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Born to a Girl

It’s my mom’s birthday. Mom and I enjoy a close, loving relationship. I joke that we are growing old together. We are now more like sisters, rather than mother and daughter.

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She was a 17 year old high school senior when I was born. She took two weeks off after my birth, then returned to school and graduated with her class as scheduled. Mom was a year younger than today’s graduates, she started first grade at 5 years old.

Mom has always been a seeker of knowledge. It was very normal in our household to “look stuff up” on all kinds of things. We got the National Geographic and actually read it! We got all those Time Life books that came in series about famous artists, The Wild West, The Civil War, Archaeology – and we READ them. My favorite was the Artist Series, I’d get so excited when a new one arrived. Mom made learning a natural, fun thing to do.

It was quite the disappointment when she was told college was not an option for her after she graduated from high school. She did eventually attend college later in life.

Here is a poem I wrote about it:

Born To A Girl

I was born to a girl

Yet growing,

Still an inch shy

Of her full adult height.

A young lady

So very lovely.

Bright Eyes was

Her nickname.

Chestnut hair, Blue eyes

Turning up at the ends.

Strong Norwegian cheeks

and a perky, little “Barbie” nose.

Often late, she was

lean and athletic,

from running down

the long country road

to catch the school bus.

A smart student,

she hoped to go to college.

“No.” Her parents said.

“A wife you’ll be,

No college for you.”

She was told.

“Learn to sew, cook, clean house.”

Angry rebellion!

The sympathetic canoodles

Of an infatuated boy…

The tunes of the Everly Brothers…

“Whatta we gonna tell your mama

whatta we gonna tell your pa

whatta we gonna tell our friends

when they say,

‘ooh-la-la’?”

I was born to a girl

Yet growing.

Still an itch shy

Of her full adult height.

 

The young couple. Just married. (Geez, it looks like they’re going to a funeral!) Young family, both my parents are still in their teens.

Happy birthday to my momma! You have been such an amazing example of love in action in my life. I have loved having a young mother – it has seriously been such a blessing! Thank you for instilling in me a curiosity to learn, explore, ask questions and pursue my dreams. Because of you, I live my life happily in ARTitude each and every day.

Kathryn, “She” and Me

I am enraptured! Enchanted! Transported! By Kathryn. And She.

The first time I saw Kathryn Tucker Windham was circa 1984. My sweetheart and I had fled the stifling confines of Montgomery, Alabama for a refreshing jaunt to the Pecan Festival held near Monroeville. We hadn’t been there long when I spotted her. A white-haired woman in her late 60’s wearing a distinctive hat adorned with flowers, smiling with mischievous glee. She was telling stories about a ghost named Jeffrey to a crowd listening with rapt attention. “Hah! That’s your name!” I said to my very own (and very much ALIVE!) Jeffrey standing beside me. Never had I seen a storyteller entertain people like this before. I was ENTHRALLED! My Jeffrey had to drag me away after a while for I could have hung out there the whole time missing the rest of the festival and pecan goodies.

 

Thus, it was Kathryn Tucker Windham, one of the VERY BEST storytellers of all time, who first introduced me a full ten years early of what was to be my life’s calling! I remember nothing else of the festival, only Kathryn’s charming, southern voice rolling gently across the humid air to my eager ears.

Kathryn documented her long, story-filled life in several books and many, many, many storytelling venues. Those who witnessed her telling tales in person before her death at the age of 93 in 2011 were incredibly blessed. Incredibly!

I just finished reading her last book. >sigh< It was everything, and more than, I hoped for.

images  She: The Old Woman Who Took Over My Life

Oh my, my, my. She moves into Kathryn’s home and causes all kinds of mischief. The stories are so beautifully worded, and touch on the universal themes of family, childhood, aging, food, small town life, and more.

When I get this infatuated with a book, I’ll do immersive research related to the subject of my infatuation. I discovered a documentary from 1989 The Spirited Life of Kathryn Tucker Windham I very much enjoyed it. The video quality isn’t the best, but it does a fine job filling in biographical details about Kathryn’s life up to that date. I especially loved seeing the scrapbook pages her artistically gifted husband, Amasas made before his far too early death in 1956.

I also found her website Kathryn Tucker Windham and joined it. Her two surviving children write a blog together sharing further stories about Kathryn. It is excellent!

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There is more! In her later years, Kathryn had a lovely friendship with a neighbor, artist Charlie “Tin Man” Lucas. Their friendship is chronicled in a documentary The Tin Man and the Storyteller. I saw it several years ago. It is excellent. I hunted all over for it, this is the only bit I could find! Darn.

I am only 53 years old, and yet, I have seen She lurking near my home. I believe She is casing the joint; considering it for future residence. Thanks to Kathryn’s book, I am forewarned and forearmed! When She inevitably decides to move in, I know She will bring a determined effort to shrink me, change my diet, and smirk at my old age foibles. I also know I’ll now be better prepared to manage the disruptions and changes She will bring into my life with dignity, and a healthy dose of ARTitude thrown in for good measure. I have been so blessed by Kathryn Tucker Windham’s words of wisdom.

Feeling the ARTitude through music

Music is a vital part of my creative life. I listen to a VERY eclectic mix of music from across the globe and time. The stuff I stay away from is today’s TOP 40. Nothing creative about that packaged noise created by a group of people focusing on dollars over content. Every so often something decent slips through, but not often enough.

I look for creatively composed music, lyrics that communicate ideas, feelings, dreams…this is what speaks to my inner muse.

Pandora and movie soundtracks are my two main sources for hunting down music. One group I discovered after hearing their tunes in an indie movie is Dengue Fever . Click on the title to go to their website. They are an American band making Cambodian Pop mixed with psychedelic rock. Their music energizes me, my creative ideas expand while I’m listening to them. FYI – They’re a fun band to listen to while cleaning house.

Check out their Pandora channel Dengue Fever Radio. It is pure delight! Very unique, plenty of great variety in the featured bands. Great housecleaning music too!

There are lots of music artists I want to share with you, but one at a time. Okay? Better to savor each independently to see how you feel about them.

Dengue Fever = Music with ARTitude

ARTitude in Flight

Behold! My favorite children’s poem by Brod Bagert:

I planted bird seed in the ground

and wild weeds sprouted all around

I know it sounds a bit of absurd

But I didn’t grow a single bird.

Soooooo…I folded me some birds instead. HAH! How do you feel about that crummy birdseed! 

To start, I purchased one of those mobile picture holders. Then I looked through oodles of origami bird examples. None satisfied me. Not to be stopped, I took an example from a French language website I couldn’t read, studied the pictures, made a few changes, and VOILA! I made the the first of many birdies.

FullSizeRender[6] I used two-sided printed paper for a more interesting effect.

I added a green, pre-made, paper ball for a pop of color to the top, and inserted a butterfly (can you spot it?) in with the birds to delight people who take the time for a closer look.

FullSizeRender[5] ARTitude in flight!

 

Larn’n’ Writ’n Dagnamit!

This gal young’n was slow to larn to read. Writ’n won’t any easier.

“Ann is unteachable.” Said my first, first grade teacher. We moved. I got another first grade teacher who simply said I daydreamed too much.

I was saved by my love for books. My childhood picture books, many of which I have today, were beautiful to me.  For hours I’d stare transfixed by the pictures, noting every detail. I’d remember the story read to me, then I’d add to it letting my daydreams lead the way.

Sometimes, I drew in my books pretending to be an illustrator. 

This is how I develop my stories for museum artworks to this day! I take a good, long look at the art, noting every detail; colors, textures, shapes, what is shown, what is not, how I feel when looking at it, does anything remind me of something else? I mentally note all my initial responses and connections. Then, I read what the artist named it, what information is given about the art, the historical history around it… pertinent information like that. I link all these threads together and see what is woven.  Generally, rather quickly, I arrive to a story, or at the very least, a direction to go in search of one.  Sometimes, I even write a free verse poem that gets me going in the right direction.

Coming up with stories is the easy part. Writing them is another thing all together. My “larn’n” disability rears it’s ugly head.  I figured out early in life that learning by “seeing” was the way to go for me. I gained the grammar rules necessary for writing by reading the writing of published authors, by consciously seeing how they wrote their sentences, NOT by the grammar lessons taught in school. That stuff baffled me and would not stick in my brain! I passed tests (often with A’s!) by deciding what looked correct, sounded correct to my inner ear. It is an imperfect method that works for me. I prefer to write like I talk as much as possible, because that’s the kind of writing I enjoy reading. Well…except for poetry, nobody talks like that in real life.

I am a wee, tad envious of people who get grammar. That stuff is like a foreign language to me. The other day, someone said, “Give me an adverb.”  Er…I was like, “What’s that again?” Embarrassing, but when I heard an example it came flooding back.

Look at this 1886 grammar book I had to buy last week. It’s beautiful. The handwriting examples are an art unto themselves. I especially like what the first owner wrote inside.

“Don’t steal this book for fear of shame for here you see the owners name.” Henrettie Bilyue

Grammar baffles me, yet I write. I write because I LOVE words. There is power in words that move mountains! I let that love be more important than being technically correct at putting them down. Hopefully that is enough. For now.

FYI #1: I prefer the words Different Learner over learning disabled.

FYI #2: Practicing ARTitude is something ALL learners can do. Now, isn’t that beautiful!

Melting Away in McKinney, TX

I don’t do heat well. Never have. Didn’t notice my lack of tolerance for temperatures above 90 degrees until my family moved from Minnesota to South Carolina when I was nine.

The first several days following our arrival to Charleston, I would wander outside to explore my new surroundings so unlike anything I’d known before. What was this weird land we’d journeyed to?  The bright red, sticky, clay earth was so very different from the black soil back “home”.  The new fauna and flora was intriguing too. I wanted to explore further, but was stopped by two things that had me quickly heading back indoors.

  • One – It was late August, the days were muggy and tortuously hot. I had never experienced such hot weather and detested it immensely.
  • Two – The annoying, loud, droning, machine noises that NEVER seemed to let up. It unnerved me. Finally, I ventured to the end of our townhouse complex to locate the source. Before me stood an array of metal boxes. Air-conditioners I was to learn. Egad! Their noise blocks the best of nature’s outdoor symphony! They are seriously annoying machines, but dammit!  For most of my adult life, I’ve lived where these cooling boxes are needed spring, summer and fall. Sad face. I have had to rely on them for comfort and a good nights sleep ever since.

For me, being outside is vital for my soul. Time outdoors feeds my soul in ways that nothing else can. I can tolerate very cold temperatures, but not anything above 90 degrees for long. Above 100 degrees and I’m suffering big time. I had heat stroke when I was 22 years old, and ever since, I’m even more sensitive. If I get overheated, I can be ill for days – achy, weak & listless. So…summer in Texas sucks for me.

Hopefully, this background better explains the poem I wrote this spring while sitting on my back porch – my favorite place to be.

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Insufferable

The insufferable is approaching!
I feel it’s searing breath
Prying into the bright
Springtime light.

Soon now the insufferable
Will rob from me
my joyful step.
Hold me back.

The insufferable will force me
Into sealed interiors
cooled by machines.
Isolate me.

The world will be out there
While I shall be caged in here.
All because of the insufferable,
Texas summer heat.

A new ARTitude art project I’ve begun is the creation of “Biography Blocks” representing my journey through life as a creative being. They are the Building Blocks of ME.

The block representing this poem also references my thankfully brief childhood fascination with placing crayons in hot places (like the back window of my Grandpa Torgerson’s car!!!), then gnawing and chewing on them afterwards. Hold your finger wagging! This was VERY IMPORTANT scientific research you must understand. Did different colors or different brands melt differently? What did yellow taste like? Blue? Practicing ARTitude requires a healthy dose curiosity!

And me, I was expressing ARTitude before I ever had a word for it.  So there.

Love Your Daddy folks!

The perfection of divine timing that puts the right people, in the right place, at the right time is miraculous!  I believe it happens everyday. All too often we’re unaware of it.  Sometimes, perhaps years later, in a moment of reflection we’re fortunate enough to look back with inner clarity and say, “Oh. My. God. Divine syncronicity!”  We see how we were placed where the divine needed us to be to help another person…and in doing so, help ourselves.

This truly happened:

And I listened…

As we sat beneath old lady oak trees

Whose knobby limbs groaned silently

Beneath tangled locks of Spanish moss.

And I listened…

“I am alone and dying.” He said. “Cancer.” He said.

And I listened…

While still and sultry air,

infused with the saltiness of the sea

Bathed me in tears of sorrow.

And I listened…

“My wife, my children left me. Years ago it was…

I run them off with my temper, my drinking…”

The old man confessed his transgressions

to me, a stranger he’d only just met.

And I listened…

We were the only people in the park.

We sat together beneath the cruel 

Penetrating gaze of the sun on a 

Sweltering “HOT AS HELL” July Day.

And I listened…

“Now I’m dying and I gotta do it alone. I regret how I lived my life.

I miss my family, but I understand why they done what they did.”

The old man’s mournful words

Hung despairingly heavy around us.

And I listened…

With my heart. My judgement rendered mute

By compassion, by empathy.

At his story’s completion, I knew.

I had just heard the confession of a dying man.

What solace did I give him?

…I listened.

There is so much I could share about this experience, but it’d be a book!  I will say I had been waiting to meet family at the park, only to discover I’d been at the WRONG park the whole time. When this was brought to my attention, I clearly remembered where I was supposed to be. I couldn’t figure out how I had got it into my head to be at the park where I met the old man.

His story was familiar to me… I loved my Grandpa Peterson’s brother Melvin very much as a small child. He called me “Tootsie Wootsie.” He told stories, sang old tunes, played the piano & harmonica and DRANK! A LOT! He’d had a family once, a wife, child, grandchildren…, yet he lived in the dilapidated, old house on the farm drinking his old age away alone, without them. He’d been a terrible husband & father. Yet, I loved him, because I was little and only knew the present version of the old man. Plus, he would get so sad sometimes, he’d just sit and sob. I felt his sadness.

His story was familiar to me…because of my own dad. A robust, healthy farm boy, He was 15 years old when my mother fell in love with him. He really liked motorcycles. Dad became a biker (think Easy Rider) and consumed a lot more than just alcohol. Mom divorced him when I was five after he abandoned us to pursue the glamorous life of a hell-raising biker in California. At age nine, I was whisked far away across the great USA by my new stepdad.  A life awaited me free of all the trauma and pain my birth dad continued to create “back home”. He was Uncle Melvin’s nephew, kin to him in both good and bad ways.

The day I met the old man in the park, my dad was about 50 years old and still very much in the lifestyle. I rarely saw or talked to him, it was just too painful for me.  Still I loved him as abandoned children love a parent, desperately hoping for a better tomorrow; somewhere over the rainbow where my Dad would be healthy, clear-headed, and remember me on my birthday and Christmas.

That day in Florida, I was the old man’s compassionate listener. I’m very good at listening. Also, I learned early in life to love unconditionally, to reserve judgement. I had witnessed plenty the excruciating, inner pain experienced by people suffering from addiction. How guilt can cause a person to continually bury themselves in mind altering substances over and over and over again. How those substances can change people into monsters…who when sober are flooded deep with remorseful sobs.  I know of the need to be heard, to be listened to. There is great cathartic value to confession.

What did I receive from listening to the old man’s tale of woe?  I was able to start releasing my own father from what I wished him to be, to accept him as he was.  Gradually, I have been able to forgive him completely.  Completely.  I am not close to him, we have so little in common. However, I wish him well in all things. His health is very poor from years of abuse, I pray for his comfort and well being all the time.

A huge chunk of my creative gifts come directly down the line from Uncle Melvin and Dad.  I made sure to learn from their example and not abuse substances – BIG thank you to them on that!  Now there’s a gift for sure. Best gift ever really. I am better at practicing ARTitude because of it.

I now realize I was compelled to write this post leading up to Father’s Day. It wasn’t done consciously on my part. gosh. I only notice this as I close.

Love your Daddy folks! If you need to forgive them, do so, it feels awesome afterwards, and life is all the sweeter.