I’m not always thankful when I should be. In fact, I’m not thankful a lot. I’m worried, I’m doubtful, I’m negative. Thankful usually happens when something bad might happen but doesn’t, then I’m like woah, sooooo thankful. I mean, at the base of it all I’m a grateful person. I know I’ve gotten a good deal in this life. I appreciate the good deal. But grateful is more like a state of mind and thankful seems more active, more intentional, more humbled, more aware.
That’s why I love Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, or day. It’s when we bow our heads, even if it’s metaphorically and humbly say thank you for the simplest of things. Food, family, friends, community. It’s when we acknowledge at our most fundamental that those are the things that matter, the gathering of loved ones, sharing a meal, appreciating the ties that bind. It’s the cosmic gathering of spirits of past and present and future in one place filled with appreciation. I can feel my grandparents, my parents, my future grandchildren all around. And their connection is deep. It’s both nostalgic and hopeful.
It’s hard to imagine until you get to this point in life, just how important those days of youth are and how they will impact how you see the world. The powerful presence of generations are abundant in the traditions passed through the years. My grandmother, her mother, my mother they all come visiting on Thanksgiving day when I prepare the noodles in the exact same way they did. My kids love the way they taste, I love the way they make me feel. I love knowing that someone thought of me, someone who would never know me, came before me and took the time to create something to pass along. And I love knowing that someday when I’m not here my grandchild might be continuing the tradition in some way, even if it’s just seeing the recipe my grandmother sent to my mom when my mom and dad were stationed in Hawaii one Thanksgiving years ago.
There is tenderness and humility in thankfulness. Fragility even. Because at the heart of thankfulness is the acknowledgement of vulnerability, the need for others, the hope for health, the desire for love. Thankfulness places in the seat of honor the kindness of strangers, the blessings of nourishment, the preciousness of connection, the sweetness of memories.
With Thanksgiving a little more than a week away, I’m placing thankfulness at the top of my to do list, before turkey, dressing and pumpkin pie, just right above the noodles.
WHEN THE IMAGE IS NEW THE WORLD IS NEW-Gaston Bachelard
I love beautiful design and things, or mostly I really appreciate them. How they make you feel when you see them for the first time. The appreciation for the person who magically thought of gathering balloons in waves of color, or was skillful in arranging simple flowers to make them look majestic or clustered books in color codes; someone expressing something so completely original you sigh when you see it. I learned early from my mom how aesthetic is important and can make a difference to your soul. And it can, it can be soothing, and inspiring, and lofty. It can be the best of all of us. It can bring everything to the most blissful and happy point. It can express love and thoughtfulness. It can make dark light. It can help us dream and aspire and grow….But I worry sometimes that the message gets confused. That image is everything, that what things look like means it’s all good and is more important than anything or that not having everything perfect keeps people from being together. I worry that we spend a lot of time creating just the right “image” then putting it out there for some reaction, number of likes, views….followers and that the commandment of “not coveting the neighbor’s something” get’s all sideways and then that’s what happens. We covet, or we envy, or we want or we pretend. And that’s , well yuck
Image is not everything, it’s just not.
So I’m thinking maybe I need to say more about the process and the people that come together to make what does often feel like magic happen. That I need to say more about all my friends that continue to offer to show up and help me for free as I figure out this path. Or my husband that comes with me after work and loads up my car and his car and seems more than happy to do so. Maybe I should say more about the hours I spend looking through inspiration and coming up with nothing or talk about the walls that have fallen on me trying to do something special. The mistakes I’ve made ordering the wrong fabric. The moments where I’ve panicked thinking I’ve lost something, only to look down and it was at my feet. That sometimes there is so much stimulation of images and thoughts and creativity that it stifles creativity and feels overwhelming. That the expectations of creativity on demand can be scary. Maybe I should say more about reality and not so much about pixie dust.
Cause I like reality almost as much as pixie dust.
I like reality because it taps me on the shoulder and asks the really hard questions. It brings me back to the perfectly imperfect world. It tells me to breathe, to stay in the moment, to go to the grocery store, pick up my cleaning, wash the dishes, put gas in the car, to play with the dog, to read a book, to call a friend, to hug a loved one, to pay my bills. I like reality because it is both simple and grand. Both profound and mundane. So I never, ever want to get too far away from it. I never want to wander too far into the land of pixie dust and dreams that I miss out on the here and now.
There are images and there are reflections, they both have something to say.
I love seeing pictures of others, and what they are doing, where they go to dinner, or a party they are having, their latest travels, or a new addition to the house or family, a celebration of epic proportions, christmas morning, I love wedding photos, and house remodels, what’s available at my favorite stores, little babies with their mommas and curated family photos by my favorite photographer…..no one overposts as far as I’m concerned. They are sharing their lives. They are reflections of their lives, lives that are sometimes picture perfect and other times perfectly imperfect, all with a dash of pixie dust. It’s images that we may struggle with. It’s the contradiction between what we know and what we see or if they make us feel pushed to have more or something we don’t think we don’t already have or to think our lives are too small. But that says more about us than the picture we are viewing. And in those moments where I’m stuck in the small screen with insecurity and wanting I know it’s a moment for reflection, the kind that puts the mirror up to my heart and asks the hard questions….am I showing the world me or who I want them to think I am, is my longing my fault or theirs(never theirs), am I connecting or displaying. I like this brave new world of sharing our lives, and showing who we really are or even who we want to be, of seeing all of the little niches of beauty and creativity that we would never have seen before, I love the spontaneity of seeing others lives as they carry on their day, and following my friends on their journeys. Is it a false sense of connection, I don’t think so. Can it be a rabbit hole that we slide into and forget where we are going, sometimes. But it’s like everything we can get sideways with, it’s really more about us than it, how we use it, what we need it for, what we want from it. I never want someone else to wonder “should I post this” because what if it is something that introduces me to a new city, or new restaurant, a new life or a life that has said goodbye to their loved ones.
Although image isn’t everything it is something.
Image is powerful, that’s why we like videos, movies, tv. It’s enticing, even intoxicating but it’s not bad, it doesn’t hold value unless we say so. So much of what we think and feel and decide are based on viewing something and taking it in. We are made that way. There are images curated to be the culmination of every perfect aspect possibly conceived and there are images that reflect the hearts desire to bring together elements of beauty of love of community. It’s not really necessary to even know the difference. It’s probably just important to always remember that we are enthralled by images because they speak to us and when they are speaking to us they are saying something, not just to us but about us….and do we like what we hear them saying.
Traveling is a happy little pastime of mine. Especially when it means the open road. Nothing beats it, nothing. It’s the path to peacefulness and equanimity, to clear thinking and perspective, it’s both familiar and new, and I needed some of all of that. So my husband and I recently spent 12 days on the old persons proverbial New England fall foliage tour. I spent a few weeks researching routes, small towns, peak foliage, restaurants, inns, hotels, lodges. What I didn’t research was any type of activity because driving down the road and getting out to take a walk along a roadside path, or make my way inside the cute diner, was basically the only activity I wanted, so this might not be the road trip for everyone but for those who think that sounds good here are the highlights. Continue reading “Road Warriors”
This blog, and website is a place for celebrations and pretty pictures, chronicling and thinking about the best of times on this place we call home. So is it the place to talk about dying and what goes with that, and how it feels when someone we love becomes part of the celestial sky….maybe it’s the perfect place.
Dying, it is one of only two things that we as humans share, coming here and leaving here….everything else is up for grabs, but this part, this incredibly sacred part of this journey is universal. And in a way that’s beautiful. That we share that, that we all face what’s next, uncertain, fragile, scared, all armed with the same wonder, no one better than the next, the great equalizer. But dying is the thing we don’t like to think of, certainly for lots of good reasons. The sorrow of the loss of the loved one, is inescapable. The separation, although perhaps temporary, leaves a deep void, we feel the empty space with a loneliness that is heavy. And for those who are young and leave us too soon, there is nothing about that passing that could possibly provide anything but grief, anything but regret, anything but pain. But being a part of the final days of a long life can shine a light that is bright, filled with hope laced with beauty and significance. It reinforces the delicateness yet strength of our essence, the incredible ability to feel connected, the desire to be good. It seems somehow for just a breath, in the last moments of someone’s life we all transcend this earthly place and glimpse just for a second heaven.
I’ve said goodbye to both of my parents in the span of less than four years and it’s been transforming. I suppose it really started with the death of my father-in-law. We weren’t particularly close, but not because of any great reason except that life just works out that way sometimes, divorces, hurt feelings, lack of effort whatever the case may be, but we never doubted he loved my husband,his children or our children, it was just the way it was, totally fine, no hard feelings. I just didn’t know him that well. He died at 88. I had seen him the day before he died, and it seemed close, his breathing labored and it felt like he had one foot in each world, here and the next. The next day we got the call, and by the time we made it he was gone. I don’t believe I’d ever seen a person after they had died. But my immediate thought was, he’d made an impact on our lives. It was so powerful. The purity of love and connection was immediate, it was strong. This man, whose genes were running through my husband and my children, was important to us, pure and simple. He would be missed, pure and simple. We loved him, pure and simple. And at that moment I changed. I remember thinking, he had been a gift, his life, his death, it all meant something, something profound. I remember thinking, the clarity of this moment is pure and simple, and I would never look at life the same again.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2012, it was a shock. She was 80 and with it in every way. In the few months between her diagnosis and her death, she was the epitome of grace. Absolutely amazing, strong, quiet, accepting but still fighting. She was at her absolute best, and here we were facing her almost certain death quickly approaching. We had some of the best, most beautiful moments we had ever had. And yet death was knocking. The sweetness of life was presenting itself in a way that nothing else could interfere, nothing else seemed important, no priorities could slip in and steal away what felt like something so precious, so pure, so simple. We had an excuse, an excuse to sit and visit and reminisce and soak up our life together. Not that we hadn’t had some moments in the past where we would sit and visit but not in this way, not in the way you do when you know someone is dying, not in the way you do when you know that you won’t be able to touch that persons hand or hear their voice or smell their smell. You soak it up, you cherish it, you recognize them for who they are and their importance in your life, their importance to this planet. But you can never soak up enough of their essence to ward off the sorrow. It’s just not meant to be. But mixed in with the sorrow is love, pure and simple.
Losing my mom was hard on my sister and me and my kids, but it was really hard on my dad. They had a complicated relationship, lots of disappointments in each other, lots of emotions reserved for only those we feel desperately connected and disconnected to, but my parents put those aside when death came knocking. They looked the other way because what was underneath all the angst and disappointments was overriding, it was love, pure and simple. My dad was holding my moms hand when she took her last breath, he was her steadfast boyfriend those last few months, her life whatever was left was his priority, pure and simple. Death pushed every disagreement,every misunderstanding, every disappointment aside and let love shine through, pure and simple. My mom could’ve been bitter, could’ve turned my dad away, could’ve said too late, but she didn’t she welcomed my dad every day….what might not have made sense to anyone else made sense to them. I wish my parents had had more days that only made sense to them, but the ones they did have were healing, and beautiful, and pure and simple.
My dad was never the same after my mom died. We tried puppy dogs and retirement villages, and they each filled a space but to be honest he struggled. I spent lots of time with him during his last few years, I’d spent lots of time with him before those last few years too, but these last few years, they were different because they highlighted my life with my dad. They were the icing on the incredibly sweet cake. I got to sit with him on the edge of his bed months before he died, when he was teary eyed and worried whether he had taken care of me, my sister and my kids and hold his hand and ask him if he was afraid of dying. I got to hear him say no, he was just sad to be leaving us. Sad, pure and simple. I was able to witness someone both fighting and succumbing to age and illness. He was simultaneously frustrated and grateful, loving and angry. I got to love him through all of it, because I knew what was down the road and I was not going miss out, I was not going to look back with regrets. But the truth is, how can you get through all of this without some regrets, some desire for do overs, a wish for second chances. The moments where he was so cranky I walked out to wait for another day, the days where he wanted to take me to lunch but I already had plans, the times where his phone call went unanswered. I’d like one of those back for a redo, a chance to cancel plans for him, to pick up the phone hearing “baby girl” on the other end…….it wasn’t perfect this dance we did his last few years but it was pretty good. It was filled with chances of getting to see my dad as a person, fragile yet feisty. It was bittersweet to see him becoming forgetful yet always remembering me, my sister, my kids and my husband.
It was transcending, seriously transcending to be with someone as they start down that road to the end of their life, someone you love and adore. I think there is no other time in your life, except perhaps when your children are born that love is so pure, that acceptance is so simple, it’s as if you are open just for a moment to the most sacred part of the universe and it’s beautiful, humbling even magical. And it helps you see this world with a more open heart, it’s preciousness and beauty, it’s fleeting moments, it’s need for celebrations and quiet moments, it’s need for cherishing the special day, and holding on to all that is good, to find gloriousness in the pure and simple. It’s as if your loved one is bringing a little bit of the next world to you, the magic of the most pure and simple love. I’m so thankful they brought it to me.
Humans, we were born to be on the move(at least this one was), so that we can sense with every part of our being our surroundings and the sights, sounds, smells, temperature, nuances, tastes that accompany where we are at any given moment. That’s why we travel, not just to see the world but to know it. To know it in the intimate way you know a friend, or your child, or even yourself. To know it’s people, and see them for who they are, their beauty and their imperfections. Whether it’s down the road or around the world, stepping away from your home and immersing yourself into someone else’s home is a leap of faith, an expectation to be met with acceptance, courtesy and yes even being welcomed. I thought about that on this most recent excursion; what a comfort it is, when you are away from home, that there is a friendly face, a welcome gesture, a kind word in your own language. And you know what, we found all of those things many times over, in fact that’s most of what we found.
I’m not a scaredy cat, but neither am I the most adventuresome person, in the absolute truest sense of the word. Yes, I’ll go lots of places, and try many things, but I’m a bit of a controlling person, I like a plan, I like to know where I’m going, I like an idea of what is going to happen next….so my travels are not the backpack, no road map, no idea of where I’m headed type of travel and I still feel a little uncertainty, a little excitement, a little discomfort. Those are the moments I grow. When I find a friendly train conductor that smiles and shakes his head at my american sized luggage, or a waitress that accepts my attempt at speaking her language, or a stranger on the street that points me in the right direction. I get through those temporary moments of anxiety, then I settle into the wanderlust of seeing clearly the human connection and I love it. The knowledge that you could probably go anywhere in the world and find someone who will take away your fear of being alone is a great bit of insight to put in your back pocket. This feeling, or actually belief, grows every time I travel; I get more comfortable in my own skin by going somewhere unfamiliar.
For a mother, being anywhere with your grown children is special, but all of us experiencing a new view for the first time together is bonding in a unique way. We are our own little band of travelers, being brought together by some miraculous fortune, and stepping out together uncertainly certain that seeing the world is a good thing. I treasure these moments. We are fortunate to take these excursions in the way we do, we’ve eaten at some stunning restaurants and slept in some special places, but honestly the best and most salient memories are the ones that are simple and somewhat unplanned. I admire the travelers that are brave enough to go without a map, or a plan, because its always the unexpected moments that stick. I think travelers without a map must be the true believers in the benevolence of mankind, and I think they are rewarded with revelations of beauty and kindness. Like when we sat in a vineyard with some fellow travelers, some had been backpacking through the vines. We looked out on lake Geneva and drank wine together made from the special Chasselsas grape. I’ll never forget that little porch with the simple building housing the restaurant and the wines, and the two brothers carrying on a tradition for 4 generations. The day before we were caught in the rain and found a lakeside outdoor restaurant with umbrellas and snuck under one. We ate two bowls of the best french fries, perhaps in the world. We dipped them in mayonnaise and ketchup and listened to the people surrounding us as they joined each other on a friday night after work. It’s the same celebration everywhere, just in different languages. We sat on train after train, watching the country side and wondering what living in the beautiful villages of Switzerland and Italy would feel like. We saw fields of sunflowers and graffiti on walls, teal blue lakes from glacier melt and villages with sheep grazing. We swam in the cold waters of Lake Lucerne and sat on a funky deck with no one speaking english in ear shot. We discovered a department store dishing up every imaginable type of fresh food and helped ourselves to all of it’s goodness. We made our way up the hills beside Lake Como to find ourselves in the presence of the 5th generation proprietor of a restaurant named Navedano. She was short and sweet and gracious. We met her daughter and saw the original rooftop preserved through the generations. She only wanted us to love our time there.
Unplanned, unexpected, precious experiences where we see the world and know it. And through those moments it becomes smaller. It becomes less frightening and filled with light. It convinces me to have faith.
I was on a trip last fall with a great group of women, some I knew well, others a little and one not at all. We went to France, ooohhhlaaalaaa. I love to travel, even to Bixby. It’s about the unknown, what’s around the corner, the sites, the newness, fresh eyes. I love seeing something for the first time like I’m a kid again. So I was excited to go, mostly for the new sites, but I was open to whatever might come. And it was everything I had hoped for, the weather was spectacular, the food AMAZING, the adventures like riding our bikes at night on the busiest streets in Paris were ummm memorable, the conversations over dinner were heartwarming, it was basically perfect. But as always the one thing that is etched on your mind is the one thing you aren’t planning for, or don’t expect. In this case it’s the phrase, “why wouldn’t we?”, coined by the one person on the trip I had never met, my new friend Debbie. Her phrases “why wouldn’t we and yeah we did” will go with me forever, and maybe it’s too strong to say those words changed my life, but they have definitely made an impact, just as she did. I love the freedom of “why wouldn’t we” and the affirmation of “yeah we did”. And somewhere within those little words I found a voice that encouraged me to say yes to stepping out and creating MagPie Events. Life has an interesting way of intersecting lives, lives that might give you something special, something unexpected, like little phrases in a southern accent that say yes to what’s next.
MagPie Events, the little company named after my two best reasons for celebrating, my children Maggie and Pierce. Together they make MagPie and they’ve been the inspiration for many a party over the years. Barbie parties where there was hat decorating by the guests for their hat and a matching one for their Barbie and a guest Barbie that came that looked as much like Barbie as I do, which let’s just say isn’t much, but they didn’t care they were 5 and if I said it was Barbie they thought so. We had capture the flags parties with mailed assignments and flags that indicated the team. Fishing party with trophies of the “best looking fish”, which doesn’t take much they are all so pretty and Halloween parties with bobbing for apples and maybe more bobbing than apples and new years eve parties with horsey rides….and Christmas parties with Santa and red noses(Santa’s not Rudolph’s). They gave me a reason and excuse for celebrating. I’m so lucky they were born. They’ve shown me the way to everything good, and encouraged me to keep on going.
So I’ve gone full steam ahead into this new world where I sort of know what I’m doing, but certainly need lots of support, advice, encouragement, insight, bossiness and love from my friends and family. But it’s been the women in my world that have been the most ardent supporters, the best advisors, the givers of time, energy, interest, desire to see me fulfill a dream. They have taken photographs, made logos, spent hours helping with events, given inspiration, set up easels with pen and paper to discuss what my game plan should be, listened as I went back and forth on what seems best, and been my guinea pigs. They have encouraged me in every way possible and genuinely hoped for my success. They are givers. They have been the light of this new path. Grateful is too small of a word. They act like of course I should be doing this, “why wouldn’t I?”
Yeah I did.
Sometimes our weaknesses come in handy….I might be considered a bit of a pack rat. I may or may not have a craft closet that has boxes of ribbons, and empty frames from hobby lobby, cute little food containers, and styrofoam heads, confetti in all shapes and sizes, American flags and fancy pea shooters….it’s like a little slice of heaven. Sometimes I wonder-what am I doing with all of this loot-until it’s PARTY TIME, and then I just walk up to my little store pull out a few things, and voila I’ve got myself a festive gathering. It’s surprising what you can do with a few leftovers from here and there mixed in with a few new things to inspire you.
Part of my new adventure is to share my little closet with others….I mean why should I have all the fun. Sometimes all you need is a new dinner plate to get you going, or a few fun lanterns to add to your walkway to greet guests, maybe some fresh napkins that give a twist to your table. Magpie’s Closet can be a fun little option to your entertaining plans. Think about it, just being able to grab a few new plates, like from your favorite neighbor, except this neighbor has fun new things with a few hints on how to make it festive, you just pick them up and bring them back a few days later ready for the next “neighbor” to “borrow” and by borrow I mean rent…just so there is no confusion that you might think like I’m the best neighbor alive and willing to buy fun stuff and loan it out for free cause I’m so nice…..probably not that nice. Nice is overrated, but fun, and crafty and creative, with good loot, now that’s worth something.
What I love about the world now is that there are no right ways to do anything, there is just potential….there is freedom and a focus on experiencing things, more than loading up on things….but there is also a love for design and style and fresh. That’s why I love the idea of sharing beautiful things. No one needs a closet full of dishes, or linens, or lanterns or lighted signs that say Drive-In , (except for me, haha) so why not “borrow” those when you need them? Like when it’s 4th of July and you want some darling white plates with blue trim, or you need an I DO sign for your next bridal shower, maybe some bohemian tie-dye napkins to round out your 60’s party, or special pink champagne glasses to toast your favorite 50th birthday girl, or some mad men martini shakers for when your are listening to Frank, Dean and the rest of the rat pack croon along….I know I’m a little loopy about these things but seriously, one little item can transform your event, it can take it from nice to memorable, but more importantly it can inspire and connect the dots. These little things can lift us up, and make us feel good, and happy and light.
Magpie’s closet is a place to grab something that speaks to you, that both inspires you and makes your life richer but simpler. It’s like having the best neighbor on the block, who may have a little problem with collecting things…..