Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Letter to my 18 Year old Self.....

Dear Kayla:

I have been watching the new PBS special "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking" and I'm pretty sure that you might get this if you stand next to a wormhole.  I know you have a lot on your mind because you are graduating from high school and heading off to the University of Texas in the fall.  About that, be wary of all those guys who wear eyeliner, each and every one of them will do you wrong.  One will go on to direct pornography and one will be jealous of the amount of time you spend riding and will hire someone to steal your bike.

I would like to ask you to do a couple of things that will make our life easier on down the road.  You become addicted to extreme sports but never feel the urge to wear a helmet.  You wear this thing called a "hairnet" but it will not protect you one bit when you get hit by a car.....I don't want to give too much away but suffice it to say that we send Christmas cards to more than one neurologist.

It is going to be so very exciting for you when you leave home and hit Austin.  So exciting that you forget why you are in Austin, mainly to attend college.  There is much to explore but if you could take a couple of philosophy courses that would pave the way for some of the work we do later on.  It might be asking a lot to throw in a comparative religion course but you will thank me for that, I promise.

The universe throws some dear friends our way in college...enjoy the wit and compassion of Jenny and Mike, we are still traveling together.  Other friends and lovers drift back into with them all as it makes up who we become.

You know, now that I think about it, you work hard, catch a few lucky breaks and end up here...filled with such compassion for yourself.  If we were not forbidden by the time/space continuum and maybe the prime directive (Scott thinks that has more to do with interfering with alien development, you will meet him later) I would buy you a cup of coffee.  You could show me a few dance moves I have forgotten and I could give you a jump start on meditating.

I think we are still watching out for each other and maybe, someday we will meet in the middle.

With much love and gratitude.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I do so love my husband......

I think in the eddy that is marriage, sometimes you have to swim out of the water, dry off and ponder the beauty of your soulmate (from the shore). I was speaking with my husband's older sister yesterday and we had this conversation:

Sis: You do know that Scott drove everyone crazy when he was in the third grade (this topic came up as we were discussing how to keep my son engaged in the classroom, especially during science)
Me: This sounds like a story I need to hear
Sis: The story goes that his math teacher called mom and dad because he was failing his "Mad Math minutes"
Me: What are Mad Math Minutes?
Sis: You have a minute to do as many subtraction and addition problems as you can...Scott was bored with that so he multiplied each answer by three... not caring so much about what the test was supposed to measure...luckily, his teacher figured out what he was doing.

That, my friends, will tell you all you need to know about the beauty of my husband and also why I sometimes have to swim ashore.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Notes from the Pew

Rev. Judith gave a wonderful sermon about the need to react to global warming "as if our hair is on fire"...I agree that the time for complacency is over.  Our children deserve better and we must become more responsible stewards.

Here is one of the poems found inside the order of service:

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
and the hands of those who come after us.

We enter the little circle of each other's arms
and the larger circle of lovers
whose hands are joined in a dance.

And the larger circle of all creatures,
passing in and out of life,
who move also in a dance
to a music so subtle and vast
that no ear can hear it
except in fragments.                                                     Wendall Berry

I feel overwhelmed sometimes at what needs to be done but then I realize that one just has to start, and begin anew if we started and then stopped.  So this season, I open the compost, plant my garden and look carefully at what I am feeding my family.  I carpool more and walk more and get my bike tuned.  My children remind me to turn the water off and we all buy less.  The stakes are high and I feel blessed to have been reminded of that this beautiful Sunday morning.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eternal Optimist

I picked "Begin Anew" as the title for my blog after spending an amazing week with Thich Nhat Hanh on a silent retreat a couple of years ago. One of his dharma talks focused on the importance of beginning anew each day and each moment. Living mindfully in each moment allows us to let go of the heaviness of the past and the fears of the future.

Imagine my delight when I started receiving comments on my blog in Mandarin from what I thought were foreign readers who had found my blog through the title. Now it seemed to me that my blog, through it's spiritual underpinnings, had gone global and I was truly connecting with other spiritual writers...even though I couldn't read what they were saying. This was the gift of blogging, connecting us all to each other.

One of my dear friends sent this email: K....thought you would want to know that when you click on the comment under "Profiles in Courage" it links you to an Asian porn site...sorry


So, it seems, that my foreign readers are actually spammers, linking my little blog to something else entirely. I am bemused by it all, mostly that I was so excited to be found by fellow Buddhists and all the assumptions that I made when I could not, in fact, read a word of what was written. My friend just clicked on the comment and was spirited away to another place...she was not thrilled as she was using a work laptop.

So, in the future, comments will be moderated and I will continue to hope for my global readership and be thankful for my readers who are actually quite mindful without my help.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Vacation Sighs

I look forward to vacations but I never realize how vital they are until I am in the middle of one. A break in the routine, a chance to stay up until the end of the game (I always fall asleep on the couch but I'm giddy with the possibilities), and some unscheduled time to see what unfolds.

This is what has unfolded so far and it has been glorious: hanging out with a dear friend and realizing that she has made it through a difficult ordeal unscathed.... We need for our friends to be OK and when it works out that way, cause for celebration; heading to Northampton for the day and checking out old haunts...The Raven, Faces, Thornes...seeing dreadlocks, piercings and feeling the college energy....having the bookstore gal know who Mary Catherine Bateson is and finding her out of print book misplaced in the cultural anthropology section....buying a hemp purse and watching another dear friend get dizzy from the incense in the store....eating a spinach quesadilla "at the bar"....remembering it all; going to the eye doctor for my son (having another dear friend watch my daughter so I can be fully present) and finding out he does not have a brain or eye tumor but rather has been "over analyzing the blood vessels in the back of his retina"...he is focusing on how his eye works rather than what his eye sees....going to this ice cream shop for the first ice cream of the season....feeding goats and buying pansies; going to the library and stumbling upon a mother/son team giving a poetry reading...check out their stuff--

Tomorrow, art classes at the local art museum and book club in the evening...spring is about emergence and I feel my soul stretching toward the sun. Vacation will allow you to write sentences like that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Profiles in Courage

School personnel in Massachusetts are taking a hit in the media and on popular talk radio shows. When teachers and counselors sign on to teach and to guide our young students, we make a commitment to keep our students safe. This is a responsibility we take more seriously than any do parents, as does the entire community. When a young girl kills herself after being bullied or a student murders another student, we demand answers and we should.

But answers take time and that is something our culture is short on these days. I drive into work listening to talk radio hosts saying disparaging comments about entire communities and splattering such vitriol that everyone is left diminished. We have become addicted to shortcuts and sound bites, neither of which provide accurate answers and certainly does not lead to real progress and change in policy that can save lives.

Today, I had the honor to sit with a group of educators, administrators, counselors, nurses, and support staff who were quietly and with great courage doing their jobs under duress. No fanfare, no media, no hoopla. I hope we never forget that these are the folks who are truly representative of our schools. The teachers who go in day after day and fan the smallest spark of creativity. The counselors who do listen to what is not said and the nurses who notice who needs a breakfast bar.

Tonight, I am grateful to have seen such grace and dignity. It has renewed my commitment to our field, to doing honorable work, and to support my colleagues who are being tarred and feathered. Most of all, I am proud to say that I am a Massachusetts school employee and I will continue to care deeply about the safety of your children.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

nouvelle salon

I have been thinking lately about thinking and philosophy and what we are all talking to one another about. I have the habit of delving into biography when my own life is out of balance. This goes one of two ways: I return to my own existence, grateful for the sacredness of the ordinary; or I return with a new found sense of purpose and commitment to reach higher. There is a serendipitous quality to the lives I choose to visit, usually the first book I happen to see on the library shelf. This time it was a book entitled "Margaret Mead, A Life" by Jane Howard. My mom sent it to me. Margaret Mead is famous for being one of the first renowned female anthropologists, although this offended her as she considered herself to be a hell of good anthropologist, period. She was married to Gregory Bateson who did groundbreaking work on schizophrenia and family therapy and she was a prolific author. She had one daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson who went on to become an anthropologist, author, and dean of Amherst College, to name a few of her accomplishments. Sometimes after I finish a biography, I quickly search out another one to get a more complete picture. Luckily, Mary Catherine wrote a memoir about both her parents that have quite a few juicy bits. I could talk about their liberated sexual views and the numerous marriages of both but the thing that I'm struck by and left with is how intellectually curious they all were. They were passionate about ideas.

Both Bateson and Mead loved conferences and the opportunity to come together and talk, not only about their ideas but the process of thinking about new theories. As anthropologists, they both knew intrinsically that they were part of the tableau. They lived in a time when one had to congregate to exchange energy. Now, we can type and goggle into the wee hours of the morning, always taking in but losing the process of layering my idea with yours until we create something bigger.

So, I think it is time to bring back the salon. A gathering of diverse folks who want to explore ideas. Jousting with one another until we hit upon the wisdom of our age. We can't rely on the massive amount of information we all have access will still be one dimensional. Margaret Mead called this process "multi-logues" and she wove together narratives from all over the world and fed herself in the process. I don't know what this will look like or where it will happen but I trust the spark that flew out of her narrative and landed in mine.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring Run Off

Sometimes, as I have talked about here often, you just have to run for a bit to clear your head (everything head related will now be a bad pun, see previous post). Spring in New England can look like winter or summer, depending on the day. Last week, it rained until we all lost hope in the sun. Easter week-end restored it, somewhat analogous to what the week-end is supposed to be about. Yesterday, I had enough with bugging out, and decided to hit the trail.
Everyone should have one run that restores their faith in themselves. I have a couple but only one that is nearby. To be a faith-restorative run, a couple of qualifications have to be met:
1. It needs to be beautiful in a way that reminds you that you are not the center of all patterns and motion.
2. I like my faith run to be a bit dangerous...some errant roots and a raging river bring me some peace.
3. It absolutely should be longer than what you are supposed to be doing....I ran 6 miles yesterday and it took every one of those miles to get the job done.
I am now a slow runner. I have to keep my heart rate down, which is a bit of a drag but yesterday my slow pace allowed me to notice some things and talk with some wonderful people. I noticed that the normally ambling river had quite an attitude thanks to all the rain from last week. As I stopped to take the above picture, I thought of that rushing water, carrying all the debris from the storms and rinsing itself clean. Can a river cleanse itself? I hope so.
I passed two elderly men (barely) who were animatedly talking with each other. One tipped his hat to me and said "Isn't it beautiful young lady?" I unplugged and stopped for a moment to ask where they were headed with the picnic basket....One said that they take a picnic to the bench in front of the old woolen mill and eat together on nice days. I saw them on my return enjoying their lunch. Life is good if you allow it to be.
So, I ran myself right into a state of equanimity which is still going strong today.
Peace to you.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lousy Day

Here is the funny thing: my stroke, which I have spoken about freely, has not that I can tell, changed any one's opinion of me. The fact that I have head lice at the moment may have. We live in such an interesting society.

I have had a lifelong phobia of getting lice and whenever one of my student's had it, I would develop a psychosomatic itch that would last for days. My partners over the years got used to my requests to "take a quick look", all negative.

Well, the universe decided that it was time I faced this particular fear head on, so to speak. Two of us have it and it ain't pretty. The shock of the first sighting is quickly followed by the deep desire to get rid of them, at all costs. I promptly purchased over 100.00 dollars in de-lousing products including shampoos, gels, combs, sprays, after-lice shampoo, olive oil, lavender oil, shower caps, new hair accessories, and new brushes. That, for the record, was an hour after first sighting. Also for the record, one's local drugstore handles requests for all these products with ease. The local Target, on the other hand, has 4 staff members radioing each other on walkie-talkies yelling "I don't know what it is called, it is for head-lice". You will run into a friend you
know at the drugstore while standing in line with all these products. I chose not to use words but just to smile and shrug. Your friend will then tell you that she has heard that lice only like clean hair. This will be the beginning of your entomological journey. You have much to learn..

Then comes Operation RID. This involves shampooing, lathering, rinsing, washing, combing, gel-ing, and using every clean towel you have. Operation RID leads to Operation Wash Everything which is continuing even as I type this. If yours is a household with 74 stuffed animals, be prepared to put them in big trashbags and say goodbye for awhile. Wash a couple of the favorite ones, since the beds look forlorn with all their little stuffed occupants shipped off to the attic.

We are now in Day Two and I have moved from a place of slight panic to a place of fatigue. I have to decide who to tell and who not to tell. I let the pertinent school know and they took swift action (everyone was checked in the classroom). We will not be sharing this at church, or at the family Easter party but then I think...why not? Why do some things still carry stigma and other more serious things do not? In all fairness, until you have joined this particular club, the default position is to stay the hell away from folks who have lice. Still, I want to shout out "we didn't do anything wrong....don't judge us, especially the kids."

Still, we do judge, and that is the reality of living in civilization. Yet another teachable moment (I could use a little teachable moment break, really) for the kids. Why can't we tell everyone at school we have lice? What sorts of things do we talk about and what do we not talk about? For that matter, what sorts of things can and should we blog about that live on in perpetuity?

My stance is that we have to write and talk about things that make us and those around us uncomfortable some of the time. So much of what happens in our communities goes on underground and we struggle alone, fearful of our neighbor's judgements. I made it through yesterday with the help of my friends who had helpful lice lore and colorful stories of their own. I don't wish this plague on anyone but I always remember that we all take a turn at the trough.

On a positive note, I now know the difference between a psychosomatic itch and the real deal...night and day, my friends:)