Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Follow Your Heart

Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The last weekend in September I will be selling my jewelry in an outdoor show for the first time. The Northern New Mexico Arts and Crafts Guild has 3 shows a year in Cathedral Park in Santa Fe. Recently, I went to scope out the show, in preparation for my show in September. It is a sweet fair, not at all overwhelming, with 35 booths of very high quality art and craft. I walked the fair, examining the set-ups for ideas, meeting the artists,and introducing myself. I met another seed bead artist, Elaine Sutton, who does fabulous bead embroidery collars. We talked for quite awhile.

The next morning I woke with a start. I remembered something my mom told me when I was hating junior high school. I grew up in a town on the east coast where I felt i just did not belong. I hated living there and felt like a misfit and also "unsafe" in some way. I remember my mom telling me that I would find my place in life and that I didn't have to live there forever. She mentioned some friends whose daughter had moved away to New Mexico to make jewelry as an example. That seemed far-fetched, exotic, adventurous, and mind-blowing. It didn't really help me figure out how to live day by day. But it did give me a sense that I could explore the world and find my own place. Something I've been doing ever since I left that town. I never did meet the girl who moved away to make jewelry.

I was interested in art but never pursued it seriously. I thought I should do something brainy and prestigious and I became a doctor. After medical school, when I was contemplating where to train in my speciality, pediatrics, I remembered that girl who moved to New Mexico and applied for a residency position at the University of New Mexico program. It was strange because I had never been to the state. But, the exotic idea was planted in my head 18 years before by the notion of this girl from my town who followed her heart and found happiness far away. When I interviewed in Albuquerque I saw the full moon rise over over the pink Sandia Mountains and find its place in the indigo sky. That was it. I have been living in New Mexico ever since - 15 years. It is only this past year that I have stopped practicing medicine to give my creative life a chance to blossom.

It seems while I was sleeping, my brain put this together with a face I saw at the fair. One of the artists makes beautiful "modern botanical" silver jewelry. We spoke a bit. That next morning, it was her face that I saw when I woke with a start. I rummaged through the cards I had collected at the fair, and there was hers. I sent her an email, asking if perhaps she could be the girl my mom had told me about. It was a shot in the dark. I got a reply and guess what? She is, in fact, the girl from my town, the daughter of someone my mother knew 20 years ago, whom we'd never met, who followed her heart, moved 2000 miles away, and makes jewelry in New Mexico. She is the girl, who just the notion of her, influenced my life, in ways neither of us knew.

Cheers to us (all of us), to self -exploration, to following our hearts, and to the wonderful ways we help others, by just having the courage to be true to ourselves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beadfingers is Budding

My biology teacher, Mrs. Karasik, showed me that when the microscopic organism, the hydra, is ready, little buds form on its surface. The buds separate from the parent and become their own hydra selves. My blog has budded. It's time.

Beadfingers came into being to bring me into the online community of bead artists like myself. It was my toe in the water for showing my work, and discussing my craft. However, almost as soon as I started blogging, my writing changed. Now I post less about beading and more about life and my own healing. My readers have encouraged me to keep on, go deeper, and share more. Yikes! I am doing that.

A new blog has budded off. It is called
Sticks Stones Words Bones. I hope to journey deeper there. All are welcome to join me. I've posted today about a tough topic in a personal way. It is called "Driving Through Freeport".

If you are interested in my bead art you can find it here. I am giving Beadfingers back to beading. Stay tuned for more beaded delights."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Mother's Prayer from Divorceland

I recently spent 17 consecutive days with my two children. The last time this happened was when my 7 year-old daughter was 18 months. At that time, my husband and I separated, and then divorced. We were awarded joint custody and our children have been moving back and forth between the two homes ever since. My son, who is 11, set up his own blog last week to write about his life as a child of divorce. His expression of the pain and joy of his life inspires me to face my own.

My marriage was rough and so was our divorce. After the separation, my emotions came with such ferocity that even my house seemed too small to contain them. I used an old familiar friend, alcohol, to cope. It worked for a while, and then it didn’t. At that time, I was not a good mother. I was impaired and full of shame. With help, I was able to quit drinking. From the day I put down the bottle in 2005, I have used the time that my children are away from me to focus on my healing and rebuild myself and my life. I have not taken a drink since.

My son writes about the unrelenting pain of moving back and forth between 2 loving homes. He is always moving and always missing the other parent. His language is simple and clear. How he copes is the mystery. I have coped by telling myself that the time that my children were with their dad was a blessing to my recovery. I found relief in the idea that I couldn’t handle long- term consecutive parenting. My story was that despite the pain of separation from them, I needed the breaks when they would leave. Perhaps early on, this was true. But this trip together revealed the lie.

Normally, our lives are dominated by the rhythm of separation and transitions. On this recent trip, it was the rhythm of life. In those 2 ½ weeks together the weave of our family tapestry tightened. We learned about each other, grew closer and strengthened our bonds. Love flowed. There was little solitude, lots of joy, and lots of compromise. My partner, Henri, my children, and I rode the waves of life in unison. We dealt with the ripple effect of bad moods, mishaps, and illness together. Each of us found time to be alone, recover from the stress of life, and reunite. I saw that today I make good choices, my intuition is right on, and I am a really good mother.

My son’s blog is called Divorce: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. As the mother I want to see the good, accept the bad, and not contribute to the ugly. Here is my prayer:

Let me turn the pain and loss over my children into something useful for us and for others. Let me accept my feelings, live healthy, and rest, so that I can be right there with them. Let me use the knowledge that they will be leaving shortly, to make the most of our time together. Let me nourish them, cherish them and never take them for granted. Let me feel the sacred bond that their father and I share. Let me continue to put them first when it comes to their dad, and not wage war. Let my love for my children and my faith in spirit guide me to respond always with love and compassion. Let my own healing inspire their healing of the split that dominates their lives. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Catching Aloha Spirit

I was recently on the island of Maui, Hawaii with my family. As we made our way out of the airport I could already feel that despite still being in America with no need to change money, I was somewhere else. It was the aroma of plumeria flowers, the shade of dark green giant waxy-leafed flora, and the deep tones of skin with kind Hawaiian smiles of Aloha. The island is small and it was initially disconcerting to be dead-ending with water. We’d turn down a street and once again there would be the Pacific Ocean, a breathtaking, awesome kind of surprise.

There’s also a lot of developed tourism and a lot of transplanted “locals” from the continental US. I had no expectation to penetrate the Hawaiian culture in a two-week stay visiting beaches and staying on the tourist track. However, by day #2, a mild mishap brought an unexpected cultural experience and exactly the kind of Hawaiian lesson my life needed.

After our first day of chores and stocking our condo we were exhausted and jet lagged and ended up in bed without ever making it to the ever-present beach. But on day #2 we went to the wonderful Kamaole III, a popular public beach in Kihei. It is a stretch of golden sand with smooth black lava rock jutting out like bookends on both sides. The sky is vast and off to the west it meets the blue ocean in a small bowl formed by the sloping edges of the island of Molokai and the mountains of West Maui. Every night the giant orange orb of the sun sets down and slips below the horizon right in this bowl. Between the road and the beach is a grassy park overlooking the sea, with grills, a playground and showers. There are always native Hawaiian families gathering here. The weekends are particularly lively with large extended families cooking, eating, laughing and playing.

With the enthusiasm and awkwardness of the land-locked creatures we’d become, we overloaded our car with boogie boards, coolers, snorkel equipment, chairs and beach umbrellas for 4, and drove to this park, just yards from our condo. Covered in our gear, we schlepped down to the beach and set up our site. After all this, the ocean was finally ours. We ran into the water with glee and accidentally took our rental car key in with us. Remember when keys were made of waterproof metal? Realizing we had overlooked this one minor detail, we went to check on the computer chip function. Clicking “unlock” no longer opened our car. However, I learned there is an old-fashioned key hidden inside. We used that to open our door, and it worked! Unfortunately, the alarm started sounding and would not stop.

Suddenly we became very aware of our surroundings. A pit bull club was meeting just next to the parking lot with about 20 dogs leashed to stakes and their proud owners chatting it up. Three very large Hawaiian men were drinking beer and cooking meat on a grill about 15 feet from our car. There were birthday parties with inflatable jumpers. Gatherings of Hawaiian families with dark-skinned wizened faces, diapered toothless babies, and every age in between were just yards away from the obnoxious siren and flashing lights of our vehicle. Ready to jump in and drive away to spare the others, we found that the car would not start. We were stuck being annoyances, and we’d only just arrived.

In New York, where I’d grown up, the response would have been snarls and sneers and, “SHUT THE F*** UP!!” I once knew someone in Manhattan who keyed up a BMW with the words “Die Yuppie Scum” because it alarmed repeatedly and kept him awake. There isn’t a lot of tolerance for this kind of inconvenience and irritation. People become easily enraged when other’s problems impose on them.

But at our public beach none of this happened. We dealt with the rental car company and various towing companies over the next 5 hours. It resulted in the car alarm going off 5 different times for several LONG minutes each. Eventually a tow truck brought us a new car. During this time, we got a dose of Aloha Spirit.

First, the lady with the most pit bulls approached us, offering her cell phone and trying to help us turn off the alarm. When it finally stopped on its own, the 100 people within earshot applauded with giant smiles. When it alarmed the second time, one of the men grilling closest to our car brought us a plate of steak he had just cooked. As the hours passed we were offered beer, soda, and water. More plates of food were brought to us. We were invited to a baptism celebration and given shade under someone’s canopy. The patriarch of one family sat with us for a couple of hours sharing about his family and about Hawaiian life in general.

Our repeated apologies were repeatedly dismissed. People stopped looking up when the alarm sounded. When it stopped they cheered good-naturedly. I shared my experiences in New York with George, the patriarch. He laughed off the idea of being rude to people in our situation. “I guess you are experiencing Aloha Spirit,” he said.

I knew I had caught it on July 4th. We planned a dinner out in Lahaina, West Maui and then watching fireworks. We left ourselves plenty of time. However, our waitress was very upset and distracted. When she finally arrived to take our order she was tearful and just barely keeping herself together. We gave the order and waited. While people were being served around us, and those who arrived after were already finishing their meal we became more agitated. Our waitress was nowhere. It had been over an hour. Our children were going to miss the fireworks. As we got up to leave, hungry and angry, our food arrived. It had been hastily thrown together. Our waitress apologized for forgetting to put in the order during her meltdown. I saw in her face my own embarrassment that Sunday at Kamaole III.

A few moments later, we heard the kaboom of the fireworks and the kids and Henri tore out to the road to race towards a view. I found our waitress to pay the bill. The food had been terrible and we’d had no time to eat. She looked at me squarely, “I am so so sorry. It’s been my worst night here in 5 years.” I remembered the grilled steak, the shade of the canopy, and George’s smiles of Aloha. I put my hand on her shoulder, and passed on that same smile, “Everyone has a bad day. Don’t worry about it. It is really not a big deal. Give yourself a break. We are fine, really.” “Thank you so much,” she replied with a look of great relief.

Hawaii is paradise, they say. I did have a spiritual communion with nature on the beach. I let the ocean rock me and the sun warm my soul. Through my snorkel mask I saw unimaginable creatures, colors, tendrils and tentacles. I felt the power of beauty and the mysterious creative force all around us. I saw my children freckled, innocent, and open to the world, splashing in the surf and rolling in sand. I felt the love of my dear partner dancing along with me. But, back in my desert home just a few days later the air is different and the memories are already fading. The sound of the surf, the orange orb, white caps and salt water seem very far away. What lingers is the Aloha Spirit. It is a message of peace and interconnection, gentleness, compassion and respect for others and for all of nature. Thank you, George. Mahalo.