Monday, April 30, 2007

a good art day

I painted today. It was a good day. Maybe it just takes time, but I'm more confident with my brushes and color, and the way I lay down the paint. My painting captured energy and life, which I always hope to do, but usually have mixed results. Hesitation always shows. Overwork shows, too. It's hard to paint with abandon when the subject is a portrait. The ever-present self-consciousness about getting likeness is so hard to shake. Likeness is critical, but I'm coming to understand it is an act of translation, not reproduction. Paint is three dimensional in comparison to a photograph, and flat in comparison to a living model. It has it's own inherent qualities. Learning to use those qualities to create a representation takes practice. It also takes aging and mellowing of skill, like wine. I've been drawing for months, with my colored pencils, and somehow I think I needed the cross-training of paint again. Like a great first work-out after a rest, this double portrait was fresh and fun.

Now I'm wondering to myself-will I be able to reproduce this experience in the next painting? I don't know. I presume I will. I plan to try to do one just for myself. I've always struggled being consistent with a look in paint. I do fine with my pencils, but paint used to elude me. I'm wanting to get practical with my work, to get out there and find jobs and galleries. So the work is critical, and consistency also is critical. At this point I have to make conscious choices about how I work. Is this my "look"? In paint my work is muscular and solid. In pencil it's more fine and controlled. Both are me. I'll probably have to find separate markets.

I'm praying about very specific direction to take with my work. I thought I had secured a large mural project, but that fell through. I'm thinking the time concentration that would have taken would drive me in the wrong direction. Who knows? But it's back to my own studio and my easel, and a life drawing class again this summer. Feels like home, and I hope finally all the work I've put into my art will reap a harvest of more work done without constraint and with joy.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

seeing what is true

I'm not a rabid series TV watcher and I don't plan my time around sitcom schedules. But one indulgence I have enjoyed is the series, The Gilmore Girls. It's the story of a young woman born into a wealthy family who becomes pregnant as a teen, has a baby girl, and moves out on her own unbeknownst to her parents. The series picks up with Lorelai, the mother, and Rory, the daughter, sixteen years later, needing to reconnect with the estranged parents/grandparents, and in time, the father. The new show episodes air on Tuesday and reruns can be found daily, and even today, a Sunday. I happened to catch an old episode I had not seen. Rory and her mother are the heart of the show and very close. Lorelai is preparing to graduate from business school, something she could not do as a young woman, and so Rory makes all sorts of plans and promises to be at the graduation. She's the type of girl who never misses an important event, is over-reliable and so tender-hearted to do anything to hurt anyone is almost impossible.

In the previous episode, Rory receives a phone call from someone she had cared for in the past, a sort of bad boy who left town without saying goodbye to anyone. He goes to New York City and calls from there, not saying much, but letting her know where he is. On a very uncharacteristic whim, Rory cuts school and boards a bus for NYC. She finds Jess and spends the day, planning to get home for graduation, but not able to because the bus is delayed. So on one of the most important days of her mother's life, she breaks a promise and is not there. The end scene has mom pulling up to their house with daughter sitting on the porch steps, not even letting her mother get a word in edgewise trying to explain how stupid she and how much she needs to be punished. This goes on for several moments until her mother cuts her short and helps the Rory to see that she really cares for this boy. Rory is unable to accept that truth and wants to be punished to make things right, but punishment won't change things. She won't even agree to go out with her mother to dinner, feeling so ashamed and not worth the trouble, but Lorelai asks her, "Don't you think I'm worth it?"

It's never hard for me to find parallels between my relationship with my heavenly Father and stories on tv or that I read. This mirrors the prodigal son-the wayward son comes back to the father and says "make me a hired hand". The issue is, a son or a daughter could never be that. Rory begs to wash dishes, clean, be grounded, no music or books, for months. But the thing is, the deeper issue-the competition she feels in her heart for a boy pitted against her affection for her mother-is a truth that can't be made up for. It is simply true, and the daughter cannot bring herself to admit it. Sometimes it's easier to deflect the truth and do things to cover it over than just come to the place of admitting. The Father wants only to hear our true hearts, and sometimes that is tough. I find myself in just such a place. I feel myself washing dishes, cleaning, avoiding facing what I know in my heart is true...there is something in there I don't want to admit, least of all to God. I love God, it is true, and I need to trust that that love is powerful enough to accept other loves I have in my heart, warranted or not. I need to want my Father to see my heart and help me do the right things, or just grieve sometimes for things that can never be. Loving isn't wrong, nor is grieving. I just need His acceptance of me in my turmoil and to stop punishing myself for being human.

In the end I find my God far more gentle on me than I am on myself.

Friday, April 27, 2007

to everything

I'm starting to understand and know how important it is that God is in every detail of all I do, not so much in an outward way, but inward. Some things that look good and seem good may not be good, and the only reason I'm still hanging on is that it's something I've always had, someone I've always known, something I've always done. Well, if it's time to change or move on, that whatever, no matter how good, is no longer to me. I have to search my heart and ask myself what my motives are for being in relationship or being in certain situations. As the scripture and the Byrds told us so eloquently, "To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven..."

To me this is even more important than judging something by the worldly outward package. Of course, it pays not to be stupid and the scriptures also say the deeds of the flesh are obvious. I'm not going to murder or commit adultery nor be with people who would tell me do that. The script! already written. However, I'm also not going to stay away from the inmates I work with because they've done some terrible things. I'm there because God says "be there" and I need it as well. I just attended a church ladies meeting, and while the women are lovely, I don't think I belong there. No one said I don't, but my heart's in a different place. I have friends who are gay, friends who are artists, friends who think so completely differently than I do, yet are faithful and loving and want the best for me. I see God working in their lives and I feel, "who amI?" to judge or reject them. I truly love them. And I firmly believe there is a season. I've also given my promise to a few that I will always be there, so long as there is a reason. I may not always be there in the same capacity, but the ties that bind are strong if they are wound up with God's love.

I'm to tell my story tonight at Celebrate Recovery. It helps to look back and see the threads of things in our lives, how at certain times certain things happened and why, how have choices I've made affected my life and how did God lead me forward. I'm always changing and hope that it is for the better. I'm always wanting to love better and understand more. Sometimes I wish I could go backward, but the Spirit doesn't stop moving. Only we do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

be still and know?

Well, here it is Tuesday, and I find it rather comical that after all the frustrating things that have happened in the last few days, the thought of driving to Philly and going to NYC doesn't even register on the emotional Richter scale. This morning I had to pick up a photo for a portrait and agreed to meet my client at McDonald's. Well, so I thought....and so did she. Except that she was really thinking Burger King in our little town, and the nearest McDonalds is down the parkway. So I'm sitting miles out of town, and she's sitting in town, and both us are wondering what the world's going on. I waited for about 45 minutes plus travel time and zoomed back into town. I checked phone messages because I do not own a cell phone, and there's the messages-here I am at McDonalds (well, no, you can't be). Next I am at Burger King. Shoot (no, I didn't really say that, but...). So I jump in our jeep and fly down to the BK in town and whew! she is still there. We laughed over our foolishness, thankfully and talked art turkey. The photo is loverly, perfect, it'll be great!! But I limp away with my nerves shredded, again.

And yesterday, my friend finally got my letter, and I finally got his manuscript to mail. I was on pins and needles for two days not knowing what the heck was going on or how I could fix it. I couldn't. My daughter's duct tape dress came out fine, but it was another one of those....I don't know what the heck is going to happen. It could look great, it could be a poo-fest. Lord, do I hate that!! And is that what He is teaching me! Patience, trust, love, calmness....ARRRGGGGHHHHH!!!! I just can't seem to master it! I blow up and then I laugh when it all works out. I gotta quit the explosions. They are becoming more minor, but I struggle so.

So on we go, trying very hard not to worry about the rest of today or tomorrow. What lessons are in store for me??

Sunday, April 22, 2007

and she's off...

Man, we're already into Monday (early Monday)....where did the time go? Where did my weekend go? Well, for one thing, it seemed like I was on a steeplechase track for humans, jumping water traps, high bars, zooming around obstacles, trying to follow faith rather than being ridden by fear and knee-jerk reactions since last week. In the quest to love and help people and honor promises I've made, obligations I've obliged myself to, I had to complete a double portrait for a memorial celebration of life, transcribe the music to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and find a decorative easel to rent for the picture to be displayed in the service. It seems to take forever to draw.

I decided to start a life drawing class again in the summer, and so was e-mailing and telephoning the necessary powers that be for this and am trying to remember I have to put out a mailing to my old list and find models. That was put on the back burner with a little heat to get started. I won an award at our Art League spring show, and needed to go to CR on Friday night, and then race out to receive the award and race back. I had to run the Saturday prison group without my partner and so came down to the wire writing an outline and trying to figure out what direction to take the step we were doing. Plus I had volunteers coming, found out we had no guard when I got there and had to move from one room to another. Not that this is any big thing, but understand always just going through the metal doors is an accomplishment for this gal. There were issues here I needed to work out in my own mind-who should volunteer? How is one qualified? How to work with the leadership there for the common good?

Then I found out a letter I had sent to a friend promising to do something really important never made it. I felt terrible when I received word back, as I though I had failed this person. I can still work it out, but I'm back on the track, falling into the waters of disappoint and shame, trying to get up, get artwork to yet another show, clean house, go to a show in Saturday evening in which I had artwork. In the middle of the day I was flying down highway 81 to check out a mural job, which turned out to be a 10' x 28' depiction of Las Vegas in a pizza shop. I accepted, questioning myself on the ride home, "what did I just agree to??", terrified I can't, but sure I can. Just how much wear and tear on my mind and body will this take? I have a portrait job to check out Monday.

Ok, try to sleep and feel ok, can't, have to get my daughter's duct tape dress done for prom on Sunday, and I have no idea how it's going to come together. Write another reply to said friend, write to his parents, and priority the reply on Monday....AND....don't worry!! (Impossible) I'm jumping hurdles of guilt, self-doubt, stop, stop, rethink and relax!! I have to go to Philly on Tuesday to visit my other daughter who is in a fashion design program (I want to, would love to, need to!) and also need to get her sister's hopefully finished dress to her for grommeting. We go to NYC Wednesday to get material for her final collection-where's the money coming from, and I need directions and so need to speak to her boyfriend. Don't worry, don't worry, it will get done.

Sigh...finally I got a call from my sister, Mary, and just listening to her talk made me realize-you know, I've got it pretty darn good. My worries are nothing compared to hers. She's working two jobs, a factory job and McDonald's, to help her husband through nursing school. She's locked into having no real time for herself and I think I've got every outlet for my own creative and ministry expression. Her daughters are both pregnant and not married. I can't even plumb the worries there. While life is crazy, nuts, insane and unfathomable some times, most times, I guess I like it that way. Jesus said His followers would have abundant life-I think I've got that?!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

white letter and thoughts

How to make sense of so many different things in life that keep hurtling at us? I don't know how to feel, what to do, what is right or important, or who to believe so often. I guess love is the common denominator and the great equalizer, but sometimes I feel like in the name of love I'm closing my eyes to point and shoot at whatever I think is right at the moment. It's so hard to hold on to sanity, to God, when you're not always sure just where the heck He is or what He's up to. He's inside, but my heart's divided. He's everywhere, but gee sometimes I need a spiritual GPS.

Oh well, in the midst of the questioning and such, here's Brandon with a letter to add to the craziness (uncensored)!

"It's April and we're being snowed in as I write (No, wait, it stopped. Ok, It's back. No, It stopped again). No weatherman can make money here, it's impossible! If anything it keeps you on your toes and gives you something to cry about. My cellie (Shane) is formulating a show schedule from our neighbor's TV Guide and trying to figure out how we're going to watch "House", "Deadliest Catch", and "Oil, Sweat and Rigs" at the same time. All the shows we like are on Tuesday at 9PM. As it is he's angry I dropped cigarettes and took to the corn cob pipe I originally bought as a novelty. After smoking it a few times indoors the cell had taken on a strong vanilla smell, like someone had vomited a pound of Nilla wafers while baking cookies. Not realizing the pipe had left such a lasting odor, I would ask Shane why the cell smells like a cookie factory. "It's that f-cking pipe smoke!" Considering we share our living quarters with a toilet, I thought it was a vast improvement over the trapped fart smell that always seemed to emanate from it. I appeased him by rockin the cob outside or when he's not around. I do however plan on having some form of tobacco with my evening coffee....dammit.

He goes on, "Yesterday Shane threatened a guard he'd stand for count naked (or nearly so, at least), substituting a sock for a fig leaf, if you catch my meaning. We knew the CO pretty well anyhow, and he wouldn't have cared. In the end my cellie decided to fashion a sumo wrestler's get-up of a long john top and pose next to his locker. The CO thought it best to count our cell with a hand over his eyes."

Ok, time to do something. Oh, I have to go to the chiropractor. Brandon has tried to call us, so I hope next time his news can be in person!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I'll be leading the prison 12-step group I work with this week. My partner and friend, Phyllis, a Lutheran pastor, is going to an AA breakfast, so I will be on my own, though a prison chaplain will be in the gathering with me. Our step this week is number eight, "I will make a list of all persons I've harmed, and became willing to make amends for it". This is a tall order. It is the first step that deals with "the outside world" and potentially unsympathetic or down-right vindictive people, or even in the best-case scenario, good people who will need to mete out consequences. Just think about it in your own life...what if suddenly, you got a summons in the mail telling you you had to appear in a court among all the people you had harmed in your life. Could you imagine anything more daunting, if you sincerely desired to make thing right? I need to carefully meditate on all of the aspects of this step before I go inside. What does this mean to me? To the incarcerated?

I was just reading in the Old Testament, and amends there meant death usually. If you cursed God, your parents, or injured another human being, you were faced with being stoned to death by the congregation. If you injured an animal or property, it was eye for eye, tooth for tooth, you were forced to suffer the same loss. Our court systems today decide what reparations must be made to the state or government, and my ladies are already making amends there. But is there not more to this? Is it simply pay up and move on? Jesus said to his followers, if you bring a gift to the Temple and there remember your brother has something against you, leave immediately, be reconciled, and then come back and offer your gift to God. He said further that even being angry with someone unnecessarily is being a murderer in your heart. There is more owed here than just giving back or doing time.

I have always loved the story of Zaccheus. There is a cute kid's song about him, "Zaccheus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he....he climbed up in the sycamore tree....the Lord for him to see" something ridiculous like that. Actually, Zaccheus was a tax collector, a CHIEF tax collector. You could not get more scum-baggy than that in Jesus' day. Being this is IRS season and we personally were compelled to pay over a thousand dollars back to them, I can understand how hated such a man could be. Plus he extorted money from people for his own well-being. So one day Jesus rides into town, and Zaccheus wants to see the superstar prophet from Galilee everyone's buzzing about. But he's short, and so he climbs a tree along the parade route and Jesus stops right under the tree. He tells Zaccheus to "come on down-I'm having diner with you today!" Zaccheus scurries down the tree in his excitement and promises to never extort money again. In fact, he promised to pay back four times what he had taken from people. Jesus said that today salvation had come to this house. Zaccheus didn't make amends to assuage his guilt, get something, win friends and influence people-his heart changed, and he had a clear understanding that doing what he did was wrong. He longed to please God and do the right thing because of that.

Motivation is everything, and a heart-change so necessary. A friend of mine who was more or less in hiding from the police, living a good life and a believer, began to realize that to do this step meant for her, turning herself into the police with a possible penalty of huge jail time. Her only motivation was to please God, even if the consequences caused her severe loss. She did do this and was exonerated. But there was no guarantee of that. And I tell myself, how often do I even think about making amends to God Himself? Is it not He that I rob, I injure and wound so often, extort because I owe my very life to Him? It should be an interesting Saturday group.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

what's a life worth

The thing I have to keep asking myself is, what is a life worth? Is it even mine to ask that question? But I have to, the more I spend time in the prison and the more it becomes a passion and a calling. Is it worth trying to help people you know will probably never be able to help themselves or maybe never really lead what we would consider a productive life? I guess we all assume that our own lives are worth other people's time and effort. We believe our own lives are supremely important.

The thing I have to depend solely on God for is the determination of how important His creation is. That is not my call. I see it in the justice system, how easily in the hands of human beings life becomes cheap. It is a hard, hard job to do, to determine what another person apparently deserves according to the laws of the land. And according to God, we all deserve punishment for our sin. It is something that touches every life. Everyone born is in need of mercy, of a commutation of sentence.

So really, we're all on common ground. I feel my own inadequacy in trying to determine , sometimes, what is the best way to spend what time I have upon this earth. In truth I see an infinitely patient God working among people who at best have the most meager understanding of His nature, which we were created to reflect. But sin has cracked and ruined the mirror of our shining purpose. I have to look at the most worthy Life, and realize it was used up and cut short to redeem sinful people. Can I do any less?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

surprises (sort of)

I got some surprises in the mail this week! I got into an exhibit called "The Art of the Colored Pencil", and I got into a regional competition here in our state. I sent out a slide to the Salmagundi Club in NYC with a clear sense that I have a good shot at getting in their non-member exhibit. A friend has asked to use my art for some of his projects, and I'm contemplating starting a drawing class at the prison. How this will all pan out I don't know, but somehow I either feel like, "I'm BAAACCCKKK", or maybe, I'm arriving. My confidence level is new. I have the feeling whatever it takes to make it, that is what I'm going to do, and mostly that means lots of time at the easel and time promoting my work. I do plan to enter The Artist's Magazine yearly competition as well.

I don't know what motivates a person to want something badly enough not to give up. Seems like in my case there are many factors. I can't stand to lose. I'm stubborn as a mule. I believe that this gift is my responsibility and that God gave it to me, therefore I must do SOMETHING! I've gotten to a place where not to go forward is more of a risk than going forward, even if I "fail". But going forward means I'm choosing success. I've heard in said that steps in faith create their own destination. I believe that. I just can't predict the distance or the specific place I'll wind up. I'm willing to chance that. Perhaps it is seeing, week after painful week, where an unfocused, devil-may-care existence leads. All I know is, I don't want it. I don't. I remember Olympia Dukakis' character of a jilted wife on the movie "Moonstruck". She turns a man away from her door rather than cheat on her husband because she tells him, "I know what I am". Her character determines her decisions, not the spur of the moment judgment.

So I guess I "know what I am". I don't guess-I'm sure. I've decided. So on I go, deciding with every step what the next will be, praying, believing.

Monday, April 09, 2007

how can it be?

I'm not a daytime tv watcher, but I did put on the tube this late afternoon just to sit down for a moment (so I thought). I became mesmerized by the subject, a family that disappeared in a small, community-oriented town in Rhode Island in the early 90's. I'm also not a court tv watcher or reality crime person, though I do like CSI. Anyway, turns out a family of three, parents and an 8-year-old, were murdered by a family "friend" and business associate. The odd part about this is the murderer went to relatives of this family to tell them they had been kidnapped by the mafia in the blood-stained car of the missing people. At this time of course no one knew if they were alive or dead or what had happened just exactly. The bodies remained missing and no charges were filed for a year and a half.

The thing that got me was that when the bodies were found, this "friend" was charged with murder. He was so trusted by the family at first that he had been given permission to pick up their daughter from daycare. He kept insisting he was innocent and a victim of a mafia plot. He testified from the witness stand about fictitious Italian and Chinese hit men that supposedly terrorized the family and were ultimately to blame. The story was so bizarre the prosecution feared this man being ruled insane and delusional if the jury didn't buy the story, so he would get off regardless. Again, it seemed impossible to me that someone could gain the trust of rational folk, plot to murder them all over a business deal gone bad (but not that bad), including picking up an 8-year-old child from daycare with that thought in mind, then cover it all up with some fantastic story. It sounds like a child trying to wiggle out of some kitchen disaster or a broken window. But this is a middle-aged man who simply lost his friend's money in a bad business deal and was called on it. His response was to kill. He was charged with the murders and given life.

Where did it all go so wrong? Scripture says foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from them. I don't think this means beating a child is how to keep them on the right path. Discipline speaks of teaching and training. Without that, the human heart is capable of anything. Lack of discipline and rebellion against parents was such a hideous thing it was punishable by death in the Old Testament. I think we need that help all throughout our lives. We need to be kept accountable, we need people to help with the job of keeping discipline in our lives. The undisciplined mind is so prone to error I don't know how we do as well as we do. I'm not suggesting people would murder in answer to life's difficulties, but clearly, in a place where people said it shouldn't happen, it did. Doesn't matter where...the real problem is in the heart of a man.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

resurrection day

It's sort of an odd Easter-my husband and I are alone in the house. We do have a promise from Brandon to call, and Rebecca is headed back this way this afternoon after visiting her sister in Philly and having some fun days among work days in spring break. She babysits neighbor children, so weekdays she's working and going to school. I was feeling pretty sick without having to have total bedrest yesterday, but I'm better today. There's only a mild reminder of the pounding headache and I'm ready to get to church early and cook this afternoon.

I have to remember what this day means. Amid changes in life, feeling that the house is just too empty, what will the future hold, I feel old and tired too many days, I miss people who aren't around...there is one thing that never changes. My eternity Master and Friend goes through everything with me. He won that right on Calvary so many years ago. Jesus said to His disciples, "It's good for you that I go away, because if I don't go, the Holy Spirit won't come". Jesus was limited by the flesh in the days He walked the earth, but now, we have the Comforter, Paraclete, our Helper and the One who never leaves, the Spirit of truth. He's the one who loves through me and gives what I do such purpose.

I came home from the prison yesterday feeling not so great. I was glad to be there, and at the end of our time together, we held hands and prayed. Everyone prayed. There were no shy flowers, and it was just a simple time of giving thanks. After I got home and as the day wore on I thought of those women and all the words that were shared. It truly is a miracle I'm there. I have to remember that. If it were up to me, I wouldn't be. The love that was poured out on Calvary lasts for all time, backward to the dawn of it, forward to the end of it, the source cannot be exhausted. The resurrection bathed all of eternity in purpose and light. I was caught in that light that shines more and more brightly on my life the more I allow it to. That is what I wanted to communicate to the ladies today and remember myself. Every day of our lives can be a resurrection day if we let God have His way in our lives.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

the last word

Maybe this is an addendum to the last post, but I don't know how really good I am at not being the center of attention. How good am I at patting someone else on the back without needing a return high five, or at least some verbal recognition? Yesterday evening I was at a leadership meeting of my Celebrate Recovery comrades, and really without knowing it, we acted out what the instructional time of the meeting was about-unity. It was one of those things that just sort of happened, and the person facilitating the group sat back and let happen what was happening. I give him great credit for that. He went further to praise another member of the team for something that happened on Saturday in a rehab setting where the two guys hold meetings. Then that individual responded with some funny and self-deprecating comment. This went on like a fun match of verbal compliment ping-pong, and I was glad, but I found myself almost automatically saying or doing things that drew attention to myself. Not in a disruptive way, but I realized I feel like I have to be the wittiest or silliest person in the room.

Something else happened today that once again made me very conscious of this. The situation was one where I feel I've gained victory over those "look at me" emotions. But in recognizing this, I sort of felt a sense of loss even as I knew it was right. In being willing to stay in the background, you sometimes feel forgotten. It is so hard to be anonymous. At least it is for this prima donna. I want to want to be. And I'll have to admit, in this, the wanting to be overcame the feelings of "I'm being ignored". I wasn't at all. The comments I made seem to have the intended effect. And only the other person involved needed to hear them (or read them). We talked about this in our meeting-if one person has something against another, only those two individuals should know, unless there is a serious problem. We banned gossip and backtalk.

I need to always be of this mind in relationships. If I go after another person's company or affections because of a lack on my part, it's wrong. If I serve somewhere because I want to be noticed, I'm out of line. I was talking to my youngest yesterday, and my comment to her was that she seemed to me to be a complete person. She is very social and loves people, but she isn't needy. She has a string of broken heart behind her already, but not because she's a cruel person. She just likes being a friend more than a one and only, and gives every boy she meets the "friend test". If they don't want to hang with her friends, they're out. I wish I could have said that at 16. All I wanted then was a boy to notice me. Chuckle. And if I couldn't have that, I wanted the world to bow at my accomplished feet. The people that made me the angriest were the ones who told me the truth. I try to find those people now, and when I do, I strive to not need the last word.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

empty nesting

As our family begins to poise itself for the "empty nest" syndrome, I realize how much of myself I have invested into the full nest. I've worked outside the home off and on, but only as a means to supplement what goes on inside the home. I did study to become a dental technician, and I guess you could say that is my career, but I never used my skills to truly follow a career path. I went back to school to chase a dream, my art, but at the first and even now, did not use my skills to follow a career path there, either. All of my energies were pretty much directed at making and keeping a home. That's normal, biologically comfortable for most women and still our primary "job" while children are small, and certainly extends and expands as they grow in different ways.

I've lately been exposed to attitudes that differ greatly from mine, some negative, some positive. At the prison I've met mothers inside who, while I'm sure they have some feelings for their children, in reality don't invest into their children's lives. They live for themselves. Otherwise they would not be in prison. They are by and large drug peddlers, users and abusers, or some combination of all three. Some are alcoholic. I cannot relate to them easily. My children have always been my bottom line, the reason I have struggled to stay married, to find joy in the sacrifice they require, to come back to sanity when I want to walk out the front door and never return. I haven't felt that lately because I see the fruit of that sacrifice and I know I could never be happy making choices that would hurt them, or put them in danger. My mom died when I was a teen, so my older sister and I used to joke that there was no packing a suitcase and running home to mommy if things didn't work in our lives.

Another side of womanhood and motherhood I've seen lately is the career working woman. My husband and I are looking at getting into real estate as investment properties, and needed to form an LLC. We went to our long-time accountant and found out she does this on the side. As we talked I came to realize she has a knack for spotting deals and no shyness about making them and doing the necessary things to be successful. She's not hard, she has children, but she is tough. I don't feel tough at all. But I know I have to choose how I'm going to live when my children are no longer my main focus. I will have to make choices for myself. I'll need to use my talents the best way possible.

I'm so glad for the years I spent as a mother of pre-school and grade school children. My youngest will be a high school senior next year and is already thinking about college. I want to embrace the coming years equally well, and I know that will require the discipline and self-sacrifice I learned as a busy mom, but I will be applying those qualities in a different way. It seems odd to be thinking of myself, what do I want? I still think I want to prosper my family, and now I'll be freer to do that. The freedom just feels strange. I had an inmate write to me in response to my own worries regarding remaining accountable to my art ambitions. He scolded me qently, reminding me I have all the freedom he wished he did. This man has accomplished things in prison most people dream of doing their whole lives. I have to remember, anything is possible. My greatest need is to believe that is true.

Monday, April 02, 2007

nana's letter

Today my mother-in-law brought over a letter from Brandon to her, wishing her a happy birthday. Their birthdays are a week apart, and when he was home they would go out to dinner together to celebrate. In fact that is how I remembered her birthday. But this year, of course, that didn't happen. It was his 21st, her 81st. I read the letter and thought, man, that sure doesn't sound like Brandon. It was sweet and funny, just enough for his Nana. Just as quickly as I read it, I thought to myself, Brandon, why did it take prison to grow you up? But I had to leave the thought there and simply be grateful he even remembered to write to her.

Still, I think to myself, years separate our homecoming. I wonder if Bran will continue to grow. I think so. I have to tell myself he's choosing to make the best of it. We also got a book back that I tried to send to him through an Amazon seller. Well, I'll just have to try again to find something interesting. I guess the odd part of it all is that while Bran was home he seemed as easy to pin down as the wind. I wasn't ever sure where he was when not at work or school, or what he wanted. We talked, but those times were usually at odd junctures of work and waking up, and seemed to be forgotten as quickly as they happened.

I think somehow those bars are helping him to stop slipping through life. It takes a firm and stable position to create something of worth in life. I see that in the ladies at the county lock-up. As long as all they think about is living for today, they won't have any tomorrow. Sometimes freedom is a dangerous thing.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

cat palms

This Sunday is my cat's favorite. I have a mentally deficient cat who loves to attack the palm fronds you get on Palm Sunday if you go to a church that passes them out. My cat, CJ, is the most enthusiastic palm-waver I've ever seen....and biter, and eater, and attacker and dragger of the palms from wherevery they may be to wherever they may land when his walnut brain gets distracted. It doesn't matter if they are behind a picture frame or mirror the cat can't reach, on the table where he shouldn't jump or hidden. Eventually they wind up scattered all over the floor with bite marks.

Somehow I forgot today was Palm Sunday. I woke up really not wanting to go to church. Friday and Saturday were a bit hard physically and emotionally. My daughter who was in from Philly had to go "home", and our Friday Celebrate Recovery small group was pretty intense. Then Saturday at the prison somehow no matter how much we laughed and shared and felt good words were spoken, one woman who was supposed to be out was there again, and several others were determined it didn't matter what they did-they'd leave drugging and drinking and be back in again. I know this is part of the gig. I know not everyone will be changed by what me or my partner says, or our leaders in CR. I know.

So seeing those palms scattered all over the floor being guarded by an anxiety-ridden kitty who eats his own fur was sort of heart-warming. It was good to be home in my own house. It was good to know it bothered me some about not wanting to go to church. And I did go, and it was good to remember that the King is still on the throne no matter how people live their lives. After I left the prison on Saturday I headed straight to an art competition drop because I know I do good work and I live out my passion for art. So much comes down to knowing what you want and choosing. My crazy cat sure knows he loves his palms, and I think sometimes I have to be reminded it's good to know what your life is about and can go for what you love.