Monday, December 31, 2012

Darkness and Light - post 31

As the year ends and begins , my musings about darkness and light fold together into a plea for the awareness, strength, and skills i need to be a bright candle, even in a hard wind blowing.

Prayer of Resolve

Help me choose
love, not ego.
Sharpen my mind
to question.
Strengthen my soul
to abide.
Guide my choices
toward balance.
Open my heart
to listen.
Open my eyes
to contempt.
Increase my wisdom
to discern.
Fortify my courage
to act.
Amplify my voice
to speak.
Quicken my spirit
to rejoice.
Soften my will.
to accept.
Help me choose
love not ego.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 30

 I think it makes great and beautiful sense that the film Les Mis has come out just as this year and my posts about finding light in darkness are ending.  I think Les Miserables is one of the best books ever written about the human condition and the light and darkness in every human spirit and life.  The characters are always choosing, and their choices matter for others, if not for themselves.  The musical is my favorite of that genre, and always leaves me in tears of true catharsis.  I haven't seen the film yet but I will, and I hope you do to if you haven't.  The evil of contempt and the power of redemptive love and forgiveness to override contempt is a deep running theme in the story, and for all the sadness in the story it gives me hope that we can change our attitudes and behaviors when they are hurting ourselves or others and live lives that give off more light than they absorb.  That hope is my candle for today.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Darkness and light 29

 As the month of writing about darknes and light draws to an end, I am about to break one of my own unspoken rules. I've not been writing about live people as sources of light and lessons, and of course live people are.t I felt anxious about how to chose and in which order among people who might be reading what I wrote. But, having written  about  my first great love last night I want to write about my second and present great love tonight. So many lesons from you Bob. There is a diference in just being out in the country and being in the presence of awdsome unruined wildnes. Self delusion is dangerous. Sometimes planning realy does create beter experiences. Sometimes it really is beter to wait until I calm down to say anything about anything. But brightest of your lights to me is the constant leson that trying to make a diference makes the bigest diference of all. Having loved you and been loved by you, I can never again just be a pasenger or a consumer - got to try to see the big picture, create some kind of strategy and steer my actions in acordance with my values and toward some aproximation of what sems best for all.

Cosy in Blacksburg

Bob's parents are absolutely superb at creating a sense of home.   So here I lie under a pink silk comforter with fires in the fire places and garlands on the mantels and lights outslide welcoming all.  I love it, as an augmentation to their welcoming hugs.  This trip we have been listening in the car to  The Warmth of Diferent Suns, and absolutely superbly human version of the great migration of blacks from south to north to escape Jim Crow.. It is a perfect (and I realy don't even believe in perfection) blending of fhistorical drtailt and personal story.. We also saw the Civil Rights Institute  in Birmingham right acros the street  from the Sixtenth Street Babpist Church where toe four litle girls were shot on September 15, 19633 where the foule itle girls were kiled in the church bombing. There wil be more posts on history, nonviolence, contempt, the value of comunity.But I'm faling aslrp here and I don;t type wel thre quarters asleep

Friday, December 28, 2012

Darkness and light 28

When I was just eighteen I met Kerry Sullivan, the man who became my first true love and the father of my children. It would be dishonest and wierd not to count Kerry as one of those people who was a light in my life, who passed on particular lessons of light. I was crazy in love with the man and felt his tender care and admiration wrap me like the magic circle of his arm...s. Raising kids with him was delight and the family we created together was the biggest goal for each of us and for the two of us together. But that is just the texture of our life together. I think the big light Kerry turned on for me was his absolute undying confidence in me to come through when the chips were down or die trying. He didn't expect perfection or magic or immortality, of either one of us. When he saw beginning to die he focused his own effort and attention on doing so with grace and without leaving loose ends. He did a great job. I didn't. In fact pitched a fit and shrieked that I couldn't live without him, he grabbed me by the shoulders, stared straight into my eyes and said "You can if you have to, and you'll do a damn good job of it!" He hadn't been surprised that I had been able to get through a terrifying middle of the night fire experience and keep both girls safe. He trusted me to be able to do what I needed to do, one foot in front of the other through the fog or in the heat of the moment. That trust, that respect, is something that healed me deeply and is the way I strive to feel toward others.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Darkness and light 27 -Mama was, in her own idiom, "a ring-tailed tooter". She was intense and efficient, quick, achievement oriented, ambitious, enthusiastic, hot headed with a tendency to put foot in mouth when under stress. She taught me so much good stuff from her best self, like to do the work first, then play, to be fiercely loyal, exactly how to season beef stew, that no problem is so scary it can't be talked through, and to dress to please myself not anybody else. But I think the most important thing she taught me is a lesson she wished she hadn't had to teach. Mama said some pretty hurtful things to me over the years. When she screwed up she did it on a big scale and it hurt alot. AND, when she screwed up, Mama owned her error as soon as she came to her senses, apologized, made consistent amends, and worked hard if not totally effectively at not repeating mistakes. She did repeat apologies.

 It is true that prevention is the best cure, and our mistakes really do hurt others. I strive and hope to keep better control of my tongue and actions than Mama did, AND the most important lesson I learned from her is that it does matter what I do after I screw up. Self pity and defensiveness, self-castigation and guilt don't do any good. Honest claiming of my errors, apology, and amends do. I am glad I learned from my Mamar that I don't surrender responsibility or the ability to make a difference for good once I make a mistake and hurt somebody's feelings. I'm glad she taught me to keep taking responsibility for the impact of my actions

Wise words about grief

Thes words are not mine, they belong to Frank Ostaseski, founder of the Zen Hospice Project, on dealing with grief:

Grief may be the greatest healing experience of a lifetime. It’s certainly one of the hottest fires we will encounter. It penetrates the hard layers of our self-protection, plunges us into the sadness, fear, and despair we have tried so hard to avoid. Grief is unpredictable, uncontrollable. There are no shortcuts around grief. The only way is right through the middle. Some say time heals, but that’s a half-truth. Time alone doesn’t heal. Time and attention heal.

In grief we access parts of ourselves that were somehow unavailable to us in the past. With awareness, the journey through grief becomes a path to wholeness. Grief can lead us to a profound understanding that reaches beyond our individual loss. It opens us to the most essential truth of our lives: the truth of impermanence, the causes of suffering, and the illusion of separateness. When we meet these experiences with mercy and awareness, we begin to appreciate that we are more than the grief. We are what the grief is moving through. In the end, we may still fear death, but we don’t fear living nearly as much. In surrendering to our grief, we have learned to give ourselves more fully to life.

A Quote on the value of listening

 "Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to affect the most profound changes in the people around us. When we listen,...we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden. In this culture the soul and the heart too often go homeless. Listening creates a holy silence.When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time. And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone. Eventually you may be able to hear, in everyone and beyond everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you." ~Rachel Naomi Remen

Darkness and light - post 26

-Up past midnight in a motel room in Louisianna night after Christmas, I 'm thinking about the song "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" and that has me thinking about my daddy, or maybe I'm thinking about my daddy and that has me thinking about the song. Who knows? Which is, I guess, the point of this post. My daddy (and yes I know its oldfashioned and sounthern for a ...grown woman to think of her paternal parent as her "daddy" but I've tried typing several other labels for paternal parent and they all feel phony. He was my daddy and he was also, literally, a rocket scientist, a theoretical physicist, a man who learned for the sake of learning and was more than anything interested in "how things work ". And yet he was the one who taught me to see the world as a balance of mystery and science. He taught me to always look up at the night sky and see the vastness and the order, the beauty, the possibilities, and the mystery. He made it alright to always keep seeking without ever needing to know everything. One of his many gifts to me was comfort with paradox, and that gift has carried me a long way and I celebrate that gift and my Daddy tonight

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Darkness and Light 25

On Christmas night I'm thinking aboout babies, the beautiful nativity story and babies in general, how each is a little spark, a light that can be nurtured or snuffed out, and how each is unique. and none is of more intrinsic value than any other. That is the lesson my Uncle Rudy taught me. He was born very prematurely and lack of oxygen had affected his lungs and his coordination. Things like ...making change were hard for him and he had terrible asthma. he also had music in his every cell and was a drummer for his high school band and the Texas Longhorn band. But none of that is my point here. My point is that I was raised to be way too achievement oriented and success oriented and by high school must have been pretty snooty about academic success. Uncle Rudy and I were pulling weeds together one morning and I said something, don't remember what, but something stuck up and mildly contemtuous regarding school performance. And he looked me straight in the eyes and told me to remember that not everybody has the same advantages and I needed to stop judging. The lesson took. It was years later that i thought about that lesson in reverse. I sure don't have Rudy's musical ability or naturally outgoing nature, and he never held me in contempt for those lacks. So on Christmas night I'm thinking about babies, and how each one is a unique spark, to be discovered and nutured, not judged.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 24

I've been reading posts of Christmas preparations in the homes of many of my friends, and remembering wonderful celebrations I have attended throughout my life.. All the baking and wrapping and choosing and decorationg - all the care of presentation - love in the act of making a holiday is a beautiful manifestation of ove, and one I'm not great at.. Hostessing in general  is not a gift of mine, but that means I value it more not less. I celebrate the light of hospitality tonight and feel gratutude to all who have made me feel at home and look forward to being in Bob's parents' home in a few dayus.  Those two have a real gift for hospitality, both of them..

Darkness and light- Post 23

Now that the light is returning I want to focus on people and ideas who/which have brought me light. Today, as I busied myself for shutting down everyday life and getting on the road for the holidays, I especially thought about my Grandma Anna. There is so much I could write about her. She taught me that being quiet was just fine, that love can smell like cinnamon ...and brown sugar or like potatoes in butter or like fresh peaches. She taught me that having endured losses doesn't have to make you bitter even if it leaves you sad. And so much more. But today I was mostly thinking about how she taught me, when I was really small, to truly enjoy making order, drying dishes, putting things where they belonged. She took deep and quiet pleasure in doing everyday tasks well and taught me not just to do the tasks but to feel that same contentment in having done them. It wasn't quite as fancy as "Whistle while you work.", but it definitely was a message of "Simple work is satisfying." I am thankful for that lesson and for all the love with which my Grandma Anna treated me every day we had together. She, with her quiet wisdom, was a great light in my life and is still.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wow! It's my sixty second birthday, and a good one. This is my first birthday in which Face Book messages have played a major part. I got a bunch of messages some of which were sweet and total surprises. I feel so happy to have gotten that attention.  Birthdays were celebrated in my girlhood home, but played down, and that never bothered me.  But the more years my birthday gets played up, the more spoiled I get. It feels good to be noticed as present and desired in the world.  I'm trying to get better at noticing the birthdays of those I love.
My day here was great - l slept late, which would have been enough all by itself, had brunch with Bob at Trudy's buffet, which is my very favorite with hashbrowns and enchilladas of four kinds on the same table and a ginger mango mimosa and my guy's hand to hold.. Wow! Bob and I spent some time in the country looking for a rare bird (fork tailed fly catcher up from Mexico) we didn't find and watching the sun set brilliant orange and purple. We went to a cool museum IMAX theater to see the Hobbit 3D. I enjoyed it but felt the battle scenes took up too much of the film compared to the book. Glad I went though, and had every opportunity to hide my head in Bob's shoulder. If I interpret sounds from the kitchen right, there is still cake to come. 
PS, not cake, but better, Chris' gingerbread trifle, my all time favorite dessert - this time with a candle in it.

Darkness and Light - Post 22

- The light is beginning to return. The days are getting longer, inperceptibly, first move in new direction. It's my sixty second birthday. At sixty I wrote that sixty didn't feel different from 50. The process of aging like the process of spring coming, has it's own pace. I still have plenty of energy, but my knees are noticably stiffer and wiggling out of tight spots takes more effort. My movements are slower and stiffer. I'm OK with all of that, fair price for being here. I don't like the wrinkles on my face and arms, but that comes from working in the sun. I do like my increased patience, tolerence and wisdom. My current task is task is to see aging not as the enemy but to take it on its own terms, caring for my body, keeping up with new trends and technologies as much as possible, continuing to learn and grow, and also to make as much sense as possible of the lessons life has taught me and pass them on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Darkness and light, Post 21

 Shortest day, longest night. Right now, tonight, the pattern of the seasons reverses and the light begins to return. Winter solstice born, this is my favorite moment of the year, the bottom of the well where resurgence happens. We will not see hte green shoots for months yet, but the on first day of winter the sun sets its pattern back toward spring. In my part of. the world the air is cool and the stars are bright, the half moon ringed in green. The darkness of this night holds infinite mystery. Tomorrow is a question mark and it's always possible I may not see tomorrow, and yet, on this long night I always feel hope pushing through the mystery and uncertainty. Tonight my words are for all who hope and all who are afraid to.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Darkness and light - post 20

Tonight Bob and I and KK and her friend visited our city's trail of lights along with hundreds of other Austinites. I've done this off and on (mostly on) since college days and spun under the gigantic tree made of wires of lights of every color. It was fun tonight to be out in the cold with people I love among well behaved strangers celebrating sparkle. I watched. the two girls walking ahead with their arms around each other's waists and felt fear for them, both because we are all so vulnerable in the world and because each has possibly serious medical isuues.

I also though about how awful it would be if a shooter targeted the trail of lights. I've never thought that before. I wonder if many people stayed away for that reason. Clearly many people, with their small children wrapped up and in strollers, came anyway. I'm glad of that. Tonight's lights are, for me, trusting an unsafe world enough to participate fully whatever may or may not come.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 19

- Still the days get shorter and I am discouraged having just read an article about people using the shooting in Connecticut, and other recent shootings, as ways to scam money, pretending it was for victims' families. That kind of mercenary behavior shocks me and provokes ethical outrage in me. It dims my hope. But I had lunch today with a friend who reminded me tha...t if most people didn't make honorable choices most of the time the world would be much more unsafe than it is. I would get mugged every time I walked home from the bus stop after dark (Its never happened). The waitress today would not have told me that I had mistakenly given her a fifty dollar bill instead of a twenty. I hang onto this light. Most people make honorable choces most of the time. I have power over my own choices.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 18

Tonight in the wake of Sandy Hook, on the brink of the fiscal cliff, in the middle of finals for the high schooler in my house, while waiting for diagnostic test results, in the midst of trying to get holiday gifts and rituals right, I think about fear. There's the fear my granddaughter voiced tonight that the lock down drill at her school would probably not work b...ecause the shooter could just knock down the doors to the fear of forgetting to send someone important a Christmas card, to the fear of making a lower than desired grade on a final, the fear of not getting it (whatever it is) right enough. I could list on and on the fears that haunt me and those around me. in addition to our economic and safety fears. It is a time of the year where many of us press even more than usual to be perfect. I believe strongly that perfection is an iilusion. Real is better than perfect. For now I strive to do what I can to raise the odds of my safety and the safety of my family and community and to work and right and life according to a high standard, and then to let go of striving and accept limited control and uneven performance. I strive to act out of hope, not fear.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 17

- I'm thinking about imbalance and balance tonight. Work play and rest. Thought and feeling. Argument and faith. Change and stability. Justice and mercy. Tenderness and hard truth, curiosity and acceptance of mystery. I know balance one day is imbalance the next day. For myself, I will focus on finding my balance points, day by day on all the various axies, and on accepting that balance shifts constantly and always will.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 16

Hanukah is over and the days still get shorter. I miss lighting the candles in the early darkness and am daunted by the task of dewaxing all eight mennorahs, but hte light was worth the work. I'm still full of feeling about what happened as Sandy Hook Elementary and full of thoughts about how to move toward a world where such horrors are less likely. I don't want to fall into helplessness or fixate on an oversimplified solution. I really believe everything is multidetermined and complex problems require careful, openminded study and multifaceted actions. The darkness I want to illuminate is the darkness of oversimplification. For mywself I'm focusing on thie issue of violent acting out in our culture and looking at it from as many angles as I can with as few preconceived notions. And I hope to use that open mindedness in all areas of my life.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Emotional response to Sandy Hook

I've been reading responses to the Connecticut killings this morning. The intensity of both the suffering that results from this massacre and the intensity of the need to create a kinder, gentler world in which such shootings and other horrors are less comon. I feel strongly committed to working hard to turn the intensity of my reactions to this shooting into the energy of working for change. Einstein was right. Energy cannot be destroyed, just converted from form to form, purpose to purpose. That knowledge gives me comfort when the energy of suffering is great. We all have a choice of what to do with it. Anything that happens to us or around us, I truly believe we have the choice to let it diminish us or to add it to ourselves in some way that serves. We can even use good things to diminish ourselves, by becoming complacent, judgemental, enttitled. Using the energy of pain to grow is hard. For me, the most effective forms or energy to turn pain into have been plain hard physical work, service sometimes oriented to reduce the cause of the pain for others, sometimes not, and art.  I'm surprising myself by writing no poetry about Sandy Hook. I think I'm going for service/action this time - to fight contempt and acceptance of meanness and violence anyway I can.  I know management of weapons and better care for the mentally ill, as well as a better way to figure out who is likely to be dangerous are all part of the needed change, but my own focus seems to be on the underlying attitudes, especially of contempt.  So readers beware, you will be reading that word alot in my writings.   

Darkness and Light, Post 15 - Eighth night

We had dear friends with us for the last night of Hanukah, lit all eight candles in all eight menorahs, shared curry and lattkes and opened presents together. Liam and Ruth put together his cool gift of a Lego ambulance complete with paramedics and patients, and my mind jumped again to the real ambulances and horror yesterday in Connecticut. Innocence... and safety are so transitory. I don't want to watch Liam laugh and cuddle up to his Mama and list in my head all the awful ways he could die. I stop myself when I start doing that kind of crazy thinking, but I have to stop myself more frequently than I'd like. Life is uncertain. Life is hard. I light tonight's candle for all of us who choose to live fully and love intensely anyway.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Darkness and Light - Post 14 - Candle 7

 Tonight before dinner we lit seven candles in each of seven mennorahs. Before Liam lit the first helpercandle, Ruth flipped off the single remaining electric light, and we were plunged into thick black darkness - alot of darkness. Candle by candle, light began to illuminate the darkness . The first thing I noticed was that I could begin to see the family faces clustered around the candles. I felt less alone with each candle that was lit, more connected. And I thought about the horror of the school killing today in Connecticut. I felt helpless and isolated regarding that horror and those which have preceded and will follow it. I don't want to sit isolated in horror and hopelessness.I want to keep lighting candles and looking into the faces around me. And I dedicate tonight's candle to everyone who fights the urge to give up on change at any level, personal or global.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Darkness and light -Post 13 - Candle 6

This morning I awakened to intense, repetitive banging and voices right outside my window shouting unintelligbly (Spanish my awakening mind recognised groggily). It sounded like war outside my window, or at least like someone was trying to break into my room. That wasn't the case. The workers fixing my neighbors plumbing had gotten an annoyingly early s...tart, but I couldn't get my mind off the experience, what it must be like when it really is war outside one's window, or post traumatic st4ress episodes of war replaying in one's dreams. I know both of those things are reality for way too many people. So tonight's candle is for all affected by war and especially for the peacemakers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 12 - Candle 5 -[Defensiveness

One of the faces of darkness I find most seductive is defensiveness. It's so easy to just want ot explain my point of view and why I'm not really all that wrong, even if I really am. Defensiveness shuts doors and blocks intimacy. It doesn't make me any less wrong. So tonight I commit to listening when I start to feel defensive and I light tonight's candle for all of us who work to listen to feedback without defensiveness and admit when we are wrong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Darkness and light - Post 11- Candle 4- So a man in Portland put on a white mask and picked up a shotgun and walked into the mall and shot up winter wonderland. And in out family, we attended our community's wonderful Christmas sing along, a tradition I've come to love, Jewish as I am. The atmosphere was friendly and happy, all sorts of voices raised in song. Then we came home and lit our four mennorahs, with four candles in each and sang together, put the young ones to bed. And through it all I was haunted by the idea that somebody felt something that made him need to go shoot up winter wonderland and kill innocents. I go back to Dorothy Satten's teachings about emotion. Anger, hurt, and fear are a triad of emotions which are pretty interchangable. Think of the parent who, terrified, grabs a toddler out of the road and swats the kid's bottom. Fear can sure look like anger. And anger can look like fear or hurt if you've been taught long enough that "nice girls don't get mad" or hurt or fear like anger if your lesson has been "big boys don't cry." But there's a deeper triad, helplessness, rage and shame. We can talk about anger, hurt and fear, and we can aim them. Helplessness, rage and shame are too deep and primal for words or directionality. The paralyze or explode. As helpless or ashamed someone has ever felr, that's how much rage that person has. So when I think about today's mall shooter and all the other shooters I am terrified by their rage and deeply saddened by their helplessness and shame. And I know that earlier this afternoon, because I felt helpless to make the transition from a busy work day to a busy family evening smoothly and ashamed of how helpless and incompetent I felt, I lost my cool altogether and yelled at Bob and KK, neither of whom had done anything except point out my inefficiency by their efficiency. I hurt them even though I had no intention to. I commit to whatever physicl and spiritual disciplines I need to stay away from the edge of overwhelm and exhaustion, that place where I behave badly. I dedicate tonight's candle to all who struggle to contain and heal feelings of shame, rage and helplessness.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Darkness and light 10 - Third Candle - for those who are ill

Darkness and light 10 - Third Candle - Tonight it is cold out and warm and full of light and the aromas of good food in our house. We have our sorrows worries and stresses, each of us in this house. We all know that life is uncertain. At dinner I watched Liam throw a minor fit because he was required to eat a tiny bit of kale before icecream. And I thought about a little girl Ruth knows who di.ed of cancer two days ago,  just about a year older than Liam. Later, for Hannukah gift exchange, we sat on the floor in the livingroom and treasured gifts of jewelry from our beloved Heidi, who died of cancer in September. I wear her moonstones as I write and they lay warm on my chest. I light the third candle for all those who are seriously ill, whether with cancer or some other life changing or life threateneing disease, and for those who love them and fear and hope for them.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Darkness and light - night 9- Second Candle for decision makers

Darkness and light - night 9- Second Candle - This year I will let the second candle be for decision makers, which means its for all of us. I am awed by the number of decisions an ordinary person like me has to make every day and the impact these decisions have on quality of life for me and those my life touches. When I think about people in positions of greater power in the affairs of nations, especially want to draw light to their decision making, to help them see clearly and choose wisely. For myself, I think of an image my daughter Ruth has been using lately. Desicion moments are like siding doors that slide open for a moment, and then shut again. I choose to work harder, especially when I'm feeling tired and overwhelmed, to pay attention to each moment and the decisions it offers.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Darkness and light 8- first candle for those who mourn

-I love the song that begins "I light one candle for the Macabbee children..." and from that song have developed the habit of personally dedicating each candle to a people in a particular circumstance. So tonight I dedicate the first candle to all who mourn. I've been writing alot about grief, and so that dedication seems right. Each of you who aches with loss, may you find comfort and light in the darkness.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Darkness and light 7 - night before Hannukah begins

 Hannukah, like most winter holidays is about light in the darkness. Tonight, during and after services, I've let myself think about the darkness, before any candles are lit. There's a Native American story I like about the darkness and its gifts. My version goes like this.

"In the long ago when the animals coould speak words, Dragon fly was the keeper of the void, the deep well of darkness which swelled at the edge of all that was known. Dragon fly flitted back and forth at the edge of the darkness. Few animals came close the the edge of the void. The darkness frightened them. But Swan was different. She was gray and dumpy, bored with her life, and very very curious. Day after day she would waddle to the very edge and ask Dragon Fly "What is down there?" and day after day Dragon Fly would give her the same answer "If you want to know, jump." And one day Swan did jump. When she emerged she was white, serene and graceful as we know swans today. All the animals were astounded by the change in Swan and asked her in a hundred ways "What happened to you down there in the void." And every time Swan answered, "If you want to know, jump,"    May I find the courage to explore and abide areas of darkness in my life.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Chris is helping KK with chemistry and geometry homework out at the kitchen table. She is exhausted at the end of tech week for her current dance show, a send up of The Nut Cracker. Tomorrow night about this time she will be high off the first performance and the fatigue won't matter.  I respect  the way she works to keep up as both a performer and a studentRuth is grading in the livingroom with the TV on, happy to be at the end of a long haul of a teaching semester.  Liam, who was not a school boy yet when this semester started, is happily snuggled in his bed probably dreaming of science Friday tomorrow. I'm hoping the phone will ring any minute and Bob will report himself safel ensconced in a motel somewhere on his way home from his invitational meeting at the White House.  Back in September i never would have expected that the volunteer campaign work he was doing would get him a working invitation to the White House.   I've worked hard on the house. especially our room, while he was gone and am feeling like it is much more comfortable and livable than it has been and that some of the organizaational decisions I've made will let it stay that way.  I feel happy, and especially happy because of my living situation.  I am so well supported and loved on  and that feels so good.  Ruth helped me deliver three boxes of teaching resources Bob no longer needs to a school librarian friend who knows how to find people who will use them.  Chris cooked delicious indian style chicken and vegetables for dinner and I didn't even have to think about what I was going to eat.  That is purest luxury for me.  KK gets math and science tutoring from Bob or Chris and I don't have to stretch in directions that I'd rather not at this point.  Ruth bought her a "nutcracker" scented candle in honor of her upcoming performance and delivered it, with chocolate, at a moment when KK was feeling tired and overwhelmed.  I grew up as an only child, loved, but without the rich tapestry of interwoven lives under one roof that a larger family provides.  I didn't know what I was missing then.  I sure appreciate it now.

Darkness and light -6-Grief

 Back last month when I was writing thankfulness posts, I wrote that I was thankful for grief because I see it as the natural process of making our losses real and finding a way to live in the world without those we have lost. Several people who have had recent losses asserted that they are not thankful for grief. I've been thinking alot about grief since that time, and I am still thankful for that process because I feel that without it loss would just stay new and harsh and raw forever, that it would never change, soften, become something one can carry and isn't consumed by. I realize that, for me, grieving a loss is like sleeping when weary or eating when hungry, the only way to really meet the need. Fear of loss and loss itself hurt and can blow one's world as one knows it apart. I want to be available always to those who mourn, to answer any question, to share experiences, just to abide.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Darkness and light 5 - Big Picture Tthinking

 Big picture thinking is hard for me. my tendancy is to do what I can where I am to make simple differences. I tend to be happy making little changes for individuals and mostly changes in my own behavior and thinking, but I am married to a man who has taught me the importance of the bigger picture, of thinking of the whole world and how everyone's we.llbeing or lack thereof interacts. I do feel strongly that "We are all in this together." as citizens of the world in terms of perserving the earth's resources as much as possible and getting along at least well enough not to killeach other off[. What I don't have is the solid information and focus on facts and details about worldwide problems which give grounding to that basic view. So this month, at least, I'm going to work on learning at least a little about a variety of worldwide problems. I hope I'll be blogging at least the occasional factual article or link about issues which affect the earth and all on it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Darkness and Light 4- Making an effort

 Making an effort - One of the biggest lessons for me over the last decade has been that people need, truly need don't just appreciate, kind actions from others just to keep moving through daily life without feeling loneliness and despair. Its so easy for me, especially introvert that I am, to get "busy" or preoccupied with my own thoughts and projects and not return the phone call, write the note, send the birthday card or sympathy card. It's easy to get overwhelmed when someone is in a really bad situation and not say anything because I "don't know what to say.  I know I can put foot in mouth, and I know that the little things I can do for people don't fix bigger problems, and I know that the little things do make more than enough difference to balance out the effort that doing them takes. So, for now, I am increasing my commitment to follow through with small kindnesses.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Darkness and Light - 3 - Contempt

 I have almost finished Bullied, the book which inspired yesterday's post. The book contains a concept that strikes me as powerfully and deeply true. The root of bullying is not anger or even powerlessness, but contempt. To bully (on a personal level or on a societal way like Jim Crow or genocide) a person or group of people has to hold another person or group of people in contempt - to see them as less worthy of resources and life itself, less human. When I look around me, I see contempt around many everyday human differences including looks, posessions, age, spirituality, politics, sexuality, interests and life style choices. Contempt in its most toxic form allows genocide and in its more everyday form allows eye rolling, not taking someone's idea seriously, lack of empathy,and erosion of trust in relationships. So, for myself, this month I will work on avoiding labeling anybody "an idiot" or any other degrading label in my head. This doesn't mean I have to agree or approve of their ideas or seek out their company. I can even believe their ideas are dangeroous. I simply need to accept them as fully human as I am.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Shaggy Fall

Thanksgiving Day it was full bright fall in Austin, evidence of our rainier summer, bright color in the trees.  Now it is what I call "shaggy fall"  days short and colors fading, leaves drifting down in every breeze even though tempoeratures stay mild.  Shaggy fall can depress me some years, as beauty fades and streets look messy.  This year I'm enjoying shaggy fall, all the colors drifting down against low gray skies - soft.  Bob is on the road, on his way to the great opportunity of attending a working meeting on increasing bipartisan communication at the White Hous (yes I said the White House) on Wednesday)  I'm so impressed by my husband and his efforts to improve the state of our nation and world.  I'm. impressed with my family here too.  Ruth and Chris and I worked really hard yesterday on sorting and organizing tasks and made big progress.  I look around my room and see signs of that progress and smile.  There is a point of real change that shows in decluttering and I feel just barely there for the first time.  That feels really good.

Darkness and Light 2 - Meanness

As most of you who know me know, I have never done well with humor with edge. It seems like so much pain is delivered packaged as "I'm just kidding." or "It's a joke." It's a fine line between taking life lightly and laughing at the absurdity of our human condition and our individual accomacations to it and trying to gain an edge over others by laughing at them. Right now I'm reading an amazingly comprehensive book called Bullied by Carrie Goldman. It goes way beyond childhood school bullying and cyber bullying to the theme of meanness in our culture. I saw way too much of it in the election process, which is maybe one reason this particular area of darkness calls to me right now. A quote from the book that reverberates with me is by actress Chase Masterson from Star Trek. "I think it's 'in' on some horrific level for people to be mean. Talk shows and comedy shows say it's okay to laugh at other people. But it's not okay. It's certainly not a 'do unto others' attiotude." For myself, I am going to pay careful attention this month to my language, especially avoiding use of the word "hate" even lightly.

Darkness and Light 1

Light 1 - Posting thankfulness posts in November was good for me and now, November over, I'm hungry for a followup theme, don't wnat to quit. My December theme is darknesss and light, because the shortest day is coming and light is obviously a little less every day and soon will beginto return, a little bit every day . December holidays are bright with light. I want to focus on ways I can bring more light to the world, which will cause me to look into areas of darkness, so expect a mixed set of daily posts as I explore darkness and light in my life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving 30 - Thankfulness

I am thankful for the feeling of being thankful, the ability to know the sweetness of the sweet in life and to appreciate the value of the difficult. I'm thankful that Thanksgiving isn't just a holiday in November, but an honest feeling which floods me everyday and is only highlighted and disciplined by practices like writing gratitude posts in the month of November. I am thankful for the feeling of being thankful.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thanksgiving 29 - Resillience

I am thankful for resillience, recovery, the will and ability to rise again. I know people who have experienced terrible adversity - physical, and emotional and who have found the will and strength to keep on keeping on with grace and without bitterness. Struggle isn't fun but it is honorable, precious, effective. I am thankful for resillience.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving 28 - Resale stores

I am thankful for resale stores - especially Savers. I know that just reusing things instead of throwing them in the land fills is not enough to keep the planet alive, but I do love being on both the receiving and the giving end of endless swaps. I wear clothing made by a dressmaker for a woman from India who probably lives in California. I watch a woman happily claim a bowl I no longer want. Both roles feel good. And there is always yarn - a little or a lot, plain at fancy, to use for knitting scarves for refugees from hot places who are processed through Austin each year. We found cool leather jackets there for our three older grand kids and delightful outfits, ethnic and otherwise, for the little ones. i enjoy the young salespeople, often with blue or maroon hair, who happily wear wsome of the stranger available outfits. They always seem to have a smile. I am thankful for resale stores, especially Savers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 27 - Work

 I am thankful for work - professional work I love, the productive feeling of working to organize a shelf or room, the creative work of making something beautiful, the solace of exhausting mind numbing work in times of deep grief, the work others do to make my life and our world sustainable. I am thankful for work.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 26 - Grief

 I know this is an odd one, but I am thankful for grief. This is one of those days when i've heard of several deaths, either just occured or soon to occur. Love is so intense, and loss so painful. I belief grief is the normal developmental process through which our losses first become real to us and then become less central to our lives. It is a wave form, like being in the ocean in a hurricaine at first, swamped by giant wave after giant wave, with no recourse except to be washed through. In time the ocean camms down, bu the occasional big wave still hits. I don't believe that without grief I never would have accepted Kerry's death or found a way to thrive without him. i am thankful for grief.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 25 - Benefit of the doubt

I am thankful for the benefit of the doubt. I sure need it, and offer it freely. Communication is so complicated and life so challenging, I don't think we manage well without more than a little of it. I am thankful for the benefit of the doubt.

Darkness and light -25

On Christmas night I'm thinking aboout babies, the beautiful nativity story and babies in general, how each is a little spark, a light that can be nurtured or snuffed out, and how each is unique. and none is of more intrinsic value than any other. That is the lesson my Uncle Rudy taught me. He was born very prematurely and lack of oxygen had affected his lungs and his coordination. Things like ...making change were hard for him and he had terrible asthma. he also had music in his every cell and was a drummer for his high school band and the Texas Longhorn band. But none of that is my point here. My point is that I was raised to be way too achievement oriented and success oriented and by high school must have been pretty snooty about academic success. Uncle Rudy and I were pulling weeds together one morning and I said something, don't remember what, but something stuck up and mildly contemtuous regarding school performance. And he looked me straight in the eyes and told me to remember that not everybody has the same advantages and I needed to stop judging. The lesson took. It was years later that i thought about that lesson in reverse. I sure don't have Rudy's musical ability or naturally outgoing nature, and he never held me in contempt for those lacks. So on Christmas night I'm thinking about babies, and how each one is a unique spark, to be discovered and nutured, not judged.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thankfulness 24- I am thankful for interdependence.  I do best when I can both give and receive, take care and be cared for.  And I live in a world like that.  Independence doesn't seem possible and the thought of it is scary to me.  I love living in a household with a son-in-law who is and amazing cook and gave us a gloriousThanksgiving meal, for having a husband who drives and knows how to hang a reading lamp, a daughter under my roof who fixes the dishwasher when it breaks and braids my hair, a grand daughter who says "You are falling asleep.  Go to bed."  I am thankful for interdependenceThankfulness 24- I am thankful for interdependence.  I do best when I can both give and receive, take care and be cared for.  And I live in a world like that.  Independence doesn't seem possible and the thought of it is scary to me.  I love living in a household with a son-in-law who is and amazing cook and gave us a gloriousThanksgiving meal, for having a husband who drives and knows how to hang a reading lamp, a daughter under my roof who fixes the dishwasher when it breaks and braids my hair, a grand daughter who says "You are falling asleep.  Go to bed."  I am thankful for interdependenceThankfulness 24- I am thankful for interdependence.  I do best when I can both give and receive, take care and be cared for.  And I live in a world like that.  Independence doesn't seem possible and the thought of it is scary to me.  I love living in a household with a son-in-law who is and amazing cook and gave us a gloriousThanksgiving meal, for having a husband who drives and knows how to hang a reading lamp, a daughter under my roof who fixes the dishwasher when it breaks and braids my hair, a grand daughter who says "You are falling asleep.  Go to bed."  I am thankful for interdependence

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 23 - Imagination

I am thankful for imagination, everybody's including my own. Bob and I spent much of today writing on our young adult fantasy novel, and it was fun hanging out in a world of our own creation. I love feeling the imagination wheels turn in my head and love seeing what others come up with - in books, in art, in conversation. The random pun, the playful image, the running story Liam ane I have about Sea Turtle Celeste, all of these things make me smile. I am thankful for imagination.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving 22- being physiologically happy

I am thankful for the feeling of being physiologically happy. I'm a serious being and generally feel content and pleased with my life and my choices, but not just bone marrow, every cell happy. When that feeling comes, and it has tonight, I cherish it. I know it won't stay long and that's OK. Content and satisfied is plenty for everyday. Happy is dessert. I'm thankful for feeling physiologically happy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving 21-Traditions

I am thankful for traditions. There is a turkey in the fridge tonight and cranberry sauce on the stove. People on the internet and otherwise are wishing each other peace and joy in their families. We remember to stop and be thankful for our bounty and to tend to the needs of others. I appreciate holidays which call my attention to gratitude, family, memories, and dreams. I am thankful for traditions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving 20 -enough

I am thankful for enough, dayenu, the sense of sufficiency, the absence of a feeling of need for more and more and more. I am thankful for enough.

Thanksgiving 19 - perseverance

Right now, and it seems like more often than not, I am in the middle of tasks that matter to me and that require effort over days, months, years - like journaling, keeping up with people, making order of belongings, pruning, writing. I often feel overwhelmed and like reality is swirling and I'll never finish anything - but there is some quality of perseverance inside me, not always as much as I wish, that helps me latch back on and keep working. I am thankful for perseverance.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thanksgiving 18- Waxing crescent moon

I am thankful for the waxing crescent moon. I love it in the evening, a narrow boat setting in the west sky, just a slender promise of the full moon it will become. The waxing crescent moon is my personal symbol of trust. The moon was invisible last week. Now that it is visible again it will be more and more visible each night until it once again rises fll and red in the east. I love the predictability of htis pattern. I am thankful for the waxing crescent moon.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thanksgiving 17 -old pictures

Thankfulness 17 - I am thankful for old pictures - at least I think I am. We have so many pictures and there are stories with most of them which will be lost if I don't write them down. It seems wrong for memories to be reduced to only pictures, unconnecte to stories anyone knows. And it is a daunting task to connect the stories to the pictures, even to cull out the best pictures from each photo session. I want the contents of the boxes and shelves i leave behind to make sense and to reflect the highs lows and middles of my life. The pictures help. Despite my acute overwhelm at the moment, I am thankful for old pictures.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving 16- Stories

I am thankful for stories. I grew up on stories, stories from books and stories from the lives of my parents and grandparents. Ice skating on the river in Czechloslovakia before World War I, picking cotton in Texas fields, hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor on the city bus just a few blocks away from my current office, falling in love over a tray of pecans at a faculty function... The stories that came before me go on and on and I add the stories that have happened to me and pass them on. More than blood, I believe stories connect us. I am thankful for stories

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving 15- My house

 I am thankful for my house. It has its problems, is messier than I would like too much of the time. Dishes in the sink, laundry in various stages of wet, clean, dry, put away, old wiring. It's on the small side for a multigenerational family of six and sometimes its crazy full of noise and activity. It is also rich with memories of thirty five years of family living - birth, death, birthdays, holidays, fights, dancing, meals, games of chase, homework, food preparation, love in so many forms. It is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, is not in a war zone, has food in the fridge and, at this moment, is full of sleeping people I love I am thankful for my house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankgsgiving 14 -play

 I am thankful for play. I just spent a couple of hours with my two three and a half year old grand children who are masters of play - cooperative, imaginative, friendly, spontaneous, only works if it is completely voluntary for all parties, has no purpose except the joy of it. Nothing is much better is sitting on bright green winter grass on a mild fall afternoon serving as base in a rollicking game of tag between delighted cousins. i am thankful for play.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Thanksgiving 13 - color

I am thankful for color. It thrills me, all the nuances of natural color that change as the seasons change - the infinite shades of blue sky can be, some limited to a given time of day or year. I love the indigo blue time of night that comes after sunset in summer and the white blue of winter afternoons. I love the colors of skin and eyes, all the rose and gold and blue and green and brown. I love the flashes of color in flowers, birds, butterflies, fish. I am thankful for color.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thanksgiving 12 - old friends

 I am thankful for old friends. We had supper wiith dear friends from college days, two kinds of chili and saffron rice, and conversation that jumped from stories over three decades. and am so touched and I think about the births, deaths, joys, and crisies we have shared graced to have them still in my life. I am thankful for old friends.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving 11 -hoplites

 On Veteran's Day I think of a word I recently learned (or maybe relearned) studying ancient Greece with KK. Hoplite - which means citizen soldier. I have known so many maen and women who took time out of the normal flow of their lives, who took risks, who took damage to protect their country's way of life. Too much damage in too many wars. And I know there will be more wars,...
and more needs for service and the little boy showing me leaves and feathers today may feel the need to take his turn in the long string of citizen soldiers. I hope he won't have to. And I know his countrymen will be as thankful fo this necessary service should it come to pass as I am for the sacrifices of those who served before. I am thankful for hoplites.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thanksgiving 10- Road trips

 I am thankful fo road trips and for my husband Bob who is great at planning them, this time birding in the wild dry jungles of south Texas, stopping at out of the way little stores for home made tamales, talking and talking with no clock ticking. That's my very favorite thing about road trips - the absense of time in any measurable form. I need that right now especially after the intense push before the election and all the everyday deadlines of school and work life.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Thanksgiving 9- Generations

 I am thankful for generations, behind me and ahead of me. I love that things as simple as putting bay leaf in stew which started before me will continue after me. I teach my grand children the names of wild flowers as my grandmpther taught me. I see and expression in a grandson's eyes and for a moment am looking into the face of his long dead grandfather. And it's not just blood. I see KK learning from Bob to make and keep calenders. Right this minute Liam is waiting in his room for me to play "little people" with him, very much along the lines that I played it as a girl. I am thankful for generations and also for physical proximity to the generations which follow me.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thanksgiving 8- Sleep

I am thankful for sleep. it still feels magical to go to bed tired and fuzzheaded and wake clea, fresh, and confident. No matter how well I understand the physiology of sleep and rest, the overnight restoration still seems like a miracle. I am thankful for sleep.

Thanksgiving 7 - Knitting

Thanksgiving 7- I am thankful for knitting.  I love the predictability of it, the ability to choose color, texture, design and produce something with reasonable reliability which at least remotely resembles the intended result.  When I am overstimulated, overtired, anxious, and so much in life is out of my control, I can pick up my needles and knit, purl, knit, purl and lose my anxiety in the rythm of it.  I am thankful for having a portable way of calming myself which actually produces objects of beauty and warmth.  I am thankful for knitting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Thanksgiving 6 - Community

Tonight I am thankful for community.  I've been part of some good ones.  Tonight I'm sitting with a happy group who has worked hard for the election of a President who we felt would best govern our country.  I'm hearing the laughter of tired happy people who didn't know each other three months ago and have worked hard together, building respect and friendships, some of which will last.  I've been part of some other  great communities, some which created, some which mourned, some which explored , some which studied.. We humans, even introverts like me, have a tendency to connect when we have troubles, joys, or work to do.  I love that about us.  I am thankful for community. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Thanksgiving 5- American Democracy

Thanksgiving 5 - I am thankful for American democracy, imperfect as it is. Bob and I have been working hard for our candidate, and that has put us in touch with so many people, those who agree with us and those who don't. Despite the hype about negativity in politics, I've been talking to so many people who take their vote and their responsibility seriously, who study the issues, who care. I feel energized and more patriotic than I have in decades. Whoever is elected President. I am thankful for American democracy.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Thanksgiving 4 - My beloved dead

    Today, in Catholic  (and Episcopal and  I think other Christian)  tradition, is All Souls Day, the day the beloved dead are honored and named in mass.  I am thankful today for all my beloved dead, those who were central to my life and those whose large lives shadowed and shaped mine.  So much of what I've learned was taught by those no longer living. (And yes Mort, Real is still better than perfect.)  I think  of Jim who was a gentle date for a shy sophomore and who sang Old Man River  with a voice as deep as yearning and who died of a bee sting while mowing his lawn - poof - just gone.  I remember my grandparents, especially Anna, who knew hardship and loss upon loss and who offered only love.  I think of the martyred heroes of many causes, of the song about "Abraham, Martin, John, and Bobby" Of course I remember Kerry, and am so thankful for first love, the commitment of young marriage and the joy of building our family together.  I still see our girls through your eyes sometimes, love, or think I do, and my own eyes fill with tears.  I think of Ruth's baby Mira, who died unborn and whose textures I never  knew.  And my own parents who shaped my life, who welcomed and taught me.  And of course Heidi, beloved sister and friend, most recent among my own beloved dead.  Your brand of courage was different than mine - and wore a radiant smile in the hardest times.  All of you and so many more (Mary Ellen, John, Paul, Lou,  Mary, Dolly, Diane) taught and touched me and I miss you all .  I am thankful for my beloved dead. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Thanksgiving Three

 I am thankful for a life that spans centuries. Not only am I thankful for having lived in good health into my sixties, but especially for the timing of my life regarding change in the world. I remember standing in my mothers "modern"with my grandmother, who walked behind a horse drawn wagon as much as a hundred miles when her family moved from tenant farm to tenant farm. Cool...
in the air conditioning, we placed plates in the dishwasher, had just taken clothes out of the electric drier, and of course could stay up late because of electric lights. We could check on family members quickly with the telephone and didn't need to worry about having enough ice in the summer. Our world was full of "modern conveniences" and I remember saying to her that I just couldn't imagine how there could be more big changes in our way of life like those that had come about im her life time. Man was I wrong! I find it disturbing at time to have a clearly twentieth century mind in the twenty first century, but I like being along for an amazing ride. I am thankful for a life that spans centuries.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Thanksgiving 2 - since it is the second day of November and I want to keep the pattern. I am thankful for erasers (As in perfection is impossible. That's why pencils have erasers.) I am thankful for the paraphrase, second and upteenth chances, the benefit of the doubt, a little leeway, forgiveness, each new day dawning. Given human imperfection, I am thankful for every option we have to start over, try again, keep on keeping on. I am thankful for erasers.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

November first - beginning of gratitude month posts

Thanksgiving One - I've been noticing the Thanksgiving posts beginning to show up on Facebook and I have been neglecting this blog terribly.  I don't like neglecting the blog and daily gratitude posts seem like a possible way to jump start, but not simple.  I want to join that flow of conscious gratitude.  I've done gratitude lists so many times they almost seem trite, and yet being thankful is never trite.  I find myself a little stuck about how to proceed. So many blessings, so many good people in my life, so many resources, so many moments of beauty, learning, unexpected delight, such a great safety net. And I laugh at myself  for over thinking and list my first blessing - I am thankful for my own cognitive complexity. Though I can think myself into a corner and have plenty of times, I can also think myself out and can enjoy many facets  and aspects of the world of the world. I'm thankful for seeing through my own eyes, filtering through my own mind, being myself in this world.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 26

I know this is an odd one, but I am thankful for grief. This is one of those days when i've heard of several deaths, either just occured or soon to occur. Love is so intense, and loss so painful. I belief grief is the normal developmental process through which our losses first become real to us and then become less central to our lives. It is a wave form, like being in the ocean in a hurricaine at first, swamped by giant wave after giant wave, with no recourse except to be washed through. In time the ocean camms down, bu the occasional big wave still hits. I don't believe that without grief I never would have accepted Kerry's death or found a way to thrive without him. i am thankful for grief.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Eleventh anniversary of September 11 attack  - hard to believe.  Time passes really fast at my age.  Zachary wasn't even conceived that day, or just barely - and he's ten, jas lived only in a post 9-11 world.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tonight I rediscovered a woman I went to graduate school with.  We were in her home for an Obama phone bank.  I remember her wedding.  She's still married to the guy she married that day.  It's amazing how much older we all are, and also how much she seems like she was then - efficient, effective, outgoing, together, upbeat.    She has a lovely home with a beautiful pond full of fish out back.  She remembers me too.  I wonder if I seem as natural extension of the young woman in her memory as she seems of the young woman in mine.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Long work day. Good work day.  It is still mild for the end of August.  Last year was so hot and the wildfires out toward Bastrop were about to start burning.  Now the forrest they burned is beginning to come back.  Not the houses.  I'm thinkng about what comes back and what doesn't. what is destroyed for good and what can't be.  I'd like to think human  relationships can always be restored, but experience shows me that too often they are not. Health cannot always be restored.  Nor youth. Trust can be restored but it takes both work and willingness to accept the change created by the work. Order can be restored almost always.  Peace of mind can be restored.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I've missed a day, and that's alright, just don't want to miss too many, want to build the pattern back.  Yesterday morning, in preparation for the High holy Days, Liam and Ruth marched into my bedroom blowing trumpet and shofar to wake me from any late summer drowsiness.  I love this tradition of thinking about becoming more awake each year as the seasons turn.  What do I want to be more awake to this season?  Mostly kindness, and patience in myself - calm in face of deadlines and schedules - more tenderness to those with whom I live and less need for reassurance..

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One more day and I want to post here again, though I don't have great things to post.  Only habit builds habit, and I want , as I wrote last night, to restore this blog, not to lose it.  I can write tonight that we have had rain two days in a row and the temperature probably won't reach 100 this week.  Maybe it won't get that hot again this year.  Or maybe it will.  there is definitely a sense of summer ending.  School starts here in a week and the teachers are already back.  All of my grandchildren have school supplies and most of their school clothes.  Liam and Drea are both going to preschool this year, first time for him and starting up again after summer break for her.  Both seem excited.  I bought several fun little school dresses for Drea at Savers, my favorite second hand store, and Liam chose himself several plaid shord sleeved button front shirts at the same store.  That style seems to be his trademark. He dresses like his Daddy, which makes for some great pictures both mental and photographic.  Life is good in our house tonight.  Ruth is working on photographs she took at a bridal shoot today (not a wedding but just phtos of the bride)  This is especially cool because the bride was one of Chris' students his first year teaching in the high school in Jourdonton, a small town south of San Antonio.  She kept up with Chris, and now is teaching in Round Rock, just north of here, and about to marry.  Continuity like that feels good to me.  Bob is out at the kitchen table printing out English language materials for the refugee program wiht which he volunteers.  Liam is sleeping and Chris is reading.  This time next week KK will be back in her little house, probably NOT sleeping since school will start the next day.   

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rabbi Monty made a call for poems to share at high holiday services, which got me reading through this blog looking for, and finding a few, poems.  I've been letting this blog languish, but I don't want to let it die.  Reading back to when I started it in 2005 feels good.  I want there to still be words here seven years from now.   I  want to be alive then, but who know.  I want to be writing as long as I'm alive.  It is storming out - a good thing in the summer.  Summer is almost over.  next week this timekk will be back to start her sophomore year.  Today has been odd, off kilter, maybe because of the storms.  We saw a bad accident on the road in an earlier rain storm.  A donut truck hit a biciclyst and firetrucks came to the rescue.  It was scary to see.  I hope the cyclist lived.  We were on the way to swim with Liam in Annalyn's indoor pool.  It was so amazing to watch him really swim, put his head willingly under the water again and again, kick, and reach and pull with his arms.  That part of the day was not unsettled, just very happy.  

Saturday, July 07, 2012


is how I feel tonight, at the exact time of Kerry's death anniversary.  All the angst i felt earlier in the week just peeled away.  I don't entirely understand how or why.  Tonight there was a memorial service at synagogue for a woman of great standing in the community, one who was clearly adored by and adored her husband of many years.  They were loved and she is mourned by many old friends in the community.  Seeint that sweet connection in a time of death was good for me, healing.  Everyone has losses.  Sometimes I think I feel most connected to other people through the universiality of loss. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Death Anniversaries

are wierd.  I remember as a kid resenting that my mother always remembered her parents' death dates and got sad and wanted me to be sad too.  I missed my grandparents with a kind of gentle low level sadness, but I just didn't see the point in keeping track of death dates.  Remembering birthdays was hard enough.  Then my first husband, Kerry, died on July 7 when I was thirty five - almost thirty years ago.  And now I understand.  Everything about the beginning of July, the fireworks, the feel of the air, the colors of the few remaining wildflowers, the angle of the afternoon sun, remind my body of the week the bottom fell out of life as I understood it. Some years the feeling is mild, just a little melancholy I barely notice.  Some years, and this year is one of them, it packs a wallop.  The remembered pain, reverberating pain, of my first central loss has nothing to do with my happiness in my current marriage (which is great).  I feel sad for the young man who never got to be an older man, who never got to see the fine women the little girls he adored have become.  But mostly I think by now, it isn't even about him. This time of year reminds me that life as I know it can blow up again at any moment, and probably will.  I'd rather not think about that much.  

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moving the woodpile

Getting older is odd.  I moved a wood pile today - a big woodpile full of boards, some short and some maybe fifteen feet long.  They were heavy and it was not Texas hot, but warm all the same.  I got burrs in my hair and scratched up my hands and i was probably buch slower than my daughter would have been.  My body is tired tonight.  I am very happy to be in my bed in an airconditioned house with my lap top.  I know moving that wood pile was harder for me than it would have been ten years ago, but I moved a wood pile today.  I realize how lucky I am to be sixty one and alive and still able to move a wood pile and have people around with whom to work on projects we all care about.

Oh, there was treasure in the woodpile, a pair of gorgeous king snakes, each looking like a jeweled rope about four feet long.  I learned from Chris that femail king shakes have thicker bodies and narrower tails than males.  We definitely had one of each shape.  they were slightly different in coloration too, both with much glossy black, but he with a pattern more golden to apricot and she more golden to violet - such pretty snakes both of them.  We wished for a big aquarium for a minute, but it seems better to let them be wild.  I was pleased that Liam seemed to understand that snakes like these are beautiful to look at, not scary if Daddy says they aren't venemous, but to be respected as wild and not bothered or touched.

And on a funny (now) note, it is much easier to get burrs in your hair than I ever would have thought.  I had hundreds all over my body, head, and clothes at one point this afternoon.  It is also easier to get them out of long hair than I ever imagined.  If you ever have a mane full of burrs, don't panic and use an absurd amount of conditioner and a good brush.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Illogical reisistance to sleep

I don't want to go to bed and it's almost four in the morning.  I start work at nine and I have a long day.  This is more than slightly nuts.  At first I thought I was just enjoying a quiet house to get some writing done, but then I realized that I don't want to go to sleep because my sister in law heidi is having a Beta knife procedure to remove brain tumors tomorrow.  Odds are she will do fine.  I'm not even worrying exactly, but I think I have this "thing" that if I don't go to sleep the next day won't come and if it won't come nothing bad can happen.  DUh!!!!!!  THe only thing that will happen if I don't go to bed is that I'll be tired and do less of a good job tomorrow.  So good night.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Families are complicated.  At least mine is.  Two things are absolutely true.  People make mistakes and people love each other anyway.  When Joanna and James separated I was plenty mad at him and never expected to have much of an ongoing relationship with him.  I also had many sweet memories of him and alot of history with him.,  Today James was at our house to bury Joanna's last childhood cat, Stripers.  Stripers was born in James' lap back when he and Joanna wre newly in love.  Many things have gone wrong and right since then, but there he was in our yard today, crying as he buried the cat who had been very much part of the family life he and Joanna built and lost.  I felt respect for James and Joanna both for being able to be sweet and helpful to each other at the time of the death of their beloved kitty.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Quiet House Friday Night

feels just right.  Even though I only worked two days this week they were intense days and I'm tired.  I'm thinking about comments people I respect made on my post about talking about politics and religion - also about some Facebook comments on political posts which were just contemptuous and not on the content.  I don't understand why people go personal and ugly on complex topics that really require much discussion and thought - important topics that really aren't personal but universal.  It just makes no sense to me.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm just off a great little writing retreat with Bob in our San Antonio condo.  he wrote alot.  I wrote some, made my minimal deadline at least, and rested some, knitted some, continued to read The Streetsweeper , which I continue to love. Being back at work today felt good, productive.  Tonigh at dinner Liam just slid out of his chair and disappeared after having eaten a little.  When I went to check on him a few minutes later he was sound asleep in his bed.  Tired, I guess.  His sweet innocent spirit is so trusting.  He can just go to sleep whenever he feels like it and trust that the rest of us will keep him safe.  I guess we all felt that way as babies - lost it somewhere along the way.  Terrifying phone calls can rupture the night.  Houses can catch fire. The person lying next to one can just stop breathing.  Liam doesn't know any of that and I'm glad he won't have to for a while yet, probably.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


When Bob and I married Joanna was in fifth grade and Ruth in second.  Their Daddy had been dead about three years. One of the many things I loved about Bob was that he wanted a family not just a wife, and the fact that I came with two little girls was clearly a positive for him.  Before we married I read that creating a blended family took at least three years.  But of course that was for ordinary people, not for uswith oour high intelligence and vast knowledge of personal interactions.  Boy was I wrong.  It took us more than three years, maybe closer to ten, to really become a real family, deeply connected at all points, every connection independently strong.  It was really hard.  I was protective of the girls and of decisions I had made about how to raise them and didn't listen well to Bob's ideas at times.  Joanna was fiercely attached to the memory of her beloved dead father.  Ruth felt guilty she didn't really remember her Daddy, and yet fely guilty too about really bonding with Bob because that seemed like a betrayal of her sister (and maybe her Daddy?).  Bob  tried and tried through all of this.  He took us on wonderful trips the girls remember with delight.  He took them out on Wednesday nights one on one for yeras, working on getting to know each of them and giving them special treats.  He took great care of them when they were sick. He defended them against me when I was unreasonable. And somewhere along the way  it took and we really did become a family.  i am so thankful.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Breaking the Rules

        I think it's odd and wrong that "they" (whoever they are) caution against talking about religion and politics.  I can understand not being allowed to ask someone when she last had sex or what size underwear she wears, or even how she feels about her son's learning disability or if she ever regrets having married her husband.  Privacy and personaly boundaries do make sense to me.  But religion and politics touch the whole, all of us.  They are communal, not individual matters.  We're allowed to talk about the weather, which surely affects us in a daily way, but over which we have no short term influenc. We're allowed to talk about celebrities, sports, movies, fashion, games, all sorts of diversions and entertainments.  We're allowed to talk about ideas and theories in the abstract, at least, to build handles with which to grab at life's challenges and maybe budge some of them.  We are allowed, to some extent to talk about individual relationships and family relationships.  Often we allow ourselves to gossip and complain.  But when it gets concrete and large scale, down to talking  about religion ) our relationship to any divine foce that may or may not exist) or politics  (finding ways to get along locazlly, nationally, internationally in ways that work), there is that injunction.  Don't talk about religion or politics.

       It really bothers me.  We have more control over religious and political decisions than we do over the weather, and they affect us at least as much.  Surely they are more important than any form of entertainment.Talking about ideas in the abstract and focusiing on personal relationships is good, vital, helpful, but I need a bigger context, an openness about talking about the whole deal, human to divine to human to human to earth to animal to earth to the divine - all around in the big circle of birth and death.,  I can learn from people who disagree with me as well as from people who agreee.  There are so many obvious problems in the physical and interpersonal world, We need all our minds, hearts, spirits, bodies focused on solutions.  We need to be able to talk to each other respectfully and openly on all topics

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Food for thought

The real power of the majority is for their views to be so pervasive as to become invisible,
for those of us in the minority to not even realize when we're being wronged.

- Eric Scott

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It was a hard work day, for no particular reason.  I got home to help KK pack up to go to San Antonio for the summer.  I already miss her. I really honor Joanna for the way she loves KK enough to be away from her so much of the time so the kid can pursue her dance training.  I talked to Joanna this evening and she's working too hard, too tired, trying so hard to make life work for her family.  So is Tray.  Things are getting better for them, but I wish it weren't so hard.  

Ruth baked and decorated a beautiful little wedding cake to celebrate her twelveth wedding anniversary with Chris and, after she had photographed it and we had each had a delicious piece, she left it for a minute and Bob's dog (yes I do realise I'm not claiming connection here) ate the whole thing.  Very frustrating.  I know animals follow their instincts, but he does know not to eat off the table!   Bad dog!

I seem to have the blues tonight.  Two good things, a storm blew in and gave us a little rain and broke the heat.  KK's grades and state test scores all came in the mail and she did quite well - a relief on the standardized tests because she's just dyslexic enough to still find the reading of long tests tedious and tiring and they happened the same week as a major dance performance.. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trying again, again

I don't know what's with me and blogging.  I have had plenty to say, more and less important, and I just haven't been saying it.  I keep restarting and flaking out again.  So I'm restarting again and know that doesn't guarantee anything. But I want to write down what I want to write down and at least I'm typing tonight instead of  coming to this site and staring at a blank screen.  That's something. 

Random facts:

KK went to New York and sang at Lincoln Center and rode the subway to the World Trade Center site and saw the musical Chicago on Broadway and came home glowing in a shirt that says, on a black and white city scape, "New York Loves Me/"

Chris and Ruth have been married twelve years.  i asked his advice on marriage tonight at dinner and he said "Listen to each other."  and "Assume the other person has good intentions toward  you, even when you are fighting."   Wise young man.

The crepe myrtles are still bright and beautiful and lush even though its getting hot at hasn't rained for a week or so.

The office is more or less back together but the building still feels sterile.  That makes me sad. 
I hope we can shift the vibe.

Kerry's been dead almost 26 years.  He would love this technology age.  The early computers fascinated him.  i wonder who he would be today.  I never will know, never can know.  I remember him with great tenderness and, come summer every year, some sadness. 

I love being married to Bob, who also loves technology and who has shown me a world of wildness and travel adventures, birds, and a deep conviction toward social justice. He also takes really good care of me.

Life is hard and life is good.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


with thunder and lightening broke the stuffy heat this evening, but blocked the moon mostly and any chance of seeing meteors.  KK and Matt and  Bob I went to the Austin Smyphony  which performed with a choir tonight- heard Pslams in Latin and in Hebrew.  Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Pslams in H
ebrew was really beautiful to me.  There is a single boy's voice, representing the voice of the boy David who became king,  singing the Twenty third Pslam with just harp accompanyment against fierce men's voices singing about nation rising up against nation - very powerful with the yearning for oneness in the end.  I grew up on Bernstein - a cool coloring book about the intstruments of the orchestra with a record with him conducting in a pocket in the back cover.  I'm glad my parents exposed me to many of types of music early, even though I am  not musically talented.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Stilts and the Moon

I remember seeing stilts for the fiorst time in a book when I was pforbably four - red wooden painted stilts a boy was walking on - so tall!   I was impressed.  There was a pogo stick on the same page.  Anyway, there is a wonderful, calm, polite crew working on our office now -so different from last week.  They are taping and floating the ceilings and they work on STILTS.  I've never seen this substitute for ladders before and it thoroughly impresses me.  Their stilts are silvery metal, not painted red, and all seem to use them quite efficiently.

The moon was huge tonight - supposed to be even bigger tomorrow night.  I'm in a happy mood after a busy week, happy to have arranged reclaimed bookshelves to allow more book space in my office, happy to have so many of the ones I love safe and together in one home, happy KK is finishing up a great Freshman year in high school, happy that tomorrow Bob and I celebrate our anniversary.  We'll have to take advantage of that big moon.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

May baskets

Did any of the rest of you put them on your neighbors porches full of garden flowers when you were little?  I remember making the conical baskets out of construction paper, decorating them carefully, filling them and leaving them so happily.  I did it with my girls too, but the custom seems to have fallen by the wayside.  maybe next year with Liam.  There are several families withyoung kids on our street now, a regeneration of the neighborhood,  I thinkit's time for that kind of old sweet custom.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Crepe myrtles

are barely beginning to bloom.  I saw the first hint of color yesterday, brighter today.  They come on fast here as spring turns to summer and last at least into July.  The first summer I spent in Austin the courtyard below my window was brilliant with crepe myrtles, burgandy and pink.  They are summer's flower for me still.

Calm at the office today - still torn apart of course, but no problems, no new chaos, good conversations with friends.

I heard someone call my grandchildren's generation "natives" regarding electronic technology, and it's true.  It amazes me to see KK sitting on her bed whipping out Power Point slides for a presentation on jazz dance, so much access to pictures and information so fast on the web, and though she is not particularly tech savy for her age, she gets it done and with a naturalness that eludes me still.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Remarkably Calm in Chaos

describes my mood all day. The ceiling removers left a terrible mess. We had to put our offices back together from a really scrambled state. At least they didn't break anything. There is tons of work left to do to make the offices look finished and we were without power for a good bit of the day because the building's power supply was being moved from one wire to another. I fretted about what I would find in the office (and usually I don't fret these days) but I was so glad nothing was broken that I stayed calm and did my work, did my best to comfort friends who were more stressed out by the craziness. Even at home I'm staying calm and so is KK as she wades through the large mass of end of school year homework and show and test preparation. We're getting there. The thing that upsets me the most about the ceiling removal is the lack of honesty on the part of the company that did the work - giving us completely erroneous instructions about how much we needed to do to move our stuff and protect our offices, and about things like whether they would put the lights back in. The particular mistakes they made will be fixed, but I feel a little less positive about and safe in the world seeing such dishonesty and poor workmanship being practiced. On the bright side, Liam, who speaks estraordinarily well for three, does still have some cute combined words. My current favorite is "perjellium" for "petrolium jelly". I'm increasingly respectful of the way Bob spends his retirement. Today he worked on setting up a library at the refugee education center where he volunteers and tomorrow he'll be at the parents' dance guild meeting for KK's school. In between he's entering data for the Obama campaign, working out steadily at the gym, caring for Liam parts of three days each week, and reading lots of high quality books. I still love my work, especially now as our office transition is clearly past the midpoint, but Bob does make retirement look good.

Monday, April 30, 2012


I had a great day with Liam, playing with knights on the floor, putting away laundry, fixing dinner, all the ordinary kinds of things that have always given me pleasure. I remember being the kid in that dyad wiht my Grandma Anna, doing all the ordinary things with great attention to detail and shared joy. I hope Liam remembers these days with me in the same way, or if he doesn't remember, has a feeling laid down of pleasure in the ordinary. I'm freaked out about going back to work tomorrow and trying to put my office back together after the popcorn ceiling removal, which apparently caused much more disruption than expected. I'm not even sure we'll have power. KK is pretty amazing right now - so vulnerable and so full of possibilities. I see her afraid every day about challenges in dance and school, trying to balance her happiness in her relationship with her boyfriend with her commitment to keep doing hard things well. Right now she has a lot going on with end of year testing and one last dance show - a couple of choir shows before new York, but she doesn't seem nervous about those. There's something different about her these days, a new reaching for maturity I think, a sense that she needs to grasp more responsibility right now, afraid or not.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back from a good birding day

Yesterday was really pretty perfect - sweet time with Bob and the wind blowing and the sun shining but not too brightly in my eyes - the sunscreen working. The birds were out and I've finally gotten a system of using both glasses and binoculars that gives me better views than I've ever gotten - coloring patterns Bob has long described that have and books picture are suddenly THERE on the actual birds. WOW! Pretty birds yesterday were indigo bunting and rose breasted grosbek, also two amazing reddish egrets, one in white phase and one reddish. The white one had all it's breeding plumage on and both gave us great views. Anybody who birds the Corpus area, try Indian Point. The shorebirds especially were numerous, close, and not skittish. We listened to Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad in the car -beautifully crafted as everything Atwood writes and also darker than I feel about human nature. I love the idea of different character's takes on classic stories (midrash in the secular world) and found the focus on the shift from matriarchal to patriarchal cultures fascinating, but the character of Penelope was such a martyr with such an edge that it bothered me. She could kind of laugh at herself, which redeemed her some. Bob liked her better than I did. I love that we can enjoy and discuss books together. This one is short - about three hours on audiobook, so good for a car trip. Today I expect to spend time with KK out in the little house while she does homework. She had fun yesterday at the poos with three teen aged boys including her boyfriend. She didn't get sunburned either. She does not melt when I can't see her. Definitely a Jewish moter stereotype here at times when it comes to things like sunburn. Supposedly the popcorn has been scraped off my ceiling at work and the office is intact. i'm still a little nervous about that. I took everything off the walls and packed up my crystals, statues, fetishes and such on Friday, hopefully safely. The crew hired to remove the popcorn came roaring in before I finished my last session on Friday, planning to work all night - loud and fast and a little scary. I hope they didn't break anything. I did sign another three year lease on the office on Friday. That part feels good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fresh start

I did calm down last night and ended up having some good quiet time in the little house with KK while she studied and I played computer games. Then Ruth and I had a fascinating conversation based on the book Quiet which is a research based and really interesting recent work about the nature of introversion and the contributions of introverts to society. Twentieth century America really put high value on extroversion - the loud, charismatic, quick deciding, alpha, life of the party kind, and confused introversion with shyness, poor social skills, anxiety, all kinds of things it's not. One of the characteristics the book claims belong to introverts is the tendency to be easily stimulated and overstimulated by the environment. That is surely me, and surely what happened yesterday. Those of you who keep reading here will probably be reading more about this book. This morning is softly cool before a warm afternoon. Bob and I are leaving for the coast right after work for a quick day of birding the end oof spring migration. KK will be going to the pool with friends tomorrow while we are gone and, with my morning freshness, it is easier to accept that she can put on her own sunscreen. "I'm almost sixteen." she reminded me, "I can put on my own sunscreen." And she's right. I think I'm overprotective about sun issues and this little redhead because I got such bad sunburns as a young girl before real sunblock was invented.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hard Day

It was a hard hard work day - always running late, running after myself, forgetting, chasing, got me home irritable and overstimualted, not quite able to stay balanced and kind with the family I love. I wish I were less anxious, less high strung, easier. I usually make up for my natural intensity with extra self management, but when I let the bottom fall out it really falls out. I sent myself to my room while the others are at the table, trying to gather. I guess I put myself in time out. Living with a three year old is good. Liam doesn't really lose it very often, but when he does I think he feels just like I do tonight and the result isn't all that different. There's something comforting in the universiality of emotion - something I remember from being around children.

Beginning again

I haven't been keeping this blog, haven't been writing the patterns of my days and nights during a spring that has been full of change and challenge. My office building, which is the home of so much of myself, is still undergoing remodel and the group of friends with whom I've long worked is rebalancing, roles and rooms shifting. It's thrown me way off, all this change - not tragic, not even bad. It's just been too hard to write about. I'm sticking a foot back into this blog. I want to dive in. I want to promise posts every day and quotes and poems and wisdom and insights. I know I'm not so good at keeping promises lately, especially to myself. So what I can say is I made this post. I'm sticking my foor back in. I hope to be at least knee deep by the end of the week.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I'm thoughtful tonight - thinking that the ordinary days are holy days - glad for my ordinary days, wanting to make each one holy. I enjoyed this last round of holidays. They are special too. I'm just ready now for ordinary day by day special as the light returns and hte days lengthen. Winter will get colder, but I am happy to know that the cycle is already building toward spring.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Home from our runaway - late after dinner out with Joanna. I loved being out in the air and the sun and even a little rain. Texas has a little salt lake I didn't even know about where you can sometimes see thousands of sand hill cranes and snow geese, hundreds of long billed curlews. We found the lake - off the beaten track, but not at sunset when we would have seen the birds come back in. We plan to go back for that later this winter. i think I am ready for new beginnings now.