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And So, We Begin Again….

July 16, 2012 3 comments

In the days unfolding after the birth of my first greatnephew, I am filled with thoughts of what this means….

Though I was nearly the youngest in my own family even among the extended generation, I was still one of the first to become an aunt. My first nephew was almost too heavy for me to lift even at less than 7 pounds. As several others followed after him they got progressively easier to carry.

Now, nearly 40 years after that firstborn, a new generation has begun in my family and as I look back over the travails that got us to this point I have some thoughts for the new parents of this sweet gift of renewal about how we went about surviving long enough to continue the family name in the person of my newborn greatnephew….

My 9-year-old self who was an aunt for the first time held the weight of a new life in my inexperienced hands, afraid that I would drop him. He wiggled and jiggled and did his best to escape my grasp. I put him down and to my surprise, he stopped struggling. There will be times all throughout your boy’s life when you will want to give up because you can’t control his movements and in those moments you will have to let him go with your arms even as you hold him tighter with your hearts. Don’t be afraid to release him gently to the world.

There may be others who follow him and they will all be different no matter how consistent you try to be. Who they become may be in absolute defiance of what you would have wanted for them, but trust that this is who they were meant to be regardless of outcome, and understand that no circumstance, no matter how painful, is without value. Someone else’s life story relies on the whole unfolding as it must.

For you as parents, though it may sound overly dramatic, this is your first step toward obsolescence. Instead of living for yourselves, you have now stepped aside and accepted that your lives are about supporting the greater good as it manifests through your child. Your dreams, through your children, must not be played out literally but rather as wisdom. You will need to put aside your own failures and personal tragedies in order to offer up a clean slate that still bears the chalk dust of those who have gone before but stands ready for this child to make his own mark.

Share with this boy all that you are, but know at the end of the day that the most important part of who you are right now is a parent. Be kind but be firm. Be wise but be willing to learn. Be amazed and delighted, and comfort him as he struggles to grow. And for yourselves, be renewed through all that he is.

Thank you for the reminder that all of us live on through those who follow and our stories become their heritage. Let us all remember what our lives mean to others as they pick and choose their way to their own legacy. May we all be the examples of survival and triumph they need to inspire them forward.

And most of all, may your sweet young family bring you more joy than you ever imagined it could…..

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Categories: Good Stuff, Life

Open Window Season and The Lonely Bullfrog

March 27, 2011 6 comments

So, you didn’t think we had seasons here in Florida? Bah! Of course we do!

We have “Hot” season and “Not Hot” season (I don’t dare call it Cold for fear of being laughed at) and sometimes we get really lucky and have something wonderful in between. I call it “Open Window Season”, that brief period when the breezes blow cool enough to trigger neither the heat nor the air conditioning.

At night during Open Window season, I lie awake and listen to the sounds of the pond out in back. All manner of creatures are waking up from their hibernation, rehearsing their little songs in preparation for the full-on Hot Season cacophony that can rouse the comatose even through closed windows. I swear there is a conductor out there who starts and stops the chorus as he pleases and only seems to want to perfom “O Fortuna” from Orff’s “Carmina Burana”.

The sounds during Open Window season are shy, as if no one dares be the first to sing a wrong note. They sound croaky and rusty and the prima donna peepers don’t seem to have shown up yet; something is distinctly missing in the treble register. Still, the altos and tenors manage a silly warm-up full of self-conscious giggling.

But there is one big frog out there, a basso profundo whose voice is so deep and robust that everyone else stops singing when he starts. I imagine their little froggy faces, mouths agape, looking at each other with wide eyes whispering “Who’s THAT?” It makes me think of those times in our little New England church when my vocally gifted mezzo-soprano sister would show up and put the rest of us to such shame that we hid our faces behind our hymnals. We didn’t dare let her hear our croaking.

I listen to that bullfrog out there, belting out his deep brassy tones, and I feel a little sorry for him. Perhaps he was a boy soprano last year and he is simply trying to join in the joyful noises of his old friends. The size of his voice is like the adolescent boy who grew 5 sizes bigger than his friends over the summer and doesn’t know how to adjust his changed voice to match theirs. He feels like a big buffoon. Maybe to hide his righteous shame, he has become a “bully-frog” and uses his voice to drown out the others on purpose.

He sounds so lonely…

But slowly, one after another, the tiny frogs begin to sing again, beeping and squawking and nyuk-nyuk-nyuking until the big bullfrog is invited back into their chorus, his voice again blending into their song and bringing a depth they hadn’t imagined from him before.

I love Open Window rehearsal season. It allows me to get to know the singers and familiarize myself with their repertoire so that I can appreciate their crazy concerts that keep me awake during the hot summer nights.

Love is….

February 14, 2011 3 comments

“If they find our bodies, they’ll be able to identify us by our mittens.”

That’s how we encouraged ourselves as we contemplated a path through the woods that cut across a nearby neighborhood. Though it looked sunny and safe, we imagined the possibilities for violent mayhem that could be visited on a couple of unsuspecting middle-aged women out for a Saturday morning stroll. We were dressed for the excursion in our jeans and hooded sweatshirts which did a fair job of disguising our gender and age. Sunglasses added to the illusion that perhaps we were the bad guys. The only thing that gave us away were our mittens; the fingerless kind, knitted by my mother for Christmas in bright, happy colors — not the sort a hoodlum would wear in an effort to look tough.

“Should we go for it?” I asked, fully expecting the usual safe answer of “no, let’s walk an extra 2 miles to get around to the bike path at the entrance”. We’d already hiked a couple miles, fortified by a rare breakfast at McDonald’s where we killed time waiting for the oil to be changed in our cars. Carbohydrates, sugar, cheap protein, and a blast of caffeine wrestled with our better judgement, and the winner was….. “Sure, why not?”

Taking a deep breath, we stepped into the woods, leaving the questionable but reasonably safe (during daylight) neighborhood behind. We knew the bike path we sought was ahead of us somewhere and the woodland path seemed to be heading in the right direction.

It wasn’t long before “the path” became a flooded morass that threatened to end our journey. I looked to the sides and saw dry areas that might support our weight, but because I am not entirely familiar with the wild areas of Florida, I considered the possibility of encountering quicksand. Adrenaline shot into my veins, like the drugs that may very well do the same on this path at other times, as we carefully placed one foot in front of the other and felt for solid ground.

When we finally got past the bog, other paths began to branch off from the one we were on and it occurred to me that if we had to turn back, we might have trouble discerning which way we’d come. Never mind, I thought. We can’t get lost in here. I can tell which way we’re going by the amazing cloud stream up in the sky. We marched on.

“What’s that?!” she exclaimed from behind me, pointing her purple and pink fringed mitten at an object ahead. I froze. We stepped forward slowly as we tried to identify the gray object crouching in front of us.

“It’s just a log!” I replied, as though I’d known it all along. “Phew,” she said, “I thought it was a wolf.”

My second hit of adrenaline wore off and a new one surged as we discovered that the trail we were on ended. Crap, I thought to myself, then mustered my previous bravado and said, “No problem. We’ll just backtrack and take the other branch of the trail. The one less traveled.”

My heart pounded faster and the cries of birds waiting to strip the flesh from our bones sounded louder as we searched for the other trail. I checked the sky to make sure we were still headed in the right direction. Finally we found the less obvious path. The woods were wide open at this point, littered here and there with beer bottles and some trash. Civilization! It seemed we should have reached the bike path by now but I didn’t say anything. I have a reputation for leading people in uncertain directions but have thus far not failed in my attempts to eventually get where I’m trying to go. And almost always during daylight…

“Look!” she exclaimed as her flamboyant mitten pointed out a bright object whizzing through the woods a hundred yards ahead. “A biker!”

“HA! I told you we could do it!” I retorted, abandoning the path and tromping excitedly through the crunchy leaves and slick pine needles. In another minute our puffy palms made a “ploof” sound as we high-fived each other on the bike path in celebration of having survived our harrowing half-mile trek through the sinister forest.

When we got back to the garage where our cars were being worked on we told the mechanic all about our excellent adventure, waving our hands in the air for effect. The mechanic’s expression conveyed that somehow the bright orange, fuschia, and teal green of our mittens belied the possibility that our circumstances could have led to us having been violently accosted and left for dead.

But we didn’t care what anyone thought. In our minds we had survived a life-changing experience, one that brought us closer together and introduced a new level of trust into our relationship. And it was all because we knew that if we hadn’t returned, our magic mittens would let the world know who we were and how brave we had tried to be together.

Later, as we warmed ourselves by a roaring outdoor fire, I considered a new definition: Love is adventure, love is trust, love is triumph over circumstances, and in the event that survival of those circumstances results in less than high-fives in fingerless mittens, love is forgiveness.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! May your love grow through the challenges you survive! 😀

Categories: Art, Good Stuff, Life

Feeling Merry

December 6, 2010 7 comments

Is it hokey to say that Christmas is a “feeling”?

After my last post where I reacted to those who try to control how others describe the season, I realized that I didn’t even know how to describe it.

When I was a kid, the most exciting thing in the world was being allowed to stay up to go to the midnight candlelight service at church, where my older sister would often sing “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” like an angel from high on the darkened balcony. My younger sister and I would have to agree to try to take a nap beforehand but it was impossible. In fact, we hardly slept at all during the holidays and it had nothing to do with the anticipation of presents, for there weren’t many. Our family of 10, several scattered away at college, would draw names out of a hat and choose one person to give a present to when we gathered together on Christmas day after what seemed like an endless period of separation. We each got one present from Mom and Dad which was simply a different color of the same thing everyone else got. If you received the same color as one of the other siblings, you felt a special closeness to them that day.

Over the years, without a family or church of my own, the “feeling” of Christmas has faded for me. When I hear people arguing about the true meaning of Christmas, that tenderness is diminished even more. I know the season is ostensibly about the birth of Jesus, but I’m not even sure that was such a great thing when I watch “Christians” tear at his arms and legs like a coveted doll that only one child was lucky enough to receive as a gift. That’s not Christmas to me.

Though I rarely use the expression myself, maybe “X-mas” is appropriate. I don’t use it as a way to diminish Jesus but rather as a way to diminish this false Christianity, this idea that there is one true Jesus and he only belongs to some.

But yesterday, after years of searching for that lost feeling of the meaning of Christmas, I found it again.

A couple of my little kid friends came over to help me paint some houses I’d built out of recycled boxes. We called ourselves Santa’s elves. I’d never seen these two sit still with such intensity of effort, and for a moment I felt the spirit of my dad, who would cloister himself in the basement at night for weeks leading up to Christmas. Mom would tell us “Daddy is working on a special project. Don’t peek.” The year he presented us with wooden boxes decorated inside to look like the surroundings of Beatrix Potter’s characters (I got a kitchen motif from Squirrel Nutkin), we were amazed and overwhelmed. Though Dad was hardly the carpenter that Jesus was nor the jolly fat man that Santa is (except after a glass of holiday cheer when his cheeks would get red and his eyes all twinkly), and the hours Mom put in to hand-sewing dolls from stockings and yarn dressed up to look like us went less appreciated than she might have hoped, I carry those two gifts around with me to this day.

There is no question that Christmas has become commercially exploited in many ways, but the real Christmas to me is not about gifts — it’s about feelings. As I listened to a recording of my sister singing with her church choir in NYC while we toiled over our decorations, I experienced that childhood rush of the spirit of Christmas surge through me and I felt again surrounded by the love of family and the joy of tradition.

Call it what you will….. Christmas will always be a feeling to me.


Sometimes Ya Just Gotta SPEEEED!!!!

November 12, 2010 1 comment

I knew when I woke up this morning from a dream about Tina Turner flying down the highway in a tiny convertible singing at the top of her lungs that I had successfully blown the carbon out of my spiritual pipes. BRING ON THOSE BETTER ANGELS!!!

Last night I was thinking about the phrase “hitting below the belt” which has come up a several times in the last few days. Politicians are doing it for political gain, I’m doing it when I lose my composure… which leads me to think that we have collectively fallen down into the basement of our chakra system.

Not familiar with the chakras? Basically, they are the seven energy centers of your body running from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Each regulates your physical and spiritual well-being. If you want to learn more right now, click here for a quick overview: Caroline Myss — Chakra System

When we talk about “hitting below the belt”, we’re talking about the area of the first and second chakras, our center of tribal identity, physical survival, and financial control. Right now, many of us are unable to function beyond this place as we struggle to regain a sense of foundation in our lives. Any ideas of altruism or high-mindedness are pipe-dreams.

So when I’m feeling frustrated by the weight of our collective despair, the only way I can move back up in my own system to the place of my heart and higher thinking is to find compassion for those who are so desperately afraid and stuck down in that place of irrational defensiveness. Thinking about cutting the military budget? HA! Not gonna happen right now.  Our enemies (and there are many) are just lying in wait for us to let down our guard. Arm yourselves! It’s every man for himself!

This kind of feeling can’t be reasoned with. It’s like trying to wake someone out of a nightmare without getting your nose broken. The fear that is usually trapped behind a veil of unconsciousness is shockingly real to many these days. So how do we convince the dreamer that the nightmare isn’t as scary as it seems?

Maybe it’s by gently guiding them back up the chakra ladder. It’s been said that the only way to make ourselves feel better is to do something for someone else. That action alone can take us out of our own despair and help us to accept responsibility for our own mistakes by having compassion for the mistakes of others. Forgiveness is a huge step that brings us back up into the area of our heart. When we are able to love those we believe have wronged us we are able to step forward together to repair the damage that’s been done.

For those of us who have known this place of hopelessness and have risen beyond it ourselves, it is for us to draw on that strength to help those who are trapped. It is not our place to disparage their lack of enlightenment and further crush their spirits. We are called to love them anyway, even as they lash out at us. What’s a broken nose in the whole scheme of things?

So go pick up your struggling neighbor in your soul convertible and take ’em for a pipe-cleaning, soul-cleansing, mind-blowing RACE down their spiritual highway!! And crank up the Tina Turner tunes!!!!

Fritzi is SUCH a Hedonist!

June 28, 2010 8 comments

So, let me tell you a little more about myself. I know you’re interested!

Have you ever met someone and thought to yourself, “That girl just needs to have more fun!

That’s the very thought I had when I met Ellen. It was all I could do not to just go right up to her and slap her and yell “SNAP OUT OF IT!!!

Instead, I grabbed a set of pearls, a headband, a dress and some fabulous gloves and I kidnapped her! That’s right — she never even saw me coming…

You see, I’m just the kind of person she despises — or thinks she does. Ellen is a PK. That’s code for “Preacher’s Kid“. I don’t think she’s religious exactly… I don’t even think her family is very religious. She’s just RIGID! She’s like one of those women from Puritan days, judging everybody and saying “tut-tut” to every expression of FUN… I just couldn’t stand to watch it anymore.

If you’ve ever heard of the book “Sacred Contracts” by Caroline Myss, you know about her theory that we are made up of archtypes; different aspects of our personalities that tend to fall into distinct categories. I, Fritzi, am a total Hedonist. As Caroline describes it, the Hedonist:

“has an appetite for the pleasurable aspects of life, from good food and wine to sexuality and sensuality.”

Caroline goes on to correct a common misperception:

“That the Hedonist is generally thought of as someone who pursues extremes of self-indulgence is more a reflection of our Puritan heritage than of the archetype itself. In positive terms, it inspires creative energy in the psyche to embrace the “good” things in life. It also challenges in a positive way the collective archetypal fear of being seduced and losing control in the physical world.”

That’s what Ellen has been missing! She’d been so busy denying me that she’d gone completely in the other direction!

So I had to just take over for her.

“Darling,” I said, “What are you hiding from? What do you think will happen if you let loose and have fun?”

Without giving her a chance to answer, I gave her my outfit and just shoved her out on the stage.

You should have seen her! If I’d known it would be that easy I would have done it years ago!

So I challenge all of you Hedonists out there to do what you do best! Find those cramped up, cringing, scowling characters and take them out for

A NIGHT THEY’LL NEVER FORGET!

Categories: Entertainment, Good Stuff, Life

Still here….

February 28, 2010 1 comment

Lest it seem that I have fallen off the planet due to the lack of iron in my blood discouraging the magnetic pull of Earth’s gravity, I am checking in to report that I am alive and well, even as I struggle through the harsh Florida winter…. 😀

I have discovered an interesting phenomenon during the past month while I’ve been feverishly at work painting a series of murals at a local elementary school. The brain — MY brain, anyway — seems unable to devote itself to painting and to writing simultaneously. My usual ability to babble on about almost anything has been snuffed by the need to see the world in images.

Perhaps the reason is that as I reflect on these images, not just the ones I’ve painted but those I’ve experienced spending time in the company of grade schoolers in a disadvantaged community, language seems inadequate to describe the level of devotion I’ve witnessed on the part of an extraordinary group of teachers.

This school is experimenting with an incentive program that rewards its teachers monetarily for the successful test scores of their students. A couple of years ago this school was failing miserably but since a new regime of administrators took over and made major changes in personnel, the grades of the students have improved by almost 100%.

As I’ve stood on my ladder day after day listening to the activities going on below, I’ve learned with certainty that it is not the financial reward that drives these teachers — they’d do the job anyway. There is a harshness to their tone that I don’t remember from my early days at a small rural school, and I bristle as they threaten to “call your grandmother and have her come in and sit right next to you while you do your work”, yet I realize that anything less leaves these kids foundering in a world that will easily throw them back out into the path of a cruel cycle of fate. The strict structure of the school may be the only way these children learn to grasp the fact that only education will save them from continuing in a culture plagued by poverty and jail time.

If I’ve gained anything from this experience it is the renewed recognition of the crucial role our public schools play in readying new generations for an ever-changing world. Without the dedication of the teachers who guide them and the financial support that allows them to do so, we simply continue to churn out a population that lacks the tools to contribute and raise their communities higher.

For those who doubt the efficacy of our public school system, I invite you to join me in my role of “fly on the wall” so that you may witness a devotion and stamina most of us will never develop. I urge you to quit complaining about where your tax dollars are going and get in there and see for yourselves…

Categories: Art, Good Stuff, Life, Politics
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