Monthly Archives: August 2019

Wills and Trusts…

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When I was a little girl, my mother talked to me often as if I were an adult. I didn’t always understand what she was talking about – adult subjects and language being so sophisticated and all – but I enjoyed having her focus on me so I just didn’t do anything to make her think I wasn’t interested. In the years that followed, I continued to be her confidante, sometimes a confusing and double-edged sword which I tried to diplomatically cover as best I could to spare everyone pain.

My older sister and my mother didn’t often spend time “chewing the fat” because my sister had her own agenda and rarely had the patience to sit and listen to story after story for hours. It didn’t really occur to me that by virtue of being a good listener and taking time to listen to my mother, I was unwittingly becoming a kind of chronicler for the family archives. After my mother passed away in 2018, I honestly believed I would be able to write her biography. I have not been able to put myself in the right frame of mind to begin doing so.

My parents were typical, hard-working, middle class people who came from very little but amassed a modest fortune and property that they intended on leaving their four children. For some reason (perhaps a fear that making a will would make them die that much sooner) my parents never made a formal will. Their properties in another country were “donated” to us years ago so that is not an issue, but they have one house that has not been willed to anyone. One of my siblings died last year and now three of us are left. Because of my attachment to my parents and their certainty in my integrity, I am the one that was authorized to help with their banking. It was also a matter of practicality: I was the one geographically close to them, I have never been estranged from them – taking a 6 month absence while I underwent therapy doesn’t count – and I have always been very, very responsible. They knew what they were doing and I have done my job honestly, efficiently and well.

The death of my eldest sibling did not affect me as it should have. I had no idea that she was ill but her lifestyle choices had never been optimal and her death did not surprise me. She and I were not on speaking terms when she died and although I feel some guilt about that, I have not been able to conjure more than passing grief that she left us just months after our mother died. Our father, though frail, continues to enjoy pretty good health and at 90 can still get around and manage his daily routines. This will not last forever.

My passion in life has been to entertain. I originally wanted to do it from a stage, as a comic, or a singer, or a storyteller. I have also always wanted to write and in fact, write every single day either in my blogs, on paper or in my head. My recent attendance at a Writers Digest Conference opened my eyes to the fact that I have never taken the time to figure out what it is I want to do with my writing. This is something that I need to address so I can get going. I am currently working on two novels but all the workshops and conferences emphasized the importance of being clear on what it is your intended purpose is in order to get going. It seems there are many different ways of attaining success but one thing is very clear, personal participation in the process from writing to publishing to marketing is dependent on the single creator: me! It is at once an overwhelming sensation and also a very comforting one since it means I am in control of the situation, if you will.

But back to my parents and wills…mental health issues abound in my family. I believe myself to be pretty healthy (is that a sign of mental health or a delusion?). My younger sister is paranoid. There is no way to rose color that. We don’t see each other very often. When we do see each other, I am often on the defensive, not knowing what word or subject will trigger her paranoia. Fortunately, I am getting older and less willing to be spoken to in any old way. I asked her today to meet me so I could show her a document I need to present on her behalf to the Municipal authorities in that other country for tax purposes. My idea was that I could present it for her because I live in said foreign country. Her immediate (and not surprising) response was that she would not be bringing her identification, that she wanted to talk about what she was signing and that she would rather fly and sign the documentation herself. I have no stake in the thing, that is fine. In the past, I might have been hurt or felt like she was accusing me of something. Now I just remember who she is, who I am and that mental health issues are often not as evident from the outside. It is sad and worrisome but I can handle it.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Self-Esteem is an Issue

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I just spent a good 30 minutes reading all about Karen Carpenter. What did I come away with? That her issues were caused by a strong desire to get the attention of her dismissive mother. How sad, the mother had ample physical evidence and yet chose to be blind as her daughter lost pound after pound. It is heartbreaking and even more disturbing is the fact that even today, despite all we know, there are many many mothers (and fathers) making mistakes that could easily be corrected. Sometimes I wonder what gets into people’s minds when they decide to have children. Then I stop myself and remember that everyone has their own path to follow and it is not my place to be a judge.

Karen Carpenter was beautiful, talented and had no idea of her value. Self-esteem is nurtured in childhood. By her brother’s own account, no one was paying too much attention as Karen dwindled into a waif and then disappeared. I wonder at her perseverance. Having always had a weight problem (but not a body image one, since I accept what I look like!), I know how difficult it is to lose weight. Although I learned early on (from WW) all about sound nutrition for safe and slow weight loss, I can admit to crash dieting, starving and a very minute foray into bulimia. I was too scared to make a habit out of laxatives or vomiting because my desire to live (fat or thin) trumped everything. I thank my lucky stars that this is my way because fat and thin – well, normal weight – I have lived a very good life. It seems like it would be an easy thing to do, boost one’s child self-esteem by just telling the child he/she is loved for just breathing, but it would appear that many people who have children just repeat the same patterns they were brought up in even though in their deepest recesses they can accept these were not healthy. I sincerely hope that all the literature that abounds will one day reach the ears, eyes, and minds of all the people who find it imperative to continue to bring infants into the world.

I am not by nature a fan of dystopia but I can see the downward spiral we are succumbing to. I hope we can stop before it is too late.

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Sharing our bounty!

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Of all the things I know I will never be is a painter…and how I wish I could be. “They” say one can learn to do these things but I always have felt that art has to come with you, it can’t be learned, it has to be felt.

I am learning to play the guitar and have an amateur’s skill on a few songs after hours of practice. I do write and occasionally do come up with an incredible sentence but I know that can never happen with painting. I can copy, I can trace, I can paint by number but never, ever will I be “free” enough to feel that I can just go “en plein air”,  set up my easel, grab paper and paint and just do it. There are so many other things that I am fairly accomplished at, why is it that I focus my frustrations on the things that I know will never be mine in this lifetime? Human nature, I suppose.

Today, the woman who comes to my house once a week to do some housekeeping (thank goodness) was observing the state of my house plants. I have an amazing (and growing) collection of African Violets that I am very proud of. They are responding to my attention and it makes me feel good to have their energy and colors around me most of the year.

After several years of unsuccessfully attempting to propagate new plants from leaves, I have experienced the exhilaration of seeing at least 6 offspring bloom from one of my favorite purple specimens. I hate to part with any of my babies, but the crowding in their space has caused tiny little white spots to appear, an alarm indicating they are getting too moist…I have begun to part with a few of my prized possessions to make it possible for more air to circulate. The two persons I have given these plants to are avid gardeners so I am certain that the plants will continue to thrive under their care. It was hard to part with them, but in the end I know it was the right choice for us all.

I am feeling very accomplished and although I will never be able to sit and paint one of my breathtaking creations, I have plenty of artist friends who can do that for me. Let me revel in the knowledge that propagating African Violets successfully has made me feel very talented!

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African violet picture my own