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Saturday, December 26, 2015

"Soar 2"

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas!  I always find this in-between week before New Year's contemplative.  It's dark outside and I don't have to work as many days.  There's time for looking back over the year and thinking about what the new year will bring.

Looking over my past year, painting my floor was the most obvious thing I did.  It certainly required the most time, June - October.  The less obvious element of it is that I used all that time to think about relationships.

It wasn't a happy year for me.  My brother-in-law died, which was very shortly after my friend died, and a co-worker's husband.  I was effected by the Paris shooting, which was only one of many shootings in 2015.  There were a lot of contentious meetings and reports at work.

I just wasn't happy, and didn't feel like I was getting the outside support I needed.  I pondered who was good for me and who wasn't when Danny's cancer recurred and almost killed him just when Gary killed himself, and that was followed by 2 more suicides.  I fell off my deck so hard that my body hurt as much as my heart and mind.

So the year started hard, but spending all that time painting the floor made me more flexible in more ways than one.  My general outlook on life improved, and the ladies at work went out of their way to feed me positive thoughts.  I helped avert another suicide, and feel pleased with myself that I set and maintained my boundaries in the process.  The year is ending with 2 new babies in my environment and I feel happiness to be in the afterglow of those families' happiness.

Against all of this, I repeatedly met ghosts from my past this year.  We stood on my floor and shared stories about the Glen.  I saw their positive memories of me reflected in their faces, and I was given a chance to redefine myself to myself.

I drank bourbon in Kentucky, which has turned into a lesser hobby.  So far I've enjoyed cherry-aged and honey bourbons the best.  I got a new neighbor and was assigned an extra hobby of staring out the kitchen window to look for her missing cat while I made a lot of applesauce.  My dog got skunked.  I took a painting retreat to Lake Chautauqua, NY and started illustrating things for a magazine.

Helen and her halo
This is life.  Sometimes we have challenges and grief to deal with.  Sometimes we get to smile at a baby.  This week I helped Helen, our cheerful, colorful, and kind volunteer with her Christmas cookies.  She knows all about life's ups and downs, and usually has an off-color quip and a hearty laugh to get through those peaks and valleys.  She made 17 kinds of cookies this year and gave them to people she appreciates including her doctors, church, friends, family, etc., etc.  Her spirit of gratitude and giving is inspiring (and her cookies are delicious!)

Helen supervising cookie trays

Josie helped package cookies too

Here's to hoping that all of us have a wonderful New Year filled with cookies!

Friday, December 18, 2015


Gentle breezes waft around the Glen, but you need actual wind to fly a kite.  I ran and ran on my short child legs without much to show for it.

We went to see our grandparents every month.  Grandpa would take us to GoodyearHeights Metro Park after lunch.  Women washed dishes while children and men walked to the pond and woods.  

In winter we went sledding.  There’s a little but steep hill close to their house, and a very big hill on the other side of the park.  The little hill has the extra thrill of trees in the wrong places.  The big hill has a bump which sends whole toboggans of adults airborne.  That hill is also great for kites in summer.  Kites soared from a standstill.  They flew so strong, I worried I’d be dragged to the sun and die like Icarus.

One day my siblings ran down the steep little hill to the pond, and Grandpa and I stayed behind.  He really didn’t say much.  Well, to be perfectly honest, he never did, but what he did say was in a soft Tennessee accent that makes me feel safe, loved, and happy.

On that last day at the park I just held his hand and absorbed our alone-time together.  I don’t know how I knew it was our last day, I just did, and I relished it.  He lived a long time after that, he just didn't walk to the park.  He drove us to the big hill to fly kites.

I miss Grandpa.  Happy birthday!  Happy birthday Sue!  And Dad and Tami, and coming up Bill, ML, and Gail... plus my grandnieces and whoever else I might be forgetting.  Oh yeah, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Solstice too!

Mess Hall
Totally unrelated to birthdays, holidays, and kiting, but everything to do with parks, my friend and I walked in my old Girl Scout camp last weekend.  It has been bought by her city, and now is open to everyone.

Amity House
Boat house
I looked forward to August all year every year when I was a kid.  My sisters and I had a week at Grandma and Grandpa's, and then we had two weeks at Camp Hilaka.  Yay, yay, yay for me!

The old metal bridge is the same as when I was a kid
I was great at camp.  I could start a fire, paddle a canoe, braid a lanyard, and sing campfire songs with the best of them.  I learned early that fearlessly ridding a tent of spiders and mice ensured me camping friends.  Some girls cried when their parents dropped them off at camp.  I wanted to cry when I left.

Outhouse -- a very memorable part of camping!
The camp is pretty dilapidated, and I hope volunteers will get it looking nice again.  I walked the paths and felt my younger self running through the woods while my current self was kind of befuddled about what used to be where and such.  I remembered the handsome boy counselor with a guitar well enough and the very nice girl with a raspberry stain all over her face and over a lot of the rest of her too. 

It's the smells and sounds and projects which I remember best, and it all feels very strange to place all that living into a neglected park.  I'm going to walk there again and bring back more memories and more of that childish enthusiasm back into my being.  Camp Hilaka is like Grandpa -- part of who I am.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


My boss looked at my flower photos on my office wall this week and told me to take a half day to see "Painting the Modern Garden:Monet to Matisse", a special exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I like flowers, but impressionists?  Eh.  Yeah, I know, a lot of people love them.  It's just one way I'm a unicorn, but hey, paid time for art?  Yeah!  (Okay, I'm salary and work too many hours so it's not like really getting paid, but still.)

I parked far away because I'm too cheap for the parking lot, and a nice looking man who's originally from India, now from Chicago, asked me if the museum is really free.  It is too, but you've got to pay $18 for the impressionist exhibit.  We had a lovely conversation while we hiked to the front entrance where he held the door for me and soon disappeared.

I hiked more miles to get to the line for the exhibit, stood behind crowds of people standing in front of paintings who were glued to their museum-distributed hand-held devices.  I was getting cranky and my knee hurt.  I felt bad for the old people who had to get on and off the endless escalators in the vast emptiness of the newly, and expensively, remodeled museum interior.

More disgruntlement that they
closed access to the pond
and Rodin's "The Thinker"
I have long-held grievances against the museum.  I've considered lifting the feud since I'm the only one who knows it's in place and it only hurts me.  I even considered getting a museum membership.  Nope.  Feud stays in place.  I hate what they've done.

There's still lots of world-class art there, but somebody has been "fixing" eyes in portraits so they look wall-eyed.  I didn't see Edith Barretto Parsons' Turtle Baby, I don't like the organization, it feels like a mall with gift shops everywhere...

It wasn't always like this.  My dad was a cop in the area, and sometimes took me with him to work and let me loose.  He enlisted all the security guards and policemen as my babysitters even though I was blissfully unaware of this until I tested my boundaries one day and a cop showed up out of nowhere to say, "Miss Hensley, I don't think you're allowed over there."  Oops.

I followed the rules after that.  I sat by the pond and teased the giant carp.  I helped archeologists mend broken pottery.  I stared at the Rembrandts and felt my heart pound.  I fell in love with Jacques Louis David's Cupid.

Some parts of the museum were left intact.
This is the style I remember and love.
Sometimes I'm aware my childhood wasn't like other people's.  I lived in the lonely  woods which hid the remnants of an artists' community -- and once in a while I went to the big city without obvious supervision to bask in the glow of the Masters and listen to the Cleveland Orchestra rehearse for an audience of one.  I suppose it's no wonder I became an artist, but I suppose it's all part of why I'm a unicorn too?  An extinct, mythical creature with magical powers.

Somehow, I think we're all unicorns.  We just have to embrace that about ourselves and hope nobody tries to saw off our horn.  Or remodel our home against our will.

BTW, most people seem happy with the special exhibits and the remodeling.  If you come to town you should go to the museum.  I'll sulk quietly and smile at my memories of having the place to myself other than indulgent docents and archeologists.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I wrote this post for "diary" in my first year of blogging, where I told of my plumbing disaster.  The experience was stressful and exhausting when I was living it, but it also became something of a milestone too.

The plumbing disaster forced me to clean house more thoroughly than I'd ever do on my own -- and in getting rid of stuff, I got rid of a bunch of garbage in my mind too.  I had many hours to think while filling up trash bags of my moldy treasures. 

I was in a bad mental place.  I'd been out of work for almost 2 years, and people weren't hiring, especially anyone over 40.  I had too much time to think about my miseries past and present and I bounced between anger and depression.  My friend Geof gave me mental assignments to consider while I sanded floors and such.  We had long conversations about our experiences and how to deal with them.  I started digging myself out of the muck in more ways than one.

A friend of mine is currently going through her own crisis.  Because I've been there, done that, I can hear it when she slides into bad places in her thinking.  I can see where there are choices between moving forward and curling into a ball because I've done my time with anger, depression, and hope.

I learned things from Geof who had gone through these things too.  If my friend learns something from me now, I'll feel like maybe there was some point to my misery, and Geof's miseries.  She'll teach someone else down the road.  It is a healing chain of people who suffer, survive, grow, and help others.

Sometimes I think that the miseries in the world are opportunities.  If we always get what we want, how hard would we work towards our goals?  If we don't know hurt, how can we help someone else when they're hurting?

Another friend was the victim of spousal abuse.  I thought "I'd never allow that!" -- and I didn't, well, not exactly.  Years later, I found myself in a verbally abusive marriage that was ruinous to my entire being.  I started understanding why my friend had stayed after getting hit because abusers cross boundaries slowly over time.  I still wouldn't let someone hit me, but my own marriage taught me empathy for my friend's situation.

Perhaps that empathy is the velcro that will help someone else stick on the planet?  I learned to listen without judging, and sometimes I think the thing a hurting person needs is simply someone who will listen.

I'd like a perfect, peaceful world where nobody hurts and plumbing always works.  But then again, maybe the world is richer and more beautiful with hardship?  I know that's hard to see when there was yet another shooting this week, but it's my hope that something good comes out of the pain.  For everyone who suffers, I wish them peace, healing, wisdom, and maybe most especially, a person who can hold their hand and listen.