Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dear Mom

Oasis Reflection: It's October again.

Halloween is Susan Pittmann, my mother's, birthday. When I see pumpkins, black cats and witches, I think of her. Why would that be a concern, you may wonder. You see, she was murdered in a hate crime 18 years ago by our neighbor, Jim Brooks. (I wrote about the murder.) Since that time a lot has happened around her story. Isn't it strange how a life can continue in some way even after it passes? Every October brings with it a time to reflect, whether I want to or not, about that tragic event. I thought I would just go ahead and write about it here, on my 100th blog post.

Dear Mom,
I turn to you on this day because I am compelled to embrace your life. You are the door that has led me on so many life journeys. I want to thank you for your strength and open mindedness. Do you remember that you once told me that I could have benefited from a mom who was more sensitive? I want you to know that you were enough, and that I did not need any other mother.
You were a strong straightforward person- a woman bound to accomplish, an entrepreneur, and a visionary. We had our differences. You liked having a practical vegetable garden and I loved growing flowers. You liked painted properties and I liked painted canvas. You were tough and I was sensitive. You were a 'people person' and I was somewhat reserved. Let me be clear about your insight, Mom, you were wrong because you were exactly what I wanted and needed. You taught me to toughen up, and I'm still learning that lesson from you.

Do you see that book cover I posted here, Love in the Balance? It arrived in the mail last week. It has a character, Evonne, who is loosely based on you. And the scene of the murder trial, news reports, the sentencing of Mr. Brooks are all factually correct. Some of it sounds like it came right out of the TV news reports, "Our top story tonight is the double murder this morning of two local women at their home in a quiet rural neighborhood...It is unclear whether the murders were the result of a boundary dispute. The women were in the process of installing a fence separating their property from that of the suspected killer." There is one mention about a daughter, Jenny, who spoke to the reporters and at the funeral. Her words make people understand that her mother was a loving mother, grandmother, and friend-and that living a lesbian lifestyle does not mean that you are someone who is separated from the normal embrace of family life. That message is what I try to share as well. I think you would like the book. It's about self-acceptance and celebrating life.

I found out about the book because the author, Marianne Martin, was interviewed by the film maker, Brian Alexander for the Pittmann Puckett Documentary- yes, there is a film being made about you and your partner's murder, and how it mobilized the gay-lesbian community into action. Did you know that the Michigan organization you founded (with others), Affirmations, is still going strong? It serves as a community and support center for people who are discovering and/or celebrating their sexual identity. There is an art gallery named after you, too, and I copied the dedication for you:

The Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery was founded in memory of two of Affirmations founding members and strongest supporters, Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett. The couple was killed in their home by a neighbor in 1992.

I went to Michigan last March to be interviewed for the film. It was a powerful experience, and I felt as though I could say all that was important to me about you and your murder. I hope the film is seen by many people, and that it continues to expand and open the perception of those who are narrow-minded. While I was there, I was able to visit the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery. I was proud to know that your presence continues to be felt within that organization. I particularly appreciate that an art gallery was named after you (and Christine). Do you remember that the first college class I ever took was with you? And it was art history?
I am strengthened by the memory of how you lived your life. Your graduation from Wayne State University at 50 years young-as you would say-continues to inspire me to strive forward regardless of artificial age limits. Thank you for showing me how to change and become strong enough to obtain my goals in life.
Just before you were killed, you told me that you were proud of me and how I lived my life. Mom, I hope I always make you proud of me. I hope my life reflects the best of your legacy. I will always love you.

Your daughter,

Cynthia "Sue"-included for you, Mom xxoo

PS. You will be happy to know that the Hate Crimes Bill was signed into law just three hours ago----------

Thank you, dear bloggers, for sharing this time with me.

(Thank you, Maithri, of Soaring Impulse for the posting this award winning photo on his blog. Heart Hands by Paolo Sapio.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Monet Makes an Impression

Oasis Feature: Books that Matter

~~~~~When I was sixteen years old, I took an art history class with my mother at a local community college (Wayne County Community in Michigan). It was my first college class (I was still in high school!) and I was anxious to do a good job. I carefully took notes, memorized painting names, periods, and styles. I was particularly drawn to the Impressionist Art Movement, and Claude Monet (1840-1926) was my favorite. Since then, I've felt Monet's work was over printed, frequently with poor color quality, so I moved away from his work. Recently, though, I've come back to Monet. (Isn't that how life is?) I'm re-captivated by his life story, gardens, and art. I feel he continues to have so much to offer those of us who appreciate life, light and beauty.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Claude Monet's Garden and photo credit

~~~~~The conclusion of the art history course involved an unofficial trip to Chicago to attend a special exhibition of Monet's water lily's at the Art Institute of Chicago. How exciting to take a train with my sister, Pamala, and older classmates, all the way to Chicago! I was excited about the trip. When we arrived in the art gallery's circular room, I sat in the center at a bit of a distance to get the best view. Up close, as you know, it looks like dense color and rough texture. (There are two oval rooms in France at the Musée de l'Orangerie, which were created to show eight of Monet's water lily murals.) I'm still processing that first encounter with Monet's art.

How can something that looks like nothing up close be so clear at a distance?

Similar to life, it seems experience and meaning sharpen with time. Even painful, boring, or muddled periods make some sort of sense after that life epoch passes. Did you know that much of Monet's later work was painted when he was suffering from cataracts? I've noticed that as my own vision declines...(cough), I've started to see how puzzling life pieces and past events might fit more neatly together. I'm beginning to see how I've gotten to where I am in life.

~~The book is a green enchanted vacation into a life rich with experience and bursting with insight.~~

~~~~~Monet came back again when my daughter was young when I discovered the magical and educational book, Linnea in Monet's Garden (by the Swedish writer Christina Bjork and illustrated by Lena Anderson.) (1985/87) This book takes you on a charming visit with a young girl and her grandpa-like neighbor, Mr. Bloom, to visit Giverny and see Monet's gardens. Though this is an easy-to-follow book, it is substantial. It is a way to go into art history with your child and sow the beginnings of a reading garden. The illustrations of Linnea moving around Paris and the gardens, her curiosity and engagement with people, animals and plant life; the accurate biographical information about Monet and his complicated family dynamics, which is supported by old photographs, just enlivens the discovery experience!

~~~~~It's the kind of book you will enjoy reading aloud, if you share it as a picture book but also makes a great gift for a 9-12 year old. I read it to both of my children many times. If you like, you can buy a little Linnea doll who wears a white apron to cover her black outfit and a round straw hat. Cute. There is also a DVD of the story, which I haven't seen but has received great reviews. I recently discovered that there is a new Linnea suitcase puzzle set that I would love to get. What I like about these extensions of the book, is that they continue to bring Monet back into the child's experience.

~~~~~It is so important to absorb the imagination in books while children are still young enough to connect affection from a parent with the words on a page. It teaches them a way to feel comforted at any time, to satisfy their urge to dream, and provides the bonus of literacy-a method to implement their dreams. With five small children, a full-time job and night classes, my own mother didn't have the luxury of time to offer shared reading time. Through some sort of luck, a membership in a Dr. Seuss club that brought books to our house every month, and an aunt who gave them as Christmas presents, I was able to learn to love books. Today as I open the pages of Linnea , I remember my vicarious stays at the Esmeralda Hotel near Notre Dame Cathedral with Linnea, Mr. Bloom and my own children. To know that this hotel is a real place is delightful! It is so enjoyable to travel in a way that might actually be duplicated in the future.

Oh, I do want to go to Monet's garden.

Maybe I should make one here at my land-based Oasis?

~~~~~I am thankful that my mom encouraged me to go forward toward my dreams, to study, and to connect that experience with real life adventure- even if we couldn't read together.

And to all of you writers out there- Sarah Laurence, Beth Kephart, and the painter/illustrator Frances Tyrrell , to name a few, who address the younger audience, thank you for offering your gifts to the reading community. You actively impact and enrich our lives.

~~~~~I like this song. I'm sending it out to all the bygone people who were good, solid and inspirational! Only I add the caveat that good people can be found all around- especially in the land of blog.

Jack Johnson, Good People

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Moi en Mieux: Breathlessly Late for the Willow Manor Ball

Oasis Feature: Moi en Mieux- Me but Better

What a perplexing dilemma! I ignored my invitation to attend Willow Manor's Annual Ball until this morning!

Suddenly, I'm in a fashion frenzy; I'm looking for appropriate party wear and trying on identities. I took inspiration from Clarika's song Moi en Mieux as I attempted to find a new kind of me to attend this most auspicious blogger event. (Thank you Lala Ema of My Castle in Spain for introducing me to this poetic and quirky musician.) Should I go as Marilyn Monroe? No a little too flirty! (What was I thinking?)

Or perhaps I might attempt to imbue-emote- express Grace Kelly's poised elegance?

What was I thinking???~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh Madame Grace- to reach those heights of style...sigh- alas and alack-not today. I need to be more grounded if I am to arrive on time.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------I know just the person who can take on the challenge of an out of sorts and tarty moi- our dear Miss Katherine Hepburn.

Oh yes, that is me elegantly splayed on the manor floor! (I hope Willow doesn't mind!)

The effort of selecting identities can be exhausting! And wouldn't Katherine have the nerve to sit on the carpeted floor and just catch her breath! Indeed!


But now I've skipped ahead! I didn't tell you about my date dilemma.
Who could I find on such late notice?(I RSVP-ed at number 70!)
Setting aside my married beau, I'm left with the two handsome standbys, dear Cary Grant and charming Jimmy Stewart.

Who will be my leading man?


Now Mr. Grant can be romantically captivating

...but sometimes I just want to capture him! It's my independent streak, I'm sure.


That leaves Mr. affable and lovable...but that incredibly cute pooka, Harvey,
just might want to tag along-and we all know how that turns out!

Of course you know that I arrived on my own! I loved the ball! And next time, I will remember to Répondez s'il vous plaît-er-rather- it will please me to respond much earlier!
Here I am still in my alter-ego identity -
considering life and celebrity balls.

I must admit that I do so enjoy sitting here knitting and reflecting -until my next project!


Would you like to listen to Clarika? Here is a YouTube version of the singer and the song.
I'm off to see all of you blog party-goers at your version of the ball! (Click on Willow Manor link to view the lists of participants.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wisteria and Sunshine: Mrs. Fisher!


Classified Ad:

To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine. Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times.

(Punctuation and spelling is true to the original text.)

Have you seen the film, Enchanted April? I confess that I have seen it more than 50 times. It's based on the 1920's book of the same name by
ELIZABETH VON ARNIM. (It's available for free online at Gutenberg Online-just click on the book.)

It's also a musical comedy by Mathew Barber (2003), Wisteria and Sunshine, but I haven't seen it. I like the title though, Wisteria and Sunshine, it brings to mind the Italian castle mentioned in the ad above. (wisteria photo credit)
Enchanted April is set in a time of social change after World War I, when British women were learning to find a new role in society. The story is about a reconciliation between men and women who realize that they can live together and celebrate life. Nature and a strong dose of sun begin to thaw chilled hearts and closed minds. Inhibitions gently leave while love finds a place to thrive.

If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend it.

My favorite character is Mrs. Fisher who is played by Joan Plowright. (I am David 2004/Tea with Mussolini 1999) who is not the focal point of the movie but simply a brilliant secondary character; and it is her transformation that impacts me the most. Mrs. Fisher is an elderly well-read widow who is both powerful and severe. I hear her criticism in my mind, "Lax, lax!" because no one has come to dinner on time. And I feel her resistance to San Salvadore and the flood of love threatening to drown her in delight, "I will not let it get to me."

In the film (but not the novel) her inner state is communicated by a desire to paint, which she severely controls... later, we see her painting flowers.

Her transformation is complete when she accepts Lotty's (Josie Lawrence) affection and promises to continue their friendship. This movie is a reminder that there is good in the world if only we allow ourselves to see and feel it.

(photos from the movie)

And on that note...!
It's my BLOG's birthday! Today, Oasis Writing Link is one year old! I started out awkwardly uncertain and now, much like Mrs. Fisher, I can open my heart to my dear blogging buddies.

Thank you for reading me this year!! And I thank you for honoring me with your own life stories and sharing your experiences with me. I appreciate every comment you have left here!

I send you all love and Besitos (little kisses)!


Here is a charmingly awkward moment to share with The Beatles as they try to remember the words and music to Besame Mucho (Kiss me much)