over, the trip was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Carol_LaJollaCA

The author in La Jolla, California 

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(Life catches up with us and mine is crazy busy right now so this series will be on hold for a while.  I can’t find the time to write every day as I intended when I began this in November.  Thankful to have been able to do this much.)

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-seven January 9, 2018

I am thankful that, for a reason I will never understand, I was allowed to travel to Canada when I was fourteen.  For a girl who couldn’t spend the night at a friend’s house unless her parents knew mine being allowed to go on such a trip was a dream.

From age thirteen to seventeen I worked on a farm near my parent’s house.  I’d start with picking strawberries after school and on Saturdays in the spring and work through the fall bagging of tobacco to take to market.  The farm was primarily a tobacco farm but the owner and his wife also raised produce that they sold to a local grocery store in nearby Winston-Salem.  So I learned to plant sweet potato plants (using an old, hand-held tobacco planter), dig potatoes, pull and shuck corn, pick green beans, tomatoes and october beans in addition to all the work involved with the tobacco crop.

But my fourteenth summer heralded a long drought that meant there was little to be done on the farm.  When the couple invited me, and another girl who worked for them, to accompany them on a trip to visit relatives in Kingston, Ontario, Canada I just knew my father would say ‘no’.  But my parents bought produce from the family I worked for and liked them.

I was allowed to go and since our trip started in the early hours of the morning I spent the night at their house the night before our departure.  My bed was the glider on their florida porch – at least that’s what we called it.  The concrete floor, brick walls topped by roll-out windows was the coolest place on the hot July night.  I couldn’t sleep and walked the dirt roads around the farm feeling a freedom I’d never known.

We drove from North Carolina to Canada, with a couple of stops along the way – the Natural Bridge in Virginia is one that comes to mind.  In Canada we stayed with the brother and his family of the man for whom I worked.

I was fascinated by the Thousand Islands Bridge and the photo below is a scan from a post card I kept of it from my visit.  I learned to water ski on Lake Ontario, suffering with the worst ear ache ever because the lake temperature was still so cold despite it being late July.  We visited Ottawa and the parliament buildings, the St. Lawrence Seaway and Niagara Falls.

A couple of the things struck me while I was there.  One was how litter-free the streets were.  Back home in the states a campaign was being waged to keep people from throwing their trash out the windows of their cars.  It was enchanting to see the pristine streets and parks.  The other was how many people rode bicycles and how the streets were designed to encourage them to do so.

We drove through Toronto and into Windsor where we spent the night before driving back into the United States.  I remember thinking what a huge difference there was between the lovely little town (at least the way I remember it) and the city of Detroit across the river.   It was my first time experiencing my country from a different point of view and it is etched in my mind.

I still have a lovely ‘Eskimo’ doll I purchased in a store in Canada.  The cost at the time was $20.00  and I was scolded when I returned home for buying such an expensive doll at my ‘age’.

But I still have that doll and a great deal of fond memories from that trip.

Thousand Islands Postcard 1

 

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-six January 8, 2018

I’m thankful I grew up listening to 1950’s music.

My favorite ever performer from that era would have had a birthday today.

From the official website his music…..

http://www.elvis.com/music/singles

 

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-five January 7, 2018

Today I am thankful for the places I have seen.

I have not been a “world traveler”.  In fact the only other countries I’ve ever visited are Canada and Mexico (and only into Tijuana in Mexico).  But I have visited most of the states in the United States.  As I age I realize my days of any significant traveling are likely over but I’m glad I was able to go somewhere besides places within a day or two’s drive of home.

I need to clean up some old photographs and files so I think I may be doing a state-by-state review in the coming days. Thankful for the times I’ve been able to spend hiking, camping, visiting, and working in different areas of the country.

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-three January 5, 2018

Today I am thankful for being able to organize and sort and pack.

I’ve moved nine times in my life.  Of course three of those were just from home to college and college to rentals when I had no furniture and very little in personal belongings.  With each move I’ve learned more – especially about the importance of keeping lists of boxes and what’s in them and their location.

In one move in 1997 the house being built wasn’t ready yet so everything was moved into the completed garage and the basement of my then in-laws.  From November to February home was a 5th wheel camper parked behind the home under construction.  After settling into the house a box of vinyl albums were found missing.  Almost twenty years later they were found in my ex-in-laws’ basement where they had been tucked away all of that time.

As we prepare to move again, hopefully this year, I am trying to be more organized in both in putting lists of contents on boxes and in a spreadsheet that also notes their location – storage unit or home knee-wall space.  It’s still a hassle to do but hopefully that will make it easier to settle into a new space down the road.

Now if I could just figure out how to eliminate the back aches from the preparations, packing and moving especially with all of our books!

 

 

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-two January 4, 2018

Today I am thankful I’m not a type of waterfowl.

Yesterday I watched three male mallard ducks on the river moving fast through the cold waters.  I wondered if paddling faster keeps them warmer.  The temperatures we’ve been having must be tough to endure.

The Great Blue Heron was back yesterday as well.  He flew over and landed on the ice that continues to thicken along the river’s edge.  For a wading bird that fishes in more shallow waters finding a meal seems challenging – even overwhelming.  It’s not as if they had the benefit of backyard bird feeders to supplement their winter diet.

Since the Canadian Geese, the Herons, and the Mallards stay here year-round their down feathers must provide a layer of insulation that allows them to survive such cold spells.

Even so, I would not want to be one of them this time of year.

 

 

365 Days of Thankfulness

Day Forty-one January 3, 2018

Today I am thankful for someone willing to take a chance on me.

I have a shop that wants to take twelve of my pieces of art on commission.  It’s not a local shop – just one my husband and sister-in-law stumbled on over Thanksgiving.  They didn’t know me at all but I left my card and they’ve looked at my work in my shop and here and wanted a dozen pieces – to start.

I hope it will be a positive experience for both myself and the shop.  Sometimes my chatty nature pays off.