Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Occasionally I wonder how I would be and what I would do in a life-threatening situation--like Tom Hanks in Castaway , or if I came face to face with a home invader, or if I were lost in the woods without food, water, or supplies.

When my mind travels on this train of thought, I'm usually thinking about courage. Generally, I see myself as mostly emotionally brave and sometimes physically timid. These can get mixed up, however: I like to think I would fight to the end to protect the people I love, including myself if cornered. At the same time, while I believe I am steady and clear in a crisis, I cry deeply when my heart hurts.
Why am I saying all this? Well, it's been a hell of a week. Non-stop. I'm hobbling on a childish knee that out of nowhere has the nerve to need surgery, jb, also hobbling, is on an emergency flight to Colorado, my Mother is staying here while we carefully evaluate what's next and best for her, and today my household included a physical therapist, home health aide, cleaner, and a chimney evaluator. To feel and be overwhelmed by all this sounds so petty: no one has died, the house hasn't burned, there's food in the refrigerator. And yet the private me who likes time to think and walk in the park is hiding in the closet, curled up in a corner with my knees to my chest, thinking hard about how to stay above the frey, and how to pull that off with grace and humor.
I'm mentally videotaping who I am in this circumstance. I don't want to bitch and complain. This, however, remains to be seen. My fuse is not that long. In the meantime, I'm temporarily turning to a joke or two. Here's the first installment.
Little Bruce and Jenny are only 10 years old, but they just know that they are in love. One day they decide that they want to get married, so Bruce goes to Jenny's father to ask him for her hand. Bruce bravely walks up to him and says, "Mr. Smith, me and Jenny are in love and I want to ask you for her hand in marriage."
Thinking that this was just the cutest thing, Mr. Smith replies, "Well Bruce, you are only 10. Where will you two live?"Without even taking a moment to think about it, Bruce replies, "In Jenny's room. It's bigger than mine and we can both fit there nicely."
Still thinking this is just adorable, Mr. Smith says with a huge grin, "Okay then how will you live? You're not old enough to get a job. You'll need to support Jenny."Again, Bruce instantly replies, "Our allowance. Jenny makes 5 dollars a week and I make 10 dollars a week. That's about 60 dollars a month and that should do us just fine."
By this time Mr. Smith is a little shocked that Bruce has put so much thought into this. He thinks for a moment trying to come up with something that Bruce won't have an answer to. After a second, Mr. Smith says, "Well Bruce, it seems like you have got everything all figured out. I just have one more question for you. What will you do if the two of you should have little ones of your own?"
Bruce just shrugs his shoulders and says, "Well, we've been lucky so far."
Mr. Smith no longer thinks the little shit is adorable.

Monday, October 29, 2007



Monday, October 22, 2007

In the Shower


Damp Dark Debilitating Thoughts Spilling Forth to Slow One Down, or

Delicious Daring Doubtless Thoughts Sputtering Down to Push One Forth

I wait until the steam builds up, when my breathing slows and I am safely submerged, I wait until my mind reviews the price of being tethered and the luck of being smart. I wait until I feel little crystal beads of sadness start at my shoulder blades and drip down, one by one, over my breasts until they just disappear, like they never existed. I wait until I do a speed read of my life so far, the sound of applause and the quiet thank you's and the way the sun turned east that morning on the hill, that morning when I finally understood I would be carrying the weight I never sought, never even understood, but somehow along the line I agreed to it, and really, every morning in the shower I remember that I freely chose it then, and I freely choose it now. I watch that water spill onto me and I could just as well be Esther Williams practicing her synchronized swimming—practicing something alone for something that cannot be performed alone. That is me.
Then, when I have in no order at all finished my morning cleansing, when the steam is sufficiently thick and I have sufficiently calmed down, I see my day beyond all those jumpy judgements and cheerless chores and sad secrets, and for a moment so fleeting I never remember it, I pray I will be good enough.

Then, every morning just before I begin in earnest, just before I take my place and deliver my hopeful goods, I pause, place my right index finger on the shower door, and I make a peace sign. First I make the circle, then the up and down line that separates the parts and joins the whole, and then the slants, first left, then right.
Every day, every single day, that peace sign is my consistency, this personal act of hope and penance that pushes me forth, now scrubbed clean, open to fly and fall all over again.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


For weeks, Ces has been asking me for pictures of New England's famous fall foliage, but the peak colors only appeared two days ago. And they are stunning. Here's a sneak-peak. They'll be more to come, but, for anybody who's not sure about God and the universe, this should at least confirm there is a Spiritual Interior Decorator.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Heaven and Hell

It's her birthday. Over lunch, she chuckles explaining how she got roped into running the Ministry of Meals.
"I go to church once in a blue moon", she says. "So I'm surprised when I'm asked to take over the church meals' program. "I think to myself 'It can't be that hard', so I say yes. That was before I knew about the banner and presentation for the regional church conference. I'm not handy, you know, I couldn't sew a banner to save my life. But I went to a craft store and went to four masses last Sunday and asked for volunteers. So now we'll have a banner. And I got volunteers for 'meals on demand'--when there is a family in crisis who needs some home cooking for awhile.
"It's a tough job", she smiles, "managing the Ministry of Meals, but someone's got to do it."
Then once all this is discussed and conveyed in Catholic detail, my friend Liz takes her leave so she won't miss the Naughty Nighties party later that evening.
"Is it more than lingerie?", I ask her.
"Oh yes" she replies, "all kinds of paraphernalia".
From the Ministry of Meals to Naughty Nighties-- all in a day's work.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday 13:Another Mish-Mash

1. In the last year I have finished a self-help book on Career Counseling, written 52 poems, am mid-way through the sweetest short story on Casey and Izzy, completed a first draft novel for National Novel Writing Month, and dallied in several other short stories, essays and articles.
2. Some days I think I am a good writer and other days, especially when I compare myself to so many incredible writers I have met, I think I'm low average at best.
3. I know it's not helpful to make comparisons.
4. After leaving my agent, I have the interest and helpful support of a small publisher for my career book, but I am dawdling with the book proposal revisions.
5. Turns out I like writing poetry best: I may self publish a book of my poems next year, depending on printing costs and my motivation to market it.
6. Enough about writing: why are most ceilings painted stark white? When JB and I moved into this house, we painted the livingroom and guest bedroom ceilings the same color as the trim (creamy beige, kind of). Both came out terrific, adding a nice warmth to the rooms.
7. This painter's trick comes from Martha Stewart: with a pencil write your paint colors and numbers on the walls behind the light switches. That way you won't forget when a touchup or re-do is needed.
8. My dog Stella is now a relaxed, happy, loving, appreciative and always sweet girl who lives for walks, cookies and chicken. After Rosie, I never thought I would love another dog like this.
9. Does anyone else besides me really like Roy Orbison? When I think of his song, "Love Hurts", I could still cry on the spot.
10. This comes from a recent book on the Tarot: "There are forces that no amount of good will or proper training can overcome: sometimes you have to be willing to pick up a sword. You cannot compromise with your conscience; what is worth having must also be worth fighting for, if necessary. It is not enough to want peace and security, or even to teach it: sometimes you have to be willing--and able--to defend it. "
11. Mr. Ryan is crawling. And laughing. And watching. He is patiently curious--his eyes follow every movement, his ears every sound, his hands everything in front of him.
12. I am returning to meditation as a means of helping myself be more open and peaceful.
13. Is it true I have begun and will continue to regularly cook again? Will I again bake bread on Sunday mornings? I hope so.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Side

I didn't plan to write a sequel to the previous poem entitled "Wounded Bird". But today I found myself jotting the following in my Moleskine: "You have this mostly right, but not entirely." Whoa--Who said, that??!, I asked myself.

It seems there is more to be said--directly from the Wounded Bird herself.

I fly from necessity
Hovering over leafy trees and endless water,
Following an unestimable path from home

Only to return again,
Where I’ll find my roots and rhythm
Deeply tucked in grainy sand.

I do not question why I do this--
This destiny of family and fate--
What I cannot fathom I will not change.

My 12 feather tail and meager wing span
Weigh in below two ounces,
Not enough for my survival

And yet I maneuver and endure,
I doggedly sing my song
And tuck my broken wing

Under my expanding and rapid chest
Until I know if
I might fly again.

If I should die here
Unable to lift myself beyond this place
I will fly anyway

Straight to this indominable future
Where I will be an African River Martin
tending and fending

Reaching still and always,
Weightless in my belief
That I was born for just this moment.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Wounded Bird

A swallow can fly miles, from treetop to ocean cliff
The wind's undertow buoyantly gliding her
To a resting place of warm possibility.

She is free, lifted higher by duty and family
Not a thought outside of weather and wind,
Acceptance and choice safely within her span.

But then, jolted in flight,
her heart pumped deep
And she is transformed,

The unknown and unfamiliar
In that very moment,
A broken wing reclaiming

Something lost and ancient
Spiraling deep and desperate
Into the habitat of hidden.

Some species heal their wings
In solitude, licking and lying
In a nest of thin twigs

Healing from within
Until they can fly again,
To and from home.

But other species do not heal
And they tuck that wing
Underneath themselves,

Landlocked and less,
The natural order
Injured inside and out.

That species will push on
Practicing, praying, pretending
That wings are but a crutch

Meanwhile hoping that reverse gravity
May rocket them up and open them wide,
Heedfully whole to fly again.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


She was 14 when her mother made her go to work.

"NO, mom, it's summer and I deserve to be with my friends!"

"NO, daughter, it's time you learned about work".

She found an assembly job at a local shoe factory with her best friend Annie. She cursed and complained all the way out the front door the first morning. She said she could not believe how anyone could be so mean.

She came bouncing home at 4:30. She was carrying a package.

"OH, mom, it was SO cool!".

"OH, honey, that is wonderful".

"They'll pay you in shoes instead of money, Mom."

"WHAT????? That is not what I had in mind".

Thus began my daughter Jessica's introduction to work. Although my plan backfired that summer, I have never regretted my insistence that she learn how to work and how to manage money.

I developed a Money-Management cirriculum in my head that summer, and over the years I would find opportunities to implement it throughout Jess' teenage and college years. "Pay yourself first", I would say when she began getting paychecks.

"You won't believe how fast money accumulates when you put aside even a small amount every week."

"The proceeds from that painted wooden spoon in your Christmas stocking goes to support the local shelter".

"If you learn how to save for something special, it will be all the more special to you."


Spend. Save. Give.

I first heard "spend save give" on a talk radio program. It was too late to make it a bonafide part of my secret financial cirriculum, but to this day I hope my daughter understands this principle.
"Take that hundred dollars from your birthday and spend a third, save a third, and donate a third. Most of the time that will work out pretty well". She often did not follow this advice, but I've always hoped it's seeped in.

For the record, I give far less than a third of my income to charity, so the formula could just as well be 40-40-20, or even 50-40-10. The numbers don't matter nearly as much as the catagories. Spend. Save. Give.

I think it's a nifty way to think, to teach, to live in the world. So I gladly pass it on to whom ever where ever why ever when ever.


No can do
Not tried
not true
Attested to
Brunswick stew
Crazy glue
Can’t outdo
Cordon bleu
Here anew
Straight into
Making do
Baby shoe
Bomber crew
Deja vu
Just outgrew
Take a few
Put me through
Still taboo
In full view
Black bamboo
Bottle screw
Book review
Elmer’s glue
Doggy do
Why and who
Break a few
Home brew
Bally hoo
Who knew?
Stomach flu
Kung fu
Wandering Jew
Love you too
Animal glue
Pacific yew
You have to.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


I'm joining Jessie and inviting you to join me in being brave. At least once a week, and every day if I can, for the next 30 days, I'm going to do something that scares me. It might be emotional or physical, it might be as simple as singing a song to someone besides jb, it might be unabashed terror for my uppity ego. Some things I'll share--some I won't. I welcome the incentive.

Here are the "rules" as outlined by Jessie:

1. (Most important:) MAKE YOUR OWN RULES.
2. Do this for yourself.
3. Make a commitment for the length of time that best suites YOUR needs--one day, one month, one year, one moment...it's all up to you, and you alone.
4. The "brave" or "scary" things that you choose to do can be as big or little as you want them to
be. Sometimes it's the little things that can be the most scary! (Not to quote Nike, but...) Just do it.
5. Be on your own schedule. You don't need to make a commitment until YOU are ready.
6. This is your unique journey--make it whatever you want it to be.
Care to join me?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Given what is,
What am I to do?
I'm still thinking about this, still appreciating and reviewing so many of your great comments.

Here's a little more I learned that night about acceptance and choice:

1. Accept FIRST. Don't get fooled into believing first you choose, and then you accept what you've chosen. Accept first and THEN ask "What am I to do?"

2. When you have profound acceptance, you WILL act.

3. Acceptance is an internal and passive process. As hard as it may be, when you accept, you do it unconditionally and totally. You might be sad or disappointed or lost, but you accept what is.

4. Choice is an external (in-the-world) active process. As hard as it may be, when you choose, you do it with conditions and discernment. You might be sad or disappointed or lost, but you choose what to do.

5. Acceptance is spiritual; choice is human.

6. You don't create acceptance: it already exists and you allow yourself to become alligned with it.

8. You do create choice: you sort through your options and initiate the one you think is best at the time.

Why am I pondering this? Well, I wish I could change a couple of things. Maybe someday there will be the ending I propose. But until then, let me accept the way things are today and then, with a wide heart and open eyes, freely and consciously, make choices. And after that, when I can see the results, accept again. And choose again. And accept again. And choose again..