Friday, February 29, 2008

Extra day - by the numbers - but of course every day is an extra day - nothing we can count on. Today started hard with Joanna's robbery. I had a good work day though, and enjoyed gathering K.K. at ballet and bringing her home with me to sleep between dancings. I should sleep myself - irresponsible about that these days. Self care is annoyingly repetitive. I keep telling myself that it didn't annoy me to have to feed, assure the rest for, wash the clothes of, my babies. No less important to do it right for myself, but harder.
This should be Friday the thirteenth. I was wakened by a call from Joanna that their car has been broken into and cash reserves plus ID, James' IPod and other stuff they care about stolen. They are struggling so financially anyway - and now THIS! Plus - all her voter ID was stolen and she wants so much to vote. I hate this. I want more than anything to make life good for my kids and now something stupid like this when they are trying so hard.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I've been reading all kinds of blogs lately, exploring this form, learning how people use it in their personal journies and how they use it to connect. Tonight I found a blog of a mother, recently bereaved of premature twins, who posed an exercise in her blog. She provided readers with a number of wisdom quotes and asked us to chose one which spoke to us, write about it in our own blog, and reference back to her blog so other's could participate. This seems beautiful to me - a chance to share points of information with people I would never otherwise know of. Her link to the inspiratio post is

The inspiration line I chose is “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou

One of the turning points of my life was the chance I had to study with Dr. Karl Kirsch, a psychiatrist who was both scholar and healer. Karl taught me that, when our personal worst happens, our lives as we understand them shatter. What we most need then is to create a new understanding of life, an understanding that incorporates the loss.

That new understanding doesn't fall automatically upon us like gentle rain, or simply sprout with time. We have to fight for it, pull it inch by inch out of the ashes of the old life. And the way we do that, is by telling, telling, and retelling the story of how our world was destroyed and what we make of that destruction. In clinical terms the railure to tell the story enough times to make sense of it contributes to the symptoms of post traumatic stress syndrome. In emotional terms, it results in the pain May Angelou describes when she writes “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” In practical terms, it is these stories, told and untold, which create one of the strongest bonds among humans.

I ride the bus home from work most afternoons and I watch the faces of those who ride with me, sometimes animated in conversation, sometimes weary, sometimes angry or distressed. I am put off by some of the faces, frightened by a mask of toughness or sophistocated reserve. I see jail house tattoos, designer purses, hear snatches or rap music and conservative talk shows through ear phones. I wonder if I have anything in common with these people. Then my fear and isolation fade as I let myself imagine possible stories behind the facial expressions.

Who lost a child, a job, a love, the sense of possibility? Who is rebuilding and who has given up? I know my own stories, those I've told and those I still keep close, afraid or embarrassed to explore and share. I know others can't see my stories in my eyes. I wonder if they wonder about me, and I feel a connection with people to whom I will never speak through the silent presence of our stories.
Spring is fading in - less vivid than some years in recent memory, but starting - color in the bare branches - a touch or redbud pink - saw my first purple wysteria today, some trees simply quietly greening up.

Last night was a treat for Joanna and K.K, and for me vicariously. It is fun to help people I love have adventures. My part last night was simply helping the boys with homework and feeding them dinner while their mother and sister took the bus to the University of Texas campus to see Bill Clinton. They had an amazing experience. Probably because K.K. is so cute and because the two of them - young mother and daughter together with their Hillary sign are what the campaign wants and needs - were singled out by the secret service to stand close. They each got two hand shakes from Bill Clinton and an autograph (of Hillary Clinton's autobiography - but the library's copy - which I guess we will buy from the library now.) The secret service guy teased K.K. and apparently literally pinched her cheek - which she isn't sure how she feels about. Joanna was thrilled to get her Bill Clinton handshakes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I just got back from a beautiful concert of my friends' choir - the one that I heard on All Soul's night - about to go to Italy on pligramage -very special. They sang a mix of traditional choral music and spirituals and tears flowed for me the whole time. I love these friends - have for so many years, and their spirituality flows rich and deep in the songs.
Yesterday afternoon was the annual gift exchange (usually closer to Christmas but postponed this year because of the death of the hostess' father right at Christmas time) of my closest Austin friends and family - something that started when the girls were small. I love these people - feel terribly sad that I don't spend as much time with them or know the details of their lives a s deeply as I once did - and am so thankful for the intimacy that remains. I love just sitting on the floor looking at my old friends - seeing the sweetness of familiar smiles - a couple intertwining fingers while singing. And the young ones (both generations of them) growing up are exciting too -and next year (all going well) we will have a new baby among us. This is the first year the boys have been old enough not to need supervising - have been able to run outside to play ball when they were not involved in conversation. K.K. is getting so tall - young woman tall - a new baby will be tiny. Even this year, seeing Ruth beautiful and wearing a top that flows softy over her soon to expand belly, brought me to sweet tears several times. I missed Joanna and James yesterday - she sick and he working - so much better when we are all together.

The oldest generation really is dying off - another today - father of very good friend at 92 and in mid stage dementia - not a bad dying and a great life - but the passing of the torch is clearly occuring from the generation before me to my own generation

I'm still melancholy. Life feels hard. And harder when Bob is not so pleased with his performance in his job. I can handle our separation fine when I feel like its so he can do a dream job and make a difference - but if he's feeling low about his teaching its harder. He and I plan to do some serious talking over spring break about next year. He can't just quit. We need the income. I was hoping it would be perfect for him to stay in Corpus and not have to have the stress of a job hunting summer. We'll figure it out. I know low moods pass.

I've done so much spiritual and psychological work on maintaining my own balance and peace even when those I love are not doing well. I'm still lousy at it when push really comes to shove.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life is so uncertain.

My niece Mary wrote today of the sudden death of her coworker, apparently healthy until this week - just twenty four. Mary, in the shocked early stage of grief asked me if I had poems about that kind of unexpected loss. I wrote these for her, and for everyone grieving Tish.

Can't be

ordinary day
can't be!
dead - you?
can't be.

Now what?

No reason
No sense
death out
of season
and we struggle
with howto mourn.
can't restore you
alive, at your desk
can help us honor
your life, create
legacy from

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lots of feelings tonight.

Just listened to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debate here in Austin - so classy both of them with good ideas and (with one small exception on her part) avoiding negativity and sticking to issues. I am reassured that we have a good chance of electing one of these pepole President. I believe, from several positive comments Hillary Clinton made about John Edwards that she's hoping he would be her vice presidential nominee (just a hunch based on her mentions of him)

I'm thrilled that Ruth had a good normal pregnancy appointment yesterday. They saw the baby (beginning to b e truly baby shaped) on the sonogram and heard the heart beating on the doppler. Ruth was thrilled to learn that, once they have heard the heart, the miscarriage rate drops from 20& to 2%. Its surreal and marvelous that after all the concern about infertility, they are simply or at least seem to be ) having a baby in the ordinary way. The joy is really soaking in. She also felt a bit better today, though still struggling with not feeling like eating and knowing she needs to nourish that baby. Chris is sick with some sort of ear pain, and I'm sad he's miserable now that Ruth is feeling better.

Poor Joanna works too hard - suffering the mixed blessings of being good and consciencious at her job, being "indespensible" at work when she has children to raise. Actually, I'm proud of her efforts to keep balance - but its so hard. I'm also proud of K.K. for calling me tonight for telephone help with vocabulary homework instead of waiting too late.

Another bit of news of significance is that K.K has obtained her first pointe shoes - a big deal with a special fitting wiht the teacher present and a class in how to sew the heels for appropriate fit. She is taking this milestone very seriously and I am enjoying sharing it with her.

Bob's still struggling wiht his feelings about his competence as a teacher and that makes me sad. He thinks his limitations regarding classroom management really impair his effectiveness. His principal observes him tomorrow.

I feel shaky and anxious tonight for no good reason (don't think I'm worried about Bob's observation. I think he is doing way better than he thinks he is) - a waiting for the other shoe to drop feeling. I don't know why.

Sometimes being a grown up is hard. I wish I could know everyone I love would be safe always. And I wish I could just curl up in someone's lap and know that he/she had the power to keep me and mine safe. But I don't even believe that about God - source of energy, strength, ability to stay in love not ego during stress - but not a source of safety.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'm having an oddly lazy day - slept late and have done only about half the household tasks I'd planned. That's OK. I've tried watching a few taped shows on TV and am totally freaked out by how long the commercials are and how short the program segments - It really has changed - also the fast pacing on commercials. People who watch more TV really must have their minds trained to quicker transitions.

I've also been reading a bunch of blogs by younger women - late twenties to mid-thirties - intelligent young women in the age range of my daughters. Its odd reading these blogs. They love their children, their husbands, their careers (lots of them) the same way my friends and I did at their ages. They seem to have many of the same fears, hopes, and pleasures. But the tone is startling. A certain edge, tongue in cheek, pushing the ridiculous, not taking one's self too seriously seems in within this group - even a tendency to shock - not much softness. On the other hand the blogs I find by people in the same age range who are overt about being Christian, seem overly sweet, cheery, and unquestioning. I suspect there are middle ground intelligent, young blogs - but I find it odd not to be able to find (except for Ruth's) and a couple of protected blogs I read and cherish) voices of younger women who seem neither edgey nor air brushed. Maybe I am being egocentric. So much of what I consider the common ground of being human is midground - neither left nor right, not connected to creed, just about living and caring and trying one's best. I am really intrigued and mildly disturbed by this issue.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Odd weekend, and good - completely different than I expected. Joanna expected to be off most of Saturday and all Sunday and it didn't turn out that way at all - a visit (which reflected well on her professionally from very high management and lots of people calling in sick). Saturday felt like a parenting rather than grandparenting day - low key, relaxed with the kids. Zachary is getting such big boy skills. He did five large floor puzzles (35 to 50 pieces) all by himself. Ruth and Chris dropped by for a visit, first time in a while - sweet - good to see them healthy and happy as parents to be.

Then, last night, about 7:00, Joanna arrived to spend a little time with the kids - and to announce that Bill Clinton was about to speak at Hillary Clinton's campaign headquarter's in south Austin, so off Joanna and I drove into the chilly night, where we stood outside a warehouse with a couple of hundred Democrats and listened to the former President speak of his wife's strength as a candidate . Even weary of voice on a cold night after a long day of campaigning, the man has a glow, a charisma, as well as smart things to say. I'm delighted to have attended Clinton, O'Bama, and Edwards events this campaign season.

Another weekend highlight was a ballet performance - a program of three short ballets by young choreographers presented in an audience judges contest format. K.K. and I were invited by the family of her best male dancer friend, (fourteen to her eleven) who had extra tickets. The dancing was beautiful and the ballet I voted for called Fear of Speaking dealt explicitly with issues of repression of freedom of speech. The last ballet, Substrata was viaually gorgeous and trancey, but I voted for the one that I felt was equally good art and more important.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Day after Valentine's - rainy out - Bob on his way home - eager to see and hold him. Work week was rich with the variety of human pain and change,- the terrible things we do to each other and the wonderful resillience of life force. I'm glad to be quiet in my house with the rain outside and my love coming to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day - I've noticed more people calling it "Love Day" this year and I like that. A day honoring love in all forms can't be bad. I have the world's sweetest husband - who adopted a polar bear family (mother and twin cubs) for me through a wildlife conservation site in memory of my Daddy (Big Bear who loved polar bears above all bears and bears above all other beasts) Today a small polar bear (very cuddly) arrived in the mail. Its one of those sweet ones that puts its arms around your neck and seems to snuggle - really soft too, couldn't be better.

Otherwise, my day was good - a day of steady work that felt productive and an evening of writing projects on the computer.

I've been thinking about people's attitudes toward adopting healthier life styles. The issue has come up a bit lately and I realize a nuber of people are motivated to change habits to prevent bad diseases. To me that just feels depressing. I need to be motivated to accomplish something or achieve something, not to avoid or prevent. Getting stronger, having more energy, even looking better in clothes will do. But not just trying not to get some disease. I see to have very strong feelings against being motivated by fear.

And Ru, (and anybody else who wonders) I'm fine. The "At My Funeral" poem in yesterday's blog was the product of a writing group assignment, and partly inspired by attending funerals in December and reading Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, whichstrongly makes the point that the truth is the best and most intimate honoring - not a puffed up or airbrushed fiction .

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Speak Me True

At my funeral
speak me true.
Give my wisdom
and my errors
equal time.
Learn from both.
Remember I
cherished life,
failed in self care,
honored learning,
over-rated intellect
valued kindess,
but judged too freely.
Most strongly I hope

you remember
I loved you all,
loved you all
Hold each other.
Sing me home.
Speak me true
At my funeral

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

University of Texas Women's baseball Clinic tonight - fun and wonderful tradition with Jeannie. Sad Joanna couldn't come because of work. Want to make her life easier. Want to make her life easier. Want to make her life easier. And yet she is grown and competent and I need to trust her (really very good) judgement. I have handled hard. She can handle hard. No mother wants hard for her children! I feel protective of Ruth too, in her pregnancy. But that is a process overy which I am not arrogant enough to believe I have any power.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I really do love the Internet. K.K. had a bunch of homework questions about the American Revolution tonight and we were able to find all answers quickly by googling. This is such a good way to find information, and quick. Homework with Danny and K.k. has been very satisfying tonight. They both work so hard. I had an odd amount of satisfaction reviewing Revolutionary War information. Tomorrow will be a busy work day.

Its so odd to have Ruth pregnant and to see her so little. I want to help and nurture, but I don't think she really needs anything - just feel tender toward her and baby.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

End of the weekend leaves me fresher than at the beginning - and the sea of paper much diminshed. The cut and paste crafts were so much fun. I love making Valentines as much as I did in kindergarten (lots of sweet memories of making Valentines). I'm glad all three grands seem to have taken to the process - though it seemed an ordeal at moments - one of those things that is a lot of work but worth it in the end. I think I feel about paper crafts the way some people feel about big family meals or trip planning - things I'm more wiling to simplify. Anyway, I'm only normally tired tonight, and happy.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Too close to the edge of overwhelm - I sit at the table in a happy sea of Valentine papers from card making with K.K, but there's bead clutter in the living room and laundry half done and dishes to unlad and I've started too many things at once. I know this is the kind of mood that passes with a night's sleep. Twenty focused minutes and I'll have order. But right now all the clutter and all the possiblities distress me. Usually I like my open ended creative style, but there are times like this when I wish I was more linear and knew how to move through space and time efficiently. Even managing to get from computer to bed seems challenging - which means I'm tired enough I'd better make it happen.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

My writing group assignment was to describe people in a public place. I chose the bus.


Balanced on bus seat,
back ballerina straight,
neat gray braid hanging
past her narrow waist,
tiny band-aid between
friendly blue gray eyes,
folded hands, quick smile.
How did she hurt herself?
Or did dermatologist take
and test skin? Malignant?


I hurry to my seat, avoid
his searching eyes, avoid
his huge white tennis shoe
extended into aisle, avoid
inhaling stale air he exudes,
avoid his pain. Who's baby?


The driver makes a difference.
Some hate to ferry us, hate
the job, hate the bus. Depress me.
But Marissa, always smiles,
never hurries passengers,
drives patiently, spreads peace.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A woman on my discussion board asked an interesting question this morning and I found myself caught up in giving a thorough answer. It seems to belong here.

The question was " What do I do when people upset me? "

If I respect the person and care about repairing the relationship I talk to the person directly (maybe after a little private venting and sorting) and try to make things right. I use "I statements.", or try to "When you said or did x I felt y and I need z. Sometimes "z" is "I need to understand your side of this" and sometimes it's "i need you to pay more attention to my preferences in the future." or "to come to me first if you have a problem with me rather than talking to others." Usually this works very well. Either I come to understand that no hurt was intended and the person and I were coming from different places (a pure misunderstanding), or I see my part in the hurt and make my own apology or ammends, and/or the other person apologizes and changes future behavior. When it doesn't work well, I lose some intimacy in a realtionship, which I feel sad about, but feel good that I made my best effort to have no unnecessary losses.

If I don't respect the person or care about repairing the relationship I vent in my journal, maybe a little to my husband or a daughter, and create distance between myself and the person in the future. I strenghen my boundaries regarding that person. I only want to be close to people who behave kindly and who I enjoy - don't have time for gossip and triangulation - too much to do that matters and/or is fun.

I really believe that I can't be deeply hurt by someone I don't respect - someone I haven't chosen to be one of my mirrors because the power to hurt comes from the presence of a trust, a respect, a relationship that can be broken. I can be disappointed and taken aback, even briefly angered by the behavior of people I don't respect, but not really personally hurt.

If I find myself dwelling on something that I feel is having undue impact, I ask myself a therapist's question "If this weren't me and this person now, who would it be, when?" Sometimes that helps me get it really fast that I am replaying old hurts (usually mother related) and that the healing needs to come regarding those original events. If I get stuck and can't get past giving something destructive power, I talk to someone wise for perspective and healing.

Choices get more complicated when real damage is threatened, not just hurt feelings - gut that is rare in my life. It has never happened, but if someone wrongly accused me of malpractice or some other bad action that could hurt my ability to earn a living I would deal with that through channels in the professional community. When our office was robbed, we went to the police. If I feel I'm mistreated by a doctor or dentist (or even shop keeper) I take my business elsewhere and write letters of complaint. I would be reluctant to ever sue - but would consider it in a real case of malpractice.

Also there is the issue of prejudice - in my case antisemitism. I've been the object of a few pretty mean antisemitic remarks over the years, and have overheard others. They don't hurt my feelings because I don't respect the people who make them. They don't make me question myself. They, along with other hate comments about other groups do alarm me and stir me to social action. I feel the same way (though with a little less intensity) about sexist remarks going in both directions and agist and lookist remarks - not personal but a sign of sickness in our culture and in need of correction and notice.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bob is having frustrating days teaching because about half of his class has no intrinsic motivation to learn and he feels unable to either inspire or control them into cooperation. I know he is inspiring to many individual kids who are interested. I hate it that so many in schools aren't excited by the learning itself. I was, at least usually - and when I wasn't excited by the subject matter making adults proud was sufficient motivation. Obviously this is not always true for kids - probably never was. Bob talks about teaching high school and feeling that the motivation issue might be easier there. I think I'd be more afraid in high school. I hope he finds a way to feel happier in his work.

I've been excited watching primary election coverage - not so much because of particular results but because I feel people thinking that their votes make a difference, caring, hoping, trying - wheels of democracy turning, and I like it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Good day - even though busier than I wanted (emergency client session) but I am not as tired as yesterday. Sammi is home, stitched up and bandaged and sore, but safe and everyone has recovered from her injury. Danny, especially is still really upset that the person who hit her just drove off and didn't help. He kept talking about that this evening, askng me how somebody could do that. I didn't have a good answer. Ruth also reports feeling a little better. I hope she doesn't go back to work too soon out of guilt or hyper-responsibility since others in her program are also out with flu. Nobody else is pregnant though. Ruth, remember if you are reading this remember that you are recovering for two. (and I have every right to sound like a Jewish mother.)

The boys did their homework well with me. tonight. Last week they had trouble concentrating and it was nice to be back to normal this week. Its fun watching Danny get the feel of setting up word problems and doing pattern problems. Like his sister, the kid seems pretty good at math.

Super Tuesday primaries are tomorrow (duh!) - I'm eager to see if turnout will continue to be as good as it has been. I feel hopeful that voters are beginning to behave as if we believe we have a stake in our future again.

I'm reading the memoir of Lynn Sher (T.V, journalist who covered, especially space, politics and feminism and who is about seven years older than I am). She tells her story and the story of the second wave of feminism - developing female professional class - really well. She also tells the story of the rise and fall of NASA well and from an inside perspective. She calls the book Outside the Box, the box being television - but I can see it being about perspective regarding different eras too.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

It's been a hard weekend - hard events and frustration with myself for not feeling as much physical or emotional resilience as usual. I want to want to be constantly supportive and available for all I love - and right now I also want to pull the covers over my head and hide - not so much RIGHT now - Bob did a great job of comforting me earlier this evening and I feel myself reviving a little. It's wonderful how being actively comforted can actually produce a feeling of increased comfort.

Sammi (K'K's puppy) was hit by a car this evening early. She is alive, at the emergency vet hospital, with damage to her mouth but, we know now, likely to recver completely. She was bleeding heavily from the mouth and that was part of what was so scary. They were thinking brain damage - but the blood was actually coming FROM her mouth, not just through it. The accident happened when Danny responded to a knock on the door (Girl Scouts selling cookies) and Sammi rushed out into the street. Joanna ran right after her but a car just ran into her and sped away. Three other cars stopped to help. K.K. of course was hysterical, and pretty much stayed that way while she and Joanna got the bloody dog into the car and, with phone instructions from Bob, found the difficult to see emergency vethospital.

Bob and I met them at the hospital but didn't see Sammi. She was anesthesized and X-Rayed and the vet thought even then she had a good chance of recovery. K.K. had calmed down (stopped actively crying but had very red face and eyes from crying) and Joanna was adreniline shaky. She handled the whole scene much better than her mother did. I felt completely inadequate to think fast or be comforting - just didn't feel up to being the mother and grandmother that was needed in that moment. Bob was perfect and made up for my inadequacy as much as one person can make up for another. I often feel judgemental when people say the "can't handle" something and I feel very judgemental when I'm the person who isn't responding optimally.

Also, Ruth has the flu which is a concern in pregnancy, but I don't consciously feel worried - even if I should. I had the flu at about the same point in my pregnancy with Joanna and nothing bad happened. I hate it that she is miserable. I don't know if some of my exhaustion comes from suppressing worry that she and/or the baby won't be OK. My conscious mind is not going there.

And, trivial but annoying, I have lost my voice -mostly allergy because we've had high winds and also the result of a cold, I think.

A good reason for losing my voice was having fun last night at a party unusual for me, a traditional quincenera - fifteenth birthday party mass and party after for the niece of a church friend. It was KK's, Joanna's and my first quincenara and we all liked it. After she got over shyness about dancing among people she didn't know, K.K. never left the dance floor - beautiful shining child in her new brown, rose and gold silky dress with swingy skirt, learning all kinds of new moves. The cute wedgey shoes I bought for her because she liked them so much and wanted something with "a little heel" had been kicked off early on. The dancing was multigenerational, low pressure, and happy, like dancing I remember at Czech events when I was a kid. Even tired and hoarse, I was happy to be there.

So even on a difficult weekend, I had fun and am very thankful for Bob's tenderness toward me.