There is a Hell, and it’s Pink. ish.

Okay so I’ve never really been into makeup, and for decades I’ve resented the entire 3 minutes I waste on it every morning. Well sometimes I skip. But I wear it because one of my first boyfriends, who had been dating someone else for a while when I first asked him out, but she went to another school so I didn’t really know that, said to me one night a little quizzically, “(we’ll call her Betsy) Betsy always wears a little makeup and eyeshadow when we go out. It makes me feel like she cares enough to make some effort.”

I looked at him quizzically — it was the 70’s and no one wore makeup because we were FREE SPIRITS — but he was a good guy and it was a small concession, and I’ve been doing it ever since. But not in an “ooh let’s check out the latest at Sephora!” kinda way. But there it was.

So I get that the world is focused now on the newest whatever, and I know this because every time I try to buy toothpaste at Target they’ve restocked the shelves with 15 new and improved styles of Crest and omg it takes me 15 minutes to find the most old school brand closest to the now-discontinued tube I bought last month and throw it in my cart. Sigh.

So about a month ago, I ran out of the lipstick I’ve worn for the past six years or so. I like the color, the tube, and the pure joy of being able to replenish the supply by just recognizing and grabbing 3 tubes at a time. And of course it’s been discontinued and even the tube style it came in no longer exists, which means I have to make a new selection on multiple levels, and I’m dreading it so much that I don’t walk through those doors until weeks have passed. It takes me 45 minutes of searching every nook and cranny of Ulta to accept the fact that I’ll have to pick something new, and another 30 minutes to find something similar enough to live with and calm my daily grousing, but it’s a matte, and … sigh.

What’s up with matte? I don’t care, but why??? Sigh. I take it home and dutifully apply it this morning and OMG the texture is heaven! It’s like the powder dusting fairy came down from the heavens and touched me ever so lightly on the lips and said, “Hey girl. You’ve been good. I’m gonna give you a break.” My eyes lit up and I almost broke into a smile when … I smelled a smell. I hoped someone had snuck up behind me with a bottle of tween girl perfume, but if only. No. It’s the f-ing d lipstick. My lips are so happy, and my nose wants to cough up a hairball and die. Yeah I don’t do scents either. Especially not scents clearly developed for the 6 year old scent palate.

WHY WHY WHY is there a scent in my lipstick???? There isn’t even an image of My Little Pony on the front, any mention whatsoever of a scent, and no purple baggie of gummy bears attached.

Seriously, this is just another way they kill off the old people.

Oh No!

Book Release Coming Right Up!

It seems easy enough, right? Many claim to have penned this truth: “Writing is easy. Just open a vein and bleed” — and no doubt we’ve all felt it, whether during middle school exams or penning a verse to a would-be lover.

But the truth is, writing is sometimes hard and sometimes easy, but editing and publishing can extinguish god’s own holy spark in the best of us. Not that I’ve ever been particularly holy.

Regardless, I believe I’ve just pulled myself through the last hoop atop the last hill (and yes I CAN hear you laughing in the background) and have pushed the appropriate buttons to make the July 24 release date.

Can you hear my wild self-applause????

Touch of Fire by Pam Goode, available as e-book or paperback July 24, available for e-book pre-order July 10, aka, NOW.

Pre-Order Link here. Let’s roll!

Bowling Lady Watering Can

Little Hurricanes

Prettier in Paris

My daughter arrived on Wednesday, creating a little hurricane in my carefully organized room, and isn’t that what we all need? Someone to stir the pot, to rustle us from the same old, to say “no” to our plans and shoulder us into the new?

She was ten when we first came here together, posing beneath the miniature Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens and dressed all in purple and pigtails. She won’t let me show the photo and she knows a secret: Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I need to remember that myself.

Dressing this morning, she pulled a straw-like and scythe-shaped grey hair from her locks and held it toward me. I told her it didn’t belong there and not to worry; it had most likely blown off the weathered head of a boat captain as we walked along the Seine last night. Another gift from getting outside your self. He knows secrets too, but we decide to only imagine them.

 

Why I Make Mosaics

Photo by Ashley Hayward

A young man came into the gallery one day and, like many, stood with his mouth agape staring at the art on the walls. “What is this?” he asked. “It’s mosaic!” I answered with a smile. “Well how do you make it? Where do you get all these little pieces of glass?” “We cut them,” I said with a little glow. “Cut them? You mean you have to cut every one of these pieces?” “Yes,” I said. “Every piece.” “Oh man,” he said. “Why would anyone do this? There’s got to be a way to streamline this process. Somebody needs to sell the glass already cut. Doesn’t anyone sell pre-cut glass?” “Well, possibly,” I said, “but then I wouldn’t be interested.”

And there you have the answer in a  nutshell. I make mosaics because it’s hard.

During the monthly and often weekly classes I teach, new students will often take on a familiar stricken look when they first start cutting. I tell them to relax and cut for the pleasure of exploration — that making mosaics means learning the love to process. And the process is hard.

Some might say I like a hard life in general. I’m a good one for trudging through the minutiae of a situation, considering every possibility, and then selecting the most time and soul-consuming avenue. To me, this simply equates to actually living my life rather than just going through the motions. It’s the same way with cooking, planning, picking out (and decorating) a Christmas tree, traveling, thinking, loving, and art. Either I do it to the max, or I don’t do it at all. Otherwise, what have I gained? What have I given?

I love mosaic art. I love the interplay of color. I love the dancing of light. I love the intention of andamento and the way it makes your eyes move. I love the heft of a piece, and not only the weight of its gathered materials, but the sum of thought and labor involved. I love the antiquity of the artform and the accumulated labor of so many who have labored before me. But most of all, I like the slow, intentional, repetitive, considered and exacted repetition and thrill of determining the perfect cut, achieving it, and fitting it into place to create, many hours and days and weeks and sometimes months later, a piece of art that demanded and received my full attention — my full passion.

One of my favorite mantras is from the movie “A League of their Own,” when Gina Davis admits that something is hard. Tom Hanks (isn’t it always Tom Hanks?) says “Of course it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The Hard is what makes it Good.” He’s so right.

It’s a funny thing about “easy.” There are many things that I do because they are “easy” for me, like sorting or folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher or writing a press release — I can have them done in the time it takes to think “oh — I should do this.” Accomplishment is a powerful feel-good, and we can rack up way more of the easies than the hards. But does that make them good? Well, no. None of my easies will ever make it to my Very Favorite Things list.

But give me something hard: determining and creating the ideal ratio of perfect cuts to “human touch” in art, cooking the (very) occasional meal that takes alllllllll day, raising a child, or growing the balls to be my fullest self, and I’m all over it.

So yeah. I love mosaic because it’s damn hard. I think we all need to love and engage in something that tests us, that pushes us flat up against the wall and says, “Do your best. Now.” What tests you? And what do you love about it?

Past, Present, Future (with Sun, Sand and Bracelets)

I’ve never been called the adventurous type, and I have to admit that social gatherings scare me. I should drink more, but what can I say? I’m a lightweight. I suck at keeping up with people, and that includes the people I love most as well as those I’ve loved the longest. I’ll spare you my soul searching on that one, and only share that this past weekend, a lovely spontaneous possibility presented itself, and I didn’t say no.

Instead, I settled into a glorious reunion with my two best girls from college, neither of whom I’ve seen in something approaching thirty (!) years. The wait was way too long, but, you know . . . best laid plans . . . life intervenes.

Nature Boy ElliotI spent some time on the ride home wondering about the nature of friendship. I met Jeanne and Carol pretty much by chance and proximity. We shared a dorm, a hall, and adjacent rooms. That could have been our only bond, but it wasn’t. Out of 5,000 undergrads, they remained my closest friends throughout those years. Away from home for the first time and wading our way through growing up, it worked. But what about now? We’ve never spoken on the phone, and letters and emails have been sporadic. In fact, it took another friend to get these balls rolling again for three introverted girls.  Nature-Boy Elliot made sure we found each other again.

And here’s what I’ve learned. Life is often scarier than you anticipated, but friends still help you through. Was our friendship chance? I don’t think so. Would we still be friends if we met today? Absolutely.

What did we do? We ate, we explored, we watched the waves and got a bit sunburned, we ate more, laughed more, learned more. We posed in front of the camera for Jeanne’s SuperHost Husband Rick. What did we talk about? Exactly what we always talked about: life, family, love, ups, downs, figuring-it-all-out, and a bit of nonsense. And we did what women do best — we reaffirmed. And so I emerged on the other side of the weekend a little browner, a little more relaxed, a little happier, a little more loved, and a lot more anxious to stay in touch with those who have helped make me who I am. I miss our abundance of innocence and idealism sometimes, but we still pretty damn well rock it.

xxooxx

Know Thy Selves

Our Bodies, Our SelvesRemember when it was all the rage to sit on the floor of the campus gym sans pants, whip out your compact, and examine your vagina? No weewees, no woohoos, no girliebits; we were hot to call a vagina a vagina, and we were determined to get up close and personal enough to be on a first name basis. Our Bodies, Our Selves was the handbook, although I seem to remember the 70’s bearing a rather unbalanced focus on the Bodies half of the equation. Frankly, it was a whole lot easier to find a group of women ready to shed their clothes for Enlightenment than to find one who actually carried (or owned) an actual compact. Makeup was for sissy girls.

Women 1970's via ourbodiesourselves.orgWe were a Gung Ho sort, and even if we read our Sartre naked in the bathtub with a guy we’d met at the falafel house only an hour earlier, we were hungry to know it all, do it all, feel it all, read it all, live it all, conquer it all, save the world, free women from centuries of silence, get it out there, and live it real. We were ready and primed to Make Life Our Bitch. We all looked like Ali McGraw, and we were determined to be taken as seriously as Gloria Steinem. We brought womanhood, for a time, from darkness into light, and it all started with a fierce determination to know ourselves, vaginas and all.

When did we lose touch?

A year ago today I sat in my kitchen with a close friend that I see only twice a year. She was waiting for test results from a biopsy, which would be positive. I had cancer too but didn’t know it — didn’t suspect — and wouldn’t until much later that spring. When did we move from living our lives armed with mirrors and books and knowledge and experimentation to living our lives with long and mostly irrelevant To Do lists, blindfolded against our innermost secrets? When did answers become written in water, and taking care of Our Selves become a second fiddle melody? When did we move from Knowing to Not Knowing, because Knowing has become so damn hard?

Contrary to popular belief, Our Bodies Our Selves was not about sexual liberation, even though most of us seemed to read it that way. In fact, it was about women learning to care for their own health. Forty-ish years later, we pretty much take care of others instead.

We march; we speak out; we advocate for free mammograms; we rally; we sit with each other and shave our heads in sisterhood; we refuse to be talked down to; we have each other’s backs. But we still never quite know what’s inside us at any given moment — a sobering reminder to seize the day.

Cousin Cousine 1975In many ways, 18 was bliss, wasn’t it? Knowing our bodies was largely a pursuit of pleasure: learning to kiss, trying exotic new tastes from multicultural gems near college campuses, teaching our muscles to scale mountains on weekends with adventurous new friends, getting silly with markers or grimacing under tattoo needles. At 56, knowing my body means something else entirely, and mostly what it means is discovering how much of what I’ve learned to love is now on the list of things that I’m forced to un-love (exotic tastes and climbing mountains high on the list). Making peace with the woohoo was a hell of a lot easier than making peace with organs that mutate in silence, and oh, how much more fun!

And so these later days reprise that urge to know, deep down; to feel, deep down; to live, deep down. If there is no magic mirror to show me what monsters lurk inside or to predict which cures will simply kill me another way on another day, I need to be in tune enough with my spirit to hear the longings of the body I yearn to heal: feed me; love me; take me out dancing; sing me a song; let me spend the afternoon painting my body with daisies and then giggle loud and long enough to wake the neighbors; or linger in a field of wildflowers way past time for dinner. Feed me a daily moment of bliss. Or three.

P.S. Dedicated to Carol, Susan, the MoHos, Jeanne Beanie, Carol H, the Duke Forestry School, my Love, my family

A Word for the Journey

Star Provisions AtlantaBlasphemy, to be sure, but Thanksgiving has never been my favorite holiday. Of course the food rocks — nothing twitters my tastebuds like turkey and cranberries, and I can’t wait to get a nibble of my sister’s 2012 dessert: Sugar Cream Pie (thank you Indiana Quakers!). Pretty leaves crunch and crackle, the crisp air is set to a tolerable chill, apples abound and the smell of mulled cider is blissful. Group cooking (if you’re lucky), family (if you’re lucky/unlucky), hugs, smiles both genuine and forced, too much TV and the lure of deep sofas and downy throws round out the day. And then there’s the thanks-giving, which is lovely and meaningful, though for me more of a personal exercise than a group-share. I never show my heart in group-share. Sometimes I don’t even show my heart to myself.

A friend asked me yesterday if I’m living the life I want to live. Now that’s some hefty food for thought.

2012 has been a year of surprises for me — some good, some not. Today I’m thankful to be alive, to be loved, to have options, to have the ability to change.

I don’t consider myself a risk-taker. Others do, but they’re wrong. I’ve been able to do some Big Things with my life because I’ve thought and researched and dreamed and imagined and researched and thought and tested until I’ve found ways to make Big Leaps comfortable for a Small Step girl. In other words, I’ve discovered, or created, the exact formula that allows me to grow in a certain instance. Did traveling overseas alone for the first time at 41 free me from fear? No. Did opening a gallery alone at 53 free me? No. There are still oodles of things I can’t or won’t do, but the difference is that now I understand that there’s a way to be comfortable with the new and to thrive — I just have to find it. It’s like having children; you learn as you go.

And so as I think of this year of dancing with cancer, my family, my art, the gallery, the future and my own unknowing, I’m wondering: am I living the life I want to live? Am I growing into me?

For the most part, yes, absolutely. But there are always passions on hold, dreams that slip up to me in the darkness and tug on my nightshirt: “Is it my turn yet?” I think I’m getting a little old to keep saying, “Shhhhhh, not quite yet.”

And so my word for the rest of this journey was gifted by the photograph above, snapped eighteen months ago in Atlanta at Star Provisions. It’s time to stop maintaining and get back to growing. It’s time to get uncomfortable with comfort and snuggle up to surprise. It’s time to get dreaming again and researching that special alchemy that handholds reluctance into reality. It’s time to crawl into my heart and ramble around, and then to crawl back out and trample the shell, burst at the seams, strain towards the light. Time to Grow. And Grow some more.

Back to Center

Mossy Rock

I’ve always been pretty much of a rock — at least on the outside. This is perhaps more calculated than natural, since holding steady comes more easily when you don’t give in to drama. I’ve rarely been a shrieker, if you don’t count the child who likes to jump out of closets, or a flinger, if you overlook that carton of Chinese food that sailed across the kitchen. And after all, that was only once. I used to be a door slammer, but someone-I-can’t-quite-remember guilted that out of me. So yeah, pretty much of a rock.

Lately I feel less rockish and more like, oh . . . seaweed maybe. Stringy, riding whatever wave heads this way, unable to keep all of my tendrils pointed in the same direction, but still afloat, still green, still vital. It’s a nice image I think, and serves me well in uncharted waters, but lately I feel the need for a little more control. For feet, if you will. Feet to plant, to walk, to run. Feet that allow me to choose a path.

This isn’t altogether surprising, of course.

It’s a funny thing about finding your feet, your heart, your center. I sometimes feel like I am least myself when I’m in my “element” (read home/job/loves/routines/chosenactivities). I tend to fall into patterns of behavior that work in Situation A or Dilemma B. Don’t we all? I find that I most closely resemble myself, my center, when I am far from home in novel situations with strangers and unfamiliar sights and sounds. I am most myself when I have to look, to see, to hear, to discern, to think in new ways about new concepts, to grow.

Essentially, I have a yearning to get lost. Scrape some moss off. Let some sun in. Let that wild hair reign a bit.

Red

Finally, I am mad. I guess going through stages isn’t really my nature, and maybe it isn’t such a surprise that I have accepted cancer so graciously. I’ve never been one to make a fuss. It isn’t expected of me, and the times I’ve expressed strong thoughts in the past, the diversion from my usual temperament has not been well-tolerated. And so it goes, these days.

I’m not immune to “life” — or as I sometimes call it, “crap.” Part of this gift of experiencing the universe is learning to navigate with grace and wisdom, and if it were all easy, we’d die just as we’re born — still fighting to keep our toys. I’m game for the paths, wherever they lead, but I do wish for a few small courtesies along the way.

Large courtesies I’ve got in spades – love, fabulous friends near and far, sweet notes, red lipstick, sock monkeys, cocktail jelly beans, new teas, funny photos, tomato pie, taxi service, Tuesday dinners out and Wednesday date lunches. I have blessings upon blessings. Every time I pass a radiation patient waiting wordlessly and alone for a taxi ride home, I know I have it better than the laws of fairness would dictate.

But here’s the thing. At 57, I’ve spent a lifetime taking care of other people, from a childhood spent trying to keep peace between my parents, to various boyfriends, three husbands, two kidlets, four stepkidlets, and miscellaneous pets — some of them not even mine. I spoke up for my mom at every appointment while she fought leukemia for six months, and sat with her while she died. Now I try my best to help my dad maintain some quality of life and sense of autonomy while he struggles with a growing dementia and paranoia. And, oh yeah, I work to grow a business. All this is life, of course, and I love living it full tilt. Cancer? Just my luck of the draw, and I can handle it.

But I can’t handle this: an almost complete lack of time/space/breath/peace/environment/solitude/conduciveness/peace/breath/space/time for healing. I can’t put myself anywhere physical or metaphysical where life and needs stand still long enough to shut down my caretaking heart and brain and simply be for enough moments to whitelight this insipid invasion. I can’t fill the reaching hands full enough to be able to let them go and hold my own hands for a day, or half a day. I guess I don’t know how, or maybe it just isn’t my turn yet. But I need this self-handholding, this affirmation, this love that comes from within and focuses on me. Just for a time.

When the kids were growing, a good friend told me that I didn’t seem to do anything for them. I still have no idea what she meant — I thought I was teaching them independence, along with every skill I knew. Another told me that I sure didn’t have any trouble taking time for myself — when I told her I had enrolled in a yoga class for one hour a week. I’ve been told that my (my!) priorities are skewed, and that I was “a failure as a wife, a daughter, and a mother.” In other words: “Don’t be who you are; be who I need.” I’ve dealt with it. I’ve been Zen; I’ve persevered; I’ve adapted and chameleoned and given time and again, and still maintained some sense of self.

I’ve almost learned to let the words of idiots roll off my back, but then there are those with valid needs. I can’t be mad at my father for needing me, for calling six times a day and going through the same conversations and concerns and solutions every single time. I can’t be mad at a husband who wants me to put the computer aside for an hour a day, even though I have three more hours to go on top of the eight already used. I can’t be mad at siblings who are working their tails off to make their own livings and their own lives. And I’m fighting the urge to be mad at myself — for not being fast enough to accomplish mountains in minutes of time, for my tenuous grip on patience, for my occasional need to bitch and moan and my wimpiness for not just standing up and screaming when I need to.

So I don’t know where to point this anger, but it’s here. Finally, I am mad.

23

Mosaic Portrait by Pamela GoodeHaving just finished a self portrait from a photograph taken when I was 23, I’m rather enamored. She’s hanging on the wall across from me and, flaws aside, I like her. I like who she was — timid, too quiet, gentle and reticent — and I like who she’s become — brash, passionate, level-hearted, and wild for life. I like looking at her and knowing that she’s okay now, and that I am too. I like considering the deepness of her eyes so young, and knowing that I made her, moment by moment, each of 21,020 days now, give or take a few leap years. I like looking at her as she is, unaware of the intervening decades, and as I am now, aware and more or less okay with them. And I wonder, if she had peeked out the window in 1978 and caught a glimpse of us at 57, what would she say to this older self?

Would she be surprised at the friends I still hold close? And those I’ve let go?

Would she be surprised that I still sew, that I still read Faulkner, Eliot, and Nabokov, that I still write, that I’m still slow to speak?

Would she wonder how I found the nerve to travel alone, to open a business, to finally crack in the face of inequities and speak out, make waves, lose friends?

How disappointed would she be over my first marriage? How angry that it took me so long to learn to speak? How devastated over the too-many-times that I kept my mouth shut?

How much in awe at knowing our children, so like her and yet so not?

How stunned to realize that they are both older now than she is?

Our mother died six years ago, and missing her has changed my view of aging — a bit. I used to surprise myself by seeing her in the mirror now and then, and finding her skin across my legs and arms. Sometimes I scan the road ahead of my car, and I know I’m looking through my mother’s eyes, seeing with her hazel irises and interpreting my view in that funny way she had. For so long, I didn’t like these intrusions of age, but now I welcome them as a little more time spent with the woman who gave me life and shared it with me longer than anyone I know.

And when I glance across the room to 23 now, I’ve got that motherly thing going on. I want to protect her, to encourage her, to give her a fear of not living, to make sure she wrings every drop of life out of her years. In a way, I’m re-mothering myself, and she’s re-childing me.

Here’s what I miss most about those early years: knowing what you love and believing you’ll never, ever let go of it, for any reason; the certainty that everything is possible; being an impetus for change rather than fearing it; sharing a comfortable relationship with time; believing you’ll always be beautiful.

So yeah, she’s staying on the wall right in front of me. I suggest you post an image of yourself on the wall too — it’s quite the kickstarter.