Hemingway and Van Gogh

Two such towering figures.  Two very different men who left the world on their own accord, with words and thick paint remaining in their wake.

I read two books this week, “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain and “The Last Van Gogh” by Alyson Richman.  Both are works of fiction, based on historical fact.  Both broke my heart, even though it’s obvious that there would be no happy ending.  Well, not the ending a romantic like me would typically prefer.  But that’s not how life is, at least when your eyes are too glued to a hardback.

“The Paris Wife” tore at my being in many ways.  I certainly won’t compare myself to Hemingway, but I understood his naivety and spirit during these early stages in his career.  I understood his longing to be something greater and prolific.  Of course, I’ve yet to technically strive toward anything with that much intensity, but I know that what it takes to be substantial is in me.  And his first wife Hadley, comforts and encourages him along the way, so bravely and maybe foolishly, only to be tossed aside.   It was heartbreaking, maybe because the ending was written before the Hemingway’s could touch the Parisian sidewalk.  It was all there, waiting to end this way.

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

 

“The Last Van Gogh” is no less tragic, but left a similar feeling of longing. Continue reading

Souls Carried by Inanimate Objects

Grandpop's WWII bracelet

Grandpop’s WWII bracelet

Connecting with the past is something that’s intrigued me since I can remember.  The idea of tangible objects being held by another person, in another time is overwhelmingly fascinating to me.  I used to think it was only the ancestry aspect, because I find so much joy in genealogy.  But it’s more than that.  For an old soul, being among old items, with or without a direct connection, allows the mind to wander and dream.

Not every old item leads me to a faraway daydream.  I don’t find old paint cans mesmerizing but as I stood two feet from Van Gogh’s Postman the other night, I envisioned him standing just in front of me.  I could almost see his left arm poised in mid air while he determined the next vibrant stroke to complete the subject’s whiskers.  I saw his right hand Continue reading

Are you there God? It’s mae, Mae.

I read a post this week from a blogger that I’ve come to appreciate.  His insight is often wise when he delves into his deepest thoughts on life.  The topic of this post isn’t something I hadn’t considered before, but it was simply so well put that I marked it as “important” to read again later.  I don’t usually have time to do anything more than once.

Sometimes I just roll with the punches.  Sometimes life pulls at my heartstrings.  Maybe today it was a combination of Paolo Nutini’s “Candy” backing the simplicity of what Tony had to say.  These are not complimentary by any means, but the sound of longing accompanying his depth affected me.  I felt so out of sorts and so complete all at once.  I’m a Gemini, what can I say.

It’s so easy to say that life is out of our hands.  It’s so simple that it makes life complex.  Try as you might, not everything is within our grasp.  Life can’t be forced and although Continue reading

Running Away = The Best Medicine. This time.

I ran away from you and I’m not sure what I was thinking.  At first.

I feel like I went to a commune during summer vacation while all the rest of the kids went to the same camp.  I’m out of the loop, but I’m back.  How are you?  Remember me?

Maybe I was running away from the world, but it turns out that one can only slip away for so long before we’re forced to admit we need to get back to real life.  Trials and tribulations will never cease to interrupt our lives, so it’s impossible to wait for peacetime to begin living again.

Living life got in the way of blogging about it, even though I was hell bent on doing the 365 bit.  I was mad at myself each day that I didn’t write because I continuously fooled myself into saying, “no, I’m really going to do it tomorrow”; only to be even more annoyed with myself and too embarrassed to reassess my 2012 writing challenge I’d made to myself.

I did reassess.  But I know now that I did not fail.  As a matter of fact, I kicked 2012’s ass.

Hell, I accomplished so many of my goals from last year that I didn’t have time to sit still.  Not that you would know that.  But you can trust me.  We are friends from the good ol’ days.

I changed careers, traveled, learned, I’m happy and I’m working on a new resolution, even though I hate that concept.

Are you ready?

  • I’ve decided to live more for me and less for the expectations others have of me.

It’s a fresh approach I’ve heard, I don’t know, my whole life, but never took into action.  It’s a revelation that coincides with the unfortunate passing of another close relative and being caught in the waves of it’s aftermath.  I wish it hadn’t taken a second painful demise to figure this out, but it turns out I’m a little behind.  My teachers must’ve been right after all.  Is that why my handwriting is crooked?

But I’m here.  I’m a little late to the party, but ready to be the life of it.  Who’s with me on this vague and exciting adventure?

“That’s Not a Reason”; a Fruit Story

When I was really little, let’s say around three or so, I still over-thought things a bit.

I wasn’t a bad little girl but I had strict parents who kept me in line and helped me be a proper little lady. Looking back, for that I’m grateful. I was reminded lately of something my young mind used to ponder…and though it’s just a goofy little kid story, I’m sharing it anyway.

Mom: “Mae, why did you do that?” (Envision wagging finger and some sort of naughty childish behavior.)

Mae: “I don’t know…”

Mom: “That’s not a reason.”

Mae: No words, just staring blankly at Mom.

She must’ve thought something was wrong with me. As a matter of fact, I’m sure she did, because apparently I always had this crazy look of confusion. But to be perfectly honest, I was thinking about raisins. Raisins were my favorite snack, I’d eat them out of the little boxes with my “pinchers”. I didn’t understand why Mom would bring up raisins at a time like this, when raisins had nothing to do with what I did wrong. Maybe it was her accent, maybe I was hungry. But I remember trying to process this thought for what felt like years, whenever I got in trouble.

Oh, reasons are different from raisins. Got it. I finally told my Mom about it recently and luckily, I got a good laugh out of her. She’ll probably reward me with a box of raisins the next time I see her too. Unfortunately, my pinchers probably don’t fit in those miniature boxes anymore.

Leaping for Joy

For years I’ve been told my life is complicated. People have felt sorry for some circumstances that landed in my path. Usually the complicated nature of things were a result of other peoples’ behaviors and actions, not my own. I don’t, however, see life as a hassle and I don’t allow misfortune to lead me to a negative end. I find that the phrase “everything happens for a reason” is true and that there’s very good reasons that people say it.

Life can be complicated if you believe that it is. Life can drag you down a bumpy and dark road if you don’t find faith to know it can get better, courage to make it better and have the endurance to reroute yourself down that road.

I’ve found myself rerouted, and not without proper encouragement. We can’t do it all alone sometimes. I’m not in the most logical spot, to a logically sound and organized individual, but I’m happy, and happiness is a logical reason to take a leap in life. I haven’t written you in some time because I am living the kind of life that I wanted, though I hope those of you who have encouraged me, know how grateful I am to have had you in my corner and urging me to take this leap.

 

Old Soul Works for Free

I’ve started as a volunteer for a local Historical Society.  Mainly because I need the experience to advance myself in a direction I’d like to go.  I find it nearly impossible to get the experience in the history and genealogy fields without putting in the time for free.  I’m ok with that, particularly since I never did an internship in college and it seems that is the way to go these days.  I’m eager to learn and I’m hoping they see some sort of potential in me so I can eventually sign on as a regular fixture.

I tried to tell them I’m an old soul, so I had a lot of historical knowledge first hand already, but they said, well, they didn’t say anything.  No, I didn’t really say that to them, but I’ll bet a lot of old souls are drawn to that field simply because there is something familiar to reel them in.  Maybe it’s not obvious and maybe some of these people just love history, but I always wonder how stories of yesteryear fascinate some so much and others could really care less.

None of us are the same and thank God for that.  Although there are a few people I’d have liked to clone; if I were into that modern technology sort of thing.

Could I Have Been An Olympian?

As everyone knows, the Olympics are in full swing. Even though I’m a fan of the games, by next week the Olympic theme song that is played throughout the day will likely drive me mad. Two weeks straight of the same ten second piece of orchestrated music at the start, end and every commercial break in between will cause my ear drums to reach for the remote and hit mute. Maybe it’s because I have the games on while I go about my business each day.

Regardless, I love the sense of pride and the dedication from Olympians. There is always a heart wrenching story or significant feat embodied in the spirit of the games.

I grew up as a fish. My parents could not get me out of our pool to eat and my summer attire consisted only of a bathing suit. I dreamed of being a real swimmer with a swim cap and goggles and eventually joined a swim team where I did fairly well. During the summer of ’92, my bathing suit transitioned into a gymnastics leotard and my poor Great-grandmother suffered the “look at me, I’m a gymnast” phase, cartwheels in her rowhome and all, when I stayed at her house during one week of the Olympics that year. Poor Grandmom. She never dared to crush my dreams either, though quite frankly, I don’t remember her appeasing me and saying I’d make it either.

Toddler Mae fashioning summer attire for the rest of her childhood.

I don’t remember really ever trying very hard to be anything I dreamed of. I was the queen of one season sports or clubs. I’m probably not in the memories of any of my teammates or fellow members because I dashed in and out, never leaving behind anything substantial and never hanging in to form real memories. Until recently, I thought it was me. I thought maybe I’m just a flake and like so many things in life, I just never knew was it was to give my all and keep persevering. But it’s not true. I’ve come to only understand recently that my Mom discouraged me. But before a judging finger is pointed her way, I understand and I do not place blame. My Mom had severe anxiety and taking me to events was very trying on her. I don’t believe she held me back from anything that I carried full potential in, but I guess we won’t know. I don’t think I would have been an Olympic swimmer, but I wonder if I had stuck with something now and then, if I could have had a different mindset in life. Maybe I could have fought harder.

Now that I’m an adult, I can’t base the rest of my life on the fact that I played one season of softball or did one year of Girl Scouts. I am in control of my own fate and if I don’t try or stick with things, it’s my fault. It’s time to learn a new mindset.  And maybe because I’m not an athlete, that doesn’t set the baseline for other things. I’ve stuck with the things that really do matter in life; I’m not a complete failure.

I didn’t even mean for this post to go in this direction. It was supposed to be a lighthearted joke about my Gram who used to say constantly, “If my parents had had money to get me singing lessons, I could have been a famous singer”. Gram had not a lick of a voice or an ear for keys, but it was something she dreamed about as she grew up in a family of fourteen children.  I found myself saying to my husband the other night, “If I had been able to stick with swimming, I could have been an Olympic athlete”. We both knew it was wrong, but we laughed anyway.

If you think about it, it is funny how at the still-young age of 29, it is so easy to see dreams that are too late to happen in the faces of young Olympians. I’d like to think that I’ll encourage my future and non-existent children to follow their dreams young and be able to support them along the way, and without trying to make them accomplish mine.

Travel Minimalism

I’m not a minimalist, but I pretend to be one when I travel.

In preparation for our ten day European trip, I thought about our prior two trips to Ireland. We had taken large rolling duffels and then I wore a satchel as a day bag. My shoulders were sore and the bag was inconvenient. The second trip in particular was rough because we were caught in the middle of an epic snowstorm. When buses were stuck, we ended up hauling our duffels through snow drifts for what felt like miles to get to our destination. Well, we knew we wouldn’t hit snow this time, but I was not going to be an over packed American. I made rules that I was unsure that we could follow, and they are as follows:

10 Day strict packing list:

  • Carry-on suitcase each; only 1/3 full
  • Rucksack each; nearly empty
  • Money pouch (neck/waist-type)
  • Five pairs each; socks, underwear, tee shirts
  • One pair sneakers; worn there, not packed (I cheated with a pair of sandals too)
  • Two pairs of jeans each, wear one there
  • Two pair each either shorts or capris
  • One quart size bag of liquid toiletries each, each with a 3oz bottle of detergent
  • Small bag of shared necessities; nail clippers, tweezers, band aids, razor, bobby pins, etc.
  • Glasses/belts and other random requirements
  • Ipad, two cameras, eReader (Nook), chargers and spare memory cards
  • One 4-socket power converter.  Charged all electronics in one swoop each night.
  • A long cord aka clothesline

Score one for us. It was the easiest travel trip ever. Since we nearly missed our plane to Brussels, one of the key begging points in allowing us to board was that we had no luggage to check. We were able to fit both our bags in the same train luggage locker at each city we went to, saving time and money when we were unable to check into our room too. Halfway through the trip, we washed our clothes in our sink, hung them up on the cord we cleverly tied across one side of our bedroom and off we went the next morning, fresh, clean and with far less luggage then the over packed tourists who could barely lift the bags up and onto the train.

Laundry in Berlin

The worst would be seeing the retired couples with the elderly men hauling multiple enormous pieces of luggage behind his wife on crowded public transportation.  I gave my husband the go-ahead then and there to berate me if I ever got that bad.  I may not wash our clothes in the sink forever, but maybe one day if we’re fancy we’ll just pay to get them laundered instead.  Who am I kidding?  We’ll never be fancy.

Back to the packing list; for those who may question the possible excessive electronic choices, let me explain.

Ipad, a wonderful gift from our parents saved my shoulders in a big way rather than toting the heavy laptop as we did in years past. But, since there is not Wi-Fi everywhere and we found many Europeans do not offer it for free, the Nook was a great backup to access tour books, maps and translators that were pre-downloaded, thus eliminating the need for the internet and heavy travel books during the travel. In cities like Brussels, where we were limited on time, we used the Nook to do our own walking tour per Rick Steves, saving both time and money. When you have the opportunity though, I do suggest taking a real tour, Rick is wise, but he doesn’t know every nuance.

And there you have it. We came home with smiles, souvenirs that fit in our existing bags (including a real cuckoo clock) and never had to check a bag or pop a painkiller. This my friends, comes in handy when you’re sharing a six person sleeping compartment on a train.

Many stories to follow.

Thumbs Up for Thumbs

Thumbs.  Most people have two.  Some people have funny toes that resemble thumbs.  Ok, not people, maybe those are monkeys.  Regardless, I should have learned after the zucchini slicing incident of August 2011, which ruined my soaring guitar career, that one can get injured in the kitchen.  (Please note, by soaring, I mean I completed my first eight lessons and learned my scales.  Ok, I sort of learned a scale.)  Still, life goes on, people have barbeques, things need to get done, guests arrive early and parts of my thumb can get cut off in a mandolin.  Ouch.  Don’t worry folks, I threw away that cucumber.

Besides the fact that anything involving water turned into a pre-planned event, it just hurt.  Those stupid finger cot things are great for showering and washing dishes (while avoiding the mandolin at all costs).  It is not fun however, when the highlight of your barbeque revolves around you having a tiny condom on your finger.  Ok, I’m lying, Continue reading