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AMOR

Amor, 2006 by Robert Indiana, National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Droid Shots, June 26th, 2014, photo © 2014 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.






Robert Indiana

___________________________________________

I took this photograph of the sculpture AMOR by Robert Indiana on a visit to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., June 26th, 2014. Exactly one year later, June 26th, 2015, Love Wins (OBERGEFELL ET AL . v . HODGES).

-posted on red Ravine, Friday, July 3rd, 2015

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MarryMe1dabstext2 sharp

Marry Me Mandala, for Elizabeth on her birthday, hand-drawn mandala photographed with Canon Powershot & edited with PhotoShop Elements, Golden Valley, Minnesota, January 29th, 2012, photo © 2011-2012 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.




On the day you were born,
it's plain to see, the Moon and the Stars
aligned with the Sea—
a wild heart so caring and free
a better Aquarius you could never be!

If beauty rises from the love we carry
I see no reason why we should not marry
let the rest of the world fight over what it all means,
I know our love is everything it seems.

I want to live with you all the days of my life,
through thick and thin, amid hardship and strife,
from deaths and births and the long Dark Night
spring Joy and Art, and a good snowball fight.

Last night when we danced on the studio floor
I felt your love swell inside once more.
In bearing witness, here for all to see,
it's your birthday, Elizabeth, will you marry me?






-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, January 29th, 2012, for Shug

-related to posts: Gratitude Mandala — Giving Thanks

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[February 3, 2010, UNM Sub Ballroom]


By Carolyn Flynn





Elizabeth Gilbert in Albuquerque, February 3,
2010, in the UNM Sub Ballroom, photo © 2010
by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






From The “You Can’t Hurry Love” Department:


The age at which people marry is the greatest predictor of a failed marriage, so marry late and lower your expectations.

“You almost can’t wait long enough,” says author Elizabeth Gilbert to an audience of about 720 book lovers that gathered in the University of New Mexico SUB ballroom in Albuquerque this month to hear her read from her newest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.

“The expectation thing is huge,” Gilbert goes on to say. “We have overloaded this institution.”

American marriage is supposed to be the safe harbor for soul gratification, life partner, wealth building, child rearing and everyday companion.

“I don’t want to become the goddess of lower your expectations,” Gilbert says, “but manage them.”

In an interview before the event, Gilbert says more about that: “People who marry at heat of infatuation. The only one way to go from there is to speed down. People who marry from place of love and friendship find that over the years they find their love just deepens.”

Gilbert didn’t set out to be an expert on romance and marriage. Rather, the author of the mega-best-selling Eat, Pray, Love set out to be the “bride of writing,” as she proclaims on her Web site, elizabethgilbert.com.

“I married it,” she tells the audience, which, judging by the questions, has more concerns about what she will write next and how she writes it than fixing up their love lives. “This is what I’m for. This is my purpose.”


The “unidentical twin”


Gilbert set out on a career in writing with this simple goal: “I just wanted to see something published before I died. And people in my family live a long time.”

She also set out to travel, to do yoga and to recover her heart after a brutal divorce and an even-more brutal breakup in a rebound relationship. That led to Eat, Pray, Love, which took readers from Italy to India to Indonesia, where she met the man she loves and shares her life with, the Brazilian gem importer she calls Felipe in her books.

What she didn’t plan on was that her journey would lead her to Committed, released in January 2010.

That book opens with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announcing to Gilbert and her sweetie that their 90-day chunks of commitment — which resembled marriage in every way but weren’t marriage — weren’t going to pass muster. Felipe, an Australian citizen, was in the U.S. on a limited visa that allowed him to stay with Gilbert in their non-wedded state of bliss in Philadelphia about three months at a time. Then, he would have to depart to parts elsewhere, sometimes with Gilbert, only to return. This activity appeared suspicious in the post-9/11 world. Homeland Security announced they would deport him… though a friendly official known only in the book as “Officer Tom” gently advised them that they could solve this problem with the M-word — marriage.

“What we determined, quite swiftly there in the bowels of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport was that it would be hugely to our benefit to do this,” says Gilbert.

Thus, another journey began — and another book.

The route to writing a follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love, was, shall we say, a learning experience.

“The notion that we (as writers) are supposed to be defeating ourselves strikes me as cannibalistic and a little scary,” Gilbert says.

The author considered that Eat, Pray, Love, was her last book “and maybe she would be selling scented candles.”

But she also reminded herself that writers have long careers, and she planned to be writing at least until she was 80. Now 40, she realized that she had 40 more years of writing ahead of her, of which Eat, Pray, Love, would be a small part.

The struggle that she believes every writer has is that the final product is often the “unidentical twin of what you had in mind.”

It took 500 pages and some time off to shed the mantle of expectations for what her next book would be. She freely admits she rejected the first 500 pages, making the painful decision that she could not turn it in to her publisher, which was expecting a manuscript.

She had to take six months off and do something completely different until it became clearer how to approach the next book. That meant a lot of gardening. “Your hands are in the dirt, it’s restorative, and every so often you get a cherry tomato,” she says.

One day in the fall, the first line of Committed came to her. It was in a different voice.

“The problem with the early draft was trying to write in an imitation of my Eat, Pray, Love voice,” she says.


Lessons about love


That version of the draft was a completely different way to tell the same story she tells in Committed, which gets us back to what Gilbert has learned about marriage.

At the Albuquerque event, Gilbert read from the opening of the book, in which she and her sweetie, whom she calls Felipe in both books, were averse to marriage, though there was no absence of love. Both were survivors of nasty divorces. Gilbert had borne witness to what she referred to in Committed to the fact that every relationship has buried within it the “ever-coiled makings of a catastrophe.”

In an interview before the event, Gilbert says her yearlong search to define marriage for herself, she came to understand what had doomed her first marriage was not going to doom her second. “What doomed our marriage — pretty simply, (is we were) young stupid, selfish and immature.

“You take those traits and apply them day-to-day and watch them get eroded.”

But Gilbert also had to make her peace with how much of her marriage was public – owned by the government and the community – and how much was private. “It’s not just your own story,” she says.

Yes, two people who are in love write their own code, governing the graceful balance of give and take.

But their relationship also belongs to the community. And to the U.S. government, as she learned. And to history. “And some would say it belongs to God,” she says in the interview.


‘Waiting to be born’


Gilbert worked through the tremendous expectations not only about marriage, but about her next book. She admits to big time writer’s block. In a 2008 TED lecture on creativity, she wonders why writers put this on themselves. Her father, a chemical engineer, never had chemical engineering block.

Gilbert tells the audience in Albuquerque that what saves her is her work ethic. “I’m a little bit sloppy.”

The newspaper columnist Russell Banks admitted to being lazy and a perfectionist.

This is a difficult aspect in a writer, Gilbert says. “You need to be the opposite.”

“I just refused to die as a person who had 30 pages of a novel in her drawer,” she says.

The biggest thing that kept her going through Committed, is she wants to get to the next project, which she says will be fiction. There are “those things lining up waiting to be born.”





Carolyn Flynn, an MFA candidate in fiction and creative nonfiction at Spalding University, has seen her literary short stories published in Ellipsis and The Crescent Review, as well as the German anthology Wilde Frauen. She is the winner of the Renwick-Sumerwell and SouthWest Writers fiction prizes and has been short-listed for the Tom Howard Prose Prize in creative nonfiction and the Danahy Prize in fiction. For the past ten years, she has been editor of SAGE magazine, published monthly in the Albuquerque Journal. The author of seven nonfiction books on body-mind-spirit topics, she lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her 10-year-old twins.

Carolyn also wrote red Ravine posts An Evening With Elizabeth Gilbert & Anne Lamott after seeing the two writers together in 2008 on the UCLA campus and The Devil Came Down To Austin about seeing ghosts of her father while attending the 2007 Agents & Editors Conference. You can find out more about Carolyn at carolynflynn.com.

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By Bob Chrisman

 
 
 

BOB FATHER & SON 1958 IMG_1798

Father & Son, circa 1958, St. Joseph, Missouri,
photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

 
 
 
On May 3, 1952 I arrived to take part in the family drama. My parents celebrated their twelfth wedding anniversary the week after I was born. Dad had turned 38 in February. My sister would turn ten in September, followed by Mom’s 37th birthday the end of November.

As a child I adored my father, but around the age of five I didn’t want him to touch me. I would scream if he came close. He loved to come home from work and rub his unshaven face against my cheeks until they turned red. I hated that. I hated him.

My father exploded at odd times. Seemingly benign topics of conversation would cause him to yell and pound the table. Although never physically violent, his fits scared me and made conversation with him unpredictably frightening.

Not a particularly outgoing man, he withdrew more from social interactions. At family gatherings he would collect all the reading material in the house, find a comfortable chair, and read and sleep the afternoon away.

My sister left for college when I was nine. My father grew even more distant. His only ally had left the house.

The first craziness that I remember occurred one Sunday afternoon. My sister had come home. My grandmother had come to town from the farm. Our car pulled up in front of the house and I went to the door.

My mother was yelling. My father, half in and half out of the car, shouted at someone. I looked to see who they were screaming at and realized they were arguing. I had never seen them argue like that. “Sis, come here. You gotta see this.”

From behind me I heard, “What the hell?” She nudged me. “Shut the door. We don’t want them to know we saw.” I closed the door.

Five minutes later, Mom walked into the house and threw her purse on the bed. When she noticed us staring at her, she sighed, “Len will join us later. He has something to do right now.”

Twenty minutes passed before he returned home and sat down at the table. No one said a word about what had happened between them.

 
 
 

Years later my mother said, “Your father got scared when you started to first grade. He knew someone wanted to kidnap you kids. They planned to snatch you at the Frosty Treat.” The Frosty Treat was a popular, after-school, ice cream shop. Without any explanation our parents had forbidden us from joining our friends there. I didn’t think much about it. By the time I started school, I had grown used to these commands. The new order was, “Come home directly from school.” I obeyed.

My mother told me that Dad has accused her of moving the pillows on their bed to make him crazy. “We only had two pillows. I never understood what I had done.” Although these episodes continued through my childhood, she never talked about them.

When I asked about the argument on that Sunday afternoon, my mother swore me to silence. “Your dad said an angel descended into the church and stood next to him during the service. It communicated telepathically and told him to watch himself. The man next to him had been sent to see if he played with himself during church. I told him he was crazy. That’s when he yelled at me.”
 
“Mom, that’s nuts. Did you think of going for help?”

“To whom? God? I prayed for your dad night and day.”

“How about a psychiatrist or psychologist?”

“We took care of our own problems.”

 
 
 

BOB FATHER 1968 IMG_1792

My Father, circa 1968, St. Joseph, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

 
 

Physical problems plagued Dad during the late 1960’s. The grain dust at work irritated his one good lung and caused severe asthma attacks. I can close my eyes and hear the gasping sound as he struggled to breathe. I can see him sitting at the kitchen table, his mouth wide open and his neck muscles strained, as he inhaled.

My mother walked twelve blocks in the dark to the pharmacy to buy the “breathing medicine.” She never asked me, her teenage son, to go. As soon as she left, I crawled under my bed and hid. I didn’t want to hear any calls for help. I’d fail him. I always did.

He underwent hernia surgery in December 1968 and a re-do in January 1969. He stayed off work until March. Two weeks after he returned to work he suffered his stroke.

Chaos erupted. My mother stopped being a mother and became a devoted wife. I resented his stroke because it hadn’t killed him and because it took my mother away.

Somewhere in the years that followed, he gave up. Not that I blame him. His life beat him down. The stroke and residuals destroyed what little will he had left.

It ended any chance I had to talk with him about what happened between us, to ask him questions, to make my accusations, to hear his side of the story. Even if he hadn’t lost his mind, I couldn’t have talked to him, so great was my hatred. On May 2, 1984, he died of old age. A birthday “present” I can never forget.

I’ve always felt incomplete as a man because he didn’t teach me the secrets that fathers pass to their sons. Even now, after decades of searching for that knowledge, which I doubt exists, I still feel inadequate.

 
 
 

Recently a psychic said, “Your father asks you to forgive him for what he did to you.”

Without hesitation I replied, “I have forgiven him. He needs to forgive himself.”

I joined forces with my mother. I disliked the failure I thought he was. I sometimes treated him with no dignity because I thought he deserved my contempt. Perhaps most importantly, I hated him because he didn’t love me enough. But then, I never gave him a chance. Like my father, I must forgive myself for all the things I did and didn’t do in my relationship with him. Only then can I truly bear witness for my father.

 


About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. My Life With Dad is Part III in his exploration of a trilogy series about his father. Part I, My Father’s Witness, was published on red Ravine in August, followed in September by Part II, Bearing Witness.

Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, and The Law Of Threes. He has also published two pieces about the life and death of his mother — Hands and In Memoriam.

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By Bob Chrisman



I possess no physical evidence to offer in defense of my father. Family stories and my own fragmented memories comprise what little I know of him. Fifty-seven years have blurred much of what I remembered, but I will bear witness for him.

At a trial, the court clerk would instruct me to raise my right hand. “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I would hesitate before I answered. I don’t know the “truth.” I only know my truth. But the court doesn’t want to hear my doubts. The only answer to the question is, “I do.”


BOB IMG_1781

My Father – 8 Months Old, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.



On February 28, 1914, my father, Len Chrisman, became the first child of H.T. and Annie Chrisman. In September of that same year, H.T.’s gall bladder ruptured. The resulting infection killed him. My father never knew his father, not even from stories, because his mother didn’t talk about the man.

Several men courted the Widow Chrisman. A local banker, my father’s favorite, asked her several times to marry him, but she refused.

When she remarried in 1920, she chose a widower, William Hecker, who had seven children. By all accounts, including some from his children, he was a very angry man. Mr. Hecker stipulated one condition for the marriage. “You must promise that you’ll never favor your son over my children.” She promised, and she never broke a promise.

BOB IMG_1780

My Father In His Baby Carriage, circa 1914, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.

My father rarely talked about the mother of his childhood. I remember him saying, “She married him because the children needed a mother. She felt sorry for them.”

The step-daughters resented her. Ruth, the oldest, had already married and left home. Fern and Gladys soon followed their oldest sister’s lead. The remaining daughter, Myrtle, who was my father’s age, loved both her new stepmother and stepbrother. The teenaged stepsons, Ralph and Glenn, took after their father. They hated my dad because he had been an only child with a mother all to himself. The remaining step-son, Everett, died in 1926. My father rarely spoke of him, except to say, “He died too young.”

Early in the marriage they lived in western Nebraska. One day the boys roped my dad and dragged him behind a horse through cactus patches. “I never cried. Mom pulled the needles out of my bottom and back with a pair of pliers. I didn’t cry then either. I never let them have that satisfaction.” His voice remained flat as he told the first part of the story, but cracked when he said. “You know, my own mother didn’t say anything to Dad Hecker or to the boys.”

A high school teacher offered to send him to college and pay his expenses. My father wanted to go. “Mom and Dad Hecker listened politely. The last thing he said was, ‘A brilliant mind like his shouldn’t go to waste.'”

BOB IMG_1782

Widow Chrisman & Her Son, circa early 1900s, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


“Mom answered as soon as he finished, didn’t even take time to mull it over. ‘None of the other kids went to college. Len doesn’t need to go either.’ It wouldn’t have cost them anything. I left the room because I was so mad at her.”

Her decision doomed my dad to a lifetime of farm labor and blue collar jobs. He worked at a dairy. He worked in a foundry, a meat packing plant, and finally in a grain mill. He never fit in with his fellow workers. He read too much, thought too much.

My father met my mother in the mid-1930’s. She lived down the street from his parents. The two became friends. In the late 1930’s he traveled to Oregon to pick fruit because local jobs didn’t exist. His traveling companions were his future brothers-in law. He wrote letters to my mother. She saved them, called them “love letters” even though they contained no obvious expressions of love, other than “Love, Len.”


I asked my mother why she married him. At that time, he had been bedridden for five years. “Did you love him?”

She dodged the question. “I promised myself that I would marry someone like my dad.”

“Was Daddy like him?”

“No, he was nothing like my father. I felt sorry for Len. He needed me.” I cringed. My heart hurt. She hadn’t loved my father. I didn’t ask any more questions because I didn’t want to know the answers.


BOB IMG_1787

My Father Dressed For A Tom Thumb Wedding, circa early 1900's, Missouri, photo © 2009, Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.


In 1942, my sister was born. My father loved her. She was his special child.

In 1943 his stepfather died, but not before he secured a promise from his wife to watch over Ralph. My father never understood why she agreed to put up with someone who had treated her so rudely, a man who cussed and swore about everything. Maybe she felt sorry for him because his vision was so severely impaired. Whatever the reason, she took care of him until her death 32 years later in 1975.

In 1952 I arrived. Unexplainably, my mother laid sole claim to me. She excluded my sister and father from taking care of me. I was her child. The possession of my life had begun.

For the first five years I slept next to my parents’ bed in a crib, then on a tiny rollaway bed. Our four-room house didn’t have any extra rooms. My father added two rooms, moved my sister to a new bedroom and moved me into her old room.

He lived his early life abandoned and betrayed by the people who loved him or should have loved him.  He had no protector, no father. Long after he died I complained to my mother about the kind of father he had been. “Don’t be so hard on him. He never learned to be a father because he never had one himself.” My father and I never had a chance to have a normal father-son relationship. That’s all the truth I know for now.




About Bob: Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. This is Part II of a series of three about his father. Part I, My Father’s Witness, was published on red Ravine in August. Bob’s other red Ravine posts include Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters, Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

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Valentine’s Day is almost over.

I meant to say how much I love the simple act of acknowledging the day.

I meant to talk about how it seems that when we were little, the cards we gave to our classmates were so much bigger than the cards my girls bring home today. How much I loved coming home with my white paper sack decorated with red construction paper hearts and glitter. How I sat on my bed, emptied the sack, pored through the valentines.

In my family we’ve started making our cards. For days the girls sit at the kitchen table and make valentines after school. Em crosses off the names on her classmate list that her teacher sends home with each kid.

This morning the first thing I heard from both my girls was, Mom, did you make our cards yet?

I made them each a card with a red valentine doily and pink cut-out hearts on construction-paper springs. Jim We all got chocolate-dipped strawberries.

I think it’s silly that Valentine’s Day should be about couples. I heard someone on the radio this morning say that on Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, but on Saint Valentine’s Day, everyone can’t be a couple.

Valentine’s Day can be about a cut-out heart pasted onto a piece of paper. Making a phone call. Smiling, showing some love. To yourself, even.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Good night.

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Remember the song we sang in grade school?

Kim and Buck-y
sittin’ in a tree
K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes Love
then comes Marriage
then comes Baby in a Baby Carriage.

Then Kim turns red; Bucky, too. They both say Nah-ah, and we all say Yeah-hah. Then everyone scatters on the playground.

The rituals of Love. For a long time I thought they were more or less limited to The Crush, Dating, Going Steady, Getting Engaged, and, finally, Marriage and Babies (which, as a kid, I lumped together on account of the first marriage among my siblings being the Shotgun variety).

As I got older I came to realize that somewhere after The Baby Carriage there is also Monotony, Incredibly Hard Work With Little Reward, Fighting, Something Akin to Hatred, and in over 50% of cases, Divorce. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Shared Custody.

The rituals of Love. My, how they’ve changed since the days of Kim and Bucky on the playground. 

My marriage resides somewhere between Incredibly Hard Work and Fighting, usually a step this side of Fighting. It’s actually reached a comfortable place, where it might even be able to live ’til death due us part. Living, loving, arguing, loving, living, arguing.

Mom always told me it was good to fight in a marriage. She didn’t elaborate, but she did role model. Usually she was trying to soothe me as I sat in the back seat of the car, hands clutching ears, wailing so as to divert attention from their yelling to my panic that this was in fact It!

I’m pretty sure Mom would take issue with LiveScience when it touts a new study that suggests marriage as a treatment for depression. According to LiveScience, the study shows that marriage provides a greater psychological boost for depressed people than it does for happy people. (Bella DePaulo does a thorough treatment of the study in her blog on Huffington Post.)

Maybe Mom was never depressed enough. She was certainly hot-tempered and liked her naps each day, and she played poker for 30 years in spite of Dad’s insistence that she not. Which, now that I think of it might account for the other bit of marriage advice she always dispensed, which was, Don’t do it.

Or maybe the study was done by the same pro-marriage people (and, specifically, pro-men-and-women-only-marriage people) who sponsored the billboard in Albuquerque that reads something like “Married people have better sex lives.” Better than what?

It hasn’t been my experience that marriage is particularly therapeutic nor hot-and-heavy. I don’t mean to open a can of worms here, and I don’t mean to put down Marriage, especially my own, but Marriage can be great at times, and at times it sucks. Let’s be realistic. Some unions just plain shouldn’t have happened they’re so bad. Others are downright bizarre (just see the documentary Crazy Love, or if it hasn’t come to your town read this review). And a few lucky ones appear to be made in heaven. Appear to be.

Maybe I’m being self-centered, but I tend to believe most normal, relatively healthy marriages mirror my own. My marriage, like me, is presently middle-aged. Sometimes lamenting younger, more experimental days. Sometimes dreading what’s on the other side of the hill. Often operating with enough living under its belt to know which battles to pick and when to quietly appreciate the periods where not only is there no battle at hand but, in fact, a deep sense of peace and contentment. 

For the most part I believe my marriage will see the Golden Years and, knock on wood, eventually Very Old Age. I figure the longer I stick with it, the more I’ll master the art of compromise. Mom and Dad, now in their eighties, fight less and rely more on their companionship than ever before. I’ve talked to each one of them, in private, about their marriage. Mom still sometimes says in that voice of hers, “I can’t stand him.” Dad still insists that Mom has always been hard on him.

Marriage is far from perfect, so much so I sometimes can’t understand why it has become the ritual of Love. What I do know is this: Marriage shouldn’t belong to some people and not to others. Everyone should have the right to marry if they want.

If I were in charge of All Things, I’d let anyone who’s willing to swallow the pill go for it. But I’d definitely warn, it’s not a substitute for St. John’s Wort.

Oh, and fighting is OK.



-from Topic post, Rich in Ritual.

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