Saturday, December 31, 2011

Yesterday was a difficult work day with a good ending at home with Shabbat dinner and grand kids sleeping over. I was so tired, emotionally and physically, from an intense short work week and a day of witnessing too much despair. Lying on the sofa with Zachary snuggled in close, telling me he loved me as he fell asleep was a perfect antidote. I want to innoculate my grandchildren against the possibility of lives of despair, desparation,r desolation but of course I can't. I can just love them. And I so.

Bob and I have run away from home for the ending and beginning of the old nd new year. We are down in the south Texas Valley - Years ago called Valley of the Palms - come to look at the birds. We had a good afternoon of birding. The green jay has a brilliant blue head. I always forget that. The culture of birders in RV's is intriguing. They were very friendly, warm, invited us to a New Year's Eve party at the camp ground - people our age on bikes with binoculars, living three months here three months there. I don't know if I could like doing that - it feels so unrooted, so utterly leisure. I think I would have to really unhook from my needs to be needed and to feel useful to live like that. I also think I'd miss having a real kitchen. Probably I'm just not ready to think about any major retirement related changes yet.

Yesterday I was down, had trouble looking forward to the new year. Tonight in a motel room in Refugio I feel more hopeful - still not quite sure what I'm looking forward to, but ready to look forward.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My energy feels forward focused, Christmas and Hannukah behind, very sweet, I feel like there's a wind at my back, not looking over my shoulder much. One thing I wanted to record about the last year. It'a the year I started wearing ethnic clothing, especially silk Indian clothing with beads and embroidery. I buy them at Savers for twelve or fifteen dollars for a gorgeous three piece outfit. It is so liberating for me. The kinds of clothes available for older America women bore me and I adore this new flowy, bright colored look - costumes every day, not uniforms!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mary, I haven't been as chatty as I'd like either. Yesderday was very busy - no computer time until I was so sleepy I kept nodding off trying to do the simplest thing. But ir was a great day. We celebrated Danny's birthday with used store shopping, which this batch of kids loves, lunch at a Chinese buffet (his choice and logical for a starving growing runner who likes lots of flavors and needs lots of food), and the late afternoon and evening at Sea World on those wonderful free passes.. The highlight of the shopping was leather jackets for all three big kids. They are THRILLED. All look good but Danny's is amazing, really a great looking item on him. I had so much fun being at Sea World with the whole crew, seeing all the cousins interact sweetly and my girls together. The only lousy thing was that Tracy was sick with a stomach bug and couldn't come. I hope the rest of us stay well. Also, Bob just gets more tired on days like this than I wish he did - leg muscle tired even with all the working out he is doing. It is frustrating for him. Still, we don't have anything real to complain about. I go back to work in an hour or so, but have a pretty short day.

We kind of missed the last night of Hannukah, being out celebrating Danny. I had my personal moment, watching the sunset sky flare with light in rich apricots. Hannukah was good for me this year. I do feel more light going out than coming into it, more hope and more energy. I also feel a strong sense of family, warm and together to face whatever comes.

I think about the new year coming and feel a desire to shift energy a little, perk up, have diversity,new experiences, eat less sugar, write more paper letters, learn a little more about knitting, love better, use my toung in defense less often. I'm in my "give yourself to love" place and hope I can live it as strongly as I feel it. Because love is what i'm after.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy tonight, disorganized, but happy. There are so many letters i want to write on actual paper in pretty colors of ink, so many cards I've saved over the years I want to send, so many beads I wonder if I'll ever string, so much yarn. I want to want less and have less and yet there are times I want more. Tonight the Hannukah candles were so bright we could have read by them, and we thought about the many generations who did read by candle light. I dedicate tonight's candle to the enernal quest for balance.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Strange for it to be Christmas without seeing joanna and her kids. We'll celebrate with them on Tuesday, and in this house we are keeping Hannukkh, not Christmas, but I still missed Joanna's Christmas morning the way she makes it magic. It was a good day though. We decorated moose and beat masks with glitter and sequins, decorated Hannukah cupcakes (which was FUN. Liam can do it just fine this year, and I haven't played with sprinkles and icing in years. Bob and I walked by Town Lake as late afternoon faded to dusk and the water took on the pearly colors of the sky. Almost all the leaves are gone and the cormorants who winter in the old bald cypresses are back in force.

Tonight's candle is for communication, that we all might be better able to speak our truths and to listen to the truths of others.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fifth night of Hannukah falls on Christmas Eve. I feel the sweetness of the celebration of the birth of hope - whether in the form of a messiah or in any other form. For solong after Kerry died I wouldn't hope about anything - could not bear the idea of having another foundation shattered. Bob shook sense into me about that. It was too hard, too depressing to live without hope that tomorrow would come. I don't trust that tomorrow will come. it might not. But I hope it will, and that's enough.

Tonight's candle was for all of us who have trouble admitting when we have been wrong.
I had a good first full day of being sixty one - I worked and felt good about it, spent an hour in the fancy grocery store, Central Market, choosing a few fun luxuries for the season, bath foam, sweet oils, chocolate. I felt that fun rush of spirit I have felt other years at winter holidays and found myself smiling at everyone. I didn't get a lot of smiles back. People were buying festive type things - flowers, shrimp, cheese balles, wine - but they looked more harried than festive most of them, which disappointed me. I wanted to be met good cheer for good cheer.

Chris outdid himself with our Shabbat meal, designed for my tastes because of the birthday and boy did he hit. Mushrroms, squash with onions, orzo, and lemon ginger trifle for dessert with sparkler candles in it and voices of my closest ones singing the birthday song. Sweet. We had four mennorot burning tonight plus the Shabbat candles. My fourth night candle was for our beloved dead.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I've had a great birthday, feel much loved and celebrated. I worked a little, enjoyed meals with family, walked in the woods with Bob, talked, reflected, listened - ended with third Hannukah candle and now some computer time.

So what happened the year I was sixty?

Bob and I traveled the Civil Rights trail - so many memories of a difficult and powerful time in the history of our nation. So shameful we needed a Civil Rights Movement at all. It is more real for me now, the depth of the need and the heat of the movement after having stood on the steps of the church bombed in Montgomery, walked across the William Pettis Bridge imimagining being met with clubs, chased on horseback. It especially feels real after having stood in the parking lot looking up onto the hotel balcony where Martin Luther King Jr, died.

I learned simple knitting from Mary Lee (Thank you! Thank you!) and have
been knitting compulsively and joyfully for almost a year now. It is so much fun to be able to put colors and textures together in this way.

Bob and I started writing letters once a month with the local Amnesty International chapter, a stretch for two introverts and also rewarding.

Diane Truswell died on July 6 and Bob and I drove up to her memorial service in Wisconsin later in the summer. I miss her alomost daily, reread her poems, and remember the strength and integrity of her life. I also am more aware of mortality since she died and trying harder to live each moment with as much love and presence as possible.

KK started arts highschool and is thriving as student, dancer, human being. It's a delight to have her in the little house in our back yard and Liam in his room down the hall. I give a loud cheer for multigenerational living, hectic at times but even richer than I could have imagined. I miss Zachary, Danny and Andrea but am glad they are only down the road in San Antonio and not across the country. A goal for the next year is to have more time and connection with them.

Bob retired from teaching after a horrible semester of sixth graders. He is happy in retirement, pursuing many interests and I have come to love having him more available and present. He is glue in my life on the crazy busy days when I work too hard. We started writing a children's book together, got discouraged, and vowed today to starrt up again.

I'm very aware that I don't know how many more birthdays I will have. None of us knows (duh!) Birthdays were not a big deal in my family growing up and I think I am just now beginning to appreciate the celebration of the blessing of another day, a start into another year.
Tonight it is raining cold outside our warm house. It feels good to me to be inside and together, family. I turn sixty one just about right now, was born about two in the morning in, of all places for a jewish girl, the Salvation Army shelter in San Antonio. I always give their Santas something as a thank you for the sacntuary they gave my scared young mother so many years ago.

Second night of Hannukah I dedicate my candle to all who need phsical healing, especially Joe and Heid.i

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

School is out. Bob took KK to San Antonio today. We celebrated the first night of Hannukah. Ruth made great lattkes and we all played dreidel for chocolates and laughed. I think i want to make a point of dedicating each night's candle to something - not sure how this will go, but I'll just start.

I light one candle for the lonely people - bereaved, estranged, everyone who feels disconnected or more seperate than he or she would like. I light one candle of compassion, connection, inspiration to let myself remember that many people are alone tonight, actually or in their hearts and souls, and wish they weren't.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It is a good thing but exhausting to be going through finals with KK as her major support person. She is so consciencious. The hardest test is tomorrow, preAP biology. There are so many formulas I'd have trouble withthe test. I'm proud of her develoiping good study habits. I think we're all ready for school to be out though. I know I am.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

KK had her winter choir concert tonight, arts high school, some beautiful voices, some fun arrangements, fun to see her with Matthew, both of them so happy in new romance. I enjoyed meeting Matthew's parents, singers who met in the university choir, Longhorn Singers and, before they had kids, performed in our town's hillside summer musicals. They seem like good people and have a very polite and talented son who KK believes hung the moon. The feeling seems quite mutual.

Controversy about the concert contents affected our family. The issues of separation of church and state, how much it is OK for religious songs to be in school concerts stirred strong feelings. Is it OK for a public school choir to sing a Mozart Requiem Mass, sing religious Christmas or Hannukah songs, sing a blessing at the end of a concert? . Is something like "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" unacceptable in songs because it presumes the existance of a personified devil?

Bob looked up rulings on the internet and found the legal opinion that schools can sing religious holiday songs if they intersperse them in the same concert with secular holiday songs. I don't quite get this, because I don't understand the secular holiday idea very well, but i do enjoy the music, religious and secular. I like that the young singers are being trained to sing classics like the Mozart Requiem and would be sad if those couldn't be sung in the public schools. I feel the same way about spirituals and gospel music. It seems like the kids should be taught about them, just as about other classic genres in music tradition. Perhaps they could be presented in concerts with more "this is an example of..." wording so that it would be clear that the kids were not required to believe or promote what they were singing.

In an increasingly diverse community, and with a concern about extremists pusing their own brand of religion in the schools I intellectually believe strongly in the separation of church and state - but I do feel like removing all the songs from different religious traditions would weaken the texture of the music performed. I'd like to hear songs from more diverse traditions, Hindu, Buddhist, tribal traditions, earth based teligions, Islamic music, not just Christian with a smattering of Jewish. But I understand that we still predominantly come from a western, monotheistic, JudeoChristian tradition.

The blessing the kids sang at the end of the concert was beautiful. I loved being blessed. For me blessing is powerful and holy, a real prayer that moves energy, not just a saying or singing of words, so it does seem inappropriate in a public school setting. on one level that's sad to me. I can use all the blessings I can get, and feel the world can too. But separation of church and state is a core principle in our Constitution and I think being a little legalistic about it is necessary.

I feel sad that the controversy , which is real and importand, clouded my enjoyment and pure delight in KK in her choir dress, hair jewelry, stage makeup applied by Matt's performer mother, reveling in a performance oppoertunity with friends. It must feel wonderful to be able to make music in a group like that, with all the harmony and complex parts. I'm a little in awe, especially of the selected top choir, First Edition. I never could sing and am astonished by people who can and do with such beauty and passion.

Life is so complex, so AND. Sometimes I wish it were simple. However, with news of two sudden deaths in my acquaintance community last night, the death of a five year old twin last week from extremely aggressive leukemia (he was fine as far as anyone knew, got sick over the weekend and was dead by Tuesday) and worrying cancer developments with Joe and Heidi, I'm thankful for every moment of life, confusing and paradoxical or not. If you're reading this, please take a moment to express honest affection or gratitude to someone (and this does include pets) who you cherish.
I have such a collection of images in my head tonight...Andrea telling me yesterday, as we crossed the street to the zoo to "Stop, car coming. Be careful." (I saw the car and am glad she is getting street crossing skills and concepts as she approaches three. Liam has them too.) KK delighted to see her first red eyed tree frog live and also delighted with her current sweetheart, matthew, who seems equally delighted with her. I find myself touching Bob more, cuddling closer as if young romance observed helps me remember to savor the sweetness we have together...concern for joe and heidi who are dealing with cancer information and changes and can laugh together still as well as cry. i know i'm not good at laughing even in good times. They astonish me. KK is studying for finals and i'm spending time with her in the little house, knitting as she studies. It feels good but I'm behind writing and don't like that. but now, sleep.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bob and I went to a wonderful Amnesty International event tonight - writing cards of encouragement and hope to prisoners of conscience around the world as well as the normal pleas for release. It was at a little African owned club over in East Austin - blues five nights a week and African music on Saturday night. The traditional African stringed instrument was amazing and one I've never seen. The owner musician fed us all free - heaping plates of luscious barbecue and also gave us glasses of wine. I only had a glass and a half. my first glass spilled and he gave me a refill, but I feel a heady mix of images from the peril of the political prisoners, the closeness of like minded citizens on a cold night, the trancy music, the food and maybe the wine.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Ruth and I werre talking about blogging this evening - and in my writers group we have recently had discussions about writing "from the gut". Both discussions have me thinking that I want to work on my writing so that I will tell more stories with more details, especially feeling details, to engage more with the reader. I think I feel my posts are more self-revealing than they seem because I don't tend to write specific details, sometimes because I don't put enough effort into the writing, other times because I want to save my own face or someone else's. I think its my nature to be a little more in my head than most, a step removed from my experiences, and I want to work against that tendency to write with greater heat and transparency.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Highlight tonight was listening to KK talking at length and sweetly on the phone to both of her brothers. They have fought as all siblings fight, but she misses them now and has tenderness toward them. "Always remember I love you. Remember you are smart, no matter what anybody says. Just keep doing what you have to do. I love you. I don't tell you often enough. I love you. "

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Everyone in the house is sleeping and I should be, but it is one of those nights when it feels free to be up exploring creative blogs and my own thoughts in the quiet of the small hours. I found two amazing blogs, and in the process, the suggestion to ask myself at the end of each year the last questions James Lipton asks his guests on Inside the Actor’s Studio. .

This list has become a once a year ritual for a blogger who calls himself Rabbit. He finds it interesting to see what changes from year to year. As Rabbit said, “I encourage you to steal them and answer them for yourself – even if you don’t post them, tuck them away and revisit yourself next year. The trick is to not read your previous answers before answering the new ones.”

This is my first year doing the list and here are my answers. I would love to read yours. If you do them, please do leave a link to your own post in the comments. Here goes.

1. What is your favorite word?

"Abide" has been my favorite word for years. I tend to be anxious and want to fix things and it really settles me to know that often all people need is that I abide and don't dump them or blow off their pain or their dreams.

2. What is your least favorite word?

"Obviously" is my least favorite word. So little, if anything at all is obvious and acting as if it is so is condescending and in my oopinion dangerous.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Open space, open time, open minds, open hearts, open discussion

4. What turns you off?

clutter, noise, closed minds, closed hearts, absolutism

5. What is your favorite curse word?

"Yayda Netchke" It's Czech and I'm probably spelling it wrong because I never saw it written. It was my grandma Anna's only curse word and may not even be an actual curse word, but I loved her and copied her and copy her curse word still. It feels strong and personal, not melted yet into American pie.

6. What sound or noise do you love?


7. What noise do you hate?

the laugh track sounds of television

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

. totally unrealistic given lack of sufficient vision and talent, but reporter in dangerous and troubled parts of the world, catching the moment of crisis with my camera, getting the great tragic shot, writing it down.

9. What profession would you not like to do?

I would hate any profession that required me to count things and keep detailed reports - nightmare job would be accountant.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

"Thank you. Well done."

So those are my answers. I'd love to see what some of the rest of you would do with these questions.

Monday, December 05, 2011

I learned a concept from KK tonight. We were still studying the Fosse book and looking at pictures of dancers in improbable positions. I couldn't follow what might or might not not happen next. often it looked like a dancer might be about to fall. KK could predict a successful outcome each time and I asked her how she did it. She told me to follow the free foot, the one which was not bearing weight and to imagine how it could land. She says one always has to follow the free foot, the one that doesn't have pressure on it, that a choreographer invents moves by following the free foot. I started thinking beyond dance to life planning, how I can chart my next move by focusing on the naturally trajectory of the parts of me that are free, not bearing weight. There is an empowerment and grace in that concept that makes me very happy. That is probably also part of why writing feels so good right now. It's a free foot. Just for me. No pressure. I can let it take me where it will.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Today was another good day, especially with KK. She and I are studying together a very detailed biography of dancer choreographer Bob Fosse and the history of his work. She has had several teachers who worked with Fosse. She loves his style and is good at it and is now grappling with some of the complexity of the man, who was fascinated by darker aspects of life. Learning wiht her is a thrill, and especially learning this where she'll look at a picture and hop up and show me the move depicted and tell an annecdote from a teacher who learned it from Fosse.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Good day. I spent much of it alone in my room playing and writing on the computer while life went on merrily in the house. Lietening in on all the activity felt good. KK and her daddy and boyfriend and Bob watched the Longhorns lose a football game and enjoyed each other in the process. Ruth and Chris and Liam came back from an all day bike ride with groceries. Chris made roast beef inside salt crust (you don't eat the crust it keeps the beef moist. Yum! Ruth and Liam both demonstrated their head stands and both are impressive. I asked Chris to see his and he just laughed. No one even asked me. it's been a long time since i stood on my head. Low pressure days are sweet.

Friday, December 02, 2011

It feels good to keep writing here, enough days to feel like I'm doing it. Tonight Bob and Liam and Ruth sang in the living room before supper. We had takeout barbecue for shabbat and Liam sang the blessing over the bread.
I like the feel of the house as the candles burn down. I am sleepy, brain tired after a full work week, but feeling strong and like a good night's sleep will leave me fresh. That is so different from a week ago. I am thankful for the ability to regain balance.
Long day at work and home. i'm relearning the countries and physical features of South America as KK learns them - so much I have forgotten. i do remember loving learning about the Andes as a girl. I think geography is tought better now, at least at her school, more sense and patterns and less pure memorization, but tonight was very homework heavy. the kid is a trooper.