Thursday, September 21, 2017

Looking on the bright side

"There are flowers everywhere for those who want to see them." ~Henri Matisse

At Greenfield Village / Cindy La Ferle

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Watching what we say

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” ~ Rudyard Kipling 

At Leo's Coney Island in Royal Oak  / Cindy La Ferle

Words matter. Language is one of the most powerful gifts we have -- a gift that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Whether we're swearing in public, reporting fake news, labeling each other, spraying graffiti on walls, shouting one-sided opinions, spouting unsolicited criticism or spreading gossip, words matter. 

Words can dampen a good mood or soothe an aching soul. Words can tear people down or lift them up. Words can mend relationships or tear them apart. Words can ignite war or inspire peace. We must choose our words wisely and use them with care. ~CL

Monday, September 18, 2017

Art journaling workshops

"Every child is an artist. The challenge is how to remain an artist once we grow up." ~Pablo Picasso

Cindy La Ferle

For the past couple of weeks I've been making big splashes with watercolors and polishing my art journal techniques for a new two-part workshop I'll be teaching this fall at the Royal Oak Public Library. 
A page from my art journal / Cindy La Ferle

"The Joys of Art Journaling" will be held on Tuesdays, October 3 and 10, from 7:00 - 8:30pm in the Royal Oak Public Library Auditorium. The library will provide basic art supplies -- markers, crayons, glue sticks, colored pencils and magazine images. You'll bring your own composition book, blank journal, or the sketchbook of your choice. You can also bring fabric scraps, old greeting cards, photocopies, and any other art supplies you'll need for your journal.

Another page from my art journal/ Cindy La Ferle

Art journaling combines journal- keeping practices with a variety of mixed-media art and craft techniques. But it's really more about art than writing -- and can serve as a personal tool for self-discovery or creative inspiration.   

Designed for those who want to learn the basics of art journaling, this class is part of my mission to help others express their own creativity.  No experience is necessary and coloring outside the lines is encouraged.  

Enrollment is limited (registration required), so please plan to attend both Tuesday evening workshops if you register. The class is free to the public. For more details and to register, please visit the ROPL site here

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to dress for the day

"If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." ~Roald Dahl

Shopping in Saugatuck / Cindy La Ferle

Friday, September 15, 2017

Finding the way back home

"This is the bright home in which I live, this is where I ask my friends to come." ~David Whyte
Morning in Vinsetta Park / Cindy La Ferle

So many of you emailed me after reading Wednesday's post about the anniversary of my mother's death. Thank you so much for your words of comfort, and for sharing your own stories of parent loss with me. A few of you also asked where to find the David Whyte poem that was read by my son at my mother's funeral, so I'm sharing it here... 
The House of Belonging
By David Whyte
I awoke this morning
 in the gold light
 turning this way
 and that

thinking for
 a moment
 it was one
 like any other.

 the veil had gone
 from my
 darkened heart
 I thought

it must have been the quiet
 that filled my room,

it must have been
 the first
 easy rhythm
 with which I breathed
 myself to sleep,

it must have been
 the prayer I said
 speaking to the otherness
 of the night.

 I thought
 this is the good day
 you could
 meet your love,

this is the gray day
 someone close
 to you could die.

This is the day
 you realize
 how easily the thread
 is broken
 between this world
 and the next

and I found myself
 sitting up
 in the quiet pathway
 of light,

the tawny
 close grained cedar
 burning round
 me like fire
 and all the angels of this housely
 heaven ascending
 through the first
 roof of light
 the sun has made.

This is the bright home
 in which I live,
 this is where
 I ask
 my friends
 to come,
 this is where I want
 to love all the things
 it has taken me so long
 to learn to love.

This is the temple
 of my adult aloneness
 and I belong
 to that aloneness
 as I belong to my life.

There is no house
 like the house of belonging.

This poem is excerpted from River Flow and The House of Belonging by David Whyte. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September memories

"When a mother dies, we lose of a piece of who we are. We lose the person whose story provides the beginning of our own, whose sense of self greatly influences who we are." ~Peggy Heinzmann Ekerdt

My mother as a young girl with Sonny. 

I like to think of September as my mother's month. She was born in September and died in September, and I still recall her singing the lyrics to "Try to Remember" (from The Fantasticks) when I'd play it on the piano in the living room of my girlhood home. Just as my mother did, I love the burst of creative energy this month brings; the way it feels more like the start of a season rather than the ending of one.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother's death. Through the lens of retrospect, I see that I've been grieving multiple losses: the emotional loss of the mother I knew before dementia changed her, the physical loss of my mother when she died, and the loss of my role as a daughter.  

As the cliche goes, time heals all wounds -- yet I don't believe for a moment that we ever fully recover from our most painful family losses. We adapt to those losses, and maybe even grow stronger from them, but our lives are forever changed when the people we love are no longer with us.    

In the last seven years of her life, my mother's personality and mental outlook were constantly challenged by chronic illness, severe hearing loss, and vascular dementia.

But no matter how much memory she lost, she never forgot that she wanted stay in her own home. In the early stages of her illness, I tried my best to make that possible. Because she was widowed and lived alone, I hired visiting nurses and part-time caregivers to help keep her safe in her own place. Living nearby, I cleaned her house, took her grocery shopping, supervised her daily medications, and drove her to her various medical appointments. And I worried about her every minute of the day.

A broken ankle eventually put her in a wheelchair for good, and by that time, it would have been impossible for her to remain at home without a full-time team of skilled nurses. Regardless, she insisted that she was capable of taking care of herself. She didn't believe that she couldn't walk, nor did she understand why she wasn't allowed to drive anymore. As her dementia progressed, we had to place her in a nursing home, where she told everyone I was "imprisoning" her -- and that I'd stolen her car.

The close relationship we'd once enjoyed was sorely tested then. She was bitter and frightened; I was tired and angry. Our quality time together was mostly spent in hospital emergency rooms and doctors' offices. For all that, there was no remedy for her heart disease or the dementia that warped her sense of reality.

In those days, I was fueled by stress and caffeine. Consumed by the management of my mother's ongoing medical crises, I lost sight of how much I missed my "real" mom -- the woman who had given so much to our family, hosted Sunday dinners and holidays, shopped with me, nursed me back to health after two hip surgeries, and listened with an open heart to all of my troubles and triumphs.

In her final months, she had no idea that I was struggling to keep her comfortable, or that my heart was breaking too. Every time I said good-bye to her in the nursing home, I backed away with regret. I felt helpless and ashamed in the face of her fear and unhappiness -- and I knew she still blamed me for the sad fact that she wasn't living in her own home.  

I was depressed for more than a year after my mother died. Most people seem surprised when I admit that, although a handful of dear souls who know me best could see that I wasn't myself. During that time, I went about the lonely business of cleaning out my mother's home and sorting through her belongings, dutifully preparing for an estate sale. To cope, I simply numbed out.

As the months drifted by, I revisited memories of the mother I knew and loved before dementia changed everything. Emerging from the fog of grief, I began to find her in the keepsakes she'd given me over the years. The good times associated with those lovely things, including old photographs, came back into focus. 

I remembered, too, that my mother had a history and dreams of her own -- long before she gave birth to me. In several of my favorite photos, she's posing with Sonny, her beloved collie dog, and I've often wished she could have met Coco, the sweet shepherd I adopted three years ago from a rescue shelter. 

Finally, in my mind's eye, I was able to see my mother as so much more than the frightened, fading woman I left in a hospital bed in a nursing home.

Cleaning my bookshelves one afternoon, I found the last birthday card my mother remembered to send me before her illness took hold.  Its Hallmark verse read: Daughter, Yours is a place on earth that no one else could fill.... yours is a love that no one else could give. Even more than the day you came into this world ... I love you. 

Then, in her delicate handwriting, she signed off in her own words, "You have given me so much pleasure, and I am so very proud of you, Love, Mom."  

That was the mother I want to remember, always, and I keep this card where I can see it every day.  ~CL

(To read the eulogy I wrote for my mother's funeral three years ago, please click here.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

One step at a time

"Every positive step you take is actually a heroic leap forward—no matter how insignificant it seems. And if you can add some loving kindness to the mix, you'll move mountains." ~Kris Carr

Cindy La Ferle