Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Who are you?

In conversation at a Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday, my four companions included the 60ish grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He still spoke Yiddish, and had a different last name from the rest of his family, because his father, 9 years old at the time, spoke some English and was able to correct the spelling when the Ellis Island clerk got it wrong.

A mixed race black woman had an unusually-spelled African given name and a prosaic family name. Why? The immigration clerk didn't like the ethnic name. This woman's daughter wanted the ethnic name back. Mom's reaction? Fine, honey, but I'm not paying the legal fees. Her feeling-- I am not my name.

The hispanic bank manager to my left corrected our anglicized pronunciation of his name. He, in contrast, WAS his name, and wanted it recognized.

My children have names that reflect the mixed bag of their backgrounds-- Greek (Aspasia) and Swedish (Nelson) and Chinese (Chin, Seng-lim and Nga-jee) and Anglo (Julian and Nora). Perhaps we are not our names, but our names are our history. Everyone at the table had a story that used their names to illustrate something about themselves.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Postcard from the seaman, phone call from the skater. They're far flung but thinking of us, which is the main thing. God how I miss them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My arms ache, my fingernails will never be clean again, but I’m smug and happy with the beauty I have coaxed, with all due respect to Mother Nature, out of this small plot of land. With my garden going on 20, I am continually amazed at both the new panaromas and new details that I find every day.

I’ve always thought of the garden as my canvas. Since I stopped making art for a living more than a decade ago, I have used the garden as a living work of art that is never done. Now for the first time I have both the perspective and the schedule to really treat it that way on an ongoing basis and I find myself going through very similar thoughts and actions in caring for and creating it.

Art happens in the garden much the way it happens in the studio. You have a plan and you execute it, but the result is never quite what you expect.

Kind of like rearing children.

Less room in an empty nest than you might think

My 19-yr-old daughter, who's been living on a theatrical tour for more than a year, will be home for a month in November.

Last time she was home for an extended period, she drove us crazy-- messy, disengaged, expecting to be catered to (at least emotionally), and frankly kind of mean to her mother (that would be me). It's too long to be considered a houseguest, and too short to really integrate her back into systems. She can be somewhat oblivious to her effect on those around her, but is generally charming and great to be around. I just don't want to have to either pick up her shit, or remind her to do so.

So I asked an on-line forum what to do, and the consensus was lay down the rules then chill out and get out of her way.

The best of the comments:
"She's an adult, who's been living "on her own" for about a year now. Expect a lot of frustration if you try to fit her back into the teen-child mold. Let her know you know she's an adult, but also let her know that as family, not a house-guest, she is expected to be responsible. Set guidelines and boundaries up front, in clear terms, without judgments expressed or implied. In terms of expectations in regards to messiness, I'd say let her deal with her own space, but set reasonable requirements for shared spaces, like the kitchen. Try to present your requirements as you would to a potential tenant, not as to a disobedient child."

Life can be so simple sometimes.