Monday, December 31, 2007

A New Year's Exercise

Columnist Sharon Randall suggests answering the following questions about 2007 before forging onto 2008.

1. What was the hardest thing you had to do?

Balance role demands - work, wife, grandmother, writer, individual with needs

2. What was the most fun?

Holiday gatherings - which was a surprise because that isn't usually so. The very best was moving the furniture out of the way and everybody dancing on Rosh Hoshannah.

3. What were the milestones?

Bob continuing to teach in Corpus. At this point I think that will continue until he retires. Zachary (youngest grand) starting kindergarten, being invited to write a grief article for an anthology.

4. What was your biggest accomplishment?

Some level of balance regarding my multiple roles.

5. What was something you wanted to do but didn't?

Develop healthier eating patterns.

6. What was your biggest surprise?

My daughters' protectiveness and gentleness to me when our family elder Sophie died.

7. What was the meanest thing you did?

Failure to give the benefit of the doubt to various people at various times - feel worst about this with the children. Am improving.

8. What was something you worried about but don't anymore?

Dead tree in the back yard that was a risk to the roof - Friend came over and chopped it down - I'm very grateful.

9. What made you proud?

The way our family works together for our common good.

10. Describe a moment you don't want to forget.

The homework disaster night, when we discovered three days of undone kindergarten homework in Zachary's backpack on a Sunday afternoon and, once I got done being angry, K.K and Danny pitched in to help me help him get it done, and we did. There was a really connected feeling of doing something hard together that night.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lou's funeral today was beautiful, a mass in the church down the road from his boyhood farm on which he lived until the time of his death. It is on the site of the church - demolished and rebuilt after hurricaine camage - in which he was an altar boy. Most of the names in the graveyard are Czech or Polish - comforting and a reminder of childhood to see "Pustejovsky, Secora, Nemecek, Kocurek" The priest who assisted with the mass was Jean's next door neighbor and friend in childhood - so much connection. Mark wrote and read a beautiful eulogy for Lou - remarking on his knowledge of Texas plants, his love of the wine cups in the spring, his kindness and good humor. Each of Lou;s grandchildren read a Bible verse. The church ladies served casseroles and cake and cleaned up after. It felt familiar and sweet.

Tomorrow I need to give the eulogy at Sophie's service - and pack to take the kids to the beach. I'm procrastinating - don't feel energized for either task. And tomorrow's Danny's ninth birthday. I know he is thrilled about being the birthday boy and taking a road trip and seeing the Gulf again. I want my energy to rise to meet his.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Distressing day! Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan was assassinated shortly before an election which had the hope of democratizing her country. I don't really know what to write beyond "How distressing!" and "What will happen to Pakistan now?" .

My way of dealing with this news has been immersion in news junkie behavior. The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer did a great job covering the assassination and opinions of knowledgeable people about its possible perpetrators and aftermath. The anger in Pakistan tonight frightens me.

I also looked Benazir Bhutto up on the web. I was impressed that Wikkipedia and other sites are already updated to include information about her assassination. Information does travel amazingly fast now. I read an excellent interview of Bhutto at the Academy of Achievement web site.

I decided in memorial of Benazir Bhutto to post here her answer to the interviewer's question regarding her efforts as Prime Minister regarding the position of women and other political ideals. There is much else in the interview worth reading.

Interviewer: You ran to improve the position of women, social services, education, health. Your very political ideals were controversial, weren't they?

Benazir Bhutto: That was my agenda. First I did it for democracy, because that was my father's agenda and it was also mine as a youth. But my own agenda was very much poverty alleviation and population planning, for instance. We brought down the population growth rate by one-third, and because of the cascading effect it's going to continue going downwards. And there was a lot of hue and cry against the population program, but we did it by recruiting 50,000 women from different villages, and training them in three-month installments. First they would train for three months. They'd go out and work and then every month they'd come back for a refresher to learn something more. So when we had 50,000 women with a vested stake in it, we had ambassadors everywhere to counter people in villages who were opposed to population control. ..
Building schools was right. I tried to placate even the clerics originally. I adopted a very aggressive stance. I thought I had to prove I was as tough as a man because I was in a man's world. Now I think it's not a man's world anymore but in those days it was supposed to be. So I also tried to be very aggressive and warmongering in my second term to try and co-opt my opposition. I am a consensus sort of person, I like to win people over. Not to compromise the core of my values, but I seek the middle way and I tried do that. I think in retrospect it was wrong because I did not co-opt them and I alienated some of my own supporters. But at the same time we got the three years to eliminate polio, to build schools and electrify villages.

Now I feel that if politics was a man's world in 1997, now it's a human's world, and that when people vote for women, they vote because they think women are more nurturing, that they give life, they produce children, and they give life. As the larger issues of communism and capitalism fade away, the focus in my view is turning more and more to the human being, and with more women coming into the work force or into the press, there is a sense that women leaders will be sensitive to the needs of mother and child.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Bob and I both feel like this Christmas has been one of our very best ever - just a sweet feeling day. Joanna made magic in her house, as she does every year, sparkling lights I remember from childhood and Christmas crafts her children have made season after season. After opening well chosen presents we munched muffins and played with our new toys- all sorts. We spent the cool clear afternoon outside trying out Zachary's new bat and ball and Danny's new soccer ball. All of us are impressed that Zach, at five, can hit a pitched ball, not requiring a tee. Close to sunset we drove to a small nearby lake to try out the kayak Ruth and Chris bought each other. Everybody who wanted got a ride in the neat inflatable kayak and we also played a bit more very informal baseball. K.K., like her baby brother, can hit. As dark began to fall we headed back for a simple supper - vegetarian chili - a new and delicious recipe of Joanna's.. Bob and I realized as we headed home after supper that we still had the time to walk in the moonlight at McKinney Falls, so that is the way we ended our Christmas night.

Obviously this is a peaceful time for our family, a gentle and connected time and I am thankful.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I talked tonight on the phone with a dear friend in New Mexico and our talk put my sadness about Jean's Dad's death into perspective. My friend told me the story of her own Dad's recent descent into dementia - the necessity to remove him from his home by force and place hi in an assisted living facility - the amount of love and energy his children have poured into this effort. This was a hard driving, brilliant, high achieving man, a pilot and executive who rose from poverty and accomplished much - a good man who raised his family with love and adored his wife who died several years ago. I want to say "He deserved a better ending." but I know better than to believe that our deaths and sufferings have anything to do with deserving. Its just sad.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Death does come in the winter - now Jean's father, just a few weeks past his ninetieth birthday - a life well lived and one that touched me with goodness. I learned much about Texas native plants from him, and also not to take large bites of home pickled peppers without asking how hot they are. He taught me how to make shade at the beach with poles and tarps, and how to camp out in a State Park shelter. My own family didn't camp. Anyway, Lou's death is another indication of the shifting of the generations. The blessing here is that he stayed well and able to life on his own on his own land and was still fully himself. He died suddenly, probably of a heart attack, as I imagine he would have hoped to die.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Today is my birthday and Bob is pampering me in all kinds of sweet little ways (chicken fried rice take out, helping me with lots of little chores that are easier to do in company, just being around and listening to anything I want to say at whatever length.) A beautiful vase of mostly purple and wine colored flowers just arrived from a dear friend. Last night Bob and I took a long walk in the pre-solstice dark and really basked in the moonlight (almost full). A great horned owl crossed our path and then hooted at us from a tall bare tree. Today the weather seems perfect for a winter birthday - clear sweet blue windy day, wind from the west and blustery and just in the last ten minutes whipped around from the north. It will freeze tonight and the moon will seem huge as it only can full in clear winter sky.

I'm thinking about how I feel about turning 57. It seems pretty much a nonevent. My life won't change because I'm 57. This is not a transition time for our family. All is continuing as it has been progressing (unless of course the mythical other shoe drops out of the mythical clear blue sky). We are growing, learning, changing by increments, not starting new phases.

I like this stage of my life I like feeling competent in most areas of endeavor, having long friendships, being consulted as a source of wisdom at times, but still feeling energetic and interested in learning and doing new things. The fact that this birthday feels not so important makes me think twice. My time on earth is finite, past half and precious. So what do I want to make sure I do with this year - most of it is more of the same - real is better than perfect, love not ego, don't leave any appreciation unexpressed. Beyond that I want to get more of the stories that only I know told in scrapbooks and stories. I want to work on the physical quadrant just a little this year, being more attentive to diet and exercise, but not to set specific goals or emphasize it too much - just to pay a little more attention. I want to remember that this crop of grand children is growing up fast and my time of maximum connection with the won't last forever - and to make the most of this time now. I guess that is really the message I want to generalize to all areas. I want to live kindly and with mindfulness now.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Today was stressful but turned out great. Twenty of us went to see K.K. in The Nut Cracker. I was stressed about making connections and feeling in a hostess role, wanting the boys to behave and everyone to have fun. Everyone did. And Danny not only behaved but dressed himself in his suit and looked dapper and charming. Even Zachy seemed able to track and enjoy the show.

It was a delight to see the ballet danced in Austin's historic Paramount Theatre - a venue appropriately old fashioned and intimate. In the past the ballet was danced in a large concert hall on the TUniversity of Texas campus (now undergoing renovations). As of next year it will be danced in Austin's new performing arts center, The Long Center. Using The Paramount was hard for the company because the smaller stage didn't allow all sets to be used and required some redoing of some of the dances - but it was great for the audience. We could really see the dancers' faces even from the mezzanine.

. Our highlight, of course, was watching K.K. dance as a bon bon - funny dancing peppermint with red and white zig zags and a plume in her hat. - Itallian clown. The bon bons have a fairly long and involved dance and all of them performed it well - really fun to watch K.K. grow as a dancer. Part of this growth is her calmness about performances - five down three to go to full houses. She loves dancing but also takes it as a matter of course, getting the call time right, doing her hair ( flat bun on top of her head so the hat stays on) . Family and friends shared supper at Katz', the down town kosher style deli which has always been K.K.'s and my favorite after dance class or performance meal spot. for supper between the matinee we saw and the evening show. The meal was joyful with twelve at the table, and the restaurant's owner, with whom K.K. has made friends over the years, stopped by to fuss over K.K.and meet her friend Allison. He touched me by telling James he should be proud of his daughter because she was a "real lady" and also used the word "ballerina' which is, of course, accurate.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bob's home, which is wonderful. K.K. danced her first regular Nut Cracker. We see her tomorrow. I feel overwhelmed by all the details of Christmas coming - even though we're pretty ready. I probably just need some sleep. There were sweet oents tonight - K.K. and Ru chasing about, both lean and strong and lovely, Danny and Bob in the car singing Christmas songs - Danny learning the words. Life is good. I'm just tired.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Just a place holder thought - I read the phrase "have to juggle their time" this morning regarding holiday plans and busy families. I know what it means on one level. People do have to decide how to use time and can feel pulled in many directions, especially at holidays - but something bothers me about the concept of juggling time. Time's something we're in not something we hold - a river we float down, doing what we do while we float - at least that's the way I see it. How can you juggle a river? I'll think about this and maybe write more about it later. For you who comment, any thoughts?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Odd day - quiet at home - I could have accomplished more than I did on holiday projects, but I'm getting there. Will get there. Should stay up later and do more but the impulse to read in the tub, to sleep well and warm is strong. I think I'm storing up quiet and solitude vibes for the busy time that's coming. I hope it works!

Writing challenges have been intersting this week. I did another this morning that I like. I think this one was inspired by Zachary who came to me sweetly last night at the end of a long day and smiled warmly as he asked me to "please tuck me up" in bed. Those moments of connection are so precious to me and teach me how to live my life. So:

Over a bowl of cereal,
a sink of dishes,
a ride to school,
we negotiate the
rules of intimacy.
Nothing is trivial.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Too late
comes too soon
Do it now.

That was my favorite of the poems I wrote as a result of Skywriter challenges this week. I am very much aware of our mortality and the importance of not letting moments get away. I am so proud of my husband Bob, who, in similar spirit I think, has started blogging regularly. His link is

Saturday, December 15, 2007

the boys and I spent several hours at the Saturday Farmer's Market while KK danced. Both boys, especially Danny, enjoy live music, and the blue grass singer today was very good. We drank hot chocolate and perused produce and ceramic tents. One ceramics artist had small 50 cent Texas theme ornaments which KK (on break with us for a short time) chose to give out to dance class members and teachers. They were suitably delighted. It was cold and windy (low forties) at the market, but lots of fun. Later in the day the boys and I took sanctuary in the warmth of the Children's Museum - so glad that Bob got us a membership. There are new and fun activities each week. This week the boys made bag puppets - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with clothes pin Danny and a talking Christmas tree by Zach.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friends in my writers' group asked why I blog. I wrote the following in response. It seems appropriate to post it here.

Why I Blog

I've always journaled in one form or another - off and on but always. I have bits and pieces of journals around from when I was younger than KK. I like finding and reading snippets that show how I was thinking at different times in my life. There are some definite themes, things I've always written about. I like being able to go back and see progress, growth.

I also do a lot of family and friends letter and email writing and posting on a message board and sometimes those different venues and my journal share messages with the same core. Hving a blog initially seemed like a good way to write out the core message, then tailor it for different venues. I hoped (not always true) that people would be more likely to comment on blog messages than to write whole emails back. I liked the idea of keeping track of myself - my thoughts, felings, moods - of public events - or my reactions, of the feelings or the times, of writings mine and others that move me, in one place - so someone could track me and I could track myself.

I liked the idea that having regular blog readers waiting for a message every day or two would pressure m to write whether I felt like it or not - especially to share the stories about the children and our life. I want that there for the children as they grow up, chronicled. I treasure the letters people wrote about me when I was a kid and want to create an equal trove for these kids.

Using the blog to keep traditions, as with the recent Hanukkah lights questions is an inspiration to think and write when I may not be inspired to.

When I first started blogging Ruth had just started too and was living out of town. We shared a lot through our blogs - kept up with each other. Email could have been the same, but there was something about the other lens, writing about ourselves not to each other, that was fun. I write a blog to share myself with myself, to give others a chance to get to know me better, and to ask questions and gather comments. My biggest disappointment with blogging is that I don't get many comments, mostly from Ruth and my niece Mary.

As I've blogged I've discovered that I like playing with color and format and features like polls - that's just playing house though, playfully fun. The message keeping and sharing is the real deal. I try to write a blog that is self-revealing and open, but to honor the confidentiality and privacy of others. I am more careful regarding other people's stories than regarding my feelings. Those I feel pretty free with in the blog.

I like it when friends blog because I cna check in with them whenever I feel like it, whether they've personally reached out to me or not.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Last Hanukkah answer - eight lights I want to keep shining this year:
Benefit of the Doubt
Creation of beauty

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Last night of Hanukkah and the community Christmas sing with friends and family - another bright if confusing shining of my crazy interfaith life. I loved the sing tonight even though our strong mail voices were missing. I especially missed Bob - who has sung out beside be strongly and with joy so many times. It was fun hearing about the lives of old friends, catching up, even though a couple of people are having work frustrations. I loved watching Danny's joyful face as he swayed and sang with Jeannie, and KK and I laughed until we cried trying to keep up with the funny hand motions elves taught us to go along with "The Twelve Days of Christmas" This event has become a tradition and I realize I have matured into traditions. I went through a phase - maybe peaking six years ago - of wishing we didn't do so many of the same things every year or focus on holidays. I wanted more spontaneous contact with people I love and thought the choreographed contact of holidays was less rich. Now, though I still love the spontaneous contact I find myself more able to appreciate the traditions - to bask in them really. I'm glad for this change in myself.

Another event of the day was that KK danced her first Nutcracker performance, a school show, and it went well, though the small stage at the Paramount made spacing a little difficult..

So as the menorah glows full out, I answer my question number seven -
What are seven lights I hold onto from childhood, seven sweet memories that lit my way?

1. Stories - bedtime stories from both parents, read or told, Grandma Anna's kitchen stories, Grandpa Rudolf 's stories of the old country, Grandma Christine's stories in bed when I spent nights with her, and books as soon as I could read them.
2. Cooking and creating things with grownups - mostly Grandma Anna, but others too, being taught how
3. Working alongside grownups - bathing dogs with Daddy, hanging wash with Grandma Anna.
4. Word play with Daddy - I remember pet names, using the thee and thou - just quirky speech when the two of us were alone - feeling special
5. Being sewn for - special clothes Grandma Anna and especially Mama made for me all the way through high school - the attention of having my choices honored and the clothes designed just for me - the attention of being fitted, petted on, admired
6. Daddy's adventures, like the time he borrowed a sports car in the New Mexico mountains and woke me early to take me for a drive up into a cloud.
7. Playing games and singing songs with family on the back porch in West.

Last Hanukkah question.

What are eight lights I want to keep shining this year?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Seventh night of Hanukkah - beginning to be a full menorah of lights - really illuminates the room. The kids were here this evening and each came in for a little while and just sat in the candle glow, commenting on its beauty. Danny, most like me in some ways, also said it was sad that there was about to stop being more light. Got to stay in the moment - still coming to full glory, not anticipate endings. That's a good repeated lesson for me.

Last night's answers - six ways to stay centered - didn't count exactly - realized a poem for my writing group is my answer here.

To Gather Strength

Sleep well. eat well,
walk every day.
Keep connected with friends,
far and near
Write, work, dance,
keep eyes on sky, sun, moon, stars,
play with or without children and puppies
leave no loving words unsaid,
bead, decorate, write letters, share memories, dream
be still, breathe, speak the truth,
ask for help, memorize poems
accept appreciation, offer appreciation
give to give, love to love, live to live

Seventh night question - What are seven sweet memories from childhood that light my life today?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sixth night of Hanukkah I lit the lights alone again, after a wonderfully social weekend. It feels good to be alone as the lights flicker down. I let myself get irritable and frantic this afternoon - overwhelmed by logistics and that is not right. Its great to get many things done, but more important to stay gentle, kind, focused. I don't like the way I feel when I get overstimulated and grumpy, and I don't like hurting or confusing the people who love me, so I'm refocusing on staying balanced. That effort leads to my question for the sixth night.

What are six ways I can stay focused and gentle - avoid over stimulation and acting out irritably?

Here is my answer to my fifth night question - What are five lights I can pass on to my grandchildren?

1. more conscious effort on maintaining and conveying family stories, both written down and in oral tradition
2. keeping alive the tradition of apologizing for mistakes quickly and without defensiveness
3. providing rich nature experiences and doing real work to keep the natural world rich and alive
4. encouraging their individual personalities and gifts
5. encouraging their individual spiritualities

Today at Mass the choir sang an Advent carol I didn't remember and found beautiful. Both because of its beauty and because it was based on a French carol, I thought about you then. I wonder if your Julie in Girl in the Tapestry would have known and sung this song. I tried to bring the words home but apparently failed, but each verse spoke of the coming of Jesus in a fresh and lovely way - coming light, coming rose, coming star, coming king. And the choir did a beautiful job with singing harmonies. The song seemed in keeping with the increasing light the menorah brings each night.

My weekend was framed by really lovely religious services, the mass toward the end and our Friday evening Jewish service at the beginning. The middle of the weekend was rich with events - Ruth's and Chris' wonderful Hanukkah party and the gingerbread house building workshop with the boys at the children's museum. The little boys had the fun with the gingerbread houses and followed instructions well. The results are cute. Bob was darling being such a nervous perfectionist about trying to help Danny well enough. He is such a dear man, but icing is definitely not his medium. Love is though, for sure.

It was odd not having KK with us two weekends in a row but she enjoyed getting to go visit Allison's grandmother. Her friendship with Allison is a blessing and a delight. Allison is going to come with us when Bob and I take the kids to the Corpus condo between Danny's birthday and the beginning of school. I succumbed to grandmotherly temptation and bought a gingerbread house kit for KK to build on her own, so she won't be too disappointed that she didn't get to participate - and so I get to play in icing again.

I am proud of the job that Bob and I did with practical logistics this weekend. He got my new washing machine hooked up (the old one had gotten to the point that repair cost more than replacement) and it is wonderful to now be able to wash normal sized- loads again - not to be limping along as I was trying to keep the old one going. I baked up a double recipe of homemade Chex mix which we bagged up for Bob to take as gifts to coworkers and we made gift bags for his students. He also selected jewelry gifts from my stored up jewelry for his closest teacher friends. So his Corpus Christmas preparation is all done and all he has to focus on is getting through eight more class days. He isn't coming home next weekend, so that will allow him to have a little less pressure and a little more time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tonight was the social night of Hanukkah, the most public and delightful night of celebration. Ruth's and Chris' wonderful Hanukkah party and the gingerbread house building workshop with the boys at the children's museum. Ruth and Chris really can put on a party - and their Hanukkah food is delicious - Ruth's from scratch latkes, Chris' curry, saffron rice, artichoke cheese casserole, many sweet options, This party is always multi generational, different people from different parts of their lives. I especially enjoyed listening to Bob and one of Ruth's and Chris' younger friends discuss birding all over the country. Another treat was watching Danny's joy in greeting guests. I think he will be a great host as a man.

My answer to last night's question: What are four qualities that block my ability to spread light?

1. need for personal attention and validation
2. fear of overstepping, intruding
3. inability to reverse roles properly - mistakes in empathy
4. poor self management which leads to letting myself get over stiulated and then behaving in an unkind or indless way.

Tonight's question: What are five lights I can pass on to my grandchildren - five traditions or blessings?
Fourth night of Hanukkah was Shabbat. I was touched that Ruth and Chris dropped by unexpectedly and offered me a ride to services- which were lovely. Our little Reconstructionist synagogue is warm and accepting, participatory - giving us chances to the service to speak from out hearts about our lives if we are moved to do so. Tonight was all about light, Shabbat light and Hanukkah light. I am feeling more part of the community (forty families) and able to chat as well as worship with them. Larger congregations have their strengths, but small feels good right now.

Last night's answer - three places to shine light

the lives of family members and friends who are ill or lonely
schools where poverty and prejudice cloud learning
war zones worldwide

Tonight's question

What four qualities block my willingness to spread light?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I just talked with Santa. Bob was waylaid going into the door for the PTA meeting tonight and hurried into a Santa Suit. He had fun holding babies and receiving hugs from preschoolers. There are some definite perks to teaching school.
First, my answer to last night's question -

Two qualities to bring into my life - new lights - mindful stillness and increased right action.

Third night of Hannukah is quiet. I lit the menorrah alone early and the lights are already almost out - not even nine o'clock yet. Joanna read my blog today, or at least several months of it. The scheduling computer is down at work and she was there hours without much else to do. That made me very happy - good way of connecting, though of course she already knew much of what I've written.

Third night question - What are three areas into which I want to work to spread light?

And finally - words to a favorite Hannukah Song - Thank you Peter Yarrow.

LIGHT ONE CANDLE Peter Yarrow- ©1983 Silver Dawn Music ASCAP

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand.

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts.

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears.

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years.
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our love and our tears!

(Don't let the light go out!
!Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Second night of Hanukkah - Joanna and the kids were here for the candle lighting - very sweet blending of traditions. The candles are still barely glowing. I love how long the light lingers.

Last night's question - How can I better spread light?

Keep myself peaceful, rested, strong - sleep and eat well- avoid hurrying and overwork. Listen. Apologize quickly when I am unkind or defensive. Be mindful.

Tonight's question

For two candles - what two qualities to I most want to increase in myself?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The gathering of light is beginning as the days shorten. The first lights of Hannukah shine and flicker on my table. Tradition is sweet. I like starting with the two candles only, the first night's candle and the helper, then watching the light increase each night.

How can I increase the light I spread in the world? That is the question I ask myself tonight.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ten things I've always liked

1. words
2. being in water
3. learning new things
4. pink
5. salty foods
6. long hair, both the look and the feel
7. being able to help
8. soft clothes
9. making things
10. the moon

Ten things I've never liked

1. ketchup
2. hurrying
3 most cartoons.
4. The feeling of moving fast through space
5. tension between people I love
6. being told there is just one right way to do anything
7. tailored clothes
8. frosting
9. feeling tricked
10.not being able to help

Ten things I liked in high school and don't like now

1. sleeping past noon
2. trying on outfits.
3. cleaning house
4. collecting things (shells, art, rocks - all kinds of things)
5. climbing trees
6. competitive word games
7. playing the piano
8. rearranging furniture
9. air travel
10. hyperbole

Ten things I didn't like in high school and like now

1. curry - actually all Indian food
2. sunrise
3. science fiction and fantasy books
4. getting things out of my space - simplifying
5. birding
6. pizza
7. watching movies
8. reading newspapers
9. sex (or the idea of sex)
10. trying new things at which I don't expect to excell

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I've been reading lots of blogs this evening - cooler hipper blogs than I keep, Blogs of younger writers - friends of friends. There are games bloggers play that I'm just learning about. It seems like some of the are list games. Right now I'm just going to list the list games, not play any - but prepare yourselves (and feel free to play in comments if the spirit moves you)

1. List eight things that are true about you.

2. List ten things you liked in high school that you don't like now.

3. List ten things you've always liked

4. List ten things you've never liked.
Good weekend - not the kind that translates into beautiful posts - maybe better lived than written about, but I'll try a little.

Friday, after the news of Sophie's death, Joanna changed her work schedule to be with me - not sure if I would be OK - so sweet. We talked for hours about family, connection, memories - ate pizza at Conans, something we did when she was little and Kerry was alive, not much in recent years. Then we went and saw the movie August Rush, about music, magic and connection. Robin Williams did a good job as a ad musician - and I liked the movie though there were a few disconnects. I loved the way Joanna chose to take care of me that night.

In a way this weekend was a precursor of social activities to come for the kids. KK spent all the weekend after dance with Allison's family for Allison's birthday weekend, so we barely saw the girl. Saturday I went to a birthday party with Zachary. These days, apparently, the parents or grandparents stay. This was a party for a boy Joe, in Zachary's class and his twin brother Jake. They live in a lovely house (not mansion, just lovely regular house) on acres with horses in the pasture - not their horses their big sister said wistfully. A local stage magician entertained at the party. It was fun to see Zachary with his friends. He was greeted when he arrived, new people's names, had fun, was neither shy nor aggressive. The children in Zachary's world seemed like every class I've ever known - all physical and personality types, but more ethnically and internationally diverse than many classes I've known.

After the party Bob and the boys and I spent the sunset hour at a local pond - new to me but near the kids' school. with lots of domestic ducks and geese. We accidentally caught Joanna at her house and she and Bob watched football there - were sat to see Missouri lose to OU while I grocery shopped. Danny and Zach are beginning to throw the football around a bit and seem to have lots of fun with that.

Tonight after Bob left for Corpus Danny made a book - twenty seven pages about aliens - carefully drawn. He then started dictating the story to me - a simple but interesting story about making and breaking connections - looking for home, flying away, finding and losing friends. I'm always surprised by the kids - how they develop, what interests. Danny has always had an artist's eye I think, but he used to have trouble with hand eye coordination and didn't choose to draw much. Suddenly he wants to draw on a regular basis and is making interesting pictures.

Friday, November 30, 2007

When I checked phone messages late last night after arriving home late from work and before going to bed, I found a message that Sophie, one of the most important family members during my childhood and early married years, died Wednesday. Her death was not expected, though she was in her nineties and in failing health. I feel sad about Sophie for so many reasons. We were very close for decades - she a major support to me in my teens and twenties when my mother was sometimes critical. As she aged and travel became harder for her - as she became less able to hear me on the phone, our communications became less frequent, and I wish I had made that different somehow. Thinking about Sophie I realize that, though I try to act like it doesn't matter, my inability to drive has been a detriment to connection. I would have just driven up to Waco to see her often if I could have just driven up to Waco - harder to ask someone to drive, to plan, to orchestrate trips. I wish Sophie and I had stayed closer longer.

But I also deeply value the closeness we had. She was one who always listened, seemed to care about the details of my life as a girl, remembered details. She taught me to play solitaire and played hours of dominoes for hours with me and Uncle Rudy and Grandpa Rudolf. She and my mother were raised as sisters - just two years apart in age. Sophie's mother died young and her father ran off to St. Louis, leaving Sophie and her older brother Noel to be raised by family - mostly my mother's parents. My other's Protestant parents promised Sophie's Catholic other that they would raise the children Catholic, and they did, taking them to mass each Sunday.Like my mother, Sophie spoke Czech before English and had to suffer through first days of school in a foreign language. She was the one my mother cried for when her turn came to be a new first grader with no English, and the one whose comfort helped.

All through my childhood Sophie and my mother laughed in the kitchen like sisters until, finally, one had to make a quick dash to the bathroom. They joked in Czech and English, sometimes shifting language rapidly. Sometimes they argued like sisters. I know they loved each other like sisters.

Sophie had polio when she was two and was left with a limp. I know that, during The Great Depression, when money was of course tight, the family found a way to send Sophie to St. Louis for surgery on her leg - surgery that allowed her to walk without a brace. There was not money for someone to go with her, so she went on the train alone - maybe nine years old - and was greeted and cared for by a family someone knew in St. Louis, then sent back, recovered, alone on the train. All through my experience with her, Sophie's attitude about her physical circumstances was cheerful. This positive determination of hers may have been my model for my attitude about my visual difficulties - you don't let things like that take up any more space than necessary. No unnecessary losses. I think I learned that part of my personal code of conduct at least in part from Sophie.

Joanna took me out to supper tonight and we talked about Sophie and other family members who have died - about times as they were. I haven't cried yet. Tears seem to come on their own terms with me - not on schedule. I thought writing would loose them, but not this time.

I'm waiting eagerly and a little anxiously for Bob to get here . Its way to late - he got a late start from Corpus and has misplaced his cell phone, so I can't check on hi I'm sure he's safe, but its a drizzly night and I know he's tired and just want him here already!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brain dead tonight, tired after three busy work days - happy walking home from the bus this evening to see Christmas tree lights behind curtains - I love that sight, that flicker. Outside decorations are going up too and the sparkle pleases me, but its hte trees behind the curtains that seem sweetly mysterious.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thunder in winter scares me. I don't know why. Saturday night we had thunder near freezing in the hours past midnight, lightning in the cold sky. I woke and felt I needed to stay awake, watching it, to keep us safe. That makes no sense at all. It wasn't a threatening storm, just thunder and lightening in winter. I identified, sitting up alone with my nose pressed to cold glass, shuddering each time the sky shuddered, with people from less scientific times who are reputed to have wondered if the sun would come back each cycle of seasons.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I've been taking the kids to mass for more than a year now (because their parents work Sunday mornings and can't and can't and raising them solidly Catholic is a priority for Joanna) I love St.Austin's Church - the choir, the atmosphere of welcome, the location near campus, the sense of social justice and worship working together. I am impressed particularly by Father Bob Scott - a priest in his late eighties who has worked most of his life on college campuses and speaks of his God and his Church with great passion and love. He donducted the mass yesterday, the Catholic Festival of Christ the King, and he was so caught in the beauty and power of it that he was singing with the choir in the final procession - Later out on the sidewalk I saw him blessing a saint for the hoe of a young couple, standing out on the sidewalk on a cold rainy morning after a long mass chatting, blessing. I lved all of that.

And I'm Jewish and this isn't my church or my world. I can half forget that most of the time when they're talking about social justice - but Christ the King? That's pretty specific.

I watched Jean's father take Communion yesterday. This man is near the top of my list of people I respect - a World War Two Veteran, wise, gentle, a man who has always been quiet about remarkable athletic and, I think, intellectual competencies. l Yesterday was maybe the fifth time during the almost forty years that I've known this lifetime Catholic take Communion. Every time I've watched him participate in the central action of his religion I've cried because the mindfulness and holiness in his participation is so beautiful.

I seem to have a habit of getting myself into situations like this - where I am immersed in the beauty of something but don't completely own it as mine - It's not even that hard any more - just odd. Maybe I should stop thinking its odd and just realise it is true of me. I am drawn to worship and people of faith and tradition, and don't see to be able to solidly stick in a single tradition.
OK - to start to fill in last night's list - Dogs. When Bob and I married he had a beautiful and beloved Golden Retriever companion named Poppy. I will always be thankful to that dog for having been Bob's hiking companion and solace during some lonely years. Poppy was not too happy about her man taking on three other females, but she put up with us and learned to live on our turf. As the girls grew up, each got to an age where she wanted a dog of her own and they did get puppies. Poppy never took to the girls; pups- Pirette, the beautiful if not bright Samoyed Pup Joanna had for a short time before the dog was stolen, Gwen, Ruth's Scottie who is now dead almost three years and Lilly, Joanna's sweet big Shepard mix.

Now Bob has Lobo, five year old Sheltie, as his canine companion and Lilly is the arthritic but elegant old lady of dogdom in our family. Last summer KK, at eleven, reached that point where she wanted a puppy more than anything in the world - and she saved her money and got Sammi, a black Australian cow dog mix. Now KK is working with the reality of responsibility for and to a very lively and sweet pup. Lilly doesn't much like KK's athletic, playful Sammi, but is learning to tolerate her as Sammi is learning some manners.

Mostly I'm writing about the dogs because, with their lifetimes shorter than ours, they show us the generations passing. I have pictures of Poppy as a puppy, even though I didn't know her then and remember holding tiny Gwen and Lilly in my lap - soft pups. Lobo too - bringing him back from San Antonio in a towel in my lap the weekend before the World Trade Center fell. I think Ruth was in middle school - having probably a thirteenth birthday the weekend Poppy died. This spring she'll be turning twenty seven. I remember - if not clearly in terms of detail, powerfully in terms of emotion, so many moments in the lifetimes of all of these dogs - moments in our human lifetimes too, of course.

So given that Poppy is long dead, Gwen dead, Lilly elderly - and KK clearly growing up - where am I in my own life cycle? Past half I know - but its so odd. I don't feel "older" in some quantifiable way. I sure don't feel close to my end. But I know human generations turn just as canine generations do - just more slowly.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I'm alone in the house, back to quiet normal after a busy vacation/holiday week and a day with a houseful. I like the quiet tonight, haven't started really missing Bob yet, though I know I will soon. This is probably the easiest part of the year to live apart. We've just had a whole week together and he'll be home for two weeks on December 19, which seems soon. After the new year, the period until spring break is a long haul with him being extra busy preparing kids for standardized tests and holidays being few and far between. But right now we will be seeing quite a bit of each other.

I want to write about the dogs in our family - past and present - about taking the kids to mass, The Festival of Christ the King, the venerable priest, Bob Scott who celebrated that festival today, thunder in winter. But All I'm going to do tonight is make the list. I'll fill it in after sleeping.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This vacation is almost over. Bob drives back to Corpus tomorrow. We have a houseful tonight - sleeping grand kids and Sammi pup (who is becoming much better behaved lately) Its cold out - rained all day, just a few degrees above ice. I'm washing and precooking and doing all the things I normally do on weekends - even got a good writing spell in while Bob took the kids to the Children's Museum. We had a great family supper and watched the excellent movie Duma, about a boy, a cheetah, wildness, connection, loss and other important things. Its been a great vacation and I even have a good mindset about going back to work - am eager to reconnect with any of my clients. Somehow though, my mood is just off tonight- a little disconnected when I wish most to be able to connect to Bob. I'm not sure what I'm doing - distancing before he actually leaves would be pretty dumb. Better to go put my head in his lap than sit here writing.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving was pretty perfect and the day after has been quiet, restful. I thought I would do some real writing but I was distracted by other needs - OK but need/want to get on track. I did make turkey soup, which makes me feel virtuous.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Home - I love our little house, so warm and familiar on a cold night after five sweet travel days. The trip home was uneventful - good conversation, great dinner at a German restaurant in Fredricksburg. Time to go to sleep and wake up for a family Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20, 2007

Today is a transition day, out of the wilderness back into civilization. It seems fitting that, as a transition day, it has been marked by contrasts. This morning when we stopped at a little rural store looking for post card pictures of The Cat Walk, a sad flier on the store door greeted us. A family is looking for their missing son/brother last seen a week ago, distraught and off his meds for bipolar disorder, threatening to drive off into the wilderness to die. I’ve been thinking about him and his family all day – off and on, between magical nature moments. I hope he founded hope somewhere and will go back home.

Bob and I visited Pueblo Creek today, a wilderness area in which native people lived one thousand years ago. There were more people there then than now – a small agricultural community. We walked the hills and creek bed, noticing birds, listening for wolf song (signs told us we were in wolf country but the wolves stayed away) enjoying the total absence of human generated sound. It was like that yesterday by the lake too –and on the catwalk, only water and wind sounds, no cars or planes.

We made a last birding stop on the Gila river, saw mule deer and more sycamore trees flaming orange among the yellow cotton woods. We each selected a river rock as a memento of this trip. Mine is pale pink and shaped like an owl – Bob’s strong and solidly red. We left the river by sunset and moonrise - having a long intricate conversation about what it means to be a good listener (I love my husband so much – apparently the typical American male wouldn’t intelligently talk with his wife for three hours about what it means to be a good listener)

Dark fell, we got back into cell phone range, and I decided to be responsible and checked office messages – quite a number to deal with, but everyone safe. While I was in the midst of trying to write down phone numbers to call people back, we drove up to a little gas store. Just as we got out of the car there was a terrible noise from the highway – metal on metal, no shattering glass. It was a roll over accident, and others on the scene moved quickly to call 911 and offer aid. By the time we drove by no victims were left at the scene. It shook me though that horrible risk lurked so close to my happy vacation, and worries me a little that I didn’t instantly figure out what was going on and run to the scene as some others did. Bob raised the question of whether the police even want people to approach accidents before they arrive – perhaps we should not risk doing something wrong and hurting someone worse or getting hurt ourselves. We’ve decided to ask a police officer about this soon.

We’re in Deming now (and I’m THRILLED to have clean hair and be off the scary nighttime highway). We are at one of our favorite old-fashioned motels, one where I set a scene in Green Up. Tomorrow, in the daytime, we will drive home in tie to have Thanksgiving with family. Even with the sad moments today, this tradition of the Thanksgiving birding road trip with Bob is one I cherish even more than last year. I hope we continue it.

To check out Bob’s wonderful pictures of our trip go to:
November 19, 2007

We are tucked in for our last night in our little Gila hideaway watching Vince Young try to pull off another comeback on Monday Night Football.. It’s fun watching Bob watch football. He gets so excited, especially when he cares about a player as most of Austin (probably Texas) cares about Vince Young. It’s also very odd for me, who doesn’t watch much TV, to watch all the ads for cars and phones, high on gimmicks and speed and humor I don’t get – until all of a sudden the ad is from UNICEF, talking about efforts to keep kids from all over the world from dying of AIDS. And then I notice that the football player and coaches in the ads are often making gentle fun of their own egos – for instance saying that reading the playbook to the kids always puts them to sleep – perfect bedtime story. I am aware one more time how much I am a twentieth century person in a new century and really don’t get the layers of too much of what’s going on.

Some things, like the beauty of a bald eagle flying over a mountain lake, haven’t changed a bit. Today we drove to Quemado Lake where, within three minutes of our arrival at the lake, Bob was greeted by both a bald eagle and a red tailed hawk. On this mild crystalline mountain afternoon we hiked around the little lake and up into the wilderness. From the overlook point above the wooded hills, we watched our eagle fish the lake, accompanied by a second bald eagle, a juvenile. It is so good for us to be out in the clean air, this time scented of pinon pine, to have unscheduled time to just be together and talk about trivial and important matters, relaxed.
November 18

Today has been one of those magical days – beyond any expectation. Bob and I hiked the Cat Walk trail in the Gila Wilderness and it (especially on this perfectly crisp fall day) is one of the most magnificent trails we’ve every hiked. Everywhere we looked was beauty. Most immediately striking was blazing golden sycamores with trunks I couldn’t get my arms around and white branches snaking against a backdrop of pink cliff and azure sky. The cliffs themselves were dramatic, layered by ancient volcanic action – pink, black, gray – gorgeous. The White Water River rushed through its canyon tumbling in classic falls. As we sit tonight in our comfortable room Bob is editing the glorious pictures he took all up and down the trail. He almost didn’t take his camera. I’m so glad he did. Not only are the pictures beautiful and great at communicating our experience, but also it pleases me to see Bob delighting in catching beauty with his camera.
November 17, 2007

Continental breakfast at the motel nearest Bosque DelApache Wildlife Refuge brought an encounter with Marianne, a recently retired kindergarten teacher fro New Hampshire who had just seen her first sand hill cranes. When I asked her about New Hampshire wildlife experiences she told me that her special interest is moose photography – that she goes out early in the mornings to places where she knows the moose will come and waits to take their pictures. She said she had come, over the last several years, to feel that she knows several moose a bit, and that they have become familiar with her. And yes, she does know Fred Small’s song “If You Were a Moose and I was a Cow” and even had the good grace not to make a face when I asked her if she knew the song. I realized later that she probably gets asked that question a lot.

The first bird I saw at the refuge was a road runner (always a bird that brings fond memories of Ruth’s childhood because she liked road runners). The last birds we saw were several thousand snow geese swirling noisily up into the sky from their pond – perhaps frightened by the bald eagle we had seen earlier. Most unusual sighting was of an aplamado falcon, beautiful bird that was once almost extinct in the United States. Reintroduction has been successful enough that this individual wandered unbidden into the Bosque, a very good sign and a delight to birders. The sand hill cranes are still the centerpiece of the refuge, stately and numerous – flying, walking, standing about in family groups of three.

Bob and I were both impressed by the human migrants to the Festival of Cranes – wildlife artists whose work captured the eye and the imagination and activists for many environmental causes. They came with an impressive number of rescued raptors we could see up close, a white wolf, post cards to write to Senators, information about global warming and wolf reintroduction, photographs of canyons and sky, silk scarves, glowing oil paintings, sculptures and statues of owl, wolf – so much work of many kinds in tribute to the glories of nature.

As we drove the windy road to the Lariat Inn in the tiny town of Glenwood at the edge of the Gila wilderness, the elk standing beside the road made it very clear that the “Elk Crossing” signs were for real. We were very happy to arrive at our cozy room – stone and wood – very simple, with a comfortable bed.. My only complaint is the lack of a bath tub or adequate hot water. Those lacks are more than compensated for by the presence of a long eared owl just outside who classically inquiers “Who?”
November 16, 2007

Bob and I did a good job of getting started on our trip calmly even though he was late getting in last night after a frantic afternoon facilitating a fourth grade fundraiser. I had been nervous about being completely responsible for trip groceries but ended up having fun making homemade Chex mix, baking brownies, and picking out trail mixes and salads at Central Market. Bob and I even got our flu shots at the Minit Clinic on our way out of town. That’s a bigger deal that it sounds because I have been feeling guilty about failing to make the phone call necessary to schedule a flu shot through our pharmacy.

Driving through west Texas was as much of a treat for me as it always is – something clean and big about the sky and land joining, especially on clear days in winter. Our old car still drives like a new car (and yes I am knocking on my wooden head) and with speed limits at 80 on the Interstate for daytime driving now, a long driving day didn’t seem long. We had supper in El Paso around sunset, choosing a local Mexican place full of locals – a place where English was spoken but Spanish was dominant and the mariachi band was setting up its sound system for a later show as we ate. I enjoyed watching a large extended family at a nearby table. There were six children, cousins I’d bet, and they surprised e by ordering cold tomato soup (gazpacho) on a cool evening. Our food was plentiful and tasty, and I enjoyed feeling a little exotic, visiting a city and world on the very edge of Mexico. The armed border guards at several checkpoints and the smoke from trash fires on the Mexican side of the border gave a slightly darker cast to the border.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm excitedly putting the finishing touches on our leaving for our trip preparations - not much left to do except wait for Bob to arrive and hope for a good night's sleep. I am between , having carefully closed up the office but unable to yey load the car since it isn't here yet. Between is an odd place. Could check the details again - could take a bath or a nap - hard to know what I actually will do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I don't feel full of words tonight - good work week - I am steadily preparing for our road trip - Chex Mix made from scratch, brownies in the oven, six changes of underwear and socks counted into the suitcase, pet food stored away for the friend who will feed dog and cat in our absence, Thanksgiving shopping and cooking squared away with Joanna (She's doing it. I'm not.) I'm excited about going away with Bob and excited about going into nature. I've been dreaming for weeks now, almost nightly, about the sand hill cranes. But I think I'd still be excited about going away with Bob if we were just going to sit in a boring room somewhere and eat bland food for five days - I really miss that man.

A friend shared a poem with me today - a poem based on a poem. You probably already know Emily Dickinson's poem about hope but if you need a reminder here it is:

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune
without words,
and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

The newer poem, which I hadn't read before, catches so well what I feel when I say things like "Love is stronger than loss." and "Life force comes back if you let it."

The Thing With Feathers

Chris Bursk

It's the first thing you hear in the morning,
the last you hear at night.
In the woods, in the swamps,
in the old steeple, in the ruined eaves,
over the wreckage of a car
your mother drove straight into a wall,
The bird won't stop singing,
It is perched on the rafters of a house that burned to the ground.
Whenever you move, it's one hop
ahead of you. Tireless
as a creek it's a tune that will not allow itself
to be forgotten. It keeps building
and leaving its nest, all chatter, all expectation,
water singing to itself
in the shadows as well as the sunlight,
That insufferable Optimist.
No matter how many doors you slam,
curses you shout, rocks you throw,
it pops up louder than ever
on this very branch of the very tree outside your house
-as if stones must be your way of applauding.
It was singing the morning you got fired
the day you brought grief to the person
you most wanted to protect.
the evening when the great cause you'd pledged yourself to
failed. It sang
while your father was writing his suicide note,
the night your dear friend told you he was HIV positive,
the night you could find nothing remaining
to believe in, when all you wanted
was to be left alone. It sings in places so dark
you can't see into them.
It is singing out there now.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day - a day to honor all veterans. I especially think of Bob's Dad, who served in three wars. (Thank you Dubby) I think of a young father of two I know who is on his third tour in Iraq. I remember my friend Don who didn't come home from Viet Nam, and my friend Steve, who took decades to feel comfortable being home. I think of so many veterans - and say thank you. I can mouth "War is Hell." but hope I'll never know what I really mean, not at all its levels. All of you, veterans of wars know. I wish you didn't have to know. I hope my grandchildren won't have to know.

Again, thank you, veterans.

To mark this day I post a poem and a quote.

In Flanders Fields

by Major John McCrae
Canadian Officer

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

And, From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pleasant Sunday so far - homework and companionship with the kids - a brief visit with Ruth and Chris when they came to get KK and take her for a bike ride and canoe expedition. I'm so proud of that kid. She's gotten a week ahead (as much as is possible given that thins will still be assigned) on homework which is good with her busy dance schedule. She works so hard. Zachary is beginning to understand school expectations better and grow into the student world. Danny is the only one who didn't have homework this weekend. He is working on learning his math facts though, so he won't escape his grandma's academic embrace. We'll drill flash cards in a few minutes - then go to the park.

Last night I read a Newberry winner that just blew me away = Out of the Dust,
a journal style novel in poems written in the voice of a musically talented (piano playing) girl from the dust bowl era of Oklahoma. The story is poignant, beautifully captures grief and recovery, as well as a phase of history my parents lived through, but didn't experience as painfully as this character. One of the last poems, about music, moves me and makes sense out of context of the story.


I'm getting to know music again.
And it is getting to know me.
We sniff each other's armpits,
amd behind each other's necks,
We both are confident and a little sassy.

And I know now that all the time I was trying to get
out of the dust,
the fact is,
what I am,
I am because of the dust.
And what I am is good enough,
Even for me.

November 1935
Karen Hesse

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Really great Saturday out and about town with the kids -Farmers' market ripe with fresh pecans, Texas tangerines, local art - fun sandwich shop called which Wich where you personally design each sandwich by marking choices for meats, cheeses, relishes, vegetables on the bag in which the sandwich will come - and afterward you get to draw on the bag and clip your artwork to a display if you want. Danny loved his turkey sandwich and I loved drawing on brown paper, school girl portraits of happy grandsons. The Children's Museum provided its usual high quality exploration activities for all of us. Among other things we simulated different kinds of atoms by putting different objects - bells, pennies, pebbles, beads, puffballs, into balloons and then blowing up the balloons and experiencing the differences between them - made as they were of different elements. When we went back to the dance academy to get KK, we had the privilege of seeing the the first run through of the complete Nutcracker choreography for the Bon Bons. Fun and impressive!

Later this evening I had the delight of helping KK find pictures to place in a personal life cycle project for school - including pictures of her past and present selves (baby, toddler and preteen) - and pictures of Joanna and me for future life stages (young adult, parent, and elder). She has done a beautiful job, and the assignment gave us a chance to look through family pictures - so many sweet pictures of happy times. Its easy to get caught in the struggle of daily life - good to have this focus on our many happy times.

After the life cycle collage, KK was still on a schoolwork roll and completed her D.A.R.E. anti drug education essay. Its really odd how time passes so fast, generation upon generation. It really doesn't seem long since I helped Ruth edit her prize-winning D.A.R.E. essay. Here is KK's:

As a dancer, I care about keeping my body healthy, I think D.A.R.E. is helpful and interesting. I'm glad I learned how much marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs damage the body and the brain. I think D.A.R.E. will help me say "No." to drugs and violence even when I am a teenager.

Knowing drugs are very bad for my body is enough to keep me from wanting to use them. D.A.R.E. helps me remember the consequences of bad choices. D.A.R.E helps me know when to avoid bad behavior, when to say "No." and when I need to get adult help.

It is important for me to be drug-free and safe from violence because my dream to dance all over the world can't come true if I'm not healthy. I also want a family that loves me and to raise healthy children. If I get involved with drugs and violence, that dream can't come true either.

I pledge that I won't ever try drugs or tobacco and that I will never abuse alcohol.

KK Sullivan-Scott

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Confidentiality regarding work is a pain when I want to blog (sometimes)especially when the main feeling things going on with me on a given day are work related. What I can write tonight is that I feel extremely thankful to have been born with a brain that produces neurotransmitters and other chemicals in appropriate proportions - that I don't hallucinate, am able to learn quickly to do tasks requiring abstract thinking, never risked heavy drinking or drug use, am not living in a violent family or a war torn country. I will have enough to eat tomorrow and won't have to worry about having to kill anyone, or fear that anyone will be trying to kill me.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Happy tonight - after work Joanna made soup and apple cake and I read with the boys. KK is loving, thriving in dance - and has a real affinity for (and reciprocated by) - her male dancer friend Ian. She is so sweetly eleven in her fondness for him - counting hugs. He's fourteen, an awkward age difference - They are beautiful dancing together. We are trying to keep our adult impressions off of this young friendship - not trying to make it into something it isn't. She is just very happy right now, and especially in this friendship. If nothing else, their desire to be together is good for their dancing. They are both asking to go to extra jazz classes to have time together.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Chris turned thirty today - and I was pleased ot be included in the celebration with his family at a Caribeean restaurant - good decade more or less that I've known Chris and come to love him and love the way he loves Ruth, and she him. I wonder what the next decade will bring.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ok, I've been taking the quizes at Blue Pyramid quizes to entertain myself - starting with the book quiz mentioned earlier, and am blown away by the country quiz results. Its silly that a few questions could nail a personality wo well. Those of you who know me - I'm idealistic and always trying to please everybody and get everybody to be at peace with everybody else, right? So here is my result. I think I should just go to bed!

"You're the United Nations!Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go. You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York."
On Friday afternoon I participated in a memorial tree planting at the park where Joanna and James got married. A client of mine whose husband died last February was planting a tree at the park to commemorate his birthday. The ceremony, conducted by members of their Unitarian Universalist community, was sweet and tender - informal, gave the young sons a chance to participate in adding earth and scattering flowers and rosemary for remembrance.

Yesterday the Catholic church had family Sunday school again, this time about family faith tradition, with emphasis on remembering our beloved dead. We brought pictures of those we have lost and talked about them. In addition there was a focus on remembrance and faith. We were directed to talk about whom in the family first helped us feel close to God. I was touched by being part of this process for these children.

It doesn't escape me that the service I was "too busy" seeing an emergency client to attend was my own Jewish Friday night service, which Ruth and Chris say I would have loved. Got to think about that and my time use and choices.

Our weekend was more relaxed than most recent weekends. Bob and I had most of Saturday to ourselves because Joanna wasn't working and kept the boys. We took KK out to breakfast at her favorite deli where she collected a hug from the owner, and delivered her to and from a day of dance class and Nut Cracker rehearsal. Mostly though we just enjoyed each other, walked the lake, grocery shopped, hung out. That night we enjoyed an opera concert . No costumes, just one aria sung right after the other. It was done that way because Austin Lyric Opera is awaiting completion of the new performing arts facility and the one they previously used is being renovated - so they had no where to put on an opera, just a concert. so they had no where to put on an opera, just a concert. It was held at River Bend Church, where Bob used to attend - not in the church he remembers but the bigger, newer one. It was fun to, by chance, meet Jean and Mark at the performance.

Yesterday afternoon and evening and all of today have been pleasant and ordinary- laundry and correspondence, helping the kids with homework yesterday wile Bob watched football. Life is sweet here.
Fun quiz for book lovers - Which book are you? To find out one opinion try out the quiz at I haven't read the book that was chosen for me - A Prayer for Owen Meany, but now I think I will. Oddly, I've read the other books which have come up for friends who have taken the quiz, but not my own.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I just got back from a beautiful All Soul's Day mass, at St. Austin's Catholic Church. The choir, in which good friends Jean and Mark both now sing, performed Gabriel Faure's Requiem with orchestral accompaniment. The effect on me was as if heavenly choirs had joined with the human choir. The homily was based on the beatitudes and the conflict in the human spirit between hope and fear. The alter cloth and vestments were white, and the mood tender and contemplative - all very healing for this spirit.

Its so odd about me and religion/spirituality. Other people seem to be able to choose one and believe it and belong to it. For me traditions, prayers and songs of many traditions have power and beauty. Its hard to stick with one, or care which one is being practiced. Spiritual seeking, beautifully orchestrated, moves me deeply, regardless (within reason) of theology.

It was good for me to end the day with a meaningful spiritual experience. It was a hard day of change at the office. I saw Ruth's studio half emptied of her belongings, on its way to becoming Melissa's office. I remember when Chris and Ruth were hopefully moving into the studio, laying floor, making plans. I remember delightful photo shoots there with her. It does seem like it is time for her to move on now - to explore all aspects of her talents, and that studio really is too small and the sounds of photography in one room and therapy in the two adjacent clash, so its good that the room will be rededicated to therapy. And I really believe Melissa is a compassionate and gifted young therapist who will do much good in the space, so all will be well. Change is just hard.
I spent the evening at Joanna's house - really fairly quietly, giving out candy to the very cute trick-or-treaters who came to the door and making an easy pasta supper for our crew. It was a good family Halloween - not stressful trying to go too many places , nobody in a bad mood- reminded me of neighborhood Halloweens when the girls were little and when I was little for that matter. One difference which pleased me was the ethnic diversity in the kids' suburban neighborhood - something I am aware of but which is especially evident on Halloween when the families are out en mass. There are several high tech companies near Joanna's and Ruth's houses which seem to hire from all over the world. I enjoy the different accents and the varied looks of the people.

A highlight of Halloweens for me has been Ruth's pumpkin carving. This year the one she did for me was a gorgeous, intricate spooky bare tree with a bat in the branches and an elaborately scripted "Happy Halloween" above.

An odd aspect of my grand kids trick-or -treating is that Zachary, at five, had enough of it an hour before his brother and sister and asked his Auntie to bring him back to the house where he helped me with food and willingly read to me and worked on a homework project that's due Friday. He didn't seem sick, grumpy, or even exhausted - just said he had enough candy and was ready to go home. Definitely not the stereotype of a five year old boy! I loved the one-on-one time with him.

There are so many interesting variants in celebration and noncelebration of Halloween and other holidays. A friend told me this morning about a dinner party she was attending at which each guest is assigned a role - (both costume and behavior- attitude, etc) by the hostess, and the guests come dressed as their characters and play out their roles throughout the evening. With this group the roles are pretty zany, but the hostess is kind, not pushing people to embarrass themselves. I think, with people I trusted, I could really enjoy a party like that, but can't see myself throwing one.

I'm a little sad Halloween is over. Its a holiday I enjoy with all the color and the costuming element - but I also enjoy the November decorating - got my gourds and Indian corn today and in the morning I will replace the jack-o-lantern banner out front with a cheerful raccoon among fall leaves.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My niece, who is involved in the care and support of a patient with early onset dementia has been researching the topic and found an intriguing health article last week, in the context of Alzheimer’s prevention and long term brain health. It is just a really nice overview of healthy choices, from diet to mental and physical exercise and is based heavily on research going on at Duke University:

The short form of the eleven is:
1."Mediterranean" diet high on fish and complex carbohydrates and low on red meat and processed foods.
2. Specific dietary supplements including fish oils and folates - but more vitamins too, lots of B
3. a glass of red wine every day (for the powerful antioxidant in it)
4. anti-inflammatories daily (for some people) because inflammation may aggravate neurological decline
5. at least fifteen minutes of meditation a day - to reduce cortisol levels
6. laughter - to increase endorphins
7. keeping a broad and active social network
8. seven to eight hours good sleep a night
9. continuing to learn new skills on a regular basis
10 cardiovascular exercise
11. “neurobic” techniques outlined in a book by Duke researcher Lawrence Katz and author Manning Rubin.: Keep Your Brain Alive,. They outline an unusual brain exercise program that’s based on a solid foundation of neuroscience research. Specific kinds of sensory stimulation, they believe, like using the nondominant hand for common activities, are said to cause the brain cells to secrete molecules called neurotrophins that act like nutrients to improve cellular health.

My response to the list surprised me a little. Most of it seems easy but I feel rebellious about the dietary component. Part of my rebellion stems from the amount of red meat I prepare for Bob (fix meals to send to Corpus with him) since he is losing weight and keeping cholesterol down successfully on the Atkins diet. Its hard not to eat at least some of what I cook for him. But there is something deeper about food and me. I eat reasonably healthily if I don't think about it much, but once I start focusing on food and trying to to eat “healthy” all the time my rebel gets involved and then I want to stop eating altogether or eat a bag of Butterfingers. I wish I were saner regarding food. I need to find a balance - not an extreme.

The other area that is tough for me is laughter. I a a serious person and have never tended to laugh much. Very little makes me laugh out loud - except physical horseplay which I do enjoy. I think something like ping pong would be more likely to get me laughing than funny movies.

I wrote down the recommended supplements and want to talk to Bob about starting those for both of us, maybe anti-inflammatories too.. Meditation, exercise, and socialization, and trying new things are part of my life anyway. and this year I'm doing the best I have in years on sleeping seven or eight hours a night. I see to have gotten into the habit, which is a blessing after decades in and out of insomnia. I have red wine in the house but rarely drink it - could learn to - don't like it enough to want to overdo, but could get a glass a night down as medicine. The “neurobic” exercise and other emphasis on novelty and learning are intriguing. I want to get the neurobic book at least from the library. Just for fun I’ve been using the mouse with my left hand his evening. Tricky.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Our weekend was busy with pre-Halloween activities including a multi -generational party for members at the Children's museum. We took our crew and KK's best friend Allison, and we all had fun. I am such a kid, loved walking in the costume parade from City Hall to the museum flapping my orange feather boa behind the band. The party was skillfully planned and really delightful - with craft opportunities, a chance to get really creative balloon creatures, lots of friendly people in ingenious costumes, and lots of love for their kids.

The hours leading up to the party had been packed full with Nut Cracker related activities including the photo shoot. It was fun to see KK in her Bon Bon costume - a red and white striped confection, and even more fun to see her enjoying being in the costume with her dancing friends. Bob and I also took the kids to the costume store to pick out Halloween costumes, Batman(Danny), Robin (Zach) and an adorable witch (KK).

Lately I wonder about the balance in my life. I am spending lots of time with the kids, helping them, taking care of them, and being delighted by them. I'm working long hours. I read and write and kind of keep house. I talk to Bob on the phone most days and he and I co-grandparent on the weekends he comes home, which is most of the. I think I will be satisfied that Bob and I lived our fifties this way if we both live into our healthy eighties or later - but if he were to die or become terribly incapacitated soon I would feel pretty awful about giving him (and enjoying with him) as little as I do. If I were to die or lose function soon, I think I'd be guilty of not having given enough to this good man and my marriage with him. But when I think of trying to do a major redo on our life - with much more time together and less other focus on my part, I feel overwhelmed and don't know what I would or could change.

I am still feeling the residual horror of the southern California fires ( and distress that a human could/would/did cause such horror on purpose. I hope all of you and your families out there aren't suffering too much from poor air quality - deeply disturbing. My friend Peggy, who lives in Orange County, wrote the following poem about her experience with the aftermath of the fires.

The orange-gray sky of smoke
and flame hangs heavy like some
scene from Hell. It's clear why
Dante decided to make Hell burn,
surely a nightmare with stinging eyes
and rasping throat and the orange
glow that passes for sunlight. Yet
against this Heironimous Boschesque
sky a green humming bird hovers
unaware sucking nectar from the
cape honeysuckle flutes, a reminder
that even now life goes on.

Peggy GoetzOct. 28, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

I had an unusually full and stressful work week (just lots of people in lots of emotional pain and more than usual new clients). I'm tired and need to get clean sheets on the bed before Bob gets home in an hour or so. I've been good though - done the laundry, grocery shopping, and precooking for Bob's eals during the week. That way my mind and time should be more freed up while he is here. That feels good. I'm a pretty content but not particularly creative knid of tired tonight. Looking forward to arms around me soon.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crazy day. It started early and ended late. Lots of client crisis and Joanna got locked out of her car at my house in a way which required that we scurry around to get KK a ride home from dance class. It all worked out and the last hour or so has finally calmed down. I enjoyed sitting with KK after dance class while she steadily and with discipline finished homework. Then Bob and I had a good phone conversation. He let me talk my way through the logistics and computer problems of my long work day and I listened to his frustrations and successes too. I'm proud of us for having gotten as good as we have on the phone. The first year of living apart, the phone conversations were hard. I always seemed to want more connection than I felt coming over the line. Now our talks are almost as good as laying in his lap or having him lay in mine - and that's a relief. Not that it won't be good, eventually, when we have only one home.

I had a fun interlude in the middle of the day when I took my friend and business partner Bill out for birthday lunch. Old friendships seem to be a theme this week - last night with Jean and today with Bill. I met Bill the year Ruth was born - 26 years ago, when he was dating my dear friend Marie. We've been through so many changes since- his marriage to Marie, Kerry's illness and death, degrees, starting and growing a practice together, my marriage to Bob, several health scares, developing together as writers, critiquing and enjoying each other's work, celebrating each others hobbies and interests. He has been an admirer of and mentor for both of my daughters, and now (as a man who grew up as a child actor at the Dallas Theater Center) is someone who enjoys and understands my stories of KK and dance academy. Happy birthday Bill! You are such a blessing in my life.