Sunday, January 30, 2011

Notes from the Pew...and a few bad puns

Today was the Sunday my skirt caught on fire.  Roving Reporter might have mentioned this is how Sunday school teachers burn out.  It happened like this:  a student got overly excited about lighting his candle during "joys and concerns" and held his candle upside down.  He burned his hand.  I got overly excited about his burned hand and quickly volunteered to light another match.  I struck the match so hard, that it broke in half and the flaming end landed on my skirt.  It blazed momentarily and then I brushed it to the floor, apparently not caring if the room went up, as long as I could save the skirt, which I did.  What do you say to your students after you have been on fire?  I believe I said "Holy cow" and then giggled for an inappropriate amount of time.  My sister and I have the longstanding affliction of laughing when a grimace or stoic silence is really the way to go.  The most egregious example of this behavior was at my mom's third wedding.  We were sitting in the front row at church and both of us started laughing and could not stop for the entire wedding.  We grabbed some hymnals and buried our faces into them, but the damage was done.  It might have even contributed to the ultimate demise of that union, I can't say for sure.

So, setting myself on fire (just a wee bit, really) and then laughing hysterically was really just a trip down memory lane.  I take comfort in the fact that God does watch out for all that is holey:)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter Wonderland

For the past three weeks, it has snowed and snowed and snowed.  This has led me to an undeniable conclusion:  I am still a Texan at the heart of things.  Here is a list of things I can now do after living up here for 20 + years:
1.  Ski on ice-covered slopes.  Today I learned the hard way that I can no longer ski on any kind of powder.
2.  Drive on ice-covered roads.   I can't speak for all my colleagues who tried to slide into me on Route 20 last Tuesday because I'm trying to forget that morning commute for the rest of time.
3.  Walk on ice-covered driveways.  See the picture above?  I have learned, again the hard way, that the beautiful sheen is black ice, it lies in wait until you take your mind off of winter for one nano-second.
4.  Operate a Snowblower and shovel wet snow without ending up in the ER.
5.  Dress in layers and not feel mournful about looking like an Inuit for 6 months out of the year.

Here are the things I will never get the hang of because my cultural muscle memory formed in a warmer, lighter place:

1.  Making peace with the sun setting at 4:30.  Each winter, daylight savings time brings forth a bewilderment in me as I wonder how we are going to possibly make it through the season with such a paucity of light?  I also wonder each winter why we don't get rickets. 
2.  Parking backward in your driveway so you can get a jump when your battery dies in sub-degree weather.  Also, keeping your windshield wipers sticking straight up so they don't freeze to your windshield.
3.  Owning fur-lined things...hats, boots, mittens, underwear.
4.  Letting go of my worry that things are going to freeze; pipes, fish, children, and tires.  So far so good but it feels a little dicey this winter.
5.  Not buying into the "Snowmegeddon" hype surrounding every type of precipitation highlighted by the newscasters.
6.  Pacing yourself.  Winter lasts a long, long time up here and you have to go easy.

So upon reflection, the list is pretty even.  Maybe I have picked up a couple of New England tricks.  Get out in it, if a Texan can do it, you can too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Another great day of skiing.  I have switched to telemark skiing at the local hill and have been rewarded for my efforts with a bruised butt and slightly sprained wrist.  You might notice that the above picture is not of telemark skis, either but I have been experiencing technical difficulties on my blog and am feeling darn lucky to have a picture of any winter apparatus at all.  My son seems to be more proficient than I am in problem-solving and tonight googled "how to import pictures from the Iphone" while I was pouting.  His way led to a solution while my way made me look his age. Go figure.                                                                            

Anyway, after falling, I spent a good portion of time thinking about falling....falling on a slope, falling in love, falling down, falling to pieces, falling asleep, and falling through space in a recurring dream I have, a recurring dream we all have.  I had a little epiphany as I was trying to get up; I'm glad I am still falling.  Where can I fall more?  I fell into a new job and that has bruised me up a bit but I'm learning something new in my field for the first time in a long time.  Parenting is freefall and marriage is about falling into each other whenever you are brave enough.  Falling seems to be an OK thing to aspire to.

As an aside, I own 4 helmets upon my neurologists' insistence, after 5 closed head injuries.  Just saying.


I am still trying to figure out this balance thing.  Just like a second child, a new job can throw things into a bit of a tailspin.  How hard can it be to go from working 3 days a week to 6?  Turns out, very.  Seems I got attached to having my house in order (somewhat), running (a lot), having non-frozen groceries in the house, writing, reading, and being the boss of my own time.

 This week we had a snow day and I spent a glorious morning reading a murder/mystery.  The book was by a Scottish author whose protagonist was a bit rough and the phrases "wanker" and "cocked-up" were used liberally throughout the book.  I think I could do OK in a pub in London now.  I want to go to London and try.  And that is what being out of balance feels like.  You don't have time to read and dream about how your life intersects with wounded detectives from Edinburgh.  Maybe that is a luxury none of us can afford as parents who are worrying about the economy and our kid's college funds and mortgage rates and all manner of grown up business.  But I think not.  I think we have to read and snowshoe and make collages and remember....remember the gift of time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Found Day

Another blizzard came spiralling our way, and we all found ourselves together again.  This allowed us to take care of some basic necessities:

1.  Dismantling of Christmas--  As I was yanking ornaments off the tree and then wrapping them gingerly in 20 year old tissue paper, my daughter said "this is the saddest part of Christmas."  I gave her my take, that by dismantling Christmas, we keep it special for the brief time we get it.

2.  Time to process what happened in Arizona:  We were skiing the day 19 people were shot and 6 were killed.  I have learned my kids are vicariously traumatized by the news, so I have not had it on to tell me what to think.  When we demonize "other" be it political parties or religions or Sarah Palin, we diminish ourselves.  I'm not a big fan of her gun toting ways but I have to hang on to her humanity to hang onto my own.  Still, she needs to review what "blood libel" really means.

3.  7 baskets of dirty laundry and 3 baskets of clean.  The laundry is my third child.  She tantrums, spills all over herself and out of her baskets, and gives me the silent treatment.  I know you need attention, I know it but I am working outside the home, a lot.  Today, I am all yours.

4.  Time to take a couple of photos.  My camera likes to go outside.  I like to go outside with my camera.  We didn't last long today but I see the storm gathered on a small cherry which may be a little like an angel on a pinhead.

5.  Our main computer has a virus.  My husband spent the day attacking said virus with vigour, and keeping his philosophy about how the virus got there to himself although his eyes spoke volumes and they were not all that twinkly.  I called my back-up crew to see if blogger was down (nope) and if there was a trick to downloading photos on a laptop (nope).  Seems this sneaky little bastard of a virus is redirecting me to a fake site when I try to open my blog.  Ponder the pain of that.  And also the creativity of the virus author.

6.  Finally, I cooked some bean soup and buttermilk biscuits for a family lunch.  Cooking when there is absolutely nothing else to do except laundry brings back the joy.  Eating together with no place to be accents the joy.

Today was a found day.  The best kind.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Aging with Grace, good luck with that

I remember the first time I was called "Ma'am".  I remember the first grey hair..way back in the day; followed by a grey eyelash and don't think I don't know what is coming.  When you are told that you are a stroke survivor, your first impulse is to call your neurologist a dirty, stinking liar but then you remember it took six months to get the appointment, so you check it.  Ditto when your cardiologist tells you that you  have a small hole in your heart and it might make sense to "plug that right up."  This is what aging looks like for me.  Up close and personal it has a grit to it that I thought I could escape.

Here is some of my history:  I started running when I was 12 because my parents were divorcing and I thought maybe I could outrun that.  I played a little ball and skied down a few mountains and figured out I was an athlete.  In college, I found a bike.  Soon, I dropped out of college and explored whether I was good enough to make the Olympics.  Not even close but I never regretted trying.  I moved North and found some mountains.  Climbing them led me to my husband and to a deep reverence for the sacred energy found on a lead climb when your gear is sketchy and you are in way over your head.  More skiing, some back country sojourns (one of which was so very close to being deadly), whitewater adventures, kayaking and then time to learn soccer.  The gist of all this is a life lived physically.  No need for a lot of contemplation.  I was too damn tired and sore.

Then, the thing that had always served me so well went wonky. I started having neurological symptoms that nobody could figure out.  My first neurologist blamed my symptoms on my 5 previous concussions and started lecturing me on Mohammad Ali.  I developed auto immune difficulties and am the proud owner of "inflamed status."  Anyone could have told you that, really.  Then the stroke, caused by the PFO, then the closure and here I am, aging with grace.

Nobody is immune but nobody thinks all this stuff is going to land in their holy temple.  I am standing on shaky ground.  Then it hits me, we are all standing on shaky ground, courtesy of Samsara and lifetimes of going round and round.  Maybe it is a blessing to know it.

As an aside, this whole post was born out of a buddy telling me that I looked good "for my age."


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Notes from the Pew

We are returning to going to bed before midnight, eating a vegetable or two, and breaking up this incessant togetherness that must have driven families to pick up the wood axe and ponder dark thoughts, back in the day.  I can hear the maniac laughter in the other room that signals my family is still overstimulated from it all.  God Bless the teachers that get them back tomorrow.  Truly.

Today, we returned to church and I taught one combined class to all ages.  These are the Sundays before and after holidays when folks are staggering back from Disney or Vermont and attendance is low.  The students who did come were subdued, probably contemplating their eminent loss of freedom.  I was, oddly enough, quite energetic.  There is no better place to be than pondering metaphysical questions with...anyone but especially young thinkers who don't have their canned response quite figured out:

We started with Joys and Concerns and my son soberly offered up a candle of concern for the rain that was obliterating all the snow we are yearning to be skiing on.  My daughter offered up a candle of joy for her new Ipod.  Comme si, Comme ca.  Then I thought I would get to the heart of it and I asked my students the following:  Why do you come to church?  I also took off the table the stock response of "because my parents make me."  The responses were varied and touching and will remain private because what is said in church stays in church:)  Except for my daughter who said "church is a place I meet people from other cities" and my son who said "church is a place where you get to be mindful" and then my daughter responded with "except my dad who doesn't come to church because he is an atheist" and then my son said "he worships nature" and my daughter, turning to me said "our church allows that, I think."

We came home, all hyped up on theology and my kids asked my husband if he considers himself to be a UU.  He responded with "I am a future UU."  Meanwhile, he spent the morning climbing and seems more at peace than the rest of us.  Go figure.

Go now in peace, go now in peace...may the spirit of love surround you.