Mary Jane's Shoes

Mary Jane's Shoes

Musings of one person among many. Not exceptional in any way, as with all, I have exceptional experiences and varied reactions to those events. Mine is one of many life stories and how I manage and cope with the events which make my life my own, I attempt to put forth by way of my writings.

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Moving at the Speed of Life

June 13, 2010 1 Comment

Too much is happening, and at too quickly of a pace. My grammar may need work to some, but my mindset is as many others. Life seemingly moves more rapidly each day. I guess that means I am having fun, right? Yes, I am. Overall. Of course some days are more busy than others. Some days harbour incidents that test my resolve and I would wish them away if possible.  Then there are those days that allow me to witness a bit of paradise.  The chalk drawings on the driveway, a child’s beautiful graffiti that will eventually be washed away by the rain, is as a piece of performance art that lasts only for a time.  The certainty I, we, can hold to is this constant undulating change.  We move and sway just as branches bend in the wind and return to their staid position only to be moved again by the wind.  Branches have play built into their character; they grow in a way that allows them to withstand stress in one direction and release, lessen the tension in another.  We are built in the same manner.  We can move with the wind, so to speak, and take the good with the not so.  This wind direction can and does change within seconds.  We have to bend and grow with this change.

We live a life that races and contains positives and negatives, and not always by our own design. We have to live with the speed. I have never met a person, outside of many a child that cannot wait to be “bigger”, as witnessed in their pretend grownup play, that does not want to make each minute actually worth more time (or space) than the clock actually reads. (Obviously, horrific times we wish would have never existed and are not ones we want to feel more than we already do.)  Living as we do is never stagnant.  That fact may be difficult to accept; for me it is desperately so.  Goodbyes.  I cannot say goodbye and let a person out of my life.  To meet anyone, talk with said person for a short time such as on a flight, while sharing comments on a performance when seated next to one another, and then to say goodbye is intrinsically sad for me.  To understand I will never know that person again in this lifetime seems unfair.  However, more change, more moving at the speed of life, is a given.  Our time as a part of this universe, in this form, is extremely minimal at best, in relation to all that has existed and will.  We are but one small piece of an everchanging, star-studded universe and we need to accept our place in it and the pace with which it moves into the future.  We are but one piece of the puzzle.

So we take what we are given, our life, our capacity to love, our resolve to weather storms from any direction and we reach for all the good and fun that we can make as we are ushered up this road by the wind.  We cherish the moments that we have with all we meet, as we may never get the chance to smile at them again.  We cannot spin the earth in the opposite direction, so we move at the speed of life holding on to the memories of all we have known, clutching all the joyous laughs and overwhelming tears.  And, we note there is a future we will be blessed to see.

Mother earth will always spin on her axis at the same rate, with very minor fluctuations, and we answer to her.  She rotates and our lives move forward.  Value time for it vanishes at a breakneck pace.  See that each moment stands for something, brings joy and smiles, comfort and strength and a great depth of emotion.  See if you, for yourself,  can do it all with music, and dance with the wind, not against it.

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I Haven’t Helped Enough

May 25, 2010 1 Comment


Six hundred people were seated in the beautiful Andrew Mellon Auditorium on Constitution.  The vast Smithsonian Museum complex lay just outside the gated entry.  I have to make this comment because I simply am so enamored of my hometown.  My parents chose an inspirational city in which to raise their children.  The entire purpose of this town’s existence is to hold the physical presence of our country’s heart.  It became entrenched in my own.

What is its heart?  Protection of its citizens and their freedoms to live their lives the way they desire without harm to others and WITH the presence of mind to help those in which they are able.

The 2010 National Lupus Gala brought me full circle. I have veered from the beliefs I held as a young adult.  Clarification.   I have not veered from my beliefs;  I have tucked any action in their direction into a drawer.

I clearly recall a trip to see a marionette performance, with my mom and brother, at the Smithsonian.  At that moment, I did not realize how fortunate he and I were.  I felt like a cast member of “The Sound of Music“.  My Mary Jane shoes and nice winter coat made me feel ever so special.  I feel somewhat guilty for the experience.  Such experiences, and living in our nice home off of the GW Parkway, seemed the norm to me.  Looking back, driving to my Dad’s office or going out with my friends, I often saw the marker that is the Washington Monument.  Seeing the monument, living on what was farmland of our first president instilled something in me that I have denied.  I felt a draw to service, not political mind you, unless it is in a background capacity.  I feel remiss in knowing I have not given enough of myself.

I feel remiss in knowing that I have not given enough of myself to make a difference (hate the cliché) in truly substantial ways.  I place the emphasis on the word, “given”.  Non-profit.  Nothing in return for having contributed.  Though this may not be completely true.  I would like, nothing monetary, nothing more than to have raised children that feel a sense of deep compassion for all, tolerance and acceptance of all that differ in their views, and a desire to help those less fortunate.  This would be a very positive by-product.

While seated in this room of massive columns and beautifully cut marble details, with extensive white swags draping windows which ran nearly ceiling to floor, I watched several members of a sadly, too exclusive club receive honors for their time, concern and work to fight an extremely debilitating disease, lupus.  These people refuse to stop believing in a world that one day exists without this illness.  To witness this devotion was and is overwhelming.

In my small slice of time on this earth, I have witnessed the generosity of quite a few.  I would hope we all have. My faith in the goodness of hearts, the giving of self, in these ways has been renewed.

As a child, the news was on the tv nearly continuously.  Slowly I grew to see this world, with all of its beautiful different peoples, as a place containing much hurt towards those beautiful different peoples.  One of the displeasures of becoming an adult is realizing how abundant these negatives are.  For entire populations needing sustenance in the form of simply water and a solid food, the lack of such is shocking.  I will not get into the politics of how this and many other horrid situations have come to be or why they take place.  The reasons are so complex; I could not begin to write my theories, as I am fairly simple-minded in those matters.  I see my own children now moving from innocence to taking note of the indiscretions against populations and individuals.  Isn’t it distressing  to witness their disappointment?

As a parent, I sincerely try to focus on the positive.  Emphasis on the word “try”.   I know I have not always been as optimistic as I have desired to be.   Though actually, I have to say that there is a running argument between my husband and myself over a simple example of such.  Grades.  Not necessarily that they exist, but the method in which they are delivered.  The focus on the incorrect answer with red marks and circles does not incite a positive image upon which the child can grasp, particularly when this form of learning is repeated for years on end.  Surely corrections need to be addressed, but shouldn’t the FOCUS be on the positive points in the work?  (My ramblings, but there is a point.)

To raise our future citizens, we protect, advise and teach.  We want them to see the beauty of this world.  We want them to see the possibilities for the future, their own and for the world with which we will leave them.  As they see the other side, we again, as with schoolwork, need to focus on the positive.  We need to focus on what can be, with our help, with their help, in the months and years to come.

I know of the mission groups that frequent Mexico, New Orleans, and Haiti, amongst other areas deserving tremendous help.  These groups are giving selflessly to better the lives of others.  Now, if on our own, each one of us would give of ourselves to help those in need help themselves and their own communities, we might see dramatic positive changes.  Not a giving that is forced by entities outside of ourselves but is offered by our own separate hearts.

As one single, simple soul, I am making this a point, a purpose, of my life here.  Outside of family, isn’t this attitude the point of living?  Easing the lives of those in pain?  Everything else is icing.  The icing may taste great, but without a strong base, dedication to a selfless cause, the icing, the goodies in life mean nothing and collapse.

Treating all on this earth as extensions of ourselves puts the superficial, we think we desire, back in its rightful place.  Each of us in the private sector needs to step forward.  The solution to our earthly problems is within each of us.  Whether we are giving of our time, or money, the decision of which to offer is our own.  Go ahead.  Make the decision to make a change.

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Tears, Embracing All Moments

January 23, 2010

Our Gregorian calendar nearly demands us to start over each year, new beginnings, and fresh attitudes. This is all well and good in some respects, but it seems to beg a negation of our past. The past is what made each of us uniquely our own person. Those events and actions formed our personalities and bred our strengths. The negative moments are as important and intriguing as the perceived good, happy instances we experience.

This led me to think about one way in which we handle the distressing times. Anger. Tears. Aside from the biological reasons that we react with tears, a mechanism of the nervous system, crying is associated with loss and mistakes, fear as well. Yet tears are a release, a release of powerful emotion that reveal to oneself and witnesses that one feels. Tear streamed cheeks are an affirmation that one is truly alive.

A blessed life is not a continuum of beautiful moments, unless one can accept that sadness can be a beautiful expression of life as well. A blessed life is a life that has been experienced in all of its extremes. Extreme bliss, passion, despair, love, intensity of all emotions. Those experiences perceived as bleak, as well as those optimistic, make for a life passionately lived. I would like to clarify something. In no way am I suggesting that someone can turn negative occurences into small instances of beneficial ones during the real event. The despair needs to be felt. Momentous occurences leave us, the receivers, in shock for a time, as a protective numbing to what has happened or is happening. As time heals, we are more capable of rationalizing a distressing period and finding the beauty of living in all of its forms. Revealed is the good that is shown by others, revealed are the lessons learned. Revealed is our strength to pull through. Many tears may fall on the path of reconciling our own or another’s pain. During such a sad and overwhelming time period, we eventually find that we have never felt such a part of life and the world around us.

We cry for varied reasons, but is doing so selfish at all, in regards to someone else? I have often wondered about the answer to this question. In a very basic way I believe the answer is yes. When we shed tears for another’s pain, whether it be heartbreak, illness, others’ trials and tests, yes it is somewhat selfish. My tears are the result of my hurt in witnessing the sadness of another person, in a small way. I want to believe my tears are fully genuine to another’s hardship, but they are also a release of my distress.

The thought then occurs, when giving to another, is that action completely without selfishness? We have all come to know that this is not completely the case. Very few are acting with pure altruism. For most of us mere mortals, we get something back. This knowledge cannot be swept under a rug. In fact, the thought of receiving ourselves motivates us more to help those in need. Positive feedback in the form of a gracious smiling grandmother that receives some of our used clothing makes us in return feel good. A child’s hug when food is brought brings us joy for the child but also for our act. This helps keep the cycle of giving alive. There is a selfish satisfaction in doing something good, whether that be helping a friend when her car has broken down, rescuing a homeless animal, or bringing food to a family during the holidays.

Do we feel any guilt, any disappointment that we cannot be completely selfless? Of course the majority of our thoughts are those of compassion and empathy. Of the small percentage that helps our own minds and emotions, is that a flaw? No…it is survival for our human race. We see a need, respond with compassion, feel satisfaction in doing such. We will then act more to help others. If we are here for a purpose given us by a higher intelligence, I would tend to think that nothing could be as virtuous as giving without one miniscule thought to ourselves. That seems to be a place that is difficult to reach if we are truly honest with ourselves.

Selfishness is a part of animal nature. Rationalization of that quality finds it a necessary survival skill, not just for our own person but for all people. It does indeed work with compassion, empathy to help those in need, in the smallest of amounts.

Be they fully empathetic or no, tears guide us to make changes, selfishly or not help others, and handle the tough parts of our lives. In their most basic form, tears are an expression of ourselves in a moment, a moment of intensity that reveals our humanness in one of its most raw forms, and, as well move us forward in life.

Honest Words, Trying to Break from OCD

December 9, 2009

I have been through some of the therapy; I have been through meds for this disorder.  OCD.  Today was the end of a 5 day separation.  I stayed away while my incredible family attempted to create a home again.  A this point I am scared to go to the house.  I know that once I enter, it will not feel as if it is my home.  That is the OCD speaking.  I will have a home in my head, all in order by the alphabet, color or subject.  I suppose reviewing this is a coping mechanism.  At the moment, this is how I can tolerate the changes.  Crazy to feel this way, considering I live to be with my kids every moment of the day, to be a loving parent, to make a wonderful home filled with laughter, to really live and experience life IN our home.   Funny, I would write articles and send them to national magazines on the subject of parenting, always rejected, but I tried.  This was in the 80’s and 90’s.  I did get “published” once.  The publication was Charleston’s Parent monthly news “mag”.  I actually used to be an awesome mom, not really, but I was pretty darn good. My husband wants that person back.

This will be the best thing that has ever happened to my children and my husband, well that was a stupid statement.  Concerning my disorder, yes that maybe true.  Hope that nothing as tumultuous is again a part of their lives.  Maybe I can continue on the positive path that has been started.  I so need to let go of the issues swirling through my head.  I very much want  for them to live their own lives without my monster.  Can I possibly be the example of overcoming a hardship?  One of our children is already a master at that game, though it is no game.    Maybe I will be an example in another regard.

Tomorrow will be a personal victory.  However I respond, I still will have made it through the trauma, drama, the changes.  I realize this issue is trivial compared to other, more significant concerns.  My family is healthy at this time; we are so tightly bound that we can say the words we feel.  My girls are my best friends, my sister too.

I guess writing is one of the ways I am preparing for the shock that will come tomorrow morning.

Obviously I am frightened.  I do not know how I will react when I open the door.  I do know I have to accept the changes.  The girls will be at school or work.  Elliot will be in class, or the recording studio ;),  and Ben, Isaac and Noah will need to start math.  I have this feeling we may start the morning playing a game, Labyrinth.

It is 10:31. I am going to try to fall asleep.  Jen, Mary Caroline and Hannah, your phones will be ringing soon.

A One Day Selfish Bucket List

December 7, 2009 2 Comments

Living one day that could be sublime in all ways, perfect, although nothing is so, is a thought recently very much on my mind.  There exist too many choices; if I had the privilege of making such decisions it would be difficult. In which activities would I take part if only given one perfect day?  With whom would I surround myself?  In what place would I spend my time?  Again, too many choices.  So, I have decided on your basic average magical day, a day where anything can take place.  My definition of this is a day that would be longer than the 24 hour rotation of this world in respect to the sun. The axis would spin more slowly. As well, I would be able to handle an extremely lengthy time period without sleep.  This magical day could include the outrageous, such as meeting and personally learning from the likes of Stephen Hawkings, Lincoln, Rembrandt, Faulkner and Ansel Adams and Bernini.  Books would line the walls of nearly every room. If one were missing, it would appear. This is an unavailable set of circumstances, but I AM speaking of a type of voodoo here.

The man I have spent the last 31 years loving would without question be by my side. My children and their significant others, my parents and siblings, extended family and true friends would all be a part of this unique and extraordinary day.  (Well, it would be an extraordinarily special day to me, if to no one else.)  Each member of the entire clan and all the calabash cousins would find themselves laughing at someone’s comments or antics throughout this time.  All would indulge in deep, hearty laughs that reveal an intense happiness which resides beneath the reaction to the jokes and escapades. (By the way, when I leave this place I want all to celebrate, to laugh.  Those that show up are to be in brightly colored clothing.  Maybe a second line parade.)

Music.  Music would be omnipresent.  Music would be in walking surround sound, be everywhere, as theme music in a movie.   It would automatically change depending on the mood of the moment.  Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles, George Harrison, David Koz, Paul Sanchez, and Eric Clapton would be represented. B.B. King, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra and Irma Thomas, their voices would fill the air. Allison Krauss, Ingrid Michelson and of course some Hawaiian music would waft between the leaves.  Johnny Cash, Patsy Kline and Luciano Pavarotti would stream from the rivers. The list will not end so I will stop trying to run through it all.  Apologies.

Those that would be so inclined would burst into song and/or “bust a move” when the spirit moved them to let go. I would be very much in that company. It would be a “day” that would saturate the senses.

My hands would hold a manual camera, or two, heavy, sturdy with great presence. My fingers would press the cool shutter release and the lighting would always be correct for whatever effect I would be trying to achieve.

Where to spend this longer than twenty-four hour day?  My initial choice has to be on the Tuscany and Amalfi coasts of Italy, where mountains are visible from the shore of the Mediterranean and cliffs drop into the sea.  Speaking Italian fluently, yes that would be a must.  French too. Wait a minute… there still exist the islands of Hawaii,  the landscape is also one of mountain ranges and sea together.  Strong floral scents, large, tropical leaves and getting dirty hiking to waterfalls, all of these could be experienced before jumping in the pools at the falls’ bases. Can I mix this with incredible Italian food, New Orleans’ cuisine and a visit to Firenze’s Uffizi Gallery?  Drop in on Jackson Pollock painting and Degas during the time he lived in New Orleans? Throw in horseback riding along the shore, in Italy or Hawaii.

If it is my one-of-a-kind, magical day, I suppose I can dream as I please.  Sometimes dreams do come true.  Granted I have pushed an impossible set of circumstances into a day.  Well, in my day of hocus-pocus, it would not be impossible.

Oh yes, I would want to zip down to Peru and the Andes, Brazil’s Amazon and Kenya.  A flight into Bhutan, home of the happiest people on earth, would be part of the finale. I would listen to local traditional music and wear traditional clothing from everywhere I travel. Do you think my entire family and my friends would go for all of this?  I guess I would need  to convince my fear of flying to hibernate as well as convince my loved ones to accompany me. The latter wouldn’t be too difficult.

This perfect day has evolved into a selfish bucket list.  I would witness and be a part of many hugs and much hand-holding.  No loved one would feel even a short moment of loneliness. Once again, I will reiterate that laughter and MUSIC would fill nearly every moment. (On some occasions I would want moments where the only sounds I hear would be the simple, yet complex, earth-born utterances which put my mind at ease.)

My selfish dream day.  I have been fortunate to have experienced some entries on my list.  Some I will most likely not, and definitely not with all those I love.  I will keep an open heart and willing mind in any regard.  Who knows?  Maybe I will pick up the violin again.

I Have

September 30, 2009 4 Comments


I don’t know why I write, therapy possibly.  Trying I am to understand why I am somewhat dysfunctional.  Well I actually know the answer to that question, OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder.  Writing helps me gain control, operative word, of blinding emotions and extreme thoughts that push and pull me to complete certain rituals.

“I have six kids.”

This statement runs through my head without conscious decision.  OCD.  This other half is the basis of who I am. Though I know this is not true, OCD rules my life.  Through therapy, I am to think of it as a monster of sorts, something to rid myself of completely.  It is difficult to push what seems such an innate part of me, and has for my entire life in various forms, away.  Upon those times when I try to push anxiety away,  not follow through with the vast outline form of life that resides in my head, “I have six kids” is immediately in the front of my brain. It arrives without warning and seemingly without conscious decision. It is the beginning of a list that I repeat in attempt to decrease fear and anxiety. This way of beginning a ritual is new to me and a great deal simpler than in previous years. I have shortened it, cut off some of the initial thoughts. For me, progress.

I can stop myself there sometimes.  It is a bandage of sorts to stop the flow of returning to my REAL lists. Yes I have lists upon lists.

Those that really know me, the members of my family, have suffered greatly as the recipients of my insatiable desire to “make it right”, perfect, organized. In lovely addition, I save; I hoard.  Every drawing, test, every newspaper that might have some significance to our family, to ‘our lives together’  has been a source of stress.  Do I hold on or give up.  Choice of words says much I guess.  I have recently relinquished many items that have meaning to me, perhaps they had been inappropriately important..  There is a guilt I feel when not repeating the same behavior with my younger children. Guess not repeating these behaviors is progress.  To me it is a type of failure….still.  I have a long way to go.

I have tried to explain it as a nesting disorder, in my case, as well as an effort to freeze time.  Items, as are photographs, are moments suspended. They represent moments that I cannot begin recapture, unless I have a photograph, or some sort of documentation. The passing of daily life is a melancholy event to me. I find the joy in what is happening at the moment but am greatly saddened when the fleeting moment has passed.  I suppose I want to stop the world from turning.

In reference to nesting, I veered, as is my way.  As females, in particular, the desire to take care of our offspring is animal.  This makes sense as we are such.  Survival of the species.  This is a biological urge that is very difficult to overcome, should one desire to do so.  Within the realm of OCD, this urge can overwhelm and consume.

This disorder manifests itself in various forms.  The thoughts, obsessions, dictate behaviors, compulsions.  They intrude when not desired.  The obsessions resemble a recording playing on a continuous loop.  Hitting stop isn’t an option.

Epiphany.  1987.  My husband was doing a psych rotation during his years as a student in medical school.  One patient that caught his attention in particular had OCD.  For this patient almost no movement was spontaneous.  He was the male version of me, including his eating disorder.  He and I were trying to do everything without mistake…trying to be perfect in some ridiculously unattainable manner.  The similarities were shocking to me, as they are to any that suddenly realize that they are moving through life in an extraordinary, different, fashion.  This realization though did not impede my behaviors

I remember an article, a short piece in a parenting magazine.  (As of this day, I have every issue of every year during which a child of ours was born.  I promise I am trying to let go.)  The author, as a new mom, refused to let herself not handle all that she had pre-baby.  She wrote of the broken, unpolished nails and clothes that were out of style.  She wrote of the yard that was strown with toys and the worry of neighbors’ disapproval.  I thought her concerns were extremely ill-placed, her priorities silly.  I still, though, understood the need to make all just right, albeit with different priorities.  This fed my OCD monster.

Everyone has a desire, to some degree, to ‘do it right’, correct mistakes, keep illness and germs away from themselves and loved ones.  Within the confines, literally, of this disorder, the drive is much stronger.  Nesting has gone awry.  Counting, washing, retracing a path, these behaviors are an effort to rid oneself,  one’s family, the world, of a negative.

I have come to understand that nothing is in complete order.  Fighting that notion is a different beast.  Perfect is very different for each one of us AND is unattainable.  I am learning.  The word ‘perfect’ should be negated from our vocabulary.  It is elusive, beyond such, it actually makes no sense.    I suppose, with my belief in tolerance and acceptance, I have finally begun to apply that concept to myself.  This acceptance is allowing me to try to get rid of the monster under my bed.

It is a daily, hourly struggle.  I will somehow move through and beyond this disorder, one day, for the sake of my children, my husband, and myself.

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