Why I don’t say “I am proud of you.”

hax120427

I cringe when someone says, “I am proud of you”, to me or anyone else. I have had this reaction for years, not just recently. I hesitated saying it to my children while they were growing up. It just sounds so condescending to me. Like I am saying, I know better/do/think than you and am qualified to point out to you that you are on the right track. I looked up the meaning of the phrase and according to the mass online presence, it means that the person saying it has been through or knows what you have been through to accomplish what you have accomplished. This would involve a very personal relationship to have been developed between the person saying it and the receiver and a very long relationship. In my opinion, teachers, mentors and parents could be included without question. Why did I use it sparingly on my kids, if at all? Saying it made me feel oddly superior and while I know we are superior in many ways to our kids. This phrase made me feel like I was egotistically reminding them of my superiority, like a reminder of your place in the hierarchy of relationships, a putting you in your place with a smile on my face kind of exchange. It took the focus away from the celebrated victory and placed it on my feelings about it. It felt deceptive, a little bit cruel and not at all conveyed the message I wanted to tell them, which was:

You accomplished such a monumentally important thing and I hope you bask in the glow of this feeling as much as I am right along with you.

I seriously rejoice in my kids accomplishments and personally think they are the best human beings on the planet. I also have a decent amount of personal pride in my accomplishment of raising two amazing human beings. I say, “I am proud of you” in the mirror to myself everyday, because, well, I feel superior to myself and need the reminder of where I fit in the relationship hierarchy.

 

No Memorial Service For Me

I recently lost my gram. This beautiful woman was such a vital part of me and was inextricable from my life. I feel as if a part of me has died with her. I was blessed to have been by her bed days before she left us to hold her hand and tell her that everything would be okay and that I loved her. To which she replied very lucid, “I love you too, I really do.”

I attended her memorial service to be there for my mom. She was the sole caretaker for the last years of gram’s life, while the rest of the family were off living their lives or too busy to care for the dying. At the end mom couldn’t even leave the house to go to the store or get the mail and yet the family still did not call or come to help. It was a great burden and took a toll on my moms health.

Mom and I did not want a memorial service for gram. Gram would have hated it. Another family member who is very much about the “show” insisted. That is what a memorial service is, a “show” for those who need to pat each other on the back and reassure each other that they were important to the deceased. Those who stand up and read a poem to the deceased while choking back tears, but hadn’t seen the deceased in years. Or the person who recounts a childhood memory and claims to be the deceased’s favorite but hadn’t seen or talked to the deceased in a decade. Who are these people to stand and speak out about a person that they had not loved or respected enough to come or call in years? Yet they have the gall to stand and speak as if they were a part of this persons life.

The whole service turned my stomach. I left before it was over. At the graveside I had had enough of the posers. They could continue their small patting of the backs and crooning over their very distant memories as they attempted to convince themselves that they showed the deceased love, comfort, concern and basic respect.

Memorial services are for this very type of activity. A funeral service ritual came about out of the necessity to transport bodies long distances after WWII, when the body needed to be preserved at a funeral home and a service held later at the deceased’s hometown. The booming and lucrative funeral service industry was born. Now it is big business to capitalize on people’s guilt. People that were not there for the deceased can assuage their guilt with the best and most luxurious coffin, service and buffet meal after while they read poems, recite memories from decades ago and make themselves feel better about neglecting to cherish a relationship with an aging person that was inconvenient for their life.

I do not want a memorial service. If you want to express your love for me, do it while I am alive. When I leave, those that were there in the end will have a party and drink my favorite wine, telling stories of our mutual adventures together. When I leave my body, cremate me and spread my ashes in my chosen places. No headstone, no grave. I will live on in the hearts and memories of those that loved me and showed up until the end. No posers allowed.

To my gram:

We said our words in person and there was no need for me to pretend that we were important to each other. We were together till your end and I will carry you in my heart till my end.

IMGP1169

Five Generations of Women in my Family

IMGP1314

I organized a photo shoot over a year ago with five generations of women in my family. We all went to my gram’s house and stayed overnight in order to capture a full day of photos. I assembled a back drop against the living room wall and brought a suitcase full of props and ideas. I was one of the five generations so I used a remote when I was in the photos. My granddaughter was only a little over a year old and it was a long day for her…well for all of us. You see when you get five generations of women in one room for an entire day, well more unspoken communication happens than spoken and the dynamics that play out between all is a constantly changing wave of emotionally charged energy. The shoot didn’t turn out at all like I wanted it too. My mom couldn’t stop moving and most of the shots of her are blurred and she wouldn’t look at the camera unless I told her to. My daughter was trying her best to corral a toddler. The toddler got bored, restless, tired and wanted “booby”.  My gram was in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s and needed a lot of direction. I wore shorts and you can see me holding the remote in many shots. It was a rough day and we got tired and cranky but we got through it. I thought about doing another shoot in hopes of coming closer to my ideal goals for the shoot but I never want to do that shoot again…ever.

I finally after months of staring at these photos, trying to edit out the parts I don’t like, thinking I would re-shoot myself now out of context of the previous shoot and various other avoidance behaviors, have decided that this photo shoot shows these women and me exactly the way we are…a chaotic mess of interwoven complex energies that are reflected in the photos. I threw up my hands and picked out the images that show the story of that shoot. You can view them here.

Settling In and Squirming About It

The experts say it takes as long as you were gone studying to go through the stages of reverse culture shock upon returning to your home country. That is about right. So my absence has been an adjustment period for me and I think it took a little extra time to adjust to a new city upon return. Chad and I moved into a new apartment in a new city or rather in my old hometown where I grew up and lived for most of my life. In the meantime, throughout all of this adjustment I managed to continue my classes at PSU. The first term after my return from Italy I took all classes online and then the current term on campus. Life events seem to be changing so fast. This term I find myself a senior and facing the end of my sojourn through an Art History B.A. and it seems it just began! My plan is to continue my education in art history, classical studies, conservation/preservation or some such Masters degree. I am looking at programs in Europe, probably Eastern Europe if all goes according to plan. I would love to study Balkan art history in depth and formulate my thesis on that area of art. I am moved by the history of Romania, Bulgaria and Greece. So many ancient layers of art history moved through there over the periods and so much to discover and preserve.

I am itching to travel again and while I feel weary of travel in general and am burrowing in to my new place to feel rooted somewhere, I can already feel the urge to go out and seek again. I don’t know if this ever goes away. This need to find new places out there in the world and inside myself. New sights, smells, tastes and feeling the edge so close that balance becomes mindful. It really is an addiction. I am going to the Bahamas in a few weeks to spend some time on my own, reading, writing, soaking up the sun and while there of course visiting the art museums and cultural museums to get a taste of Bahamian roots. Photos will come! I have a brand new Pentax just waiting to be explored and this trip will be it’s maiden voyage.

I am enjoying the smallness of my life right now because I know from experience that it can change and become huge in a split second. I cherish time spent with my granddaughter and her wonder over how the light turns on and off. Her joy in discovery reminds me of how miraculous the tiny things really are. We flip a switch and have energy, water, TV, music, transportation…illumination. Image

New Year, New Beginnings, New Body, New Sight…New Life

Image

As we move into 2014 I am thinking back over the last year and what a year it has been. So many changes at a fundamental level for me. Friendships have been redefined, my body has become a healthy dwelling place, my mind has relaxed into a state of grace and really life has become closer to being what feeds my soul and gives meaning to the words, ” live with intention.”  Italy was one of the defining periods of my life over the last year, Italy opened me up and breathed it’s sweet wine into my spirit. My thankfulness is overflowing for that experience and as I have only left Italy 2 weeks ago…I am still processing what took place and how the levels that living as an Italian were transformed within me. I know that seeing my mom standing in the airport waiting for us was one of the best sights ever and being a part of all of the love and support from family and friends has been the highlight of this journey. True friends, the ones that support you even if they don’t agree with you or think your ideas are crazy and family that understands you and supports your dreams and even encourages you to follow them are what it is all about. These people are why I went to Italy and they are why I came home to live near them. As I think more about connections, support, community and where my energy flows I wish all of those that I call friend a wonderful new year and I look forward to being your friend in 2014 and supporting each other in all we endeavor.

8 Days until we Leave for Italy

I am doing the waiting game. I never seem to win this game however. I am ready to go and have been since we left Portland. At least here at my grams house I can be helpful and spend time with family. But I am really ready to get on that plane. So ready that I have even imagined it step by step, like what I will wear for comfortable sleeping, where I will put my laptop and dvd’s for easy viewing, will I wear the stylish shoes or my comfortable slip ons. Yeah, my brain drives me crazy sometimes.

Things about Gram’s and the reservation life that I enjoy: It is sometimes so still and quiet, at night you can see a blanket of stars against the black sky, everyone knows each other, the post office is a hang out, people shake your hand, it is so beautiful with trees everywhere and if I want the ocean is 15 minutes away, photo opportunities are everywhere, the negative ions feel great, dogs walk down the middle of the street and have the right of way and hanging with the family is never dull and will be missed.

There is one restaurant/cafe here called The Little Chief and it is your typical small town cafe, where the men gather every morning for coffee and talk about the state of the world or who grew the biggest tomato. The long suffering waitresses put up with their sideways advances and brush them off, the owner is also the cook and they make the best homemade hash browns ever, fried in real butter. On Thursdays you can eat there for free and it closes down daily at 2pm. They have a jar out at the register for donations for my trip to Italy.

Last week was The annual Run to the Rogue event.  It is a 234 mile relay run/walk in memory of the Siletz Tribal ancestors who were forcibly removed from their homeland in Rogue River country in the mid 1800s and marched north to Siletz and the confinements of the Coast Reservation. Mom and I gathered with a group of about 50 other people up on Government Hill where the annual pow wow is held and after a man sang a Whale song accompanied by a hand drum, we all followed the color guard down the hill and across town to where the road comes into town from out there, off tribal land. We all stood and watched in reverence as 3 kids dressed in shorts and hoodies started off walking for the first leg of the relay.  Everyone disbursed and went to The Little Chief of course. It was a holiday feel around town, the clinic shut down, the school brought the students down and it was observed, that this was a day to remember. I didn’t take photos as I don’t at most tribal gatherings, they have a different view on photographing sacred happenings.  But here is a full moon shot taken from Siletz.

Image

Coastal Life

I am spending some time with family at the Oregon coast. My mom and gram are Siletz elders and live on Siletz tribal land located about 15 miles inland from Newport Oregon.  Newport is a beautiful coastal town with fun little curio shops, thrift stores and art galleries. Today mom and I went for a walk along the rim of the cliff at the beach by the Newport Visual Arts Center. The temperature was a mild 83 degrees while inland in Siletz it was almost 90. We had a great walk looking in shop windows, admiring the art and flowers planted in the little beach cottage yards. A monarch butterfly paid us a brief visit. I sometimes feel like the coast is my forever home and  today it fed my spirit.

Image

Wood carving in front of Newport Visual Art Center

Image

Image

Image

13 days until we leave for Italy!

Making soup for one…

 The heart-shaped bowl may mislead you to think this blog is about being single, it’s not.  It is about the other forever love that we hold close to us; love for our children. Society defines that period of time, for parents, when your children mature and begin to leave their childhood home as “empty nest” syndrome.  I can think of many adjectives or definitions to give it that would more accurately describe the emotions and adjustments that arise from this one simple act of growing up.

My “letting go” period began with a drive to U of O campus, lugging stuff up two flights of stairs and helping my daughter settle into her dormitory. Her new roommate and parents were also crammed into the small dorm room. So as I started to leave, I hugged my daughter and walked out the door into the hallway where no one else in the room could see me but my daughter. Not wanting to embarrass her, I turned around and mouthed the words silently, “I love you.”  She laughed out loud and said very loudly, “I love you too Mom.”  I beamed all the way down the stairs and then I cried.

That was in 2007 and since then she has moved  farther away to Southern Oregon State, back home to live with me, out on her own and is married now. My son, 8 years her junior is turning 18 years old this week. He reminds me of this daily. I believe his independence increases by the minute. I can see it expanding in all directions. Of course he still needs me I tell myself. I still cook for him, clean up after him and check in with him when I am out late.

We went through a period a couple of years ago when this growing and stretching our relationship boundaries began to frighten me. As the last child in the “nest”, I held on tighter and resisted change with an iron fist. As a result he pushed harder against my boundaries and rebelled against my need to hold onto the little boy.

My bending moment came when I asked myself;  When did he get to be this way? Oh…wait, I raised him this way!!!  I taught him to be an independent thinker, question everyone and everything,  make his own choices, not based on other people’s opinions, suggestions or examples.  Whoops. My bad. Or good.

Our job as parents is to teach our children to be independent contributors to our world, to make choices and understand the consequences that come as a result. When we have completed that job, our children, equipped with that knowledge have to go out and test it and learn new knowledge on their own.

So flash to me making soup. It seems that making food is the last thing to change and adapt to being less full, less more. I intend to start small and end up making a big pot of soup. More soup than I want to eat in a week. Soup that I could freeze for later but know that after a week of eating it, I will not want it again until a year from now, at which time the soup will not be any good.

I may never be able to make soup for one. I continue to aim for it. I may just adjust my soup making days to coincide with visits from my kids or friends. I know one thing is certain, my kids will one day face the same challenge of making soup for one.  And so it goes around…