Monday, August 22, 2016

Eight Minute Memoir- Billboards (and Signs)

   My daughter sent me this picture from Germany and I loved it. There it is. My name on a sign, in the country of my birth. There are four vowels in my name and they are lovely to roll around the tongue if you are familiar with the German vowel sounds. GAH-BREE- A- LEH, harder to say with an American tongue. My German mother loved to say my name. She had no idea that when we emigrated to the US no one would be able to say it the way she did.

   When I was a teenager Roman Gabriel was a famous football player. I used the pronunciation of his last name to identify myself because it was familiar. Along the way GA-BREE-ELLE became popular and I tried using that but it seemed wrong somehow. I say my name sometimes aloud, just to bring my mother back. She did say it with so much romance.

   I am joining Ann Dee Ellis and other writers in using a prompt to record some memoir moments.

Mindful Monday- Attentiveness

   This month I am being more mindful of my husband. It is part of my year long exploration of mindfulness. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

   When I picked my husband as my focus this month I knew I would feel awkward. The awkwardness would start when I wrote about how attentive he is to me. He really is! And, has been for years. It is one of his best characteristics but I have not been mindful, paying close attention, to this trait because I want to be the object of his attention but I don't, at the same time. What is it with women? We want to be desired but we feel pressured when we are the center of a man's attention. 

    "Because, even though the world is full of normal and pretty women, the world we see – the world of television, films, magazines and websites – is full of women who are top-of-the-scale beauties. 
And right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the situation is more extreme than ever. If you're a woman, a huge proportion of your role models are beautiful. So if you’re normal looking, you feel ugly. And if you’re merely pretty, men feel free to comment on how un-beautiful you are."
     William Leith, "The Telegraph" 
     My husband thinks I'm beautiful. There I said it. I believe him but, I think he is biased. What? Who cares what any other person thinks? At this point I must confess this post is becoming more about me than him. To his credit, I am becoming more aware that my husband is really wonderful in giving me feedback about his attraction to me. And I am opening up to the idea that that is pretty great.

Friday, August 19, 2016

She Needs A Team

Sometimes you hit the road knowing that half your team is behind you and the rest of the team is yet to be found.

The text read, "There is a traveling art gallery in the parking lot. You should come and see."
I was tired but, I went. Meet Nora, an artist from California, traveling the west coast stopping in small towns to do collaborative art and display a variety of art and jewelry. 

   She smiled as I approached her trailer. She knew I looked hopeful to see sometime interesting. Our conversation was simple and heartfelt. I looked at the beautiful pieces on her walls. Her huge dog, Handsome, approached with a tired, hot greeting. 

   Squares of art paper, already in process, colorful pens, pastels, watercolors. waited for my marks. In essence, Nora wanted me to leave my mark on her traveling show. I illustrated a page with the words of her favorite poem, drawing a flame and little tracks of lines and squares connecting the lines of words.  We talked with a few others about life and whether we were cynical or hopeful. I could not believe that she could be cynical and travel alone for two months meeting strangers everyday. I thought she was very  brave. 

    The setting sun reminded me that it was growing late. She asked one last question. Why do I do art? I answered that I was tired of being scared. Art fills the scary holes between past and future. 

My grandchildren boarded her trailer before I arrived. I was grateful they could meet an artist with grit. They joined her team for a few moments and left their mark on a page or two. She left me with a great story and a sense that art is not only a team sport but a healing service for those we meet.

I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mindful Monday- Grit

              Grit is courage and resolve, strength of character

I married a man with grit. Paying attention to him this last weekend showed me again how much grit he displays. At first appearance he seems quirky in his camo clothing. Is he trying to stand out or blend into his environment? There is no military connection to his love of camouflage wear. It has to do primarily with the inexpensive price and quality of product it affords. When I stopped buying him clothing, this new trend appeared. I admit, at first I was chagrined. But then I realized he had a certain aesthetic. He likes certain patterns for summer and others for winter. There is khaki and then there is green. He wears them purposely to match the weather.

    My husband thinks and analyses very carefully before deciding what he will embrace. It may take him months But once resolved, he rarely waffles. And having a differing opinion from others does not bother him. We disagree on many things but he is not reactive. It takes a lot for him to get agitated and angry. But if he does, you can bet that it will be based on logic and reason.
   I believe one of the reasons I married him was because he showed very little weakness. I was used to that male behavior in my home. But, my father was very reactive and my husband seemed decidedly less so. That was attractive. As I got older I chose to explore more vulnerability and found he did not shy away from those conversations. As I pushed and prodded myself to embrace being vulnerable,  he listened and came along in the journey. On Friday we traveled through a section of Washington where last year we listened to "Rising Strong" by BrenĂ© Brown in the car on a similar road trip. The concepts came rushing into my head and the conversations we had that day felt sweetly comforting. He listens and wants to understand because he has strength of character. I am lucky to have found him and feel it a tender mercy that I heeded the inner voice, telling me to hitch my star to his wagon. Or, is it the opposite? Did I hitch my wagon to his star?

 This month I am being more mindful of my husband. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Each morning when I lift my head off the pillow I choose. There was a time when a rush of dread accompanied the lifting of the head. Weight from some unknown source rested on my heart. Struggling to get through the simplest acts, I walked in darkness for many months. I quite literally had to walk it off. It started with my older children taking turns walking with me. But as the days went by I finally reached the point when I trusted that I would go alone.
In my struggle there was celebration. I think about that time often. Choosing seemed to be beyond my control. When I finally walked far enough and turned to come home I regained my will to choose joy. 

Lifting my head and choosing joy is small act with stupendous consequences. 

"But thou, oh Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the One who lifts my head."

Psalms 3;3

I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Whimsical Writing Wednesdays- Paper Dolls

The Memoir is a weekly exercise that builds upon itself. I will divide your life in sections. By answering a "jot list" of questions each week I will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity.

From It's Never Too Late To Begin Again by Julia Cameron

The Entryway- Chapter 1
To enter my childhood house you came through a big door with beveled glass. This gave access to the entryway. To the right, stairs climbed up to the apartment where Mr. Ito lived. To the left was a door which led to another apartment. My brother lived there some of the years with his wife and kids. Straight ahead was a glass door into my home.

This first house, which my father bought in America, came with a tenant. Mr. Ito was Japanese and lived alone upstairs. I believe he lived there for a decade or more before we arrived. Particular smells wafted down from above which were foreign and somewhat repugnant to my young nose. I was fascinated by the sight of him. He descended very rarely so I took up a vigil on the entryway stairs. His pajama-like clothing seemed so strange. 

I played on the stairs most days. This gave me access to all the movements of the inhabitants. I knew when my niece and nephews were going out to play, when my other brothers came home from college, and when my father arrived from work. Paper dolls covered the stairs. Each stair was a place where my dolls lived.

I put them into their stands and changed their clothing over and over again, dependent on the weather. My mother gave me shoe boxes in which I sorted the families of dolls. Cutting carefully was paramount to having good dolls. Many times I mistakenly cut the white tabs off the jacket or pants. Bother! Not good! 
There on the stairs I played for hours, imagining a life far different from mine. Really, my life was extraordinary. I was an immigrant, fluent in German and learning English. The only girl in a family of much older, brilliant brothers, I found my way among adults. Adults who had escaped a world war, survived as refugees, and started over in a new land. And, the smells wafting from my house must have been just as strange as Mr. Ito's.

Join me on Wednesdays for more whimsical writing from my life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mindful Monday- A Faithful Narrative

      Every Sunday afternoon my husband writes a newsletter, which he e-mails to family members. Sometimes he writes notes on Saturday to help remember what he wants to write about. His newsletter started before I began writing a blog, so that is more than five years ago. In a big comfy office chair, he settles down for a hour or so to review the week past. If an activity interrupts this event he complains about not getting his newsletter out. 
      I don't always read it, I confess. His writing style is somewhat like a reporter giving the news of the week. His favorite topics include his work, economic concerns, his latest projects on rebuilding target shooting guns, and lastly, reports on what family members are doing. That is where he gets into trouble. He needs to employ a facts checker. If you ask him why his story lacks accuracy he jokingly replies that he enjoys writing fiction. 

“A well-thought-out story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story.” 

    All of our children have complained about being the subject of their father's  stories. They prefer reading about their siblings lives rather than their own. Resentment about misrepresentation has sometimes resulted in angry e-mails. But, he is undaunted. I am mindful of the importance this habit has in his life. His intention is not to falsify truth. Reviewing his own experiences and the in and outs of family life are most enjoyable to him. 
      Writing is cathartic. Some of us write morning pages or journal entries. Some hide their writing and never intend to share and others publish their stories for posterity. I wonder at my own motivation for writing a blog. What good will come of it? That question is easily answered when I read the narratives of my deceased parents and grandparents. They live on through their words. I receive great strength from reading their stories. When they write about me I hear their love even when their perception of me is less than favorable. It reveals what they valued and sought after. I learn so much in knowing. 
      When I see my husband sitting before his computer, with the strange backward clock hanging above, I smile. He is quirky and eccentric and that is precisely why I married him. I am often the subject of his stories. I get my nose bent out of shape when he reveals something about me that I don't particularity like in myself. But, more often he praises and projects me in a light of someone he cherishes. Wait, I haven't read yesterday's installment. 

   This month I am being more mindful of my husband. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.