My Christmas Eve Angel — My Mother


“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.” — My facebook post on Christmas Eve

Betty's Christmas Eve Angel Wings. Santa gave her a ride to Heaven on Christmas Eve. Photo from: Mother Nature Network

Betty’s Christmas Eve Angel Wings. Santa gave her a ride to Heaven on Christmas Eve. Photo from: Mother Nature Network

Betty

My mother passed away on Christmas Eve two minutes shy of midnight EST while on the phone with me. She loved Christmas Eve so much.
She died peacefully after a long illness that didn’t stop her in her tracks. She was diagnosed in 2000 with benign brain tumors (one in her cerebellum and one on her brain stem). I have written many posts about her struggle and my struggle with these tumors.

I am peace. because she is at peace.

My beautiful mom. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

My beautiful mom. on my wedding day. I am thankful for this moment, which is chiseled in my heart.

If you want to follow my grief chronicles I am being very open about my feelings on my facebook page, and most posts are public if you would like to follow them and subscribe to them. I am also pretty active on Twitter too. Betty is the most amazing woman I have ever known. I was lucky to call her Mom, friend, and confidant. She loved us kids with all her heart.

Rest in peace my sweet Betty Anne. You had “It.” You were magical.

"A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears." - Anne Roiphe Betty when she worked as the Activities Director at The King Home -- a retirement community for men in Evanston, Illinois.

“A woman whose smile is open and whose expression is glad has a kind of beauty no matter what she wears.” – Anne Roiphe
Betty when she worked as the Activities Director at The King Home — a retirement community for men in Evanston, Illinois.

Here are some posts about her if you would like to read more about her.

The links below take you chronologically in time when I went to Colorado when my mother was very ill and almost died.

I end this post with my mother’s favorite poem by one of her favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran

I have also included the poem in written form below:

On Joy and Sorrow
 Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater thar sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kamilah, Kahlil's mother
Kamilah, Kahlil’s mother. Painting by Kahlil Gibran

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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.

Confession: I Hate Dressing Up For Halloween


Fall Foliage

So I have confession to make — I just am not into Halloween (well, the dressing up part).  I never have been.  Sure, I remember my favorite costume–my mom made it for me.  It was a mouse costume, with huge stuffed mouse hips and butt, complete with a tail with a mousetrap on it.  It was precious.

Other than that — that’s all I got for Halloween memories of dressing up.  What I did enjoy was going to haunted houses as a kid.

I do remember going to the rich neighborhood as a kid because they had houses that gave out regular size candy bars!

It is fun getting allllllllllllllllllllll that candy.  It is a holiday for kids.  OK — now that I am writing about it, I am sort of getting into it.  Reminiscent of popcorn balls (if someone gave my kid one of those–it would go right in the trash).  I remember having to go through my candy as a kid in the 80’s and look for candy with razor blades in them because of it happening and being warned either at school to check my candy or from the news.  I am now the adult who wants to give kids pencils and apples.  Practical and healthy.  But I probably will opt for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut M & Ms (my favorite candy).  I’d give Snow Caps if they came in mini boxes.  Those are my favorite movie candy.

I have already devoured the Kit-Kats I bought (and the Starbursts).  I have vowed to lose 20 pounds.  But most likely I will gain 20 pounds with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas around the bend.

“Trick or Treat”

Here is a kale bouquet!

ha ha

Anyway, Happy Halloween. We still have to get our pumpkins to carve and costumes.  I don’t dress up to give out candy, nor do I decorate my house.  I usually go to another neighborhood — in search of the big candy bars! ha ha

Be safe. No popcorn balls unfortunately   Gone are the days of knowing and trusting your neighbors.  We live in a different time now.  I do remember how much fun it was to go off alone with my friends trick-or-treating as a kid.  I think I will escort Ben until he goes to college.  Just kidding.

Ben did not like this costume. This is a photo from his 1st Halloween. We opted for a striped onesie with a lion hat instead.

Maybe sophomore year in high school I will just follow him around in a car.

Here are some spots you can read some of my work out this week:

  • Attachment Parenting International’s blog — a piece on postpartum depression and struggles with breastfeeding — well, actually struggles with the whole new mom gig: Motherhood: The New Frontier. ‎”It wasn’t until I allowed myself to follow my instincts and relax that I realized there is no manual to being a mother. I just followed my heart.” – memomuse
  • Talenthouse’s blog — an interview with me about photography, Wyoming as my inspiration, cowboys, and rodeo: Featured Photographer: Megan Oteri.  “Beneath every artist, is a scar that never quite healed.” – memomuse