Friday, September 28, 2007

Magic day - a surprise - Bob took a day off and my clients conveniently canceled and we had a stolen day together - what a treat. We ended up walking at McKinney Falls at moon rise - one day past full harvest moon - and spending alot of time in bed just holding onto each other - sweetness.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Joanna turned thirty - hard to believe. I remember so well the weekend she was born, walking to the library trying to speed up labor, the exhaustion and exhilaration associated with giving birth, starving after and gorging on cherry pie and feeling complete bliss at the perfect baby girl nestled in my arms. I remember Kerry and me both feeling utterly confused by disposable diapers - figuring them out together before we brought our little one home from the hospital - in my arms - no car seats then. I remember Kerry's Dad, orphaned young,leaning over the bassinet and saying to me (adopted) - "Just look at her. She's made of all of us." - and whether it was a dream or a vision, even my Grandma Anna managed to enter the room - or at least my consciousness - smelling of peaches and blessing baby Joanna with her sweet love. The bassinet skirt was yellow gingham...I could go on and on. It was a good beginning, that fall thirty years ago. And I love the woman, the mother, the daughter, Joanna is today. Oddly, this afternoon I got to hold my client's six week old - so tiny, so perfect - a well timed treat.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I had an odd kind of good day - just took out on the bus to do a lot of minor errands. It felt good not being on a schedule and going at my own pace. I went to the office to check new lease details. did some banking, and spent over an hour at the library, just browsing, checking new authors. I'm fascinated by the range of international perspectives in literature written in English these days. I got two very different books - The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue by Manuel Munoz , a series of short stories about a Mexican American neighborhood in California and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, a short and compelling feeling novel about the experiences of a Pakastani immigrant (Princeton educated no less) to the United States and the way his experience changed after the September 11 attacks. And yes, I also got two Laura Lippman mysteries just for fun.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I am excited this morning - on the way to take KK to NutCracker tryouts. The tradition of the student dancers performing in the citywide production is cool.. And she will probably have a fun role this year - one of the candy striped bon bons who come out from under mother Ginger's huge skirt in the second act and dance together. The challenge about being a Bon BOn is that this is the first tie the kids dance without an adult dancer leading or otherwise with them - Only the Bon Bons are dancing. Its a short dance and a fun one. Also, after the audition KK and the boys and I are going to have late lunch at Katz' KK's favorite restautant where we used to eat after her dance classes. Should be a happy afternoon.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The holiday is over - beautiful holiday. I am aware that some of my melancholy was about ego - a line in the servie said somrthing like "as long as I am atached to my own accomplishmena I am shtting out the divine."That's so had. I was raised to work hard at accomplishents - and that's OK -good to work hard. But I think I haven't completely broken the link of magical thinking though - the old belief that if I do enough things well I will keep me and mine safe. I know that's an illusion.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Yom Kippur Service was beatiful, but I still feel melancholy. The work week has been hard, the kind of week that could lead to discouragement and even burnout. I'm so thankful to the mentors and teachers who taught me burnout prevention tools - keeping energy balanced, "Real is better than perfect." "My capacity to to good and my capacity to do evil are equal. The difference is choice." "Love, not ego." All of that helps.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hot still evening - waiting for change - for fall. Tomorrow is Yom Kippur and I am feeling humble and connected to humankind, but not inspired or profound, just one foot in front of the other in the direction of kindness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tonight I'm just home from work, really taken aback by how hard life is for people - how much struggle to just manage to keep on keeping on and find any joy at all - how hard for so many varied reasons.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I'm still in a happy mood - residue of the Holy Day weekend in part. Today was good to. I fixed supper and did homework with the grand boys while KK went to a late jazz class. It was fun - an evening that made me feel like I'd entered a time machine and revisited the time in my life when my girls were in elementary school. That was a good time - evenings with homework, dinner, kisses. In a repentant frame of mind, I widh I had worked late fewer of those evenings. In a grateful frame, I'm glad for all the ordinary good times we did have and those we're having still.
After the kids left I answered the letters of fourteen of Bob's fourht graders and that was fun too. They are so different from each other, and as we get to know each other better the correspondences become more individual - about everything from concerns over and pride in a cousin in the Navy in Iraq to collecting stuffed animals, to bullying, to birthdays. I love writing to these kids and hearing from them - expands my world for sure.
Our family feast exceeded my highest hopes of what could even be possible - not the food, which turned out fine and fed us all well - but the feeling. I've been working for years to come up with an activity which would help the whole extended family group assembled focus on the sweetness of life. The traditional dipping of apples in hone is good, but I think its become routinized for us. People seem to rush and want to get on to the next thing - and I feel really sad when that happens because I want the holiday meal to be holy as well as happy. So this year I tried a new ritual of picking a person and giving them three small pieces of candy, one at a time while naming three things I found sweet about that person. Then that person would have the chance to pick someone else and pass out the candy while naming three sweet things about that person. It would have taken too long with a big group, but there were eight of us and it was perfect. The kids were all able to say meaningful and touching sweet things about the adults - and of course saying things about the kids was easy. People ended up sitting at the table throwing candy back and fourth well after the turn taking was over and expressing gratitude for each other's actions. I was especially touched by the things the girls said to Bob - because I think he doesn't always get how much they cherish him since he came into a blended family situation with girls who were very clear (especially Joanna) that no one could replace their Daddy. He didn't replace, but he created a whole new role they value, brought in a whole new set of skills and gifts, and they know that and say it clearly now - and he hears it. I have no idea if I will repeat this ritual next year or try something different, but it felt amazingly good to be doing something that worked for everyone on all sorts of levels. We did have a more serious round with the apples and honey at the end, where each of us said one thing we could do to make the world sweeter - and this time the focus was there for that too. It felt real, and tears came to my eyes.

Then, after the meal, we ended up dancing in the living room, which I never planned or expected at all. Ruth had Klezmer music on the sound system and Zachy talked about a dance contest and people just started dancing and Ruth started dancing with him and before we knew it the tables and chairs had been pushed out of the way and we had three generations of people dancing. Now anyone who knew anything about folk dancing would know this wasn't folk dancing according to any rules or combination of steps. - but it was folks dancing, my folks, and that was even better. I did moves I haven't done in years and my calves are still sore, but it was FUN! I'm not very good at fun, and it was wonderful that it just happened and flowed the other night. I'm still feeling happy and very thankful. I finally have everything put up but the last of the good silver and have my every day kitchen back. I am just deeply satisfied with life love right now., and that is a good base state for the rest of the introspection leading up to Yom Kippur on Friday Night and Saturday - the continuing of the turning and returning to goodness and right action.


Friday, September 14, 2007

High Holy Day introspection is underway. I am moved as I am every year by the conscious reevaluation of the last year's choices, the emphasis on turning where desirable, changing direction, the constantly reaffirmed hope that each of our choices can make a difference for good. Whatever is written and sealed in the book of life for me, I can affect it every moment with prayer, repentance, and acts of service. The importance of transmuting energies of hurt and pride to energies of service and humility hits me deeply this year. Ego is so sneaky. I can think I am coming only from love and then suddenly realise that I am craving attention and wanting to be the one who makes the difference. The effort to be my purest and highest self in every moment is especially clear in my consciousness this time of year. In support of this effort I quote a Hassidic story I love:

" There is a famous story about an elderly sage named Reb Zusia. As he laid on his deathbed surrounded by his disciples and wept, they implored, “you were almost as wise as Moses himself”, “You were almost as kind as our father Abraham” and so on. Yet, Reb Zusia would not be comforted. “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly tribunal, he said, “they won’t ask me, ‘why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham;,’ rather they will ask me ‘why weren’t you Zusia!’ Why didn’t I fulfill my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11 Airplanes

Jet Planes became weapons,
silver bullets hurled by hate
at abstractions of greed,
shattered real lives,
orphaned real children
widowed real wives.
Children's author Madeline L'Engle died today. She wrote Wrinkle In Time and Circle of Light and so many other wise and beautiful books that children could read and adults needed to. In memory of her I looked up quotes of hers on the internet tonight. I know I didn't get them all, but these are some I loved. The last is my favorite. and the one that rings most truly for me today is the one about vulnerability. It reminds me of Dorothy Satten's saying that "I can only access my strength to the extent that I embrace my vulnerability."

Madeline L'Engle wrote:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children"

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable"

“If it can be verified, we don't need faith... Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.”

"A book comes and says, "Write me." My job is to try to serve it to the best of my ability, which is never

“With each book I write, I become more and more convinced that [the books] have a life of their own, quite apart from me.”good enough, but all I can do is listen to it, do what it tells me and collaborate.”

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling....When the bright angel dominates out comes a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony."

"I love my mother, not as a prisoner of atherosclerosis, but as a person; and I must love her enough to accept her as she is, now, for as long as this dwindling may take.”

“We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.”

Sunday, September 09, 2007

As the year cycles through toward the High Holy Days I feel introspective - examining what it means to me to thrive - thinking in poems. These are reclaimed and pulled together, not written tonight, but they fit my mood.

To Thrive?

In the absence of Nazis
shattering glass or
cancer cells exploding
internal order,
In the presence of
food, not merely
sufficient, but
savory and warm,
to live seems automatic,
and insufficient, the
simple imperative of
body operating in space.
But to thrive?
To cherish each moment,
to make my live a gift,
a blessing, an act of
love, a clean piece of
performance art worth
observing, emulating.,
To thrive challenges each
brain cell, every measure of will,
hope, love, patience,awe
courage, creativity and


I Need

To thrive, I need
paradox, layered
on paradox.
Silence sweet as rain
and conversation
to challenge and
maintain connection.
Books, music, history,
tenets of old faiths,
discoveries of new
generations, and
stillness at root beneath
words, where I simply know.
To thrive I need
flesh on flesh and
commitment to action.
To hold on, to be held,
To work with passion
to do the next right thing.
And I need to let go
of those I love, of love,
of the illusion of control,
of results, outcomes,
of needing to know
that I was right about
the last thing I did.
To thrive I need to
do my best - to achieve
never ending improvement -
and I need to rest.
I need to do, and simply be.


making it concrete

To thrive I buy books about racism, the sixties,
McCarthyism and fear of terrorism, and throw
a mystery and a set of medicine cards on top
of the stack. I watch election returns ten hours
running and then walk through the dunes to
a chorus of meadow larks and run into the
waves at the end of the trail and don't think at all.
I keep a candle burning for Ruth's fertility and
don't ask her every fifteen minutes if she's pregnant yet.
I help my grandchildren with homework when they
ask but I let Danny wiggle away from ten more minutes
of addition facts before he masters three plus four.
I throw myself into Bob's arms as if I could not live
without him, and I know I could if I had to.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Short work week and odd with my friend's accident. I've felt off kilter, though not as badly as TUesday, and am happy that my friend's condition is improving and she is being moved out of ICU tonight. It was a good work week - one where I felt people were learning and changing old patterns. Pavoroti died last night and I remember how much my parents enjoyed listening to the Thre Tenors shows - which made me miss my parents. So when the prompt for my writing group was "under the stairs" I wrote a playful poem(not literally true) that I think Daddy would have enjoyed. He was always telling stories about bears.

Bears Under the stairs

Under the stairs
Daddy said, sleep
the dreamtime bears,
powerful secret magical bears
guarding our slumber,
guarding our cares,
polar and grizzly,
panda, brown, black,
dreamtime bears
Daddy said, sleep
under the stairs.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Today is one of those shaky days when nothing feels right or safe. I had a nightmare last night about an intruder - a real little kid night mare where I woke up not sure if it was real or not. The, when I got on the computer this morning I found out that a good friend in another state fell down a full flight of stairs in the middle of the night and was seriously injured - (much blood loss fro a gash in her back and multiple broken bones requiring surgery and days in the ICU). She came through surgery fine and is expected to recover - but I feel both empathy and shock. Things can go very bad so fast. This woman walked a half marathon last month and is very healthy and physical. No guarantees - ever - for any of us. Several clients made crisis calls today, but mostly, on the outside, everything is fine - the uncertainty underneath is just more evident than usual.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labor Day weekend is over and the season of new beginnings is well upon us. I am excited by all the new school beginnings around me. I got a kick out of being around all three grand kids after their first week of school. KK and Danny both see taller, prouder, more organized. But the biggest change is with Zachary. He seemed so happy over the weekend and to seemed to be getting a huge kick out of being a school boy. I noticed cognitive changes already - more attention to grammar rules, use of more words ("perfect" was one I noticed) and new concepts (organizing leaves as little, medium, and big).

Ruth and Chris both look happy with the beginning of their school years - full of new ideas and hope for the kids they are teaching.

Bob seems to have a great class this year. The kids wrote us letters and we answered them - also checked their interest inventories. They are so different one from the other - some very devoted to learning and improving skills, others not thrilled with school. Some have poignant wishes - for example "a house". Many are interested in a variety of books - fun to be able to write with them about Harry Potter and even more interesting to write back and forth with one guy who, like me at his age, is reading grown up books. So many of these kids know their weaknesses (often math) and really seem to want to improve. One has clearly altruistic goals "to end poverty and hunger." All but one of the kids are on free lunch and they don't have much of a sense of what it would mean to be rich. If they had a million dollars they would go to Toys R Us, Six Flags, or the mall. Others would save it or buy things for their family or their school.

After a few hotter weeks, we're back to cooler than usual for summer, thundery and wet. The trees are heavy with leaves- a tired green now- past solstice, past prime. I can feel the days shortening and the summer ebbing. I am happy - a good ordinary time in our lives.

The increase in client load that usually comes with fall is just starting for me, and feels good. I love my work right now. I've just started listening to audio books on a new MP3 player Bob bought me for $15.00. Its an addictive practice - like being read to as a kid. I could never get enough story then and now is no different.

The biggest beginning yet to come is ballet - starting next Monday. That will be a big one, preprofessional level in the new Ballet Austin facility.

George Peabody:
Education: a debt due from present to future generations.