I've just finished a book by a talented author - Joanne Harris. When I say that she's talented, I don't mean it in a J.K. Rowling sort of way, weaving her interesting plots here and then surprisingly there. Of course I don't want to demean the talents of J.K. Rowling, for I read the Harry Potter series with the best of them, gripped and compulsive about the process, sad when I came to the last of the books because that little world was now closed to me again for a time. That's indisputably talent and uppercase T talent, even, I think.
But here, I'm talking about talented in a word craft sort of way. Joanne Harris (of Chocolat fame) writes books that find me sort of stilled at the end of the reading of them. She writes paragraphs that make me want to go immediately to a keyboard and write for myself, sure that there is something good and deep and important looming up inside of me, needing to make it's way out into the world. With her, writing seems lofty and noble, even. With her, the reading of her writing seems lofty and noble. You feel at the end of one of her books (or at least at the end of Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange) that you've been changed in some small, hard-to-define way. But you feel quite certain of that change, nonetheless, though you can't quite identify it.
In short, if you fancy yourself a reader, go out and do what you can to pick up a copy of either Chocolat or Five Quarters of the Orange. I suspect that you'll be very happy you did. As for me, I just picked up Blackberry Wine at a used book store and I feel a looming anticipation for when I can re-enter the artistic machinations of this woman's talented mind once more.
Can you recommend any fantastic books you've read lately? I'd love to hear all about it.
It's occured to me recently that I generally blog about all the Susie-Sunshine moments of my life. And for fear of giving you a falsely one-dimensional picture of my life and myself, I feel inclined to share an unattractive little something about me and my heart. Sound intriguing? I'm hoping that in the sharing, I'll find some measure of cathartic accountability and that the following story will feature one of the very last episodes of this particular grossness in my life.
I've been such a sucker today. And not in a benign, goodness-me-I'm-so-cute-in-my-self-deprecation sort of way. While visiting with a friend this morning, I found myself giving vent to some really unattractive parts of myself as I elaborated upon the shortcomings of another person. At the very least, you'll ask, did I keep it short and sweet, keeping it to a strict recounting of objective detail? O no. I languished in the telling of my tale. I didn't gloss over this unsuspecting person's less attractive qualities. Instead, like a dog who's just discovered the pungant rot of something dead, I rolled around in it, thoroughly imbedding the stink of it into my fur. If I'm going to be honest, I'd have to say that the filth was satisfying to roll around in. For the brief moment of the telling of it. But for that brief moment only, as is the way of these things.
The part that I find so especially disturbing is that it was only after the fact that I felt badly about my behaviour. I wish to be that woman who doesn't feel inclined to do these ignoble things to begin with. I wish to be that woman who doesn't have to show up, woefully after the fact, tail between her legs, offering up feeble apologies because she's been so stupid, so tasteless, so unthinking.
The other part that bothers me is that part of how I define myself inside my own head is being just the very opposite sort of woman. I tell myself that I hate gossip. When I hear it lofted up on the wind in elementary school line-ups from the really cranky mothers, I feel repelled. I try to stand as far away from these people as possible. I like happy women spilling out happy talk who wish the whole world well. I love these women because, to me, they emanate wholeness and beauty. They don't need to poke their bitter stick at the life of another to feel momentarily better about their own. And yet, despite all this, for a far-too-big chunk of my day yesterday, I was that bitter woman with her venomous stick.
Every now and then as a stay-at-home mom, I feel stabs of defensiveness, as though I need justify my lack of a more formal and lofty profession to those more erudite people out there I imagine are judging me. The truth is probably that these people reflect upon me and the role I play in this world rarely to never. As I ponder this, I feel irked with myself that I defer, even rarely and inside the confines of my own head, to what others think of me. I know my real power comes from from the Hope I have in Christ and the consequent wholeness He brings in me by degrees - sometimes excruciatingly slowly - and not from what others may think of me. And yet, knowing and believing all this, sometimes I still feel these aforementioned stabs. And until very recently all these cerebral wrestlings felt valid and big. Now they've begun to smack of the anguished cries of rich lawyers in love. Because recently I've begun to be acquainted with powerlessness on a whole other level.
I am a youthful first-world person whose limbs obey her every command. When I wish to use the washroom, I simply do so with a blase dignity dependant upon complete privacy. My body is strong and I cook and eat whatever I most wish to on any given day. If I don't feel like zucchini, then I steam asparagus. I remember each of my children and their vivid, noisy stories fill my brain and my kitchen. I have all the money I need and I don't ever have to worry about how I'll possibly get to Walmart to replace my ratty old pants which were my last decent pair. I'm not consigned to pacing hallways, anxiously wringing my softly veiny hands, wondering why my husband won't come pick me up to take me home, wondering even, if he might not love me anymore. In short, I am of the ranks of this world's powerful. In light of this, my silly need to prove my stay-at-home-mom self to those who may look down upon the role seems more than a bit ridiculous.
Before my recent forays to the senior's home - that combined beautiful and exquisitely sad place - I'd never stopped to think about it. I'd taken my power and my freedom for granted, with only the brief blip of an exception in the form of the very occasional flu or migraine to mar my nearly complete autonomy. I now see - blurrily no doubt - how rich I've been and also how stunningly ungrateful. I don't stop in the middle of mopping my floors to note how delightfully pain-free my joints are. I don't wake in the morning marvelling at the powerful beauty of the fact that I am loved. It doesn't occur to me to be thankful for trips to the grocery store that instead, I'm more inclined to gripe about, that allow me to choose whatever I like to prepare and feed my family. The fact that I can afford seedless green grapes seems like a given. My fingers cooperate with my whims and I knit if I feel like knitting or I read with my perfect, cateract-free eyes if I feel like reading. I run and go to Zumba classes with the best of them and now, suddenly, I feel like saying thank you. This power of mine won't last forever. My strong body won't always do everything I wish for it to. Some day it will be my turn to shuffle painfully down hallways that seem far too long. Some day I may have to discontinue my beloved habit of reading because my elderly eyes will no longer allow for it. But in the meantime, I'm thankful for a new awareness of the need to say thank you, God.
I've never had an eleven year old son before. He's so many things all at once these days and sometimes these differing aspects of his personality strike me as being contradictory.
He is sometimes still a child, playing with his color changer Hot Wheels in his now-necessarily-daily shower. He still plays little role playing games with his younger siblings and though it's all done under the guise of 'look at what a good older brother I am,' I can see that he genuinely still enjoys these little blips of his not-quite adolescent life. Few things bring him more joy that going on Dictionary.com and orchestrating things so that grown-up (and even better - English) voices enunciate words like poop and butt-cheeks. He loves to play with our cat and they chase each other merrily all around the house, pouncing on one another in turns. He still requests each night to be specially 'put to bed,' and feels very hard done by if we bypass his room and only feel we have the energy to formally put the Littles to bed. In so many ways, he's still a little boy. A little boy who secrets away the Omega-3 tablets that he's supposed to take each morning at breakfast. Sometimes I find his stash. This boy still makes me a homespun Valentine card each year and he's quick to sacrifice his now relatively rare peer-given Valentine candies to me, though he really should not. When it's his lot to kill houseflies in the summer, he's been known to leave one - carefully arranged - for me on my pillow at night. A transcendant maturity has not always been his to brag of.
But more recently, these precious last blips of childhood are intermingled with the qualities of an older boy. Every now and then his voice cracks as he speaks. He's good natured and laughs at himself when this happens, and he likes to recreate the cracking words over and over for our listening pleasure. Sometimes when people phone and he answers, they assume he's me. This too, fortunately, he finds funny so far. I've alluded to the necessity of regular showers now in his nascent life. These showers are no longer optional. He gets to choose class options now in school, which he finds animating and empowering. Girls contact his older sister via Facebook to enquire about his relationship status. He is an excellent babysitter and the house is always spotless when we arrive back home, because he knows a monetary bonus is therefore his. He loves foreign exchange students and does everything he can to ease their transition into Canadian life; he feels very aware of their potential loneliness. This boy is a beautiful person and in a strange sort of twisting inconsistency, he's curiously mature. I wish so much that I could post his picture so that you could see the freckles skittering across his nose. I think they might be the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
The air is clear and restorative. The blue sky defies description. In the wake of the incessant gray of the last three months, a look deep into it's unending blueness makes you feel like surely you can fly. Everything is exquisite in the light of it and it's one of those astounding February days that we Lower Mainlanders effusively describe while people from other provinces smile patiently and assume we've gone just a bit crazy in our rain-saturated heads.
When I woke up this morning, through my half-opened eyes I saw the rays of the blessed sun cast down on my coverlet and rather than beeline for my near-sacred morning coffee, instead - hypnotically - I was drawn to my bathroom, where the precious, life-bringing early morning rays first show themselves in our house. I took my clothes off, basking in these rays like an animal. A desperate animal with only a vague awareness of the primacy of instinct.
I took these pictures moments ago. A beautiful friend, talented photographer and fellow-blogger just posted a serene shot
of her living room today and the beauty of her enamel-ware housed tulips inspired me to do the same.
She sat alone in her darkened room. The curtains were nearly closed, even though it was already mid-morning. She looked out through the gape between the folds of fabric. I wondered what she was thinking of as I watched her.
I didn't want to interrupt her reveries. She looked intent upon something. But her name was on my list of ladies to visit with this morning, and she looked the very epitome of alone, sitting there in the near dark.
I knocked and she didn't appear to hear it. So I knocked again, loudly this time. The noise felt jarring, more especially so because of the dark room cloaking her. She started and looked at me. I could see a jolt of something that looked like fear in her eyes. Do I know you? she asked. Where am I supposed to be right now? I assured her that she didn't need to be anywhere in particular just now and that I was someone new. She relaxed visibly. I could see that she was relieved to know that I wasn't someone she'd already met and then forgotten. The forgetting plagues her days, my notes tell me. My notes also remind me to never ask her or her contemporaries if they remembered me. This question grates against an all-too-painful reality for many of them. They don't remember anymore and they feel the gap the remembering leaves. The indignity of it.
I asked her about her children and their children and the change of subject is welcome to her. I tell her I'm so happy the rain has finally stopped. She's eager to verify what I say with a look for herself and timidly hints that I might open the curtains for her. I'm happy to do it and the ambiance of the small room instantly changes. Yellow overtakes gray. She has beautiful stained glass ornaments hanging from transparent thread gracing her now opened window. There are dangling, intricate snowflakes she's crocheted herself years ago. We talk about her penchant for craft and then just as quickly, her face changes and she tells me that she has no hobbies because she always worked so much in her life that she never had time for anything like that. I gloss over the discrepancy and ask her about the Christmas cards tacked on her bulletin board. She tells me that she has lots of friends and though I don't believe it, I'm happy that for this one moment, she thinks she does.
Her pale blue eyes seem a water color replica of her real eyes. They're pink-rimmed, as though she's been crying. I want to weep, but I don't, because I have no right to. I swallow back that tightening in the back of my throat because it has no place here today. I see that life has forgotten her and that the young and the vibrant are preeminent. I think when we value the energy of youth so highly, we forget the beauty in her aged cheeks. These cheeks look so soft, I wish I could touch them. The multi-colored afghan laying across her lap captures an important beauty of days gone by. She tells me she's from Oklahoma and we talk about the circuitous journey that's led her from there to here. Her story is full and beautiful and nuanced and full of days of bleak gray and jubilant yellow and I look forward to hearing more about it next week.
One of the JoyKids has been struggling with a relationship in his/her life of late. O who are we kidding? Those of you who have read for even a short time know full well which JoyKid it is who has struggled with a relationship. We all know it's not a her and that it's not Jude. We all know without having to be told that it is my beautiful, exhuberant, life-spilling-over Oliver. O how I love this kid. However, he's responsible - almost single-handedly - for each one of the great many grey hairs on my head. He does life at full throttle, for good and for bad.
And so it all unfolds that Oliver has recently wrestled with a relationship in his seven-year-old life. The relationship is with a little girl in his class. You know by now that Oliver dislikes girls and more specifically, their attendant girl-hair at the best of times, but for whatever reason he's taken a particular dislike to this little girl. I could speculate endlessly as to why this might be and the speculating might include observations about how both children were home-schooled last year and so perhaps their social skills aren't yet honed to a razor sharp edge and this type of thing. The simple truth might just be that their personalities are just a bit repelled by one one another's. Who knows? As a grown-up myself, I know that sometimes in life I meet up with people that I just don't like very much. I tell myself - and we tell Oliver - that this is normal. We say things like: you don't have to like her, buddy, but you do have to be kind to her.
And things like: treat her the way you would want to be treated yourself.
When he's unkind to her, we take away privileges like going to hockey games with his Daddy and the presence of his beloved Seal Family (see more on this, including photo on the entry dated 12/19/10. O if only I knew how to link things up like the really fancy bloggers
all seem to.). As trite and cliche as it sounds, we just keep walking in the dark the way we learned how to in the light. We're hoping at some point in the not-too-distant future he'll see that treating people he doesn't like with respect is the right thing to do. And so we plod on.
In another effort to touch his sometimes gruff little heart, we've required that he do an act of kindness for her each school day. We've told him that he has a lot of trust to rebuild with this little girl and so he makes her heart snowflakes and home-grown borax crystals and bakes her cookies. Slowly, she seems to be warming towards him. The mother called recently, just like in a story from Chicken Soup For the Soul. Rarely do things turn out this beautifully wrapped in real life. The mother wanted to apologize for her little girl's contributions to the breakdown of the relationship and said that her daughter had not been raised to behave in this way. I told her - most emphatically - that she was preaching to the choir and that I, too, had been learning the dignity-defying lesson that our children aren't mere extensions of ourselves, doing exactly and only as we'd like, and that they are whole, albeit mini individuals who make icky choices of their own sometimes, despite what we may wish for them.
It's nice, sometimes, to find out that other parents know how this feels. So the mother and I commiserated a while longer on the phone and I felt powerfully lucky to be having this exchange with someone like her who was humble enough to see that her girl wasn't perfect and who was devoted enough to want to work with me on this to help our respective little people grow up to be beautiful adults. And I've no doubt that they will.
I was recently at the senior's home - my new favorite place. I was serving tea and coffee and laughed inside my head when one of the ladies tried to take advantage of my ignorance. She aggressively requested two sugars and two creams in her tea and seemed quite intent on speedy service. Fortunately, the volunteer supervisor who'd trained me emphasized multiple times over that volunteers can't serve any food or drink item to anyone unless they've first checked with an RN. When I did, I found that this little lady was a diabetic looking for a clandestine sugar fix! It reminded me of my days as a substitute teacher when the kids would take eager advantage of my ignorance of classroom rules. My new favorite people group is the 80-plus crowd.
Once again, I've placed an Etsy order. I can't wait for these beauties to arrive. Because I find the site quite daunting, I always default to ordering from this same woman, whose taste I share. You can find her url in the archives under 'pretty things' in my first Etsy post. She's over-the-top generous and usually includes some bonus 'treat' or other in the package.
If you are an Etsy oldie and aren't such an online shopping chicken as I, please let me know in the comments section which Etsy sites you've come to know and love. I'd love to be fast-tracked to gorgeous-ness! But in the meantime, feast your eyes on these:
This is a post I've suspected I need to write for some time now. I hate to, though. So very much. In fact, my heart quails at the thought of it. That's because I'm a terrible marketer. However, the fact remains that my dream is to someday become a published author. Those lovely ones of you out there who continue to read these self-centered little meanderings fuel me to keep trying.
Some time ago the JoyBoy mentioned that he thought that when the time comes for me to begin to send out the finished book manuscript, it would help tangibly for me to be able to include the little tidbit to the various would-be publishers that I've somehow-or-other accumulated a blog following. He thought it would be all the more impressive if it were to be a large blog following. Can you hear me cringing here in my kitchen as I type?
The long and short of it is that I was hoping that those of you who find that Joy Is So Yellow adds something meaningful to your lives would consider passing along the internet address and your recommendation to your loved ones. I'd be ever so grateful. The one other thing that I'd ask is that if you're one of those who know who I am in non-cyber life (thanks Facebook!), you'd not mention my real-life identity. I find I'm able to write so much more freely if I know that I'm writing for mostly strangers. It helps me to let 'er rip all the more easily. And don't you want me to be able to let 'er rip?
I'd be so grateful. Thanks for continuing to read. It means a lot to me.