Monday, December 7, 2009

Diamonds in the Sky

Crystaline sparklers floating,
Lacy fern-like stellar forms,
Delicate, fragile, fleeting,
Icy cold and breath-taking.
Lost in a moment--
Noticed by few.
Unable to withstand
A sigh at its beauty
As the dragon breath
Of its admirer
Melts it to oblivion.
Art in ice.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Harvey and I

James Stewart's movie, "Harvey" is a beloved classic. His six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch tall rabbit-style pooka was a comforting friend. If we are all honest with ourselves, we will admit that we all have at least one pooka in our lives, and maybe multiple ones. They may not be tall, and they may not be rabbits, but they are welcome invisible companions.

How can I say this? Well, there's a conversation that runs through my head almost continually. I've usually got someone I know in mind, and I am talking to them about something of interest to us both, usually explaining, and they are always very attentive and sometimes agreeable. However, sometimes we have arguments that I always win. It is very comforting either way. Why would this not be a pooka?

Sometimes my pooka is not someone real, or at least historically present to me. Laura Ingalls Wilder and I have had conversations. Jane Austen and I regularly chat. Am I nuts? I think not. But my imagination is acquainted with all sorts of people whose company I enjoy. They are there to listen to what is on my heart.

As of this moment, I haven't met Harvey. But when he does come, we'll go out for a drink, I'll pick up the tab, and he will listen to my worries, hopes and silly anecdotes. Harvey and I will get on famously.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Things Go Invisible

Have you ever noticed, or in this case, not noticed how things seem to disappear from your attention after a while? They continue to exist, and be exactly where they have always been, but if someone asked you, you could never remember the details of what they are referring to. For instance, only recently did I actually look at my mouse pad and discover it was a Max Payne mouse pad. I never noticed before, and someone had to explain to me who Max Payne was. I don't know where this mouse pad came from, but it's been mine for quite a while now.

My husband used to have a picture from a coloring book tacked on the wall next to his desk. Our daughter colored it when she was five. It stayed hung up there until probably after she was fifteen. It wasn't that we were so sentimentally attached to this picture. We just stopped seeing it.

Once one of the kids made a piece of "art" and I hung it on my wall. It was just a toilet paper tube on a string. It literally hung there on the family room wall for years! Finally a good friend asked me why I had a toilet paper tube on my wall since forever, and I really didn't know what she was talking about. I looked, and there it was, suddenly visible again.

It can be a dangerous thing to set something down "temporarily". Years later, there it still is, and you still don't know where to put it.

As I reflect on this post, I'm wondering if it says more about my lack of observation, or my lack of housecleaning! Probably both. I can look at a layer of dust for a long time before it bothers me. Same with cobwebs. You can brush them away. They come right back. Almost as fast as finger smudges, unwanted refrigerator magnets (these are different from wanted refrigerator magnets), and clutter on my kitchen counter.

I keep telling myself that someday I won't be so busy, or so tired, or so preoccupied. The truth is that right now I don't feel like fighting the futility of having everything just-so. Someday, just-so will be something I may fuss about, but in the meantime it's easier to just let things fade away into invisibility.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Great pairings

peanut butter and apple slices
donuts and cider
ham and horseradish
chocolate and coffee
cold turkey and sweet pickles
water chestnuts and bacon
warm apple pie and vanilla bean icecream
refried beans and cheese
toast with cheese and tomato slices
cheese and crackers
popcorn and rootbeer
mashed potatoes and gravy
fish and chips
hot dogs and mustard
corn chips and guacamole
vegetables and ranch dip
cantaloupe or honeydew melon and prosciutto
poached eggs on toast
chili and cornbread
kahlua and cream
strawberries and whipped cream
tea and shortbread
bubble and squeak
corned beef and cabbage
bagels and cream cheese
raisins and peanuts
macaroni and cheese
shrimp and cocktail sauce

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday Musings

One out of three people
Are out at the mall.
So says the papers
If you believe them at all.

The ads showed great bargains
Of things to be had
And for those who get them
I am exceedingly glad.

They stood out for hours
In lines without number
Waiting for cool stuff
More important than slumber.

They played by the rules
And did their line duty
To earn their whatever
That was the prize booty.

Am I missing something?
What is it I don't see?
There is no appeal in this
For a person like me.

I don't like the crowds
Or searching to park.
I don't like the noise
Or getting up in the dark.

I don't like long lines
And standing long hours.
To put up with all that
Must take super-powers.

So until someone shows me
Just what I can't miss
I think I'll just say,
"I'll pass on this dish."

I'll stay home in my bed
Where it's warm as toast
And get up at seven.
I like that the most.

I'll be glad for the people
Who don't want it that way.
I'll do what I like
And they'll do as they may.

I won't rant about greed
Of the other side
'Cause that might reveal
My own earthly pride.

So if you enjoy shopping,
Then go have a blast.
And I'll stay at home
Till this hour is passed.

And when you get home
I'll feed you your dinner
And we can discuss
Who's the biggest winner!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Marshmallows and Marbles

If you microwave a large marshmallow for thirty seconds, it gets the size of a softball, is soft and gooey and shrinks as soon as you open the door. Makes a nice little sweet tooth snack it you're into marshmallows--which I am currently. Microwaving it for thirty-five seconds makes some of the sugar caramelize on the plate that you had better have put it on first, and then when you open the door and it starts to shrink and cool, it also hardens like concrete on the plate. You can only get it off by letting it soak in water. I'm going to try thirty-two seconds next!

Marbles are very handy for science experiments, especially when you are trying to teach Newton's three laws of motion. I made some ramps out of some one-inch wide curved trim to run marbles down. If you set the two ramps up facing each other, you can get some really nice illustrations of "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Marshmallows are great for science, too. I used big and little ones together with toothpicks to makes models of water molecules. Then it's easier to explain chemical bonds, hydrogen bonds and why the heck ice floats. And when the explanation is over you eat your demonstration.

I'm very happy at the moment. Today I taught three sciences classes and a logic class. They all went well. The balloon rocket rocked, the tennis ball really pinged the ping-pong ball, and the marbles stayed on track. Now I am on a teaching break for one full week. It's enough of an excuse to microwave another marshmallow to celebrate.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bathrobes and Slippers

In the clamor for excitement, fame, and wealth embedded in our culture, there is a still small voice whispering for peace and comfort. I'm not talking about hedonism here, but simplicity, tranquility, and time for reflection. If we don't plan time in our day for this, the voices of the urgent must-dos will drown out this plea. I never get enough of it. I think that is the bottom line about why I don't like getting dressed in the morning. It signals the beginning of the mad rush and bustle, which won't end until I slide under the covers and reach for my current book projects in the evening. There is something inside me that resists plunging in, and holds it off until I can delay no longer. It is a battle, and the armor to fight it is a thick, warm bathrobe and fluff-lined slippers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sleepless in Ypsilanti

My eyes are wide open,
And I just can't sleep.
It's no use groping
For those woolly sheep.

They just jump the fence,
Whate'er their number,
And I lose the chance
To get some slumber.

There is no caffeine
That's keeping me up.
I swear you've not seen
Me slug down a cup.

I didn't doze off
Through the afternoon,
Which would be enough
To seal my sad doom.

I don't have a book
Too good to put down.
Perhaps there's a crook
Stealing sleep in town!

So I'll write my rhyme.
The dull hours tick by.
Perhaps in good time
I'll figure out why.

Pilgrim Reflections

Shiv'ry bony fingers clasped together,
Shawls tucked close to shield from blasts of weather,
Huddled heads bowed down to give thee due praise,
As well as hope for brighter, future days.

Some still weak from sickness and starvation,
Some oppressed by death's heavy oblation,
Many lives gone for the sake of others,
Hoping for freedom to worship as brothers.

Pilgrim settlers and the noble red man
Gather together as one united clan,
Sharing meager crops grown with native skill,
Venison and turkey, to eat their fill.

The starving time is behind us now.
For what lies ahead will be grace enou'.
Look not to the graves of friends departed,
But on this endeavor which we have started.

Trembling with fear, hope, anticipation
At wond'ring weakness of an infant nation,
Hoping for justice, prosperity and peace,
May our longing for righteous life never cease.

Only with you, Lord, guiding our fragile lives
Will we run the good race and win the prize.
Your vast blessings may we never forget
So that our newborn land may please you yet.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lamborghinis, Lions, and Prayer

I often think about the sign over the chapel at Domino's Farms. It says something like, "Prayer takes time and saints pray and get more done in less time." That is my lifeline these days. God honors that. I give him time I don't think I can afford for prayer, and he inspires me to do better in less time than I thought possible. Today was a good example.

Last night a slogged through creating an exercise for the students to practice identifying direct objects. It was woefully, grindingly, wearisome to write and equally dreadful as a boring grammar lesson. It will have to do, I concluded, and went to bed.

This morning I woke up and began my prayer time. As often happens, right in the middle of prayer, I got the inspiration I needed for direct objects. Who would have thought that God cared about making direct objects fun? My first thought was whether I could get it prepared on time, but my second thought was that it was inspired and I could figure it out. I wrote out most of it while I ate my breakfast, instead of reading the Wall Street Journal, which didn't happen to be available that day because Jack had already taken it with him to work.

I was easily ready by class time, energized to teach, and eager to see the surprise and delight on each students' face. I announced that for each of the 26 students, I had 26 sentences with direct objects in them. I was going to go around the room and read a sentence for each student. They were to identify what the action was (the verb), who was doing the action (the subject) and who or what was receiving the action (the direct object). The response to these directions was less than enthusiastic, but within three sentences the whole class's attention was riveted on what the next sentence would be. It was hard to wait for their turn.

So what was inspired about that? Well, each sentence made a story, and the students were included in it. And of course Star Wars blasters, a mountain lion, and a Lamborghini helped. God does care about direct objects, and he does have a sense of humor.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Speaking of an avalanche of whoas, where did the week go? Whoa. Slow down. But it's been a good week--busy, productive, not too hassled. And the best part: I hardly have any homework to correct! That means, yes, you guessed it. I have time to rake the leaves. That might not sound so hot to some of you, but I've hardly been outdoors since September. Today, I walked the dog for the first time in about two months. It was a glorious sun-shiny day, which is remarkable in November in Michigan. I'm hoping for the same tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Avalanche of Woes

Did you ever notice when things begin to go wrong, how hard it is to get things going right again? It's like a little meter that usually points straight to "honky-dory", but then you get close to a "shit happens" anode and you can't get the little bugger to swing its arrow back around to happy-go-lucky again. The harder you try to restore the machine to its smoothly running purr, the more it coughs out breakdowns, puss and irritating little hassles. You turn to something else and that bolts into confusion, disorder and outright rebellion. By this time you're ready to kick somebody in the nuts, but there's no one available, or they don't have the appropriate body parts.

If you're in command of yourself at all by this meltdown, you will remember that you have a lovely assistant standing by: grace. She doesn't get bothered by stinky excretions or look for victims to assail. She doesn't use words like "shit" or "nuts", but calmly soothes the annoyances and coaxes the nerves to stop jerking like they're electrified. She is never out to lunch, but is standing quietly by, shaking her head in amusement that you have once again forgotten her.

There is always enough that can go wrong. If you are in an avalanche of woes, grace can turn it to an avalanche of whoas.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I Should Be Outside

Balmy November days are hard to come by. I did get outside for a few minutes, but it wasn't long enough. It felt good though, like getting dressed after a long illness and tottering around the house. You realize how much you miss small things when you've been knocked out for a while. I haven't been sick, but I have been way too busy--not taking time for inner renewal, although daily prayer is what keeps me going.

It makes me realize that it's not too late to enjoy today. So this is all. I'm going out before the sun goes down.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It Ain't Easy...

to be a Michigan fan.
to write poetry.
to be unique.
to juggle work, home life, recreation, and the unexpected.
to balance the budget.
to get older.
to take care of myself
--to eat right, to exercise regularly, to get enough sleep.

to cope with dreary November days.
to be creative.
to correct homework.
to remember birthdays, other than my own!
to find the perfect gift for someone I love.
to make a phone call when I don't hear well.
--not to mention watch a movie, follow a conversation, or keep the kettle from burning dry.

But I'm not complaining. Challenges are good.

This post ain't much, but my well's dry. See ya.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lovin' Those Students

I made them write poetry this week. In iambic pentameter. One young man submitted a piece that was all "shoot 'em up" and blowing things to smithereens--in the land of Iamb. I made only one comment. See below:

You made me laugh!
You made my smile.
Your verse is half
Nonsense and guile.

(His poem made my day.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Four Minutes and the Clock is Running....

Another dash around week. The kind where using the bathroom is what you do in your spare minutes, and you stop having hot drinks because you know you won't have too many spare minutes. And where you start deciding what just won't get done, instead of when it will get done. The kind where you pray that you won't forget to bring so much that you don't have enough to work with to improvise around the stuff you forgot. It's one of those weeks where each day is crammed so full, when you think back on what you were doing in the morning it seems like three days ago. And now I only have one minute left out of the four I decided to devote to my blog. Just enough time to proofread. Gotta go.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reaching for the Sky

As I look out my window into the woods I notice a tree that has annoyed me for years. It was pushed over by a storm so much that instead of standing at a 90 degree angle to the ground, it is more like at a 45 degree angle. I was going to cut it down, but my kids begged the woodsman to spare the tree, since it would be great fun to run up and down the trunk. So I did. I don't know how much running up and down happened, but in the meantime it has tried to adjust to its new posture by sending branches straight up from the leaning trunk. The only real way to secure its future, though, is to send branches straight down that will root and support the lopsided hulk, banyan-tree-style. Its genetic code doesn't allow rooting branches, so it is indeed doomed to someday fall.

The tree is a good reminder to all of us to reassess our posture from time to time, to make sure that we are erect, not just physically, but mentally, spiritually, and even politically. The trick is the balance. Sometimes something pulls on us, and we lean the other way to resist being pulled over. When the pull ends, though, we must stop resisting what is no longer there and right ourselves again. Otherwise, we are in just as much danger of falling over as we were when the strain began. Like the tree out my window, when the wind stops pushing us where we don't want to bend, we straighten up as best we can and reach for the sky.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Loving' the Drummin'

The cymbals are laughing, the drums are a euphoric thumping in my ears, the beat is fast and furious, and I'm lovin' my son's drummin'. The sound is organic; it has a life of its own. It is frantically happy and joyously alive. It insists on celebrating.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cultural Bird Droppings

Many things are strictly American; bumper stickers may be right at the top. They are an interesting phenomena: pithy statements that give insight into the values, interests and loyalties of the car owner. The subject matter varies widely, and the number a single vehicle sports gives a clue to the vehemence of the driver's opinions and passions. They range emotionally from humorous to in-your-face aggressive insistence. Sometimes the combination of numerous ones on a single bumper reveals the thoughtfulness (or lack of it) in the person's views. Some never fail to irritate me for their sheer superficiality--like COEXIST, written in all different religious symbols, or VISUALIZE WORLD PEACE. Of course, a very clever person followed that one up with VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS--what a hoot.

The one thing about bumper stickers that I find most curious, it that they happen to be on car bumpers. You may ask, "Well, where else would they be?", but that is not what I'm getting at. There is a quasi-anonymity to posting something on your car. You get to have your say, and no one can talk back. Other drivers only get a brief moment to read them, and then the opinion-expresser has turned the corner, never to be encountered again. Yet, there you are, with that person's opinion splattered on your brain, as messily as a bird dropping on your windshield. You can't retaliate if you disagree, so it just sits there and annoys you till you wipe it off.

Rude and profane ones only reflect back on the person posting them. Somehow it doesn't make me want to introduce myself. One is always wary with a person who intentionally and belligerently lays it out there. It is my observation that in the political realm of bumper stickers, the Democratic/liberal/rude/profane ones seem to out number the Republican/conservative/rude/profane ones by a ratio of at least ten to one. (I'm really being generous to the Dems by using that ratio, because off the top of my head, I can't recall any rude/profane conservative bumper stickers.) It makes sense--a liberal isn't as tied to traditional polite manners. A conservative by nature is more reserved. Each time I encounter a disrespectful, slanderous, or vulgar political bumper sticker, the feeling of getting pooped on returns, and that, my friend, is probably the exact intent of the individual who posted it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Armed But Not Dangerous

A few reflections I had while praying at Planned Parenthood this morning:

Planned Parenthood's maple tree leaves have black spots on them, about the size of a quarter. I couldn't help but think of Long John Silver's wrath when he found someone had dared to tear a page out of the Bible and put a black spot on it... Of course, lots of maple trees around have black spots on them, but I didn't notice any others before I saw them at the abortuary.

The maple tree closest to the sidewalk is starting to lose its leaves. I noticed a bird's nest high up in its branches--now revealed because the foliage that hid it is disappearing. A few feet below the nest something else is revealed: a paper hornet nest the size of a basketball is just over the sidewalk about three feet above the heads of anyone pacing and praying there...

I had a close encounter of the civil kind with a staff person at Planned Parenthood today. I recognized the man right away from an incident several months ago. It was just after the abortionist Tiller had been murdered, and since it was a first Friday, I had my time slot to pray outside the PP facility. With the national news making headlines about that event foremost in my mind, I warily arrived at the clinic and began my usual pacing back and forth between their yellow lines, praying my rosary. At a certain point this man, who could pass for Santa Claus if he grew his white beard a little longer, came out of the building, got into his car, and drove off. Not five minutes later he was back. Instead of going into the parking lot he drove around the circle closest to the building and then backed his car up onto the curb and parked. He was positioned so that as he sat behind the steering wheel he could stare straight at me. It was intimidation, I'm sure. I stared back and continued to pray, hoping that his intentions were only to keep an eye on me. It was a bit unnerving, but I finished out my hour and then left.

Today, the same man arrived and parked in the same place. However, he didn't just sit and stare. This time he got and out began to examine the perimeter of the PP building. Once he circled the building he began walking towards me. I continue to pace, but stopped as it was clear he was coming my way with me on his mind. When he got to the yellow line, he began to clear the fallen leaves off it with his foot. I said hello, and informed him that I was aware of the line and would respect it. He answered me very civilly, and although I couldn't pick up everything he was saying, the gist of it was clearly about the line. I told him I would write a note and leave it with our materials to let other volunteers know that they were wanting us to not cross the line. Then the encounter was over.

It felt odd. Clearly here was a person actively involved in an evil industry, and I just had a polite chat with him. When he was approaching me I had been walking with my hands in my pockets to keep them warm from the chill. We were both wary. Did he think I was armed? The thought certainly crossed my mind about him. And was I armed? I thought so. I was fingering my rosary: a weapon of Mass construction in my pocket.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Absolutely, Absolutely, Absalomy!

(In the midst of reading Absalom, Absalom, William Faulkner)

What was not expected in this novel adventure was the extreme longevity of rather rambling and sometimes incoherent thoughts and impressions of a person yet to be clearly identified, since the opus is written in first person, and the individual speaking often seems to change, depending on whether a new chapter is beginning; yet it all seems to flow one thought into another, till you've quite lost your way and are wondering where the beginning began, if there was one, and who was there and how they were feeling--whether it was the older woman urged on by the lateness of her life and the stirrings of her conscience to reveal dark and bitter past events, events that were unlawful to be spoken of, events that shamed perhaps or scandalized--that is yet to be revealed; or whether is is the young lad who comes as some sort of scribe to lay down on paper the troubled memories of an aging spinster, who may be wanting to clear her conscience or clear the names of long dead relations or clear the air of pollution from wickedness, treachery and deceit--it isn't clear. William Faulkner certainly possesses a vocabulary to be admired, an unlimited stream of thoughts, dreams, fears and anxieties, as well as revelations, ramblings and eccentric trivia that clutters memories and what really happened--if it can ever be known; and do we want it to be known, all the closed-door tragedies that have been sealed off so that wounds can heal, or just fester till death consumes what is left; do we want known even the tender intimacies that are no one's business but our own, the pointless mistakes that embarrass, the missed opportunities that we call regret; the lack of charity that if indulged in would have gotten us cannonized?

I struggle with Faulker. I am not nearly finished. I am not sure I understand what I have finished. I will keep you posted...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nothing Much

I'm working on a poem
As you can readily see
And it's not about too much.
Just non-thoughts from l'il ole me.

So perhaps we'll say this is
A shameful waste of good time
I'm not sure, though I can say
At the least I made it rhyme.

Oh, the things you can think up if only you try!

How did we get anything done, find anything out, get information disseminated, or fill odd moments before the Internet?

Today, I needed to get a science experiment to work, and it wasn't because my water wasn't hard enough. So, I did what everyone else does these days: I googled "how to make hard water", and voila, there is a recipe. Add Epsom salts--which I happen to have. My experiment now works extremely well.

Just before that, it was time for me to post my daily quote on facebook. The only difficulty was coming up with someone I wanted to quote. It has gotten to be a little bit of a challenge. Can I ever think of someone for whom google will have no list of quotes? Obviously it has to be someone well-known--not my next door neighbor. Today I quoted Winnie-the-Pooh. He has his own brand of endearing wisdom.

I'm teaching an animal taxonomy class. Ever want to blow an hour or two? Just go to you-tube and type in "animal videoes". Most of them are very cute or insane pets, but you can see a python swallow a small hippo, a stray dog rescue another stray off of a busy highway, and a tarantula eating a mouse. Sorry, John. Stay away from that one.

More and more the Internet comes up with new uses. Google calendar reminds me to water my house plants. Quicken pays my bills and balances my checkbook via on-line service. Letters are a thing of the past. I communicate by email, and miracle of miracles, caption telephone through an Internet service by Sprint.

Oh, the things you can think up if only you try! (quotation from Dr. Seuss)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where the Wild Things Go

OK. So I'm sitting at my computer typing away and using my mouse, and for whatever reason I happen to take a look for the first time at my mouse pad which has been there forever, but never been really seen. It has a James Bond type picture on it, and it says, "Max Payne--A Man with Nothing to Lose" and other things about a fugitive cop and New York City. It is pretty pathetic to use something like that and have its details so invisible to your notice. It is even more puzzling how it got there in the first place. Finally, I have no clue who Max Payne is, and not any interest to find out--not being a cop-show fan. Now a mouse pad is very utilitarian, but these days even the simplest of tools can come with personality. Since I use this computer way more than anyone else, it would be nice to have a mouse pad with something that better suits my tastes. Max could move over and make room for Jane Austen or flowers, or even a squid! My birthday is coming up. Hint. Hint. Max and the Wild Thing must go.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Too Cool for Comfort

I think I can honestly say I like all seasons, but there are reasons why some are less endearing than others. When the first chill of autumn hits, I have this regular epiphany: I don't like being cold. Perhaps that is why I have such a high regard and affection for quilts, fireplaces, and snuggling with another warm body.

Often the first cold days are worse than the deep-freezer frigidity of mid-winter. For one thing you aren't prepared. It is easy to get caught without enough cover, when you haven't had to cover at all for months. Most of us also have a cycle in our weight, and just like bears and chipmunks, it drops in summer and goes up as the temperature goes down. A little extra body fat is not always a bad thing.

Finally the effect of a blast of cold is much different than a blast of heat. Cold makes you want to ball up, to shrivel, to defend yourself. Heat makes you wilt, flail, and lie prone to whatever may hap to come along--hopefully an iced drink with a straw and a fruit garnish. With cold, you feel assailed, so you hunch over for the attack. With heat you feel deserted. All has left you: energy, will, and appetite. With cold you retreat to your den. With heat you escape to the beach and open, airy spaces.

So now the cold is upon us. My fingers are stiff as I type, and goosebumps prickle the skin on my legs. My toes feel frosty and the draft up my back tells me I have to tuck in again. The kettle should be whistling (if I could hear it), and hot drinks have become a bi-hourly respite.

And yet, the sun is shining on golden foliage and the clear brightness of autumn invigorates. A gusty breeze wafts a dazzling shower of leaves in the air, to swirl and twirl and litter the ground with a tawny carpet. Autumn has its joys and beauties. I love thee, autumn, but spring ranks foremost in my heart.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ode to the Jelly

I think the jelly-bellied cnidarian
is a respectable antiquitarian.
His longevity as a living phylum
Begs the opposition to give asylum.
Stinging tentacles give him the ascendance
over extinct but promising descendants.
To sting hapless prey is what those things are for
When you're a hungry Portuguese man-'o-war.
I could continue on to accentuate
the hollow-goo-intestined coelenterate.
Perhaps someday later I will follow up
by mentioning the cool groovin' child-polyp.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Packing My Bags

I am so tired I could fit a suitcase full of vacation clothes in the bags hanging under my eyes. The dark circles around them are reminiscent of day old bruises, and the effort to keep my eyelids open exceeds the gravitational pull on Mercury.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Rambling Viking Thing that I'm not quite satisfied with yet....

I'm beaten, I’m bruised, I’m battered sore
Beneath the blows of a raging Thor
Who raises hands with iron knuckles
And brings them down with brazen chuckles.
"I’m from the mighty Norse God of war,
I lust for battle, I lust for gore.
Bring me some heads to crush and trample.
Bring me some ale, I'll take a sample.
Bring me a fine horse to mount and whip
Bring me a longboat Viking ship.
I'll knock your heads about with thunder
Burn your village, rape and plunder.
Your life I'll take as a lowly slave
And you'll get blows if you don't behave.
And when I die, why you’ll come too--
To serve your Master is your due--
Aboard my ship--my funeral pyre
Made for sailing, made for fire."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wooden Head

I've got that blockhead feeling that comes with the common cold. Suddenly the front of my face feels full, and pressing on my sinuses feels good, but doesn't do much good. My nostrils are feeling sore and tender, even though I've only been wiping away drippiness for a few hours. It's a wooden head feeling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rain in Spain

They say it falls mainly on the plain. Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady, practices her vowel sounds endlessly. It seems she will never replace the "ow" with the "long a" sound. Henry Higgins ruthlessly drills her.

Writing teachers deal with similar issues. Today I drilled "they're", not "their"; "it's", not "its"; "too", not "to". And of course all the reverse combinations of troublesome homonyms. Accept and except are two word pairings that are continually confused. One could go on and on with all the regular words blunders.

I once had a student defiantly tell me in front of the whole class that there was no difference between "to" and "too". I respectfully told her she was welcome to her opinion about things that had some room for variations, but this was not one of those cases, and she was just plain wrong. Her defiance continued unabated, and so did her mediocre writing.

Become intelligently literate is as difficult as being able to perfectly enunciate language. So for now, I will continue with "here", not "hear" and "where", not "were", while the rain in Spain continues to fall mainly on the plain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's a Jungle Out There

I often reflect when outdoors that the natural world is a savage place. I live out in the country and am blessed with lots of outdoors immediately at hand. I also teach an animal class, where we spend some time talking about survival, and watching one species make dinner out of another. Animals eating animals is part of the cycle of life. However, it is more vicious than that! Plants are dog-eat-dog viciousness in slo-mo. I often imagine Virginia Creeper vines slowly wending their way up a tree, preparing to block out the sun and choke the life out of its hapless victim that is this moment giving it a leg up. Weeds sprout up and devour all the space, water, and nutrients in sight. There is crowding and pushing and rough play everywhere you look.

When you think about it, a well-tended garden is like someone enforcing discipline and civility on plants. "OK. Tomatoes, stay in your cage. We're going to prune you up so you make some really nice fruit. Weeds, you weren't invited. Vamoose! Beets--we have a quota here. Only 25 plants per row. The rest of you are going to get thinned out. Sorry, we can't accommodate all of you. I gave you beans some nice poles to climb on. Use them and quit wandering into other plants' personal space. Now here's a nice blanket of mulch. It'll keep you cool and moist and slow down those weedy marauders."

Of course, if you wander far from the carefully maintained garden, you're back in the survival-of-the-fittest battle. There's more to watch out for in the jungle than jaguars. If you stand still long enough, a plant just might throttle you.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Do you display defiance
When subjected to learning science?
Are you full of wrath
When asked to do your math?
Are you prone to squirmin'
When asked to recite your German?
Are your teeth in a clench
When conjugating your French?
Do you find it unexciting
When laboring over your writing?
Let me just say it's prudent
To study if you're a student.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Iz So Tired

When you find yourself just staring off in space, and there is this low grade buzz in your head that has been there for a while but you just noticed it--it's time to hit the sack. When your thoughts keep circling like buzzards around a dead carcass, and you can't remember what you were trying to remember or why you needed to remember anything--it's time to call it quits. When someone says something to you and you hear the words but you can't put the meaning together because you're trying to just process the sounds of the words and meaning is beyond your brain's functioning level at the moment, it's time to stop trying to think and start trying to doze off. Some days are like that. You are too tired to know you are tired, and if you're lucky, some kind person will take you by the hand and lead you to your place of repose, tuck you in, and turn out the lights.

Good night.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Tired of Cooking

I am always so very glad
When I don't have to make salad.

I love guys as kitchen rookies
When they make those home-baked cookies.

Anytime give me a nice break
and grill a juicy sirloin steak.

Also whenever you're able
Fix me a fresh vegetable.

Think not that I don't like to cook.
Some days I'd rather read my book.

It's just you don't know how it feels
When you have made ten thousand meals.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pop Can Fizz

Do you know what's in that pop can fizz?
A pile of burps, that what it izz.
You drink it down and all the while
It gathers up into a great big pile.
And if you don't just let it out
It might come rolling out yer snout.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sop Story

I once asked a sponge to shop for us,
But he complained to me more and moreous.
It's not that I won't work.
From that I won't shirk.
It's just that I'm too plain porous.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

That Panicky Feeling

Sometimes you just know you're in trouble. You've over-committed. Your energy is over-extended. You're staying up way too late just to keep up with the details. You look down the long road ahead and realize how long it will be before the stress lets up, and that panicky feeling hits.

I know what that is right now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where Was I?

... when the Cuban missile crisis was underway? At home. I remember going by my mother's bedroom. She was by the radio listening and praying. It was one of the few times I ever saw her scared or praying.

... when J.F.K. was assassinated? For some reason we didn't have school that day. I was at home helping to make Christmas ornaments, or some similar craft project.

... when the Beatles came to the United States? I was at home watching them on television and laughing at their long hair. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

... when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? In a motel room. We were on vacation. It was particularly annoying that the Swedish exchange student with us kept ranting about how this was no big deal.

... when Apollo 13 was in trouble? I have no recollection whatsoever of this crisis.

... when the Kent State massacre happened? Still living at home with my folks. My sister, who was a senior in high school, had applied to go to school there. That was the end of that.

... when Nixon resigned. Who knows? It was such a relief though.

... when Mt. St. Helens erupted? I don't know exactly, but a work colleague who was in Seattle at the time told me about the mess it made everywhere....

... when an assassination attempt was made on John Paul II? I was at work at a Christian publishing company. We stopped everything to pray.

... when the Challenger blew up? Home with small children. My in-laws were in Florida at the time, and saw it happen.

... when the big Earthquake hit the San Francisco/Oakland area? Delivering a baby. Robert to be exact. He probably came out just as the quake was happening.

... during the first Gulf War? We had just moved into our present home. I made supper while watching the war every night on television. It reminded me of the Cuban missile crisis.

... on September 11, 2001? I was at home homeschooling the kids. Jack called from work and told me about it. That was the last of homeschooling for several days. People were numb from shock. The sky was eerily silent with no planes flying, except military ones.

... when the Columbia space shuttle disaster happened? Just getting ready to go on a day trip with Laura, and Jeannie and Ann Whiting. We talked about it and listened to the radio for a good chunk of the day.

Where were you when events happened that were big enough to make an imprint on your memory? What were they?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Frogs Don't Make Good Princes

Frogs are amphibians, and therefore cold-blooded. Kissing a prince should be a warm, mushy experience. I expect the frog's room-temperature body would be as corpse-like in feel as anything I can imagine. Who wants to buss a stiff?

They are also small and green with spots and bumps, and slimy. Not exactly the qualifications one would look for on a prince resume. Physiological oddities may have their attractions, but I would not call them charming.

One expects a prince to have numerous talents. After all, they spend their upbringing practicing sword fighting, jousting, playing instruments, and dancing. I can't imagine a more unbard-like song than the humble ribbit which the frog throat emits. Croaking is just not romantic.

Besides all that, they have rather fat bodies with ridiculously long hind legs and enormous webbed toes. As a dancing partner, they would not be easy to work with. Out of charity, one must make allowances, but there are some adjustments that are just beyond virtuous extravagance. Frogs' legs may have their delights--on the appetizer tray rather than the dance floor.

Finally, their wide-mouthed grin and long-tongued attraction to flies and other winged insects is a real put-off. Even if you could find it in your heart to feel friendly to a green guy, it is so disconcerting to be in the middle of an intimate conversation, only to be interrupted by a "thwip", as that impossible lasso zips out of his toothless mouth, followed by a decisive snap as his jaws clamp down on the hapless arthropod. Invariably the wings will stick out on each side, until that enormous "glug", when he manages to slide the disgusting snack down his throbbing yellow throat. He then reverts back to the wide-mouth grin without anything close to an apology. He can't help it! And there are so many insects out on full-mooned nights which invite the kind of intimacy to which I was alluding.

There are just too many allowances to be made for frogs to qualify them as bona fide royalty. Princedom can only bend so far.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


As I thought about getting charcoal started for dinner tonight, which I must do as soon as I'm done here, the meaning of the expression "to be grilled" came to mind. I'm talking about: "I was grilled by my parents about why I came in late." OK. So we're talking about being laid out on a rack to cook over red hot live coals. St. Lawrence would appreciate this. I'm just stumbling over comparing being questioned to the vision of human meat done to a turn. We use it so casually, but it is rather an extreme expression. Our language is full of grisly comparisons. We butcher the English language. We slaughter our rivals on the athletic field. In fact we annihilate them. It is so much more dramatic than just saying we played exceedingly well today, so much so that we hardly noticed anyone else was out on the field opposing us. Blah.

Now that I have that off my chest, I need to get ready to take portions of the dead carcass of some poor beast and lay them out over red hot coals. We will annihilate what remains of said flesh after I'm done grilling it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Truth About Truth

It isn't relative. It either is or isn't so. Pity people who don't get that. They are adrift in a lonely sea aboard a boat made of lead. They defy the meaning of truth when they individualize it. They have no anchor to hold on to. They are at the mercy of storms and raging waves, because they have no safe harbor. They may curse the waves and resist the wind, but with nothing solid beneath them, it is futile.

Truth is someone, not something abstract.

He is my biggest comfort.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Mad Scientist

No, this blog does not really start with an oxymoron--a scientist can be gleefully nuts. Anyway, I got to be one today, or at least pretend that I was one. My physical science class was learning about the atmosphere, and all the gases of which it is composed. So we made hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. That's cool enough as it is, but we didn't stop there. We actually put a match to the very flammable hydrogen, stuck some burning materials into the pure, fire-feeding oxygen, and then settled down with putting a fire out with carbon dioxide.

I never cease to be thrilled with the awe and excitement on my students' faces. They want to repeat the experiments, do them with the lights out, and write down the ingredients so they can show their parents the neat effects. There is nothing more satisfying to a teacher than opening eyes and minds to our amazing world. I love finding experiments that will thrill, inspire, and create that glazed mad look in a budding scientist!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lisa Pizza Pie

When I was a kid we called the current favorite food "pizza pie". Somewhere in the seventies "pie" was dropped. But I still often think of it as pizza pie, because of a memory from all the way back when I was in first grade.

My elementary school was only a couple of blocks from where I lived. It was only a couple of blocks from where every kid in the school lived. Consequently all kids were sent home at lunch time! And moms were all there with a nice hot lunch ready for us! And then we all walked back to school after lunch. Seems pretty amazing these days. I don't recall a single crossing guard either.

Anyway, all this is to say that when I walked home there was a certain boy who used to follow me and taunt me the whole way. "Lisa pizza pie!" he would jeer. He was bigger than me, but somehow I didn't feel threatened. In fact, I didn't seem to mind it at all. It was just this kid who thought my name and this novel Italian food went together.

What's funny is that I'm not sure I knew what pizza pie was. I can't tell you this boy's name either. I don't remember what he looked like. I don't know if he was in my grade. He must have lived in the neighborhood, but now he only lives in my memory, still calling out, "Lisa pizza pie" while I plod home for a steaming bowl of Campbell's chicken noodle soup or a peanut butter and jelly.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Head 'em Up and Move 'em Out

Rawhide is such a western classic. It was all about those good old days when Rowdy was cute, foolish and naive, and Gill was boss unquestioned. Tough weathered guys in huge hats dealt with every day crises like stupid stampeding longhorns, runaway stage coaches that always had a beautiful lady and a scoundrel on board, and saloon drunks swaggering and boasting their way to an early grave. They were hard men making life-and-death decisions with placid fortitude. Their aim was always deadly and their regrets few. They were too proud to show their irritation at greenhorns, too gentlemanly to take advantage of a distressed female, too stoic to shed a tear in tragedy. Life was one long ride through desolate terrain, and the only way to survive was to head 'em up and move 'em out.

Monday, September 14, 2009

My Baby Just Drove Off

Patrick got his driver's license today. Not two minutes ago he just drove off with my car on his first solo trip. He is going to school. He should be back by dinner time. I should be off my knees well before then, praying that he makes it there and back.

OK. So I don't go down on my knees, but I do pray, and I do worry. And children do grow up and drive off. He laughed when I did my standard "Oh, my baby," act, to show that he was growing up faster than I liked, and he looked supremely happy as he left me in the dust, staggered at time's swift passing. The story is so old. It is also so real, so painful, so sweet, and so relentless. I feel bowed down by its oppressive force.

Someday I'm going to drive off is a gleaming white chariot, chauffeured by my guardian angel. I'll be supremely happy, I won't be looking back, and my baby will wave as I drive off. It'll be good. He'll think that he still has all the time in the world, but his bright red wheels will be just pulling up to the curb. Life is that swift.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coming Up For Air

The school year is upon us. I've taught my first day of classes. The kids were great, the energy was there. When it was over, I was so tired and had no voice left. This is going to be one grueling year, folks. I may not have time to post as much. (Some of you are sighing in relief about that!)

It feels good to have over 100 students when your goal was 80. It feels good to have a whole new class to offer, even though it is still only 60% planned. It feels good to have an income again.

The downside is that it is going to take every ounce of energy I have to stay on track. I'm going to have to trouble shoot more than I like. None of my other duties are lessened--cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, finances, and hey, maybe some house-cleaning now and then!

If I seem harried, I am. If I seem distracted, I am. If I seem under pressure, remind me to come up for air.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Loss of Humor

I just read that Yale is declining to publish offending Muslim cartoons in a book that is precisely about those very images. The reason cited was that it was sure to result in a loss of life. That is definitely a valid reason--but it means for the rest of us that freedom of the press is diminished because of a perceived threat. It seems that freedom of speech is also on the defensive in numerous ways.

All this is to say that the Yale article brought to mind a little mocking antic we did as kids, not realizing that it had Muslim origins, nor to be truthful, that we were mocking anyone. Suffice it to say that it involved bowing and repeating the names of a couple of kinds of lunch meat. Although we had a lot of good foolish and childish fun, that antic is also lost forever. It would be considered offensive, even though as we performed it, we had no idea what the name of the religion was it offended, or even what the offense was. We only knew that all those funny Arabic characters in cartoons did it and we wanted to imitate Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd--none of whom seemed to be particularly attuned to ethnic, sexual or racial sensibilities. My latest quote posted on facebook will probably offend the elderly, even though a 90+ year-old man said it.

We laugh at things for a variety of reasons. Sometimes because it exposes our inconsistencies. Sometimes because it compares the incomparable. But sometimes we laugh so that life doesn't scare us. Let us not lose the ability to laugh. When humor goes, all that will be left is heaviness.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


My daughter is a lover of tea--and can probably take credit for the term "teaness". She seems to be the only one that uses it, but I have never heard it defined--a definite liability if it is going to catch on. So I am going to provide my own reflections on teaness.

teaness: 1. a condition or circumstances conducive to drinking tea, preferably chai. For example: The pressures of teaness became so intense, that Laura put the teapot on to boil. 2. behaviors associated with tea drinking. For example: Her elegant teaness was the main attraction of her salon. 3. the ambiance of restful, quiet repose associated with drinking tea. For example: Blissful teaness descended upon the room as the fragrant fumes of steeping chai pervaded the stale, tired atmosphere.

I appreciate the teaness of a quiet afternoon. The wafting perfume of flowery herbals particularly appeals to my need for solitude and reflection. Teaness, peace, and profound thoughts make wonderful fellowship. But when I want to get something done, I drink coffee.

Monday, September 7, 2009


As some of you may have noticed, I have been putting up quotes on my facebook page. It's been fun deciding who to quote and finding something clever, terse, or profound. It has also gotten me into a little trouble for not thinking long enough before choosing. I have spent more time this week than I planned on smoothing down ruffled feathers. So here's another quote:

"I never put my foot in my mouth. I just shove the whole leg in." --rambling lal

The irony in this case, is that it was somebody else's words (leg) that I was having to shove in my mouth. Lesson learned: if you quote someone, the assumption is that you agree entirely with every word that was quoted. If you just toss something out there because it is interesting and worthy of debate, you're going to find yourself wishing you hadn't.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Be Nice!

I remember very clearly my brother saying, "be nice!" to his toddler son years ago. He was playing with my toddler sons, and I haven't a clue what triggered the exhortation. I think about being nice a lot. The trick is figuring out when to be nice, and when you really should not be nice.

Do you question that there are those times?

As a parent, there are many times when you need to be kind, but firm. There is a kindness to nice for sure, but nice also implies pleasantness and friendliness. A screaming, kicking toddler isn't pleasant or friendly, and the firmness required will not be perceived as pleasant nor friendly to the little darling.

The adult world also has many situations which make being nice untenable. Outrage, indignation, and forceful objections to injustice are often appropriate, and almost never nice. Abuses of power, deceptions, and foul play cannot be addressed nicely.

Nastiness and sarcasm don't usually help when you encounter unniceness. But speaking rationally, politely, and to the point, which is usually helpful, does not always make it pleasant enough to be called nice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dreams Are so Weird

Normally I don't like hearing about other people's dreams. I try to avoid telling about my own. But sometimes they are so bizarre, you find yourself incredulous. What was my brain up to anyway?

This morning I woke up with the following dream clearly imprinted in my memory. I have become a princess. They are fitting me for a crown. The crown is really just very heavily starched lace in a ring. I am a little ashamed because I haven't polished my toe nails recently. They are jagged and get caught on the hem of my long gown. Suddenly I am in a bedroom interviewing Brigitte Bardot, only it's really my sister-in-law, Kris. She is gorgeous. We decide to have cocktails. There seems to be a bar in the bedroom and the bartender makes our drinks. I am given a three foot long straw to drink mine with. But as soon as I try, it turns into a limp three foot long chain of safety pins. At this point I wake up.

You have to ask what the hell that was all about! The only part I understand are the toe nails. I don't do them enough. They need doing now. Where is Sigmund when you need him? Of course, I think Freud was a little weird, too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Needing to Get in the Last Word

Why is it so important to be the one who says the last word? Is it because each statement wipes out the one before it? Or trumps it? Is the last word the tie-breaking victory goal? Each of these ideas backs up the conviction that there needs to be a winner in a discussion. It is so hard to lay that idea to rest.

Sometimes the last word is an attempt to get the other person to see that they are just plain wrong. It is not so much victory that is at stake, but truth. However, if you have already spoken the truth and it is contradicted, there is very little hope that a few more words will be just what is needed to convince. Usually every additional word only armors the hearer with more stubborn pride to resist. We don't like being shown that we are wrong.

One of the most emotionally charged discussions I ever got in was with my son, who in the end was infuriatingly correct. I finally admitted it, but said I really didn't like it! It involved a logic problem--something I put him on to as a kid by doing logic puzzles together. This discussion was humbling. I have since used this same problem in my logic classes, and experience a particular exhilarating glee when my students fall into the same trap I did.

There can be lots of reasons for wanting to have the last word. We should know what those reasons are, decide if they are justified or necessary or fruitful, and act accordingly. It may not give us the last word--but we need to realize it is always in our power to decide who gets it. It is usually a passive power. We have to shut up.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It's Been a Privilege... have lived during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Sorry, folks, if you don't like or understand him, but he was a great leader. He stood firm on the things that were most important, played a strategic role in the winning of the Cold War, and had an endearing sense of humor. have come into the Catholic Church shortly after Pope John Paul II became the supreme pontiff. He was a faithful shepherd and father of the church, an extraordinarily brilliant man, and a magnet for youth and zeal. His tete-a-tete with his would-be assassin touched the world, and his wily handling of the Communist powers in his native Poland was astounding. He truly was a superstar. have witnessed the magnanimous love of Mother Theresa. Her simplicity, directness, and boldness made her unstoppable. She knew what she was called to do and simply obeyed. She didn't flinch from the dirty, the contaminated, or the repulsive jobs in front of her, and to look in her face was to know what saints are made of. live in Ann Arbor since the early seventies where the Holy Spirit has moved a people in amazing ways. The world leaders like Reagan, John Paul, and Mother Theresa inspire billions. I have known people who have brought Christ to perhaps only thousands, hundreds, or tens. But they are faithful, single-hearted, and in love with God. Our parish is exceptional, because the Holy Spirit is doing some exceptional. We should never forget who is in charge there, and be humbled that we can witness it, participate in it, and move the kingdom forward.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I just had a wonderful conversation with my best friend. I'm so lucky to be married to him, too. Never has conversation been more precious to me. Never has it been more difficult to have a good conversation. As I sink deeper into hearing loss, every single word that gets through is a gem.

Picture sitting around the dinner table with everyone who is important to you. Only this time, pretend you are watching each one on television with the sound on mute. You can hear them but not what they are saying. You can't talk to them. They can't talk to you. You sort of know what they are talking about, but not the specifics.

Imagine being a source of irritation to people. Imagine everyone talking to you with their voices raised. Imagine people choosing not to talk to you because it is such a nuisance. Imagine listening to music you love and realizing it is kind of boring now because you are missing most of it. Imagine watching a movie and not understanding any of the dialogue because there are no captions.

Some of the most meaningful times in life revolve around good conversation.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Word to the Wise

is not wasted!

Always listen to input. It may not be justified, accurate, or fair--but it is telling you something about the person giving it. The more you love that person, the harder and deeper you should listen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fun Stuff

I am having fun planning my physical science class. Having poured through library books for cool experiments, I have come up with some real stumpers. My plan is to ask before each experiment or demonstration what each student thinks will happen. The very first class I'm going to do one that is so simple, ask me next time you see me, and I will show it to you. So far, no one has guessed correctly what will happen. Now that I've told you that, you are bound to think that your first hunch is wrong! So what is your second hunch? Just don't blab the results if I show you. The fun is in the surprise.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Word Choices

Language is complicated, flexible, and always in transformation. Being a speaker of English, I have tens of thousands of words at my disposal to use as tools to communicate. Besides the words themselves, the definitions behind them can be varied and nuanced. To accurately express a thought or feeling takes some time, skill and patience to come up with just the right word choices. Throwing punctuation into the equation complicates things even further, but necessarily. Spoken words are equally complex, in that they include volume, inflection, speed of speech, facial expression and attitude--all of which are the verbal forms of punctuation.

Bad speech or writing communicates just like good speech or writing. You know something about their author: Do they pay attention to detail? Can they spell? Do they care to communicate clearly, or do they presume their readers or listeners can read their minds? Do they communicate directly, or do they rely on sarcasm and innuendo, or hide behind jargon and popular opinion? Do they care if they offend? Do they consider the receiver of their words and take consideration of how they want their words received?

My father, a woodworker, always said "Measure twice, cut once." Users of language would do well to use a similar maxim: "Think, then think again, before you speak." The choice of words, how they are spoken, and consideration for who is receiving those words can make all the difference in how effectively and successfully those words communicate the intended meaning.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Those Things that Elude You

We all chase after things. Some things we catch, while others stay just out of reach. They seem like they are right there. A quick swish of the hand though, and we come up empty-handed. Whatever that was just escaped us again.

My desk is piled high with books, papers, notes, receipts. I've been making documents furiously for days. All my preparation for teaching trudges on and the organization that I so desire--I can see it ahead, outdistancing me again. Yesterday, however, it completely evaded me, slipping around a corner, vanishing faster than home-baked cookies! I wasted gobs of time trying to find a notebook. It would have saved me lots of time to utilize those notes. I had to proceed without them. Frustrated and angry at my inability to keep track of things, I had to re-do several hours of planning contained in those precious pages. Of course, the delinquent notebook will show up as soon as I have finished planning.

People around me think I am highly organized because I get the job done. Come see my closets. Come see the piles on my desk. Come see me banging my head on the wall!

The problems I have with organization exist mostly because I expect (unrealistically) that I can store and handle objects (books, science experiment supplies, boxes of photocopied materials) in the same way that I handle computer documents: neatly filed and ready to come when I identify them. But the bulky, oddly shaped, and non-uniform sizes don't file on shelves and in closets the same way. Furthermore, there is a presumption that there even is shelf or closet space!

I am currently reading a biography of the early life of Theodore Roosevelt. He studied to be a naturalist, and in the process shot, stuffed and stored lots of specimens. He was a rich man--so he just made a museum in his own house. He had a whole staff of servants to help him. Now that is pricey first-class organization! Bully for Thee! Jolly good!

I am not rich, so I have to settle for stalking organization, hunting it down, tracking carefully, and hoping in my excitement I don't scare it off. It is a wily creature, cautious and nervous. Any false move and it will elude me again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Humble Pie

We all have things at which we excel and they are usually things we also enjoying doing. It is humbling to remember that those very things are gifts that we should not take credit for but that we should be continually grateful for. Our gifts are intended to be used for the glory of God, and any other use distorts the gift, since we have to twist it's direction to our own glory. Whether that gift is athletic, musical, intellectual or artistic, it is most beautiful when it is lifted up to the one who created it in us. Additionally, that giving back to God also reflects on us. When we glorify God, our faces reflect his face, our lives his life, our action his actions. That is what we want--to be taken for him, because we are like him. The greater our gifts, the more humbly we should apply them--not timidly or apologetically. If we use them right, they should bring great glory, awe and inspiration, not just to the ones who observe them, but we ourselves should be awed at how greatly God has chosen to use us.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sweating it Out

I am feeling really great today, having just returned from my regular workout at Curves. Most days it is just was it is described as: a workout--which is an abbreviation for work until you're pooped out. Not today. I wore a tank top and shorts, which makes me feel either really fat when I'm not happy with my weight, or really thin when I am--which I am now. So feeling thin, and happy with the results of some hard work over the summer, I worked extra hard and my energy was not sapped. It was one of those rare days when you feel anything is possible.

Most days it is just grunt, sweat, pull, push, and grunt some more. You leave tired but satisfied that it is over and that you managed to get through it one more time. By the time you get home and stop sweating and are ready to shower, you are beyond satisfaction. You are proud of yourself, respecting yourself, and feeling some energy return.

So today was a gift. By the next time I go, it will be back to grunt and sweat. I'll take the gift, but the grunt and sweat days are what keep me going back.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The World at Our Finger Tips

Truly I believe the internet has been the greatest culture changing development since the printing press. Information, goods, people and causes are all at our disposal within seconds. It is a soapbox before the whole world, a warehouse of every conceivable product, a social connector of peoples and cultures, as well as a sewer of disgusting behaviors.

Its uses are increasing exponentially, and how it affects or dominates our lives is up to us. I now make phones calls using its caption telephone options. I put my calendar on there to remind me of everything from appointments, to birthdays, to watering my plants. I also let it remind or inform my family members of upcoming events. If I want a product I can find it doing a search. If I want some information--same thing. If I need a map all I need is the address and a minute of time. It sends me information about my credit and banking status. It has connected me with people I had lost track of, and acquainted me with others that I didn't know very well. I get the funniest pictures, cartoons, videos and stories sent to me, and I pass some along myself. I have scanned and posted my favorite photos out in cyberspace. Recipes are available by the hundreds for single ingredients, and I am probably underestimating that.

This post could get very long indeed without much trouble or deep thinking on my part as to how the internet is changing the way we live. But part of my point is that much of it is convenient, enriching and delightful. However, there is a downside. Can our world get too bloated to sustain? Can there be an overload of possibilities that keep us from the smaller, delicate, and beautiful things that we now overlook for the big picture? Can we become too burdened by the anvil of knowledge around our necks? We need to proceed carefully to make sure that we are using this as a gift to make us better people. If the effect is otherwise, then it is time to reevaluate.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Discriminatory Procrastination

Ever notice how you never procrastinate doing things that are fun, exciting, or just the challenge you were looking for? No, procrastinating is reserved for all those mundane, gritty, unavoidable chores that give little joy until they are behind us. They nag us, implore us, scare us and threaten us to take action, often to little effect. And when we do decide to move, it feels like a surrender. Our resistance has broken down. There are no options left except to do what we should have done long ago.

And why do we put up with nagging, threats, stubborn laziness? A tension exists between what needs to get done and how desperately we want to avoid it. The pressure builds, and then the cracks in the wall start the crumbling of our will.

Sometimes we go through times of great discipline. We get up and go at it every morning, till much more is done than we thought possible. We are energized by our effort, encouraged by our discipline, and proud of our efficiency. It just does not seem to be sustainable for indefinite periods of time. And that's when the list grows, our lethargy kicks in, and the discrimination starts for each item waiting, waiting, waiting.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

OK. This is just a complaining rant.

Two nights in a row all the lights have been left on!

I found a broken fan blowing--broken in the sense that the cover had come off and the blades were whirling exposed to the whole world!

I asked someone to do their chore in a timely fashion. This person did not, so I woke said individual up this morning from a blessed sleep so it could get done on time...

The dog is still shedding. He should be ashamed of himself at this point.

There is a lump under the carpet downstairs. Do I have to rip it up to find out if the lump is a dead mouse??? In frustration, I step on it every time I go by!

I hate fruit flies!

I can't find a document I need to get something done.

People don't seem to realize that the dog needs water in this kind of weather. C'mon, folks. Let's not have someone representing our dog's best interests sue us! (It could happen.)

A useless project was foisted upon me, as if I have all the time in the world. I will probably get asked if I finished it, which means I have to do it or hurt their feelings.

When the bread in the bread box turns green you don't have to wait for me to find it. You can throw it out yourself. It's not that hard.

Insects living in the oak tree that hangs over our deck are pooping Karo syrup onto it. For weeks we could not sit down out there unless we didn't mind sticking to our chairs. That's the last straw for that tree. We need firewood.

Cover your mouth when you cough! Not with your hand!!!! Elbow. Elbow!!!

Phew! Now I feel better.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Corn on the cob is a sensual experience. You can eat it dripping with butter and gritty with salt and pepper, or like me, eat it au natural. Personally, the melted butter oozing down my chin is not what I consider pleasant, and it distracts from the taste of the corn. I like to feel the kernels with my lips, and enjoy the popping sensation as I bite down to detach all that golden goodness.

Slightly under-ripe corn is so superior to over-ripe starchy corn. It is the Cadillac of corn, whereas the ears with kernels so crowded they have become rectangles instead of little bursting bubbles, are the pre-owned clunkers in the corn lots. They are tough and invariably stick between your teeth, reminding you that you just ate an inferior piece of produce.

Most people don't realize that after you have eaten the corn off the cob you can milk the cob for the best flavor of all. By scraping your knife down the rows, the interior creamy portion of the kernels which sometimes gets left behind, slides out. One cob can produce another decent spoonful of this milky, tender sweetness. It is worth the trouble to not pass it up.

Fresh corn on the cob is beautiful to look at, fun to eat, and deliciously sweet. Never turn down an opportunity to eat it off the grill, where the natural sugars have carmelized to a golden brown and that smoky grilled smell turns your salivary spigots on to full blast. And never, ever cut if off the cob is you are capable of eating it intact.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Notice Posted

Going to be on vacation soon, so you won't see any posts for a little while...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Looking Buffy in the Thigh

To my astonishment, when I weighed in and got measured at Curves today, my waist measurement had gone down three inches! Several people have asked me if I have lost weight, and it puzzled me. After all, five pounds can't be that noticeable. I have lost fat, and gained muscle apparently, and it shows in that the inches, not the weight are changing. I'm ready to do a Curves commercial!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making an Impression

Chewing my gum,
Squinting my eyes,
Wishing I had sunglasses
In a great big size.
Bobbing my head
To an inner tune
Knowing I look cute enough
To make the girls swoon.
Wearing blue jeans
And a skin-tight tee
So the chicks can admire
Muscles rippling on me.
Walking with a swagger
past the coffee bar
To order a latte
I can sip in my car.
Stroll past the bookstore
Where a girl inside
Is the one I wanna ask,
"Can you go for a ride?"
Don't look in the window
But cruise on by
Hoping that she noticed
And pauses with a sigh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weeding and Wishing

There's a big difference between weeding the garden and wishing it didn't have weeds. Obviously the first takes some effort on a consistent basis. I spent some time today doing just that, and I've noticed a pattern in the process. First comes the wish: I wish I didn't have to do this. Then comes the resignation. Better get started. Then comes a determination to get a certain amount done. As I move along, I get more resolved to clear every single weed out, to the point that I really do actually pull poison ivy up with my bare hands. After I fill a bucket and dump it, I always go inside, wash up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub, get a glass of water, and decide to pull up just one more bucket. A sense of satisfaction increases with each bucket filled, and hope begins to rise. I survey my work with an eye for progress made and future projects to tackle. Some days I don't get beyond the wishing. They are not my better days. Today was a good one. I needed the weeds to challenge me. It's no good just wishing, but a little action can make that wish come true.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There's a Song in My Head...

but I always sing off-key. It soars and enchants and entices me to joy as long as I don't try to express it in notes. Singing is not my gift. I must be content to be an audience and not a performer.

Art is the milieu where I am most comfortable, but I am a mere scribbler compared to most artistic talents. Art is a cerebral celebration of images, color, shapes and line.

Art is food for thought, but music is wine for the soul.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Silence is Golden?

Hope all you folks don't mind a moment of silence right now....

...that was for all the stuff screaming in my head about what I think lies ahead. If I said it out loud, you would write it off as another lunatic rant.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quitting Time

Sparkling ripples
Of sun-touched leaves
Whisper an invitation to flee.
Softly, beckons its companion breeze
Which glides over rain-drenched lawn.
Late afternoon shadows yawn
From the day’s fatigue
Excusing a wistful sigh
As the willow weeps.

Time Travel

The older you get the more compressed time seems to be. You are incredulous at how long ago something was that seems like just yesterday. "Just yesterday" becomes a phrase synonymous with "sometime recently--I don't know for sure when."

This morning, in an attempt to organize my lesson planning, I sorted through some hanging files begging to be emptied to make room for my intended task. What should I discover but some drawings done in 1987 by my oldest son. He was five at the time. He is now 27! Twenty-two years of life were instantly compressed into "just yesterday"! It doesn't seem possible.

When you get really old sometimes you get confused about generations. My grandmother, as she developed Alzheimer's disease, got my mother mixed up with her grandson's wife. She was off by one generation. My grandfather thought my sister was his wife. He was off by two generations. Someday I may look at my grandson, and those pictures of 1987 will betray me--he will become John again and my travel in time will have made a complete circle.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

I'm reading A Patriot's History of the United States right now by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. They definitely have a conservative bent on the story, but are also willing to give credit where it's due. People love conspiracies these days, so they made an interesting comment on the idea that FDR knew that the Pearl Harbor attack was coming. One point they made was that people accuse FDR of looking for an excuse to get into the war--as if he didn't have plenty of them already! Nazi U-boats had been killing American sailors, sinking American ships, and generally being hostile for some time. They also pointed out how Roosevelt had received intercepted information. But intercepting is one thing. The code must be broken, then translated, then analyzed. We did intercept information. Some of it received in 1941 didn't make it through this process until 1945. We weren't in the computer age yet.

I think people often mistake conspiracies for trends and sympathies. That is not to say that there aren't powers out there that want to increase their influence. We need to look at their actions and strategies before crying foul, and when we do, the evidence must be concrete--not hysterical hype.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In the Zone

Standing in front of a group of kids with a lesson plan in front of me and eager faces looking my way stirs up a thrill and zeal like nothing else. When I'm teaching, I'm "in the zone"--doing what I love best. New ideas come to me while I'm in the middle of it. "Okay, class repeat after me: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Great. Now in your deepest voice: kingdom... now in a squeaky voice: kingdom... Now whisper it: kingdom..." They have it memorized in no time, have had fun, and are eager to take on the next thing. When I teach, I'm doing what I know I have been created for, and because of that it glorifies God. Maybe that is why I am so happy when I teach...

So why am I procrastinating doing lesson planning?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Will the Miracles Never Cease?

I hope not. A modern miracle was unveiled to me just this morning. I had my hearing exam, and much to my dismay, the examiner was quite surprised at how much my hearing had "tanked" in the last few months. I am now referred to the U of M Hospitals for another cochlear implant evaluation.

But here's the miracle. They gave me a website to log on to and register my name and password for a free service. I log in and type in my phone number, and the number I want to call. Then I click to proceed. My phone rings. I answer it. It proceeds to dial the number I want and my computer simultaneously brings up a screen to print out the conversation instantaneously (almost). It's called caption telephone.

I called Jack right away to see if it worked. He begins laughing. The screen prints out (laughing)! As soon as I was done talking to him I called three other numbers--all doctor's appointments I have been unable to make because I couldn't hear on the phone! There are times I wish I was not born during this century, but this is not one of them. It's a miracle, albeit technological, but a miracle indeed for someone in need of one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why I Like Brownies

There are lots of kinds of brownies, and all of them have their merits. The cake-like thick ones contrast significantly to the dense fudgy kind. Some have walnuts and some don't. Some are frosted, but more aren't. But all brownies have one thing in common: chocolate. The variations in recipes are endless with optional additions: cinnamon, mint, chocolate chips, coconut, peanut butter. They are all interesting, but a purist prefers simplicity. I choose the basic recipe more often than not, but am open to variation on an occasional basis. Yes, there are things called blond brownies, or butterscotch brownies--which are really just another kind of dense bar cookie. I don't include them in this assessment.

My favorite brownie is a dense, fudgy one with chunky walnuts mixed in. The top of the brownie is a little flaky, but when your teeth sink in, the chewy base with the crunchy nuts takes over the texture experience. They should be moist erring toward gooeiness, sweet but not sicky sweet nor bittersweet, and intensely dark chocolate. They should also be large--at least two by two inches square, preferably a little bigger yet. Warm, not hot, from the oven is yummy, but they should also be wonderfully satisfying when completely cool.

Why do I like them so much? Chocolate and nuts are a hard combination to beat. The rich smoothness of the chocolate complements the crunchy roasted flavor of the baked nuts. They are honest and straightforward. You know what you are getting. They are hefty enough to satisfy, but not heavy so as to tax your digestive tract. They get along well with milk, ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, but can stand independently with no apology necessary. They pack well for picnics and lunches. They don't stick around long enough to go stale. They aren't messy because you always want to catch the crumbs! They are American. They can be simple or complex. They can be elegantly plain or fussily dressed up. They are comforting.

Brownies are rarely disappointing. I always avoid brownies pre-packaged in individual wrappers, where you can see the nuts clearly pressed into the top of heavy dough. They are guaranteed to chew like play-doh and be an indigestible lump in your stomach. They will be sickly sweet to cover up the lack of chocolate intensity. Only in desperation will I eat them, and only after checking for mold on the bottom, since their freshness disappears with the sealing of their cellophane coffins.

Finally I like brownies because they are universally pleasing. It's hard not to like them. They are easy going, unpretentious and welcoming. Let's face it. We like brownies, because we all want to be one!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Tinwinkie Gurblied Me

It was a scrundipulous afterevening, and as I splandered through the queet, I bespied an optigunant tinwinkie following me. Quake I did, but it was unnoputually pointless, since the tinwinkie had no deligerent intentions toward my person. He merely gurblied me and plinktoed on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I've gotten some encouragement to not be so depressing in my blogs. Sorry about that, fan... (Temptation to insert smiley face averted.)

There is a lot to be happy about, laugh about, rejoice over, and we must not lose our focus when storms are brewing. I believe with all my heart that a perfect one is on the way. The three things we have which will carry us through, faith, hope and love, cannot be stolen from us. But we can surrender them. That should not be depressing, but perhaps sobering.

I got an opportunity this morning to speak some words of encouragement and truth to an acquaintance. It was a breakthrough moment. I was able to overcome my natural shyness to reach out; a bond was formed. It hardly matters what I said to her. What she heard was probably something like, "You are loveable, you are good, you are valuable," though the words were couched in anecdotes, experiences, and scripture. Five minutes of sharing heart to heart was all it was. Truth penetrates deeply. It pierces our hearts with exquisite love, intrepid courage, and undaunted hope. So, though there may be difficult times ahead, don't worry. Be happy. Truth will carry you through as long as you keep a firm grip on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You gotta suck that lozenge!

Life is short--I could fill this thing with cliches--grab life by the horns, live every day to the fullest, live up to your potential, go for it! How about some new ones that really say what you mean about all those just mentioned cliches? Play tennis like you're at Wimbledon. Smack that baseball like you mean it. Jog as if you already lost the extra pounds. Find joy in every missed opportunity. Find cherished moments in every over-packed closet. Find peace in every empty moment. Pray as if you were the only person in the world doing it. Converse as if you had twenty years of thoughts to catch up on. Read as if the book-burners are on the way to your house. Vote as if the decision were entirely up to you. Jump like a grasshopper on a hot sidewalk. Cook as if Emeril were coming to dinner. Celebrate Chinese New Year and Cinco de Mayo and Hanukkah and National Secretaries Week--because, man, there's so much to be thankful for. And while you're riding that wave, sucking that lozenge and sizzling like water droplets in hot grease, don't forget to soar like an albatross above a hurricane. Life is short.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Post Wedding Thoughts

I am now a mother-in-law. The whole wedding celebration is as dreamy a recollection as my own wedding thirty years ago. I recall walking down the aisle with my usher son, Patrick, to be seated. It didn't occur to me that others were watching me as the mother of the groom. My being seated was really the first thing to happen, the signal to go ahead as planned. Jack slid in next to me and before I knew it the procession was well underway. It was really a family affair, small, and intimate--all five of my children participated in some capacity. That left Jack and me alone in our pew. Almost as soon as it was too late to do anything about it, I wished that my extended family had all been seated closer. Although it was a joyful occasion, there were moments that I couldn't look different family members in the eye, for fear of causing either them or me to break down in tears. Change is hard. It is also often necessary and good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

It's the day before my son's wedding, and I'm at home twiddling my thumbs. The house is clean, the flowers are freshly cut, my dress is hanging in the closet awaiting me. I even got caught up on the finances and cleared off my desk. Anticipation is such a sweet joy. There's a little anxiety mixed in with it, and a wondering amazement that it all pulled together. I know it's coming, but I can't visualize it in my mind. Somehow when I try I'm somewhere near the middle section of the church on the right side--the groom's side. I haven't put myself up front as the mother of the groom. I can't see myself being especially escorted down the aisle to be seated. I can't see my other son and daughter standing up with him, or the other brothers doing their parts. I'm always still picturing someone else's wedding. It is unreal, but coming, and good. And there's no hurrying it, so I'm trying to sit still at the moment, relax, and patiently wait.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Unique Scents of Summer

freshly clipped grass
insect repellent
charcoal grilling barbecue
moist spaded soil
savory fresh herbs rubbed between your fingers
wilted petunias blossoms plucked from the hanging basket
over-ripe cantaloupe
ballpark hot dogs
rotting compost on a hot day
grated cabbage becoming coleslaw
baseball glove leather
hot tar wafting up heat waves from the road
suntan lotion
acrid chemical whiff of fireworks
tomato plants
mildew on damp towels heaped up too long
chlorine soaked bathing suits

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A New Day is Dawning

My son is getting married in three days. I'm gaining another daughter of whom I have become quite fond. It is a beginning and an ending. When two people get married they are a new family, but people tend to think of them as a couple until they have kids. That's how I felt when I got married. "Ah, we are a couple. Someday we will start a family..."

The change a marriage makes is really felt when the extended clan gets together and people need to take pictures. Distinctions are made: just the old nuclear family, now just the siblings, now the siblings with their spouses, now add the in-laws, now the kids with their children...

Eventually, if all the kids marry, you and your spouse are back to being a couple again. With an empty nest.

Life doesn't stop for you to adjust. You sit helplessly by while each child leaves, eager, excited to be on their own, and their empty room is full of past times never to return. You walk in it, look around, and walk out shocked at how quickly it was over. You wonder that anyone could celebrate the emptiness. Your heart aches. You wonder if the silence will kill you. Somehow that picture of the Waltons with all their kids and grandparents under one roof just will not die. As much as you love your spouse, the two of you created something together--and now your joint venture has become shrunken--withered like the skin on the back of your hand making veins pronounced and wriggly. You loved those withered, veined hands on your grandmother, but never expected to see them on yourself. You look at your spouse and hope that the two of you can fill your home and time with life in a new way.

So the wedding is coming up. I'm very happy. I will probably cry for joy. But all the same, a change has come. A new family unit is carrying off my son, leaving me for now on the outside and hoping that he will cherish and love the gift of family that has been given to him for a time...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shedding Some Light ...

He's shedding some light, blond fur. I just brushed my golden retriever. Although only an ounce or so of fur was collected, he looks ten pounds lighter. He's shedding so much I think more dog was in the wastebasket than was left standing on four paws in my basement. As I stroked his fur whole tufts of fluff floated off his body and drifted across the floor. I waved my brush at the escaping clouds, trying to catch them on the bristles, but that only sped them faster in flight. Every half minute or so I had to stop brushing to clean the wad of fur off the brush.

I can always tell when he needs brushing. He looks scruffy and his coat is uneven. Little cirrus clouds peek out from his tawny hide, waiting to slip off after the floor has been vacuumed. You can figure out where he is in the house by following his downy trail. Dust bunnies of fur have become dust sheep--whole herds wandering around the drafty floor. You sweep them up and an hour later new ones appear, timidly at first, and then a stampede of fluff begins. The whole floor appears in motion.

What is amazing to me is that he has golden brown fur, but everything that is brushed out is blond. It's all the stuff underneath--thick, cottony and dense--not like the coarse long hair on top. It takes some effort to soak this animal to the skin because of the insulating layers. It is also a wonder that it's coming out in July. You'd think he'd shed more in May--but perhaps the heat isn't intense enough then.

I always feel like I've done my dog a great kindness when I brush him. He seems to enjoy it if I let him lie down--but today I made him stand up so I could brush him sitting in a chair instead of sprawling on the floor myself. He felt ashamed somehow, and slunk off to his cage once I let him go. Why was that? While he was shedding a layer, was I shedding some irritation--scolding him silently with a brush for doing something he couldn't help? Were my strokes a little harder than they needed to be? Could I have been gentler? I don't remember being angry or irritated, but my act of kindness was in a spirit of merely getting the job done no matter how. I tell myself, "he's just a dog", but what better place to practice gentleness than with a dumb animal. It is not hard to shed fur. It is hard to shed habits. Being habitually brisk and efficiency-minded might get the job done, but it doesn't convey the intentions behind them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming of Age

It is always a shock when you see the first liver-colored spot on your hands or face. Then one day you are looking at your arms and legs and you flex a muscle in dismay. The top layer of skin has a rippled look like wind gently blowing over water--wrinkles. You go to pluck your eyebrows and energetically pull the white hairs out--they were never there before. Somehow that streak of gray in your hair got wider without your even noticing it--until you brush your hair in a different direction and discover a whole layer of it underneath. You used sunblock faithfully but the crow's feet are getting more pronounced, and that frown wrinkle between your eyes has gotten deep enough it never entirely disappears, even when you're not frowning. You start flexing and stretching before exercising, because a strain or sprain has taught you that not doing so is foolish and injury likely if you don't. You go to the next room to get something and can't remember what it was by the time you arrive there. You stop, think through what you were doing, and why you might need something, and eventually it comes to you--ah, I'm in the pantry to get the ... honey!

But there is good news! You've wised up some. There are mistakes you don't repeat any more. There are things you get done, because time is more precious. There are lots of things you don't worry about any more, because you've come to see they aren't worth it. You have things to look back on and see what has been accomplished. It is good to see how far you've come. You've learned that experience is the best teacher--so you try to give less advice and pray more. You have more stories to tell and more to laugh about! And when things are not going well, you panic less. Things really do pass on. You realize there is always something to get riled up about, and when the current crisis is over another one will follow. We do live in a fallen world. You get riled up because you love many things in this world that is terminally ill. You view generations like people standing in line--one generation passes through the veil and you step up in the queue. Occasionally you are shocked when someone behind you takes cuts and steps through first, but your turn is coming. You try to grow in faith, to keep your fears in check, and keep your soul clean. Because the age is coming when what matters most is how you've lived and who you love most.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fading Away

I hate to keep talking about my hearing loss, but that seems to be what is on my mind a lot. With good reason. In the last few weeks I've noticed another decline. It may be that I can't talk on the phone any more. Just ask Laura. We had a ridiculous "conversation" this morning which was basically Laura shouting into her phone one word at a time and me guessing what it was. I was able to help her, but anyone listening at Laura's end must have thought she was talking to a moron. If you talk to me in person and I have a blank look on my face, chances are I have no clue what you are saying...

I'm going to the library later on. It is time to get books or videos on sign language. Anyone want to join me in this venture?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Making Much Progress

but I'm having fun along the way, sometimes. Not sure which direction progress is, most of the time. Not even sure what it looks like when I get there--but it's not a place you stay. Just move on, buddy.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Crazies Within Us

Everyone has little things that they are absolutely crazy about, and I don't mean that in the sense of something you just love. I mean the borderline, if not over the line, obsessive-compulsive it's-gotta-be-my-way things that you are a little insane to insist on. When we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we are being unreasonable in these areas, BUT THAT'S JUST THE WAY WE ARE (or so we think). Most of these things are petty little ticklish areas, and we realize the real issue is not the thing in itself, but the control we feel we need. When these areas come into direct clash with someone who does it differently, turmoil results, and we learn how much we still need to grow in charity. Does it really matter how the table is set, or if the pictures all hang straight on the wall all the time, or what we use to sweep the floor? I could question dozens of trivial things, and the answers would all be the same: no, because they are trivial. We can know we are sane when we can distinguish the difference, and if we can't, we probably will never figure out how crazy we are. It's the other guy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You Gotta Love It...

when A-Rod hits a homer.

when you pull into the passing lane, push on the accelerator, and hear that VROOOM as your back pushes into the seat and you lunge forward.

when you do a hard Sudoku without penciling in any little numbers to complete it.

when you type the last letter of the last word of a paper you stayed up all night to complete.

when you go over every entry for the entire year in your bank account, find several mistakes that you fix, and it balances the first time you check it when done.

when you're doing what you love best and are in the zone.

when you make that last car payment.

when you plan a surprise that is a little tricky and pull it off.

when a pro-life Republican ousts a pro-abortion Democrat.

when you hear and feel that thump on the runway after a flight through lots of turbulence.

when Art Garfunkel hits that last note in "Bridge Over Troubled Waters".

when you whap that ping-pong ball and it hits the very tip of your opponent's corner.

when the rain is pattering down on your parched and thirsty garden.

So what's yours?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hurry Up and Slow Down

It seems like the less you have to do the less you get done, and the more you have to do, the more you amaze yourself at what you can get done in a short amount of time. I really prefer the latter scenario, because I like being productive, but I think everyone needs some of both. We can't go blazes all the time, so when we finally go into slo-mo every little effort becomes exhausting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

On Being Original

How many people in the world are there now? Six billion? The number doesn't really matter. It's a lot of people. I ask myself now and then, what will it take in the future to come up with an original idea--something no one else has thought of? The answer comes to me now and then in a way that makes me want to kick myself. Hard. It will be very hard.

I wrote a book and it sits on my closet shelf getting dusty and yellowed while I screw up the courage to someday maybe send it to a publisher. In the meantime, I read, read, read, and die agonies when yet another author out there has written something with MY IDEA in it! And I tell myself, those publishers are going to think I just ripped off this author, when the truth be told, I wrote my book before this guy, or at least before I read his work. So as time goes by, I feel less and less inclined to enter the fray since what I have done will be nothing new under the sun.

And yet the author of life keeps making new people every day, each one never seen before. And astronomers keep finding new galaxies, all unique and thrilling beyond belief. And biologists keep finding out that life is much more complicated than they thought, and so intricately lovely. And artists, musicians, and actors keep creating exquisitely beautiful expressions.

So maybe there is hope after all that I, the only me in the whole world, in my individual originality, could create something that I could call all my own...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Divine Math

A friend just told me about getting cheated out of some money coming to him. He then went on to relate how unexpected income came to him which more than compensated for his loss. He credited it to God watching out for him. One could dismiss this as being overly simplistic, but it has happened to me many times. Sure, life could just work that way, the pluses getting neutralized by the minuses and vice versa. But more than math happened in my friend's transactions. In the end, his cheater lost. Either his conscience will smolder within him forever or be entirely snuffed out. My friend gained assurance that he is being cared for--his faith was built up because he chose to look for God's hand at work in his daily life. If we don't have this kind of faith, our faith will be in an impersonal God way out there, who knows we exist but is too concerned with bigger things to let our small troubles come to his attention. This is not what God wants or what we need. He is serious about us knowing him personally. So when you are counting up your pluses and minuses, use divine math. God is in your counting house investing in your eternity.