Hands Tell Stories

I look at the woman’s (Elizabeth is her name, ironically the same as my mother’s) hands sitting next to me. Suddenly, my eyes are filled with tears. It is heavy, fast — how they fill. I think of my mother’s hands. I see my mother’s hands: her wrinkles, blue veins.

Elizabeth’s sunken patches of skin embrace me, almost strangle me with emotion. It takes me several minutes to collect myself. I’m almost ready to excuse myself from the meeting because of the hot tears.

I calm down as I write, sure not to look at her hands anytime soon.

* I wrote that in my journal two years ago. I was cleaning out a closet, procrastinating studying.  I have been studying and preparing for a huge presentation/training I am doing. I thought that was a poignant journal entry and well-written if I say so myself. OK — back to procrastinating and organizing my closet.

Presence | Mamalode

Presence | Mamalode.

Please click on the essay. I get paid by the unique visitors. So please share. It may be too sad for some to read (grief trigger warning), but it’s one of my best pieces of writing. It’s also the story about my mom dying. She literally died on the phone with me. I think most of you know that as she passed on Christmas Eve two years ago. I even was a Debbie Downer and posted it on Facebook when she died (sorry, my mom dying trumps Santa pix).

Check out Mamalode — “America’s best parenting magazine” — Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer, while you are on the site (after you read my essay of course). Talk about audience. It’s an authentic magazine about motherhood. Heck, they are sending a wooden minivan (yes, a real one) around Missoula, Montana and asking moms and dads to write down things they want to let go of and they are going to light it on fire. I wish I could attend that bonfire. All non-Missoula folks can email their shit in. I plan on it. I am letting go of guilt and shame this year (and trying to let go of unrealistic expectations, although those really work for me and help me be an over-achiever but it really doesn’t work for me so good).

Click and share and get some Kleenex if not for Betty leaving this world in a blaze of Christian glory. Just so you know, she was tight with Jesus. She saw him twice in her life. And Betty was never one to exaggerate. She was one to tell someone off; she just didn’t lie. She saw Jesus once when she was a little girl and once when she was “so depressed I couldn’t walk across the floor to pick up a toothpick,” in her own words. She had just had her 12th miscarriage with her first husband. So my sister and I are here miracles.

So, before this ends up a chapter and YOU are exhausted from just reading the update, click and share.

Carrots: Roots and Soil

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Photos by Megan Oteri.  All photos are copyrighted. Photos in the slideshow are from my recent trip to Wyoming and Colorado.

I recently went out West to visit my mother.  It was a very emotional trip, as I prepared myself that this could be the last time I see my mom.  I am not ready to write about these feelings.  I imagine they will become rooted under the earth of my heart, growing deeper into the deep soil like carrots and potatoes.  The leafy green above the soil sprouts up, only to mirror an astonishing growth underneath.

I do have carrots growing in my garden and there is nothing more tasty than a fresh treat, ripe and orange.  I love carrots.  They are a metaphorical root.

Here are some favorite carrot quotes:

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) “The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.”

Greek Physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-c. 90) wrote “Ye root ye thickness of a finger, a span long, sweet-smelling, edible being sodden [boiled]. Of this ye seed being drank…and it is good for ye [painful discharge of urine] in potions, and for ye bitings and strokes of venomous beasts; they say also, that they which take it before hand shall take no wrong of wilde beasts. It co-operates also to conception, and it also being [diuretic], both provoketh [poison], and being applied; but the leaves being beaten small with honey, and laid on, doth cleanse rapidly spreading destructive ulceration of soft tissues.”

 Bugs Bunny

A carrot is neither a fruit nor a veggie; it is a root.  Wyoming and the West is where my roots are.  My family moved to Wyoming when I was 15.  I moved there from Chicago so it was quite a cultural shock.  I do remember being fascinated with the landscape.  I could literally see for miles and I did not see anything.  It took me years to truly see Wyoming and recognize the depth and activity in the landscape.  It is what you do not see, for which is truly there.

I love how you can see a rainstorm coming in Wyoming.  You can also watch it in the distance as you watch an entire area of sky not effected at all by the same storm.

The storm of my mother’s illness (she has brain tumors) has been a long time coming.  I have been able to see it in the distance as a slow emerging storm, one that barely sprinkles upon you.  I felt the caress of gentle raindrops.  When I recently visited her, she was wheelchair bound and she could only move her finger.  She was mentally alert and aware.  She was able to speak and recall memories.  I guess the most difficult thing is that I realized there is no amount of time I can spend with her that will be enough.  I want her here with me forever.

I have resolved that I will have to let her go.  I think I am in a good place about it.  Her love for me is deep like a carrot (enough of the carrot analogy, right).  She is a root and her memory will always be in the rich soil of my heart.

Enough of the sad stuff.

Happy News:

I am working now as a Teaching Artist and Writer-in-Residence for the United Arts Council, which serves schools in Wake and Johnston County (Raleigh area schools).  I am very excited about this.  I am also available to teach workshops and offer residencies throughout the state and country (email me if you are interested).  I am offering several workshops, including Memoir, Poetry, Spoken Word, and Photography.  I am working with a private school for students with disabilities in March.  I am very excited about this three-day workshop which incorporates photography and writing across the curriculum.

If you are interested in bringing me to your school, business, group, and/or community, I can send you materials that outline my residencies and workshops.  Just shoot me an email at memomuse@gmail.com.

To be a Teaching Artist has been a long-term goal of mine.  I used to be a public school teacher and I brought many artists to the schools I worked at.  I believe in the arts.  I believe they are essential and our schools should be centering education around the arts.  Genius and imagination are fostered through the arts.

“Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future.” – Sophocles

“Involvement in the arts engages kids in their community, improves self-esteem, reclaims at-risk youth, and builds the creative skills that are required of a 21st century workforce.” – Gavin Newsom

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I find the landscape of the West and in particular Wyoming to be my muse.  I love this landscape for the roots that are there: my family.  I met my husband in Cheyenne.  I fell in love with him in my home town.  My mother loves Wyoming and so did my father.

The thing I like about carrots is you can leave them alone and they will continue to grow underground.

My garden where my carrots are growing