Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends, deux

So what to do when it is time to put together a little something for each child's class for Halloween? You have the following options:

1. Do nothing (doesn't feel great to pick this one, don't know why.....has something to do with the artistic legacy in my family where homemade means that you love and are loved)

2. Research for something unique, head to Jo-Ann's and spend 14 dollars on scallop punch...3 hours figuring out how to use Microsoft Art and put together a circular sentence, another 14 dollars on tiny halloween stamps, etc. As an aside, most of my friends will tell you all my sentences are circular.

3. Convey your idea to Michelle, listen with gratitude in your heart when she suggests you borrow all her supplies and oh by the way, she already has the circular font saved and does it make sense to just do the project together?

Why, yes it does. Happy Fall Y'all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends

Today's hike was picture perfect and one of us had the energy to capture a few images on her Iphone (thank you Lorette). This beautiful conservation land is just a few minutes from our houses and both of us were congratulating ourselves on having the good sense to live in a place where you can hike and enjoy the gift of a beautiful Autumn day in New England.

Did we get lost? Not with these trail markers..........also, Lorette may have served with the Army Rangers and has neglected to tell any of us...I got that feel as I know very few hikers who could have spotted that squiggly line, interpreted it correctly, and kept us on track. So, I raise my Gatorade to beautiful autumn days, pontoon bridges, a lair in the woods that included a rocking horse, and good friends.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Here is the rough terrain I find myself wandering through two days after my "neurological event." A couple of nights ago, while typing merrily away, I suffered some mild indigestion after eating a day old burrito. It certainly has happened before and will happen again with my culinary skills and deep distrust of the kitchen. This time, however, I thought I was having a heart attack, which led to a pretty solid panic attack. I have a few strategies that I have taught over the years and they can come in pretty handy. Can you become your own therapist? In a pinch, the answer is yes but I have a few problems with my new therapist:

1. Her insistence on "deep breathing" can be mildly annoying, especially when it leads to the cessation of the heart attack. Truthfully, I would rather have a heart attack than a panic attack.

2. Her encouragement that I call family and let them know how I am doing, that I honestly write about how I am feeling and how I need to stop saying everything is great, when clearly, it sucks mightily. She seems like she might be a pushy chick.

3. She wants the fear to go...and so I ask myself....when I let go of the fear....the fear of losing my cognitive ability...the fear of not being able to take care of myself or my family.....I'm left with faith. Faith that the doctors are not taking this thing too slowly. Faith that my body will continue to tell me what I need to know, and that I will continue to listen. Most of all, faith that I will soon be healthy again. She is asking for a hell of a leap.

Checking in with HH the Dalai Lama

Friday, October 23, 2009

They hold you by your fear (thanks Tracie)

Shockingly, I am a very bad patient in the hospital. Last visit, I got up at 4:00am, put my soccer clothes back on, and asked the charge nurse to call me a cab. I believe I said: "Excuse me, I know you guys work really hard on all of this but it isn't working out for me...can you please call me a cab? She gave me earplugs instead.

This visit, which occured on Wednesday from 11:45 pm until Thursday at 5:36pm, did not go much better. I was in the ER for 12 hours and as an active participant, would like to give the following feedback:

1. You do not need to put an inflatable blood pressure cuff on a depleted patient which will inflate very 15 minutes and absolutely insure they get no sleep whatsoever. When said patient gets up in the middle of the night and rips off the cuff, go easy with your response.
2. Keep toilet paper in the bathroom that is servicing 60 people, one of whom clearly has malaria.
3. When your patient says "I have May Thurner Syndrome" do not say "I have to go look that up."
4. Thanks to the nurses for the warmed up blankets, the contraband coffee (against the resident's orders), and the extra johnny, strategically placed. You guys and gals make a very difficult environment almost tolerable.

For the MRI technicians, when you ask your patient if she is "singing along" during the MRI, and then tell her that she is "breathing wrong and messing up the images" she will come out of the tube in an ill humor. Please do not then blame her ill humor on the fact that "not everyone can make it through an MRI.'' With compassion and patience, we can all make it through being a patient but only if our guides have compassion and patience.

Thanks to the dudes who wheeled me back and forth from test to test. I loved hearing about your granddaughter, your son, and even your assault and battery charges on your ex-wife's boyfriend. It kept me preoccupied and reminded me that we all have our struggles.

Thanks to the attending neurologist, who left no stone unturned and no test not ordered. After experiencing neurological symptoms, it was very reassuring to know that no part of my body was harboring a clot.

Being a patient is so humbling and such a great dress rehearsal for the fragility of aging. The Buddhists lay it out pretty clearly in the first noble truth: Life is suffering. They are not wishing it on anybody, but we are all in samsara, suffering together, decaying together, and ultimately, moving beyond this lifetime. I feel trapped in a hospital, held by my fear. The trick is to not hate the hospital, but hate the fear. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Couldn't be a Prouder Gardner

Last spring, my son decided he wanted to grow carrots in our family garden. After weeding them, on occasion, and watering them, on occasion, today was the big harvest day. The biggest of the bunch was 4 inches but I dare say I have never tasted a sweeter carrot.
One quick carrot growing lesson: when you have about a 7 day growing season in New England, it might make sense to start the seeds out in a cold frame. I am truly amazed that our fore bearers did not starve to death in this neck of the woods.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

There is no frigate like a book

I got in a very interesting discussion last week-end with some wicked smart folks about the demise of the book as we know it. The conversation started because our local library may lose it's accreditation and with that, patrons will no longer be able to borrow books from a wonderful service called This service allows you to type in the title of a book, request it, and then it appears magically at your local library. One of my friends travels a lot and has the Kindle. He is a big fan of this electronic book and feels that our attachment to libraries is now about nostalgia and that with town and state budgets so tight, we are going to have to make different choices about how to use our resources.

Books have been my transitional objects my entire life. They are stuffed into every corner of my house and provide a clear picture of the evolution of my being. The smell of them, the feel of them, the heft of them....Here is the excavation:

1. Old Black Witch: This is a rollicking tale about a single mom and her son who have hit on hard times. They buy an old run-down house and decide to make it a pancake/tea house. All is well except an evil little witch lives in the attic. The tale clearly is about loving your crazy relatives, and how their craziness can save you in the end. Cut to 20 years down the road. I want to share this tale with my little ones and my sister has the family copy. She is in Texas and doesn't feel the need to give it up. I go online and find out that the book is now considered racist and is no longer published. Used copies are going for about 50 dollars. I buy it and add the updated caveat: the witch could have been dressed in any color, it was not the color black that made the witch evil, it was the lack of compassion in her upbringing, etc, etc.

2. Little Women: We all loved Jo, we all cried when Beth died, and later, we realized that the true love story was the sisters with each other. One of my latest CMARS books was on Bronson Alcott and he was such a transcendentalist that he transcended making a living for his family. That job fell to Louisa.

3. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. I was a political science major in college and wanted to get my PhD in social welfare policy at the Heller Institute. I aspire to be a policy wonk. He was a traveling Frenchmen who wrote this classic in the mid 1800's. He wrote about equality and how fluid our society was compared to the rigid class distinctions in Europe. How do we manage it? Access to learning and to books. I believe passionately that books are connected to our liberties and anyone can check out a book at the library. Not everyone has access to the Internet, to computers, and to electronic books.

4. Dictionary of Women's Sacred Symbols. I paint Good Karma Boxes. I paint them for people getting married, having babies, retiring, and leaving my girls' groups. This dog-eared book has taught me that some simple symbols, like the cross, have many meanings and connections. One thousand years before Christianity, the cross represented the intersection between masculine and feminine. The Chinese used that symbol to represent the intersection of the sky and the earth. Books have taught me to dig deeper and listen to other perspectives.
Yes, books are about nostalgia. Which books would you list as representative of your eras? Still, they are so much more than the written word. They connect us to one another. My books will be my greatest gift to my children. I think Emily Dickinson should have the last word:
There is no frigate like a book
to take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the
poorest take
Without oppress of toll
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Wrong Side of 30

My husband is an avid soccer fan. So avid, he gets excited when he hears about a football match being televised at a local bar, and then immediately defeated when he realizes it is usually the wrong kind of football. Because of this passion of his, I have had the distinct pleasure of listening to great announcers with wonderful accents. More charming than the accents, though, are the announcers abilities to cut right to it. This previous Saturday, Sweden was playing in a world cup qualifying match. I was at dinner with friends, but my husband reported that one of the announcers said to his mate "You know, Sweden just has too many players the wrong side of 30." A new theme is born. We have now, in the space of 72 hours, thoroughly integrated this into our lexicon.

Let me be clear; we are on the side of 30 the announcer was talking about and for soccer...Yep, it's the wrong side. I learned that years ago when 20 year olds started running backwards so I could hear their trash talk on the pitch. We are on the wrong side of 30 for attending loud rock concerts. Last one I was at, I spent the night daydreaming about a latte and a folk band.

Still, I think we are on the right side of 30 f0r the following:
1. Knowing that our relationships are precious and the very least of what is precious is what we look like.
2. Being present in the moment, having experienced enough loss to know that there are no guarantees of anything for anybody.
3. Appreciating something handmade, even if it is a bit wobbly far more than the latest "it" item from Anthropologie.
4. Not sweating the extra 5 pounds, the gray hair, and even the old-lady whisker on the chin. Hell, I earned 'em all.
5. Spending more time in contemplative activities...slowing it down, and cutting out some of the bad books and bad TV....I do not count "Dancing with the Stars" as bad TV, nor do I count People magazine as a bad book which brings me to my last item....

On this side of 30, you get to define for yourself what fits and what you are passionate about....I'm the person who says who I am...and I hope that definition continues to be fluid.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mr. President.....

I'm still trying to make sense of all of this. First, I watch this video and am stunned that you refused to meet with HH the Dalai lama...and then I hear that you received the Nobel Peace Prize. How do those two things walk hand in hand? I'm still rooting for you, but you have to be less political,...the person you were when we voted for you. 40, 000 additional troops in Afganistan is not peaceful nor peace-loving. May you find your way back to both.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Hell No, Dalai

Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Felted Pumpkin

It's funny the difference between an idea, the initial realization of that idea, and then the meanderings. When you start a blog, you realize very quickly that you have to "drill down" as my Texan dad would say and decide what is the general theme of one's wisdom. I love a lot of things. You would think this would make blogging natural and easy but in fact, I really have not found my audience (thank you my five followers, you are exempt from this, of course). One of the things I love the most is my work. Of course, when you are a clinician, you really can't talk specifically about who you are working with and you should be very careful when you write anything at all about what you are doing. It breaks a sacred trust. Note to Dr. Drew...putting addicts on television does not help them get better. It exposes them to a million people when they are most vulnerable. How about a reality TV show about therapists who have lost track of their ethics?

I love art and making things and I originally thought that is what I would blog about the most. To date, I have posted one project and even then I linked to someone else's instructions. It takes some time and love of detail to tell people how to make things. I am most blessed by all of you who take that time but I don't seem to be doing it. Take my little felt pumpkin up there...I can't remember where I found the instructions for that or I would give her/him full credit. My instructions are pretty simple:

1. Take a block of Styrofoam as your felting surface.

2. Go to a local craft fair and pick up beautiful wool roving from an Alpaca farmer. You need orange and green for the pumpkin.

3. Use a multi-needle felting needle. Take a piece of wool roving 6X2 inches and roll it up into a ball. Begin poking the living daylights out of it. Watch out for your fingers. As you begin to shape it, use the felting needles to make the shape of a pumpkin. When you have the shape you like, take a little strand of roving and felt it to the outside for the ridges of the pumpkin.

4. Take a small piece of green roving and roll it into a small stem. Felt it with the needles until it is dense. Then, felt it onto the pumpkin.

I know these instructions are for folks who have dry felted before. If you haven't, there are fabulous videos on Youtube....just type in Dry felting.

My point is, this isn't a crafting blog, even though I wanted it to be. This is more of a blog about my meanderings...spiritual, political, and most of all with my family. We follow each other around as we wander off the path and find such treasures.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Notes to those who need it.....

Note to the Knights of Columbus: Please, please, please during your fundraising efforts take off your yellow jackets that say "Help save retarded children" The times, they are a changing.

Note to my husband: When I perceive that you have dropped me like a hot potato at the climbing gym to give a 30 year old beauty a belay and I leave you stranded at the not catch a ride home from the 30 year old beauty....think it through.

Note to all who work at my local donut shop: when I ask you as you are handing me my coffee if there is sugar in it...even though I did not order sugar, please do not get huffy...refer to the last three times I have stopped by and indeed, did have sugar placed in my coffee.

Note to my colleagues in their twenties: When I am asked to meet with you during your lunch time because you are struggling with your affective education curriculum, and I bring handouts of 10 different group activities, do not flip your copy back in my face and say "Here, save a tree."
This will earn you a private chat with me where I will smile sweetly and take up an additional 20 minutes of your time while we try to get at the root causes of your anger.

Note to my daughter: Calling your Religious Education class "Church Juvie" will get all of your ICarly tv priviliges revoked, even if you tell me that you heard the word "Juvie" on a Disney show.

Note to self: If you are feeling overburdened, go to church and listen to a guest minister speak about her travels in Israel and Palestine. Listen to the stories of displacement, mistrust, and pain. Get a bit of perspective on your first world problems.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

We are making it

Last week, I was walking in tall cotton, as they say in Texas...which means things were going pretty well. The health stuff has settled down until the next round of appointments and I have stopped looking anything up on the Internet; my kids are loving school, and life seemed not only manageable but joyful. This week, not so much.

It started so auspiciously. Monday was a perfect New England day. The leaves are turning but it was still 70. I decided to run along a trail that meanders by a river. 3 miles up, 3 miles back. Now, here is the first life lesson that I will never learn: overextend yourself and you will pay. I was in the best mood after my run, the endorphins were flowing, I passed a 70 year old long distance runner, and I got bragging rights to anyone I talked to that day. Cut to the next morning as I crawled to the shower. Why are my knees creaking to one another like ducks in mating season? Why am I the only one up at 5:30am? Why did I not pack any one's lunch the night before? I love my job, I love the students but I struggle with my 7:30am start time. We are all surly that early in the morning except for those who aren't and they are the ones you should watch out for, truly.

After work, I travelled to a local college to give a guest lecture on "families and disabilities". The students looked so young but earnest. They were not at all prepared for the ending of my talk....make peace with your perceptions of disabilities, old age, and anything that separates you from each other. Ultimately, we will all become disabled and then we will die. (was this perspective connected to my health issues or my run? Will I be asked back? Hard to say). Then, on to pick up the kids, drop them at home, make Mac and Cheese (yet again), say hello to the babysitter, give her instructions on getting youngest dressed for soccer pictures later that night, give husband instructions on what not to say to the teacher at open house that he has to attend because we are triple-booked, and charge over to my teeth-cleaning appt that I made 6 months ago. Guess what? The dentist office is locked up tight. I left a less than polite message on their answering machine, and drove back home to pick up youngest for soccer pictures. Who schedules pictures for 6 years old at 7:45 at night? I did not recover from Tuesday until today, Saturday. How are we making it ? My friend Lorette has a wonderful suggestion over at her blog (organized is as organized does) and she writes beautifully...take a look. We are making it because we see, hear, and laugh with our dear friends who are in the struggle with us. We are making it because we stop demanding so much of ourselves. We are making it because we forgive our husbands for the mornings when we are gone and our children go to school looking more appropriate for clown college. We are making it because we feel such compassion for one another. Finally, we are making it because we refuse to let go of what makes us who we are, even if it means we can't walk the next day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 Years

Ten years is a milestone, in any arena. I'm proud that my husband and I just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. Here are a few reasons why we made it:

1. Scott and I met climbing. He was disgusted that the owner of the Boston Rock Gym had hired me, a young woman with less than 6 months climbing experience to be an instructor at the gym. My memory is that he came up to me and said something along these lines: "I'm going to take you climbing so you don't kill somebody." We became friends and climbing partners. I couldn't have asked for a better one of either. One of my first lead climbs ( a climb up the rock face where the climber puts in their own protection....if you fall, the protection you put in holds your fall) had tricky gear placements. When I finished, I was very proud of the climb. Scott came up behind me and I asked him how it looked. He smiled and said "four out of five of those pieces would have failed...I'm glad you didn't fall." He would have noticed as I was climbing up 75 feet that I was putting in bad protection. He also would have known that to tell me that would have increased my chance of falling and so he said nothing. Whenever I get frustrated that he is so calm, cool, and collected, I think of that day. Sometimes, it is helpful to have the affect of a post.

2. Scott and I were friends for many years before we decided to chance getting romantically involved. Having a friendship first is the way to go.....having a friend who stubbornly refuses to listen to all his friends warn him about the dangers of getting involved with a woman with commitment issues, even better!

3. Scott is funny, but funny 10 minutes after he has left the room and you figured out the second and possibly third meanings of his remarks.

4. This is going to sound trite and worn but we really do compliment one another. I'm a social worker, he is an engineer; I'm loud, he rarely talks unless he knows you for several years; I write poetry, he pretends to like it; I'm gut, he is pure analysis. I'm Texas, he is New England.

So, I'm so very grateful to my loving husband and to the universe. It is an amazing thing to have found your life partner, an adventurer and old-soul atheist. I hope this is the first of many lifetimes together.