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gratitude

I know it’s only the 21st, but I am already eager to put this month behind me. It’s been another month of ear issues (both ears this month) for Josh and we are not sure exactly what’s going on. We haven’t been able to get his ears stable enough/healthy long enough for even an audiology evaluation since October. He just finished up another course of strong, broad spectrum antibiotics. I have an essay coming out soon in The Mighty that will shed some light on how I feel about our latest run in with antibiotics.

In light of all of this, it is time for some mood-boosting gratitude.

  1. There is an owl living in one of the large pine trees behind my house. I hear him hooting each night at about 5:30 pm (dusk here in Minnesota in January) and sometimes just before dawn. I went out into the woods behind my house on Sunday, with my long wool coat over my PJ’s–it was ten below zero at the time, and I listened just below the tree. I cannot tell you what a singular thrill it is to hear an owl up close. But then, he decided to swoop down on some prey and I saw his wings spread over me (I wasn’t the prey). It will likely be one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. I feel most protective of this owl and sometimes I fancy the owl is protecting me.
  2. I’ve finally set up my own writing room in the upper level of my house. It is a light, airy space. It is a piece of heaven in my own home.
  3. Trampled by Turtle’s song “Duluth,” which gets me through these cold winters. “Still I like the quiet/Of Duluth in the winter/In the sacred bond/There’s no place like home.”
  4. The rosary. I’m not Catholic, but I’ve had lots of Catholics in my life, including my dad’s whole family. All of my kids have spent time in Catholic schools; now, Josh joins the ranks. He’s learned to pray the rosary. I’m learning too. I’ve thought much about how Mary was acquainted with this experience of watching her child suffer. I feel a kinship with her when I pray the rosary. Although, I’m not sure I’m doing it right, maybe “right” doesn’t matter so much as the act of saying this prayer with a willing heart.
  5. I was given the guidance to get my hands on a copy of Paul Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air. I elevated this book above the waiting 25 or so books on my “to read” list. I read this book in less than 24 hours; I will read this book again. It is a magnificent, life-changing read. I thank Paul for leaving behind surgery to write before he passed away last March. God be with you, Dr. Kalanithi. You’ve made a huge difference in how I view life, God, vocation, the act of writing, and how I view my son’s doctors and surgeons (I think I wanted them to be small gods–now I realize it can never be so; God can use members of the medical profession, but they will never be perfect, as life will never be perfect).
  6. My thesis project seems to be falling into place, during this second semester of thesis writing; and I have a new blog to support the putting of my thesis out into the world, when it is time. See www.heidifettigparton.com.
  7. I get to see the below view when I leave my local food co-op; even beautiful on cold winter mornings.

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Josh at 5

Josh at 5

Dear Josh,

Someday, perhaps, you’ll read this blog that I’ve been keeping since just before you were born; you may also one day question why I completed baby books for your older siblings and have not written one word in your baby book. From the blog, you’ll surmise that, during the first five years of your life, I was immersed in worry and fear. From the empty baby book pages, you’ll perhaps ask why I failed to celebrate your milestones.

Just one month ago you turned five. I won’t lie; getting to age five was a bit like pushing a stone up the mountain. When you were born, I had just one night ensconced in the dreamy future before learning of your failed newborn hearing screening. After many bouts of false hope, you were definitively diagnosed with mild to moderate reverse-sloped, bilateral, conductive hearing loss at ten months of age. Back then, I grieved for you and the extra challenges you would face in life. I had no idea whether you’d join us in the world of spoken language. I knew, of course, that if you didn’t ever speak our language, we would learn how to speak yours.

Thanks to early intervention and hearing aid technology, at age five, you are fully lingual: a highly verbal, extraordinarily intelligent little boy. Lately, I’ve been thinking that perhaps you hit the “jackpot” of disabilities. Indeed, it was only because of your hearing loss that you received extensive speech therapy early in life. When your observant speech and language pathologist noticed issues with tongue weakness, she referred you to an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist further recognized and diagnosed Sensory Processing Disorder in you. This diagnosis allowed early and robust therapy with a disability that may have remained “hidden” and hindered you even more than your hearing loss. Because of your hard work with this same occupational therapist, most of your sensory issues have lessoned: some have disappeared.

My joy in you at age five is immense. To see you going down a slide or riding your bike, for me, borders on the miraculous. To hear you say to me yesterday, in your cowboy duds, “Now I’m going to wander the Wild West” makes me smile. I love how your words provide us glimpses into your vibrant “imaginated” (a Joshy word) world. Challenges have abounded in your short life and I know more challenges will come. Still, I am enjoying the view from the top of this particular mountain. And I am experimenting with a softer grip for the journey ahead because you’ve already shown me just how good you are at climbing mountains.

I love you so,

Mom

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Josh with big brother Ethan

I was nominated by my dear (and long-known) friend, Julie, on Facebook to record three things I am grateful for each day for five days. It’s been sort of a wild and crazy past few days, so instead, I’ve decided to record 15 gratitudes all at once. I have many gratitude lists on this blog and so I’ve decided to change things up a bit today with a photo list. Indeed, thanks to the iPhone, I always have a camera at hand these days and tend to take photos in some of my most grateful moments; moments when I can truly let myself into the overflowing joy and abundance that, while always present, often gets choked out by my affinity for worry and mindless clamoring after the ever-elusive sense of control.

15 Gratitudes:

The Stone Arch Bridge

The Stone Arch Bridge

One: I am immensely grateful that I live in a place where there is such an abundance of accessible green space, even in the heart of the city.

The Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater

Two: I am grateful for the depth and variety of cultural experiences available in the Twin Cities area.

Presiding over the Mill City Farmer's Market

Presiding over the Mill City Farmer’s Market

Three: I am grateful that on any given day from May to October, I can purchase locally-grown organic produce at countless Farmer’s Markets available throughout the Twin Cities area.

They're Always Waiting for me

Four: I am grateful for books. They are always waiting for me, no matter how much time has elapsed since we last had time together.

snow dog

snow dog

Five: I am grateful that I spent so many years in the cold, frozen tundra of North Dakota. Now Minneapolis winters are (mostly) a breeze (except last winter–that was truly a North Dakota kind of winter).

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Six: I am grateful for the preservation of wild places; places where people can hear their soul speak.

From The Minnesota History Center's Currently Running Toy Exhibit

From The Minnesota History Center’s Currently Running Toy Exhibit

Seven: I am grateful that “my past” is now being preserved as history. The Minnesota History Center’s Exhibit on toys from the 50s, 60s, and 70s is extremely well curated and so worth seeing. I hail the efforts of all historic preservationists everywhere.

Wild Flowers

Wild Flowers

Eight: I am grateful that beauty erupts of its own accord. Life is celebrated daily by all of creation. Sometimes, finding this beauty is just a matter of changing one’s point of view. In this photo, if I turned the other way, I’d see a broken old highway.

Cottage Flowers

Cottage Flowers

Nine: I am grateful that we have been given the tools to help cultivate beauty in this world, if we so choose.

Vintage bowling pins and croquet balls.

Vintage bowling pins and croquet balls.

Ten: I am grateful for the thrill of the hunt. Wooded trail or estate sale? Tough decision. Either place, I touch down into the soft, unexposed underside where my dreams, hopes, and greatest love resides.

A Room of One's Own Cottage.

A Room of One’s Own Cottage.

Eleven: I am grateful for this little yellow cottage; a place where my voice has found it’s way to paper this past year.

Olson Family Cabin (photo credit: Tiffany Rae Fettig).

Olson Family Cabin (photo credit: Tiffany Rae Fettig).

Twelve: I am grateful for this little brown cabin that my Grandpa Roy built; a place that contains most of my very best memories (because, like Neil Young, “in my mind I still need a place to go”–from Helpless).

La Jolla, Ca.

La Jolla, Ca.

Thirteen: I am grateful for the deep love I’ve had in my life, as well as the joy found in letting go, repeatedly, of that which I love.

A place where Deaf and Hard of Hearing children learn to listen and speak

A place where Deaf and Hard of Hearing children learn to listen and speak

Fourteen: I am grateful that Minnesota mandated newborn hearing screening by the time Josh was born; I am grateful for early intervention so that now I can hear my four-year old tell me that he “might get carried away and decide to be Darth Vader” this year for Halloween. I am so grateful I get to hear all of the funny little things Josh has to say everyday.

The One (who gets me)

The One (who gets me)

Fifteen: We risked a good deal for this love; in return, it gave us everything. Gratitude.

I’ve been busy this path month. I finished the first draft of my manuscript at 2:05 pm on July 9, 2014–just one day shy of my 44th birthday. At present, the manuscript comes in at just under 100,000 words. I completed the first draft at the itsy-bitsy cabin that I rent on the north shore of Lake Superior. After completing the manuscript, I danced all wild and crazy, alone in my hermitage, to DMB’s cover of Watchtower. I danced to celebrate a goal achieved. I danced all a burn with the fires of creative energy. I’ve worked three years writing this first draft and there were many times I almost quit writing (and I did, sometimes, for months at a time). Even if this particular book never publishes, at least I did it. It is written. The story has been told.

While up north, I was also gathering together the final pieces of my application for graduate school. It’s now official. I begin my MFA in Creative Nonfiction on August 25. Not sure if I’ll begin the editing process before I begin my MFA. I am sure my MFA program will be all encompassing for the next two years and so, if I don’t get back to revising this book until I graduate, it’s okay. I am sure it will end up being a better book for the time spent further developing my writing craft and skills; sculpting my editing and rewriting legs.

Unlike my previous attempt at graduate school in art history (Jan-March 2013), I really believe this is the right program for me at the right moment in my life. My writing never releases me to other endeavors; it’s had me all along. I just had to sit up and recognize that I cannot run from this path. I am both terrified and excited for my encore career. Bring it on.

Gratitude. Immense gratitude.

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Abandoned building in Grand Marais, MN.

A friend (okay, well a person who was a good friend before he became a boyfriend and then became the worst of the ex-boyfriends) gave me Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird many moons ago. I am finally reading it while reading Operating Instructions, a memoir of Lamott’s that jumped off the bottom shelf of the Goodwill’s cramped bookshelf the other day. When I picked up the book in my hands, I knew, beyond a doubt, that God wanted me to take that book home and read it immediately. While reading it, I’ve thought, my God, this is the nearly identical experience to my daughter’s first year of life–it just happened three years after her son’s first year. The two were even born in the same season so the whole book resonates with me in every sense of every word. Why didn’t i have this little instruction book when I was muddling through my first year of parenthood? (I don’t think it had published yet in ’92)

I could quote the entire book to you–it’s all quotable–but you may as well read the book yourself, especially if you have a new baby at home or one on the way. Anyway, here is a passage from Operating Instructions that I can so completely relate to that I thought I’d share it:

Little by little I think I’m letting go of believing that I’m in charge, that I’m God’s assistant football coach. It’s so incredibly hard to let go of one’s passion for control, It seems like if you stop managing and controlling, everything will spin off into total pandemonium and it will be all your fault.

Yep Ms. Lamott. I feel exactly that way. I finally was packing off all of the junk my daughter left stacked in our dining room when she  came home after graduating college and took off for California one week later. It sat in our leaving room (sometimes, I read my typos later and just shake my head–I meant dining room here but have to leave the leaving room because everyone needs a leaving room in their house, I think) for three weeks and one morning this past week, I thought, I’ve got to get this stuff out of my house. She’ll never be able to advance in this new life she’s chosen unless I stop clinging. At least, I think I am clinging. And when I was finally packing up all of that stuff for the Goodwill, I came across a little chalk board that she’d had in her dorm room and on it she’d written two words, “Let Go.” I knew then that I was on the right track with hauling all of her discarded goods off to the Goodwill (where I was, in exchange, given Lamott’s book). I’d had my sign.

It’s hard though–this letting go. I remember when Hannah was born and I was just kicked in the gut with this awful sense of responsibility. I had to grieve for months the loss of just living for myself because I knew then and there, that everything in my life was that much more cling-worthy. Before Hannah was born, I didn’t worry about death–mine or another’s. I’ve never doubted God folks. Even if at times, I don’t act like it. But now, I feared my own death, because it would take me from this precious creature who needed me so much AND I feared even more so about every conceivable possible bad thing that might ever befall her. And already, at age 22, I was smart enough to realize that this fear would likely be my constant companion until the day I died. So she’s off now in California and somehow, across the distance, she managed to tell me that I need to Let Go.

More than anything else, this blog seems to always come back to this theme of letting go. Motherhood. Open yourself as wide as possible, push a baby out, open your heart as wide as possible, let this little one into the heart’s deepest crevice while doing the best you can to protect this little life and, at the same time, let go, a bit more everyday, so that you both can live.

Here’s the other reason I am so in love with Anne Lamott right now. I am, after three long years, finally nearing the completion of my manuscript about my first few post-divorce, single-parenting years. The manuscript is much too long right now and kind of unwieldy and half of it is pure crap. Ethan told me last week that F. Scott Fitzgerald edited his books by saving only the best sentences. So soon I will be birthing this fourth baby of mine and then I will be starting the process of letting go, a little every day. To that end, I am embracing these words of Lamott from Bird by Bird: Some Instruction on Writing and Life:

Write an incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, whiny, mewling first draft. Then take out as many of the excesses as you can.

Okay. I’ve got the incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, mewling part nearly done. Now to cut out the excess and just like with our perfectly good Britax carseats that we’ve just replaced with two booster seats, there is no Goodwill that will take that excess. I guess some things just have to go in the trash.

How did I get to be so human? How did I finally start to feel okay about this humanness just today?

Old Grain Elevator Upcycled into Coffee House; Crappy Dating Life of Single Mother, Upcycled into Book

Old Grain Elevator Upcycled into Coffee House; Crappy Dating Life of Single Mother, Upcycled into Book

The above picture was taken this morning at coffee with my al-anon friends who had to listen to all of my bad ex-boyfriend stories today (I was in a mood). Like the Best Buy executive who demanded that I write him a check to cover the super high-end coffee pot he’d just given me a few days before I broke up with him. I’m like, “Dude, you make about 5 times the salary I do and I didn’t want this expensive, snooty coffee machine.” Nonetheless, I wrote him a check for $212.00 (that would buy my kids one month of groceries) because I wanted him out of my life. He was a real winner.

After all that groveling in the muck (my post-divorce, pre-second marriage dating life was like a journey towards Mordor without Tom Bombadil’s house and Rivendell), I’m grateful life that Chris was at the end of the journey instead of a bubbling pit of fire.

today, my heart is
round.
it is on an airport
runway.
it is in a high school
classroom;
driving to Macalester
College;
slipping down a frozen
driveway;
standing in the center of
Times Square;
stacking primary colored
rings;
waiting for chirping in a
sound booth;
wearing headphones on a
school bus;
napping in the middle of a
large bed.

My heart is the center of
the wheel, standing
practically still and
watching as these spokes
speed in light years
around me, always
though, holding on.

H. Parton

Slowly, I am capturing poems off my Wednesday Poet blog–at least some of the more (perhaps) worthy ones, since I am no longer curating that site. Although this poem is about my role as mother, it is appropriate for dads too on this day meant for celebrating fathers this June, 2014.

My father and I about 8 years ago.

My father and I about 8 years ago.

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