I’m always seeking something grander and larger than myself in this world. No, not someone taller than me because that is pretty much everyone. I’m talking about something even bigger: I want my spirituality back. I want my spirituality back like Stella Got Her Groove Back. I know it is possible. I remember sitting in the various college chapels and really feeling a warmth in my heart. It was not heartburn, but a true radiating warmth in my chest that I visualized looking like the sun. I want to get that back again.
There are times when I begin to feel my spirit come back. It comes in flashes like when I helped an imprisoned man learn more about his family through documents held in my library. There is the beauty of the sun, a smile and laugh with friends, or a quick glance at a piece of art or photography. All of these things are terrifically special to me, but never seem to be enduring. I guess because in some way I know I will always help people, as it is my nature, and I will find special hidden “Easter Eggs” that bring me joy so long as I seek them out.
I am just thinking this through, as I write, but you have to seek the higher power if you wish to uncover it. Seek it or know it exists inside, and trust that it will remain there if the belief is maintained. Trust.
Where is this going, right? Come along for the journey as I trust in the writing process to discover that which I know still lies in my heart.
I had an experience recently that was as close to a visit from a higher power than I believe I have ever experienced. I encountered a seagull. Typically, I yell at them to “shoo,” and can’t stand the unwashed masses that feed them, but this gull was different. He was just completely, ontologically, there. I sat on my beach chair next to my car, and looked up from time to time from my book. The gull walked over to the front of the car, then out away from the car about four feet, then back toward me and the back of the car, always keeping an appropriate boundary between us. Then, his friends flew in, about ten seagulls, to the patch of sand just to the left of the car. They canvassed the area looking for food, or more likely, someone to feed them. I looked back at my book, shifted around in my seat, and changed the channel on Pandora as I saw they were still milling around. I wasn’t thrilled that they had arrived, but they were respecting my space. Soon, two or three at a time, they flew away, leaving only the one seagull left: my seagull. I knew it was him because his coloring was quite unique, and I have a great eye for costume, hue, and plumage. I nodded to him, and he paced back up to the front of my car, and then back a bit to the center patch of sand. My attention returned to my book, the music (now Bill Evans, Miles Davis’ piano player), the waves, sun, and sand. The next, and final time, I looked up the seagull was gone. I felt a little sad. He (or she) had been with me the whole hour I had been at the beach. Ten minutes later I got up to retrieve something from my car, on the ground I found a single, seagull feather. The feather seemingly came out of nowhere. It certainly was not there when I sat down. It could have come from only one place: my one and only seagull. I picked it up and placed it inside the flyleaf of my new journal.
The last two months have been rough, really horrid, so to see this sign of hope and spirit was exceptionally meaningful. It meant that it was possible to be the girl with the sun in her heart once again. It meant if I sought out a path to spirituality that worked for me I could have, dare I say, faith again. I could trust in, and return onto, a path to some contentment and peace.
I learned and felt this through a seagull. I’ll never call them “flying rats” again out of respect for my special friend, who is out there tonight, flying over me, keeping watch.
“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ” — J.M. Barrie Peter Pan
I borrowed someone’s camera lens while at the game on Saturday where the Red Sox faced the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park. This is one of the great shots I was able to get with the lens. I dedicate it to a dear friend who has been very kind in keeping in touch with me, making sure I am okay, and just plain being an awesome support to me week in and week out. Thank you so much. This ones for you.
My friend described the Citgo sign as the North Star of Boston, and cited the above quotation from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan with regard to the sign. This description and its pairing with literature really brought me to tears when my friend shared it with me in December 2012. The Citgo sign was no more than a Boston icon to me until December. It just goes to show you how different perspectives reap great rewards. All the more reason to surround one self with inspiring, perceiving, and emotionally aware individuals.
It amazes me what my brain can do while I am asleep. My brain reinforces my need for art, architecture, and design. I crave creativity so much that I cannot shut that part of myself off. I know only other creative types understand this phenomenon. I take great solace in knowing I am not alone. Many of us are dying inside because of our jobs, our day-to-day lives, and responsibilities. This dream reminded me that I need to go to the museum more often. I need to draw, take photos, and muck about with paints. I need to immerse myself in these things so I know that I am alive.
I dream in architecture. A perfect example was last night’s dream.
In my dream I was in bed, and woke up in a swanky 1950s Art Deco style hotel, only to find that the walls all around my room were torn down and I could see the steel beams inside the walls. Through them I could see other rooms they were refurbishing. Furniture more appropriate for a dorm room, bunk beds, simple desks made of pale beige wood, sprayed shiny with fire retardant, were set up. I looked up and ceiling of the building seemed miles away. Then I looked to my right to find that part of the wall further down had begun to be plastered, soon the absent work men would be right in front of my large king bed, plastering the space around the exposed steel beams in front of me. The building itself felt gutted, empty, and lacking any aesthetic quality, as I sat in my room filled with some art deco suave.
Then of course, the inevitable escape from the room took place. This is inevitable because it happens in all my dreams. I run through buildings. I left to go get something to eat at a lunch counter. After I ordered my sandwich, I realized I forgot something in my room, most likely money. Then I was lost. I didn’t know how to get back to my room, which forced me on a journey through all of these other buildings and places. Everything was connected by the hotel, so presumably all the places were in this sprawling hotel. I went through lobbies padded with mauve and maroon, velvet covered chairs and walls. All dimly lit, filled with people in 1940s and 1950s style dress. Restaurants, and nightclubs, and a shoeshine man were all throughout the hotel. I went into a 50s style diner, a sort of speak easy type, bar/jazz club with both dim and bright lights, and men and women sitting around drinking. There was a deli that looked very much like one I had seen off Broadway in New York City, on one of the streets near the Millennium Hotel. I think around 52nd or 55th streets. I finally came to a soap and apothecary type store, modern day, not of the time I previously ventured. I looked at the various soaps, candles, lotions, and liquids wanting to buy something, but having no money I could not. I asked the store clerk, “How do I get back to my hotel. I’m lost.” He replied in a cheerful mood (probably hoping I would come back to purchase something), “Why, it is just over there, take a left then another left.” I went outside into the street and then quickly back inside the hotel again, as he directed, and found that I had just run in a complete circle. I quickly realized this as I got back to the place where I purchased something to eat. I went up to my room, said hello to someone in the hallway. Upon entering my room, I could no longer see through the walls. Everything was the same, very plush and comfortable.
I promptly collapsed on my bed exhausted from the journey, and woke up.
It is truly an amazing thing when someone sees something in you which you do not see in yourself.
I am reminded from time to time of a professor that I had at Holy Cross. She passed away a couple years ago. Not unlike the other professors at Holy Cross she was a tour de force. She changed the way I saw the world as so many others did during those years. We first encountered one another during an evening showing of a documentary on Robert Motherwell, an abstract expressionist painter. I don’t remember if she ran the discussion after the documentary, or if she was in the audience. I know I said something that I still believe to be true today about how abstract expressionism is the by-product of the artist’s pure emotion. Rather than paint a story to elicit emotion from the viewer, the artist shows angst, joy, and sadness in the lines and shapes. The jagged or curved edges communicate on an emotion to emotion level. This relieves the left side of the brain of its need to process the storytelling of, let’s say, a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo and transmit it to the right side of the brain. I know I stated it far more succinctly in the classroom that day. Anyway, I guess this particular professor liked the response. She came up to me as I was packing up my notebook. She told me what I had to contribute to the discussion was excellent. Then she invited me to take her architecture seminar during what would be my final undergraduate semester. Seminars were slightly higher level classes, which I thought at the time one had to be selected by the professor to elect. I was wrong, but it still felt pretty great to be asked to join the class. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
I had always thought that Holy Cross was way out of my league. After all, I had not read the canon that all these prep school kids did. I certainly did not have the test scores, and at best my high school grades were average. During the admissions interview, I must have done something right, because come the following March I received the big envelope. Three years later, with this dear professor, I had the same experience, the seal of approval that I was all right. Still, most of the time I feel all wrong. Thus, it is necessary to look back at times like these to remember that the better judge of my worth is reflected back to me by others.
Today, I pay homage to her and all the others and whisper a quiet “Thank you.”
I probably should have become a young adult librarian. Instead, I am archivist. And, no that does not mean I work with bones. I work with papers and records, not library books.
I love young adult novels. Always have and always will. I started, back in the day, with Avi. The author wrote some great books. They were just dark enough and held plenty of mystery and intrigue. Some of the titles that were my favorites were The Truth About Charlotte Doyle, Blue Heron, and The Man that Was Poe, to name a few. Now, these books were written well before the Harry Potter and Twilight boom. They were pretty innocent, unlike Twilight’s series filled with hormone fueled sexual tension between vampires and humans. Lois Lowry is another writer that stands out to me from my youth. Lowry wrote The Giver, Number the Stars and others that changed my perspective on life and history.
Today, I am still a proud reader of these books. Recently, a new genre emerged called New Adult. Topics are racier, darker, and sometimes intensely scary. I love the new voices, though. The writing is superb. Cora McCormack’s Losing It is a great book, which I could not put down while on a vacation in January. If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch, had my undivided attention. I got lost in that book. She kept the suspense going all while writing extraordinarily strong prose.
Speaking of good prose, I believe the writing bar was raised by J.K. Rowling. I have enjoyed the Harry Potter series so much, despite being a reluctant late comer. Another great voice is R.J. Palacio, a woman who wrote a book called Wonder about a boy with a craniofacial difference, inspired by a trip she took with her children to an ice cream shop. Palacio saw that her children stared at a child with a facial difference and felt compelled to write a book that has inspired an entire population of young adults living with these conditions. Thank you, R.J.
I know all the books and emerging authors well, thanks to http://www.goodreads.com among a handful of other websites. I know I could find the right book for each tween or teen that would enter the library solely devoted to young adult books that exists only in my mind. Adults may come in too. We have seen more and more adults reading young adult books. Twilight, The Hunger Games, and others that they may not lay claim to devouring, surreptitiously on their Kindles.
They are fun and easy reads. After all, reading is about enjoyment, escapism, and allowing our imaginations run amok. Reality can be harsh. Why not slip on out of it for a bit.
Yup, I think I would make a good young adult librarian…or bookstore purveyor. Hmm..now there’s an even better idea.
P.S. How could I forget my most recent read Evan Roskos pitch perfect Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, where he seamlessly weaves in quotations from Walt Whitman’s poems into a plot about a depressed, teenage boy from a troubled home that seeks therapeutic help from an imaginary doctor, Dr. Bird. In the end, he is saved by his “Barbaric Yawp” and the creativity that he finds within himself.
Service work is so important to me. I was born with cleft lip and palate that required many surgeries, countless procedures, loads of appointments, and don’t forget the orthodontic interventions as well. I had braces twice, one set for 12 years. I do not know how many surgeries I have had. I am never sure to count the oral surgery appointments as surgeries. I guess I do. What does all this have to go with service work? I feel compelled to give back to the medical community that gave me so much: the craniofacial community (way to bury the lead, sister!)
I just came back from a trip to Orlando, FL to support an organization out of Texas called the Children’s Craniofacial Association. It was an emotional experience. I met parents. I spoke with kids, and young adults. The organization contacted me back in October to come to their annual retreat. I presented for them in June of 2010. Both this year’s retreat and the one in 2010 were nothing short of amazing. These young adults are strong. They are kind, innocent, but more than anything willing to laugh, live, and love despite what life has thrown their way. And boy, has life thrown truckloads their way. Look up Crouzon’s Syndrome. Look up Trecher Collins. Look up Apert’s and Pfeiffer Syndrome and you will see the cards these kids were dealt. Go on, do it. Now think about it, really think about it. Think about walking around in their shoes for just one day to experience the bullying, the whispering, the anger, the sadness, and yes, even the joy. Yes, the attendees of this retreat were quite happy. They made lots of noise. I am told they nearly broke the ballroom dance floor during the dinner dance on Saturday night. I was not there for the dinner.
How could I not give back? I was only affected with cleft lip and palate. These young adults and kids were born with cleft lip and palates, and then some additional craniofacial syndromes.
Parents, if you are reading this, and your kid is healthy, then you are very blessed. If you think your job as a parent is hard. It is. But it is nothing compared to what these parents and families have been through day to day, year to year. If you whine about feeding issues, and breastfeeding; it is okay. Remember, it is a privilege to voice your emotions. Just keep in mind other children have failure to thrive issues and some are unable to breathe. Google infant feeding tube, or pediatric tracheotomy, and get the needed perspective.
Women and men out there that do not like their appearance, your weight, nose, your breast, calf sizes, and other features, take a second and be grateful that any improvements you wish to make are by choice, not by necessity. I am just as guilty as you as far as concern about my weight. Walking and talking with the participants in this retreat puts everything into perspective. They are, for once, among their peers, when they are together on retreat. And you better believe they are not bullied for their weight, or breast size. If ever a young person says to me that they want to get a nose job, or points out some small difference to their appearance that the naked eye cannot see, I tell them to go to their nearest children’s hospital and sit in the lobby for half an hour. That puts everything in perspective. I have done it, too. It works.
It is hard to believe in God when surrounded by children and young adults with these disorders and syndromes. Yet, I do. I see that God chose the right parents, parents that could handle the work involved in raising children with craniofacial syndromes. The families are nothing short of saints. If it were not for my Mom and Dad, I do not know how I would have turned out. If I were one bassinet over, how different would my life be today? I believe dramatically different. It is true what they say, God will give you only what you can handle. These parents and families were specifically and specially chosen to serve the world through caring for their kids.
These parents can go the extra mile, or miles. I asked during one of the sessions for parents, what they do for self-care. I didn’t get too many definitive answers. To be honest with you, I did not expect any of them to have a self-care routine. Everything is about their children. Like my mother, they just kept going like the Energizer Bunny as the hits kept on coming, and head to bed at 7:30PM. There is no time to think of themselves.
Of course, I want to give back, to get some perspective through this work to this community. I hope I touched at least one families lives. I believe I have helped some people. Now, the question is, where else and how else, can I help young adults in this community. Young adults in the craniofacial community are in dire need of attention. Everything about their bodies is changing, hormones are raging, and kids with craniofacial conditions realize that they are coming to a point where they want some independence, but also need the help of their parents to cope. They are becoming more aware of their bodies and those of their peers. They have a foot in both the adult and child worlds. The child world because they are still dependent on their parents When at this crossroads it can be difficult how to deal with how one looks when everyone else is coming into the changes within their own bodies, too. The question of “who I am?” is a daunting one for this community. How can your appearance not define you? It’s tough to answer these questions alone, but in a group it is possible. That is the gift that the CCA retreats provide to these young adults and parents. I was so glad to be a part of it, again, this year.
Now, I just need to figure out what I can do, here, at home in New England.