Change Creates Beauty


© Megan Oteri

November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well.  Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.  It was sudden; it was swift.  November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it.  It was a month of change, of acceptance,  of denial, of love, of hope, of life.  Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.

November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors.  I do love November in North Carolina.  Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.

Change happens.  It is just inevitable.  Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson.  I no longer just see color, I smell it.  It contains a small pea of memory.  This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music.  I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11?  Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine.  My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died.  My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came.  My mother said, “No.  His pulse quickened and he was gone.”  My mother is a stoic one.  She is matter of fact and to the point.  Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time.  She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.

Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom.  In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves.  I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.

Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing.  I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it.   There is a beauty to death.  Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about.  I have had several close friends lose their parents recently.  They are a mess (understandably).  I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.

Light Tree

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”
― Octavia E. Butler

For even in death, there is renewal.  When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.

I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird.  Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.

Fence

“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

© Megan Oteri

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Reflection

“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle

I am rather smitten with this photo. I just adore it.

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa

The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo.  I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth.  (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).

It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.

I Hate Writing Bios (Until They Are Done, Of Course)


I hate writing bios.  I will procrastinate until the very last minute.  That is exactly what I did when I had to write my bio for the 2012 SAMLA (South Atlantic Modern Language Association) Conference. I am reading on the Creative Nonfiction panel this weekend. The piece I am reading is called Outliers and Outsiders about my first and only experience eating Rocky Mountain Oysters.  They are a delicacy in Wyoming.  They are not seafood; they are bull balls.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

This is our panel:

185. Text as Memoir: Tales of travel, immigration, and exile
SAMLA Creative Non-Fiction Writers, Session I
Regular Session
Saturday—2:45 pm to 4:15 pm
Empire Ballroom D
Chair: Patricia Leaf-Prince, North Carolina Central University
Secretary: Megan E. Miller-Oteri, East Carolina University
1. Wanna-be, Don’t-wanna-be, or Real? Belonging in America – Lisa Carl,
North Carolina Central University
2. K-Mart and Apple ’84 – Matt Sailor, Georgia State University
3. Montreal – Hayley Hughes, Wright State University
4. Outliers and Outsiders – Megan E. Miller-Oteri, East Carolina University

Here is my bio that will be read by the Chair of the panel to introduce me.  I am glad I got that crossed off my to do list. I really do hate writing bios.  Speaking about yourself in third person is just weird.  My paper is edited and I am almost packed.  The conference is in Durham this year so I do not have to travel far this year.

Megan Oteri has lived in every time zone, but her favorite is Mountain Standard Time.  She writes about her passion for Wyoming and its mosaic of landscape, nature, people, and lifestyle. It wasn’t love at first sight though. In fact, she thought Wyoming was no man’s land at first. She moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming when she was 15 years old from Chicago. In an attempt to escape the least populated state in the union, she went to college as far away as she could: Providence, Rhode Island.  Her classmates and soccer teammates called her “Cheyenne” and “Wyoming.”  Having never met anyone from Wyoming, most people believed she rode a horse to school. Each time she took the train home for school breaks, her love affair with Wyoming deepened.  There is a beauty to Wyoming you come to know and understand — there is magic in the sky; every night sunsets dance across the horizon in a mural of color.  Megan loves Wyoming’s wide open spaces. It is like no other place on Earth. She will always be “Forever West” in her heart; she calls Wyoming home, even though she lives in North Carolina.  Her piece, Outliers and Outsiders is about an experience she had shortly after moving to Wyoming from Chicago when she was 15 years old.  

 Megan has a Masters Degree in English with a concentration in Creative Nonfiction from East Carolina University and a Bachelors Degree in Special and Elementary Education from Providence College.  She is a freelance writer and photographer who writes when her toddler sleeps.  Her book, Baby Monitor is awaiting publication.  She is working on a historic food memoir about her great-grandmother’s catering and hot meal delivery business in Evanston, Illinois that was a model for the nation in the early 1920’s.  The Community Kitchen is about women in the kitchen and history in the making.  Food = Story.

Bio photo

Another thing that is big news is I received a Regional Artist Project Grant to go to Evanston, Illinois to research The Community Kitchen.  I will be able to go in person to the home of the CK and research the archives at the Evanston History Center and Northwestern University’s archives.  This is very exciting.  Another thing I proudly crossed a rather large to do list today was signing the contract. I actually wrote out a list of all the items I need to bring.  I am embracing my love of to do lists.  I really do love a to do list that I can cross things off.

PS – I have a zit I have named Sam (in honor of appearing the day before I present at SAMLA) under my left eye.  Yes, I am vain.  Shame. Shame.  It is poetic justice since I did not have acne as a teenager and I am reading a paper about being a teenager.  I was not able to cross off: Get rid of zit on my to do list, unfortunately.

What’s on your to do list?

Peace & Poetry.

Hope. Wish. Dream. Be.

I Don’t Want to Say Goodbye — So, I Will Say Hello


I am going on a trip to Wyoming without my husband and son.  I am going to visit my mom and spend time with her. She is in a nursing home.  Last May I got a call on a Thursday from the nursing home that she was very sick and that I should get out there to see her.  I got the call on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday.  I thought that she was going to die.  In fact, I have thought she is going to die since she was diagnosed in 2000 with brain tumors. It’s a pretty heavy burden to carry.

My beautiful mother, Betty.

Unfortunately, my son and husband cannot make the trip with me.  I am very nervous about leaving my son for a week.  We are very attached to each other.  Our family practices Attachment Parenting.  It’s not even something you practice, it’s just something you do. And I think a lot of families are practicing Attachment Parenting without even knowing it, but that is a topic for another time.

My son is still nursing, and now I am worried about that.  I plan on pumping while I am out there.

I decided to spend eight days out in Wyoming (two days are travel days) since my 20th high school reunion is happening, as well.

There is nothing more beautifully blue than a Wyoming sky!

My sister has warned me that my mom has declined even more.  She was pretty much bed ridden and could not move from the waist down last May.  Now, she can hardly move her hands and has to be spoon fed her meals.

For most people, I assume you think this would be the most difficult thing in the world to experience.  I am a little callous about the whole death thing to be honest.  I have been expecting her to die for so long, that I have failed at times to see she is still living.  It is hard to accept this could be the last time I see her.  OK, now I am feeling sad and am not so callused.  I think that is why I feel so anxious.  I just don’t want to see her so helpless.  If you want to read an essay I wrote about her and the impact she made on me as a mother myself, read this: Magic Mama.  Here are some past posts about my trip to Wyoming last May if you would like to read them.  You can also read the archives by using the archive tab on the sidebar.

My mom, Redhead Betty

I don’t want to say goodbye — so I will say hello.

Anyway,  I am going to be offline for a week.  I am not going to log on to a computer. Anywhere. Anytime. Period. I do not have a smart phone, so I will only be able to text my friends and call people.  I think it will be good for me.  The fact that I will in Wyoming will magnify this sense of disconnecting with technology.  I am burnt out from social media (I am trying to build a platform as a writer and I really have no idea what I am doing.  I am just putting myself and my work out there).  I have also started to focus more on the great relationships I have built. I have met so many wonderful cyber friends.  I am evolving and learning more and more about myself as writer everyday.

I am not totalling going off the creative grid.  I will be taking photographs and writing by hand in my notebook and journal.

I have also been working really hard on my Attachment Parenting motherhood memoir.  It is in the editing stage and I am about 85% done until I feel it is as good as it can possibly be.  Then I will begin the submission process with various agents.  An agent in New York (I love saying that — it sounds so important and distinguished) is reading the manuscript now, as well as the book proposal.  I have been working on putting the book together so it is a complete manuscript.

Writing a book is a long process.  Right now I am excited about the future of my writing career as I have evolved in the past six months and I no longer look for outside validation to acknowledge I am a “real” writer.

I am also working on finishing up this memoir so I can get started on my next book project: The Evanston Community Kitchen.  This book is about my mother’s side of the family.  I’d tell you more about it, but it is all on the website.  If you enjoy history and food, I pretty much can guarantee you’ll enjoy the story.  And that story is still growing; in fact, I have merely only planted the seeds.  It is very exciting.  I am bringing my video camera and tape recorder so I can interview my mother.  She is still mentally “with it.”

I will leave you with a slideshow of some photos of Wyoming. It truly is like no place on earth.

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PS – I dyed my hair red.  My mother is a red head.  I was pretty nervous about it, but I have received feedback that it looks great.