Monday, April 28, 2008

Heart's Destiny: How a Painting Changed My Life

In 1983 I was the sales director of a large, rather commercial gallery at Union Square in San Francisco. We sold lots of slick limited-edition serigraphs by famous artists. Every evening when I got off work, I’d walk by the Academy of Art College. I enjoyed looking in the windows, which displayed the work of the students. Often the work was a little raw and unfinished. It was usually on canvas, and I loved looking at the surfaces of the paintings, which revealed, as they say, “the hand of the artist.” There were visible brushstrokes and little mounds of dried paint. So unlike the perfect, museum-mounted products under glass that I sold all day.

One day a large grayish canvas depicting some kind of canine creatures made me stop. What were these? Dogs? Although there was some blue pigment here and there, the overall impression was muddy gray. The perspective was odd. One of the dogs had its rear in the air. One of my mother's terms popped into my mind. Engagingly ugly. Something about this painting held my attention. Every day I found myself stopping and looking at this canvas. The head of the dog with its rear in the air disappeared into... what? A kind of gray rectangle, which suggested a subterranean passage. Were these prairie dogs?

Then one day the painting disappeared from the window. Oh well, I thought, it was odd while it lasted. For the next few days I found myself walking on the opposite side of the street from the art college. I was trying to avoid the window, now devoid of the gray dogs. Despite myself, I would look longingly across the street, expecting the dog painting to come back. A cable car, crammed with tourists, ground its way up Powell Street, its bell ringing in my ears. That celebratory sound always lifted my spirits, but today I was sad. I trudged up Powell, feeling foolish for being sad and nostalgic over a painting I hadn't even seen up close. My common sense said...There will be other, better paintings...

I nevertheless found myself calling the college gallery one afternoon. What had happened to the large gray painting of canines? I inquired.

“Ohhh!” an enthusiastic female voice responded, “You’re talking about Cindy’s ‘Blue Wolves.'"

Blue? Wolves?

“So what happened? Did somebody buy the gray dogs? I mean...the blue wolves?"

“Oh no, it was part of our B.F.A. exhibition, which came down last week, and Cindy took it home with her. Why don’t I give you her phone number?”


Well, that was easy.

And so I purchased my first original work of art. I went to Cindy’s apartment in Bernal Heights and paid her the asking price of $300--even in those days that was pretty reasonable, but hefty enough to carry a certain significance for both of us. Even Cindy's art professor husband regarded this as a significant transaction. He helped me strap the six-foot canvas to the top of a friend’s Datsun and we drove it across town, where I would hang it in my tiny efficiency apartment overlooking the financial district. It gave my space what the decorators call “scale.” My apartment grew visually. What had been a twenty-by-fifteen-foot rectangle dominated by a view of the apartment building across the street, became a twenty-by-fifteen-foot space commanded by an expanse of textured canvas. Thanks to the abundant natural light provided by the windows, the blue surrounding the wolves jumped out from the shadows and gave the entire room a dreamy, soft-tinted, blue aspect. What I didn’t know was that this little purchase was already beginning to give my life a kind of “scale.”

I didn’t know that, even as my friend and I gingerly transported “Blue Wolves” up and down the hills of the San Francisco neighborhoods between Cindy’s home and mine, my administrative assistant at the gallery was looking dreamily into the eyes of her boyfriend and deciding to travel to Europe with him. The next morning she resigned from her job. On an impulse I called the young artist Cindy and asked her if she would like a part-time job. She already had a job but suggested her friend Leslie, a graduate student. Leslie took the job and was great. Leslie introduced me to her friend Bennie.

“You’ll like him,” she said. “He eats that offbeat Southern food, just like you do."

Bennie visited me in my efficiency apartment, and we sat under the painting "Blue Wolves." I looked into Bennie’s blue eyes. I was falling in love. He liked my poetry and he liked my black-eyed peas. Ours was a karmic connection set in motion by our Southern ancestors. Like a big pot of turnip greens that had been simmering for generations in some invisible, cosmic kitchen. It was time to eat. Bennie looked into my eyes and said he saw “the wolf." He too was falling in love. Together we watched the sunset reflected in the windows of the apartment building across the street.

I started going to punk clubs with names like The Sound of Music to hear Bennie’s band play. Bennie went to Macy’s to buy some ties. He got a job in a competing gallery. He too had a knack for selling art and became the sales director of his gallery. We saved our sales commissions. We opened our own gallery on Union Street, an elegant shopping district sandwiched between Pacific Heights and the Marina. It was high-rent but not staggering-rent as was Union Square. We discovered there was a market for paintings that revealed “the hand of the artist." We married...Ten months later our daughter was born...

27 months after that we had a son...

And so on...

...We now sell paintings in New Mexico. Through the years our customers have shared their own stories with us, stories of how the paintings they've bought have altered the scale of their lives, changing them in surprising ways. What's more, I took up painting several years ago. My latest painting, "Heart's Destiny," at the top of this post, is my painted acknowledgment of the way our destinies seem to be altered for the better when we listen to the urgings of our heart. And "Blue Wolves"? It still hangs in a place of honor in our home. People visit us and sometimes they comment on the painting.

“Hey, those gray coyotes are cool,” they say.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Awards by the Truckload!

Someone on some wonderful blog--was it The Mother of This Lot?--reported that her blog awards situation is getting out of hand. She is now being followed by paparazzi. I can't say the same. I've left the building. Nobody cares. Yet.

But I do wonder who the hell that was lurking in the junipers behind the dead pinons this morning.

He wasn't snapping pictures, so I am operating under the assumption that he's a Hollywood talent scout.

National Enquirer has been hounding both my kids, absolutely begging for exclusive interviews about their mother; apparently a Mommy Dearest slant is the intention and cash will change hands. Go for it, darlings. Tuition is high these days.

Yes, all of this started rather suspiciously the evening of April 10. That's the day, driving my weary buns into the driveway at 6 Lucero Road, I first spied that guy in the juniper. And that's the day Paula over at self taught artist and Kim over at Creating Space had awarded me this:

That's what I call one hell of a trophy. Liberace meets Winged Barbie with a teensy bit of art nouveau rolled in. Paula and I have both googled
arte y pico and something is being lost in translation. Arte. That's easy. "Art." Y, pronounced "ee," means "and." I knew that. I mean I live in Nuevo Mexico. We're talking Spanish here. Espanol por favor. But pico??? Here in Nuevo Mexico we eat pico de gallo. That means "rooster's beak" and it's a salsa of fresh chopped veggies, heavy on the peppers. Es muy picante. Es muy delicioso. (And I'll admit that's not a very logical name either.) I went to the Arte y Pico blog, the creators of this award, and had Google translate their page. According to Google's automatic translation, Arte y Pico means "Art Peek" not "Art and Beak." OK. I'm still a bit confused, but some things you have to take on faith. That's why I'm taking Arte y Pico and displaying her proudly on my blog.

Here's the fine print associated with this award:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogging community, no matter what language.2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.4. The Award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte Y Pico" blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.5. To show these rules.

So now, as per preceding fine print, I distribute this award to five recipients, visual artists who, with their diversity of talents, make me green with envy.

Daphne, of Five Foot Under
Corrine (Do I have your name right?), of Jafabrit's Art
Andrea, of colouring outside the lines
Bridgette, of Contemplating the Moon
Lori, of Chatoyance

And of course, there's more...on that fateful April 10, Cath of Crazy Cath's Reflections awarded me this:

What I LOVE about this award is that Cath created it herself (with a little help from a Google image search) because she said that Daryl (the co-winner) and I are "beautiful on the outside and the inside." That made my day, Cath. And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after...and well, the Hollywood talent scout continues to lurk in my juniper.

And of course, I want to pass this one on too. So I'm giving it to ten friends with the requisite inner/outer beauty. These are wizards of transformation. Dar brings gorgeous paintings out of the sweetest place inside her Charlie-Sheen-clad being. Patty wields the stylist's scissors, taming bad hair, one head at a time. Ellie teaches the young ones to climb out of their shells and sing! Jo and Lee are rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of disappointment. Shrinky and Ms. Bones cast magic spells with words. Rubye Jean and Anna are passing on a legacy of beauty and love to their kids and grandkids. Adventuress Celine travels to exotic places and brings us back souvenirs in the form of lovingly crafted travel logs. And Cath, well Cath, got this whole thing started--she's the Fairy Godmother of Beauty. Shall we make that eleven recipients? The awardees, all of them smokin' babes of the highest order, are:

Ellie, of A Creek Runs Through It
Rubye Jean, of Somewhere over the Rainbow
Anna, of A.Bananna
Jo, of Celebration of Life
Lee, of Chrysalis Dreams
Chewy, of The Back of My Headboard
Celine, of Fugue
Ms. Bones, of Bones of the Sky
Patty, of Lost in Solitude
Shrinky, of Shrink-wrapped Scream
Cath, of Crazy Cath's Reflections

And in the spirit of efficiency, yeah right, I tag EVERYBODY for an easy meme, also courtesy of Cath: post a picture of what is on your computer screen. It's called the "I'll Show You Mine if You'll Show Me Yours" meme. Fun, huh? When you've posted your image, why don't you stop by here and let me know? Here's mine:

And, yes, he's beautiful on the inside too. Muy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Me but Were Too Polite to Ask

This "Foursies" meme, aka assignment, is courtesy Lee, by way of Sandi. What are friends for, right? I'm turning in my work late so am providing photographs for extra credit.

4 Jobs I've held

1) Hardware/Home Improvements/Auto Accessories Sales Associate. My favorite duty was--surprise--mixing paints. I occasionally got to roam into the toy department and set up the Barbie and Hot Wheels displays. Middle management, sadly, determined I was overqualified for my life in screwdrivers and Turtle Wax, and so I was kicked up to:

2) Credit Department Associate. This was before the era of online credit reports and my days were spent in engaging phone conversations with a computer with Attitude: "I'm sorry, San, I'm not allowed to approve that." Of course it was I, not HAL, who had to report the disheartening rejections to the appliance and furniture salespeople. They always took the news poorly. After all, their livelihoods depended on hard-selling every soul who wandered into their department, and their departments magnetized the bankrupt, the jobless, and the convicted. This is the job that thickened my skin and prepared me for:

3) Weight Loss Counselor. Talk about the lean years.

4) Adjunct, Part-time College Instructor. Don't tell me you're unloved, unappreciated, and underpaid. Unless you happen to be a part-time, adjunct faculty member. Then we'll talk.

4 Movies I have/would watch over and over again

1) Enchanted April. Ennui-ridden Londoners retreat to the Italian countryside for a month. Become re-enchanted with life. I want to go there, do that sometime.

2) Chocolat. The chemistry on bodily and soul levels is as powerful as a red-pepper-infused cup of Mayan cacao.

3) Little Women. Sarandon, Ryder, Dunst, & Danes. Dazzling ensemble. And Christian Bale looking amazingly young. He was. That was 1994.

4) To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the few films that does justice to a remarkable book. From the beginning credits, which to this day almost bring me to tears--that kid opening the box--like a Pandora's box of nostalgia--to the last minutes when the fearful Boo Radley turns out to be a a life-saving hero, and an autistic one at that, and played by Robert Duvall at that. Yes, that was Robert Duvall. I love that.

4 places I've lived

1) Montgomery, Alabama. Home of The White House of the Confederacy and The Hank Williams Museum.

2) San Francisco, California. In 1982 I won a round-trip plane ticket to the U.S. city of my choice. I picked The City by the Bay, flew there, fell in love with it, flew back to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, packed my bags, and that time, purchased a one-way ticket. A fortuitous move.

3) Pacifica, California. Bennie and I bought a little "fixer" house set back in a grove of eucalyptus trees. The first home our family called our own. Eye-popping FLOWER POWER wallpaper from the sixties, avocado and orange shag from the seventies. The shag we carted off to the landfill, and thanks to Bennie's sanding skills, beautiful hardwood surfaced from underneath it all. And yes, lovely bare walls lurked beneath the wallpaper. The exterior of our house we painted to blend with the foliage of the eucalyptus, more specifically, the undersides of the foliage of the eucalyptus, a soft sage green with undertones of gray. My paint-mixing background came in handy here.

4) Currently, in Eldorado, a "planned, rural" subdivision several miles outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Affectionately known as The White Man's Rez. We've lived in this house for almost ten years. Not a dream house, but we can sit on the deck on summer evenings and gaze at the foothills. Such a view puts it all in perspective.

4 people I want to "Bitch Slap right into the middle of next week"

OK, the question asked for 4, the photo provided 5, so I erased the least despicable.

4 People who email me regularly

1) Lee

2) b2

3) blogger-help-troubleshoot group

4) the penis-enhancement product pusher (Goes by various aliases, such as Aubrey Cunningham and Horatio Kilt, and I don't really have the raw material to be enhanced, but we'll let him continue in his ignorance. His emails are a riot!)

4 TV shows I watch

1) House. The TV show with the delightfully misleading title. Tune in expecting home makeovers and you get more, so much more. For starters, a gimpy physician who's kind of cute in a walking, talking Bitch Slap kind of way. I mean Doc House takes bedside manner and disrespect in the workplace to unfathomable lows. And there's an ongoing subplot that suggests he himself is addicted to painkillers. Even so, you just gotta love him. He always figures out what freakishly improbable disease has taken over a patient's body, always at the eleventh hour, and always over the dead bodies of a clutch of colleagues who have proclaimed him nuts. He is. And that's why he intuits the disease of the week. He's down on the same sick level. The "wounded healer" incarnate.

1) EXtreme Makeovers (Home Edition). Admitted, the Queen for a Day slant cloys a bit and I did want to bitch-slap-into-the-middle-of-next-week that designer who put SIX TVs in a kid's room. And yes, sometimes the wallpapers chosen make me a bit seasick. But I'm a sucker for seeing, week after week, an army of decorators, armed with dynamite and color swatches, blow an unlivable hovel into smithereens only to bring it back as a particular family's idea of a dream house.

3) 60 Minutes. Andy Rooney's 5 makes the other 55 worth it.

4. Two and a Half Men. OK. Bennie dragged me in to see this one. Witness the heel marks from the computer to the TV room. But I have to admit: Gratuitous sex humor is all it's cracked up to be. I'm hooked.

4 Places I've visited

1) Graceland. Hey, that carpet in Elvis's Jungle Room looks like the stuff we carted out of the Pacifica house.

2) 1980 Picasso Retrospective, MOMA, New York. Last chance to see Guernica before it was crated and shipped back to Espana. Worth it? Yup. BIG YUP.

3) UFO Museum, Roswell, New Mexico. And I got the salt and pepper shakers to prove it.

4) The Louvre. Better than Two and a Half Men.

And I've made the Seine with real live Parisiennes. That too--all it's cracked-up to be.

But Versailles? Totally overrated. And oversized.

4 favorite foods

1) Blue corn enchiladas, smothered in smokin' hot green chile. Served with a side of posole and a basket of light-as-air sopapillas. The kind they used to serve at La Choza. That place, last time I checked, had slid backwards faster than a Baptist kid on spring break.

2) The cookies that Flannery and I make every Christmas. The Christmas skulls are an all-time favorite.

3. My grandmother's turnip greens. She would go, leaf by leaf, through a big pile of greens--she called it "a mess" of greens--remove the stems and the bigger veins, so as to maximize tenderness, place them in a large pot with water and a dollop of bacon fat and a pinch of sugar. The sugar was her secret ingredient, just a touch to do a little tango with the bitterness of the greens. She'd simmer this for the better part of a day. I could eat the whole pot of greens, and the liquid that was left in the bottom I could guzzle like a milk shake. In the south they call that left-over liquid where vegetables have simmered for hours pot liquor and they have their reasons. It's highly drinkable and will alter your senses straightaway.

4) My mother's cream-style corn. Not to be confused with that mucilaginous, sucrose-and-corn-starch-riddled mess sold in cans. Genuine cream corn is made from corn. Nothing else, except for a little water. You shuck some corn--what they call "roasting ears," remove the silk, turn each ear upright, and proceed to clip the tip off each kernel by sliding a big knife down each side. Then you scrape the husk thoroughly, getting all of the corn goo out of the crevices once occupied by the clipped kernels. That's the cream in cream-style corn. You put it all in a big skillet and cook it until it turns to this unbelievably delectable creamy concoction, chock-full of those little bits of corn you clipped so meticulously. You can add a little butter, but believe me, you don't even need that. And don't make me bitch slap you--you don't need sugar!

4 places I'd like to be right now

1) Gathering around a big table in some local-color-infused place in Tres Leches with the San Antonio Contingent.

2) Having coffee with Jo down the street from the gallery.

3) Standing in the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millennium Park, alongside my partner in life. Looking up at our reflected selves repeating, getting smaller and smaller, all the way to the vanishing point. An experience that is both disquieting and somehow reassuring.

4) Sitting in La Basilique du Sacre Coeur, listening to the nuns/angels sing the evening into being, just like that evening four years ago. The deja vu would be good for this jaded soul.

4 things I'm looking forward to this year

1) The lavender and the Jupiter's beard coming into bloom outside my studio window. Should happen next month.

2. Summer sunsets, as seen from the balcony outside our bedroom.

3) Oakley moving home for the summer. The household conversations always ratchet up several notches in the stimulation quotient when Mister Mokes is around.

4) Christmas. Can't help myself. It's always fun to add another beast to our Nativity tableau. Did I mention I've been to the UFO Museum?

And now I'm to tag four other bloggers. In keeping with the spirit of this "extra credit" assignment, I tag five:

1. Paula. And I award you the BIG E for excellent blogging.
2. Kim. And I award you the BIG E for excellent blogging.
3. Sparkling Red. And I award you the BIG E for excellent blogging.
4. John-Michael. And I award you the BIG E for excellent blogging.
5. Lime. And I award you the BIG E for excellent blogging.

Note: You don't have to include photos. That was my "extra credit" part of the assignment. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to complete the assignment. But do feel free to pass on the BIG E to other worthy bloggers. And thank you for being the excellent bloggers you are.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It Takes a Lot of Mothers to Bring up a Girl

"Mommy, today I told Mrs. Kopico I wished she was my mommy."

I gazed at 5-year-old Flannery over the kitchen table where we sat munching on after-school popcorn. She might as well have taken my heart and thrown it bouncing against the tiles of the kitchen floor like her Silly Putty. I was doing my damndest not to burst into tears. This sending your firstborn off to school was no piece of cake.

"What did Mrs. Kopico say?"

"Well, what Mrs. Kopico said was, 'I don't know what to say.' I don't believe she knew what to say. I wonder why."

Oh, my innocent daughter. Her delivery was as calm as that of a scientist who's announcing the latest lab results are statistically insignificant. Mrs. Kopico didn't know what to say. She wasn't sure why.

Well, Mrs. K and I had one thing in common. I didn't know what the hell to say either. Three days of kindergarten, and I had been knocked right off the Number One pedestal: my daughter would like to trade in her 38-year-old mommy for her teacher, the bright and shiny new Mrs. K. I wasn't about to ask her why; somehow I knew I wouldn't be up for hearing the answer. In my mind I was conjuring the fairy tale Mrs. Kopico--soft-spoken, blond of course, porcelain skin, wry little smile. Meg Ryan with a dash of Cinderella.

I wanted to change the subject. Quick.

"You know I think I like Jollytime better than the Orville Redenbacher," was my desperate topic-changing ploy.

It worked.

"Me too. This Awful Red-Biker is kind of greasy."

Thank goodness Flannery hadn't realized her mother's heart had just careened wildly from the fridge to the breakfast bar. Clearly, her intention hadn't been to hurt.

Cabrillo School Open House was two nights away. I had 48 hours to imagine every quality that Mrs. Kopico had for every quality I lacked. Of course Mrs. Kopico would come from old money. The modesty of a school teacher's wages would in no way, darlings, hinder her fashion statement. There would be a huge, pretentious scarf worn in an artful arrangement over her romantically attired, rail-thin, fresh-out-of-teaching-school body. Little girls were suckers for this kind of flamboyant dress. Mrs. K's gentle laughter would peal like temple bells in little gales of hilarity at kindergarten humor. My stomach turned over in anticipation of meeting this tart.

Friday evening rolled around. I wrestled into my Lycra-enhanced, stomach-flattening taste-exuding black-dress-for-any-occasion. We'll show this floozy a fashion statement. Terrorized, I entered Room 5.

A 40-something, slightly plump, bespectacled woman in a rather ordinary corporate suit was striding towards me, her hand outstretched, her eyes sparkling with warmth. "Wow, you must be Flannery's mom! I have really been looking forward to meeting you. Your daughter is just amazing. You must be an amazing mother." OK, so she could use a little help with accesorizing, but I knew I was in the presence of a wizard of emotional intelligence. I basked in that presence despite myself.

Beginning that night, I too was falling for Mrs. Kopico's surprising charms. She was pretty amazing herself. Not a breathy-voiced Snow White impersonator or even a Vanna White imitator, she was a middle-aged CPA in a sensible gray suit. She'd put in fifteen years at the Nestle Corporation, never had children of her own, and at the age of 40 decided she was ready to relinquish her life in feasibility studies and come back as a kindergarten teacher. Spreadsheets to finger paints. Profit projections to playground duty.

"Did you just not like accounting?" I asked her several months later at a parent-teacher conference.

"Oh, I LOVED it. I just knew there was more to me."

Indeed there was. And there was more to my little girl than perhaps even I'd realized. Mrs. K was bringing all of that out. Flannery had a knack for negotiating little disagreements between classmates. When she helped mediate one of these crises, Mrs. Kopico would issue a Positive Power slip. Every Friday Flannery could turn these in for bags of fresh-popped popcorn. My daughter was learning about earning and her mentor was a CPA who could show her a new angle, one I didn't quite have in my arsenal of mothering tricks. Oh what a relief--I wasn't on my own after all!

Mrs. K was the first of many mentor/mothers who have entered Flan's life with beautiful frequency. They have each shouldered some of the work of bringing my daughter up to be the confident, responsible, multi-talented young woman she is today. There have been physics teachers and journalism mentors and RA supervisors and ministers and research directors and recovery center bosses. Sometimes along the way, I have been able to relax and close my eyes and let those outstanding in their chosen fields work their magic:

Today a very important new "mother" is entering my daughter's life. One Pilar Sanjuan, PhD, her new boss. This is a Significant Day for my little girl. Today she starts her first official, thoroughly grown-up job. The kind that requires a college degree. The kind that requires intelligence and independence and a diversity of skills. This is the job description:

A research associate position is currently available to work with Dr. Pilar Sanjuan of the MIND Institute on research in post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. In this position, primary responsibilities will include coordinating the daily activities for these studies, such as coordinating recruitment and assessment of veterans, conducting face-to-face clinical assessments and experimental tests, managing and analyzing experimental data. This is an excellent opportunity for highly motivated individuals who are seeking to go on to graduate or medical school. Qualified hires will receive training in addictions and PTSD research with veterans, genomic data collection, and brain imaging data collection and analyses. Applicants must have bachelor's degree (or be expected to have completed a BA by June 2008) and excellent interpersonal skills. All candidates should possess strong interest, and preferably experience, in conducting PTSD, addiction, and/or neuroscientific/ neuroimaging research.

That would be my baby. My baby, who worked graveyard shifts at a recovery center the summer after her freshman year. My baby, who is currently conducting her own undergraduate research project on mental practice in the UNM psychology department. My baby, who will be accepting an Alumni Association Citizenship Award tomorrow night. My baby who is building one helluva medical school resume. Flannery, who ran her first half-marathon a couple of months ago, as though we didn't already know she's in it for the distance. That sparkling woman has come a long, long way since that kindergarten afternoon.

I too have come a long way. I look back at that afternoon and I now know that Flannery wasn't looking to replace me with Mrs. K. She was acknowledging in her five-year-old, emotionally precocious manner, that other women were entering her life, women who had certain things to offer. I am 100% secure in my status as Flannery's much-loved mother. I bask in that status and in that formidable love. But today I am having glowing thoughts of all the other "mothers," some of them male even (and certainly not excluding her incredible father), who have polished the varied, beautifully complicated facets of this young woman I am so proud to call my daughter. Thanks to these many mothers, for Flannery, life seems to come as easy as pie.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Feel-Good Friday: Gratitude with Attitude!

Yesterday I woke up feeling good. When I opened my eyes, I felt well-rested. The first thought that entered this often restless mind: Thank You for this beautiful day. Thank You for this gift of life. I'm not joking. As if Someone had taken these peaceful, all's-right-with-this-tiny-corner-of-the-world sentiments, wrapped them in Kraft paper, and sent them packing in a UPS (United Peace Service) truck to be set on my doorstep. Before my feet hit the floor, before my first sip of French roast.

And talk about cool coincidences: A few minutes later I was sipping that French roast and looking at some blog comments. 'Akelamalu--I haven't looked at her blog Everything and Nothing in a while'--that's what I was thinking. That's when I felt the pull of some gravitational force. I clicked to wander over to her place.

There I learned she'd just been awarded the Gratitude with Attitude Award. Wow, I'd like to have that one, I thought. Reading Akelamalu's post, I learned she didn't want to choose recipients and so the award was for the first 12 commenters. I was number 7. I came, I commented, I collected! It is such a fun-looking award too. It bears the name of Greatfullivin, its creator. Technically, I was awarded it by Akelamalu, who was awarded it by someone else. But Greatfullivin is the one who created it and started it circulating, so it's highly appropriate that that name remain there.

NOW, I will blindfold myself and twirl drunkenly through cyberspace. I will do this 12 times, and each time, when I open my eyes, the first blog I see will be awarded the Gratitude with Attitude Award:

1. Jo at Celebration of Life. Excellent choice, my gods of randomness. Jo suffered a series of setbacks a while back that would land many of us in a padded cell. The suicide of a spouse. A car accident she miraculously survived but with numerous serious injuries and dizzying bodily pain. A boyfriend who walked away from the accident and the relationship. The death of her mother. And look at what Jo's blog is called. Celebration of Life! She loves life and her family and her work and her home in Wyoming. And she has lost ONE HUNDRED pounds by focusing on living sweetly. That she is an inspiration is a study in understatement.

2. Meg Wolff, of becoming whole. After losing a leg to cancer, Meg took the time to grieve. Then she got back on her remaining foot, had a prothesis fitted, and put that new foot in front of the other. She kept on. Then she lost a breast. The doctor told her to make her peace with God. She did, but she knew she hadn't completed her work here on this earth. She wanted to be the strongest, healthiest Meg possible, so she began learning all she could about nourishing her body. She started eating a macrobiotic diet. She began to radiate health and happiness. She authored books about her experiences with cancer. She authored cookbooks about her new way of eating. Several years later, after that close call with death, she says she feels healthier than she ever has in her life. Yes, she glows!

3. JS, of Influx Transposer. I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds in calling attention to a blogger who chooses to author her blog anonymously. A few months ago we were talking about animal spirit helpers here at A Life with a View. JS commented that she was curious as to what hers might be. I immediately thought of a giraffe. JS sticks her neck out to live her life as authentically as possible. For one, she's a lesbian who has chosen to raise a family with her partner. For another, she's a devout Episcopalian who feels led to the ministry. Now, the Episcopal church doesn't officially condone gay clergy. Why does she remain in such a church? Why, I assume, to lead by example. That's what I call courage. That's what I call "GREATful living."

4. Mima, of Mima's Doings. A world traveler and adventurer--she's the one who gave Bennie and me the hint about snorkeling in the Yucatan--Mima was diagnosed with MS a while back. Now, because of immobilizing pain, she seldom leaves the house except for doctor appointments and the occasional, heavily medicated visit to relatives. But she writes a blog about her "doings." She is still quite the adventurer, although her journeys now are more often of the reflective, interior kind. She also regularly circles the globe, calling on blogs, dropping off dazzling comments that make us grin from ear to ear. An unselfish bearer of good cheer, Mima is a woman who is determined to live well. And yes, she does!

5. Angel, of Life Is a Gift from God. Need I say more? Angel's blog title says it all.

6. Whim, of The Babblings of a Whimsical-Brainpan. Survived a horrific fire. Sustained equally horrific losses in body and spirit. Writing a book about it all. Cheering on the rest of us bloggers.

7. Calamity Jane, of Medication Time. Hilarious ROFLMAO writing by one who is cooling her heels, awaiting a kidney transplant. No, I'm not kidding.

8. Jeff, of A Word in Edgewise. The kind of guy you'd love to have living next door. An unassuming family man who loves baseball and writes about it beautifully. As a kid, he endured countless operations for a cleft palate and instead of looking back on his painful childhood with self-pity, he jumps for joy to be "average-looking." He's modest. He's very cute.

9. Heather, of Bad Kitty Art Studio. Like all of us, she's had her share of troubles. Right now her loving husband is working his a** off to find work. You see, the family recently pulled up roots and relocated for him to take a particular job, but now the company's had to cut back and so that particular job is gone. So Heather is churning out paintings at a frantic clip as well as clearing her studio of unsold pieces. There are kids to be fed, rent to be paid. Rather than assuming the Injured Artist pose, Heather is rolling up her sleeves and having a garage sale. Incredible buys on wonderful things.

10. Sometimes Saintly Nick, of Nick's Bytes. Retired pastoral counselor. Recently had to begin using oxygen. Posts hilarious jokes on Mondays. Looks unflinchingly at the injustice and pain in the world and reminds us to Do Something. Writes with great love about his boss and spiritual nemesis, Alex the feline. Come to think of it, Nick is more than sometimes saintly. Try frequently.

11. Sandi, of Holding Patterns. Retired cop, wife, mother, and grandmother. Dealing with RA. Celebrates the fact that gun-carrying is no longer in her job description but is not too sentimental to deliver a well-placed left hook when it's called for.

12. Carol of Carol for Peace. Like Nick, Carol reminds us to do something to right the wrongs in the world. She also shares her beautifully written reflections on the natural world, accompanied by photographs that celebrate the quiet beauty in the world. That goes for Carol herself. Hers is a quiet beauty.

Wow. That's 12 already? So many "greatful" bloggers left unsung. You know who you are.