Masters Class..

I find New Year’s Resolutions often boring and predictable. I spent this New Year’s Eve ushering in the New Year with my Mom and three of her life long, good friends. I found their perspective and life views to cause me to stop, think, and review my purpose in the world as a woman, friend, and mother. I was honored to sit and be schooled by four teachers, (including my Mom) who have enlightened hundreds of students over the span of their collective lifetime. Silently and unwittingly, I had entered a Masters Class.

The evening was spent playing games, cooking, eating, watching a funny movie and talking, debating and sharing, no holds barred. These women are not shrinking violets. Each in their own right have achieved great success as teachers, mothers, educators, administrators, feminists, and women. They take their roles as educators very seriously. It is their calling and they know their stuff.

All but one are retired but I don’t think they know how to retire, at least in the conventional sense of the word. They are still in the trenches, in schools, their communities, and churches. Each continuing to make a difference with their wisdom, contributions and shared life experiences. I was in awe of how they approached retirement, life, friendship, relationships, motherhood, marriage, widowhood, and even death. The lessons were timely, valuable and as varied as the women who were sharing them.

First, if you can not hold your own in a debate, this is not the group for you. You can’t just “state” your position, be ready to defend it, be knowledgeable about it or you will be devoured with intellect and reasoning so strong you are instantly reminded of your third grade teacher tsking and shaking her head at your feeble attempt to answer a question, incorrectly and without raising your hand first. So come strong or stay home. No time for a Goggle check, if you speak on it then you must Know about that which you speak. If not you will be challenged, kindly but with intensity.

Second, disagreement is welcome, argument encouraged. I mean this in the most respectful and adult way. There is no name calling or disparaging remarks, no eye rolls, teeth sucking, or out right dismissal of anyone’s point of view. Seems strange in a world where it seems we can not hold two opposing thoughts at the same time, (Cognitive Dissidence, in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t wondering but I received an education about nevertheless). That’s the other side of being raised by teachers, don’t use a word or phrase if you don’t know it’s origin or meaning. It has the potential to be embarrassing as they are trained listeners. I learned the true value of a loving and heartfelt debate, valuing their choice of words, their tone, more than any ego driven need to win an argument.

Third, dismantling, attacking, and categorizing other women is not allowed. Collectively these four women have raised ten plus children and they know that there is no value in teaching a lesson with pain attached, life teaches us that lesson whether we like it or not. They are forthright, well spoken, intelligent women who have continuously worked on uplifting, educating, and supporting children and adults for dozens of years. They believe that Information is power, freedom and independence. They have marched, and challenged the status quo. They have lived through the free love of the 60s, the civil rights movement, women’s movement, mother’s movement and they are not done yet, not by a long shot. 

Fourth, no two women are alike. Each one is a strong woman in her own right, working their entire lives and making creative and difficult choices, often alone. Their decisions and sacrifices have affected their families, their careers and themselves. Still you won’t find a drop of bitterness or martyrdom to be found among them. This is a group of women who get the job done, no time for muss or fuss. No time to wonder if they will get the credit for all of their hard work, (and I can say from experience, they do not). No time to sit around and whine about who is doing what, when. If something needs to get done, big or small, these women are on it. They are practical, ingenious, problem solvers and they don’t get nearly the recognition they should. 

Fifth and finally, I sat back and watched and learned more in one night than I could ever write about today. I sat, in rapt attention barely moving as they shared eloquently the lessons of their own lives. l listened and I learned about being a woman in her 60s, 70s and 80s. I learned about being a mother, for a life time, (I know we know we are mothers forever but these women exemplify what a mother is and the dance that is required as their children have grown). I learned that I can speak up and out and frankly that I should at every turn, particularly when injustice is being done. I learned the true meaning and the treasures of life long girlfriends who support and love each other through the challenges, joys and pain that life brings. I learned how to fall spectacularly and continue to get back up, again and again with dignity and integrity. 

I will leave you with some last words of wisdom from the oldest member of the group answering the age-old question, what is your New Year’s Resolution? She paused and thought about it for a moment, and she said, “I am living my New Year’s Resolutions every day in the choices I make, the people I love and cherish, the work I continue to do, and in the way I live my life. I don’t have any new resolutions, just to continue living, learning and loving.”

Yep, I will say it again, this was a Masters Class and these women should be on the cover of Time’s most Influential Women of their Time. As teachers they have taught these principles, shared these principles, prayed over these principles with their own children and the many children, many of whom are now adults, that they had the privilege of teaching over 50+ years as Educators. Retirement is only a word to them and these women are graceful, strong, real, honest, hardworking, dedicated, beautiful, intelligent, resilient, and extraordinary. Their lives are a blueprint for how I hope to live my life as I grow older. 

Thank You for your hard-earned lessons, Mom, Ann, Beth, and Pam. And thank you for sharing them, albeit unknowingly, with me. Much love.

 

Summer’s End…

By now all the backpacks are packed, lunches are made, schedules outlined, bookbinders and folders are all labeled with each child’s name and the Summer is Over!

It’s been a great and memorable summer of lounging around with my two boys. I admit the pace was hardly, restful, but I learned a lot about my sons, maybe more than I thought I wanted to know.

1. If I let them they would stay up all night or until they fall out on the floor exhausted and still they insist they are not tired.

2. The have a never-ending need to discuss our menu options for the day. And since the two of them rarely agree on anything this conversation can last from breakfast well past lunch. Unsolicited food reviews in my house are a common occurrence.

3. Even if they say they like a certain food, or have had a particular food, (“I love Quiché I had it at Grandma’s”),  I have to check, and double check their expressions to see if they actually like it. If the food isn’t up to their standards and or expectations and they don’t want to eat it, I launch into my usual spiel, (#74), about the blessings of having food, having the choice of food, and about people starving all over the planet…ok, you see why they might avoid going down that road, again.

4. They are frequently cavalier with their never-ending criticisms; of my work (“do you really have to?”), of food (“is that our only choice?”), adventure (“my friend went to this other place and said it was way better”), vacation plans (“but I wanted to go to the Bahamas!”), hairdo (“did you mean to make it look like that?”) and affection in public, (“it’s better if you don’t hug or KISS us EVER in front of people”). If I was dating them, I would have broken up with them by now for sure.

5. They have begun to question the wisdom of  well, My wisdom!? Do I really know how to get back to the bumper boat place? Ah yeah,  I was there with you guys and I drove you there in first place, remember? This is followed by blank stares.

6. They have perfected the middle school/ junior high school eye-roll when I ask mundane/chore related questions. I must do this far more often than I realized or their eyes are locked in a perpetual roll. I fear head spinning isn’t far behind.

7. Swimming played a big role in our summer fun and I don’t mean swimming like regular people swim, I mean like jumping on your brother’s back and pushing him underwater until he lurches out of the water gasping for air, Swimming. Big fun!

8. My beloved sons are not capable of minding their own business especially if they feel they are well versed on a subject. When I am talking to one son the other chimes in with his opinions, insults, useless and often irrelevant remarks and then is supremely offended when I ask him to butt out. Of course, being 9 and 12 does not lend itself to vast experiences, still they can wax poetic for hours until I am forced to leave run from the room, some say shrieking. I can neither confirm nor deny this as I am usually covering my ears and humming at this point.

9. They pass one another in a hallway, driveway, store or kitchen and they poke, push, and trip each other all the while giggling with ghoulish cackling, and fiendish delight. Then they look up at me with their beautifully innocent brown eyes and say, “What, it wasn’t me, he did it first.”

10. The funny thing is that when they return to school tomorrow, I’m going to miss them more than I thought. They made me laugh out loud at silly jokes and antics that I remember laughing about with my friends and family as a kid too. They made me forget about being an adult for a while. I plotted ways to sneak up on them and douse them with the garden hose in our yard and with great superiority and no shame, I would pull out the “Mother” card when they tried to reciprocate, (please note; this is not a good use of the  Mother card as it gains you no respect when they return fire soaking you from head to toe, and they will).

Having kids forces me to be the parent and to be a “Grown Up” and I discovered this summer, I don’t want to grow up, so there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful summer. Have a happy and safe school year.

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Camp Mom

Well, the kiddies are out of school, finally, and I foolishly thought I would be able to incorporate the kids summer needs, (read demands) and work and write and take pictures, and frolic on the beach and chill.  HA!

This year my sons requested they spend a little less time at camp and a little more time with me, “you know Mom, just hanging out together and having fun.” An idyllic image of us playing croquet on the front lawn, sipping lemonade, and laughing uproariously with one another, while the crickets and cicadas serenaded us, sprang to mind. Our summer vacation resembles none of this moments.

Realizing the true depth of my commitment, I discovered I had replaced the traditional camp experience, (with other people running the show) with my own version of Camp Mom. My sole role; to entertain my sons and sometimes if I am lucky, their friends and cousins too.

At Camp Mom, I have provided a bevy of exciting adventures designed to thrill and delight young boys of all ages. We begin our day lazily, debating what to eat and deciding if the choices offered are agreeable to their sensitive palates. While there is usually a menu, provided at Camp Mom, I am often barraged with suggestions that would enhance their eating pleasure. What chef doesn’t appreciate the culinary critique of a 9-year-old?

Then comes the endless questions, thoughts and concerns about our plans for the day. This is the trickiest part, as a miscalculated suggestion can create blank stares, and glazed eyes as they ponder the seriousness of my plans. As mentioned above, I make suggestions and they make adjustments. A canoe trip down the river was fun but apparently I overlooked getting seat cushions for their paddling comfort. I bet a real camp takes into account the comfort of their campers bottoms while they paddle away.

At Camp Mom, I offer campers; crafts, photography, games, water play with hoses or water guns, swimming in a pool or down by the lake, go-carting, roller skating, biking, boating, hiking, driving range, and water bumper boating, meals, drinks, snacks, ice-cream, eating out, sports, movies, and traveling.

This has all taken place in the past 3 weeks and I just realized the summer is just getting underway and I’ve used up all of my creative ideas. I have tried to coerce, cajole and bribe them to try another camp but they are having the time of their lives. Suspiciously, when I thought I could do no more, I heard my oldest son say to his brother,  “No one is a better camp counselor than Mom.” Hmmmm.

I haven’t had time for much else and I may have bitten off way more than I can chew. Who knows what will happen next year? With all of this been said, I do love spending time with my two favorite souls on the planet, even when they look at me with their beautiful bright eyes and innocently ask, “what did you plan for us to do today Mom?”

 

Happy Father’s Day!!

The North Bridge.
The North Bridge.

 

I hope all the Dads are enjoying this beautiful day and that you are surrounded by family and friends who love you. Happy Father’s Day!!!

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Photo Selections…

 

I’ve been fortunate to have my photographs shown at a few different venues, (thanks to the Art Gods that be, and the mortals who support them), and it has gone better than I ever would have expected. I am happy and extremely grateful to dance through the doors of opportunity that have graciously opened for me.  

However, it involves the daunting task of intensely scrutinizing my photos in a lame attempt to see my pictures through the eyes of other people, as if I really could. Without a filter of rational judgement and some self-love, my inner critic is off and running faster than I can say, Namaste.   

I’m stymied by the process of deciding which of my pictures will appeal, artistically, to another person? I have taken photos that I knew that I would love even if no one else did but when I am trying to market them….I get a little queasy and a lot more uneasy. I can get lost in an endless loop searching for the perfect photo, (doesn’t exist), and wasting valuable time trying to get into the minds of other people. In the end, I just try to pick what I like, what moves me and I remind my inner critic, being a photographer, is a labor of love not a destination.

I chose this photo today, cause I wanted to. 🙂

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