Friday, December 31, 2010

The ABCs of Why I Love Being Catholic

Here's what I came up with quickly. Maybe you have some things you love that I've forgotten or can come up with Y and Z.

A: Absolution, authority, Assumption
B: Blessings, Bishops
C: Cardinals, conclaves, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Communion of Saints, Cathedrals
D: Deacons, Doctors of the Church
E: Eucharist, Easter Vigil, encyclicals
F: Fathers, fasting, feast days
G: Good Friday, genuflecting, guardian angels
H: Holy Days, Heroes of the Faith, history
I: Incense, Immaculate Conception, icons
J: Jesus on the cross (crucifix), John Paul II
K: Kneeling
L: Latin, Liturgy of the Hours
M: martyrs, Mary, mysteries, missions
N: nuns, novenas
O: obedience, obligations
P: popes, purgatory, priests
Q: Queen of Heaven
R: real presence, rosary, RCIA, reverts
S: sacraments, saints, sacrifice, Stations of the Cross
T: teaching magisterium, tradition, Tridium, tabernacle, Theology of the Body
U: universal church
V: vocations, Veneration of the Cross
W: weekday mass, Way of the Cross
X: eXcommunication--a call to repent

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house
The remodelers were trampling
The vacuum was broken
The cards were bought not addressed, stamped or sent
And there's no time to make this rhyme.
But I'm peaceful and happy that everyone's home
And the raisin bread IS baked
And I'm thinking of what this is really all about:
Christ came.
He will come again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Working Out

Jumping jacks, toe-touching, and knee lifts all make the routine at Curves more interesting than just jogging on the pads between machines. I am working out.

It was a misunderstanding. I needed to explain myself and apologize. Hurt feelings happen so quickly and easily but gentle words help. It is working out.

Thrusting the shovel into the soft loam, smelling the earthy fragrance, gently lifting a plant into place are all signs that I am working (out).

A tense, time-sensitive project needs all my concentration. Don't bother me now. I am working. OUT!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Difference

Four arms stretched wide--
One man in anger,
One God in pain,
And between the two:
Great divide.

One, the high priest,
His robes destroyed.
Before him stood
The man-God claimer:
Lamb of feast.

Soon upon the tree,
Bloody arms wide,
Healing hands pierced,
The man-God claimer
Claims us free.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dead, Not Alive, part two

So, they're getting smarter! It makes a difference how much peanut butter you apply, how much it sticks up, and exactly how tenuously you hook the wire up.

I'm trying to imagine myself a mouse with a taste for danger. It must be a huge thrill to lick it clean and get away--an even huger thrill to actually trip the dingaling, see it fly across the room and find yourself still breathing, albeit with a somewhat accelerated heart rate.

Are they watching me when I disgustedly pick up the empty trap, yucking it up and licking their lips in anticipation of another dose of Jif? Do they make bets with one another?

"OK, Charley, it's your turn. Lick it clean and you get the Ramen noodle stash all to yourself. Mess up, and it's all mine. Betcha can't do it. Nyah nyah."

"You noodle-head Seamus! I've done this so many times, I can do it with my eyes shut. Stand back, you weaney-eyed mange ball. Let a pro show you how."

Meanwhile, their nemesis is baiting, waiting and hoping. Death comes to us all. May Jif show you the way.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wanted: Dead not Alive

Since the weather turned cold, the field mice have begun the invasion of the warmer, hidden regions of our house. As soon as their presence is noticed, the good, old-fashioned mouse trap comes out, baited with peanut butter to catch its first customer. I really don't like mice in my house. They stink. They make stashes of Ramen noodles here and there. They leave their little poop droppings everywhere.

We've caught several mice so far this season. They go for the peanut butter and generally are pop-eyed and stiff when I find them. But today was different. Amazingly enough, on my way down to the basement to check the trap, a thought wandered into my brain that had never found its way there before, just like the mice that wander into my home. "What would I ever do if I found the mouse alive and not dead?" You must know what comes next.

There it was--caught by a hind foot and very much alive. It's one thing to dislike a critter that you only see dead. Dead is not cute. Dead is not pathetic. Dead is not breathing. Being alive is everything. My heart suffered pangs of sympathy--oh! the poor thing. While it's alive, I can see what a wondrous creature it is--so small and perfect and right in front of my eyes. Never mind that I would have preferred finding it dead.

There was no way I could kill the thing to relieve its misery. I put on some gloves and lifted it, trap and all. It tried to bite me, to get free. It was terrified. I took it outside and released it. It lay in the damp, moldy leaves panting, but not moving. I hoped that a bird would find it soon and take it away. I went out again a few minutes later. It was still there. I ran an errand. By then it was gone. Whether it was paralyzed by fear and unable to move, and then recovered, I'll never know. Whether it became prey will also never be revealed.

I don't like killing things, and I remind myself that mice reproduce exponentially because they are meant to be food for other creatures. It doesn't matter. I want them to stay outside, but if they must come in, I want them dead, not alive, when I find them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Am Not a Number, But I Am Smoking...

The vicious and irritating cycle of misinformation has struck again. The world system has become a vast ensnaring net of mostly insignificant and inaccurate info-bytes that trigger long, drawn-out, exasperating efforts to correct or at least eradicate them. No amount of head-banging or teeth gnashing or wailing will take away the aggravation of trying to sneak past the user name and password you have long forgotten, to get to an actual, helpful and informed human being who can click that one button that saves you your sanity and your wallet about $300 a year. In fact there are no helpful and informed human beings out there--just stupid computers with labyrinthian mazes for you to wander around in like a rat finding the moldy cheese at the end. You'd like to punch the computer, but that wouldn't solve anything and would cost your wallet another $300. And in the meantime you can't for the life of you figure out how your health plan decided that you may possibly not be tobacco-free after all, even though you did give them half an hour of your lifetime filling out their evaluation, including the tobacco questions. Yet there it is. I have to give them at least another half hour (or more) of time I'd rather spend doing anything else, even being sick with the flu, than trying to straighten out their mistake. Almost makes me want to start smoking!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Clash of Evils

I'm listening to a book on CD right now about the battle for Moscow during WW2. There were so many moral issues in that war, but this battle poses a dilemma that merits reflection. Perhaps only Chairman Mao can compete for the top spot beside Hitler and Stalin for greatest despot of that century. Who is to say who was the worst? Hitler failed and died before he could complete his plan for Russia. If he had succeeded, he may have outdone Stalin in brutality.

Churchill said of the German, "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." He was ready to "make a pact with the devil" (Stalin) to defeat the Nazi. The U.S. diplomats seemed to be mostly duped by Stalin. The few who were wary of him wanted the two dictators to go at it in an epic slug fest. It always seems advantageous to have your enemies fighting each other instead of you, but what about all the victims--people forced to fight; people fighting for the motherland, not the ideologies ruling them at the moment; the non-combatants who have the misfortunes to be in the path of destruction?

So we helped Stalin defeat Hitler--a move that doomed Eastern Europe for decades. Hindsight gives perfect vision. I would not have wanted to be a leader during the time that all these decisions needed to be made. There were no enviable choices in this clash of devils.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tea Time for Englishmen

About this time of year I hang out my birdfeeders and keep them filled. Within minutes of their appearance, the birds start arriving. I like to think of them as Englishmen visitors. It comes from my abiding interest in 19th century literature.

The chickadees are the brash, but approachable, hansom cab drivers. They aren't intimidated if you stand out on the deck within feet (or closer) of the feeder. They come anyway, look you over, decide you're an OK chap, and go about their business.

The tufted titmice are the footmen on grand carriages--elegantly dressed but diminutive in importance.

The cardinals, of course, must be churchmen--dignified, full of authority, respected. Perhaps the other Englishmen give them too much distance--but not as much distance as they give the bluejays, lords of all they see, who scatter the rabble, take what they want, and strut around in their grand suits.

Nuthatches elude me. Are they the squires, the shop keepers and tradesmen, or the lawyers? They keep busy. They're efficient and neat. They know what they're about and they don't brook interference. Occasionally they lose patience with the cabbies and the footmen.

If I didn't like the downy woodpeckers so much, I would call them the highwaymen. It seems unfair to make them robbers, but they can get at anything. Perhaps they are the lawyers after all!

Ah! I have been momentarily blinded by the obvious. Highwaymen there are indeed: squirrels.

Whatever the birds do most of the day, I can hardly say. I do have things to do besides watch them. However, I have noticed that almost directly at noon, though the feeders have been lightly visited, they seem to show up at once and in great numbers. It must be time for tea!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Foggy morning, foggy mind,
Shorter days, less light to find.
Cold months ahead with no respite.
Leaden soul, leaden sight.

Grayness rules the heavy sky
Weighing down the will to try,
The will to laugh, the will to fly,
The will to look and wonder why.

Chilly damp, chilly mood,
Dreary light is dreary food
To enervate a listless fool
Who must strive 'gainst dead self-rule.

Shake out the sodden cloak of gloom.
Break out from clammy, lifeless tomb.
Wring out the heartless, hopeless doom.
Sweep out sighs with a laughing broom.

Kindle a flame in the fireplace.
Kindle a smile upon your face.
Kindle a joy you can't out pace.
Kindle a hope you can't erase.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Daydreams of a Science Teacher

Play-doh tectonics and corn candy cartwheels,
Pop bottle geysers and cornstarch magma,
Electro-nail magnets and funky earth science.
Class should be a blast on Friday...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gaining Perspective

When an important event is coming up, it looms so huge on the horizon that we cannot see past it. It dominates our vision, like the mountain before us on a hike. Step by step we approach it, excited in anticipation of the peak views and weary of the long trudge. Once at the top we seem to see it all before us; everything is revealed. But not quite.

A week, month, year or so later the mountain has receded--perhaps not even in view. We have moved on to something else and the mountain has shrunk in size--at least in our memories.

Less than two weeks ago, I had an actual physical mountain in front of me. It evoked a dread in my heart by the terribleness of its size. I did not climb all of it, but it is waiting for me to come back and conquer it. Within days I was flying home. Looking down, the mountains made me wonder but not fear. From miles up they had flattened out. They had not changed, but my point of view had.

We encounter numerous mountains in our life. Some seem insurmountable. Others daunting, but hike-able. Still others are just a short-term, body-numbing task to get past. We cannot always tell which is which, and hope that we don't waste too much of our life on the impossible, and not too much on the too easy.

If we could do a fly-by on them, we might gain perspective, but we would also lose the mysterious spiciness of doubt and the grittiness of persistence. Perspective is a good thing, but it can also deceive if it comes without hands-on experience. I respect a mountain before me. I shrug off one below me. Climbing it gives me a perspective that a fly-by never will.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dream On

I had a very weird dream last night, and I won't bore you by telling all about it. But everyone has dreams like that and we all (usually) enjoy them because of their illogical, disjointed and bizarre details that all seem so reasonable while we are in the dream. Last night's dream had no relevance to my current life and there was no plot moving forward. It did not give me any insights into problems I am pondering. It did not seem to mean anything.

I think when we dream our brains just start wandering haphazardly through our memories. It connects unrelated things, or hacks bits and pieces of our visual memory together, like a patchwork quilt of leftover little snippets of this or that. It's like a scrapbook done by a kindergartener, who cuts and pastes only to please the moment, and with no thought for the whole effect. Totally unrelated people and events find harmony simply by showing up and participating in a montage of your life--a multi-sensory collage.

Too often we wake from them, grasping the fleeting images that fade so quickly. We know we have been in an adventure, but amnesia, like a memory tsumani, erases dreams so quickly. They are slippery eels that resist being remembered.

I could not have come up with last night's dream using my conscious imagination. It was beyond my logical and sensible ideas of events and stories. It was truly a confetti parade--smidgens of everything that I have forgotten. This morning it was disappointing to wake up. It would have been more fun to dream on.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Here It Comes!

You'd think I'd learn what I can get away with. I ignored my caffeine intolerance all during our trip. Once I realized I had accidentally gotten real coffee, I knew I had to either keep up the intake or put up with a headache during my vacation. I decided to postpone the headache and drank caffeine every day to hold off the pain. But today, almost exactly 48 hours after my last dose, I can feel at the back of my head an approaching migraine.

It starts like a dull ache that makes it hard to think and grows till it is a throbbing ache that makes thinking impossible. Sometimes I feel like I'm a little kid, doing something that has inevitable consequences, yet still hopes that THIS TIME it won't work out that way. I can appreciate that worn out saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." So I made an insane choice, hoping that THIS TIME I could get away without a headache. And yet here it comes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

If You're Happy And You Know It

Almost two weeks of sunshine.
Lovely leaves, comfy temperatures.
Working enough to be happy, not cranky.
Goals being met--big ones, ones I've been waiting for for a long time.
Having someplace new to go to and explore.
Being healthy, hearing better, weighing just right.
Reading like a starved POW at a banquet.
Getting enough sleep to not be tired.
Being sleepless enough to read like a starved POW at a banquet.
Loving my boys, and my boys' girls.
Anticipating seeing my girl in Scotland.
Having lots of ideas and someplace to go with them.
Being loved by the man I love.
I am happy.
I know it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Out My Window

Not a breath of air to move the trees,
Not a hint of life or airy breeze,
No flicker of flames from fiery leaves,
No twitch of movement from grassy sheaves.

Autumn morning crisp and bright,
Cloudless skies and shimm'ring light,
Dewy grass on leaf-strewn lawn,
A molten sun greets new day's dawn.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Complicated

I've been reading through stacks of World War II history books lately--a project I've been considering for a while and throughly enjoying since I embarked upon this adventure. As with most things that you only have a general knowledge of, once you break the surface, you find it complicated. The war was more widespread than I realized. Both sides struggled with and against technical advances. Unexpected people played unexpected roles. Suffering was universal. Cultural differences, particularly between east and west, gave birth to disasters, lack of preparedness, and unleashed viciousness. Noble sacrifice, unbridled ambition, maniacal hatred, and heroic vigilance motivated soldiers and civilians, the elite and the destitute, the virtuous and the depraved. It was sometimes hard to know a friend from a foe, and even harder to know if they held the same position a day, week, or month later. Truth was hard to come by; rumors were cheap and plentiful. As I dig deeper, layer upon layer of complication makes me realize what a precious treasures wisdom, mercy and compassion are.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Vanity of Vanities

I decided about a year ago that it was time to read the Bible again from start to finish. I didn't set a goal for when to complete that, but pick away at it a little bit every day. So yesterday I had reached Ecclesiastes, which opens up with "Vanity of vanities." In God's perfect sense of humor, I also bought paint to begin refurbishing the schoolroom, which will now be dubbed "the library".

As I began the process of washing, patching and prepping walls, recollections flooded me of other rooms I have worked as hard on, and now need to be painted all over again. The freshness of a new coat of paint is so fleeting. The last room I painted had a fist-sized hole in the wall before a month had passed. To be trite, painting is an exercise in futility.

And yet I will continue to paint rooms. Ecclesiastes is a reminder that all we do will pass away, and yet we are not supposed to just succumb to hopelessness. Old Testament preaching is a foretaste of New Testament revival. My hope is not here on earth, and thank God, my deepest desires are not for beautiful rooms. I will enjoy the new paint job while it lasts, but not cling to the hope that it will last forever.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Been rambling

Been trucking along with the new school year--only 5 hours of teaching. I need more, but don't particularly want more.

Been reading a lot of WWII history. I'm on my 9th book now and starting to feel a little knowledgeable. Also feeling like I've hardly begun digging through the layers.

Been thinking about what a funny thing friendship is. Comes and goes. Ya never knows.

Been considering a sewing project. Consideration is as far as it's gotten so far, and that ain't bad, considering that an idea is brewing.

Been enjoying having a car to myself. Pat has been too, I'm sure.

Been picking up sticks... and logs... and limbs. Fireplace time coming for sure.

Been eating donuts from Wasem's. Twice. Plan on doing it again. Says a lot for someone who's not crazy about donuts.

Been looking at recipes for cocktails. Might just make one and drink it.

Been rambling along in life for a while now. I feel like I'm a ways down the road. Wish I knew more about where I was going. Wish I had a better road map. Wish I had done a better job of picking a destination.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hearing is Believing

A number of things have happened since my latest ear surgery that are certainly encouraging:

Yesterday I had a short conversation with my husband while I was in the shower with no hearing aids and water running.

I also hurried downstairs yesterday to get to the phone before the answering machine message being left was finished, because I knew the person on the other end of the line was my father. I recognized his voice from all the way upstairs and around the corner.

On Sunday, I opted not to use the hearing devices available at church to hear our deacon's homily. I got along just fine, and was even able to laugh at the jokes because I could hear them.

Curiously, several people have commented that my voice is much clearer now that I've had my surgeries. What does that mean? Could I not even hear myself slurring words?

I'm also wondering if the surgeries will help me break my (bad) habit of talking to myself. I do it everywhere all the time. It started when I realized I was the only person I could understand perfectly. I was my own good company. But now I should stop, because sometimes I feel embarrassed when I realize others hear my mutterings.

My hearing will never be perfect this side of heaven. Background noises can still be problematic. There will still be times when I ask people to repeat themselves--maybe because THEY DIDN'T ENUNCIATE! And I still have to get back in the habit of listening attentively. (You quit trying when it's useless.) But it is clearly evident that the surgeries I had are a huge success. I believe it because I hear you.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Curled around in a wondrous swirl
Hibiscus buds must soon unfurl
Their flowing, glowing fairy gown
In the dance of a ballet swan.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Waiting is Hard

We've all been in situations where we are required to wait for something important. We find our ability to concentrate, to do anything useful, to go about our regular business as futile.

There's a heaviness and a quietness in the air before a storm. We pace back and forth looking at the sky. A few flashes on the horizon, a temperature drop, and the trees stir with a sudden cool breeze. The first large drops splat on the hot sidewalk and we hesitate. A few more and we glance at the refuge behind us. When the deluge finally lets loose we run for cover and watch as the pavement dances with the shower. It may be the longed-for rain to end a drought, or a violent wind storm that threatens our safety. Either way, once it comes there is relief because there is something to do--if nothing more than to rejoice at the cleansing downpour and marvel at the power of the wind and lightning.

Waiting for labor pains, waiting for a job interview, waiting for news from the hospital, waiting for a loved one's return, waiting for a decision. Aniticipation is hard.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Like heavy pondering clouds
Building up to bruising storm
Fearful, anxious, careworn thought
Mounts up in thunderous form.

Whipping winds swirl round and spike
Intending certain damage
Flattening opposition
In its red, blinded rampage.

Raindrops swell and coalesce--
Liquid bullets bombarding--
Splattering the sere landscape
No excusing, no pardoning.

Flashing anger like a bolt
Heeds not where it may strike
But wields the daunting weapon--
A razor-tipped weighty pike.

At last the full flung release
A shower of words pouring
Drenching the receptive earth.
Is it cleansing and restoring?

Exhausted, spent, weaponless,
Dissipated clouds retreat
The reckless wind slacks off in rage.
Who is left upon their feet?

The heated storm has passed by,
The earth absorbed the shock.
Did kindness in the end prevail
Or only expose the rock?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Determination and Dirt

Early in the summer I realized how burdened I felt with my yard work. It so happens that I've been working on three different areas, some for about 20 years now. They never seem to get to the point where I can say the basic ground work is completed. I decided that I would get two of those areas to that point this year, and complete the third area next summer. It has given me a sense of motivation that has held up through the worst of summer's heat, humidity and glare.

My plan is simple: every morning by 9:00, weather permitting, I head out the door in my grungiest of clothing, spray on a layer of insect repellent, and grab my shovel. I work until noon, with short breaks for water, a Snickers ice cream bar and a periodic to-the-elbows scrub in poison ivy treatment.

Significant progress has been made. I have:
1. removed all the grass in the cul-de-sac area and covered it with a layer of compost.
2. planted shrubs, ground covers and flowering plants in that area.
3. removed nearly all the myrtle, which was overrun with grass and weeds under the pines area. This probably added up to 200 square feet of area entirely dug up.
4. brought home, so far, three cubic yards of compost to help out plants in the sandy soil.
5. brought in two van loads of plant materials from a generous friend's yard.
6. divided and spread out plant materials into the cleared ground under the pines.
7. cleared out myrtle in the terraced area, replacing it with perennial flowers and mulch.
8. moved plants that will be in the way when the dead pines are cut down next month.
9. managed to water often enough that things are staying alive, if not thriving.
10. carried countless buckets of the removed myrtle to my neighbor's house to help move forward her projects.

Most days I find myself covered with dirt, sweating profusely in soaked clothes and staggering with weariness by noon--but the prize is in sight! I look forward to-- not finishing the yard work--but getting to that point where I am seeking to improve something that is already good--making it great. It's like being a cabinet maker--the pieces are all cut and assembled. What is left is the sanding, polishing, and fine-tuning that make it an accomplished work of art.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Discipline and the Deep Rut

There's a fine balance between being disciplined and digging a trench so deep we can't get out of it. I made a decision this summer to spend my mornings in the yard, with two clearly defined goals, and to spend the afternoons on my computer, with less defined goals but achievable results. It's been a good decision for the most part. Sometimes I rebel.

The yard work is grueling, but the vision in front of me keeps me at it. It is the possibly delusional idea that, once I complete some specific projects, yard work will become easier on a maintenance mode than a creation mode, and that somehow I will be satisfied with that.

The computer work is a grind. I reward myself with small breaks to check on my Scrabble game or to play Word Twist. If I can crank out a few well-designed lesson handouts each day I am satisfied. This project feels more like Atlas trying to heave off the weight of the world, and each page completed is a grunting heave towards freedom from that burden.

How do you tell when you have crossed the line from disciple to rut? Well, if it rains this morning, you won't find me outside...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If Virtues Were Commodities...

Suppose you could buy a virtue. Some are more rare to find than others, and therefore more valuable. Some you might find in abundance but very impure and in need of refining to gain value. Some would be so elusive that a black market might develop to fool the unwary buyer into purchasing a beautiful but nonetheless fraud.

Three virtues sprang immediately to the top of my list as the rarest, most treasured, and hence most costly: humility, patience and courage.

Humility is for true virtue connoisseurs. They can recognize the real package--not flashy but very weighty. True assessment is heavy with honesty.

Patience also does not gleam to dazzle the eye. Its dull sheen can fool the inexperienced buyer into thinking it not worth the price, but it multiplies with use, so growth is the real value.

Courage does flash and gleam. If it had a fault, which virtues can't, it would be seduction. It is the sex symbol of virtues, but needs to be replenished often, since it can get used up so quickly.

Thank goodness virtues are not purchaseable commodities. If they were the vice of greed would abound and corrupt, pollute and distort the treasures sought.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thoughts about Odd Names

A starfish isn't quite a fish.
To call it so--confusing
But people do persist with it.
I find it quite amusing.

Sea cucumber is not a fruit--
It isn't even a plant!
But this guy has that certain shape
Long and plump, that much, I'll grant.

You can't buy with a sand dollar
Although it be round and gold.
You will get bounced from any store--
"Don't come back" is what you're told.

Feather star is not a duster
And it never touched a bird.
You wouldn't sneeze if it stroked you.
Its name is quite absurd.

Who named all these echinoderms?
They need to get some glasses!
Or these critters will get misplaced--
Put in incorrect classes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting Back to Eden

I concluded a long time ago that my passion for gardening stems from a desire to create a paradise, a new Eden, or at least the feeling that I got the old Eden back. No one can say for sure what the original garden was like, but it had to be serenely beautiful and full of a variety of luscious vegetation. Wildlife would have been attracted to it and welcomed, too. It also happened to have naked people wandering through it and that was OK with everyone. I haven't figured out where that fits into my vision yet and I can't say I'm particularly comfortable with that feature. But the rest--I'm working on it. I'll let you know when I get there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bird Encounters

Shuffling around in the brush this morning, I annoyed a brown thrasher when I snapped a twig off a gargantuan heap of dead wild rose branches. Its severe golden-eyed countenance made me think better about the plans I had for that dead shrub and I ambled off to another corner of my property. I had seen that same thrasher briefly the day before on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac. It was a short glimpse as I drove by, but just long enough that I was hoping for another sighting to confirm its identity. My encounter this morning was brief again, only a few seconds, but very close--perhaps less than three feet. It was time enough to take in its solid, reddish brown back, creamy underside flecked with brown speckles, and that piercing eye. An odd clicking noise had brought the bird to my attention--it must have been its warning call--not particularly bird-like, but usual and loud enough to look up for it. Slightly larger than a robin, certainly not as big as a crow, but large enough to remember Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", it demanded I surrender the space it claimed. I was glad to. It was a happy retreat.

At lunchtime today, I blended up some fresh strawberries into a smoothie. It looked refreshing in a red cup with a colorful straw piercing its creaminess. With the rest of my lunch I plopped into a chair on the deck and set my smoothie down on the little table next to me. Moments later I noticed a male ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder. He sipped and then zipped off only to return again moments later. After another drink he whizzed over to me. Less than two feet away, he flew back and forth several times around my drink, hovering close to it. Had I not been so near, he would probably have dared an even closer look. The red color attracted it and perhaps the smell of the strawberries. In any case, after zigzagging a few times, he decided not to risk a closer inspection and zoomed off. I could almost hear the humming of his wings as he withdrew.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Arguing for the Sake of Peace

The more annoyed you are the harder it is to listen, and the more needful it is. There are people who, as soon as they open their mouths, you want to shut them up. We often forget that others besides ourselves think their ideas are good, worthy of attention, and right-headed. When they are people with whom we vehemently disagree, the temptation is to just blow them off with some shriveling words of dismissal and pat ourselves on the back for our self-perceived (or should I say self-deceived) intellectual prowess. This blowing-off accomplishes nothing good and often exacerbates any further productive communication.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when you do listen, ask questions, and respectfully counter-argue. Almost never do you change a mind, but you can change an attitude, which may be just as important. Our increasingly polarized culture is creating blow-off attitudes the size of Mt. Everest. Stepping back, clearing our hearts of antagonism, clearing our heads of fuzziness, and showing a sincere willingness to hear the other person out does more for building peace than digging in and taking snarky shots at our opponents.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life is Fragile

Yesterday I witnessed my best friend tumbling headfirst down concrete steps and found her out cold when she stopped. The number of thoughts that can race through your mind in an emergency is truly astounding, and somehow, if you keep your head, you can deal with the most urgent needs in the midst of crisis. 911 was summoned, family members were notified, ambulance staff questions were answered, and excited dogs were removed from the premises.

Fortunately for my friend, she didn't break any bones, but has a concussion, stitches, lots of bruises and is very sore. She is blessed to be so lucky. I know someone who fell on his head and died. I have hit concrete three times that I know of--twice on my head and needing stitches, once on my arm, which broke.

Our bodies are a miracle of engineering. Skin never ceases to amaze me at how it protects our insides, endures all kinds of abuse, and yet still heals itself quickly and often without leaving a trace of the injury. Even so, one false step can put all that miraculous organic machinery in jeopardy. Toughness and fragility in one astounding package.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poison Ivy and Lessons Unlearned

We all have our stubborn ways where we are so set in how we do things that changing is almost impossible. Poison ivy is teaching me this. I just don't like gardening with gloves on. Part of the enjoyment is the sensory pleasures of feeling the dirt crumble in your hands, knowing that you've grasped a weed well enough to get it up by the roots, and touching soft, cool living plants. Gloves diminish that enjoyment, sterilize the experience, and are cumbersome. It's like holding a newborn baby with rubber gloves on. You'd miss that incredibly soft skin.

So I've been dealing with a poison ivy rash for several weeks. There's no end in sight. And I'm still gardening without gloves on, encountering more poison ivy, and washing up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub whenever I know I've touched some. I don't have a problem with scratching the rash, and most of the time I can keep the itching down to a comfortable enough level. If the blisters weren't between my fingers I also think that they wouldn't burst.

My mother, who is in her eighties, told me recently that she gardens now with gloves on all the time. She could change. Maybe I can do this. But I think it is going to take a rash much worse than this one to change my mind.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Steps Forward

Life is a dance. Two steps forward, one step sideways, one step backwards, two steps forward. I don't know what that dance might be--perhaps the foxtrot. In any case, we rarely just go straight ahead, and who would want to. Life is more interesting with some twists and turns--even some that are unexpected and initially unwelcome. Almost anything we undertake is like this.

I'm in the midst of lesson planning. I picked some materials that I thought would be useful. Then I found some other stuff that was even better so I changed the plan.

I'm trying to pay off our mortgage. But other priorities have tapped into my earnings. They were all things that needed doing. The mortgage has gone down, just not as fast as I had envisioned.

I broke my arm. Then I sprained my thumb on the same arm. Now I have poison ivy on the sprained thumb/broken arm limb. The thumb problem and the rash have made doing therapy difficult, and some parts of it impossible, but my arm works again.

My hearing declined. I got surgery--then my hearing was worse until the swelling went down. Now little gifts of sound are returning. This morning I heard some birds chirping--not mourning doves, the only bird I'd heard up till now. I also heard the microwave beep from across the room.

We can be dismayed at the backward steps. I like to think that when we step back it is a preparation for a leap forward. Kind of like pulling back the bow string before releasing the arrow.

Life is a dance. You can't waltz unless you step both forward, backward and to the side. Start the music. I can hear it now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Might Be

A problem needs solving. I puzzle out the possible solutions. It's sticky and messy and other people need to be considered. My imagination kicks in and now I'm picturing the discussion I'll have with the people involved. Sometimes I'm arguing.

It's funny how in these imaginary conversations I am always eloquent and convincing. It never works that way in real life. It is always so disappointing to actually have the discussion and find that people aren't sticking to the script. I had it all thought out, therefore I might be right.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Myrtle and the Way Things Are

Now that the growing season explodes upon us, I have been waging war in my yard daily. I define weeds as plants that are not where we want them. Thus, I allow milkweed to grow out by the cul-de-sac because it attracts monarch butterflies, and I rip out myrtle in dozens of spots because, although it is a lovely ground cover, it also tends to choke other things that are more desirable. It truly is a war. The myrtle advances and I attack with all my weapons.

Every day I find poison ivy, which I pull up gingerly, and then take great care to wash both arms up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub. This morning I detected a small rash between my pinkie and ring finger on my left hand. This isn't fair. I didn't pull it out with my gloved left hand! But a few rashy spots (most of them just pinhead size) are what I've come to accept as a normal part of a gardener's trials.

I often fight plants with plants. If you rip out what you don't want and replace it with a vigorous start of something else, it might be able to hold onto its turf and keep the undesirables at bay. Another option is mulching, but I have always struggled with limited time, energy and money. When it comes down to choosing priorities on what to spend my meager funds on, plant material and some good soil to get them started always wins. In the meantime, I pick up pine cones by the buckets and mulch around bushes with them. This year I may splurge on a bale of hay for the vegetable garden, and maybe even ask our lawn mower (the person, not the machine) to collect the clippings, now that we have a mower than can actually bag the stuff.

Progress is slow but steady. Every spring I wonder if I will just give up, and then I get started. Inspiration sprouts and then gets rooted. I reach for the hoe, the shovel and the poison ivy scrub and decide that I can't just let things stay the way they are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's Been Even a Lot Longer...

I find I don't have much to say these days. It must still be burn-out from the last school year. However, there is also something to be said for listening instead of talking. I have good reasons for saying that these days, because there is so much more to hear. My ear surgery has proven successful and continues to open welcome sounds for my enjoyment again.

I am noticing...
lots of airplanes go over our house!
a mourning dove coos as I garden.
kitchen appliances are like rockets taking off.
subtitles on movies aren't always exactly what the people are saying.
that music is pleasant again.
that I am not lip reading much right now.
that you don't have to repeat yourself as much.
that I don't always have to use caption telephone in phone conversations.
the sound the turn signals make in the car.
the beep on the microwave... sometimes.
that I don't have to explain to people all the time that I am hearing impaired.
little squeaks and noises that my granddaughter makes.

Life is getting lovelier.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's Been a While

First the excuse. It gets tedious typing with one finger. Now with a cast I can use two hands again. It is slow and hurts a little bit, but it's better.

I am a grandparent now. My teeny weeny little girl is showing signs of being a champion already, having been born prematurely. But she is sucking up the distress and difficulties like a true braveheart. It makes me ponder life and wonder at the rolling tide of generations that keeps hitting the shore. Some waves are receding, whiles others are just crashing on the beaches.

I have two generations alive behind me now and one ahead of me. It used to be the reverse, but with the death of my last grandparent sixteen years ago, it was like stepping up in the queue. Now my parents' generation is first in line to step through the mysterious veil that releases us from time and space. Occasionally someone further back in the line takes cuts, and that is never nice.

My desktop photo right now if of my son holding his brand-new daughter. The look of love and devotion on his face has already made a transforming mark. He will never be the same again. That little bundle is tugging hard at his heart and making him ever more vulnerable to the joys and pains of intense love. He is blessed.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hunt and Peck

With a broken arm there is a great temptation to...

1. not do things you are still capable of doing because you have an excuse.
2. use either too much or too little pain medication.
3. believe your sling/cast weighs more than it really does when you step on the scale.
4. gut it out and not accept help.
5. sleep all day.
6. lower the typing standards because you have to hunt and peck.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Oh! The Lies!

There is a voice in our heads, if only we could still it, telling lies continually.

Sometimes it is the voice of self-deception, making us feel more important, virtuous, beautiful, and smarter than we really are.

It can also be the nemesis of a puffed ego undermining our confidence: "Your nose really is too big. You never will do this well. People only pretend to like you."

Other times it is the black hole of the past, trying to suck you in, never to escape: "Remember how much it hurt when he/she did that? Don't forget about how you messed up. It's too late to change."

It can also be a whispering deceiver: "You are unlovable. What you did will never be forgiven. You are such a bore."

The trick is to discern between the falsehoods and a healthy dose of reality. Lies bring despair, but truth lies in peace.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Always Teaching, Always Learning.

The beauty of being a teacher is that there is always something new to learn. It can be new material about your subject. It can be a new insight on how to present it. It can be a minor revision in your approach to it. Sometimes just when I've finished a class, I realize a way I could have done it so much better. When I'm organized enough, I make a note of it, so that the next time I teach I can utilize that insight.

The primary goal of a teacher is to pass on knowledge. An equally important role, however, is to increase the hunger for learning. Nothing makes my day more than to see students' faces light up with discovery.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Coming Home

Streaking through the night sky
Coming home to me.
My beloved is a-traveling.
His face I long to see.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Door to Door, Face to Face

I just did my first installment of door-to-door collecting of signatures to get Jack on the ballot. Several things tend to run through my mind while I'm doing this.

1. I will never shut the door in the face of anyone who comes to it without hearing what they are there for. Doesn't matter if I don't like their cause, their religion or their product. Door-to-door takes energy, time and some guts. I respect that.
2. Politeness isn't hard. Rudeness doesn't help any situation.
3. I wonder what is going on when people won't even come to the door and you can see them through the window. Goes back to point 1.
4. The democracy we enjoy is a precious gift. If enough of us ignore the processes that keep it alive, it will die.
5. Some people tend to assume all politicians are corrupt. Why does it seem like they are also the ones who are most apathetic about changing that? If you don't like slimy, stinky messes, you have to clean them up. If politics was an essential organic resident in our living rooms, you can bet it would be washed, deodorized, and dusted off. Broken parts would be thrown out, replaced or repaired.
6. I will never posted a NO SOLICITATION sign on my door. Goes back to point 1.
7. Lots and lots of people have dogs.
8. Lots and lots of people have dog decorations on their houses.
9. I hope that Republicans are not as rude to Democrats as my experiences as a Republican exposes me to rude Democrats. Goes back to point 2.
10. On a sunny day that is reasonably warm, going door-to-door is not a bad way to get exercise.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Loving Friday Night With No Place to Go

Bought me a brand new popcorn popper, 'cause the last one just blew up. Gonna pop me some popcorn and put on some real butter. Gonna get out that bottle of Creme Soda hidden in the back of the fridge and chuck a DVD into the system--one at least four hours long, and sit back. Not gonna answer the phone. Not gonna make any other plans. It's gonna be good.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You can say no.

"If not you, then who?" The ultimate guilt trip! I just despise this quote. Here's why.

It is a manipulative challenge. It is basically saying, "You are the last person left. We don't see anyone else on the horizon that will do it. And since we don't, you either have to do it, or tell us who can." You have to recognize your limitations on time, energy, and talent, and that just because there is a need out there, it is not necessarily true that because you are asked, you are the one to do it. Our culture encourages us to over-commit, creating harried, exhausted, frantically weary people. Even great saints recognized the need for relaxation, refreshment, and down time. So a legitimate answer to the challenge is, "No one." How about that! Mother Teresa didn't sacrifice time for morning prayer or evening fellowship to do that pressing need that never goes away. You can say no, too.

Another reason: You have to ask yourself, "What it is about this service request that no one else wants to do it?" Granted, there are services that take a compassionate and humble heart to get done. But I am always suspicious that the thing being requested isn't getting done because it just isn't necessary. Jack once heard on the radio a plea to donate money so that no kid had to start school on the first day without new clothes to wear. His first reaction: Aww! Who would send a kid to school in September without new duds? Then it hit him. We do that! A middle-class family, trying to make ends meet, and we sacrificed new clothes for school. I know our kids never suffered much from it either. So when you are pressed to do something, ask yourself, "Is it even worth doing?" This is another thing to which you can often say no.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On a Roll

My goal this morning was to work on two science experiments as possible activities for my science class. It is often a frustrating and futile effort, since so many of them do not work. But, but, but!!! Today with only a little extra effort and minimal aggravation, I got them both to work in a very short time. This was supposed to take all day, cost me buckets of tears, and involve much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I am sorely tempted to try to make another one work for which I had bought many parts, one of them costly, and for which I have only met with failure thus far. I'm batting 1000--do I push my luck? And I know what you all are saying: "No guts, no glory." But hey, I just had two glories already this morning. Moderation in all things is my motto. Why spoil a good day when you're on a roll?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Up at Midnight

I'm yawning so widely I can't keep my eyes open, but I've caught up (almost) with correcting. Tomorrow, invariably, I will log on and find a whole new slew of assignments to plow through. But it just feels good right now, to be able to go to bed with a clean slate. We kid ourselves when we say we are all caught up. It is such a temporal pleasure, but I was willing to stay up past midnight to experience it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Home Alone

I'm actually not alone right now, but the one person here is still sleeping. It's quiet, and not just because I can't hear the noise. There are no appliances running. The phone isn't ringing. The radio is off. I recall my mother saying that she often left the radio on all day so that she would not feel lonely. It comforted her to hear another voice.

I am content to be my own company, but sometimes I get tired of myself. Quietness does not bother me, but emptiness does. There are days when my soul says "Ah!" to the stillness. Other times the solitude closes in like a painful blackness.

Today, I say "Ah!", but I clearly recognize the relief of knowing there is still someone around asleep.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What You're Good At Isn't Always What You Love

There are some talents I could do without. It's not that I don't think they are useful, but that I just don't enjoy those activities. You can be good at something and not like doing it. Yet, the talent is needed, others recognize it and request it, and you know it is at least not wrong to help, and at best, the right thing to do. So you find yourself doing lots of dreary things very well, while your heart pines for something else.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

All the little details...

Life changes so quickly. Why I feel so fascinated by progress beats me, but there are so many details, some of you just don't know what you've missed like...
...TV dinners whose foil cover is hard to remove without getting burned,
...public schools with only one vending machine--for no. 2 pencils, stores with only one or two brands of whatever you want,
...nylon stockings held up by a girdle with clips,
...girls being required to wear dresses or skirts to school every day,
...putting on a coat, scarf, hat, mittens, snow pants and boots before going out,
...shaking a pan on the stove for popcorn,
...sitting down together as a family for every single meal eaten at home,
...personal hand-written letters arriving weekly from family members,
...wearing white gloves to church and a hat, and white television with a curved rounded screen,
...only two TV channels to pick from if the weather cooperates, otherwise one,
...bicycles with only one speed--you back pedaled to brake.
Enough for now. I've got to finish that meal for all the family members who are coming to sit down together to eat it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I'm not so sure this is a good idea...

1. Drinking a white Russian followed by a black Russian on an empty stomach.
2. Accepting those double Manhattans from the lecherous ogler at the bar.
3. Doing handstands in the living room.
4. Starting a 10 page paper and a 15 page paper in the evening of the day before they are both due.
5. Riding down that steep hill in a wagon with two toddlers on my lap.
6. Deciding to hike the two miles to the nature center because there's nothing better to do because school was cancelled because of all the freaking snow that fell.
7. Deciding to camp even though our tent doesn't have a rain fly because what are the chances it will rain tonight anyhow...
8. Taking the short cut back to the house under those tall elm trees because this thunderstorm is coming on a lot faster than I realized.
9. Going to the prom with the guy I just had an argument with anyway, because heck, it's just one night. What could happen?
10. Walking home in the rain because my ride didn't show up, and what's a little drenching going to do to me anyway...

I admit it. I did all of these things at some time in my life, and ignored that wee voice in my head warning me that I shouldn't be so sure that it was a good idea.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Never Been to Cedar Point? Ha!

Riding that roller coaster every day
Elation to depression giving sway
To the plunging down, taking breath away.

Then grind, grind, grind to ascend dark to light
A gasping at the heavens from that height,
A panicky vision: despairing plight.

Screaming, roaring, sucking wind, swift descent
Clutching handrails, hoping the plunge relent
Knowing rock bottom is where you are meant.

Is not striving through life this: up and down?
We work to conquer and gain the prize crown,
Never suspecting our fleeting renown.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Now and never again

Scrambling and hurrying
For obscure and fleeting moments
We wear ourselves down
And grow blind to the beauty
Of languid gazing,
Insensate to quiet breathing,
And deaf to
Profound listening.
Contemplate the now
That will never come again
And wonder at
The miracle of your presence.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to Turn on Your Television in Ten Straight-forward Steps

For a fifty-something person, it is mildly daunting to decide to watch television on your new large HD screen and find that there are at least four remotes to choose from to get to where you want to go. So here is my strategy:
1. Pick up the first remote and push buttons randomly to see if anything happens.
2. Pick up the second remote and push even more vigorously.
3. Pick up the third remote and repeat above two steps.
4. Pick up fourth remote and repeat above first two steps. It is harder now because you can't see the buttons through your tears of frustration, and your hands are trembling.
5. Take all four remotes to the first person under 30 that you can find.
6. Don't let them have them. Make them come with you to the television and tell you which buttons to push.
7. Make them explain why.
8. Make them show you how to get closed captions.
9. Forget everything.
10. Next time, start again at the top of the list.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why Being a Pessimist Helps Me Cope

I don't like being a pessimist. I wish my mind worked differently. But it doesn't. However there are some distinct advantages to always expecting the worst to happen.
1. Most of the time it doesn't.
2. I will be ready for anything.
3. I've planned all your funerals many times over already, (after your tragic, sudden and unexpected death) so when things need to get decided, I'll have a plan in hand already. If you have song requests, I can accommodate you with early notification.
4. Happy things become such wonderful surprises,
5. and sad things are no surprise at all.
6. I can laugh at the times to come because someone once said, "Comedy is tragedy plus time." It might be Woody Allen, but I can't confirm that.
7. Planning what to do when the worst (which never happens) happens provides many hours of concentrated entertainment.
8. I get to be the heroine in all my imagined tragedies.
9. When bad things happen, I can be calm because I saw it coming.
10. My one hope is heaven, and I sure as hell intend to get there.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Your Cold Heart Won't Be Missed...

Good-bye, January. You've been around long enough. I thought you'd never leave. Things are looking brighter now that you are on your way out the door. I don't hate you, I just don't warm up to you. Your cold heart won't be missed...

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I just wrote a poem
But it's stashed away.
I'm not going to share it
With you today.

Friday, January 29, 2010

OK. I won't rant. Or maybe I will...

Just deleted a big rant. About cell phones. In short, when you answer a cell phone, it is like beaming up. You are no longer present but somewhere else. If you are with someone when you answer, you are cutting them off for someone else. The message: just about anyone who calls me can interrupt whatever you might have been saying to me. Think about the situation you are in, and what is appropriate. Consider the option of turning the d--n thing off. Don't be a slave to a puny piece of technology.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surviving January (or "Don't Believe Everything You Read")

Getting through January in Michigan has definite challenges, especially if you suffer from Seasonal Affective Depression. Here are some tips to survival:

1. Walk the dog every day. I take Jack with me. If he's not available I take the other Jack (Daniels)...
2. Sit in front of your happy light for a half hour. You could also convince yourself that sitting in front of the lit up computer screen playing Spider Solitaire has the same effect, but it takes at least four hours of play time.
3. Call up a friend and talk. I can't hear on the phone, so I talk to myself. I'm very interesting most of the time, and my enunciation is perfect.
4. Drink lots of hot drinks. If that doesn't help, add brandy.
5. Do a creative project. Playing four hours of Spider Solitaire at a time counts. So does Zelda.
6. Listen to some favorite music. I can't hear music anymore either. It's because that person that is always talking to me drowns it out. But her enunciation is perfect.
7. Get regular exercise. Going up and down the stairs to get a hot drink every hour when you're playing Spider Solitaire for four hours at a stretch counts, but only if there's brandy in it.
8. Make a fire in the fireplace. Don't try this after the fourth hot drink...
9. Watch a favorite movie, with captions, to drown out the person with perfect enunciation.
10. Offer that person with perfect enunciation a hot drink. That might shut her up.

Hope these tips help. Can't guarantee that the PWPE will shut up, but you could always pretend to be listening while playing Spider Solitaire, and you won't mind it so much after four hours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ah! Now I Understand...

According to the American Psychiatric Association, this coming
seven days [January 25th to February 1st] is officially the most depressing week of the year.

It's a cold, dreary day in mid-winter. Spring is still too far away, and the last vestiges of Christmas cheer have evaporated. For some of us, we are still too near the beginning of a semester to see the hope of an end to it.

We have all gotten our tax information to remind us that the government is going to scalp us again. Our credit card bills for December are due.

There is more daylight every day, but not enough yet and too dim to be felt--since we see the sun so infrequently in Michigan.

And living in Michigan could explain a lot for many people. The economy sucks. Unemployment is horrendous. Lake effect is oppressive. If you hate your job, you don't dare quit unless you have another already lined up. If you own a home you can't move because it won't sell.

Personally, I'm just tired of being cold most of the time.

In spite of all that, life is still good.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Things don't always run smoothly. This morning is one of those times. It's my own fault. I didn't deal with the printer displaying an error message all weekend. I just wasn't up for it. This morning I needed to print something... big. In desperation I finally just followed the cord of the printer to its source and (gasp) unplugged it. You techies out there are probably laughing to split your sides, but for me, that was a desperate measure. My God, the world could have ended! But it worked. I am now printing away and not sure I'll get it all done by my late morning deadline.

I don't like that technology makes perfectly intelligent people feel helpless. But knowing this stuff isn't everyone's favorite fruit smoothie. For some of us it is a chore, and the future looks bleak. It's just going to be one long dreary scramble to keep up.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Half-time

During football season, half-time is that breather where you get things done. You suddenly wake up from the mesmerizing effect of staring at the television screen and realize, "Ah, now I have a chance to get something done. Quick." You rush off with a purpose in mind, and voila!, you actually accomplish something. Then the game begins again.

Sometimes it seems that we live our lives this way. About half-way through, we realize we have just a few moment/days/years/whatever to accomplish something. We rush around and then life kicks in again. We go with the flow until the game-over sign flashes, and we wonder why we went back to the set at all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lost and Found

The mystery is solved. I lost a recipe card today and Laura and I searched high and low for it. Finally I went up to the computer and retrieved from a file the information that I had the foresight to type in. However I was saddened. The original recipe was handwritten on a card by a close friend. It is a sweet reminder every time I pull it out of that person and her specialness to me. Her penmanship is beautiful and the little added tips that she contributed to the recipe speak of her personality.

I have many similar recipe cards--some splattered from use, some on decorative cards, some written on scraps of paper. The most special ones are handwritten by the person who I got it from, and these I treasure above the newspaper clippings and magazine versions with full-color photos. Some are written by people no longer alive, and the cards are yellowing with each passing decade.

Sure, it is prudent to type them into a computer file. If the card did get lost, at least the culinary treasure is not. But the printed out version, though neat and legible, is utterly sanitary and sterile. It won't have any life to it until it gets smudged, aged and tattered.

There is a happy ending. I did find my original card. I must have left it on the counter when I pulled it out to complete my grocery shopping list. It got swept into the dishwasher and survived a full washing cycle, mostly due to the fact that I had tucked it into a clear plastic sleeve to help preserve it. Soaked clear through, it was miraculously still quite legible; the ink didn't run and the card didn't tear as I carefully pulled it out of its sleeve to dry it. I thought about all the fussing and fuming I did in the kitchen upon its disappearance. During all that emotional aggravation, it was within arms reach, but out of sight!

It was lost, cherished more dearly in its absence, and reverently pressed between towels when found.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Queasy Uneasy

Yeasty bubbling
almost cramping
not liking smells
or the thought of eating

stomach flip-flops
mucky-taste mouth
too much swallowing
too little craving

not quite nauseated
it's the queasy uneasy
belly kneading
prelude to something

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Great White Expanse

Outside my window is a great white expanse--a snowy field. The temperatures will doom this clean whiteboard slate to an dreary, dead, brownish green by week's end. The snow will melt off so gradually that from moment to moment one would hardly notice.

Ahead in my life is a great white expanse. A whiteboard of classes, lesson preparation and paper correcting. I've made it through one class already. More coops start up this week, and in February the last one I work with begins. My life will hum along, full and somewhat hectic. But at last one day I will look up and the dreary, dead green of late winter will have arrived and spring will be around the corner.

At the moment it hardly seems possible. But the melting snow promises me it will be so.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Procrastination part three

Two days into grinding it out and there's still more to get done. My brain is feeling like over-cooked cauliflower and my rear-end, perfectly molded into the swivel chair, now feels a part of the furniture. I long to move around, to escape, to fly away--but there is enough discipline left to remind me that I did that first, and now I must earn it. When one goes on vacation, one must still pay the bills for it when once back at home again.

I long to make my lesson plans adventurous, eye-popping and a joy. If some plans are more drudge than elation, I feel a sense of failure. As the sand slips through the hourglass, so escapes the opportunity to dig deeper, search more thoroughly, to hack more vigorously through the jungle of possibilities. Every explorer has their near misses. If we had only swung a little more to the east, then the secret burial grounds of the African elephant and all the riches of ivory would have been ours. But instead we turned back--the call of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of life was too strong. The glory will be for another time, and the PB & J will have to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Procrastination part two

Today I am in the purely perspiration state of things. Not much time left. Now I really have to just dig and sweat and grind out some work. At this point, it will just be ugly. When inspiration doesn't come, and time is running low, you just have to make due with some less-than-stellar ideas and a dim bulb instead of brilliance.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Procrastination, Inspiration and Perspiration

Sometimes you just can't make something happen until it's ready to happen. It would be easy to say that true procrastination is this. That would be laziness. I'm willing to suggest that sometimes it is not procrastination, but a prolonged pondering of what to do. Those of you who have read The War of Art will probably get all over my case about this. Sorry. I have just experienced sometimes that I can put off and put off because I'm stumped. Then finally the idea comes, the inspiration. At last I'm ready for the perspiration in getting it all together.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Examining My White Christmas

I recently read a book that was entirely about snow crystals, more familiarly known as snowflakes. It was fascinating, and made me realize this common fluffy stuff is way overlooked--literally. Do yourself a favor. Get a magnifying glass and step outside someday with it and a piece of dark paper to catch the crystals on. Look at them closely. The big fluffy ones are merely clusters of smaller stars. Individual stars are amazing. Be patient. Many are broken. They melt quickly. If you don't gasp at the beauty, or even wonder at their symmetry, you have my deepest sympathies.