Daily Post: How Cristi’s Tombstone Made Me Think about Mine

Suggested topic: What do you want to be remembered for?

Cristi’s death forced my hand on this question. Sure, I’ve had a few grandparents pass away, but when your peer, your sister dies “before her time” it makes you think about this topic a little bit more.

??????????????????? HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976
HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche reading at Sakya Ward St Center Seattle Washington USA 1976

I’ve blogged about it enough that if you’ve been keeping up, you know that it’s been quite a process getting over my step-sisters very untimely death. I’m sorry if you, dear reader, think this topic is old and trite, but it’s something I think about often, so please bear with me.

Cristi’s eulogy focused on the all-around gal she was. She was a special ed teacher, volleyball coach, softball coach, basketball player (and sometimes coach), daughter, sister, aunt, a friend. She played many leadership roles, especially as a teacher. She coached teenagers through true teenage crises, convincing them there is a reason to have a will to live. So, how is this complex individual remembered? We remember people through stories, through books, and through tombstones.

Cristi’s tombstone reminds me of the Russian tombstones here in Portland. It is a collage of photos overlaying the polished granite surrounded by other stones bearing epitaphs to her life. I’ve been to her grave twice now. Once at her funeral, before the stone was put in place. The second time was in September 2009, more than two years after her death. It was full of fresh flowers, jersey’s sporting her number, four, in the Byron Center colors of orange and black. I was glad no one else was around.

It seems odd to me that Cristi is remembered so largely for the sports part of her life. Sure, it was a big part of her life, but she was so much more than a sports player and a coach. Although the gravestone looks fine, and it is loved by many of my family members, I can’t help but think that it doesn’t quite do the Cristi I knew justice. It’s like it’s missing something. I’m not sure what, but the feeling I get is the compassionate side of her. Cristi loved and valued other people more than herself, and that is not showcased on her gravestone.

Cristi's Grave
Cristi's grave as seen early September 2009. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

So, knowing that with all the interactions we have in life, no one person will ever know all of you. Husbands see certain sides, friends see another, and sisters and brothers see yet another. Mothers, fathers, and grandparents offer a completely different perspective on our personalities. I only hope they see what I hope shows that I am striving to be.

To my knowledge, Cristi didn’t have the chance to say, “Remember me this way!” If you overlook that we all have that chance in our daily lives, most assume we’ll live until our generic life expectancy in our 70s or 80s. We don’t often think, what would this world look like or remember me by if I were to die tomorrow? We don’t often think that tragedy will hit us in that way. Most of us aren’t afflicted with terminal illness or in domestic violence situations or living in war zones where the constant threat of death is at our doorsteps.

So, thank you Cristi at least for the wake up call that we need to be on our best behavior because life is too short. If we consider what we want others to think of us as, perhaps it will serve as goal setting. So, now I am writing it down in this blog for all the world to see.

I want to be remembered as someone who took judicious action, picking up where there is a social need, and taking the ball and running with it. I want to be known for my compassion, my understanding, being forthright, honest, friendly. I want to be known as a good person.

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Writing

Art !
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I never considered myself a writer growing up. I considered myself an amateur artist. When I drew something, people would ask me if I’m an artist, and I would deny it. I’ve never been quite comfortable with these types of labels: writer, artist, whatever – but for tonight, I’ll consider myself a writing artist.

I love art. Always have. My mother has said that I have drawn since I got a pen in my hand. I can confidently say Levi is the same way. I wanted to draw everything, anything. I learned how to draw people, the sky, some nature, mostly people though. I explored ways for me to learn how to be a better artist, all the while not considering myself one. Some people took foreign language all through high school, I took art. I stopped my first round of university, but took at least one art class when I transferred to PSU. Then, I added Art History as a focus. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel there was time to take other art classes – especially with the pre-requisites.

So, I never considered myself an artist, and I always wanted to write, and so?on, the writing took over as the more regular task. I’ve heard for years the adage, “If you want to write, you need to practice, so do it every day.” I’d toy with the idea, but never really stuck to it. I write regularly through the year …. well, you can look at the archive for the past three years and see the regularity!

I write to explore ideas.

Several months ago this author was being interviewed on NPR. I think she might have worked in publishing. Maybe she was a publisher? Or an English teacher. She wrote. For a living, and corrected other people’s writing. She told the interviewer that she didn’t consder people who wrote for ideas to be writers. But, if someone wrote because they liked words, it was okay.

Well, that’s my interpretation of her rant.

I am a writer. I love lilting alliteration lying languid on my tongue, tripping over tantalizing syllables as they salsa surrounding serious thoughts. I somtimes find myself rhyming silly rhymes, not as sensible and thought provoking as Dorothy Parker or Emily Dickinson, and certainly not as weighty as Robert Frost – but fun, for me, nonetheless.

Words do fascinate me. Life is like a game of telephone. You try to convey an idea, and you think you’re clear, but someone always has a question. So, how can we use these written symbols to better convey our ideas? And, why do we want to convey ideas? Some people want to convey ideas for change. They want to change schedules, change routines, change lives, change society. So, on one hand, you can argue, quite successfully that words are used to convey ideas … ultimately for a better society. So, what’s so wrong with that?

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Disney v. Other

A drawing of the Simba character from The Lion...
Image via Wikipedia

Cinderella. Snow White. Bambi. Peter Pan. The Little Mermaid. Aladdin. Sleeping Beauty.

The list, it seems, goes on. I don’t recall any cartoon-movies from my youth that were not from Disney.

I love to draw. Always have. The art displayed in our home is mostly art I’ve done, Levi’s created, or photos we’ve taken. I studied art, created art, and I’ve studied art history. This is the lens in which I approach animated films. And, Disney has always seemed to make the movie come a live more than other producers.

I saw a few “behind the scenes” Disney blurbs for the Lion King and Pocahontas. They showed how the artists would sketch the live objects talking, acting, doing what they would do before they committed the drawings to the final film. So, when you watch Jasmine sing in Aladdin, it’s clear her hand gestures match up with that of an actual person. It has always seemed that something was off in these non-Disney films – normal hand gestures and lip movement don’t really match up with how the character should be talking. Sure, they have good grasp of line or decent rendering or another concept of art – but the overall look is missing something.

Kind of like Toy Story I. (I haven’t seen the other two.) Having a three year old kind of throws me into the realm of Pixar and family friendly movies. Watching Toy Story compared to later Pixar films, it’s neat to see the evolution. In the first Toy Story, they captured the rendering that was from a single light source only. When you look at an object, there is a light shadow, usually, underneath the entire bottom – along with appropriate reflections if on a wood surface, for example. These renderings were missing from the first Toy Story – and often from these non-Disney animations.

We got several Pixar movies from the library – including the Pixar shorts. The shorts collection allows you to monitor the artistic evolution of Pixar, beginning with rudimentary experiments in moving shapes with a computer, to highly entertaining, beautifully drawn and rendered stories about courage (Bounding) and shame (For the Birds).

Cars is, for me, the epitome of beautiful, near perfect story telling and artistic designs. The car reflections, the rendering, the story – all move quickly, vibrantly – a perfect cacophony of talent. If you accept that Disney has mastered animated film, then it’s no wonder they acquired them in 2006.

So all that rambling is really about watching Despicable Me tonight. I laughed. It was cute. It touched my heart. There was some super fantastic animation and it was a cute, quirky story – but it was off. The hand gestures didn’t match, the faces were too round, the mouths didn’t move with actual words.

It seems sad to me to consider that Disney may take the cake, and every time someone makes an animated film – more times than not, it comes off as trying to lamely copy a master and get money out of it instead of practice to improve.

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Responsibility

… Is drifting away! With my beloved food club that is. 11 months straight of volunteering more than 20 hours a month, and it’s been relieved from me.

I feel relieved.

I feel sad.

I feel a little fearful.

I feel relaxed.

Thank you Jacquelyn. Thank you Ana. Thank you Olivia. Thank you Kristina. Thank you Kimberly. Thank you Jenna.

Daily Post: Talk or Text?

Talking on the phone and using a computer.
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Suggested topic: Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

Today’s topic suggestion brings us full-frontal into modernity. How do we prefer to communicate: via talk or text? Being back in the “work force” I find this an interesting question, as I can track changes through school and work.

1995 – I was in high school and my good friend got email and Internet for the first time. Also that year, my boyfriend at the time signed up for Hotmail and the aversions against Microsoft continued and capitalized with their acquisition of hotmail, one of the first free email programs.

1996 – I got my first email through Michigan State University: pilot email. It was a text-based email emulator. We could either log into Windows at the computer login, or log into our email.

2000 – I went back to school and every third person had a mobile phone.

2001 – I realize I don’t want to have a home without Internet: must have email access.

2002 – I learned how to do Mail Merges and became an expert at various versions of Microsoft Office, Outlook, Lotus Notes

2004 – I went back to school again and every third person had a laptop, in class.

2005 – I finally got my first mobile phone.

2007 – Probably half of the students in any given class used a laptop for notes, in class, for whatever.

2009 – I added a text messaging plan to my mobile.

So, now I just about max my alotted 250 texts per months. I use fewer than the allowed 450 minutes (although that’s just out of network and prime hours). But, what do I prefer?

It depends on the context.

Are we arranging a quick meet up? Text.

Do I need to explain something, and ITAP (my Verizon auto-fill-text) doesn’t do it? Phone call.

Do I need to explain something but don’t really want a text or a phone call? Email.

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Daily Post: What Makes Me Smile?

Suggested topic: Share something that makes you smile.

This is for the postaday2011 WordPress blog challenge. Levi, quite simply, makes me smile. Here are some ways that he accomplishes this.

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”alexis22578″ id=”72157625618195013″]

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Daily Post: Best 2010 Accomplishment

Levi & Peter admiring the view.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my husband and my son. Just look at them! Adorable! And, we're participating in a trash-pick-up to boot! Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic suggestion: What’s the single most important thing you accomplished in 2010?

After this topic, I will be caught up with the challenge, and lest I get behind, I will be posting once a day under this “Daily Post” / #postaday2011 tag.

I haven’t often reflected specifically on the previous year to analyze my accomplishments, and from them, pick the most important. So, let’s take a look at the highlights?

  • Continued to raise a beautiful, kind, energetic boy named Levi.
  • Continued to work on this crazy, myriad thing called marriage – enjoyable companionship and frustrating differences of opinion abound!
  • Finally the food club started and have played an integral role in its set up, even being named president.
  • Continued to volunteer at the Church as reader, {new} Eucharistic minister, and religious ed (Sunday school) teacher.
  • Got a Paying Job.

My gut says, “Say the job, it’s what they want to hear.” You know, because that’s how we value things, generally, in our society – by the pocketbook. So, if we are earning money to value our worth and our daily tasks, then that must be more important than the other things.

Food - 2
Levi helping me make bread. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

But, my gut also says, “Value Levi first!” I value Levi first, but is he my greatest accomplishment in 2010? He’s his own person now. And, seriously, what thought went into his creation on my part and my husband’s? Honestly, not a lot. Kids sometimes happen, and they are beautiful, wonderful gifts and surprises, but if a lot of planning DID NOT go into their creation – how can they be called a great accomplishment by the parents? Whatever Levi goes onto accomplish, and he’s had some super milestones this year on his own, will be his, and his alone. As his parent, it is my job to coach him along, help him figure out what values, morals, etc are important and explain to him why I think x, y, and z are the most important. But, is his being my greatest accomplishment? I have to give a resounding no.

Likewise, my husband and I are learning how to be married. Every year we evolve a little bit more. Every year we appreciate each other a little more, learn more about respect, about communication, about family, about love. We didn’t know many of these things when we stated our vows. No one really tells you what’s up in conversation. Can they? Could you hear? So, as a work in progress, is my marriage my greatest accomplishment? Again, while I’m glad we’ve come a long way, I can’t say that it is.

Volunteering at the church is something I do as a servant leader. I feel I must, and as I learn more about certain jobs, I want to do certain things less. Once I made the choice to reconnect with my Catholic Faith, I felt it was very important to act on it in the capacity I had. This meant, at first, reading at mass. As an over achiever, I wanted to do more, and somewhere along the way I mentioned an interest in helping with religious ed. At the church, over the last 5 years, I have helped decorate, fill in in the office when I could, read monthly or every two months at mass, now serve as a Eucharistic minister, and help with Sunday school. This is my second year helping with Sunday school, and I’m not actually enjoying it. Sure, the kids are great, but I have the hardest time explaining faith with the materials and lesson plan given to these young kids. The teenagers are a lot more fun with their questions and critical thinking. This year, none of the parents said evenings would work for them, so the time is still in the middle of the day. This means, we go to church, go home, then I go back. And now, it’s two Sundays a month, and with all the other things I’m involved with – it feels more like a committed burden than any sort of service accomplishment. So, although it could be argued it’s this noble thing I’m doing, I don’t feel like it’s a significant accomplishment.

That leaves the food club. This is where I feel we’ve actually accomplished something and where my greatest 2010 accomplishment lies.

December Frontier
Our largest club order in my living room, later to be transferred by our SUV to be sorted, and then returned to my home for pick up. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

In 2008, the idea came to start a wholesale group, buying primarily food together to cut retail overhead associated costs and make better choices with a group of close friends or neighbors. Well, things didn’t pan out like I thought they would. 2009 was a pretty dry year with buying, and it turned out that my friends weren’t the right people for a buying club. I have a limited network, so I tried to reach out where it was reasonable, and one place I reached was a local Food Coop, People’s Coop, where part of their mission is to assist new buying clubs and coops. Many coops start as buying clubs, so a network link was formed.

Still nothing really happened in 2009, we met, we heard the spiel, we made two orders. I got tired of sending out monthly emails reminding the few folks who found us through Google and Craig’s List that we’re still here, if you have an idea of a buy, let’s get it going! Then, this People’s connection did two things, only one of which I was aware at first. First, she asked me if I’d do an interview and answer five questions via email. I did this but didn’t know it got published until 6 months later. The second thing she did was suggest I become Facebook friends with another Portland Food person. This gal, at the time boasted the largest area buying club and in many ways was over capacity, so she put me in touch with another gal in my neighborhood who was already ordering.

Suddenly, I found myself within the realm of the right people. In many ways, it felt like the thing I was waiting for for so long was (like my whole life, but not really) finally coming to fruition. I was skeptical that this would work and treading lightly was very important. I hope I have accomplished that.

Those first few months were interesting. First, it was Kristina, Kimberly, and I talking, then just me and Kristina. And since no one else seemed to really want to do the talking, it ended up being me. I didn’t mind, this is the thing I wanted, so I wanted this role – this leadership role. We met monthly. Dropped Robert’s Rules as our mode of meetings and went for Consensus. We talked, implemented, and changed. I learned more about my meeting facilitation skills, and where other folks don’t have skills and how that is still similar to me.

Food - 3
Heirloom tomatoes from our 2009 garden. Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I met this amazing group of women who could rule the world. And, mostly, I’ve tried really hard to make sure people’s assumptions don’t get the best of them and encourage judicious, fair thinking across the board to so we can create a sustainable community first within and then without and throughout the rest of the community. Those basic goals are common with the other members in our steering committee and the club.

The goals for the next year would be to increase club participation. We have about a 10% steering committee/buy organizer participation rate. If we could raise that to 20% (20 regular volunteering members instead of 10) we’d do a lot to increase voices and alleviate the work loads.

So, my greatest accomplishment of 2010 was realizing my facilitation skills and seizing the opportunity to practice them with a fantastic group of women who under the surface are itching to change the world.

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Daily Post: Uncredited Populations

Levi, Christmas, and Cars
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Topic: Name someone who deserves more credit than they get. And for bonus points, how to change things so they get more

I started reading the Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden the other day. It was suggested through Oregon’s Mother P.A.C., a political action committee designed to support, encourage, and broaden women and mothers in politics.

The premise of the book is discussing how, and I think later how to change, mothers are so undercredited. It’s recognized the world over from the average Joe to political leaders that the most important job held by anyone is being a Mother. Raising the next citizenry, shaping our future, raising the next generation – yet when taxes, census, and public assistance are concerned mothers are more often than not considered dependents.

So, this blog is simply to all the mothers out there that every day do one of the following:

  • Get up, get yourself in order
  • Make breakfast for yourself
  • Get your husband/partner/spouse off to work with a packed lunch and clean clothes
  • Clean the kitchen
  • Wake the small ones, feed the small ones, appease the small ones
  • Plan your day: “work”, errands, shopping, cleaning, baking?
  • Get you dressed, get the small person dressed
  • Avert crises over the wrong pants/socks/shoes/shirt chosen or put on in the wrong order
  • Clean up messes, prevent messes, get teeth brushed and hair presentable
  • Make it out the door (on time you get lots of bonus points)
  • Wade through traffic, offer appropriate snacks, calm tears of unknown origin (boredom?)
  • Wish them well off to daycare/preschool/babysitter
  • Commence errands with our without children
  • Pick up one thing, drop another off, pick up another at another location, visit another place and make an exchange, all before noon to ensure lunches are had
  • Fix another meal (snacks have been had around mid morning)
  • Clean kitchen, again
  • Put small fry down for nap, repeating self, justifying the need to the small person when reason isn’t always what works
  • Begin bread
  • Start laundry
  • Think about reading a book
  • Sweep floors, tidy rearranged items putting them where they belong
  • Hope this was done before Husband returns from work where a new set of distractions commence
  • Consider dinner, prep frozen things, time oven with bread baking and dinner making
  • Enjoy family dinner
  • Clean up Kitchen
  • Prep lunches for next day
  • Appease emotions of all members of household
  • Think again about reading that book
  • Recognize that you too are tired
  • Get the big and little people down to bed
  • Forget about putting things away
  • Read the book

Two years ago, I was looking for paid work to help pay off my school loans. This was on the heals of the 2008 Wall Street Crash and Housing Market Crash. This was more or less my routine, without the daycare/preschool/babysitter line. I enjoyed much of it, but much of it left me unfulfilled. In many ways.

Part of motherhood is coming to terms with choices and being able put them into place with new realized boundaries. This is something I struggle with everyday. This book, the Price of Motherhood is helping me to put a voice to some of these feelings I have had. So, this post is simply to mothers. If you think someone or something is undervaluing you – STOP. Think, believe.

We need to change this paradigm under which we’ve operated for far too long. Society recognizes our position as the most important, so it is time for us to collectively stand up and say, YES, you are right, our job is important, and we need your help valuing it as important as you say it is.

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Daily Post: Wishful Travels

Steps of St Paul's
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Given Topic: List three countries you’d like to visit, and why you want to go.

This reminds me of Mrs. Gress’s creative writing class. 11th grade. English department. High school.

Every day we walked in, and we had one topic, and we had to write for five minutes. I loved it. It challenged me to think about things I never thought of before, and gave me the idea for my first tattoo – although I changed the placement.

I have visited England and Italy. Fabulous. So, where do I want to go now?

  1. Canada
  2. Greece
  3. Slovenia
  4. Back to Italy
  5. Back to England
  6. Australia
  7. China
  8. The Continent of Africa

I will begin with places 4-8 since those are the lesser mentioned countries in my ranking. I really enjoyed my Sustainable Study Abroad, and I want to bring my family to Spannocchia where we spent our time. It was enchanting, beautiful, and simply Italy. I needed a lot less Italian to get by than I thought I would, so it gave me courage. I really think my introverted, hermitish husband would enjoy the English and Italian countrysides, now I just have to get him to believe that! And, of course, Levi was 4 months in my tummy when I travelled, so I want him to visit the places he’s already been.

I worked in a design-build form six years ago that did a lot of work in Australia. I am enchanted. Likewise, Asian cultures, especially the very large China fascinates me so – the Great Wall to Red China, I want a glimpse.These big beautiful places that have such interesting stories of beauty, oppression, ingenuity, stagnation, humanity. All defined differently than the US of A where I have lived my entire life. I want to see, through a tourists eyes the beauty, and if I’m lucky, some sanitized behind-the-scenes.

As such, I am intrigued by the heat of Africa, the diversity, the coffee, the war, AIDS, South Africa – and I want a glimpse.

But, where do I really want to go and why? I have lived in four states in this U.SA. 1) Michigan, where I was born and raised. 2) Kentucky during my first summer selling books door-to-door, and 3) Pennsylvania for the second. Finally, I am here in 4) Oregon. Save Kentucky, each state I have lived in has been a stones throw from Canada – yet the only place I visited was an overnight stay in Windsor, across the Detroit River so we 19-year-olds could drink, legally, in good company with our 21-year-old friends.

I want Levi to like and enjoy travel. But, to do so, we parents need to approach it without fear, or with a desire to have adventure. Canada, while we live here in Oregon, is still a simple 5 hour drive away – it seems silly to not make this our first adventure in international travel for the living Levi.

Greece – I find exoctic and enchanting. I studied Art History, missing the minor by one class, to further educate and empower my love of Art. I enjoy Classicism with its symmetry and beauty in form. And, then through Art History you learn of the illusions to create that perfect Greek Symmetry. Some argue that Western Civilization begins in Greece – and that’s where I want to visit. I want to see the ancient ruins, the beautiful white cities and azure sea. Always, too, I want my son to experience cultural differences to learn that we all evolved from some place and decided to chart our own paths – but again – we have come from somewhere. Plato, Aristotle to Machiavelli had their discussions beginning with Socrates. Our society is built on the shoulders of these giants – where are we today, in comparison? How can we make the world a better place given what they knew then and what we know now? What environment were they living in that helped shape their thoughts?

To Origins I list Slovenia, but I really mean all of the Baltic Peninsula. I was told I am 50% Yugoslavian. I held to that belief until Yugoslavia fell shortly after its leader, Tito, died. What am I now if 50% of my heritage is split apart? (The other 50% is comprised of Polish (one quarter of the whole), and a mix of French, Scottish, Native American). Where did my paternal grandparents come from? I did not know them as they died before I was born or when I was very young. I have fragmented figments of a memory of my paternal grandmother. My father has his own story that is mostly absent from my childhood – so part of my feels that visiting this chunk of a continent will be a clue as to who I am and where I came from.

Thank you post-a-day-2011.

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I’m Posting every day in 2011!

Levi helping with No Bake Cookies
Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a day / once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Signed,

Michelle
One Mom Trying to Balance

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