Mar 11 2010

on reaching for the sky

This tree came from one of those little twigs in a bag they give out to school children once a year. My niece and I planted it in my garden about a decade ago.

Last year at this time, the uppermost branch formed a perfect question mark. I swore I had a picture of it, and of course, I can’t find it anywhere. But you can still sense that it was there, this question, traced in the air…

I wish I could say that I’ve found the answer. That I was inspired to look at life in a new way, or to see it as some sort of message from mother nature or some other higher power.

But all I have are questions.

And every time I look at that tree I see it there, still,
a big question mark. Trying to tell me something.

Since last year, the branch has grown, spread itself out,
become (almost) a straight line.

Pointing towards the sky.

I want to look up
and see a hawk
fly itself like a kite
just above the spot
where I stand.

But I’m not there, yet.

The sun is still in my eyes.

P.S. This post is part of You Capture – Reaching

Mar 9 2010

on growing old(er) gracefully

Whenever I tease my mom about getting old, she says, “I’m not old, I’m older.” And she’s right, at 67 she is relatively young.

(And still, I couldn’t resist the urge to make this photo look like a daguerreotype…)

But she’s even younger at heart. And she has managed to accomplish the main thing that I hope to achieve as I get old(er):

She’s not bitter. At all. About anything.

I think that is one of the hardest things to do as we navigate our way through this life. It is so easy to fall into the bitter trap, to be angry, or cynical, or unforgiving. Life can be hard, and sometimes it kicks our ass. But my mom has managed to remain, well, what’s the opposite of bitter? Sweet?

And it isn’t easy for her to be that way. She has fibromyalgia, and so she is very often living in pain. But she never stops thinking of other people, ever. Even now, when she is so sick she can barely get out of bed, she still says at the end of our conversation, “Call us if you need anything.”

This past week, she had emergency gall bladder surgery, and then ended up back in the hospital with pneumonia. And through it all, even as we were sitting in the emergency room and she was having trouble catching her breath, she was still joking, making conversation, showing interest in other people. She asked every single person–nurse, tech, student, cleaner–how they were doing, their name, their children’s names, their children’s ages.

And she’ll remember what they say. Days later, she’ll say, “Jennifer said such and such…” and I’ll say, “Who’s Jennifer?” And she’ll say, “Jennifer, the nurse, the one with the two little boys, one of them has a bad cold, and the other one just started playing the piano.” As if we have both known them all forever.

Because she loves people. She cares about them, even the ones she barely knows. She, and my father, are always there to help. Always doing things for other people. Always giving. Selfless. They are each, in their own way, my hero.

When I grow old(er) I think

I want to be just like her.

Mar 7 2010

the folly of fate

Normally on this weekend of the year I am with one of my best friends at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

We always take a bus tour, and since we don’t actually see each other very often, we catch up on the 7 hour bus ride. There is usually wine, chocolate (plus various other snacks) and lots of giggling involved.

We are almost always the youngest people on the bus. By the end of the first day, all the other people are clearly thinking “what’s up with those two nuts?” Sometimes we are even verbally admonished. But we don’t care, we are having fun. That is why we go. To look at pretty flowers, of course, but mostly to let it all hang out, to laugh with absolute abandon.

My favorite all-time trip was the year that my friend stole this really cool egg-shaped pine cone from a display at the public garden we visited. (Okay, obviously I took one, too.) We debated back and forth for a couple of minutes about whether it was okay, and then I said, “it’s just a pine cone.”

As we were walking away with a very guilty look on our faces, the bell tower right next to us decided it was time to chime. Only to my friend’s guilt-ridden conscience, it sounded like an alarm. She jumped about five feet in the air and I had to catch her before she started running. And then I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. (Okay I did pee, a little).  And of course, just then, as I was standing there, bent over, with my legs crossed and tears streaming down my face, the entire rest of the bus tour came around the corner. Lead by the tour director.

Which just made us laugh even harder. They all looked at us with raised eyebrows and gave us a very wide berth as they passed us by.

And we weren’t even drinking wine that day. But all I have to do is think of that moment and I will burst into laughter. Out loud. Right in front of everyone/anyone who happens to be near.

Well, this year, our bus tour was canceled, so we didn’t go.

And as it turned out, my mom ended up in the hospital this past week for emergency gall bladder surgery, and then last night we had to take her back to the emergency room because she has pneumonia. (She is back home now and doing okay). So it turned out to be a good thing that fate intervened and the trip was canceled.

But I thought that I would take this little trip (in my mind) today for old time’s sake, and have a little giggle.

Here’s to best friends.

And laughter.

And peeing in your pants, a little.

Mar 5 2010

good enough.

I could have cleaned this hurricane off before I took the picture, but instead, I focused on the dust…it was hard, but I did it.

Now I’m about to say a dirty word. (So cover your ears if you’re easily offended). Perfectionist. There, I said it.

On the surface, it might seem that being a perfectionist is a good thing, and sometimes it is. It means that I don’t stop until something is just right. It means that I will push myself further and further until I learn a new skill. It means that people often tell me that I’m really good at this, or that, or the other thing, which is nice.

But being a perfectionist is also a curse. Because I don’t stop until something is just right. Which means I might start over 25 times. Because I will push myself further and further, which means I might stay up until 1:30 a.m. “perfecting” something when I should be snoring. (yes, apparently, I do). It also means that I don’t like to do things that I’m not good at. Even if they might be fun. And it means that I am never satisfied, because perfect is unattainable. I do too much. I drive myself crazy.

So here’s my new goal. Be good enough. Most of the time, no one will even be able to tell the difference.  Most of the time, all the little perfectionist things I do along the way don’t really affect the outcome. And besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

It’s going to be hard, I don’t know if I can do it, always. When it comes to my work, I will still strive for perfection. But when it comes to the little things, like dust on a hurricane, too salty soup, or cat hair on the couch, I will try to strive for good enough. When it comes to decorating for the holidays, or planting my garden, or fixing my unruly hair, I will let good enough be good enough.

I could have focused on the egg in the photo, and the dust would have been lost in the blur. You wouldn’t have known it was there.

Or I could have stopped to clean the dust off.
Reassembled the shot, started over.

But I didn’t. I let you see my dust.

And that was perfect.

For you, kimberla (and little bit for liz at mabel’s house)

Mar 3 2010


Just six inches to the right of this tiny hyacinth bud is a foot of snow. Down from the 18 inches that was there just a few days ago.

As I was stepping into my back door yesterday, this tiny speck of green, nestled up against my house, caught my eye. And I thought, yes, there it is.


Two days after the biggest snowstorm of the year, this little guy decides it’s time to poke his head above ground. And has the nerve to start growing. To believe, no, expect, that the sun will indeed rise every day and warm him, nurture him, help him grow.

He didn’t stop to listen to the weather, or the fact that it will probably snow several more times before it is his time to bloom. He didn’t shrink away from the mountain of snow that is already there, hovering just over his shoulder.

He chose, instead, to be an optimist.

The next day, eight robins landed in my yard. And I thought, this is crazy. It is too early, too cold for them, there is still snow everywhere.

Hope, again. Come home to nest for another year. Right in my own backyard.

I stood there and listened to its song.

And I smiled.

P.S. This post is part of You Capture – Hopeful

Mar 1 2010

falling down the rabbit hole

Or, this post could be called: who needs television? Or even: my name is Jo and I am an addict…

I only very recently discovered the Land of Blog, but I have a feeling my life will never be the same. Now, at night when I am usually too exhausted to do anything but watch television, I find myself tunneling deeper and deeper through this blog which leads to that blog which leads to that blog…until I truly end up feeling like I have fallen down this vast rabbit hole…and I have no idea how to get back above ground, and then I’m not really sure I even want to (but shhh, don’t tell anyone).

It is amazing down here! So many wonderful, talented writers, artists, photographers, comedians…all sharing what is deep in their hearts, their minds, their lives. It is easy when you are an artist, especially when you work at home, to feel isolated. And it is hard to find time to venture out and about to share these kinds of thoughts, inspiration, tips, tricks, and encouragement. It’s a little scary though, because now I have even fewer reasons to leave the house. Can you say hermit?

How did I manage to step over this hole for so long? I mean, I knew it was there, I had heard of blogs, but I had never actually visited one. And then… I found this magazine called Artful Blogging. It was pretty. I bought it.  I visited one of the blogs that was featured. And that lead to one more, and then one more, and well, you get the idea.

I think we all need to hire housekeepers so we can spend more time down here.

Because, unlike television (which is far less entertaining by the way) the people down here are real. Really real. Not pretend real like the people on so-called Reality Television. Which, okay, I may have been addicted to for just a little while…but don’t tell anyone that, either. Please.

I haven’t told very many people in my “real” life about my blog yet. Maybe because I fear that they will think I’m self-indulgent. Or silly, or just plain nuts. But at least down here, I am among friends. You won’t laugh at me for having a blog. You probably have one, too.

They are multiplying like rabbits.

Maybe I should have called this post Watership Down.

P.S. The bunny in this photo lives in my yard. He/she was the sole survivor of an overly rambunctious dog who thought it would be fun to play with tiny baby bunnies. It wasn’t fun and the dog’s human mother was very, very upset with him. But this little bunny (at the time about 4 inches long), burrowed its head down into the grass amongst the bodies of his brothers and sisters and played dead. And melted my heart. And survived. So now I don’t get mad when the bunnies eat my flowers. I figure I owe them one.