Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holding on to LIFE

Sometimes the end comes quickly.  But sometimes it comes slowly, after years and years of a downhill spiral or months and months of deterioration.  Which is better?  Who can say.

For my mother it's been a slow progression along with times when she fooled us into thinking the end had come.  Close brushes with death, high fevers and serious infections we thought she couldn't overcome, but she did.  A fighter to the end.  Even now as she's endured a major stroke, she is hanging on, leaving all of us hanging on in the balance.

I'm reminded of a scene in Rocky when he's in the boxing ring, knocked down by Apollo Creed, struggling to get back on his feet, and eventually he does.  One of the commentators says, "What is keeping him up?"

I guess some people have a very strong determination when it comes to surviving/winning in life.  No matter how many times they're knocked down, they just keep coming back.
My mother has lived a long life, that's for sure.  No one would blame her for wanting to bow out at this point and go join hands with Dad in heaven.  But something is keeping her here.  I don't know what that is, but perhaps it's us--her family.  If she feels a very strong tie to us, her daughters, maybe she simply doesn't want to let go.  Perhaps her motherly instincts are telling her we need her so she thinks she has to hang on.

But it's a painful roller coaster ride of emotions for us watching her go up and down, back and forth between living and dying.  I sat at her bedside last Wednesday watching and listening to her breathe, loudly at first, then very softly later on.  Her mouth was open and drooping on one side--the telltale signs of a stroke.  We were told she was dying so we sat at her bedside, ready for anything.  I wasn't sure I really wanted to be there for the end because I've never watched someone die before and I didn't know if I could handle it.

I went home in the afternoon and didn't know what to do with myself.  Nothing seemed to be the right thing to do.  Every time the phone rang, I feared the worst.  I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't write, couldn't rest.  This state of limbo is just torture on the living.

The next day my mother woke up and was hungry for breakfast.  She amazed all the nurses as well as all of our family.  They did not expect her to recover.  And even though we all breathed a sigh of relief, we know the end is still coming.  It's a day to day situation in which she sleeps a lot, doesn't eat very much, doesn't really speak much, doesn't walk around, doesn't participate in daily activities that keep people feeling vibrant and happy--and therefore her quality of life is not one to be desired.

I'm preparing myself for the day when she will leave this world.  I have to.  As hard as it is letting go, hanging on is also painful.  I want her to be at peace.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Art of Deciding What's Art

Art.  How do we judge it?  How do we critique a painting, a drawing?  And whose opinion matters most?  The art teacher?  The audience?  Or the artist himself/herself?

My daughter is an art minor.  She's struggling to come to terms with her art teacher who doesn't seem to like her drawings.  His feedback leaves her in the dark because he really doesn't offer much.  Just tells her to start over again.  She's very frustrated and I don't blame her.  One of the main reasons why I dropped the one art course I'd signed up for in college was because I'd had enough of drawing the same bottles and vases over and over again from ten different perspectives.  My daughter wants to draw people, specifically faces.  I did, too.  I guess this teacher doesn't find faces very interesting.  That's too bad.

So when you see a painting in an art gallery, what makes you like it?  What makes you dislike it?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I visited two places today for different reasons, but both related to writing projects. One was the library to do some research on children's picture book markets.  I learned some interesting little tidbits but that's for another day.

At the neighborhood drugstore, I perused the greeting card racks, checking out the latest funny birthday cards to help me write some new ones of my own.  The trick is to figure out what's out there, how it's written, and whether or not the punch line delivers.  I tried to note the different categories of funny birthday: drinking jokes, age jokes, gift gags,  puns, put-downs, compliments, etc.  There were an awful lot of age jokes.  Trouble is the editor I've been sending (and selling) my work to doesn't want age gags.  He's got enough of those.  Okay.  So, I had to concentrate on the other categories.  A greeting card writer has to walk that line between coming up with something so outrageous it'll never sell and coming up with something so similar to what's already out there no editor will buy it from you.  Hmm.  Such a dilemma.

I laughed, I chuckled, I smiled, and sometimes I said, "Huh?"--not getting the joke.  (Or I said, "Eww!" if I thought the card was nasty.)  We all have our own idea of what's funny, right?

So, maybe you can give me a little feedback.  What kind of card do you like to receive?  What sort of card tickles your funnybone?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Connecticut was nice but there's no place like home

Mystic, Connecticut--a lovely place to visit.  If you like boats, they've got boats.  If you like water, they've got water.  Restaurants?  Hope you like fish.  And how about pizza?  Well, you simply must visit Mystic Pizza.  I did this past week.  Actually, it was my second visit to the quaint little restaurant where the famous Julia Roberts movie was filmed.  The actors and actresses pictures adorn the walls and a continuous screening of the movie runs on a TV set up on a wall.  As you sit there munching on a "slice of heaven", you can alternately check out the photos and watch the movie.  Or neither.  You can simply talk to the person you're with while gobbling your pizza.

There was a young boy with his family seated in the booth across from us.  He was a giggler.  I couldn't really hear what his family members were saying, but he giggled at just about everything. I glanced his way once or twice wondering what was so funny.  Sometimes he seemed to be giggling at nothing since no one had said anything.  Ah youth.  I wonder if I ever acted that way.  Laughing at nothing.

Now on to the hotel.  The Whaler's Inn.  A nice place to stay.   A few flights up the stairs, unlock the door and step into a carpeted room with light blue walls, a fireplace, desk, kingsized bed and a chair or two.  Not to mention a jacuzzi in the bathroom.  This one had a couple of broken buttons from perhaps overzealous hot tub lovers?  Very noisy things, those jacuzzis when being filled or drained of water. The irony to me was that it was quieter there during the day than at night.  I could have slept easily during the day if I'd been inclined to do that.  But of course I wasn't.  I wanted to explore Main Street during the day.  So I did.  A nice bookstore, lots of cute little shops.  A view of the water, boats, a drawbridge.

All in all, a nice, relaxing trip.  Except for not being able to sleep at night.  I guess I just can't sleep anywhere else but in my own bed.  

As Dorothy once said, "There's no place like home."