Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

My favorite book is usually the one I just read.  I am coming out of a book coma where I finished "The Island";  "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society"; "The Life and Adventures of Bradford Washburn, America's Boldest Mountaineer" "My Losing Season" and am still plugging away with "Reaching Deeper".  There is no need to ask what I did over winter vacation.

I would love to speak to them all but Guernesy.......will take top billing.  I would never have picked this book up because of the ridiculous title.  I thought it was some mad mystery caper set in a dank Scottish castle.  Again I will state for the record that two years of Texas history and no world history or geography does not help orient one if they have the audacity to move out of Texas.  Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands and now I know the Channel has islands.  Read the book, it is quite lovely and join a book club where you are forced to read books with ridiculous titles.

Bradford Washburn fell in my estimation after reading that he insisted his wife accompany him to Alaska, leaving their newborn babe at home with grandparents.  Pat Conroy (the losing season) rose.  As a center, I have a love/hate relationships with point guards but he captured something about the game, and leaving it.

This brings me to my new year's wish for the world.  We all need to read.  To have enough food and light and peace to lose ourselves in what was, what could be, and what will be.  We take it for granted, just like clean water and gortex.  May we never forget the abundance of wealth that is at our fingertips when we read and may we work together to have this be a right for all. 

Laurel Hallman, a UU minister put together a book of her sermons "Reaching Deeper".  This passage is from How to HelpYour Child have a Spiritual Life:

Our children should be taught poems and scripture so that they will have wisdom words within their hearts throughout their lives.  It is important that they be able to move comfortably among the world's great religions but it is even more important that they know themselves as religious people, as having 'thou' relationships with people they know, with nature and with the holy in life.

Happy New Year.  May the upcoming year be filled with books, wisdom words and thou relationships with all that is holy in life.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How did I get here?

We had a wonderful, wonderful time at the American Girl Doll Bistro for Emma's birthday today.  Roving Reporter made the reservations in September when she thought I might be dying.  As luck would have it, I lived and serendipitously, the date was today, Emma's birthday.  Here is a bit of irony:  I found myself in the bistro with two of the smartest women I know, talking about the latest books we have read and drinking tea out of perky pink teapots.  There was a lot of pink.  The girls had a blast.  It was an island of serendipity.  Then we left the island  and I found myself in front of this case. What color are her eyes?

After American Girl, we went for Justice.  Not the concept, the store.  And then it hit me.  How did I get here?  When my daughter says "I love Justice", I want it to mean something else.  It has to mean something else.  So, for now, when we make a Justice purchase, I am going to insist that we find a way to make real injustice right.  Could be canned food to the food bank, helping out a neighbor who is elderly.  I will let my shopping prodigy come up with a list.  I will also let you know how this all goes.  Could be interesting.

And a special shout out to Roving Reporter for making reservations months in advance and Auntie T for serving as birthday fairy godmothers.  I get by with a little help from my friends.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Amid the wrapping paper

I have a battered relationship with my birthday and not for the usual reasons that one struggles with a birthday in this youth obsessed culture.  No, my birthday and I have circled one another since the beginning.  It started with the shared birthday party with my sister.  We are both December birthdays, hers in the beginning, mine toward the end and our parents, rightly so, decided in the early years that we should have one party.  But here is the thing:  the party was on her birthday because my birthday is......drummer-boy-roll-instead-of-happy-birthday.....the day after Christmas.  That set the tone, really.

I get it.  My birthday is the most inconvenient of times.  Everyone is partied and presented out.  Hey, how about one big present for both holidays?  NO THANK YOU.  Hey, how about we shop for your birthday present on your birthday to take advantage of all the Christmas sales?  NO THANK YOU.  Do you mind if your birthday present is wrapped in Christmas paper?  YES, I DO

Then, came the divorce.  As a teen, every single birthday was spent travelling from one part of the state to another to spend Christmas number two with my dad.  Did me and my birthday need that extra bit 'o trauma?  NO, NOT REALLY.

My birthday is actually pretty tough, now that I write and muse about it.  Perhaps all these years, I have been looking for a pastel, inside the box type day.  Maybe my birthday will take me to a different place.  Maybe my birthday has just been trying to prepare me for letting go of old notions.  It is possible my birthday has gone rogue.

I'm not saying we are there yet, but maybe there is some hope for me and my birthday.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

There is Something about a Blizzard

We are expecting a couple of feet of snow in these parts and I can't say I'm sorry about that.  The real blizzard has already passed, this one should be no problem.  All the parties have been attended, the gifts opened, the sacred services honored, and the toasts to dear friends and health have been made.  I never forget that my greatest blessings are my dear friends, many of whom take into account my culinary skills and happily invite the whole family over for holiday feasts.  Much ado, much ado.

Cue the winter storm.  The foreshadowing is the best, with each weatherperson "outweathering" the next station and frantically scrambling for the appropriate graphics:  New England under Blizzard Warning; Governor declares State of Emergency; Storm track, storm watch, storm team, and my favorite Snowmagedon.  We are emotionally prepped for this weather event, bring it on.

As I look out the door, I see the light on across the street as the snow starts to accumulate.  The light reassures me that my neighbors are OK.  In fact, I have checked in with all my people and can tell you that everyone is stocked up and ready to hunker down.  It is the hunkering down that is such an old reminder.  Taking off a few layers of unnecessary ado, stocking up the woodpile, filling the cupboards and checking on your people.  Everyone I love is safely hunkered down.

And because I still have a wee bit of Christmas cheer, I will share this app with you:  Elf ur face. A very good way to while away a few hours during a blizzard. 
Ho, Ho, Ho

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating Solstice

Celebrating the winter solstice in the public school system has always been tricky.  Historically, the following has occurred:  I have been accused of being a witch; I have set off the school smoke alarms, and I have been banned outright from burning the traditional solstice candle.  That led to this year's lighting of the solstice flashlight.  May we all bask in the glow of the new year's light, however we manage to get there.

Peace to you all

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One Year

Today is the anniversary of my heart surgery.  A year of recovery, adjustment, and profound gratitude.  A day to post a poem, one of my favorites.

Just Delicate Needles

It’s so delicate, the light.
And there’s so little of it. The dark
is huge.
Just delicate needles, the light,
in an endless night.
And it has such a long way to go
through such desolate space.
So let’s be gentle with it.
Cherish it.
So it will come again in the morning.
We hope                                                  Rolf Jacobsen

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Such a festive time of year.  To add to our festivities, we have all of our birthdays, winter solstice, and the Festival of Lights.  I might have snarled to a friend on the phone as I was balancing a tray of unwrapped sugar cookies in my lap while driving "I hate this time of year."  My daughter immediately called me on my outrageous behavior and has given me the hairy eyeball ever since.

For the record, I do not hate this time of year, I am overwhelmed by all the festivities:  I am a ritual addict and Christmas is my crack.  I can not and will not say no to any part of this season:  to date we have mailed out our Christmas cards and are working on our Winter Solstice packages;  made sugar cookies and are working on our gingerbread house; made presents for teachers and are working on mailman, aftercare, and all coaches.  But nothing compares to the church pageant, the Festival of Lights.

Again a word of love for the UU's.  We celebrate every winter ritual there is during our holiday pageant.  We have a yule log, star children, lighting of both Christmas trees, Menorahs, and solstice candles.  We throw in a nativity scene, and deck the halls.  We sing, we light candles, and we pass out cookies.  It is a glorious tribute to everyone.  It involves all the RE parents and all the children.  It is exactly what all of our parents wished fervently for us when we were children and they were thinking of karmic payback.

So grab onto the holiday season and let it ride.  Honor every ritual from every corner of the world.  March forward until you fall down from exhaustion.  Know in some small corner of your mind, that you will miss these days will all of your heart when the kids are no longer filled with joy to ride a camel into the fray.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Then came the lama.....

I have been working, working, working and murmuring "I am out of balance, I am out of balance."  When asked by my friends and family why I have suddenly taken on so many new jobs and responsibilities, I reply "I started taking iron pills."

Upon reflection, there seems to be more to the story than this:  I think I needed to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could be well again and productive and whole.  Perhaps if I work more, I will worry less about the physical vulnerabilities that are now part of the landscape.  Working to outrun fear, seems like the American way.

Still, I have some spiritual ninja warriors who help guide me back when I have jumped the tracks.  First are my children:
"Mom, why are you working on the week-end?  We miss you."
"Mom, those people don't need you more than us."
Sometimes the needs of others seem more exotic than the needs of those we see day in and day out.  No more working on the week-end.  Thank you ninja wee ones.

Then came a dear friend.  We hadn't talked in awhile and ran into each other at a holiday party.  She was genuinely distressed that we had been out of contact.  I explained my predicament of working all the time but it sounded like an excuse, even as I was saying the words.  I don't want to be the person who puts work, however honorable, over relationships.  Thank you ninja friend.

Then came the lama.

Lama Migmar is the chaplain at Harvard University and I had the great honor of hearing a dharma talk he gave on Sunday, entitled "Calm Abiding."  Oh the twisting and turning it takes to carve out 3 hours during the holiday season to hear a lama pass on his wisdom on maintaining a calm spirit.  Oh the spiritual reality of sitting on the mat to quiet your mind when you have been working, working, working.  Brutal but so necessary.  He spoke of many things, and the group meditated together.  He told a parable of a woman who lost a needle and many neighbors helped her look for it outside.  Finally, one asked her where she had last seen it, and she responded with "inside my house."  When asked why she joined the search outside, she responded with "you were all outside looking, so I thought I would join you." 

We are a culture that looks outside for what we have lost.  However blessed I have been in the last year, and I am so very grateful to be here, I have lost something.  I need to head inside now. 

I may struggle with my monkey mind for many lifetimes but I surely hope this gets through:  Always, always hang with the lamas.

Namaste my patient friends:)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Art of Dating

My husband and I are a little rusty on the art of dating, but every now and then, we give it the 'ole college try.  We are blessed to have a very flexible babysitter and so periodically, we head out into the suburban wilds.  Our typical date night usually includes a nice dinner and a trip to the bookstore.

Last night, we made a strategic error.  We went out on a Sunday.  The dinner part went swimmingly but then we realized that all the local bookstores close early on Sunday night.  Many of you will recognize the panic state that ensues when you have a babysitter for the night, but no concrete plan of where to go.  I am always willing to jump into the fray and so I came up with this retro idea:  "Let's go parking."  My husband's eyes narrowed, hard to say with what emotion, and off we went.

Our first stop was the local park in the center of town.  In theory the moon was shining and reflecting off the lake, the darkened trees were standing guard, and our pear-tinis were working their magic.  Cut to actual conversation:
"UHHHH, there are people here, probably teenagers."
"Yeah, that is generally who goes parking."
"We will be the creepy old people who get busted parking and featured in the S------Chronicle."
"So you need a parking lot with no parked cars."
"Yeah, let's try that."

Our second stop was a local school.  True, there were no cars, but the police bust that I was sure was eminent just got a lot worse.  No go.  At this point, and let me say for the record that this is why I adore my husband, he started getting amused.  I think he realized that the actual parking part of the evening was going to be the driving part of the evening.  We contemplated a church lot filled with cars using the technique of blending in with the natives but a lot of elderly folks probably finishing up bingo started pouring out of the building.  No go.

We ended up at a trail head, tucked off the main road.  The setting was benign vis-a-vis police presence.  The moon was still working it's magic.  My husband cut the engine:

"Wow, it got cold in here fast."  As my good friend pointed out retrospectively, teenagers park because they don't have anywhere else to go.  We have our very own home with sleeping kids and a babysitter who is only too happy to leave a bit early.  You can't go back but you can go home:)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thank you, Latvia

Roving Reporter and I were talking about blogging, we do that sometimes, and she tipped me to the Stats tab on Blogger.  This is a miraculous device that lets one see who is viewing one's blog.  I have 13 faithful followers which is a comfortable amount.  Still, there are days when the comments dry up and I do wonder who my audience is?  My most avid fan is my mom but she hasn't figured out how to comment so I have to take her involvement on faith.  Faith, and her phone calls when I have not posted in awhile.  The rest of my family (including my husband) read when I send them a specific post.  I usually do this when I have something laudatory to say about them or something embarrassing about another family member.

Then there are my faithful blogging friends:  I will read your blog if you read mine.  That is how it started but I am hooked on each and every blog, even blogs one step removed.  I met Roving Reporter's sister and felt like I knew her because I follow her blog.  I was very proud of myself for not asking any obtrusive big sister questions, since I am in point of fact, not her big sister.  My sister does not follow my blog.  I will email her this link but it will do no good.  It started when I was in 9th grade and she was in 7th.  I pleaded with her to join the track team so we could rival the Mayfield Sisters, a local sisterly running dynasty.  She ran one lap in one practice and sat down on the field to read a book.  Things have continued on that track every since.  She does her own thing.  My soul sisters and brothers read my blog and leave smart ass comments, just as they should.  You can get a little high falutin' when you are philosophizing in a vacuum.

Finally, today I learned I have a faithful reader from Latvia, a few from China, Russia, and England.  I appreciate their interest, even if they wandered in by mistake.  Maybe things would be a little crisper if I knew my target audience but as Tolkien said, all who wander are not lost.  Meander on my friends.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Art lessons from my daughter

I have taken on a few additional part-time jobs and have thrown myself and my family out of balance. See what happens when you take a few iron pills and start feeling like yourself? Emma is particularly aware of my increased absences and lack of patience when I am home so Sunday, we stopped the music. Luke and Scott were climbing so we had an afternoon to ourselves. She asked to make something so I pulled out my assortment of beads.

Pulling out your stash, be it beads or fabric or yarn or translucent papers, is an exercise in letting go. Most of us are material hoarders and a project has to be worthy of my beautiful materials which I have gathered from all over the country.
Lesson # 1: My daughter has no such connection to materials....any precious bead, especially those that I have been saving for "just the right thing" are fair game for what she is working on in the moment. In her mind, the art we are making here and now far outweighs the nebulous future.
"How do these pink beads look"?
"Oh, let's not use those, I am saving those for a pair of earrings"
"What about the birds"?
"UHH, I have had those for a long time....."
"Good, I'm using them."
In the end, she didn't use the birds, but she did pick up the lizard (from Sante Fe), the grape clusters (estate sale), and the silver pineapples (Brimfield). Her necklace is a map of my treasure hunting expeditions.

After finishing up our necklaces, she announces: "I'm giving my necklace to F-----"

Lesson #2: Even though a new necklace has treasured beads and takes an afternoon to make, it becomes even more of a treasure if you give it away.
I thank you Emma for a couple of art lessons I had forgotten in the hub-bub of my life at the moment. I will try and remember them as we slide into the holiday season:)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

She probably needs a vacation

We have always had trouble with the tooth fairy in our house. She started off with a bang and big bucks when each child lost his/her first tooth. All show...Luke got an antique silver dollar and Emma got a crisp five dollar bill. Nothing too creative but she seemed competent for the long haul. We were wrong about that.

The trouble started with Luke's second tooth. It was raining hard that night and a big thunderstorm blew into town. Luke appeared at our bedroom door the next morning crestfallen: "The tooth fairy didn't come." I wanted to strangle that little pixie. What the hell?

My husband, in a very co-dependent fashion if you ask me, told our son that the tooth fairy often has difficulty navigating through thunderstorms and clearly was blown off course. The only bonus to the situation is that if the tooth fairy runs into difficulties, she has to double down the next night. She managed to find her way and left several dollars the next night. I was beginning to sense she wasn't reliable.

This week, our daughter lost her third tooth in as many weeks. I get that the tooth fairy is fatigued but she has signed on for this and needs to not dash a small girls dreams into fairy dust. Really. Emma forgot to put her tooth under her pillow for several nights, and then in a ninja move, slipped it under unbeknownst to her parents. She appeared at our bedroom door the next morning crestfallen: "The tooth fairy didn't come."

"Sweetie, you put a tooth under your pillow last night?" She hands me the tooth in a little treasure box her teacher gave her when she lost the tooth at school.
"Why did she forget about me mom?"
"I think she probably has a drinking problem." My husband glared at me and said "Pumpkin, sometimes the tooth fairy gets overloaded in one night and has to come back the next night."
"Why are you defending her?"
"Why are you presenting her as a substance abuser?"

She wobbled into town last night and did right. She always does, eventually. I am trying to feel some compassion for her as she is clearly overworked and stressed out (I did, in a libelous fashion, make up the drinking part). I am sure it is no picnic, whizzing through the night air, loaded down with bloody little teeth. Still, this is what she signed on for.

Maybe I will give her a hand

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Notes from the Pew

It has been an interesting experience, teaching religious education to my children. I don't have my own religious background to draw upon because I went to Sunday School in the south at Pioneer Park Church of Christ. Here is a sample of a song we used to sing:

Are you washed?
Are you washed?
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

Are your garments spotless, are they white as snow,
Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?

One learned not to ask how one's garments could be "white as snow" if you had the bad sense to wash them in lamb's blood. Some questions are metaphysical in nature, apparently. In fact, early religious education teaches you the difference between a question that can be answered and one that can't.

My students are not used to the blood and guts that can be found in the Old Testament. I know this because my co-teacher and I are teaching stories from the bible this quarter. Two weeks ago, I told the story of Moses and how his mother left him in a basket in the river to escape the Pharaoh's edict that all first born Hebrew children were to be killed. I think it is accurate to say that this bit of history traumatized them. Why, why, they asked? Why would anyone kill a child? Sadly, our own modern history is filled with instances of infanticide and horror. Am I preparing them for the inevitability of history? I hope I am laying the groundwork for these young souls to always, always think there is another way. May we all remember to be horrified when history repeats itself.

The lesson today on the oppression Moses and his people faced by the Egyptians ended with the song, "Let my people go." While we were cuing up the CD to listen to it, my son turned to me and said, "Didn't they play this song at your wedding?"


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Notes from the field

Last week-end was over-scheduled, over-stimulating, and over-abundant with a plethora of parties and friends. We loved it (in retrospect).

During the week, there were a few auspicious signs that things might be a little dicey at work
They were.

Today, I recharged in a city that never fails to restore balance and remind me of why I moved 2000 miles from home twenty some years ago. Throw in good friends, a craft show, and our ritual of eating on the pier....I think it doesn't get any better.

I hope you all recharge, reconnect, and revive this week-end.

Monday, November 1, 2010


After all was said and done my husband, the elf, called me a "Hallow-Weinie" when I begged off hour number two of trick or treating. Are you kidding me? Granted, I did not put on fake ears, a leather tunic, and a wig but I think this makes me a balanced and mature adult. I would also like to direct your attention to the vein bulging out of my neck; this is my I'm-in-the-middle-of-my-last-marathon-event-and-it-is-possible-I-may-not-make-it vein. This vein pops out when I have over smiled, no word of a lie. It is also a good indication of nonstop activity for many hours. Notice the elf has no bulging veins, this is both his gift and my curse. I do get a bit riled up before having people over because our house is not party ready. Here are a few things we had to take care of before folks came over:
1. Washing the stair rail where I found to my complete surprise that the paint I had assumed was antiqued is actually patina, just grime.
2. Picking up more than one board with rusty nails sticking straight up...I call them "ghost busters."
3. Rounding up a pot to mull the cider. Realizing we don't have a little ball or cheesecloth to put the mulling spices in....later, instructing people to spit out mulling spices...later still, picking up many glasses 3/4 filled with cider.
4. Excavating the playroom, the sandbox, and the dining room table. Vowing to keep them all pristine until Thanksgiving. Vows broken one day later.
So this Hallow-Weinie had logged a few miles before the main event. Nostalgia for the week-end set in about an hour ago. I have figured out next year we will add a scavenger hunt and maybe a haunted sandbox. Needless to say, the vein has receded.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A moment in time

Today starts the push into Halloween purgatory. It is of my own making, as it so often is. Luke is having a buddy over tomorrow night for a sleep-over, his first and his friend's first. Nothing could go awry there. Saturday morning, I am going to "fit in" a quick home visit before soccer games, soccer end-of-the-season ceremonies, a dojo magic show, and the church haunted house. Nothing could go awry there because we have 5 minutes leeway between each event.

When I get a little overwhelmed, I often find myself at BJ's. There is no amount of over scheduling that can't be fixed by buying a lot of food in bulk. Tonight, we will fortify ourselves for the fray by eating 23.00 dollars worth of salmon. Bj's was hopping will all the other shoppers who needed to calm their jangled nerves and so I parked at the far end of the lot.

I unloaded my groceries, whipping 20 rolls of toilet paper and a case of juice boxes into the trunk and noticed an elderly gentleman gingerly rolling his cart toward me. He looked to be about 85 and had a pound of coffee, some bananas, and a magazine in his cart. I briefly wondered why he was shopping at such a behemoth of a store but that might have led me down the path of wondering why I was shopping at such a behemoth of a store so I quickly got off that track. I smiled at him as I pondered if I had the time or energy to return my carriage to it's rightful spot...far, far away.

"Excuse me young lady?"
As you might imagine, I had no idea he was talking to me but I turned around to see who was joining our party, and it was just the two of us.
"Do you mind taking my carriage back with yours? I can't just leave it here, and, well, since you are taking yours back."
I would be happy to. He slowly got into his car, and on the bumper was a sticker that said "D-Day Museum."

I thought about this gentleman the rest of the afternoon. I thought about his generation and how they mapped out the connection between duty and not leaving your shopping cart in the parking lot of BJ's. I hoped that he had not outlived all of his friends and family. Most of all, I wished I had introduced myself and thanked him for the quiet lesson in responsibility and integrity.

As for Halloween? Bring it on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Craft Dealer

It started with the small stuff: "Come on over and we will do some scrap booking pages, I have all the supplies, you don't need anything, really."

I arrive, bright-eyed and nervous. I see a portable machine that cuts paper, glue that comes in dots, and paper as far as the eye can see...arranged by color, by season, by thickness. I look around at a beautiful studio and think "I can do art here." And thus it begins.....
The wily craft dealer will create something each week that looks effortless and seamless in her hands. She will pick up a new craft, crocheting, by watching scratchy you-tube videos and encourage you to try it. You will want to stab yourself in the eye with a crochet needle after one night of knotted yarn and expletives. Yet, you still go back for more because you have become a friend of a craft dealer. The gateway projects are mini-albums, embellishments, and, cards. You think to yourself, "I could go a little harder, and a little bigger, and use sharper tools."
Then come the die-cut machines (see above pumpkin faces which were all done by the dealer); the intricate dimensions needed to put a photo album inside an Altoid mint box; and the obsessive need to save old jeans, old labels, old sticks, old keys, and old books. Especially the old books. There is no such thing as trash anymore, everything can be re purposed. The craft dealer only smiles when you bemoan your fate, "I see Art everywhere."
It has been about 5 years and this week, I spent 5 hours, with some help, creating the featured Halloween treat bags that my children's friends will rip into and toss away like the impermanent containers they are. Suddenly it hits me like a cut, my friend is not a craft dealer at all, she is a Zen master. I should have known.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Notes from the Pew

Two summers ago, I went to a two day training on DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The gist of DBT is that we are often struggling with dialectics or the art of holding two contradictory feelings/wants/needs in balance. As a parent, I want to spend time nurturing my children and giving to them but I also need time alone to recharge. Another dialectic in this culture is wanting to be liked and accepted in one's community but struggling with the materialism that often goes along with acceptance.

Today in church, we had a wonderful guest speaker, Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman, who has written a book entitled "Reaching Deeper" about our Unitarian Universalist faith. The title of her sermon today was "Whose are we"? Last summer, a group of UU ministers got together in Seattle to look at the issues of faith, spiritual cohesion, and how we, as UU's, identify ourselves as a cohort. All heady questions for a faith group that emphasizes the individuality of each person's spiritual path.

The answer for all of us is a complicated one but I think it is time to embrace complications. Yep, I married an atheist, found Buddhism, and wandered into Unitarian Universalism when I had kids. I may have wandered in, but I have found spiritual shelter and welcome at First Parish. I found a group of people who welcomed my husband, and even had a name for him "humanist." My minister spent her sabbatical in Nepal in an unheated monastery. She rocks.

So here is the dialectical part: I don't believe in proselytizing and yet I want you all to experience the blessings I feel each Sunday when I sing with my beloved community, when I teach my students in religious education, or when I share a joy or concern by lighting a candle. I cry almost every Sunday at some point while I listen to the sermon. I want that for you, I want that for us all. We are spiritual people, yearning for something bigger than just ourselves to make sense of it all. Dr. Hallman spoke beautifully about the power of metaphor and the power of blessing and prayer, no matter what word we put on it. Perhaps just the word "mystery."

Today, I was filled up by a sermon that challenged me to define my faith and wake up from spiritual slumber. My spiritual home allows me to journey with others, even on such a personal quest. May you be blessed with a beloved community.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Feels so good to be feeling good again

Robert Earle Keene, singing my truth of the moment!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Time Marches On

When you start some new gigs you have to do a couple of things in this day and age: provide a head shot and write a "brief bio". These tasks have proven to be a bit more difficult than I had imagined. The biography needs to capture your essence without sounding arrogant, or awash in metaphysics "who am I really, and who can say who they are, really", or padding your experiences like a cheap push up bra. I have been guilty of all three things in the last week.
But that is nothing compared to picking out a head shot when you have not really taken a close look at yourself for 12 years. Who the hell is that? I mean she seems happy enough but her hair is not tinged with gray, it is gray. Although her kids get a big kick out of her silver pirate tooth, it kinda catches the sun and glints back at the audience.
Still, the glasses remain red, the eyebrows still impressive (and sometimes menacing), and to earn crinkles like that around the eyes, you had to have spent some serious time being amused at the world. I look at my head shot and think "so far, so good."
As an aside, some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen are women who have been doing yoga for 20 or 30 years. Aging gracefully and with wisdom, something to strive for.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Down to the Bone

Last week-end was a whirlwind of activity, culminating in the "playground crawl" on Columbus day. Roving Reporter and I write a new column entitled "Moms about town" featured on (look for us there, please ). She had the brilliant idea to check out some lesser known playgrounds in town and feature them in a couple of articles. Oh what to write about?

I tell you what we opted not to write about: the bone my daughter found in the woods behind one of the swingsets. CSI meets small town America. I am not saying the bone is human, but it ain't small. The thing is, at every playground, it wasn't the swings or the shiny new slides that held the interest of our children; it was the large pine tree, the fence surrounding the tennis court, the hiking trail, and, yes, the bone. It was also getting together with friends, joining the action as community members reporting on their playgrounds, and rating the experiences.

My daughter carried around her talisman on a stick for about 20 minutes. Then, with some reluctance, she handed it back to me to return to the wilds. It reminds me of a beautiful poem her grandmother wrote which I reprint here without permission:

Pagan Death

Supposed death, as well as love,
calls me to this earth.

Still- I live in finite
heart memories, as
emphemeral as moth dust.

While aspen leaf and rose vein,
infinitely circling
Reflect the light of ten thousand
corporeal souls-

At last
At last
One with beauty

Karen Jordan

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Today was a good day. My energy is returning, with the help of 3 iron pills a day, and I have inexplicably acquired three new part time gigs. I am going to be co-writing a column for a local online newspaper, co-facilitating a group for children whose siblings have a disability, and co-working with visiting nurses to provide services for elderly clients.

When I was 24, I was the director of a rape crisis center. I carried the back-up beeper 24/7 and made many a visit to local hospitals in the middle of the night to provide support to women (and men) who had been brutally violated. I was young enough and arrogant enough to do much of the work on my own, I didn't want to burden our volunteers with those tough late night calls.

When I was 33, I started having nightmares about some of those visits. I dreamed that I was being chased down a deserted hospital ward and all the doors clanged shut. I would often wake up screaming. I now know that is called "secondary traumatization" and is quite common for first responders and clinicians who work with trauma survivors. I worked through a lot of it with my own therapist.

Now, in my 40's I have been liberated from the idea that I need to do any of this work in a vacuum. In the various schools I have worked in, I have been part of a multi-disciplinary team that looks at a student from many different perspectives. All those different viewpoints ultimately provide more clarity.

So I want to shout out to all my most fabulous co-people: I will not do it anymore without you. I need your wisdom, your perspective, your humor, your creativity, and your strength. I need to be reigned in, applauded, encouraged, reigned in a bit more, and honored. I will do the same for you.

Today was a good day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A little compassion, Dear Lord!

Dear Lord:

Admittedly, I'm sort on energy, perspective, time, money, and balance. But I'm not going to talk to you about any of those things because they have a tendency to ebb and flow and I don't want to waste your time praying about things that will shift of their own accord....what with trillions of people trying to capture your attention.

I could also point out that in the last several days, I have personally witnessed a couple of folks lose their ever-loving minds but again, they should probably go down on their knees of their own accord, who am I to piously pray for the salvation of others, even though that seems to be the American way.

No, Lord, instead I'm going to pray for more compassion. I need it now because my kids are involved in all manner of organized activities. With these activities, comes interactions with other parents. Parents who want to tell us how to coach soccer and yet have opted out of coaching themselves. Parents who want to tell me the virtues of the Brownie vest over the Brownie sash which my daughter is so clearly wearing, indicating, perhaps, that we have already pondered the weighty decision of vest vs sash and made our decision. Parents who commit to teach something of significance and then quit by email.

Now Lord, you are pretty sharp and probably figured out that I am not innocent in all these interactions. I gave the parent complaining about soccer more air time than I should have and hurt a dear friend; I might have suggested that the Brownie vest looked a little SS in nature; and the email I sent back to the parent who quit.....not my most spiritual writing.

So, I will try to remember these words from one of your main guys:

If you don't find God
in the next person you meet,
it is a waste of time
looking further.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happy Fall Y'all

This is Fred. He will be on our porch (newly painted!) until the spring. He will have a sprig of holly in his pocket, a scarf, and a different hat on in a month or two, but he will remain seasonally viable until the work that went into him is paid off. You could say that Fred is an indentured servant but aren't we all? To the man? To our unconscious desires? Wait, wait....back on message...Happy Fall Y'all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Curriculum Night

Just back from curriculum night with a couple of do's and please do nots from a parent's perspective:

Please have enough chairs in the cafeteria, auditorium, library, etc. If you do not have enough chairs for the parents, when they arrive late and stand out in the hall chatting with their friends, they will never come on time again, ever. Chatting with friends is so much more fun than listening to statistics on MCAS. I wish that were not so but the folks on the outside were in a much better humor than the folks on the inside. You see, standardized testing is deeply flawed and talking about it, a lot, at these events does not remove the bitter taste of it. You can cook liver anyway you want and you can drone on and on about your recipe, but it is still liver and it is hard to stomach.

Please do not make us sit in tiny desks for longer than 20 minutes. We are big people with big body parts that fall asleep when squeezed into tiny spaces.

Please do not ask parents to write to their children to prove that they attended. The thing is, the kid whose parents are working a night shift or the single mom/dad who could not get a babysitter, that kids is going to feel lousy the next day when all the other kids have notes and they do not. I know that it takes a village and I know how important it is for parents to be involved and present....but some are not for reasons we can't fathom and the student should not carry the burden of that.

Finally, this note of thanks goes directly to my son's teacher who assured me when I read this line in my son's biopoem:

The Dutch like heron. I am Dutch and I'm going to try heron someday....

that he really meant to write "herring." We parents never for one minute forget that you are doing god's curriculum night is really, despite all the grumbling, a night to feel blessed that such spiritual people are teaching our kids.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In the interest of full disclosure.....

Hospitals are as close to prison as I hope I get. I can't say for sure that I won't end up in prison but if I do, I will have been prepared by the best.

For starters, once you get admitted to the hospital, you can't leave until the doctors, many of whom are at least 25 years old, say you are cleared to go home. If you get up in the middle of the night and ask the night nurse to call you a cab because you have had enough, she will kindly explain to you the concept of AMA...against medical advice. Leaving AMA means that your insurance will not pay for your hospitalization costs. When you explain, equally kindly, that seems a lot like extortion and is probably against the law, the gentle exchange takes a turn. This was the lesson from a previous stint in the big house so this time, I used a different tactic.

To get out of the hospital, you have to be cunning and seemingly full of energy. On day 3, I had been on IV fluids and felt full of vim and vigor. I called my gyn and made an emergency appointment. When the young lads at the hospital came in for rounds, I explained to them that I needed a pass so I could go to my outside appointment. I promised I would come back, but really, this was an appointment I had to keep.

We don't give day passes from the hospital.
Wow, I would hate to explain to my doc that the hospital wouldn't let me come for an emergency appointment.
How did you get this appointment?
Well, my doctor is quite concerned because of my history and thinks I need to be seen immediately.
I suppose you could do the capsule study outpatient but your levels are still low.
I will let him know that, that is good information for him.

So, my friends, what is called for when it is time to break out of any institution is your very own expert. You, who have lived in your body for years, do not qualify. Your intuition is not valid, and your voice will not be heard. Still, if your docs are not paying attention, you might have a few tricks up your johnny.

In the interest of full disclosure, the week-end was pretty rough and might have been easier if I had stayed in the hospital. Here is the take away (my blogging buddy taught me that is a good thing to have embedded in your post, somewhere): no matter how sick you are, it feels damn good to break out of prison.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back in the Saddle

I have been pondering my previous lives. I am thinking that I had a hell of a good time, but perhaps at the cost of hurting others. Or, maybe in this life, I have relied too much on my physical self, that maybe the years I spent running, cycling, and climbing have not prepared me for the spiritual component of aging. How does one become acclimated to the body breaking down, slowly? The same way one prepares for any summit, you train.

I went back into training last week when I was driving into work and experienced heart palpitations and shortness of breath. With my spiffy cardiac history, I could not chose to ignore the classic signs of having an actual heart attack so I went to the ER. Very quickly, they ascertained that I had a dangerously low hematocrit level and admitted me. What? This is a blood thing, not a heart thing? What the hell. I stayed for three days and got probed in every which way, including swallowing a camera which the kind nurse informed me should not alarm me when it comes out still blinking. I worked hard to get out of the hospital and came home too soon. I spent the week-end simultaneously thinking I was dying and acting as cheerful as I could for my kids.

So, I'm not dying. I'm dangerously anemic and I get to have a procedure next week to fix that. All in all, in the scheme of things, this isn't a headline. No cancer, not terminal, a somewhat easy fix. Still, even a second page story can throw you down. I spent my twenties thinking I could summit Everest, bike across America, and live on a commune. My thirties were dedicated to establishing my professional persona, finding a soul mate (whom I met when I was in my twenties but was too blind to see) and having my kids. The forties were supposed to be about accruing spiritual wisdom. I think spiritual wisdom is a wily old bastard who refuses to hang out in temples. Instead, he skulks around hospitals and pops up during a colonoscopy. He hangs out with you in the middle of the night when you are afraid you are not going to wake up. He doesn't ask for my opinion on anything but instead burns away a lot of who I thought I was. All in all, he is proving to be a colossal pain in the ass and after last week, I know of what I speak in that department.

So my friends, one thing is constant in all this turmoil. My love and connection with all of you is what I am left with at the end of the day. And that puts a smile on the face of the wily old bastard.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pre-labor day labor

I realized today that I have two "pending" files and two "ongoing" files on the top of a shared desk. I figured this out because I spent most of the afternoon renewing my professional social work license.

This gave me a chance to do a quick personality assessment:

1. People who have 4 files labeled "ongoing, pending, urgent, etc" with no discernable difference in the contents of said files are not organized.

2. People can be disorganized and still be Type A.

3. Being disorganized does not always help you move forward in your Type A environment but.....

4. Being Type A and disorganized can help you mobilize when you realize you have 1 day to complete 12 continuing education credits. An organized person would have sweated the disparity between taking online courses on hospice care, genetic counseling, and mindfulness. I think they are all one and I had no time to sweat anything.

I look at my children and my husband and myself and I think we are who we are. It doesn't mean we aren't working on some things but really, since day 1, given some love and nurturing, we will become more of who we always were. And that is not just my genetics expertise talking:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I write about perspective fairly frequently as it is an elusive bird, flying away at the mere hint of change. Why do we lose our perspective when things shift? I think that solid ground is an illusion but it sustains us during our very brief stint in each lifetime. When things change, we get a glimpse of the bigger picture, that we have perhaps weathered thousands of transitions and yet here we still are, in Samsara.

Samsara is a Buddhist concept and the Sanskrit word means "continuous flow." One translation refers to it as "the continuous but random drift of desires, emotions, and experiences in this lifetime." We are in samsara and will continue until we reach enlightenment, lifetime after lifetime. Our clinging and our wild unbridled thoughts keep us here. The first moments of meditation always give me some idea of how wildly out of balance I am. The idea of focusing on my breath and the current moment is continually interrupted by my strutting, bodacious thoughts on nothing of import. All dressed up and no substance. Harlots, one and all.

Monday I was clinging, rather tenaciously to the idea that we would not, could not be late for my son's first soccer practice. He was enjoying the last moments of summer and was blissfully swinging on our great swing, fully in the present moment but not taking care of business. I yelled at him to get going, he ran across our newly painted front porch in soccer cleats, and here we are.....8 stitches later. He split his knee wide open. No soccer, no karate, painful first day of school. For the record, I was not a fountain of compassion on the drive to Ready Med, either. I lost perspective.

I lose perspective a lot. I want to not. I will begin anew, somehow. Who we are as spiritual people should play out in every facet of our lives. My goal is to shorten the distance between personas. You should see me at retreats, I look very Zen. You should see me coach soccer, I look very Texan. You should see me yell at my children, I look like I have lost perspective. Our children are born broken wide open and we are responsible for their need to build defenses. I want them to stay open so I have to let go of some things. Next time you see me at an event, and I am late, please congratulate me.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

We go back:)

In the whitewashed world that exists in the spring, you do not sign your kids up for camp the last week of summer because you will be doing the following idyllic activities:

1. Shopping for school supplies together, while talking about the symbolism of various notebooks and which colors best represent divergent personalities.
2. Hitting the lake, beach, trail one last time for a nostalgic ritualized end-of-the-summer visit.
3. Cleaning out desks, writing out schedules, and getting the house organized for the beginning of 27 fall activities.
4. Weeding out the garden and admiring the burgeoning pumpkins which will adorn your front porch in a few short weeks.
5. Bike riding on the rail trail.

In my mind, these things happen at the end of every summer. I am now writing this post to remind myself that is not how it looks more like this:

1. Forecast for 4 days straight: rain, rain, and more rain. No beach, no lake, and hiking if you want to carry one of your wet children who, within 20 minutes, slips off your shoulders like an arctic seal.

2. Any trip to any store for any supply ends in this threat "if you guys don't stop arguing, I'm leaving the cart here and we are going." Oldest now realizes this is a hollow threat and has developed a grin that conveys that knowledge.

3. Great dramatic hand-wringing when mom attempts to throw away any piece of paper from the last two years of school. This archaeological viewpoint impedes getting the desk cleared off. Mom realizes she will have to sweep in when kids have returned to school.

4. Garden looks like it has been blitzed. Pumpkin buds have been eaten by burrowing creature, tomatoes demolished by bugs, and squash attacked by ninja warrior animals. Not watering or weeding for past month might have contributed to devastation.

5. The rail trail? Again? Family threatens to go on strike. Let's arm wrestle for who gets to go on strike. Really, I can take you all.

It is time. Summer is swell, it really is but it is time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Story of Stuff

I just finished reading "The Story of Stuff" by Annie Leonard. My family will be getting this book for Christmas and I hope the rest of you take a look at this video (thanks for sending it on Michelle).

There are moments when you read something or think about something and it rings true in a calm and devastating fashion. We are giving away our planet in service of more and more disposable goods and it is not going to be an issue for our grand kids, it is going to be an issue for our kids. As parents, we are right to be concerned about our children's development as spiritual, intellectual, and physical entities. All that care and consideration will be for naught if there is no healthy place or way for them to flourish.

I am an offender in many, many ways, as are we all. I pledge to start somewhere, anywhere and give up the luxury of being overwhelmed, and thus doing nothing. Please take a look at the video or borrow the book from your local library. I think we want to do right and need each other to cheer us on down the road of less consumption.

One great website from the book is You can plug in any of your household products and see how they are rated vis-a-vis toxic chemicals and impacting the environment. A good place to start!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dissection of an Evening

I have admitted that I am a group floozy but upon further reflection, I think I have mined some insights into why that might be. Last night, after a month off, our Chicks With Sticks group gathered and secondarily made some progress on our knitting and crocheting. Of more importance and why groups are so danged much fun, we did the following:

1. Got away from our homes and the nagging sense that there is always something to take care of there....laundry, dishes, re-financing talk. Enough. I believe my last words out the door were "I have no idea when I will be home, could be tomorrow" (sorry to our hostess who did not escape her home but did create such luxury for us....

2. Drank grown-up drinks in beautiful glasses with exotic components like pineapple juice and whipped cream. Used cloth napkins on our very own faces.

3. Networked with one another and got to hear about a fabulous job one member earned with her journalistic prowess. I realized at some point that men do this all the time, get together and talk about work and how they can help each other out.

4. I would be remiss if I did not mention that at the end of the evening, we did figure out what our porn names are: name of first pet and street you grew up on...mine is Tiger Oxford. I will not tell tales but some names will be remembered forever:)

What a beautiful thing it is to get together as women and nurture the kind of energy that women bring to the table; some of it serious and some of it absurd. I cherish my women friends and anytime any of them want to meet to knit, read, paint, garden, fund raise, bike, hike, run, or just laugh until we can't breathe, well, I'm in.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What matters

I have found that there are, literally, thousands of things that are more fun to do than strip your front porch. Weed the driveway, clean out closets, go to the local art museum. With so many dazzling choices, I went with the art museum option. My good friend and I have been talking about doing this for several years. Last time we tried, the museum closed 15 minutes after we arrived. The porch can end of the summer mantra:)

We decided to visit the room entitled "Changing Exhibits" first, as it seemed so fleeting. At the risk of giving away too much, this is absolutely not a bad thing. As you walk into the gallery, your eyes are drawn to a big pine box in the middle of the room. Upon reflection, the viewer sees a few tufts of hay sticking out of a small hole (about orange circumference) drilled into the box. Eureka, this is a pine box covering a bale of hay. Hay that we would not have known existed, except that the artist drilled a hole, albeit a tiny hole in the box. Here we go.....Worcester Art Museum - What Matters

Next, your eyes are drawn toward a shelf on the wall. On that shelf, are several painted bricks. Ah, the starkness of the human condition or maybe the fecundity of the human condition, hard to say.

In the corner of the room, leaning against the white wall, was a fur-covered hula-hoop. (actually a steel hoop) Artist out of Glasgow, using a reclaimed ermine stole. I don't know if the hula-hoop was reclaimed. Here is where I fall into the wormhole: How does one define art? Is it a thing of beauty that allows one to transcend boundaries? Or is it a piece that allows you to have a conversation with yourself? The fuzzy hula-hoop allowed me a greater appreciation of the Rembrandt I saw down the hall. I daresay I will still be talking about the fuzzy hula-hoop on down the road. I fear I may have been hoodwinked by a wily Scottish artist into a slight appreciation of modern art.

I know my tastes are not sophisticated and with some time and effort, I could come to appreciate the post-modern angst represented by the installation I saw today. I admire the courage of an artist who hangs plastic bottles from the ceiling and demands that we see beyond the fact that if I stole this work of art, it could be replaced out of the recycling bin. Modern art forces you to transcend your own aesthetic, but here is the thing... I like my aesthetic. It runs to the Dutch painters, especially the frozen winter scenes. I'm a fan of anything cold, dark, gray, and forlorn. Van Gogh's sunflowers don't do it for me but Picasso's blue period is riveting.

So, just like literature, love, music, and is personal. I am not a student or fan of modern art but I admire every artist making art. So rock on with your fuzzy hula-hoops and your painted bricks. Art matters.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Owning an Old House

I'm taking a little break from stripping the front porch to write about stripping the front porch. Suddenly, it becomes clear to me why people love to write, it is cooler and works different muscles.

The home we live in was built in 1889 and you can tell that immediately. Not because of the quaint architecture but because some part of the house is peeling, at all times. I had no idea what owning an old house meant, I just knew that I was drawn to the energy and sense of history that older homes exude. The minute I walked into our house, my gut told me that we would be here as long as we lived in New England. My husband's gut told him the same thing, because very few people would buy a house this old. So here we are, falling behind more and more each year.
In the beginning years, we did basic work: new heater, new roof, new windows (the old ones were circa early 1900s and they made a very cool rattling sound, before the rain and snow came in). We had the floors redone and put in new sinks in the bathrooms. We had no money or time for aesthetic work so our butterfly wallpaper and yellow toilet are still hanging tough in the downstairs bathroom.
That is the thing with an old house, you are running uphill to keep your house from sliding downhill...did I mention we need some foundation work done? Last summer, it was replacing our old picket fence and this summer, everything needs to be painted. Inside and outside.
Still, we have an acre to play on and I can garden until the cows come home...the state of my garden is a post for another time but we have had a couple of tomatoes and cukes and plenty of herbs. Our pumpkins are the real showstoppers and I put my faith in them. I don't ever sweat it when kids are romping through because the house was made for messiness and clutter and worn-in-ness.
Our realtor told us this house used to be a chapel. I can feel the holiness in trying to keep things going. Each project has it's moments of loss of faith, repentance, and redemption. All we can do is be fully present in the middle of the chaos...and that, my friends, I can do.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

August Blues

It has been hot here in New England and anything over 80 is considered a heatwave, which causes the town to promptly issue an outdoor water ban. This, in turn, leads to a droopy landscape. Upon reflection, this is the perfect backdrop to August, especially after a week of Camp Mommy.

I marvel at the fact that I have no patience for children, and yet I have two and work in a middle school. I think I have patience for wounded children and angry children but not middle-class entitled children. Lately, I have been quoting Karl Marx and "unwaged labor"....a title I think is quite applicable to parents. I am whitewashing the past, thinking about how my sister and I happily did a day of chores for the betterment of the family community, and how we got along splendidly.

August is rough. There is a fine balance between too many camps and structured activities and not enough. Siblings have spent the summer honing their ability to supremely irritate one another and by August, well, I think it is nothing short of an art form. Underneath it all is the buzzing irritation of my own perceived reverence for my elders and for my sibling relationship. In my memory, I was never disrespectful or fresh. And yet......

How about the time I whispered into the air vent "I hate you Mom" at my grandmother's house and stopped Sunday dinner cold?

How about the time I talked my sister into running me over with a bike and then framed her when my parents ran out to see what all the screaming was about?

How about the time I figured out that I could outrun my dad (he walked on crutches) and told him so? His calm will eventually have to come home...

How about the time I took one of every shoe I owned to high school in a duffel bag so my sister could not borrow a pair of my shoes?

Every parent feels that karma resides in their grandchildren, and I think they may be right. At any rate, I'm feeling a little less blue thinking about what a little s---- I was, because look how I turned out. There is hope for my kids:)

Thursday, August 5, 2010


I have been thinking a bit about the idea of integrity. It all started with this video:

I got an email from a group that pointed out Target is sponsoring a candidate in Minnesota that supports anti-gay sentiments. I consider myself to be a bit of a Target addict, the red is so cheerful and they have very cool bags that you can make other very cool stuff out of like braided rugs. I shop there weekly for one thing or another. Still, 150,000 to a man who believes that gay and lesbian folks should be actively discriminated against? This is an issue of justice and when you know about something, you have a choice of what to do.

We go along pretending that big corporations are OK, that some are better than others when in fact, they are quite similar. Target helped put the 5 and 10 store out of business just as readily as WalMart did. How can we get back to making more mindful choices as consumers? One purchase at a time. We are headed to a local family-run bike store to get Emma's bike (our next Target purchase). We should have gone there to begin with but the colorful bags and inexpensive goods at Target lured me away from making a choice with integrity. I am going to work hard to get back there.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Group Floozy

I just got an email to join a Rogue Book Club. I feel a bit sheepish because I am already a member of a great book club but the thing is, I never met a group I didn't want to get to know a bit better. Even if I don't actually do the thing the group is doing, like scrap booking or tole painting or Tai Chi. Of course, after you join, you end up doing the thing, sometimes for a good long time. My affairs with groups have started me down the path of Buddhism, meditation, yoga, and hindeloopen (dutch folk painting).

I am currently a member of two book groups, one knitting group, and one scrapbooking group. I am contemplating joining a hiking group, a training group for triathletes, and an artist group. I am in full support of local plans to start a women's mediation center and a local art and cultural center. It is an orgy of connection.

Stay open. Connect. Flirt with all of life's possibilities. In the end, come home to your partner and family with renewed energy and a twinkle in your eye. Who knows, you might talk them into a night of dutch folk painting:)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Swing into Summer

We have had a bit of a heat wave in New England which includes humidity ratings that the weather people tell us are "oppressive". I concur. Oppressive in that one has to watch either "Hannah Montana" or "Dirty Jobs" relentlessly as it is really too hot to play outside. Oppressive in that you all gather into the one downstairs room that is air-conditioned (my husband's New England attitude toward air-conditioning is a post for another time, suffice it to say that I feel darn lucky to have one the polar bear in Worcester who sits on the rock painted white and tries to make do) and try and make space for one another. Oppressive in that after awhile, nobody can differentiate who is screaming at whom.....which leads to my screaming which sounds like I am shedding neurons one axon at a time.

Today, the weather broke and so did my mood. I spent the afternoon blissfully pulling weeds out of my front drive. As I was dragging a pile to the back of the property, I passed this swing and realized that I have not had a good swing in several years. How is that possible? How is it possible that parents can ignore a thing that gives their children the utmost pleasure? Perhaps I just don't get a turn when my kids are around. I took my turn this afternoon and went swinging into summer, with all my might.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Each summer I celebrate my freedom from structure and trying to solve other people's problems, really a fool's errand in the long run, by doing a little traveling and a lot of reading. The first week of summer vacation, I plot out the theme for the summer. Last summer, I tackled the transcendentalists. I would like to tell you that much thought goes into the "summer theme" decision but in reality, it boils down to what books have been mailed to me by my mother or which book caught my eye in the library. In fact, you can judge a book by it's cover but it will lead you down a long and winding path.

This summer, it is a path of war. It started with Winston Churchill: A Life, by Martin Gilbert. This was a pretty depthful book and I now know a bit about English parliamentary procedure, which might come in handy someday, and I feel gratitude toward a heavy drinking, cigar-stomping war monger (who probably didn't have the most enlightened views about women, that bit was glossed over). I feel gratitude toward him because he was from another age; an age where love of country and duty was honorable and because he saw the dangers of fascism early on. He was also brave in a way that has become outdated. Still, one questions one book about a mythological figure, which is how I always get trapped into the summer theme. The next book I read was "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin about the Roosevelts and WWII. Winston was featured in the book, as well, and the portraits matched, which is like finding the border pieces to a helps you see the emerging picture more clearly.

Still, Ms. Goodwin left her readers to wonder about Eleanor's reaction to FDR's death. Notable because in 1945 he was sitting for a portrait when he died...a portrait commissioned by his wife's former secretary whom he had an affair with in 1918. When the affair was discovered, he promised his wife he would never see Ms. Lucy Rutherford again. A promise he failed to keep when he asked his daughter to set up a meeting twenty years later. A double betrayal? Or, was Eleanor romantically involved with her own secretaries by this time? These questions led to the next book on my list, a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. And so it goes, until summer ends.

Studying history is never a waste of time. I will leave you with two Churchill quotations:

Success is not final,
failure is not fatal:
It is the courage to
continue that counts.

You can always count
on Americans to do
the right thing--
after they have tried
everything else.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ear-regardless....ode to old friends

We have very generous friends: they invite us up to their summer retreat each year where we can unplug, eat great food, and catch up. Before kids, we used to leisurely read the Sunday paper, go to the local bookstore for hours, and float on the pond for the rest of the hours left in the day. Ruth grew up spending her summers here, and the place is full of stories and memories. When you walk in, you step back in time. There are some things that are done and have been done for many generations: blueberry muffins made from the blueberries you pick right out the door; leisurely dinners where, if you are lucky, you can catch a firefly or lightening show that dazzles; reading dusty old books that are out of print but somehow capture the weight of the time we are currently living in; and reconnecting with a slower pace.

Sure, stuff still happens. Here is a shot of my husband trying to flush out the bug that flew into his ear. No luck so he headed off to the ER...a few ear drops and he is good as new.

I went on a run that I have been doing for about 10 years and bonked...then I dropped the F bomb in front of a house with a bunch of toys out front, on Sunday, no less. Still, I was running with Dave who has the gift of making me feel like anything is worth it, if you get a good story out of the deal. This is the same guy who sat with my husband in the waiting room while I was having heart surgery in December. I hope we thanked him for that.
So, this summer I hope you are all connecting with old friends, even if things have changed some, you know they are in for the long haul.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tales from Texas-Part Two

Here is the thing I love about my home state: it thinks quite highly of itself. My memory is that I took two years of Texas history and no world history. To this day, I can speak quite eloquently about the Battle of San Jacinto but I have trouble telling you exactly where Guam is or if it is attached to the United States. We were a country once, and I think that is where some of our grandiosity stems from, that and the fact that we were populated by rogues and explorers. To dream big, you have to talk big first.

This trip, we stayed in Fort Worth, in the cultural district. We were about a five minute drive from world-class museums including the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum. We were also in the vicinity of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. We took advantage of all of these cultural opportunities, and visited them all.

Here is a Georgia O'Keefe from the Amon Carter:

I was also allowed to snap photos of a Matisse, Rembrandt, and Picasso in the Kimbell.

Then I took my camera to the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. It went a little something like this:

"M'am, I am so sorry but you are not allowed to take a camera into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame."

Really, because I was snapping a Rembrandt right down the road.

"I don't know about that but we do not allow cameras in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame."

Don't get me wrong, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame is a treasure and I'm sure the sequins on Dale Evans outfits need to be protected from the glare of the flash. Still, Rembrandt dabbled in the arts a bit.

My culture thinks highly of itself....just last year I think Texas threatened to secede from the Union, yet again. I hope they don't, I so enjoy going home and being reminded of how liberating it is to think big.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


When a guy does this to his toes, he has gone overboard with his support for the beloved Netherlands. Still, it is representative of his love for both the Dutch and for the underdogs.
I don't think many picked the Dutch team to be in the World Cup final match today and most were stunned when they beat Brazil in the semi-finals. We were rooting for them whole hog.
So, it was a sad afternoon when they lost to Spain in overtime after one of their players received his second yellow card and was unceremoniously out of the game. Also there was the fact that Spain outplayed them most of the game. It must also be said that it wasn't pretty soccer at all and I'm not entirely sure that the Dutch players were playing clean. Other than that, it was a hell of a match:)
So, raise a glass to Spain tonight for their first world cup victory. And I'm going to raise a glass to my colorful husband who, when he goes, goes all in.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Texas Tales--Part One

Well, we made it back, and as promised, I have a few tales from Texas. My home state thinks a lot of itself and after a 10 day visit, I still should. The people are welcoming and open; the Tex-Mex food is what I would want as my last meal; and you have to go home. You just have to, to be reminded of who you are and how you got here.

For example, Texas has a lot of pokey things, like cactus and long-horned cows. I would add to that list mesquite and honey locust trees, chiggers, and rattlesnakes. All can be found on my dad's ranch, along with barbed wire fences and little stickers known as "beggar's lice". Still, if you keep looking, you find such beauty. Emma ran up to me the first night on the ranch and begged me to look at the sunset. I had seen those West Texas sunsets my whole life and realized soon after moving east, I missed the open sky and the expansiveness of West Texas. The thing is, you can take your proper place out on a ranch and feel how small you really are. The heat, the pokey things, and the sky all combine to help keep things in perspective. It is beautiful, rugged country, and if you want to play extreme soccer, join us for a pick-up game just to the right of those cactus:)

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Veins Curve

I have been out of patient mode for awhile but it takes so little to charge back into the fray. Today was my six month check-up. Ostensibly, I was going to find out if the patch was working but my team double-booked my Echo and my consult and so I will not have those results for a few days. Still, the cardio doc said I was fine to fly, which is good because we are headed out for Texas tomorrow morning and it is a bit of a drive (thanks to all who offered to road trip with me, true cowgirl style:))) and so I am happy our original flying plan is still intact.

Due to numb toes...really, numb toes I get?...I am going to see a rheumatologist upon my return. Another specialist. For a healthy person, I have a lot of doctors.

I love to capture a little snippet of the medical day and so here is today's gem:

After laying on the table for about an hour while the echocardiogram specialist worked her magic, she called for the IV nurse to come in and insert a line to complete the bubble study. This involves injecting saline into a vein so the docs can see the little bubbles if they are shunting through the wall of the upper heart chambers...this will tell us all if the patch on my heart is doing it's job.

Hey, I'm a little dubious about this...does this hurt?

I can't talk through clenched teeth.

Has anyone ever told you that your veins curve? I'm not liking this but it's the best we've let's make it work. (referring to the IV line she had just put into my arm)

Truer words were never spoken. I'm not liking this whole damn thing, from start to finish but it is the best I have got and I am going to make it work.

I will be on vacation until July 6th and sure to pick up a Texas tale or two. Can't wait to share them with you all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Begin with a Big Ball in Water

Happy Solstice! I was talking to a friend about how our generation does not honor the seasons as much as those who came before us, perhaps because we are no longer bound to the land as an agrarian nation. That said, I think summer is a time for slow mornings, berry picking, a lot of reading and the ever popular put-your-kids-in-a-hamster-ball-and-drop-them-in water ritual.

My kids have a gift for spotting the essence of an activity. Luke saw this set-up at our local mall and began a full court press to be allowed to do it. I was dubious at both the cost and the whole idea, really.
Mom, when will we ever be able to do this again? He had a point, as this is not the usual gig outside of Claire's. So, in the spirit of the summer and slowing down, and doing crazy things in the water, I gave in to my son's pleas. With our good friends watching from the sidelines, the kids bobbed, weaved, tried to run, and "had the best 7 minutes of my life."

I'm a fan of rituals and now I think this might be our summer solstice ritual. How we will duplicate it if Euro-bobbles is not set up, I do not know, but I trust my engineering husband. Unwind, let go of the desire for things to make sense, and climb into an air-filled bubble and splash down. I'm in next year:)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Uncle Gale

Here is the thing about my Uncle Gale: he is Texas tough. For most of his career, he was a firefighter and also worked a second job at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal as their circulation director. He got me one of my first jobs at the AJ. working the complaint desk on Sunday mornings at 5:00am. This, in turn, prepared me for a career as a therapist as I had to help people keep their perspective about their papers being thrown closer to the curb than to the door and their suspicions that their paperboys were "high as a kite which is the only explanation of why that little twit throws the paper on the roof every Sunday". I remember that woman calling in every shift. She and I had a connection but I digress.

Uncle Gale also took me fishing, drove my grandparents up to see me in his motor home after I defected, and always, always calls me "Sugar." He has a one-eyed dog that got bitten by a rattlesnake and loves his ranch. Last time we were in West Texas, we went out and spent the day there. Mesquite country with some ornery cows but a stark beauty that calls you back.

One of those cows got his head caught in a gate and Uncle Gale got trapped between the cow and the fence. He got the worse end of the deal and is now fighting for his life in the ICU. He has ten broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and internal bleeding.

Here is the thing I know about Uncle Gale. He never backed down from a fight and must know in his heart how much we all love him and all the energy flooding his way. Mom says you can't get to his room because of all the firefighters standing guard.

So, Sugar and Yank are adding their voices to the chorus of folks pulling for you right now. We love you!

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Ok, maybe it was a gift from England's goalie (poor kid) but what a game! We had a few friends over to watch one of the beginning matches of the World Cup...England v. USA. Originally, we were going to serve food from both countries, but let's face it, porridge and bangers does not a good party make. You have to have some international energy around when you are watching a world cup game. I recommend an Irishman with a stout who can sling some understated poetry at the screen when the time comes:

"Ahh, twinkle toes helped us out, didn't he now?

Twinkle Toes did, indeed, help us out but he came out after the game and took full responsibility for his complete boffing of the play. I have always believed sports provide many teachable moments for our kids. Teaching them how to lose with grace is perhaps one of the trickiest maneuvers. Twinkle Toes aka as Robert Green showed my son, an aspiring goalie, how to cowboy up...and for that, I'm now going to refer to him by his given name:)

So, the USA underdogs managed a tie and we all managed a bloody good time. Game on!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Notes from the Field

So after getting up at 4:30, working all day, cooking a pretty pitiful dinner, it was time to clean the house. After cleaning the bathroom, Luke runs in, covered in sand and undoes the cleaning that had just miraculously occured. I did not handle it well.

After yelling a bit, I went into the playroom and tried to explain:

Son, it's not you that I am mad it, it's my role in the family. Even though I am as smart as all of you, I spend the most time cleaning and cooking and picking up after everyone. Some days it just doesn't feel fair...can you understand that?

Mom, you sound a lot like Susan B Anthony (pause)...except she didn't play basketball.

I think if we want to continue the revolution, we better keep our sons involved:)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wounded Warriors

I don't know if it was hanging out with the Jade Buddha (see previous post) or realizing that my days of being able to outrun my children are quite numbered but I have spent this week thinking about my physical self and how much things have changed.

I have come to the conclusion that I am a wounded warrior. Then, I came to the conclusion that we are all wounded, or soon to be. We are all going to age and parts will break down...hopefully little bits but sometimes big parts and then, well, then you come face to face with the way things are going to be...age, sickness, and struggle. Still, the fear is the thing. After my heart surgery, my heart speeds up and sometimes skips a beat altogether. The neurological symptoms that were supposed to disappear are still hanging around and all in all, I thought I would be better, cured, fixed, etc. The thing is, I feel good but sometimes fear pushes in and I worry about the next stroke or leaving my children behind. That is my disability now, the fear.

For me, I have decided that yoga is no longer a luxury but something my body needs as I recover from a lifetime of going into the fray. To say that I am a remedial yogini after all these years is an understatement but it is time to establish a daily practice. Today, I did some yoga and then some meditation and I was able to let go of the fear....and then came the miracle of compassion toward myself. Yep, I can't touch the floor with my hands and I can forget about the pigeon and exalted warrior poses but I have a bunch of energy to go sew on my daughter's daisy patches.

Namaste and go easy on yourself

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Jade Buddha

Sometimes, in the middle of the dust and grime of a big city, you can find something magical. Worcester, Massachusetts is sadly underrated by most folks who live outside the city. It is the second largest city in Massachusetts and can boast of several colleges, museums, and amazing restaurants. Still, it's nickname says it all "Wormtown." I did a little research on the nickname and found out that it originated in the underground music scene of the 1970/s and 80/s. It is a point of pride with many local musicians who are a bit pissed about the appropriation of the nickname by the Worcester Rugby Team whose logo features a rugby playing worm.

So that is the backdrop for last week. I was told by Reverend Judith that a very auspicious event was happening in a small temple in the heart of Worcester. A 4 ton traveling jade Buddha, representing Universal Peace was going to be displayed for several weeks. It was worth seeing.

We found our way to the temple, a beautiful place in and of itself, and joined the monks and lay people who were there for a variety of reasons. You could feel the energy of the place, of the Buddha, and of right intentions.

When my children ask me why there is still war and why grown-ups have forgotten that violence begets violence, and I am often filled with despair for their future. But then, I travel to Wormtown, see a miraculous Buddha statue and believe in the energy that surrounds it. Peace is the way and to see that manifested in 4 tons of jade, well, that can restore faith.