It feels like it has been so long since I’ve been connected to a routine, to my home, to myself, that I barely know how to begin. So the title of this post doesn’t refer to the state of my marriage, which is doing just fine after 41 years, but to the state of my union to myself.
I’ll start with a deep breath. And a pretty view. I looked out the window at just the right moment last week and caught some beautiful late afternoon light.
I think February is the very best month in Bakersfield.
So – my last post was on a home devolving back to a house as my parents lose their grip on reality and day-to-day functioning. That post was like projectile vomiting – it spewed out. This one is harder, not just because I don’t have an emotional bombshell sitting on my chest right now, but because it has to do with putting myself together. Sort of vague – how to put oneself together when you haven’t come apart.
I had a full calender over the last two weeks. Lots of lunches, evening commitments, and then with my sister visiting, lots of daytime lunches and visits at my parent’s house. All the activity reinforced something I know but sometimes ignore. Sixty-three isn’t fifty-three; it isn’t even sixty or sixty-two. Every year my tolerance for being on the go declines just a little. I have to pace my activity. I can only handle so much.
All tuckered out
Let’s just take this week, starting with Sunday: we had a lovely Valentine’s lunch at a great restaurant in town, appropriately named Valentien. (The link gives you the menu which says Saturday but it was the same lunch on Sunday.) Then we had dinner at The Orchid (Thai fusion) that same evening with my two sisters and brother just to make sure we are all on the same page regarding my parents. My husband is restoring a Model A Ford that’s been in his family for ages, so he joined the Model A Club. Monday night was their monthly dinner outing, this time at Moo Creamery, and I had to be social and interested in dozens of people who come together because of a common interest in cars. Which I have no interest in whatsoever. But if my husband wants to do this activity, be in this club, I’m doing it with him. He does an awful lot for/with me that he doesn’t want to. He demands very little, is very low-maintenance, and I’m thrilled when he’s interested in something.
Tuesday I spent time at my parent’s house, (my father is definitely extra-high maintenance as you might expect from a nationally-known artist), went to lunch with my sisters, Target and Ross, and then went to Fat Tuesday at a local club called Fish Lips. I didn’t really want to go but BECA (Bakersfield Emerging Contemporary Artists) was doing face painting to raise money, and I volunteered to help. I have to contribute somehow to these organizations I benefit from.
So I put on my festive purple hat and went out after dark.
Corky Blaine was there also, painting away, and the belly dancer is Nyoka, our BECA leader. (I want to call her the Goddess, she’s such an amazing person.)
Ok, that was Tuesday. Already I was zonked. But we had Wednesday, and I had a coffee meeting with John Harte, a free-lance photographer whom the newspaper had hired to take photos of my Altered Landscapes show last October, and he was giving me a disc with the photos.
This photo is from the show at Metro Galleries and it’s me, my husband, and my parents. My parents look so fine – you would never know from a first meeting that my mom has Alzheimers and is forgetting who some of the great grandchildren are and that my dad sleeps most of the day.
I was going to go to the Random Writer’s Workshop Wednesday evening, but my sisters and I took my parents out to dinner instead. We went to California Pizza Kitchen, which my dad forgets that he hates – so it’s his new favorite restaurant. My mom was looking at the wonderful photos on the dessert menu and she said she wanted one. Which one, Mom? No, not a dessert, she wants to take the menu home so she can keep reading about the desserts. It’s a good thing my natural propensity is towards laughter instead of frustration!
Thursday morning started with Starbucks – I was having coffee with Chris McKee, the mother of my former student who died a couple of weeks ago. When I had asked, during the week of the funeral and preparation, what I could do, she said I could have coffee with her in the coming weeks, when all the relatives had left, and there she and her husband would be to face the emptiness. That was an easy request since I’ve always liked Chris, a fellow artist. We’re going to make coffee a weekly event, which will be good for both of us.
Zonked for sure
And then I was zonked for sure. Picked up my granddaughter from school, came home, and called it a day. I was supposed to go to a mini-reunion of the Vaudeville Express Melodrama, a local theater I used to be involved with, but I just had reached my limit. So I stayed home and worked on the photo-sorting project.
Today, Friday, I had lunch at Enso with Wendy Wayne, my dear friend who had the stem-cell replacement last year for non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and my oldest daughter joined us.
This photo is from the October opening of my show at Metro Galleries. That’s Wendy in the middle. She’s getting her hair back. On the left is her husband Gene Tackett, and on the right John Hefner, my former principal at Fruitvale Jr. High. We both retired the same year.
I’ll allow that trying to keep up with the Olympics, not to mention American Idol and Survivor, robbed me of what little free time I had, but a person has to have priorities. And if you DVR the Olympics, it’s possible to zoom through them pretty fast. I mean no disrespect to any of the sports or athletes, but how many people can you really watch leaving the starting point of the Nordic Combined? And a couple of minutes of Curling seems adequate.
So it’s Friday evening and I am HOME and glad to be here. The state of my union will solidify with some quiet time at home. I have nothing on my schedule for the weekend, although that has a way of changing. The parent situation is always a bomb waiting to explode. In fact, when I got home from the Model A Club dinner on Monday, there was a phone message. It was my mom, who didn’t understand she was talking to the machine, telling me something was very wrong with Dad – that he was shaking uncontrollably and she didn’t know what to do. She ended the message in tears. I called immediately and Dad answered the phone sounding just fine. Whatever it was passed quickly and wasn’t as severe as Mom thought, if it was anything at all. It was kind of scary that she didn’t call my sister or my cell phone, but at least she can still dial a phone.
The Photo Project
The best news and probably most helpful in getting the state of my union back to rights is that the massive, multi-week photo organization project is finished. Almost. If you haven’t read this blog post do so – because you do not want to find yourself sorting decades of undated photographs!
So here it is – 14 cases full of photos divided into 12 compartments per case. And inside each one is an excel spreadsheet with the contents of each of the 12 compartments, organized by month and year. I am so relieved to have not only the photos organized, but the cases off my bedroom floor and out of the studio. That alone is helping put order in my union. But – there’s always a but, isn’t there?
I’m not entirely done with photos. About 1/3 of the albums on these shelves contain family photos from high school years, college, our marriage in 1968, and our children’s lives until 1981, when the photo organization project started. And the photos in these albums are deteriorating and fading badly so they all need to be scanned. And then there’s this:
I found a box of really old family photos – both Mark’s and my parent’s families and early years. So they have to be scanned for sure – and there are more photos than it looks like spilling out of this box. Including the stack of photos under the box.
But that’s for another day. I can start this project soon, but at least there will be nothing taking up space on the floor, so as long as my surroundings are ordered, my mind will be ordered.
So the state of my union is tired, basically. Last week proved to me what I already knew – I have to keep my activity closer to home if I hope to get back in the studio and keep my mind clear. None of these multi-meal out weeks – which are killers of balanced meals as well as expensive. Going out nights and being out late (um – 9:00 pm is late) is especially hard, and I need plenty of down time. Home is the anchor. Home is February’s theme for Creative Every Day, and it’s an important theme, because for most of us, if we are lucky, it all starts and ends at home.