Spring art news

RememberExterior“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.” — Emile Zola

When spring rolls around, you’ll typically find me outside, preparing my herb and perennial gardens for summer. But with garden season off to a slow start in Michigan, I’ve been spending more time upstairs in the art studio. Happily, some of my newest creations are cropping up in art shows across the state, from St. Joseph Michigan’s Box Factory Spring Exhibit to the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Association’s Annual Fine Arts Competition. For regular updates, please visit Cindy La Ferle’s Mixed Media.

Mother’s Day “Ideals”

unnamed-1Ideals magazine was launched in 1944 with a Christmas issue compiled by Van B. Hooper, a public relations manager for a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, manufacturer. Over the years it has featured the writings of well-known authors such as Edgar Guest, Sue Monk Kidd, Chris Bohjalian, Susan Allen Toth, Garrison Keillor, and many others.

Now produced by Guideposts and edited by Melinda Rumbaugh, the magazine continues its nostalgic celebration of American holidays with timeless stories, quotations, poetry, recipes, and fine art illustrations.

Since 2008, several of my own essays (including a few from my book, Writing Home) have been published in several issues of Ideals and its hardcover gift anthologies.

This spring, my essay describing my son’s first year away from home (“Field Notes on an Empty Nest”) is included in Ideals‘ Mother’s Day 2014 issue — complete with a beautiful painting by Lee Kromschroeder. The magazine is available where books are sold, including Barnes and Noble, Costco, Target, Family Christian, Books-a-Million, and Mardel.  To purchase the magazine directly from Ideals, click here.

New column: Two new hips and a second chance

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey. ~Kenji Miyazawa

I was in my early forties when I was diagnosed with degenerative osteoarthritis in both hips. Unable to walk without assistive devices for more than a year, I had a glimpse of what it’s like to be disabled….Read the rest of the story in this month’s Michigan Prime, delivered this weekend with your Sunday Detroit News and Free Press. To read my column online, please click here and turn to page 5.

Becoming a mother-in-law

WeddingFrom the moment she posed for those first high school prom photos on our front porch 10 years ago, I knew Andrea was perfect for my only son, Nate.

Yet I felt a subtle shift in our relationship when the two exchanged wedding vows last fall.

Even in the happiest circumstances, after all, the family dynamic changes when adult children marry. Whether we’re debating where to spend the holidays or how often to phone the newlyweds, everyone has to adjust or compromise.

In other words, my new supporting role as “mother-in-law” is making me a little nervous.

Googling the term “mother-in-law” last week, I found dozens of websites listing crude mother-in-law jokes and personal blogs describing toxic in-laws from hell. From Joan Rivers, for instance: “I told my mother-in-law that my house was her house, and she said, ‘Get the hell off my property.’”

Cast as the witch in American family mythology, the stereotypical mother-in-law is blamed for poisoning marriages and spoiling grandkids. No matter what she says or does, she’s the proverbial scapegoat at the extended-family dinner table.

Of course, I want to avoid becoming this woman at all costs.

Comfort and counsel

Thankfully, I can revisit my own family tree for positive role models.

When I married 32 years ago, I felt awkward around my husband’s mother, whose shy personality was so different from mine. At the time, my own wise mother was quick to remind me that a cozy relationship with one’s in-laws rarely evolves overnight.

Early in her marriage, Mom was uncomfortable with my dad’s mother, Ruby, a dowdy Scottish immigrant and teetotaler. Ruby was the polar opposite of my mother’s alcoholic parents, and her brogue was so thick that my mother wished she could hire a translator. Over time, however, Mom learned Ruby’s language of unconditional love and often turned to her in times of crisis. Serving comfort and counsel with bottomless pots of tea, Ruby provided the maternal stability my mother always lacked.

My new daughter-in-law, Andrea, hails from a happy family with solid Croatian roots, and isn’t the sort who’ll need Scottish-island wisdom or scone recipes.

Having watched her grow up with Nate through high school and college, I’m proud of the capable young woman she’s become.

Given such a blessing, who wouldn’t strive to be the world’s best mother-in-law?

New family values

Nate reminds me that I’m “over-thinking” this phase of parenthood — a habit I can blame on my former career as a family columnist. Even so, if he’s lucky enough to be a father someday, he’ll find that letting go of one’s children is the trickiest step to learn in the circle-dance of life.

All said and done, most of us have watched enough Dr. Phil to know we shouldn’t meddle in the lives of our married children, and we know that our new extended family is likely to bring different customs to the table.

But I believe the rest is up to each of us: We decide how much love and effort to invest in our key relationships.

Meanwhile, I want my new daughter-in-law to know that I’ll never compete for my son’s attention; I’ll do my best to respect her boundaries.  Yet I want to be at the top of her list of women she can count on. And as our family’s future unfolds, I hope she’ll turn to me whether she needs a book recommendation or a babysitter — or someone who will listen with an open heart.

This column was first published last year in Michigan Prime.