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.