Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

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Change the Way You See Things

In this world, we tend to see things according to what we are taught, or by things we think we know because we have seen them with our eyes. But our senses are not always giving us the whole picture, or the correct picture. A lot of times we are afraid as adults of many things that don’t make any sense at all. We are afraid of others we do not know, especially if they are not the same color as we are, or they don’t speak the same language. We fail to see that they are human beings just as we are, and with the same fears and dreams and hopes, the basically same ways of relating to the earth that we do, or perhaps different, but they are still human beings as we are.

We all arrived on this earth by some factor beyond any of us. Whether it was God or Gods or some ancient power we may not understand in this lifetime, we all arrived here. That means that we are all meant to be here, and each of the cultures has its own area where it has chosen to live. We fight over property perhaps because it is rich in resources that we think we need. We don’t try to invent new technologies or new products that don’t require those resources. Instead, different cultures in the world attempt to show how powerful they are and how they can destroy any other cultures in the world. But is it altogether possible that without these other cultures, the aggressor culture will not survive for long? Is it possible that each culture helps to create a balance in nature by caring for a different part of the earth? Is it possible that even the very air we breathe is affected by the different cultures and helps to create another balance that is critical to all those who live on this earth?

We fight over the earth’s properties and resources instead of working together to get to other planets to discover what resources might be available there. Are we even intended to go to other planets, or is it our responsibility to learn how to live together on this one first? Is it possible that there are cultures living on the others also trying to learn how to live together? It is so strange because there is so much uninhabited land here on earth that could well be considered and perhaps utilized for living. And there are ample resources available to feed all the people on this plane if we all worked together.

Perhaps indeed, we are not so afraid of the darkness as we are of the light.

The Butterfly and the Circle

Circling Butterflies by Anne

Both the butterfly and the circle carry much positive symbolism. And for me, these symbols are especially meaningful. The little caterpillar moves carefully along branches and twigs, filling itself with green leaves and perhaps flowers, and being careful not to fall or get caught in a spider’s web. Generally speaking, the caterpillar has no real defense system, and it is vulnerable to everything around it from the moment it develops from an egg.

But then it begins to build a cocoon, surrounding itself and closing out all that it has known in its brief life. And in this time, it spends in a form of meditation and growth. After a set amount of time, it begins to beat its newly formed wings (a symbol of its transformation) until it is able to slowly release itself from the cocoon. It is no longer in any sense a caterpillar. This newly transformed creature now seeks the nectar of the most beautiful flowers. Its new-found freedom enables it to travel to new locations, even those far away from where it started its life. It has no fear of going where it has never been before. Often a group of butterflies will begin to circle higher and higher into the sky.

Ancient people throughout the world recognized the circle as a symbol of infinity, and of being whole and complete. Spiritual and Religious cultures recognize the circle as a symbol of the female and the feminine energy , and especially of Mother Earth. It represents a fertile and sacred space. In the U.K. and other countries, there are many circles of stones.

The circle also represents a cycle that can be the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It can represent being complete and whole as well. For the Celtics, the circle was a sign of protection, and may be the reason that many early fortresses, temples, crosses and other sacred things were in a circular shape or contained circular motifs. The circle is found in many other cultures and countries throughout the world as well.

As I have noted, my art often contains images or symbols that are sacred to me. The cycle of life, and of completion belongs with the butterfly and its life cycle and my own life.

Days Like This

Anne’s contribution for Wounded Warriors Recovery Home

It is just a little thing. I think it was 12″ w x 17″ l. It took very little time even with some hand-stitching. But that was not important at all. The whole idea was to try to bring a moment of happiness into someone’s life, especially when they have had a hard time and need some support.

These men were serving their country when they were wounded, and we need to go beyond our personal beliefs about war and whether we should have been there or not and try to help those men. My own brother came home 100% disabled from Vietnam. My brother knew nothing of Vietnam or its people and he knew even less about the politics involved. He went to serve his country as many of my relatives in the past have done; he was just 18, still a teenager. He is alive today after these many years, and it has given me the heart to help anyone who was or is suffering a physical/developmental/emotional or other challenge for the remainder of my life.

If we believe in something we are doing, we must do it and not forsake it just because there are challenges in trying to do it. The challenges of life are there to help us. Without them, we would never learn to have compassion for others, or to act when we see a need. And life’s journey would not be meaningful without them. Walking through a barren desert will never be comparable with walking through a life of valleys and mountains. And we could never learn personal strength in our beliefs -religious/spiritual without them.

Mending the World One Stitch at a Time

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Life seems ponderous at times, and definitely overwhelming with so many negative things happening in the world. But doing one little thing CAN help make a difference. Find one small thing you can do to change things for one person or for a few and do it. There is no lack of choices to help you find something that fits your skills, knowledge and abilities. Do it today.

Heroes

When I saw the photo of this beautiful and diminutive lady in the newspaper, I was inspired to create her likeness in a quilt which is still not finished. There is something about finishing it that reminds me of her life, for her goal is unfinished, and her country of Myanmar is still unfinished in the sense of gaining freedom for her people, so in a way it seems appropriate to be unfinished. I will finish it I am certain, but I have to make some adjustments to it in the direction she is facing and the overall size, etc. of the quilt. Giving it texture will enhance the quilt greatly just as giving texture to life enhances it as well.

I love people who make a commitment in life that they will pursue despite whatever challenges or dangers they face in the process. Called “The Father of Democracy” by the people of the country, her father was assassinated when Aung San Suu Kyi was just two years old. Despite such heart-breaking challenges, she steadfastly stuck by her beliefs even though she was under house arrest for years and has faced unbelievable circumstances. Her husband and two sons had to move outside the country. When her husband was stricken with cancer, she was told that she could go to be with him in his time of need, but that if she did, she could never come back. What a heart-rending decision had to be made and what incredible sacrifices the whole family made.

Yes, she is one of my heroes. No matter how much I might believe in something, I am not sure I could ever have given so much to such an immense cause.

It is good to have heroes in this life as I have noted before. We all need to know that when we are called to do something difficult, there are others who have made a path for us to follow. Perhaps those in her country who are against her are just waiting out the time when she too will pass on. Although she won the Nobel prize during the time she lived under house arrest not much has changed in Myanmar to this day.

If the time comes that I have to stand up and fight for a cause in my lifetime that I too will have the courage to stay strong and be brave until my last moments on this earth. I long for the all of earth’s people to learn to work together for our mutual benefit, and to realize and respect that we are all sacred and here on this earth by some great design.

Honoring a Special Woman

Elizabeth Jameson

Elizabeth Jameson is an magnificent imperfect human being – or as she puts it, a human being living in an imperfect body.

Elizabeth married the love of her life and had two boys. She had a degree with honors in law and was a human rights attorney. She was in the prime of her life, and looked forward to serving others with a variety of needs.

Then one day, when she took her boys to a playground, she suddenly suffered from an attack on her brain. It turned out to be a rare form of MS that starts at the brain stem, and it very quickly took hold of her body, ultimately leaving her a quadriplegic. In the early stages of her illness, she became depressed because she had been living to be able to help others and to serve in the best ways she could. She first turned to fiber arts as a way to express having a body that no longer communicated properly with itself.

Mind on Fire (left) by Elizabeth Jameson.

As her body’s functions continued to malfunction, she turned to another art form – the MRI’s of her brain, and they became her way to link science and art and to see her brain in positive ways.

Elizabeth’s Brain Images as art, Health Services Building, University of Texas, El Paso

I have known Elizabeth for many years; she is one of the artists in the book that I edited with other assistance from Barbara Williamson, Artful Alchemy: Physically Challenged Fiber Artists Creating.

One of the many things that I love about Elizabeth is the way she continues to evolve as her bodily functions are continuing to deteriorate. Her latest art endeavor is called “The Waiting Room.” She got permission to leave paper for notes in one of the medical waiting rooms she frequents, and the medical facility now has an exhibit of people’s thoughts on visiting the waiting room.

You can find a talk by Elizabeth about her challenges on Ted.com, and you can get a copy of the book in E-book format or paperback from Amazon.com. The book has the inspiring stories of some 23 physically challenged fiber artists, and the ways some of us challenge the nature of what constitutes a physical challenge and the use of the word “disability.” Thank you very kindly.