The Clean Side of the Living Room

I am typing this post in the messy half of the living room. I just cleaned half of the living room — vacuuming and steam cleaning. I moved all the toddler debris to the other side of the living room. I moved the couch until I could not move it anymore. I blocked in all the mess and decided it was OK to clean what I could. Half is better than none.

I managed to put away rogue toys and forgot (intentionally) about the proper container to put them in. Thinking to myself — if they are in a container that is good enough and then musing about containers and problems and people and who is an IKEA or container store person and WHY. WHY? Why must all the debris be put away? It is in the messy side of the living room that true living happens, but I long long long for the clean side of the living room, with its toys put away and rug vacuumed. And steam cleaned. Steam clean it all away — all of life’s dirt and grit.

But the dirt and grit is where the living truly happens.

F that. I want a clean living room. But for now I acknowledge that the messy side is where I really live.

Ben sits in front of me finger painting  his lime green Dollar Store Play-Doh knock off cap (with water colors).  A stack of boxes he will not let me have or rather disassemble to put in the nice IKEA/Container Store cubby shelves. The plastic cubby buckets are his ladders to his roof. His roof is his Mickey Mouse Playhut. Ya know the square tents that fold up to be one dimensional. But once unfolded are three dimensional with a fourth reserved for the imagination of a toddler’s mind. The dimension which transforms it to a roof to a house that hold everything that is needed: messy imagination on the other side of the living room.

So, one side of my living room is clean. The other still messy. And guess where I feel most comfortable and write this right now? Yep, the messy side.

Life gets messy. And sometimes it is just as beautiful and serene as the clean side.

Photo by Megan Oteri

Photo by Megan Oteri — Field in Southeast Wyoming


March Muse

Ben picked camellias today on our walk. Camellias mean perfected loveliness. In the Victorian era, they were given when courting. Click here for list of different flower’s meanings in the Victorian era.

From The History and Language of Flowers

  • CAMELLIA (PINK) – Longing
  • CAMELLIA (RED) – You’re a flame in my heart
  • CAMELLIA (WHITE) – Adoration, Perfection, Loveliness

Camilla — Youth and Beauty

I live in a house built in 1880. I guess that means I kind of live in the Victorian age.

Victorian Snow Fall

Victorian Snow Fall

We also saw a bright red cardinal. It was interesting because I literally was just thinking about my mom. And the cardinal came out of nowhere. It was so red. We stared up at the tree, our necks craned. Then I reminded Ben that Bob the Builder was into birds too.

This is a link about the meaning of cardinals. The second paragraph is very interesting to me since my mother recently passed away.

Cardinal in tree

Cardinal in tree

“Many spiritual people will tell you that a cardinal also represents death or afterlife. Reports from loved ones and hospice workers often state that a cardinal appears just before or after a death, or that a cardinal frequently visits or appears in dreams after the loss of a loved one. As a totem symbol, the cardinal symbolizes vitality. A balance of intuition, perseverance and strength, the cardinal is said to offer safe passage into the realm of personal power to realize one’s goals and dreams.” –

My mother gave me this angel and her mother gave it to her.

My mother gave me this angel and her mother gave it to her.

“Many spiritual people will tell you that a cardinal also represents death or afterlife.”

"Where there is sorrow there is holy ground." - Kahlil Gibran

“Where there is sorrow there is holy ground.” – Oscar Wilde

I spoke with someone I went to junior high with in Chicago today. He lives in my hometown, where I grew up (Wheaton). He is going to help me create a video for The Community Kitchen to help promote the book project. Anyway, he went to the elementary school where my mom worked and he remembered her. He remembered her red hair. Her beautiful flaming red hair as bright as the cardinal. I got all verklempt and couldn’t hold back the tears. It was strange being so vulnerable with someone I hadn’t seen or spoken with since junior high school.

My mom, Betty with her beautiful red hair and amazing smile

My mom, Betty with her beautiful red hair and amazing smile

Those two moments today were beautiful, but sharp. Like an elegant stick — like the elegant stick that Ben grabbed as I tried to corral him away from the street as he walked in toddler wonder, curious about beauty with his two camellias he picked for his daddy. Perfected loveliness.wm Ben with flowers
“You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
― Anne Lamott

In memory of my mother, Elizabeth Miller.

in memory wmstone statue wm

Recommended reading: The Language of Flowers by Victoria Diffenbaugh

“It wasn’t as if the flowers themselves held within them the ability to bring an abstract definition into physical reality. Instead, it seemed that…expecting change, and the very belief in the possibility instigated a transformation.”
― Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers

Who do you miss and what makes you think of them?

Feel free to write a comment and/or add “In memory of…”

Art Is Created from Great Storms

I think I put too much pressure on myself that every blog post has to be written like an essay or written as creative nonfiction worthy of publication in a literary magazine.  I take myself way too serious sometimes.  I am currently dealing with the loss of my mother. I don’t really even know how to express the grief I am going through.

I have been posting photos and mini blog posts that reveal nothing.  Yet at the same time I want to share with the world what I am going through. I recently told a mom acquaintance at Mommy and Me Gymnastics that my mom died. This need to tell the world so they understand the fragile terrain I am walking on is overwhelming. I almost want to wear a sign around my neck that says, “Handle with care. My mother died.” The grief work I am doing is so intimate it is hard to express it in words. I have my mother’s ashes on my mantle and will drive them to Arlington Cemetery  in the coming months. From what I understand, it takes months to schedule a funeral at Arlington. My mom will be buried with my father’s ashes (Korean War Veteran) who passed away in 2003. Both of my parents passed away in December.  In the meantime, I have been lighting my Christmas lights that are intertwined with my favorite set of Christmas lights around fake green garland that snakes across the mantle in our family room. They look like sugary colored crystal balls.  There is a star that lights up that I have connected to the Christmas lights. Two Santas my mom gave me anchor both sides. In a way this lighted mantle is my memorial to her.

My February Memorial Mantle

My February Memorial Mantle

I did manage to take down the Christmas tree sometime in late January.  I took off all the ornaments and un-twirled the lights — my toddler helping me as I walked backwards around the tree. After taking down all the ornaments and the lights, I took a moment to look at the bare dried up tree. It was striking in its beauty — the absence of the decorations — the absence of my mother. I made a connection that there was beauty in looking at the bare tree — its bare beauty.

I have had many moments like this where a great calm overcomes me and I am left to marvel at the sensitive, fragile beauty of life. Then there are the moments of ocean deep sorrow.

This photo is from a recent trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

This photo is from a recent trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.

Outer Banks Trip 2013 043

Footprints in the Sand
The Atlantic Ocean — Kill Devil Hills, NC

I will share this: I got down on my hands and knees (crying, of course) asking God to help me through this difficult time.  I have never actually got down on my hands and knees before in total surrender, although I have heard of people doing it. I realized this burden and sadness is too heavy for me to carry.  So I asked God to carry it for me.  My mother has not been buried yet. We are waiting to hear back from Arlington Cemetery when the funeral will be. My mother passed away on December 24, 2012.

The month of January seemed to move by slowly, yet I hardly remember it.  I did not move; I was stagnant with acute pain and a deep sadness. Where did the time go?  I have been grieving and getting by. I have enjoyed the time I have with my son as I am a stay-at-home mom.  My son is painting right now. He asked me, “Help me paint Mama.,” gently grabbing my left hand and looking at me with the love a child can express through a  simple gesture such as this. I said to him, holding his hand in my palm, “I am painting here while I type. I am painting with words.”  Now he is creating his watercolor masterpiece as I try to paint a picture of what I have been going through.

My son painting with watercolors

My son painting with watercolors

February photos 2012 003 February photos 2012 006My son and I made a gallery of his paintings. He told me where each painting should go and in what order. For now, I am taking it one day at a time and honoring the grief. I am ready to paint my own canvas and allow the colors to choose themselves. It is a process and art is always created from great storms.