Sunday, November 30, 2008

I really have been caught in the challenge of living intensely and writing about it at the same time. Now Bob has gone back to Corpus and I've been sitting all evening at the computer organizing recipes of past generations and checking and responding to email at the same time - or I guess most accurately in alternation. It's cold here by the window, and I need to get up early in the morning to go with Jean to get tickets for the annual Christmas sing along. I shouldn't write long.

In summary - our week of gratitude and freedom was all I could have wanted - very restorative.I loved it that, at the Thanksgiving table, we shared gratitude around the table - Danny starting, each of us offering thanks, and the variety and sweetness of the thanks offered were touching - from Tracy offering thanks for the "little babies" to be born in February to Zachary thanking for the many foods (specifically) on his plate and his spoon and fork to eat them with, through Chris thankful for our relative safety and comfort in turbulent times, to Joanna and Bob being thankful for a day and a week off respectively and Ruth capping it off with gratitude that this is the first Thanksgiving every one is old enough for a big person pink crystal goblet - and the last one for a while.

Highlights of the day included cooking with Joanna - dish after dish after dish - efficiently, cooperatively and cleaning the kitchen with Ruth and K.K. - talking with the two of them about all sorts of birth and baby related topics. Across three generations, woman lore flowed (as much as I know individual differences are greater than sex differences and men and women are more alike than different) there was something deep and sweet about our conversation about pregnancy and birth.

It doesn't seem like three whole days have passed since Thanksgiving. I worked a long but good day at the office on Friday. Friday night and yesterday Bob and I watched three movies - the best being George Clooney's Oh brother Where Art Thou? which is a very loose the and rich with spirituals and country music. It is beautifully done - maybe the most entertaining (not favorite but most entertaining) movie I have ever seen. The treatment of the different agical creatures from the original tale was clever and right on - and the art of it all pleasing, the haracters likable - just made me smile. The other two films - about a friendship between a September eleventh widower and his old college roommate and the life of Moliere were both also thought provoking and enjoyable.

Austin is in the lastand brightest flare of fall color - really beautiful. Bob and I walked at Town Lake yesterday and in the neighborhood today and loved the gold, red, bronze of the trees. There were more leaves on the trees than on the ground yesterday, probably today too, but the balance is shifting fast. In a week, with the temperatures and winds we are having, I predict bare treees. We watched the crescent moon - tiny, delicate, just a line, set as we walked the lake yesterday - the beginning of the next moon cycle after the brilliant full moon we watched rise over the Gulf - so any blessings, so many moons.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bob and I are home - got home about midnight after a trip as magical and connecting as those of the last two years. It took me a little longer this time to get completely into the flow - more tired from work, I think - but by this afternoon, when Bob managed to get us an extra hike at McKitrick Canyon in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park - and especially in the car on the long ride back through the starry night, I felt up to my nose in blessings. It's the middle of the night now and I have turkey and trimmings to cook tomorrow so I think I will just do a blessings list - then do the travel log and catch up poems after the festivities are over tomorrow. This is so partial. My blessings seem infinite

Turkey and trimmings to cook tomorrow
The organization to get groceries in before traveling to make tomorrow easier
Three generations in the kitchen tomorrow - and Bob's speed peeling potatoes
Aunt Ruth's rosewood table
Grandma Anna's silver
Grandma Christine's crystal and china
Joanna and James respectful handling the first Thanksgiving after separating
Pumpkin (cinnamon too!) and cornbread stuffing
The self discipline to go to bed when I could write three hours more right now but would be no good tomorrow if I did
Love, given and received
Bob, waiting in bed for me - warm under the covers - (I realized hiking today that if he had died at the same age Kerry did I would never have known him) I love that man!
Daughters and their families looking forward to spending Thanksgiving here (Everybody speaking to everybody and wanting to be together)
The energy to pull tomorrow off.
And again, the self discipline to go to bed (NOW!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It seems to be hard to write about adventures while having them - at least this time. I'm still in the midst. Bob has made it possible for us to hike in the Guadelupe Mountains tomorrow - favorite trail in McKittrick Canyon. I didn't think we'd have time. Cross country drives on little ranch roads straight out of the fifties have been a highlight this time - and the Chiricua fox squirrel - unique to that wilderness.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Short tonight and in a high good mood - got to go to bed so I can get up and run away with my husband- out west to walk in the last fall color in the New Mexico mountains and maybe see a coati (elusive beasts!) in Arizona. This will be our third Thanksgiving (before the feast) get away and the other two were glorious. I'm already thrilled regarding this one - and the family feast which will follow.

A couple more blessings:

the full range of human emotion
music (We went the symphony tonight and enjoyed Brahm's Fourth Symphony)
Ginger - in all it's forms and incarnations. I'm about to take a bath with ginger oil in the water.
Saturday morning blessings

Friends, who love me through emails, notes, visits - and all the times you've come through for me - in sorrow and in laughter,perspective and support givers - Friends.

Birth parents who gave me my genetic bag of tricks, of which I am quite fond, and made a good choice about where/how I should be raised.

Dorothy Gebauer and Dr. AC Crowell who arranged my adoption, and Margaret Peck, all of whom were mentors for my mother and later for me, and who showed introduced me to the truth that sometimes women loved women as most women love men when I was two young to think of it as anything but ordinary.

My adopted family - all of them, who claimed me as one of you, fiercely and with love.

My families through marriage - both times - with all your gifts of diverse perspective, recipes, support and mostly accepting love.

Warm socks and my New York coat (It's cold and I'm about to walk up the hill to buy Thanksgiving groceries) - also the money to buy said groceries without counting pennies this time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More blessings

Two good marriages to two good men
Bob's delight in his career as a teacher.
Thanksgiving break - with Bob birding (car that runs, money for motels, binoculars)
Cooking for my family, especially holidays
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries - BERRIES

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's ironic that, after I posted about blessings including a warm place to sleep, I talked to Bob and learned that at least one of his fourth graders has been living with his family in a car (because they couldn't make rent) Some of the nights have been pretty chilly. The family has since been referred to a family shelter.

More blessings - these more specific (I hope to add five each day.)

a job I love and am good at
my grandmother's pink crystal
northers - one is blowing in tonight and I love the shift in wind and energy
gingerberry Kubacha ( a weird new organic raw drink that I've fallen in love with)
fitting into skirts marked "medium"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today felt- no, was- intensely busy at work. I didn't even count sessions - don't want to know. The next two days will be the same, but that's OK. The beach week was refreshing at every level - I couldn't tell how much until we were home and I approached the busy week with plenty of bounce. I am looking forward to a short hiking trip west with Bob at the beginning of his week off, and then to making Thanksgiving and sharing it with family. I'm really missing the other generations - my fault, traveling and working too much. I expect to reconnect during the Thanksgiving break, at least a little.

It seems like a good idea to list blessings as the holiday of gratitude approaches. It's odd to notice that I feel self conscious even starting because there are just so many and most of them so ordinary (and yet not everyone in the world or even in my community has even basics) So I am thankful for sufficient food, water and shelter - sleeping warm on cold nights, clean enough air to breath, ability to buy health care services, peace in the streets, living in our democracy, people who love me, people to love, health, energy, words, hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ordinary day - good busy work day. I am happy for this ordinary day. I'm slowly starting to get old letters typed into the computer. I'm also typing in the account that my Aunt Tonie, my grandma Anna's youngest sister, wrote at my request about her memories of her big sister.

Austin Texas,
December, 1981

The enclosed is the story of the life of Annie Hurtik Kolar as I remember her. I realize you are mostly interested in information about her as a person - her likes and dislikes, her habits, her personality generally. I try to give you some of that information as best I can in addition to the biography.

Annie was a quiet and serious person. She was down to earth and took life in stride. She learned to shoulder responsibility when quite young which taught her to be more understanding or other people's problems. She was a good listener.

Annie married at about age 26 when the younger children learned to manage for themselves. Her marriage was a happy one and for several years her life was that of the average American homemaker. In later years the circumstances of her life changed her to be an even more serious person. This was due to several years of illness which sapped her vitality.

I think of her as a person who stayed in the background but whose presence was felt. She was not given to chatter and did not laugh easily. She didn't exchange confidences, always considering that family affairs are family busines. She never cared for jokes but did enjoy good clean conversation. She didn't gossip about her friends. She was conservative in her dress and not caring for frills or flashy colors. Annie had several close friends who remained her friends throughout life.

There are any more pages, some of which I will probably share here - but tonight I'm just intrigued by how may of the things Tonie wrote about Annie are true of me - I call myself a serious person, don't laugh easily, don' gossip, value lifelong friendships, hope I'm a good listener. This woman died when I was eleven - but she was so much my model for love.

So as we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my Grandma Anna and for her sister Tonie, who taught me to crochet and was my nearest and dearest female relative during my pregnancies.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Over 1000 fires homes have burned down in wildfires in California. Horrifying - I remember wildfires in the hills when I lived out there, and of course I remember the terror of our single house fire when the girls were little. I can't imagine fire devastation on such a big scale. There is a link for relief efforts.
How Matters

It matters how I open the door.
Fling it open, wild, wide, fast,
send papers flying, trip over feet,
break cup, let lurking flies in.
Open hesitantly, just a crack,
let hand on knob shake, steps falter,
leave my present outside, un given.
Enter mindfully, firm hand on knob.
Push gently, bring what was out, in.
Bring my present. Become present.
It matters how I open the door.

It matters how I shut the door.
Slam and shake shells on shelf,
slosh tea in fragile cup,
shiver even baby unborn.
Close incompletely, too quick
forget to listen for the click,
Leave crack in safe shell.
Close mindfully, firm hand on knob,
pull gently, separate in from out,
enfold room in welcome peace.
It matters how I shut the door.

Victoria Hendricks, November 14, 2004

Sunday, November 16, 2008

OK - I am becoming a blog geek - but I just added a new feature allowing you to sign up as a "follower" of this blog if you want to. I've started "following" several friends blogs and I am interested to see who reads mine.

Today was a good quiet day - lots of cooking. Bob went back to Corpus after supper. November is such a strange month with me out of the office for half of it - but good. The work week will be intense between my two vacations, but that's OK too

Writing with Bob's students really pulled at my heart. These kids are nine and ten, so young, and they know about bills that can't get paid, divorce, fights between adults, eviction, autism, seizures - so much I did not know about at those ages. And they write it down - their feelings for grandmothers having surgery, little sister with autism, angry or absent parents with the authenticity of real writers. They are real writers, writing real stories.

Friday night Bob and I had a perfect moonrise experience out on Padres Island - sunset over dunes, rose and indigo, then flaming peach - reflections in water - sea of pearl - Venus rising, stars popping out, milky way wrapping us, then the moon red fleck over water rising almost round, red, yellow, pearl, silver. This time the new piece for me was the moon's reflection in the gulf - watching it appear round and red, then change colors with the moon and elongate into dancing moonbeam on the water.

Yesterday on the wild island Bob and I saw so many birds - He has the bird list or I'd post it - maybe next week. And we had a real old fashioned shelling experience - all kinds of bright colored scallops, sand dollars, even a few small but only slightly damaged whelk shells. The beach was littered with lots of trash - especially lawn furniture which had probably blown away in the recent cold front - but I was in a peaceful mood and just enjoyed the beach, trash and all - kind of like life, all kinds of stuff washes up, some more pleasing than other - the old cosmic AND again. We saw at least forty dolphins (or forty instances of dolphin) from the jetty - and some jumped really high out of the water. And Bob spotted a sea turtle, for real, right there, swimming in our channel - a smallish one, most likely Kemp's Ridley - and of course I wonder if it is one of the little ones we've seen released over the years.
Warning: Change Required

I'm doing it again - avoiding bed - got to stop it. I have so much to post about our time at the beach - today wild beach exploration , yesterday a tender, productive time writing with BOb's students. But now sleep - and I'll give you a treasure my friend Peggy wrote, which I believe is true, true, true.

I stand on the walkway
by the bluff-top park
rolling toward
laughing tongues
of blue Pacific and
dental white foam.
I love this place, to sit
and listen to gulls,
the children, a happy
dog with its ball. I am
struck by a sign near
one of the meters,
Change Required.

Nov. 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Right now, for me, keeping faith with my family's dead is mostly about continuing - in concrete ways as well as feeling - to pass on love and education within the family, and the doctrine of informed citizenship and service in the greater world. Grandma Anna's ethic is to find beauty in what we do - even the little things (the details) like spacing the clothespins mindfully., and to love the children always, before anything else. Grandpa Rudolf taught me that story is a powerful connector - to honor and keep the stories, always. Daddy taught me to findi work about which I feel passionate and doing pursuing it full tilt is important. From Mama, I learned to keep on keeping on, honesty and sincere apology, to know that I will stick foot in mouth at times and that it is my responsibility to remove it and make what amends I can. And Kerry - Learn and love, love and learn, and anything that happens - even cancer at 36, can be used for good. keeping the faith with those who died in wars is at least in part commitment to building a world where war may become less tempting. Also, a willingness to fight, die, sacrifice, if that truly seems the only way - but only as a last resort. I'd like to be a pacifist but I'm not. I would have fought Hitler. I'd fight physically today to save my grandkids. Balance is always hard.

So what about the rest of you. Hope do you keep faith with your beloved dead? What are the lessons? The gifts?
I have stayed up WAY too late, even for me even on vacation but it feels good. I have finally caught up with reading email and working on writing assignments - still have letters to write to friends and family but feel less overwhelmed. I also started successfully - FINALLY - organizing family recipes in a way that makes sense for myself and future generations. It's been fun just sitting up reading recipes I remember, and some gems of old letters, which I think I'll start sharing here.

For example - and appropriate a this time of Presidential election - I wrote to my parents in 1979 when I visited Washington DC for the first time:

Washington awed me with both its physical beauty and its historic significance. Everywhere I put my feet, I wondered who had walked that way before and under what circumstances. Knowing only the newer parts of our country, I was overwhelmed by the age of the buildings - that Clay, Calhoun, and Webster actually debated slavery in the old Senate Chamber - that George Washington was involved in planning the location of the capitol. One of the bits of information that really touched me was a story about Abraham Lincoln and the completion of the capitol dome. Early in Lincoln's Presidency the union was crumbling and Lincoln became increasingly upset by the fact that the Washington Memorial was not completed and the general opinion was there was no point in finishing the construction of the capitol dome. Lincoln insisted on completion of the dome on the grounds that a nation lives or dies by the power of its symbols.

Anyway - at least a little sleep would be a good idea - but I'm happy and accomplishing the kinds of things (rethinking systems, writing, reading old writing) that it's hard to do in everyday context. I even played a game of Scrabble with Bob (seems like a vacation only activity for us) and was in contention up to the last hand - totally satisfactory outcome.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm sitting in the sun room of our beach condo, in the moonlight, looking out in the direction of the Gulf of Mexico. Bob and I walked the beach at sunset - every beach sunset different. This time the rose tones of reflection in the rising tide were really strong - "sea of rose" more than the "sea of pearl" I usually see at sunset. I love Bob for so many reasons - one of them being that he is the kind of guy who suggested I look at the rising silver gibbous moon through his binoculars (never would have occured to me. Wow moon. Wow Bob. I am feeling very fortunate tonight - richly blessed.

I think I've been working too hard - or at least hard enough to really REALLY appreciate a week off. I have lots of projects - scrap booking beading writing reading - birding with Bob. We'll see how much I actually do.

We had lunch with Ruth and Chris before we left Austin (for his birthday) and in conversation it came up that Ruth, at 27 is no longer considered part of the "youth vote". Odd that my daughters could be anything but young.

Friday, November 07, 2008

This land was made for you and me
By Roger Ebert on November 4, 2008 8:47 PM

As the mighty tide swept the land on Tuesday night, I was transfixed.
As the pundits pondered red states and blue states, projections and exit polls, I was swept with emotion. Not because America was "electing its first Black president." That comes a little late in the day. It was because America was electing the right President...

I stayed up late. As I watched, I remembered. In 1968 I was in the streets as a reporter, when the Battle of Grant Park ended eight years of Democratic presidents and opened an era when the Republicans would control the White House for 28 of the next 40 years. "The whole world is watching!" the demonstrators cried, as the image of Chicago was tarnished around the world. On Tuesday night, the world again had
its eyes on Grant Park. I saw tens and tens of thousands of citizens with their hearts full, smiling through their tears. As at all of Obama's rallies, our races stood proudly side by side, as it should be. We are finally, finally, beginning to close that terrible chapter of American history

America was a different place when I grew up under Truman, Eisenhower and, yes, even Nixon. On Tuesday that America remembered itself, and stood up to be counted.

This land is your land,
This land is our land,
From California, to the New York island.
From the redwood forests, to the Gulf Stream waters--
This land was made for you and me

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Racism does still swirl in the background regarding the Presidency. A UT football player was taken of the tea for posting something ugly and racist about Barack Obama on Facebook - and at Baylor some students burned Obama McCain signs and somebody hung a noose in a tree - evoking images of lynching. I keep hearing people talk about fear that someone will assassinate OBama for racial reasons. I think my fears of assassination (which are mile) are more because he gives me hope and it's scary that hope could be dashed by a murder. I think about the Kennedy and King assassinatins, especially that of Bobby Kennedy, which I associate with shattered hope
Contradicting my general hopefulness about this political moent is my distress that Proposition 8 banning gay marriage passed in California. Here is a quote from a California center (sorry for incomplete attribution) on that issue.

"Never before in California's history has a group who currently enjoys a basic right, been singled out, and then had those rights ripped from them by a vote of their fellow citizens. This decision is so radical and so egregious, that every voice must first be heard, no matter how unlikely a changed outcome might be.

We are all diminished whenever discrimination is sanctioned and fundamental rights are stripped away from any of our citizens. We are all diminished when some families in California are denied access to the security and protections they deserve."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up"
Anne Lamott
I am feeling very patriotic tonight and hopeful about our nation's future, our world's future, our nation's future in our world. One of the reasons I'm feeling hopeful is the presence of voices of true American Bill of Rights values voiced from both sides of the metaphoric political aisle.

Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell asked and answered the question "Is there anything wrong with being a Muslim in the United States?" on Meet the Press recently. Here's some of what he said:

"[I]t is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing our self in this way."

The photo referred to by General Powell is at

I so strongly admire General Powell for making this public statement and I powerfully agree with him. I cried over the picture, a mother's grief transcending any boundaries of nationality, religion, or belief about the correctness of war in general or any war in particular.

General Powell's comment may hit me especially close to the heart in contrast to a segment of a Bill Moyers' Journalprogram about the toxicity of the rhetoric of the far right "shock jocks" on radio and in journalism. This feature was created after the fatal shooting this summer in a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville Tennessee by a an who believed it was his mission to kill liberals because we are dangerous. The quotes on the program shocked me terribly - awful awful quotes saying that liberals, Muslims, gays - all sorts of people, are not truly humans and should not live. I do not frequently hear this kind of hate talk, and it made me feel sick and scared, but I'm glad I heard it. I need to know what kind of toxicity is out there in our world, our communities.

On the other hand, recently I have become increasingly aware of the spiritual diversity in my own community. I've started buying smoothies at a little shop next to my bank. It's called Yogurt Planet and makes delicious smoothies full of all kinds of antioxidant berries. The friendly young man who runs the shop was born in Nepal and raised in Chicago. Behind the counter he keeps a beautiful altar - with fruits of the season and a statue of, I think, a Hindu deity. Day of the Dead Altars were featured in many local shops and homes last weekend. The owner of my nearest convenience store keeps a picture of his guru behind his cash register. I have friends who feel judged and uncomfortable because they are atheist and do not accept the idea of God. All of us are here together, Americans, citizens of the world, with our planet's - our families' destinies in our collective hands. May we hold them gently and take appropriate actions, together, all of us.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"Where there is breath, hope."

Barack Obama
44'th President of the United States

I jusr watched President-elect Obama accept his election tonight in Chicago's Grant Park where heads were bloodied during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. I like the dignity of our new President's speech - his focus on getting straight to work to face the many challenges facing our nation, just as I liked the dignity of John McCain's concession speech. Both men seem ready to put the partisan fight behind them and get to work - a model for all of us.
John McCain has conceded the Presidency to Barack Obama. McCain spoke with deep patriotism and silenced boos - honored movement away from the partisan fight to governance - and we do need governance now - good governance. Tomorrow is today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Til You Got It

You got to grab it when
it flies by a wild horse, speeding
train, by the horns, by the shirttails
and just hang the hell on
til you feel the rhythm
in your bones, just
let the whole world sing
an' Baby you got it.

Peggy Goetz - November 2, 2008

Somehow the passion of Peggy's poem pairs for me with the sadness that Barack Obama's grandother died today and will not see (from earth at least) the result of the election and that he - if he wins - will not get to experience her delight in his victory.

Chances slip by. Wild horse fate gallops past in a breath. Got to grab hold when we still can. Any friends and faily reading here, I love you all.
Almost election day. I'm excited.

I'm behind on this blog and in my whole online life because I didn't have Internet at home over the weekend. I'm proud of myself and the service rep, for managing the reconfiguration of my modem flawlessly.

Last week was challenging here - crazy busy at work and then on Wednesday I learned that a client on Tuesday had been in my office with whooping cough. This really rattled me - and it took some jumping through hoops to get seen by the doctor to get preventative antibiotics - but I'm fine. I was not allowed to be with my pregnant daughters on Halloween which was frustrating, (had to be on antibiotics for 24 hours first). I'm calm now, but I was really scared at the idea of possibly getting and spreading such an awful illness.

Otherwise, all is well. Bob and the kids and I hiked six miles in the pine woods yesterday - perfect mild afternoon with some color (even in pine woods) from floaming vines - a few fall wild flowers - a deer, a tiny lizard, a rabbit. I think we are so fortunate that all three kids think a hike is a treat.