Sunday, June 18, 2017

Get a soda and Little Debbie cake on random Tuesday afternoons.

This editorial, shared by Caroline a couple of years after Dad passed, remains one of my favorite essays: "Write your father." I saved the link that Father's Day and often thought to myself in subsequent years, "Sit down and do that. It will be good for you." Last year on his birthday, some six years after his death, I finally felt ready. I'll spare you the details about my wacko, but loveable, herd of animals and the conversation with him about philosophical concepts of "place," and specifically Turner Farm, but I did want to share the closing of the letter. These are things I hope he knew I recognized and respected, but for which I didn't take the time to thank him. On this particular Sunday in June, I encourage you all to take the time. 

Thanks, CLT, for living a life worth living.
***
You reminded me that sometimes things really are this simple…
 
Do something. Make a decision. Show up. Change what you don’t like. Just live your life. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Learn to let go of needing explanations; knowing will likely change nothing.  Don’t coerce someone into accepting or loving you.  Know what you believe and be able to explain why.  Don’t force your views on someone else, but don’t stand idle in the face of ignorance or mean-spiritedness. Don’t look for a fight, but don’t be scared of one.  Don’t seek attention, but don’t be lazy.  Don’t be afraid to cuss sometimes. Let your animals ride in the car; clean trucks are overrated. As long as you have a vest on and your ears covered, you’ll probably be alright.  A fire and a crockpot of soup make working in the cold seem worthwhile.  Conservative pundits are ridiculous…but so are out-of-touch hipster liberals.  Work hard every minute that you’re up. Know when to bite your tongue with your parents. Cowboy boots go with everything. Vacations will be rare so try to really be present when you’re on them. Take kids (whether yours or someone else’s) fishing and to country stores and let them steer when coming up the driveway.  All day breakfast places are always a good choice. Keep books and magazines handy.  Tell stories.  Don’t go for the obvious joke.  Kick somebody in the ass if they need it.  Give someone money if they need it, but try first to give them a job.  Don’t overuse “I love you” or hugs.  Wear flannel. Make Christmas presents or go to Grider Antiques on Dec. 23 and look for cookie jars.  Be able to ad lib presentations at school or work, coming across as professional, but down-to-earth. Eat dessert.  Get a soda and Little Debbie oatmeal cake on random Tuesday afternoons. Spend Friday nights with your family at Shoney’s and Wal-Mart. Spank your kids if they’ve earned it (and they will earn it). Make sure they know how to drive a straight shift.  If you want something, make it happen. Create opportunities for yourself. Don’t rely on someone else for your own happiness…but be grateful for those who want to share their life with you; be proud to be theirs, they, yours. Swallow pride and occasionally do what you have to do in order to do what you love. Have the courage to be who you really are.  Live a life worth living. 
 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I wanted to give her concert tickets. Then I considered a box of pumpkin faces. A blog post and gift card were my last option.


To be honest, I still can’t really picture Adrienne with a baby.  It’s like imagining the Burkesville Dollar Store both clean and not gommed up.  In my mind, she will always be the “little sister” to whom Mom gave unfortunate bowl cuts, yet in contradictory logic, clearly considered and considers the favorite (Leigh and I accepted this long ago; at least it meant I prolonged that hairstyle until collage when I accidently self-inflicted it in the fall of 1998). She is the blunt one who, upon making her first ever trip to Benton, told Zach’s early-rising, quite fit mother, “I don’t love walking. If you’re asking me if I want to go exercise with you, no.”  Adrienne has no qualms in acknowledging that she’s never started a lawn mower or cooked supper two nights in a row. As of a few months ago, “nurturing” and “good at doing things you don’t want to do” are probably not the qualities I immediately and instinctually associated with Adrienne. This is not to suggest, however, that my sister is either irresponsible or unlikable. In fact, quite the contrary. You can’t help but love Adrienne. She will consistently be one of the funniest in any room she walks in. She is a fantastic elementary school teacher. When she gives her opinion, you can trust that it is honest and will inevitably remind you to also expect (if not demand) what you deserve.  She is a kind granddaughter, the only child who will let Mom dance in the kitchen (including an awkward, yet repeated, hip bump) to “Slow Jazz” without saying something along the lines of, “Just stop,” and the wife who is obviously adored by her not-so-bad-himself husband. 

And, you know what, despite the opening line, Adrienne is also the one who I am starting to see as a really wonderful mother.  In fact, I think Charlotte is going to have just one of the coolest moms ever, a mother who teaches her how to get along with everyone, make witty off-hand comments, and always expect and create the life she deserves.  I could want nothing more for any of my nieces.  So, as long as Zach always gets up in the middle of the night, fixes all the meals, does all of the yardwork, washes all the clothes, and finds time to take the dogs out too, they should be in good shape. ;)

Today, though, Adrienne is not mother-to-be.  Adrienne is birthday girl.  Happy birthday to the “little sister” who is becoming an even better version of herself, the one who inspires this nine-year-older sister to be more flexible, the one who unfailingly looks cuter at seven months pregnant than I do at zero months pregnant.   

Now, hurry up and get that baby out so we can go to more Avett Brothers concerts.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Goodbye, friends.


Because you know how I love haikus...
It has run its course.
Thus, with one last post, goodbye.
Sad, but time for change.

When I started Pillow Book over four years ago, my goal was to create a digital version of Vivian Swift’s illustrated travel journal, When Wanderers Cease to Roam.  I wanted it to be my own journal of staying put, a journal that detailed the quirky and beautiful that existed in my very ordinary daily life, a life that I was rather unexpectedly rebuilding in my hometown at the age of 29. I had hoped it would “reconnect me to the beauty I’ve been missing” and inspire this disengaged graduate student to actually enjoy writing again.

Well, I feel like I have basically accomplished those things. You have heard me philosophize/blabber on and on about my family, heartbreak of all sorts, collective joy, awesome v. not awesome lists, local restaurants and go-to recipes, my undying devotion to the Avett Brothers, personal insecurities, my love of all things whimsical, my distrust of false hope and unsubstantiated fluff phrases and technology and people who don’t return shopping carts to the collection bins, and my desire to see this wonderful little southern Kentucky town be a real-life version of Stars Hollow.  You have offered thoughtful comments and hilarious Facebook quips. Many of you have put me to shame with your guest posts, posts that always reminded me how fortunate I am to be dumber than my friends.  You have inspired me to write and think and read more.  You have reminded me that while perhaps different in hue, we are all basically fighting the same battles. You have helped me embrace happiness in simplicity. You have encouraged me to live a more creative and a more engaged life.  You, and this blog space, have kept me sane and kept this perpetual wanderer from roaming.  

Thank you for sharing the past four years with me.  You all deserve a spot in my gratitude jar.


Now, lets go write a book.J
Time for new adventures...:)

Monday, June 30, 2014

My favorite princess...

Isabella turns five on Wednesday. Although no poem, short story, or song could do justice to how much joy she (and Averey) bring to my life, I try to write her a little something every year. 

Happy birthday to the little girl who has the biggest heart of anyone I know. 
"My Favorite Princess"

It was a year of firsts for the newly crowned big sister of the clan,
“avenging” her mother’s t-ball fears, pink glove (and sand piles) in hand.
She swam in the ocean and at her BFF, Kynsley,’s pool,
and somehow, beyond explanation, made ruffled pants look reasonably cool.

She “earned” forty two new pairs of Wal-Mart pajamas on persuasiveness alone,
a convincing conversationalist, skills honed on her parents’ smart phones.
The day she pretended to be TJ, fake male voice and insurance lingo at hand,
was the day I realized her graduation from endearing to witty, foolish land. 

She became a daddy’s girl, piling in the truck or razor when farm duty called,
checking on fences and cows, insisting she “help” when hay needed to be hauled.
You see, Isabella Kurtys doesn’t really take “no” for an answer;
she’s “got it covered,” whether as farmhand, Averey’s babysitter, or BAFA tap dancer.

Speaking of which, her role as “big sister” is obviously the most important “first,”
a part she has embraced, one we’ve surprisingly never had to coerce.
I’m sure hairbrushes will be thrown and unfathomably unequal school desks arranged,
but for the time being, it’s living room laughter and a little red rolly ball exchanged.

They love each other just as the Anna and Elsa they both so adore,
a companionship that has naturally developed, one never implored.
And thus, to see them together would melt the most Frozen of hearts,
in matching Matilda Jane dresses they perfectly play the doting sister part.

And so, on this last Sunday in June, I write a poem for the little girl who has become so much,
the one worthy of labor-intensive homemade cakes, life-sized Disney cut-outs and such.
She is the niece whom I love far beyond the words I annually try to put down,
the birthday girl who this humble Aunt thinks everyday deserves a crown. 

Much love on your 5th birthday, Isabella Kurtys,
Aunt Liza, Willie, Lucy, Charley, DC, Wendell, and all the outside cats
***
A few points of reference:
-Isabella's t-ball team was called the Avengers.
-Leigh Ann and I both cried and refused to play when Mom took us to our first t-ball practice. 
-Leigh has never let me live down the time I threw a sage green hairbrush at her. I still talk about how she gave me the crap school supplies and makeshift office furniture.
-I hope you have seen the video on Facebook where Isabella and Averey are rolling the little ball to each other. It is incredibly endearing. 
-Isabella loves Frozen and had a Frozen-themed birthday party last Sunday. 





Friday, June 6, 2014

A little help from my friends...

I seriously doubt that I have ever been at risk of this; nevertheless, I really love this quote. Some people get intimidated or frustrated or defensive or just plain mean when in the midst of impressive people. I have learned to appreciate it (somewhat out of necessity...such is life when your friends tend to be amazingly handy, creative, well-read and intelligent). We should all put ourselves around people who make us want to be better. 

Thank you to all of you who do just that. 
***
As I mentioned in the last post, I asked several women in my life to answer the same questions related to fulfillment and expectations that I posed to myself. Since that time, I also decided to send the same questions to several male friends/family who I thought might be willing in contribute. I figured it would be interesting to see if males and females responded significantly differently.

Regardless of gender, the first received responses, as suspected, have already proven testament to my "find a comfy chair and stay put" room status.  
***
I taught next-door to Jackie Rogers at Pulaski County High School from 2004-2006. Even though I haven't kept in touch with Jackie much over the years, I'll never forget how much I enjoyed being around her. She was one of the wittiest people I had ever been around (and about the only person I knew who could so easily trade quips with Scott), the students loved her, and the staff and parents respected her.  If you were a kid, you wanted to have her in class; if you were a teacher, you wanted to have my classroom so you could crack jokes with her in the hallway and eat lunch together. 

"One of my best friends and I like to get away in the fall for a quiet week on the beach. We pack several books, drums of sunscreen, versatile outfits and lots of shoes. If it rains, we sit on our balcony with coffee and say, “bring it on.” If dolphins come close to the shore, we nod with casual interest like we have one at home. If a shark joins us in the water, we crap our skirted bathing suits full. It isn’t that we are uber cool, we don’t even use the word “uber”, it is just that we have become comfortable. We’ve settled into our 40s and are wearing it around like yoga pants.

Last year on our first morning in the condo, coffee in hand, sunrise on the water, making plans for supper in about 12 hours; I rubbed the dull ache in the middle of my forehead.  I told my friend, who was as content as I to sit silently together or laugh like sorority girls, that I hoped the headache would go away before we made our way to our pre-paid, umbrella covered chairs. She informed me that it would go away in 24 hours. “You’ve got an old woman headache,” she informed me.

Old woman headache. Now that was new to me. She explained to me that people “my age” start getting these perimenopause headaches and it would get worse. Being four years older, I am benefitting from her misfortune of going first. “Why didn’t old women tell us about this?” I asked her.

“They tried,” she said.

And then we laughed. Everything is much funnier after 40. By “after” I mean the moment you wake up on your 40th birthday. You’ve spent the last decade scoffing at the hundreds of people who comment on how you will suddenly not be able to read or how your body parts will give in to gravity. It seems so cliche, until you wake up the morning of your 40th birthday and wonder why you can’t make out the expiration date on the milk. For several months you blame it on the lighting, but finally you buy a value pack of readers and start wearing them on top of your head.

At this point, I embraced it. I wasn’t in this alone and I wasn’t the first to watch my 20s and 30s slip away. When I reflect on those years, they were fun but too full of competition and struggle and self-doubt. If I could pinpoint the moment I let that go, it would be when I saw this quote that seems to be floating around a lot on social media “Girls compete with each other. Women empower one another.” I didn’t have it tattooed on my foot, rather I burned it in my heart. The more I give, the fuller my life becomes. “Cast your bread on the waters,” the Bible says, “and after many days it will return to you.”'
*** 
Since most of you who read this are from Cumberland County, you likely know Barbara Booher. Even though I went to school with her son, David, it wasn't until I took the job at the library that I realized what a wonderful person this woman is. The library, our kids, and the community in general are truly lucky to have her. I promise you, you won't find many people with a bigger heart. 
  
1. Do you consciously resolve to be a better/happier woman? How do you do this? 
I really don't consciously think about what would make me happier.  I might realize that I need to make a change of some kind in order to function better. But, I have discovered that I have a personality that needs to be "helping or giving" to someone in order to feel fulfilled or "happy".  I find true joy in doing for others.   I have also learned that people aren't fooled.  I must be real and sincere in what I do.

2. What advice would you give to someone in regard to creating/inspiring a fulfilled life? 
My advice is to know exactly what your priorities are and make your decisions accordingly.   Don't get caught up in "busyness".  It will rob you of your energy, time and your peace of mind. I know that my relationship with my God comes first, my family second, and then anything else in my life.   I also know the importance of respecting the fact that people have different priorities.

3. What lesson have you learned the hard way? 
I learned the hard way that I can't do it all, I can't fix it all and that I can't be everything for everybody.    But I can do my part.

4. If you wrote one quote on your bathroom mirror, what would it be? 
There is a plaque in my house that says "Be Kind, Be Wise, Be True".  I think of it as a revision of the Bible verse that says "Finally, be ye all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brethren, tenderhearted, humble minded." 1 Peter 3:8

5. If you had one piece of advice for your daughter/best friend/[any other woman of significance in your life], what would it be?  
My advice is to always stay focused on what is important....and the importance of passing on the values you have been taught to others around you through your actions and words.
***
Jim Brady is probably one of the most interesting people I have ever met: father, author, wine maker, explorer, philosopher, animal-lover, jack-of-all-trades, [insert about anything else you can think of]. There are so many little nuggets of wisdom in his response....even if for some reason he did capitalize the entire thing.;)

LIZA’S  5 QUESTIONS  IN HER QUEST FOR A FULFILLED LIFE…
1) STRIVE TO BE THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF YOU CAN BE, CONTINUALLY, AND REGARDLESS OF OTHERS’ THOUGHTS OR VIEWS ON HOW YOU PLAN ON SUCCEEDING.YOU WILL FIND RESISTANCE ALONG THE WAY DUE TO THE FACT THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST INDECISIVE ABOUT THEIR OWN WELL BEING AND WILL RESENT THAT YOU ACTUALLY GIVE A SHIT. IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IF THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR REASONING, KEEP MOVING FORWARD, AND IF YOU INFLUENCE THEM EVEN A LITTLE, ALL THE BETTER; IF NOT… IT’S NOTHING PERSONAL.

2) DON’T LIVE IN A BOX. OPINIONS OF IDEAL LIVING PROBABLY DON’T AMOUNT TO MUCH IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS. WHEN YOU STEP OUT INTO THE REAL WORLD YOU REALIZE THAT MOST OF HUMANITY IS HAMPERED BY THEIR OWN STRUGGLES WITH HUMANITY. WE ALL LIVE IN THE SAME WORLD. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE BIG DECISIONS IF YOU WANT THINGS TO BE DIFFERENT. YOU SOMETIMES HAVE TO HURT PEOPLES FEELINGS AND TURN PAGES; IT’S ONLY THEN, THAT YOU CAN REACH THE NEXT CHAPTER. SOMETIMES A FRESH START CAN REKINDLE OUR CREATIVITY.

3) NEVER CONTINUE DOWN A PATH WHICH THE AMOUNT OF HAPPINESS AND JOY IS EXCEEDED BY SADNESS AND MISERY. IT’S OK TO HAVE EXPECTATIONS THAT SOMETIMES FALL SHORT. DON'T BE AFRAID TO WALK AWAY.

4) WHAT YOU BELIEVE WILL KEEP YOU SAFE…PLAIN AND SIMPLE.

5) LIFE IS WHAT IT IS. GOOD, BAD OR INDIFFERENT…LIFE ISN'T FOCUSED ON YOUR RESULT. GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE, BAD HAPPEN TO GOOD. THE SOONER YOU TAKE YOU OUT OF THE EQUATION, THE HAPPIER, AND THE MORE RESILIENT TO DISAPPOINTMENTS, YOU WILL BE. THIS WILL NOT MAKE YOU IMPERVIOUS TO THEM, JUST MORE AWARE THAT IT ISN’T ANYONE’S FAULT, IT JUST IS, WHAT IT IS. SOME LIVE, SOME DIE. SOME LAUGH, SOME CRY.   

6) ALWAYS GO TO BED WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE KNOWING YOU PUT IT OUT THERE AS HONESTLY AS YOU COULD, WITH THE CONFIDENCE YOU DID THE BEST YOU COULD IN THE GIVEN SITUATION. YOU WILL BE MISUNDERSTOOD AT TIMES, BUT IN THE END YOUR INTENTION WILL BE TRUE AND YOUR PILLOW WILL BE SOFTER.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I would hope I'd be Chandler.

You would be hard-pressed to scroll through any online media or news site and find something along the lines of "What I've learned in my 32 years." or "How I chose to live a happier life." or "Advice to my 25-year-old-self" mysteriously missing. Why? Because these types of articles are the "philosophical" equivalent of "What Friends star would you be?"-type quizzes and "Bout to get my __________ on! Just sayin'." status updates....they are everywhere (For what it's worth, I take the Buzzworthy quizzes with far more fervor than any reasonably sane person should. The end result could be a conclusive explanation of what kind of cheese I would be or what city I should call home...i love them all. I am fairly certain, however, that I have never suggested I was 'bout to get my anything on). 

And in complete disclosure, I typically find myself clicking the link for all of these articles. I know that I will likely just find more of the same cliche stuff that frequents every other list - be grateful/mindful, value sleep, drink water/meditate/exercise, money doesn't buy happiness...but it makes things easier, never stop dreaming, you will always have to compromise - yet I read anyway.  I suppose a part of me is simply looking for validation of the things that I have also come to know/accept, but the bigger part is hoping that, in one of those bullet points, I will finally find the key....to complete contentment, to trusting my decisions, to actually being the "best me I can be." 

And so I read...
But inevitably don't. 

And while I realize that my disappointment is illegitimate considering 1) there is no magic life key and 2) there is no sound reason some random blogger should be able to really "speak to" my soul and mind as though we were BFFs, I always find myself frustrated, thinking things like "Well, no shit, of course sleeping four hours on a couch every night isn't bringing out the best Liza I can be." 

If "sounds like someone needs to meditate and be more mindful of blah, blah, blah." is going through your mind right now, quit reading my blog. You are dead to me. 

Here's what I choose instead...
I have asked several women in my life to answer a variety of questions that typically inspire these types of articles. Some are very close girlfriends, some are acquaintances who I wish I knew better, some are women who I have never actually met, but who inspire me. There will be a wide spectrum of careers, incomes, ages, and locations represented. The similarities between this impressive group of women, however, is far more significant than their differences.  They all seem to really be living life. They take chances. They have fun. They think and read. They love. They seem passionate. They are the ones through whom I like to vicariously live. 

And so, in the next post, you will hear from these ladies. 

Until then, however, I offer my thoughts on the same questions I posed to them.  While none of us have that elusive magic key, maybe, just maybe, we will say something that makes you think, or laugh, or take solace in your own thoughts. 

Or...we might just make you roll your eyes and think cuss words. In which case, close Pillow Book and go get your Buzzworthy quizzes on instead.   
***
1. Do you consciously resolve to be a better/happier woman? How do you do this?
I do.  I actually probably overthink this. I am constantly trying to come up with ways to be more productive or a better steward to my community/world or just generally a happier person.  I have not settled on some definitive answer yet, but here are some specific things I do in search: I write letters to friends, I make to-do lists of things I really don't want to, but need to, do and I do at least two of them, I read through my gratitude jar, I reread passages from my favorite books, I go through my Pinterest boards and try recipes or projects that I pinned long ago, but never did, I take my dogs to the creek and let them play, I fix coffee, pour it in my favorite mug, and sit on the porch, I make lists of the places I want to go and the things I want to do, I tell someone why I appreciate them, I walk the farm or clean stuff at the barn, I declutter and give or throw away things that I don't need or have not used. 

2. What advice would you give to someone in their early/mid 30s regarding a fulfilled life? 
If you have to talk yourself into it, it probably doesn't fulfill you. Realize that stability is important - you have to have to job, you have to take care of responsibilities, you should appreciate what you do have - but if acceptance is the product of constant reminders and logical analysis, there is likely something more that you really want. Figure out what that is. You may never pursue it or you may even decide (sometimes upon crashing and burning) that your reality was in fact quite greener, but living with "what if"s or constantly questioning "What is missing?" will crush your soul.  Don't be afraid to consider this question. 

3. What lesson have you learned the hard way? 
One of the greatest fairy tales of life is that if you work hard enough or want something badly enough, you will achieve it/it will (or, will not, in some cases) happen. This is not true. Accept that. Sometimes this is learned through death. Sometimes through lost love. Sometimes through denial letters. There often is no silver lining. When one door closes, another one does not always open. But...
work hard and want something desperately anyway. One way to survive loss is take comfort in knowing you did everything you could. 

4. If you wrote one quote on your bathroom mirror, what would it be? 
"Decide what to be and go be it." 

5. If you had one piece of advice for your daughter/best friend/[any other woman of significance in your life], what would it be?  
Don't be around people who make you question your self-worth. You are stronger than that. 
***
This is switching gears a bit, but not entirely. Stay with me...

You know, jumping out of a plane sounds much more scary than it actually is.

No, really.

When I think about or tell people the basics - climbing to an elevation of 10,000 ft. in a five-seater plane on a cloudy, drizzly day (by the way, "drizzle" at 120 mph isn't like the "Oh, I don't need an umbrella to walk to the car. It's just drizzling." sort of rain); standing on a 6" ledge at that height in a slightly oversized, Kentucky-blue jumpsuit with black rectangle accents; crossing my arms, leaning my head back and jumping out with the parachute-toting, tandem skydiving instructor I only met about thirty minutes prior - I'll admit that it sounds pretty outrageous. I promise you, though, it didn't feel that way at all to me.  Exhilarating, surreal, inexplicable, yes. Scary, careless, unsafe, no.

I realize that seems to make very little sense.

Well, here is my rationale...
1. The staff at Skydive KY in Elizabethtown, while professional, was friendly and laid-back. They had an office dog. They didn't offer cliche or corny jokes about flying/jumping/landing. I did not hear "dude" once. They suggested that we would have fun, but never implied that we were embarking on some life-altering adventure.  In short, they seemed capable, but relaxed.  I had avoided talking about the trip to anyone beforehand because I did not want to answer questions or be burdened with others' fears or excitement. I appreciated that in the two hours or so before the jump, the time when we were signing liability forms, being trained, and watching other people jump, I could still live in this environment of relative calm, devoid of nervous chit-chat or unnecessary verbal build-up.

2. I trusted the person I was with. I never questioned whether Lee would do it. I never worried that I would have to talk him into it and in so doing, make myself more nervous. I knew that if anything seemed askew or I was in any danger, he would stop it. I knew that we would both have fun and not take it too seriously.  I knew he would be up for Cracker Barrel biscuits afterward.
3. I think we should do out-of-the-ordinary things when given the opportunity.
4. I realize that I could die tomorrow on my way to the library. I realize that if we worried about everything that could go wrong, we would do nothing, whether that was mundane tasks like driving to the grocery store or extreme sports like skydiving.
5. Even though I have certainly made mistakes, done my fair share of stupid, stupid things, and have regrets, I know that in the past few years I have consciously tried to live the best life I can live. I have made hard choices, I have taken chances, I have tried to be more open with my feelings, I have pursued some of my dreams, and kept hope that the untouched ones might be fulfilled. I guess I am just more of the Avett Brothers mindset, "if I live the life I'm given, I won't be scared to die."

Plus, as i said, jumping out of a plane really isn't as scary as it sounds.;)


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day, Part II..and this one has nothing to do with Jackie Turner driving me crazy.

In a post long, long ago, I discussed my contradictory feelings toward rather randomly-and/or-arbitrarily-date-selected "holidays" like Groundhog Day, Labor Day, President's Day, Mother's Day (if you can find the exact post, good work you little sleuth you...because I sure can't find it). The basic point was as follows: Sure, most holidays benefit card companies and inspire us to give the impression, via words and actions that seem offered as much for our own self-aggrandizement as for an expression of gratitude, that we are far more sentimental than we actually are. At the same time, however, those who get on high horses and go on and on about appreciating parents, service men and women, and blue collar workers EVERY day rather than on one designated date on the calendar can be just as annoying as all those hokey, pastel, calligraphized cards I mentioned in the last post. Quit being dumb. Of course I love my country on more days than July 4. Of course I find my mother worthy of recognition on more days than a particular Sunday in May. Of course I know in non-November months that white settlers stole land from Native Americans. Holidays are fun and sometimes it is nice to do something, or buy a gift, for someone you love. How about we just leave it at that?

One article in connection with this discussion that has particularly interested me since I read it a few years ago, is one written by Anne Lamott (a favorite author of mine).  In this article, which I by no means agree with in its entirety, Lamott questions Mother's Day on the basis of these arguments: 1. it elevates mothers above other women who have chosen to or cannot have children. 2. it tends to ignore all those non-birth "mothers" who have nurtured us perhaps as much as, if not more so, than our actual mothers. 3. it plays into the notion that "true" love and self-sacrifice can only be known through parenthood.

As a non-mother, here is my take...

I didn't feel bad last Sunday.  I would never want pity or for others to assume that I sat around wondering, "Why isn't there a day for ME?" If I rolled my eyes when glancing at Facebook it was because public displays of affection of any sort tend to make me gag, not because it was some defensive physical embodiment of my biological clock. I would never want mothers to feel bad about recognition simply because there are those of us who do not have children, just as I would never want someone to feel guilty for mentioning their dad around me on Father's Day. Just because I do not have something, does not mean that I'm so selfish that I can't be happy for those who do.

In regard to Lamott's third point, I do think she is on to something here. Although I am not sure on the accuracy or source of her data, she mentions that roughly 98% of American parents seem to feel that unless one has been a parent, their capacity for love is diminished, that "non-parents can't possibly know what it is to love unconditionally." This point also reminds me of Elizabeth Gilbert's in Committed (I highly recommend) whereby she argues, "all too often, those of us who choose to remain childless are accused of being somehow unwomanly or unnatural or selfish." In both cases, the conclusion is the same: "they are not like us." Regardless of the validity of these general claims (and really, how could we ever really test this?), I would guess that they are assumptions most parents do secretly hold to some degree.

And you know, you parents might be right. I'm sure you want to roll your eyes when I talk about how I love my dogs like they are my children.  I know that when I talk about the privilege of being a stepmother to a wonderful, wonderful child, most of you probably think "that doesn't really count." I realize that being an aunt carries very little of the responsibility of a parent.  Nevertheless, I also know, without hesitation, that I would give my life for any of those mentioned above.  I know what I feel is not just something "kind of like" love.

I can't be defined by something I am not; thus to suggest that my ability to give of myself is relative to, and less than, a parent seems just as arbitrary as our national fascination with a groundhog coming out of a hole.
***
I am fully aware that this quote somewhat challenges the point I just made (that the roles we play do not have to be in competition with one another), but I love Jane Austen and I love that being an aunt is one of the roles that does define me.

"I have always maintained the importance of Aunts as much as possible. Now that you have become an Aunt, you are a person of some consequence." - Jane Austen