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:)