Sibling Assignment #152: To Be of Use

Sister Carol gave the Sibling Assignment this week:

"Write about something that you realized about Mom when you were an adult, that didn't occur to you when you were a child growing. " You can read brother Bill's post here and sister Carol's is here

As my mother's birthday comes to an end today, it is fitting to reflect on this assignment and remember Mom when I was a child and now.

Mom has always worked, and worked hard. Dad worked hard also. I grew up surrounded by people that worked hard. When I was in first grade Mom was raising two children, cooking breakfast for Dad each day before he went to work, then she packed his lunch, taught second grade all day, came home and prepared homemade dinners, corrected papers, did lesson plans, designed art projects, took night classes, volunteered at church, was a member of PTA, ironed, did laundry, went to Little League games, and cleaned house.
Soon my baby sister arrived. Fortunately we had Mrs. Price come to the house so part of Mom's burden was lifted a bit as she babysat Carol and did some domestic work also. When I was growing up I thought this is what mothers did. Didn't every mother doze after dinner and then wake up, be revived and work a few more hours before bedtime?  I remember how shocked I was when a friend told me her mom slept in and read books in bed all day. What? I don't even remember my mom sleeping in.
When I began teaching there never seemed to be enough hours in the day to plan, teach, do grading, plus take classes and I didn't have children. I suddenly had a new appreciation for my mom and her amazing work ethic. I was continually reminded that all Moms weren't my mom. That work ethic stuck with me though. Unfortunately it can be an enemy also. I became driven to do more, work harder, accomplish all that I could do. That is what Mom did. That was how I was raised.
Did things slow down after Mom retired from teaching? No sir. That energy went into caretaking her mother and mother-in-law, gardening, canning, being a grandmother,being there for Dad during his losing battle with cancer, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, serving on the Library Board, and being active in Retired Educators.
It is what my mom does.  She continues to work and work hard as her body allows. Yesterday she was making homemade soup for the family for dinner. She did pause to enjoy some birthday cake, but then dishes were loaded and the floor was cleaned. When I first read this poem I thought of Mom. What I like so much about Piercy's poem is how she honors these type of people. I honor my mother today on her 84th birthday. She has always "harnessed herself."

To be of use by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
"To be of use" by Marge Piercy © 1973, 1982.
From CIRCLES ON THE WATER © 1982 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and Middlemarsh, Inc.
First published in Lunch magazine. Used by permission of Wallace Literary Agency.

Sibling Writing Assignment #151: What Leaves and What Remains

My sister, brother, and I agreed to bring our Sibling Writing Assignment feature back to our blogs. One of us gives an assignment each week, we individually post on the topic, then link the others. You can find Carol's here and Bill's here. Here is the topic for this week: 
" As we wind down from another holiday season with family reflect on how the celebrating has changed over the years." 

When I arrived to my childhood home before Christmas this year I what had left and what surely remains. Even with my brother doing a long term visit at my mother's house, one tradition that couldn't be pulled off this year, because of time and man/woman power was the hanging of the outside lights. I still loved the way the lights inside glowed warmly as they beckoned me to my Mom's house, but the outside lights were missing. I noticed it, but it didn't concern me.

When I entered the house there were many things that still remained. The angels and nativity scene were on TV console. The holiday cards were hanging on the mirror. the tree was filled with so many traditional ornaments that carried stories and memories. Santas and elves were everywhere. Homemade popcorn balls were wrapped and waiting in gift bags, the cookies were stored on the table, my favorite fruitcake nestled in the refrigerator.  

The frenzy, anxiety, and stress of the holiday season had mostly left the house. Our goal was to make Christmas a bit simpler, more relaxed, low key. Mom had worked for weeks preparing food, baking sweets, arranging traditional food gifts, decorating, and cleaning. She had a good helper with my brother,but when I arrived we wanted everything to slow down. Mom was worn out, Her spirit and drive were alive and well, but some new pain was keeping her from doing all that she loves to do.

It was much better slowing things down. We focused on relaxing and doing less. We moved the family meals to my sister's house to take stress off of Mom. We still began each day with coffee and the news, we scrambled on our smartphones and laptops to answer burning questions Mom had about news, famous people, and things she wanted to purchase. We ended each day with Christmas drinks like eggnog and Brandy Alexanders. 

Here is the reality. Our family is aging. We are learning our limits. Some of these lessons are slow to be learned, but that is okay. This holiday season went down as one of the best ever.

Breaking Hibernation

Winter break is coming to a close. My first week was spent cooking, talking, reading, movie watching, solitaire playing, crossword puzzle helping, lots of listening, napping, shopping, toasting, eating, and eating some more. I was at my mother's house in Kellogg celebrating Christmas with family.
My second week was spent in hibernation. I understand that whole mama bear thing in winter. I would love to wait to come out again in spring, but without the cubs and the extra bulk. My hibernation has included attempting to master Candy Crush Saga, reading, watching movies, taking down the Christmas and putting up the winter decor, writing, a bit of cleaning, organizing, and binge Law and Order watching. I enjoyed quiet time with Everett, the dogs, and the cats. I never left the house except to fill bird feeders, take photos, and do garden walks. Anne Morrow Lindbergh and I were on the same page on this one.

"Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me"  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Being greeted by students tomorrow morning will break that hibernation just like that. I may need some extra coffee and a nap at lunchtime, but I will survive.

How to Be a Poet

How to Be a Poe(to remind myself)

This evening I spent time reading and rereading poetry. I want to write more poetry this year. I was pleased to stumble across this poem, which I had never read. I love his advice.

How To Be A Poet
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
There are only sacred places
And desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

"How to Be a Poet" by Wendell Berry. Published in Poetry(January 2001). 

Good Morning 2015! Reorganizing Myself

At the beginning of the year  I reorganize myself . I start lists, visit my favorite organizing sites, and start fresh.  As I moved from autumn into winter I left behind my good intentions. I stopped doing my photo challenge, I didn't write on my blog as much, I didn't schedule in time for personal writing, and over the holidays I enjoyd comfort food, I enjoyed it too much.

I now reorganize myself. I am beginning the Capture Your 2015 Photo Challenge again. I really loved doing it last year. If you want more information on it you can find it here. Doing this challenge was a fun way to look for photo opportunities, but it also gave me a community of other photographers that inspired me on Facebook. I am a day behind. The first day was "Good Morning 2015". My photo is the one at the top of the blog post. It is a picture from the front yard of my childhood home. What a beautiful view of mountains. Actually it was taken later in the day, but that is okay.

Today the challenge is "Think Over". It has been perfect winter break to think over opportunities available to me as I begin a new year. Here is my photo for today. My siblings and I met over break and left our conversation with much to think over. We are going to begin our sibling writing assignments again, so those of you that followed our blogs in the past... they are coming back.

My brother does "Three Beautiful Things" and my sister has started "Blessings" as a theme for a post each day on their blogs. I am thinking of what I want to do to get myself blogging again more consistently. Again...right now I am at the thinking phase.

The air outside is frigid. The fire is warm inside and the skies through the window are breathtakingly beautiful. I greet 2015 with anticipation!