Hitched with a Twist

Last minute details that require action and sleep deprivation might be inevitable when putting on a wedding. They were for me. Writing a blog and I just weren’t in the same orbit. Thank goodness our orbits and time zones have re-aligned.

Just a month ago, I attended a wedding that will dwell in my heart forever. It wasn’t an over the top blowout: there were no ice sculptures, the band didn’t have an international following, the guest list lacked celebrities. But it was perfect.  My daughter, Bree, married her best friend and love, Joel.

Rather than gush about the gorgeous setting, on a lake edged with tall trees draped in Spanish Moss, the beaming bride and groom, or the two euphoric mothers; I’d like to share some personal highlights. Although personal to me, I hope this may spark ideas when you have an event. Here’s my list:

The wedding was a constellation of events each with it’s own capstone.

A Friday night soiree sparkled with chatter, drink and nibbles as enthusiastic women followed the instructions of a professional artist. Step by step, she showed us, how to paint wine glasses whose burgundy contents almost spilled with the slope of the glasses. What made this memorable, other than the works of art born of happiness and enthusiasm, was the connection people made with one another. This influenced the entire weekend and made attendees not just guests, but part of a “family”.

Saturday, after a Bridesmaid’s brunch and an afternoon of indulgent mani/pedis for the bridal party, fun at Disney world for others, or lounging by a pool in the middle of winter for some, 130 people gathered at the lakeside home of the newly-weds-to-be for a bar-b-q. Several highlights stand out. One was watching the southern sun set into December‘s darkness, a second was the compelling beauty of the candle lit walkway to the boat dock, a third was the patio, complete with fire pit and “outdoor kitchen”. It had been finished being built just that morning! The best highlight, without question, was being with so many people I love and who love Bree and Joel. This was worth every ounce of effort it took to get this far.

Another highlight was having my hair and make-up done professionally.  Now that’s something I could definitely get used to! (Why wait for a special occasion for pampering? There are long-lasting mood-effecting results!)

The ceremony was definitely the “it” moment. Guests found seats to Frank Sinatra type music. As soon as the seats were filled, the musicians broke into the James Bond theme. A red speedboat buzzed the shore twice then landed. Out stepped the groom and groomsmen, who nonchalantly and confidently walked up the aisle to greet the bridesmaids. There was so much “cool” in the air everyone froze in an instant of awe.

During the ceremony, my daughter walked down the aisle, stopped before me, and took my hand. Tears traveled from my heart to my eyes. The two of us approached the Chupah. I think the rabbi asked “Who gives the bride away?” and I answered, “I do”. The moment was overpowering and the memory of it hazy. I do remember giving her a kiss, saying I love you and… “now do I sit down?”

As Bree and Joel held hands and spoke their vows, a score of thoughts  passed through my mind . It was stunning.

Appetizers representing food from the places the newlyweds traveled together were served. Africa, England, Bolivia, Spain and the Caribbean were some of those places. This definitely added to the personalization of the celebration.

The cake was beyond fabulous―pina-colada and raspberry chocolate. Not a single crumb was left and we bought a cake big enough for a week of leftovers! No Kidding.

The bon fire on the beach and s’mores with giant marshmallows was an outstanding addition.

To end the night with a happily ever after, we saluted the couple with fireworks The lake mirrored the bursts of color, though the true highlight was the reflection on the faces of Joel and Bree. They out-shined the fireworks.

These highlights warm me, which in the middle of winter in Chicago is lovely. I like that I can read and re-read this blog to my heart’s content. The trick is to remember the highlights that couldn’t be tasted, seen, smelled, or heard–the ones that can only be felt.

It’s kind of sappy and unnecessary to say, but the best of the best is that family flew in from all around including: the United States, New Zealand and Thailand. Friends came from across the country.  The past couple of months have had many highlights, but none as meaningful as the gathering of  those who add love and light to our lives. This is the pinnacle on which everything else is measured.

 

 

 

Building a Wedding

積み木

A week ago I was in Orlando. Last week, blogging ran a good race, but alas, came in second to my completing wedding plans for my daughter. The bride and groom, my husband, myself, the groom’s parents, four dogs and a cat intermingled agendas while expectation and excitement played their duet in the background.

While the music played and family ties strengthened, the landscape inside the house changed. The floor became a landing pad for paraphernalia. Gift bags for the out of towners formed runways for hotel bound items, the wedding venue, while an upstairs bedroom was dedicated to necessities for the rehearsal dinner at the house.

A miniature city was being built. Boxes became towers, tables parking lots for decorations. Paper directives dotted dressers like mountain top dwellings. We were physically and emotionally in Never Land- a place that doesn’t exist until something of marvelous magnitude is about to happen. And it is.

Perhaps having my daughter be my oldest, middle, and youngest child makes this time especially precious. There are emotions that bubble fiercely inside me.

These feelings are not akin to the ones of preparation. They didn’t pop up over-night like box towers, decorative parking lots or paper houses. These feelings began at first glance. They rooted deeper and deeper in the quiet warmth of a place no one can see. A place of or all dimensions. A place where feelings eclipse expression.

One day, I hope my daughter will have the chance to experience these emotions too.

That time might be complimented by building a celebratory city too. Whenever it occurs, she will understand how totally she is loved.

On Moms-

She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along. ~Margaret Culkin Banning

  

 

 

Family and Things to Come

November 21st, the day after my father’s birthday. I’ll begin by saying he was enthralled with his birthday card, the one I talked about in my last blog. He got a kick from peeking in the pockets, pulling out treasures, little notes, pictures I drawn or stamped, fitting quotes, and copies of old photos.

Family seems to be a theme these days. It’s been a whirlwind year of events, all bringing their own stories and lessons and the year culminates with two exceptional events. This Thanksgiving my husband and I will celebrate the holiday in Orlando. Fleeing Chicago’s freeze and settling in sunny Florida would make the holiday exceptional enough, but it gets better.

My only daughter, who will be married one month from today, her dad and I, and our son to be and his parents, will celebrate this time of thanks together for what I hope will become an enduring tradition.

Years ago, when I taught pre-school, I wrote and illustrated a Thanksgiving book that will travel to Orlando with me. The book holds more than just words and pictures. It keeps cherished memories of “my kids” and memories of how we learned about the world and each other together. The memories glow like embers. They make my heart warm. They make me smile. They remind me how fortunate I am. This year I will share this simple book with my actual kids. What a perk for a parent.

With so much to be thankful, for-my daughter’s wedding to a guy we admire and welcome whole heartedly, good health, an amazing family, and memories that send my smile muscles into spasm, I’d like to share three favorite quotes that feed my gratitude and appreciation for a sense of humor..

“You’re not rich until you have something you can’t buy.”

‘True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically.’ – Author Unknown

“Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I’m grateful you took the time to read my blog.

A Birthday Gift You Can Give Too

1921 was a notable year especially for baseball player Babe Ruth, tennis player Bill Tilden, and scientist Albert Einstein, who gave a lecture in NYC on his theory of relativity. 1921 was also the year Warren Harding declared the official end of the war with Germany and the year gangster Carl Gambino entered the United States as an illegal immigrant yet to create a bloody legacy.

Most important to me however, 1921 was the year my father was born.

November 20th, my dad will celebrate his 93rd birthday. 93! There is nothing I could get him for his birthday that would let him know how proud I am to have him for a father, or how remarkable I think he is, not because he still plays golf, takes swim aerobic classes, works everyday, spends hours on his computer, is a phenomenal story teller, and is smarter and wiser than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Those things help, but his appreciation for what has been and what is, coupled with his lifelong commitment to helping others stands out for me.

I love to give presents, However, figuring out what to give my dad for his birthday is not an easy task. His closet is filled with clothing and shoes, and accessories from hanker chefs to cufflinks. His desk overflows with reading material, he has music at his fingertips and isn’t interested in bungy jumping or cooking classes.

What could I give him that represented me and my admiration for him? Artwork. A talent passed to me by him. It would have to be something simple. Something he wouldn’t feel compelled to hang or display–something small and intimate.

A birthday card. And so I made one–an extravagant little card with pockets, tags, hidden messages, and copies of photos of Dad from past years.

Making the card took time and thought, cutting and pasting (the old fashioned way) and a little research. What makes it special is that it is customized for my father and it can be tucked into a drawer or set out. I think he will be surprised and pleased that someone wanted to make something out of the ordinary just for him.

You too can create a custom card that has pockets to hold notes, trinkets, or keepsakes. There are endless ways to do it, Here is how I made mine.

(It may sound like a lot of steps but it’s easy. Once you have folded the paper you’re good to go.) See a sample of the card below the instructions.

  1. The first thing I did was find a piece of paper at least 12 inches by 12 inches to use as the card. Find something that will be attractive to the person the card is for.
  2. Fold one edge of the paper about three quarters of the way down. If the paper is a rectangle fold a long side. A bone folder helps to smooth the edge while folding.
  3. Fold the opposite edge over the top of the newly folded side of paper. It won’t reach all the way to the top of the folded edge. This is good because you are making a “pocket”. You should have something that looks like a long rectangle.
  4. Turn the edge with the overlapping side closest to you and glue the ends of the short sides together.
  1. Fold each short side until they meet the middle then fold the that in half.

This is your card.

  1. Open to the card so it is a long rectangle again.
  2. To turn the one large pocket into individual pockets, I placed narrow pieces of double sided tape on the folds that divide where the pockets are.

Fold the ends of the card towards the center. Then fold again to close the card.

PHEW-the confusing part is finished.

Once you have your card folded and glued/taped it’s ready to be decorated. Below is a picture of 2 cards I made (not my Dad’s card- that’s in the mail). You can see, I added tags, little notes, and colorful papers, stickers, writing, stamped images, and filled the pockets of one card with small sheets of white paper, to embellish the card and personalize it. Before you start to decorate your card, think about hobbies or interests your receiver has, places they’ve been, dreams they might have, where they live, if they have pets, a favorite restaurant, movie…

Sample 4 Paneled Folding Card

HINTS: wrapping paper scraps, magazines, pages from old books, and sheet music, are good resources for decorative paper. A glue stick is perfect and easy to use. Colored markers or pencils jazz up designs. If you want to really get carried away, draw or stamp your own designs, use whole punches, add some bling with rhinestones or glitter. Own it and have fun!

New Website, New Blog, New First Time

Today is a day of firsts for me. I have a spanking new website and this is my first post. Much thanks goes to Melanie Mendelson for her technical skill, business acumen and design aesthetic

When I was a little kid, my sister, brother and I would wait all winter long for summer to wrap us up in it’s greenery and the for the weather to register 72 degrees. This signaled, according to my mother, that it was warm enough to swim. Once every three years, before anyone else, I had the honor of jumping into the sparkling water that filled my grandmother’s pool. The broken surface meant the pool was officially opened. We rarely missed a day of splashing. I knew exactly what to do with the pool. I could swim, paddle around, make somersaults under the water, help my dog bob for apples, relay race, play Sea Hunt and Mermaid, or simply lounge on the hot cement that bordered the red tiles of the pool.

The weather isn’t 72 degrees, nor is the sun shining and the only greenery are patches of lawn beneath crunchy tawny leaves, however it is the official opening of my blog.

I want to share some of the reasons for this blog. The major one is that I like to write. Sharing that my blog is up and running helps keep me accountable for writing. This blog is a place for me to ruminate on ideas with the hope of a response. It’s a grocery store that carries general merchandise and trivia as well as specialty items such as specifics on anything to do with books, writing, artistic endeavors, capers in the kitchen, travel, and even things as obscure as the aesthetics of bathroom plungers.

Speaking of bathroom plungers…being an artist, setting up my living spaces as vignettes of aesthetic pleasure and comfort is a funtastic thing to do. Finding plungers and bowl cleaning brushes lacking in character, I painted the handles of these conveniences to match the walls, solid walls solid handles, patterned walls patterned walls. The uninspiring necessities thus “vanish” leaving bathroom clutter replaced with added ambiance.

Mixing elegance with whimsy gives me a tremendous kick. This is why black-silhouetted mice arbitrarily adorn my baseboards, and the floor of an over-sized French style birdcage is littered with gold stones with one meaningful word hand-written on each.

Because this is a day of firsts, I will admit for the first time, that mice run rampant along my walls, and my European birdcage is used as a seasonal statement piece. Painted stones today, faux snow and ornaments in December.

“Firsts” are exciting and something to celebrate especially when it happens to you. “Firsts” are risks, energy is high and intentions are positive. This is my first blog for the website and your first chance to read it. I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts to share. Visit my website or if you’re already there, tell me one of your “firsts”.

When Your Muse Isn’t Awake

I read something tonight from a friend who is an accomplished writer, artist, and teacher. The gist of of it was about not knowing what to say in her blog that would be of interest and helpful to her readers. Her mind was a complete blank. It was a good read as I sat on my black sofa, in my leopard jammies, and strained to hear the falling snow, while it made a sparkly coverlet for the floor of the dark sky. The contrast between the serenity of nature and the desperation that rattles in the minds of many artists, when it comes to performing, especially artists who have experienced success, was loud. Ironic isn’t it that we (artists and non artists) have the talent and skills to succeed and when we do we then begin to doubt ourselves. Before we make ourselves vulnerable, whether it be as a writer, artist, dancer, teacher, or “other”, we grant ourselves the freedom to walk all paths in order to reach our destination. Once we arrive at our destinations, we often plant  gardens of caution and fear that take enough tending that we can rationalize procrastinating to take our leave again. We hold ourselves captive in  gardens of thorns that we ourselves plant!

Recently, I have built a wall of words that separates the thorns from the blooms of possibility. The wall enables me to defend my right to be happy, make mistakes, and use time as it works best for me. The wall is comprised of eight words and the concept of  faith. The words are, “I’ll figure it out when I get there”.

I don’t have to worry how I will find the rest of my story so I can finish my novel, I don’t have to worry if the words make sense, I don’t have angst over the colors in my paintings”. I only have to show up and do one action. Draw one line, or write one word and from there, the rest will follow. That’s the faith part. Here’s an example. I write one word. From this word I make an association and write a second word, followed by another association and a third word. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense. The inner editor (whether it is writing, painting, composing music etc.) will see the words and unconsciously turn them into something understandable. That’s what our minds do. Eventually there will be a thought and then a sentence. For example, I write the word “swallow” which reminds me of the bird. I picture its curved wings and see them slice the air leaving no lines. I link the words: bird, wing, line. A word jumps out, “history”. Then the thought, how easy it would be if we could fly through life as easily as the swallow and leave no lines behind, no history, no baggage. What would that feel like, how would life  be different? Ahh, I have my topic…

Does this always work? No. Sometimes I forget that all I have to do is show up and think of one word, one thought, one image. Sometimes I can hardly get myself to sit still. But always, I’ve learned, that once I show up I will be taken care of if I simply make an attempt. Not every attempt is a keeper, but every attempt brings me closer to a keeper. We all want to be self expressed. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. However, I know if I show up and don’t give up, but keep going, even in a small way, eventually I will have chapters and one day a book.

Tell me what keeps you putting one foot in front of the other, how you begin when you don’t know where to begin, how you found the way to do these things. Strength is in numbers and so is wisdom.

The Importance of Plan B

The focus of this blog is Plan B, Acceptance, a word I’m wrangling with. Though acceptance makes the flow of life more ripple than whirl pool,  it’s still  hard to, well, accept. It’s hard to say good bye to the vision of something never had but craved, it’s hard to say good bye to something had that’s now vanishing. It hard to accept that which is not understood and it is hard to accept feeling powerless. The feeling powerless may be the worst of it. It is here that getting stuck, wilting, and giving up become  easy things to do. And for me that just isn’t okay.

My process of acceptance is too often one of reacting,  demanding answers to soothe my inability to comprehend, and flailing in a free fall of emotions that have only one redeeming feature– to point out the work I have yet to do to become my best self.  As my mother said, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” I don’t want to skin anything especially a cat, but I do want a Plan B to catch  anxiety when my agenda is  grounded and  take off  is in a sketchy direction. Plan B requires trusting my instincts, faith, positivity, and an open mind–seat belts of sorts to insure a safe landing. I use a seat belt in my car in case of an accident, why wouldn’t I use one to insure the success of my life?

Accepting that the only substitute to a sidelined Plan A is an alternate plan, underscores the primary importance of Plan B. But Plan B offers something else other than a modified way to achieve a goal.  The challenge of new circumstances  stimulates personal growth. I  stretch my thinking, I make room for new ideas, I increase my confidence, and I have more fun knowing that when I graciously accept what is, without irritation or expectation,  life flows with an inner calm, it’s easier, and an “I can do this” attitude surfaces. It’s not easy but it is simple. And keeping things simple is good. In fact that might be plan C.

How to Find Humility, Gratitude, and a Life

It’s been less than 24 hours since I had the privilege of running an art program in Wisconsin with boys and girls in a winter camp program. Stacked between pieces of wax paper in boxes are the now varnished, 100+ paintings that bear  the hopes and dreams made by these  young people.

Holding each painting today was for me, the same as looking into the hearts of the young artists I greeted and worked with yesterday. It’s humbling to be in a room filled with youthful exuberance, expectations that supersede logic, and an inner wisdom most of us don’t acquire without decades of experiences. How grateful I am for the chance to teach and be taught by these kids. Because of these children my today was perfect-I was present to my life and I was humbled by the love that emanated from the kids and the friendships they forge. Some friendships have endured for years others are recently made. Today I found  life, or maybe it found me among the reverie of laughter and the mess of paint, glitter, soggy paper towels, hairdryers madly drying canvases, well-used Sharpies and the meaningful thoughts of  excited happy campers.

The kids were asked to complete any one (or more) of the following thoughts:

When I grow up I want to…, I love…, What I have learned most from camp is… If I could do anything I would…

I’d like to share some of the responses.

“When I grow up I want to make people happy.”

“When I grow up I want to be President of the United States.”

“If I could do anything I would buy all the Legos I want.”

“I love camp because it’s HOME.”

“What I learned most at camp is I am not alone.”

So why does this impact me so much? Because all the children have cancer or leukemia. What ever it is  I do, is dwarfed by the phenomenal attitudes of these kids. It is truly an honor and a blessing in my life to know these spectacular children and I love them all.

** The name of the camp is One Step at a Time Camp.

What I Learned From Noah’s Ark

I wish I could take  credit for writing this but I can’t and I don’t know who did, do you?

“Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah’s Ark:

One: Don’t miss the boat.

Two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

Three: Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

Four: Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something really big.

Five: Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

Six: Build your future on high ground.

Seven: For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

Eight: Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

Nine: When you’re stressed, float a while.

Ten: Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.”

Who Will You Be?

Who will YOU be when you grow up? Tricky question, since in my opinion we are grownup (or as far as we’re getting) when we take our last breath. I do know that wherever we are in life we can always add on and expand what we know, what we do, and what we think. I LOVE THIS! It’s exhilarating to be in the process of life and I am grateful to be an active participant.