Apr 17, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

Last Friday afternoon, an email from our small group leader, a retired pastor, arrived in our inboxes: "On Sunday, we will celebrate our 55th Wedding anniversary, and we would like for you to come and celebrate with us. Sunday Afternoon 4:30 at our place. Hamburgers, brats, and the fixin's. Yes, it's late notice, so if you can't make it, we understand... just let us know." After checking with my husband, I replied, "We look forward to celebrating with you. What would you like us to bring?" "A sweet to share," he wrote. Cake. It had to be a frosted layer cake with two, "5" candles. I pulled out my mother's recipes for chocolate cake and creamy maple-syrup frosting. Our tribute to their 55 years together. During the cookout, the couple shared "for better or worse" stories and their wedding album. Many pictured were no longer alive. We all knew he'd had a very rocky time with health issues this past winter. All the more reason to celebrate. At the end of the meal, I brought out the cake with lighted candles. We sang heartily and took pictures of what could be the last tribute.

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Apr 18, 2023·edited Apr 18, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

On the night the Queen died I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the TV. I sat like a rock on the sofa, eyes hurting from too much wine and screen time, typing in the group chat.

'Go to bed.'

'I can’t.'

'Me neither.'

After a while, I realised I’d already seen that faded scene of the Queen stepping out of a carriage, and the photo of a yet-to-be-queen child in a garden. Yet I couldn’t peel myself off to bed. It was the end of an era.

The 1930s, 40s and 50s looked so far away on screen. It seemed surreal that the Queen had been walking around in HD up until recently and that my grandma, born six years later than the Queen, had only died a year ago. At the time it was a shock.

Why didn’t I ask her more? Why didn't I write down her day-to-day life in detail?

The televised tribute ended up being a loop of content. As my friend said in the group chat, 'They’ve had years to prepare for her death and this is what they come up with?'

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I won that 50 bucks thanks to Mom. Her effort had all but guaranteed my 1st place victory in the 1985 costume contest held at the annual 4th of July parade. She had gone the extra mile, cutting, stitching, and sewing a life-size replica fur suit complete with holes for my 6-year-old eyes. It fit perfectly as I proudly rode my BMX bike down Main Street with Dad trailing behind as insurance against a fall. For a moment, I became an Ewok, a little furry forest creature made famous in George Lucas’s 1983 film “Return of the Jedi.” I dedicated myself to that role in the mid-summer Iowa sun. I took that costume seriously because my mom had made it so real. She taught me how a little extra effort is worth it. That’s the way to dedicate to a project, to life. To celebrate the 4th of Julys and birthdays, the evening meal. To pay tribute to the day.

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I have become much more flexible with dedicated energies. I confused dedication with drive, which I turned into grind, which cost me. The flexibility came when I no longer could commit, with intention, to what “was” with my business. What was, was gone. The pandemic highlited areas and ways of being that grind hid. The internalized fear of closing, being seen as a failure, as washed up as irrelevant took a lot of time for me to work thru. I normalized composting something that was gone, deciding breathing life into what is dead, for external validation asked me to compromise energy and dedication best served elsewhere. It also opened me up to my relations, that I didn’t have to keep people around that were not invested in equanimity and progress. It has been an incredibly valuable time, and has taken me to a level of solitude as I account for why i stay longer where I’m not wanted. Capitalism and my agreement to it, my Neo liberalism, and toxic relationships. The boundary of my dedication to people has changed, and it says yes to love and no to sacrifice of my well being and yours.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

In 1956, I married Melville Price, a visiting artist at the Philadelphia Museum of Art School and a part of the 1st generation of abstract expressionist artists. His career was just being established.

Shortly after we married, he began to seek a more reliable source of income. Instead of our moving back to New York, Melville accepted a visiting artist appointment at the University of Alabama, which soon became a full-time position. However, living outside of NY made our attempts to find gallery representation increasingly impossible. He was deeply disappointed but continued painting to the day he died a month before his 50th birthday in 1970.

Suddenly I was the caretaker of an estate of paintings, and I promised I would do everything in my power to bring this extraordinary artist to the attention of the art world. I carried the art with me everywhere I moved always wanting it close to me. In 1996 a Chicago gallerist visited Mel’s work in my storage space and was ecstatic about it. Since then, we have placed the work in private collections and museums, and I was finally able to pay tribute to Mel’s legacy.

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Apr 21, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

Decades ago my dad took a photo that someone used, without his permission, to create a banner. His photograph has come to symbolize New Orleans, most recently in worldwide commercials and a network special. He copyrighted it, and they admitted it was an unauthorized derivative, but it still took him fourteen years to get a contract. He called what they did stealing.

New Orleans culture is Black and Creole culture, but the people who created it are systemically cut from profits and rights. New Orleanians go back generations, my family goes back hundreds of years, and the struggles with outsiders ripping off, profiting from, gentrifying, legislating against and criminalizing our culture continues to this day. The people benefiting get legitimacy through their cultural adjacency and their moneyed influence helps them become faces of culture they had no hand in creating.

After my dad died it took a while to get a copy of the contract, which had expired by a few years. Now my family and I are determined to right the wrongs done to our dad, to get just compensation for, and control of, his work. To do for our family what the interlopers get to do for theirs.

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Apr 30, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

We happen to meet, usually through friends, and I fall hard, enchanted with the aura of independence and adventure you embody. Something sparks between us, and though it is just a blip in the greater scheme of things, we spend an intense part of our lives together. Then we part ways. You go, I stay, or vice versa. I consider leaving things behind to join you, but something holds me back. Circumstances, often related to money or personal obligations. But if there is one thing I’m good at, it’s finding reasons not to do something. Anyway, would you even want that? Still, you’ve given me something, something unsaid and intangible, which I use to my benefit: a lingering feeling of passion. After a short mourning period, I channel this into creating something new, something tangible. I dedicate my efforts to you. Since we can’t be together, it’s the next best thing. And it carries me forward. Looking back, I wonder what you saw in me – was it merely physical? Was it my devotion? Was there something else, something I’ve since lost hold of, that once made me special?

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Jul 1, 2023Liked by M Tamara Cutler

This is probably the most personal post I shared. I already wrote about my grandmother and father, but not about her: my mother.

When I was eight, my mother left my father. My brother was four and she was expecting my sister from my stepfather. Then four more years later, in 1992, my youngest sister was born. She was a passionate mother and dedicated herself completely to her 4 children. The catch was her dependence on my alcoholic stepfather, who treated her worse and worse.

My mother began to develop panic attacks and she started drinking herself. In 2000, my stepfather died. My mother was alone with four children, debts and my stepfather's brother, who was physically and mentally disabled. She kept the right to stay in the house by caring for him around the clock.

In 2008, I found my mother almost dead. My mother was also a heavy chain smoker and very overweight. But nothing changed. Until 2021. Again, she was hospitalized, the doctors didn't have much hope left. But she survived and changed her life completely. She has been sober ever since, lost over 50 kg and goes hiking a lot. We have daily contact and she is infinitely important to me. This is my tribute to my dedicated mother that forgot herself.

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