Saturday, November 30, 2013

Glittering Thanks

A Very Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Here's how we give glitter thanks at our house.
Turkey Craft Number 1: Glam Gobbler
Clockwise from top left:
1. We found the inspiration for our turkey on a window at Beni's preschool.
2. I'm teaching her early- you can NEVER add too much sparkle.
3. Turkey in progress…

And here is our Glam Gobbler making his internet debut:

We were both so happy with how he turned out. He's a keeper for sure.
Turkey Craft Number 2: Sending Gratitude
Clockwise from top left:
1. and 2. Making handprint turkeys with paint and glitter.
3. The finished product says: We are thankful for you.
4. Sending our love to Godparents, grandparents, and beloved aunts and uncles.

Celebrating Thanksgiving at Preschool
Clockwise from top left: 

1. Beni-Bird modeling her Native American headband.
2. The Williams family feather: what we are thankful for.
3. Side view of previously mentioned fashionable headdress.
4. A huge turkey of thanks at Beni's school (one feather contributed by each family.)

Thanksgiving Day Traditions

Clockwise from top left:

1. and 3. Watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
2. Our vegetarian meal.
4. One dessert for each of us. 

A Night of Thanks

Clockwise from top left:
1. Gratitude-themed books.
2. Sitting by the fire for story time.
3. My art journal entry for 11-28-2013.
4. I've been recording blessings in my gratitude journal since 2002.

And one more thing I'm so grateful for…..
 you, Dear Reader.

PS: Please forgive the funky formatting and the extra spaces. I swear, it doesn't look like this on my end. I spent over an hour trying to fix it and then decided to publish "as is" before I lose my good feelings of gratitude. What a relief it is to let go of "perfection"!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Oh My, Lucky Star!

Last March my spirited friend, Kristen Roedner (who's been rumored to poop rainbows), told me about a whole living art camp I just *had* to attend. Since I have the utmost confidence in her creative recommendations, I immediately signed up.

Now, fast forward to early this October when Kristen picked me up at the San Antonio airport in her pink flying pig. 

The two of us headed off on the backroads of the Texas Hill Country with the sun shining, top down, hats on, and me feeling like Thelma. Or Louise. Our destination: Lucky Start Art Camp. 

Lucky Star was a Texas-sized experience. I could write several blog posts about it, but since I've been a bit lax on the blogging lately, I'm going to cram it all into this one. I hope the magical essence of the experience shines through my words and photos. 

Look at this place! Lucky Star Art Camp was held at Waldemar, an all-girl's camp in continuous operation since 1926. 

I'm pretty sure my Waldemar cabin was built (and possibly decorated) in 1926. How I wish I had taken photos to show you! There was a kitschy Western cowboy mural on the wall over the fireplace. And kitschy Western cowboy comforters on the bunks. And kitschy Western cowboy curtains over the windows. I loved it all! Everyday as I stepped into my cowboy boots, this East Coast girl felt like a real Texan. (For the the first time, even though we moved to Dallas three years ago.)

While there were a variety of lodging options, I went for the full-camp experience and bunked with Kristen and four strangers, who I came to adore.  My cabinmates were an incredible mix of women: the famous novelist, the intuitive healer, the hilarious Jersey girl who once kissed Bradley Cooper, the super sweet and quiet Houston stay-at-home mama, Kristen, and me. Six of us in a small rustic cabin with one bathroom and four bunk beds. It could have been a disaster, but it was magic. We laughed, we cried, we stayed up late to talk. I felt like I was back in my sorority house. My cabinmates and the other women I met at camp were remarkable, creative, generous spirits who made my experience sparkle.

A wide array of classes were offered at camp: quilting, jewelry making, sewing, canning and preserving, cheese-making, photography, apothocary, intuitive healing, painting, creative writing, and more. It was hard to narrow down my choices, but I finally selected:

1. Happy Painting with Juliette Crane (held on the banks of the Guadalupe River!)

2. Dreambook by Shawn Stratmann, and 

3. How to Write a Children's Story by Katherine Center.
(BTW, I just finished her latest novel, The Lost Husband, and I highly recommend it.)

Besides our classes, we could hike and explore, paddleboard or canoe, swim, do yoga, or horseback riding. And the food! Fresh and local and healthy. But most of all, yummy.  We had incredible evening programs about slow family living, eating well for the planet, and dream setting. After evening program, we sat around the campfire and listened to Mandy Rowden sing and play her guitar. All that was missing was a round of kumbaya.

I really shouldn't complain about anything. Except that I'm a nature lover who would prefer to never see creepy crawlies. And two cabins down a tarantula was found outside. And scorpions frequent this part of Texas. And a frog got into our cabin one night. I am big-time bug phobic and would also prefer frogs stayed outside. Good thing I didn't see any of them, so I was still able to sleep. Braving the wild creatures of Texas was worth it, and I'm already signed up for Lucky Star next year.


And don't worry, Dear Reader, I know you want to hear more about my friend, Kristen, so a whole post on her is coming soon.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Mom and Alzheimer's- Forever Grateful for Just ONE Moment

Me and my mama, Jacqueline Joslin Sellers.
In this photo, my mom is 39, the age I am now.

I had a "normal" mother for the first 30 years of my life. But by my wedding date, she was no longer the mom I knew.

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease.

When I finally became a mother at the age of 36, the "loss" of my own mother became more apparent. Strands of this deep loss are woven into my extreme joy. I see how my friends' mothers interact with their grandchildren and I feel sad. Sad that my daughter, my mother, and I were all robbed of generational experiences that I now long for. 

My mother will never know my daughter. My daughter will know of her maternal grandmother, but she will never know her. Not on this Earth, or in this lifetime anyway. I am comforted by a vivid dream my sister, Marilee, recently shared with me. In it, my mother told Marilee that when she wasn't here (mentally present), she was with God and it was beautiful. Marilee said my mother radiated peace and that Mom was the happiest and most beautiful she'd ever seen her.

I'm embarrassed and saddened to admit I never truly appreciated my mother until I became a mother myself. Until then, I focused on her flaws and her parenting faults. But now I want to ask her how she did it. How did she manage birthing and caring for my four brothers all by the age of 26? How and why did she manage to have six children when I find one overwhelming? How did she sacrifice so much to raise us all? How did she not seem to be tired, stressed, or depleted? These are questions that will go unanswered.

At the end of September, my little girl (I call her Beni-Bird) and I flew from Texas to the east coast to visit my family. We made an overnight trip to my hometown and got a chance to see my mom. 

My brother, Paul, and Marilee tried to prepare me as I hadn't seen her for two years. Mom is now in a wheelchair, they said, and sometimes she is unresponsive. Paul said he stayed only three minutes last time because it was just too painful to see her in that state. 

As fate would have it, when I saw Mom it was a "good day" for her. She was awake, and alert, and in a pleasant mood. I knew Mom wouldn't know who we were. But still I was unprepared when my brother, Mark, introduced my sister and I and she asked, "But where are the real ones?" 

My active two and 1/2-year-old seemed to sense the seriousness of the moment. She was very still as I introduced her. "Beni, this is my mama, your grandmother."

At the end of our visit, we all wheeled Mom back into the dining room of the Alzheimer's unit. We put her at the table amid the other unit residents, some who needed to be fed by an aide because they had forgotten how to feed themselves. Mom asked us not to leave her because then, "Who will I talk to?" 

I put Beni in front of her and once again told Mom this was my daughter, her granddaughter. Mom just kept repeating, "she's so beautiful, she's so beautiful" and even got teary as she said it. This was my ONE moment. My mother acknowledged my daughter on an emotional (and dare I say spiritual) level. 

Then, with tears streaming down my face, I knelt down by my mother's side and told her she was a good mother. I told her I loved her very much and I gave her a hug. And then I got a second gift- she told me she loved me. 

There is a lot my family lost to Alzheimer's disease. But on that visit, I was given one precious moment of my mother, myself, and my daughter all together; and my mom was as aware as she could possibly be. She was moved to tears by my child, and it was a beautiful ONE moment. That moment is all I will likely ever have. So I will hold onto it. And repeat it often to my daughter. And forever be grateful. Forever grateful for ONE moment.


Dear Reader, please take note:

November is the month to celebrate gratitude. It also happens to be my mom's birthday month and National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. For all of these reasons, I dedicate this post to my loving mother, Jacqueline Joslin Sellers.

Several years ago I wrote a post about my mom's Alzheimer's called Reflections from the Old Folk's Home. This was before her mental state deteriorated so much that she needed to be moved away from my father's care and into full-time care in the Alzheimer's unit.

A version of this current post first appeared on Voices from the 'Ville.