Wednesday, September 30, 2009

flashing forward, not back

A few weeks ago as I was celebrating Eucharist on Sunday morning I experienced an odd, unexpected commentary emerging in my head. As I read the words of thanksgiving--words I have read hundreds of times, words rooted in nearly 2000 years of ancient tradition, words reflecting the deeply held beliefs of millions, words that echo in hearts around the globe--they seemed out of sync.

It was as though the crafting of those words were half a beat behind the pulse of the day. Rather than speaking to the anxiety of the times and the dissonance of competing rhetoric, the words of the liturgy streamed with a thinness of irrelevance. The daily concerns of the people in the pew had outpaced the eloquent phrasing, and the burdens of a community hungry for solace and delivery on biblical promises flattened the hope carried by generations of the faithful.

It was an experience that, rather than causing distress within me, opened a door of opportunity to consider a new way to understand the holy promise that in Christ God makes all things new. In that moment of awareness, acknowledgement and clarity light splashed on a path previously unseen. It was barely perceptible, shadowed as it was by traditions groaning under the weight of repetition. The God of surprises was lost in the fog that passes for familiarity, and the mystery of the Word made flesh was hidden from view by the petty concerns of the powerless seeking a foothold in a world where power is all. And then, the glimpse was extinguished by the need to continue the pattern of words and extend the invitation to the table.

Until yesterday. As I listened to NPR's On Point and the wheels began to turn in response to the inspiration flowing up from within, the prescient liturgical moment returned for consideration. This time it came with a framework and a language, although the "how to" manual was conspicuously absent. No matter. Once is an occurrence, but twice, anchored in the composition of a blog post, is on its way to becoming a pattern.

What lies before me is vast and overwhelming, but likewise it is breathtaking and life-giving. Now to hunker down and dwell with the Spirit and let prayers rise like incense. Holy Moly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

finding inspiration in a surprising interview

On my way downtown this morning I was enthralled listening to the show that featured two urban Mayors talk about revitalization in their cities on NPR's On Point. Don't let the subject matter put you off. There are wonderful and amazing things going on in some of our cities, led by creative, passionate leaders who understand that addressing the causes of problems has far more effect than focusing on symptoms. Okay, that's sort of a "duh" thing, but they do more than get it, they incarnate it! I found myself inspired to look closely at how I can be a positive force and contributor to aleviating the ills of my own community. How often can we say that?

Even better, it got me thinking about places in my own world and work that would benefit from some creative reflection, and the wheels started to turn. I'm hoping to make some "notes to self" so that I can remember to take the time to do more than think, but respond. My life could use a little of that kind of activity right now.

another blurry day

That's me this morning. Slept in because I had to get fasting blood drawn, and the less time between rising and getting to the medical unit that does that sort of thing, the better! And then back home to enjoy my morning ritual of coffee and computer, and a chance for a quick word here before getting back into the car for another appointment. And then after that another errand. And after that... It's not that no one else in the world has days like this, but of late this kind of day works to compress other factors at work in my life and I begin to feel fragmented.

It strikes me as ironic that as I learn more about mindfulness and work to integrate knowledge and the practice of that discipline into my days, and hence my life, that I have difficulty keeping things in mind. Those two things aren't related, of course, except that they involve the mind. Critical and essential responsibilities are tended, but beyond that? I can't keep focused. I had planned to do something on Sunday that is a priority for me, but here it is Tuesday and I'm not sure when I will be able to get to it. It's not about time management, motivation, or clarity of priorities or purpose. There's something deeper that prevents me from being fully present to myself, my needs and desires. I'm working on that, but as I do that work, it is very frustrating to me to feel so unable to feel in charge of my own day.

For now I'm taking charge of being on time to my next appointment. That will have to do for the next hour.
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Monday, September 28, 2009

the plague

After all the rain we've had we are reaping the unfortunate results: plagues of mosquitoes. Seriously. With a dog whose bladder control skills rank right down there with the amateurs I spend lots of time out in the yard. It takes about 15 seconds before I hear the first buzz in my ear, then see another move toward my eye, another land on my arm. And this is after I have dosed all exposed areas (including my ears) with bug spray. Every. Time. I. Go. Out. Did I mention that I go out a lot?

Now that the rain has stopped and we actually have a couple of days of sun to dry out the yard, it is my aim to train McKinlee (finally) to the invisible fence. The mosquitoes attack her, too, and I fret for her comfort while I watch an entire swarm descend upon her young, vulnerable body. But training is a must, and so we will persevere and endure.

Pray for us. And curse those dang mosquitoes.
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

i have a dream

My first "real job" was as a program director with a YWCA. One of my colleagues was Katie, the aquatic director. She was down home country, a farmer's wife, mother of four boys with a heart of gold and an infectious laugh. She was a bright spot while I was in that job that didn't suit me well (but from which I learned a LOT!), and a good friend.

We stayed in touch for a number of years after my "Y" days were over, and then one year, shortly after the new year, I had a letter from her husband letting me know that they had lost Katie to breast cancer just before Christmas. Katie was my first friend to be stolen from the world by breast cancer.

I have been fortunate that most of my experience with that beast has been with survivors. Ken has not been as lucky. His late wife died from a recurrence of it. In whatever way breast cancer steals its way into the bodies and lives of women, all of us are touched by it one way or another.

October is breast cancer awareness month. It has been an idea and dream of mine for a while to hold a worship service in that month that honors the women of our lives who have walked that road. I want to remember those who have gone and celebrate with survivors. I want the church to bless that sisterhood and the people who are entwined in the experience.

I've been turning over in my mind ways to make the service meaningful, and I recalled a glorious experience I had at St. John the Divine while chaperoning some youth during a Night Watch program. Worshiping at the high altar at midnight, each of were given long, thin tapers. At some point we lit the candles and stuck them into a container full of sand, and then after the homily we each took a candle from the sand and went out into the darkness of the church to pray. It was an incredible sight to watch those points of light move out and disperse in the darkness. I'm thinking that for this occasion of remembrance and celebration members of the congregation could bring lit tapers to the altar and place them in a container of sand, so that the cluster of light becomes brilliant. The lights would dim to contrast with the lives represented by that light, then after a blessing the worshipers would be dismissed.

Yes? Maybe? Thoughts? And what else needs to be part of this? I plan to use the Order for Evening from The Book of Common Prayer, and include a time of prayer during which the names of those lost may be raised up. Does anyone know of resources/liturgies for this type of service? What music is appropriate and would be familiar to a largely Baptist community? And in the midst of a very dominant Christian community, I want to be sensitive to other traditions that may be present.

In memory of those we love and have lost...

Friday, September 25, 2009

friday five: falling

Singing Owl at RevGals writes: The Autumnal Equinox has just come 'round again. I took a look back at our Friday Fives and noted that it always seems to make the Rev Gals and their Pals think of changes.

There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.

For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations.

1. Share a Fall memory.
Just one? I grew up in New England, THE place to be in the fall (if you ask me, which you sort of did, sort of)! I remember fall craft fairs, color, crisp air, brilliant blue skies, soccer games and hot chocolate in thermoses, color, cider mills and pumpkin patches, playing in leaves, and did I mention color? There isn't any one memory that stands out because there are so many good ones. Well, except last November's election. THAT is a standout!

2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
Sweaters! Doesn't matter which one. I like cold weather (a freak of nature, that's me), and when it's cold enough for a sweater I'm happy with the weather.

3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
One fall, pre-seminary, our parish had a "take a walk" day, where families gathered to walk the trails of a favorite local spot. We were a small parish, and two dads with their daughters, and two single adult women with dogs (guess who was one of them) turned out. It was a fabulous day of sharing children, laughter, enjoying the weather and the world around us as we walked. Some of my favorite photographs, still in frames, are from that day.

4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
Moving away from summer temperatures tops the list, but I love lots of things about fall: the colors, the air, activities starting up, holidays and the anticipation thereof...

5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, the season changes and winter approaches?
My step-daughter is due to deliver her second child in a few weeks. They live miles away, but the real distance is in the relationship between father and daughter. There's too much to say about the implications of that for all of us, but I'll try to distill it to this: in order for this family to enjoy better health, something's gotta give. I'm working on my part and encouraging and supporting others to do theirs.

Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated.
I suspect I won't be alone here in saying chili, or soups. My favorite soup is corn chowder. I use the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, but I use chopped bacon to generate flavor (I don't want to say fat), and add chopped chicken and a tablespoon of curry. Fabulous!
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

doin' the happy dance!

It's been four days since my computer went bonkers on me, and finally, thanks to my friend Roy's thoughtful research on my behalf, I am back in business. I couldn't have done it without the competent and quick responsiveness of just answer, a web site that assists with all manner of technical difficulties (and not confined to computer technology).

Oh, what a relief! It's not easy to be separated from the connections with friends and admired others that contribute to the joy or thoughtfulness of each day, to be able to share what's going on here (good or less so), or to cheer on or encourage others as seems fitting according to their circumstance.

The timing is only slightly delayed, as well, to change my banner photo and other "accessories" with the advent of fall. I don't want to get to stale, after all!

Now I can turn my attention back to other matters like stewardship campaigns, spaghetti dinners, and a jewelry party to celebrate the arrival of my friend Clare from New Zealand!

Ah, life is good when the cyber gods are smiling...
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Monday, September 21, 2009

interim note

For some reason I am not able to log into blogger from my computer, so could not update my blog Monday, or post to other blogs via blogger. Ach!!! I don't know what the problem is, hence don't know how to fix it. I am using Ken's computer to post this note Monday evening, but using his computer on a daily basis for blog interface is not the solution. If anyone can suggest how to troubleshoot this issue, I'm all ears! I am able to read comments left, so feel free.

In the meantime I'll do my best to stay in touch. Pray for grace from the cyber-gods!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

go gators!

Today is about loyalty.

I'm not into college football. Heck, when I was in college our football team was nothing to write home about (and we won't talk about that time when I actually stepped in as a cheerleader, or when I dated the captain of the football team!). Those days of 76-0 losses sort of says it all.

But I have a friend who is a serious, no, make that Serious Florida Gators fan. She didn't attend the University of Florida, but she's a Sunshine State native and she can root for whomever she chooses. She chooses the Gators.

And because she is my friend and I don't really care about football, I have signed on to root with her when she gets excited about their games, their wins, and their very existence. I attend Gator parties. I have a Gator t-shirt, and today against rival University of Tennessee I will cheer the Gators on. I actually know who Tim Tebow is, and when it comes to basketball season where the team is a wee bit smaller than the 100 or so that put on football jerseys, I actually learn their names. A freak of nature, what can I say...

Today we're heading to MJ's for tailgaiting and football. It's all about relationship anyway, though I will watch the game. And eat tailgate food. Which reminds me, it's time to put the chicken wings in the oven.

Have a great day. No matter who you root for!
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Friday, September 18, 2009

friday five: where on the stairs?

At RevGals Jan plucks the strings of childhood memories (at least mine, where A.A. Milne was a fixture!):

Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
Other stair
Quite likeIt.
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
WhereI alwaysStop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn't up,
And isn't down.
It isn't in the nursery,
It isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't reallyAnywhere!
It's somewhere elseInstead!"

A. A. Milne “Halfway Down,” When We Were Very Young

Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)

1. at the bottom?
2. at the top?

3. halfway?
4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?
5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead."

There is a lot going on in my inner and outer worlds these days. These questions tug at some of the work I am doing around issues of barriers, wounds, repair, restoration and healing. Some of that work has to do with me, some of it has to do with its presence in the lives of people about whom I care deeply.

There isn’t sufficient time in this day, and perhaps there is too much tenderness around what the responses would engender, to honor them here. Instead I invite the reader to consider them for him or herself, as they are indeed thought and feeling-provoking.

Blessings as you traverse the stairways of life.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

blazing trails, part 2

I have noted before that we face challenging times in this hosuehold. A part of that is financial--like many others our income has dropped with only one of us now working. The shuffling around of priorities in spending and shifting of habits demands sacrifices that are obvious and less so. Creative problem solving is helpful, though not always fruitful. I live a lot on hope, and food out of the freezer.

Another of our challenges is familial, and though I refer to it here, it is also personal. Where responding to financial deficits requires practicality, the dynamics of family and the situation at hand usher me into a foreign landscape. There are feelings and behaviors that confront me on a daily basis, and I learned quickly that my life experience, broad and abundant as it has been, did not prepare me for this.

Let's just say that I sought some training to equip me to respond lovingly, supportively and effectively to a new arena of human experience. As part of that effort I also have the opportunity to probe and shine some light on relics of my own, and old, familiar friends from the past are emerging, offering an opportunity for me to take another look from a new and better informed perspective.

I spent some time recently with a friend, during which I worked to redress an old wound. It had not been fully lanced at the time of its occurence and initial tending, and my friend and I both agreed that bringing it into the light now might illuminate other matters of concern.
And so it did. I had the sense that a door long closed to me could now be opened with ease. Stepping through it into the terrain of what awaits on the other side is now a possibility, and there I see the parallel of my path work.

Creating an inner path draws on the same guidelines as an external one: respect for the terrain and what exists there; recognizing which inhabitants are ripe for removal and which are guardians of the landscape; responding to the uniqueness of each portion of the path as it uncovered, and honoring its gifts while proceeding; not losing the opportunity offered by the present moment for the sake of the larger goal of creating a path. And along the way, the awareness that the mysteries of life and love infuse the effort with purpose.

It is not work I would have chosen, but as I begin this journey of inner pioneering I recognize that I come from lineage of pioneers. Pilgrims who set out from Holland to establish a colony at Plymouth; men who argued for liberty and soldiers who fought for its victory; women who worked as missionaries and conquered the barriers of gender to be ordained the same year I was born. The internal effort before me may seem singular in focus, but it is also possible that it may bear fruit that will offer a feast for others. It is my hope that such can be true.
And so I begin. Tools in hand, prayers at the ready, a sense of the landscape and wise and gifted companions along the way.
A way will open, and light will shine forth.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

blazing trails, part 1

I've had a path fetish for a long, long time. They call to me, want me to follow where they go, and some part of my being can't resist the opportunity to see where any path will lead. There's something about the mystery of what lies ahead, out of view, around the next corner, at the end...

Many paths, however, are disappointing. There isn't much of interest along its trail, it doesn't weave but a time or two, and the mystery it holds at its conclusion doesn't live up to the anticipation. I have almost come to the point where I believe that the suggestion of the mystery a path may hold is more alluring than the path itself. I find that as tantalizing as the path may appear, I rarely yield any longer to the invitation it offers. Except now and then.

On the other hand, I've got my mind and heart set on a building a path at Melrose. This picture is of one of our views, known as Bampy's View (named for my grandfather). We keep limbs pruned and take down any young whippersnapper that grows up into it and interferes with the clarity of this view. Across the road and down the hill perhaps 100 yards is the road that weaves through the property. In that section of steeped land, winding through the woods and ascending and descending the elevation I want to create a path. The intent of the path is for walking, getting a little exercise without taxing aging bodies and aching joints too much.

I'm also realizing that my desire for the path goes beyond what it will yield upon its completion (which will probably take years!). Forging the path is strongly compelling. I'm not one who enjoys physical labor, so that part I will have to tolerate. But the idea of working in concert with the land and woods, responding to its openings and respecting thicknesses of growth, has enormous appeal. The creation of this path will truly be one of discovering mysteries and encountering surprises. With each section cleared the trees and undergrowth that are revealed will yield the next opportunity or challenge. And like the journey of a labyrinth, each walk along the completed path will be its own encounter with the trail, the woods, and the mysteries that life holds along the way.

I am coming to understand that forging a path, in this literal sense, is also a metaphor for an inner journey. But that is part 2. Today I invite you to see where you are led this day. What paths invite you to traverse them? What challenge lies ahead? What mystery attends you as you make your way?

Blessings to you as you journey.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

reduce, reuse, reorganize!

In the same way that music has been in my head of late, so has this phrase (although recycle is generally the third "r"). Consequently it led to today's post, which in some ways is about reducing and reusing (or at least setting up to be used).

Remember that carload of upholstery sample fabrics (here's a visual reminder if you don't)? I gave about half of it to our local senior citizen center, and the rest got carted into the house and piled up somewhere out of the way until I had a chance to deal with it (translation: find a place to store it!).

In one of my productive energy bursts last month I finally got around to tackling the stacks of fabric, going through each piece to fold and sort it according to its size and relative bulk. There ended up being three piles of like sizes once folded. Part of the impetus for this was the desire to move the fabric into the closet in my office, as well as get it off the floor of the guest room. The closet gets revamped pretty regularly as I reconsider what things I want readily available, and assess what things I actually need to access. There was, at last, space in the closet for fabric.

Once the upholstery fabric was in place on the shelf I realized there was still plenty of room for more fabric, so I began the process of relocating stashes of quilting fabric from the guest room closet that had been the fabric storehouse up to this point. It would, after all, be nice for guests to use the closet! It's amazing how much I was able to fit onto the office closet shelf. Unfortunately I will need to take all of that out again when I get some additional shelves for the conglomerate of storage. We're waiting on funds for that, but when that happens I will be doing one big happy dance! It is my goal to have all my fabric in this closet, sorted and organized for easy access, and thus more likely to get used!

Stay tuned. This work in progress is moving forward, even if it is at a snail's pace.

Monday, September 14, 2009

some days are like this

Last night, one of my best friends and I were sitting in my living room and I said to her, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.

She got up, unplugged the computer, and threw out my wine.

She's such a bitch.

(thanks to my mother for this one)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

happy tunes

I've been hearing songs in my head. Out of nowhere tunes are popping up and following me through the day, or clinging to me in a wakeful moment of the night. An array of numbers from "Mama Mia!" were the first perpetrators. Could. not. shake. them. And then Billy Joel. Yesterday it was Cher. Quite a hodge podge, as you can see (and as I type Gordon Lightfoot's "If you could read my mind," is enjoying iterations in my mind!).

I have no clue what this is about. I think we all experience music in our minds from time to time, but this time it feels a bit like an assault! Is there a message here? Like, I need more music in my life? Well, as a matter of fact I do, but is my psyche in on this conspiracy? What gives?

I have recently set up my sewing machine in my office. It faces a television that I can't watch since broadcast signals went digital, and as yet I haven't bothered to do anything about a converter box. I prefer not to sew in silence, and although I regularly talk to myself while engaged in just about any project, that isn't quite the companionship I seek while I sew. The radio is an option, but my preference is NPR and the signal isn't great. iTunes? Maybe that's the answer.

Or maybe it has to do with rhythm and harmony. As other aspects of life bump along, perhaps the music in my head is a way to keep a sort of balance and offset the scale of discord that interferes with life's joy.

I don't know, but it's a curious thing. Curious.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

color me proud!

Bragging rights--you betcha!

In a previous post I noted some of the virtues that I admire about my older brother, Jamie. Well, he shines once again in his professional capacity as a featured remodeler in Sarah Susanka's new book, Not so Big Remodeling. (This is his second appearance in one of Sarah's books, the first being Inside the Not so Big House.)

I have long been an admirer of Jamie's creative edge, which pushes the boundaries just far enough past the conventional to designs that feel familiar and comfortable while still being fresh and exciting. He excells at Craftsman details, and his trademark design style is what I would call an updated mission style. Some years ago I asked him what he considered his hallmark as a remodeling designer, and his answer was that he was "not afraid of a curve." It shows in his work.

Over the years he has refined his approach to design, almost foretelling the green advice to reuse, reduce and recyle. He is a pro at helping people redefine existing space not only for a better look, but for optimal function. His looks are homey and warm, incorporating green technology and expressing the homeowner's lifestyle through color, texture and detail.

I stand in awe, always, of his capacity for originality in design, and his talent to apply his knowledge and experience to serve his customers' varying needs as they seek solutions for their home space. It is gratifying to see him thrive in a field that suits his gifts so well, and even more, to know that his talents are recognized and valued. He has developed a new blog to communicate with his clients and share his thoughts on relevant developments not just in design, but in areas of life that impact how we live. Even if you have no need of his services, I believe there's something of value for most of us in what he includes here.

Way to go, Jamie! You done good.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

friday five: time for bed!

At RevGals today Sophia invites us to consider sleepwear. Hmmm..

1. What was your favorite sleeping attire as a child? And did you call them pjs, pajamas (to rhyme with llamas), pajamas (to sort of rhyme with bananas), jammies, or ???
Except for the occasional picture of me in pjs (or jammies), I don't have any recollection of what I wore to bed as a child. I suspect pajamas were bought by my mom, so it would be whatever she chose!

2. Favorite sleepwear put on your own little ones, or perhaps those you babysat? (Bonus points if you made it).
No little ones of my own, don't recall those of babysittees, but since my children have four legs, I couldn't resist this picture! (I do not dress my "children," however)

3. How about today-do you prefer nightgown, pajamas, undies, or au naturel?
I used to be a nightgown girl, but I've shifted to pajamas or nightshirts. I buy what appeals to me: like the nightshirt that reads: she who loves dogs (with assorted dogs decorating the shirt). I tend toward pjs most of the time because I can linger in them more easily (and take the dog out...)

4. Silky smooth or flannel-y cozy?
I've never been a silky girl, too much slithering for me. I prefer what is comfortable--soft flannels in the winter and soft cottons at other times.

5. Socks or bare feet?
Bare feet unless it's really cold, then socks for sure. Flannel sheets DO help in that department!

No stories to share in the sleepwear department, that's a fairly tame and sleepy part of my life. Ha!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

just thinking

He called the president a liar in front of God and everybody.

What has gotten into people? Shout outs at town hall meetings, boycotts of a presidential address to schools, and now there's a case before the supreme court where the argument is being made that because money can buy a media blitz it should be considered a right to free speech. Yeah, no.

I think it's all about control. The loss of it. At least it is that to which I attribute the anger, hostility, rudeness and self-righteousness that is so pervasive these days. There is so much uncertainty about jobs, money, whether or not the mortgage payment can be made and a family will be homeless in another month. It is about the cultural ego-slam when a man can't provide for his family. It is about gender bias when a woman is the head of a household and can't keep up. It is about the fear among the elderly whose nest-eggs have been robbed by the greed of a few. Closer to home it is about the concern for Junior when he deploys next in a unit that doesn't have the training and won't have the protection to which he's accustomed.

It's about daily survival, and it takes its toll.

We have concerns about money in our house, too. I'm not worried about the mortgage, but my credit rating is in the tank. That doesn't bode well for the future. There's no telling if it will recover or how long that will take. We have concerns about family estrangements, and the heartbreak tears at our souls a little with each day that goes by without movement toward resolution. Depression sucks air out of the motivation to do more to provide for our needs and recover from our wounds, fiscal and familial.

It's one day at a time, and it takes its toll. There are days when I feel right with the world and I get lots done and the people in my care are well served. There are days when survival barely allows me to spare them a thought. It's not fair to them, and I pray that the efforts of my better days compensate for those when I am merely surviving.

But I am not striking out. I am not disparaging another's character or shouting hateful words. I am not even thinking ill of someone who puts a bad face on the things I care about. In survival mode I am doing what I can to manage my life and use my time in a way that at the least benefits my household and my family, and then serves the needs of others. When we can't control the big things why can't we focus on the little things? Get the family together for a meal, wash a neighbor's car, plant a garden. Say "thank you" to someone every day for something they've done, expected or unexpected. Slap on some lipstick. Look at each day as a gift.

I have some friends who, when they get together for dinner they go around the table and offer up one thing that sucked about their day, and one thing that lifted it above the ordinary. It's a worthy endeavor, to acknowledge the crap and recognize the blessings. It puts life in perspective, shifts the focus away from the dregs and brings into the light at least one aspect of life that can be celebrated.

It's a place to start. And a world better than calling someone a liar.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

late bloomer

That's me today. Had an early appointment two counties over and woke later than intended. Barely made it out of the house after feeding everyone but me! Had a chance while there to sneak into Whole Foods and grab an early lunch before heading to a second appointment. If only I had had time and $$ to shop! LOVE WHOLE FOODS!

Good news here is that the pups have now graduated to mush. And, now that they're no longer relocated from the pen in order to eat from my lap I need to figure out how to get into the pen to clean up and get fresh papers down. I'm sure I'll figure out something. I didn't go to graduate school for nothing, after all.

And another thing. The other night I attempted to roast some tomatoes from our garden before the whole lot turned to mush on me. This was a prelude to making tomato sauce that could go in the freezer. Alas, the oven runs hot and I forgot to check them halfway through and they burned up like nobody's business. I tried again last night, and here are the lovely 'maters sprinkled with herbs, onions and garlic before heading into the oven. This time they did not burn, but let me tell you that there's not much of a tomato left after they've been roasted for a couple of hours (this recipe is from Alton Brown, so who am I to quibble about the length of time?). The recipe calls for wine in the next step and it just so happens I'm fresh out, so will have to wait to complete the effort. But, I must say that I'm just more than slightly tickled that I have gotten this far using our plentiful harvest. Next year I hope we'll plant more plants and I can really put some sauce together!

In the meantime I concocted a recipe for dinner last night to use yet another tomato that was ripe and ready. OMG, was it fabulous! Let me share...

The Vicar's Chicken (serves 2--double as needed)
(I'm not a vicar but it has a ring to it)

Cook two strips of bacon in skillet (I used an 8" non-stick skillet. From Pampered Chef, just so you know). Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Set cooked bacon strips aside.
Add one large tomato, peeled and coarsely chopped, and one medium onion, coarsely chopped. Saute in bacon drippings on medium-low heat.
Top tomato and onion mixture with one large boneless, skinless chicken breast. Turn chicken breast after ten minutes. Stir tomato and onion mixture as needed.
When chicken breast is cooked through (total time 20 minutes?), remove from pan. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth to skillet and stir in.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and return to skillet. Crumble bacon and add to skillet. Stir to mix.
Serve over pasta. Grate fresh Parmesan cheese over dish.

Except for the bacon fat this is a very healthy meal (I use whole wheat pasta, as well), but the bacon is what makes this a standout. If you try it, let me know how you like it!

And that, friends, is a wrap for today. I'm heading to the store for wine. For the tomato sauce, of course!
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Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Much as I am committed to the care and nurture of the pups, my endurance is fading. The last time I did this I had the support of Ken and, for several days, Junior and Trisha. It was a shared labor of love. It continues to be a labor of love and a routine has developed that removes a layer of stress. But it is difficult to manage the rest of life (e.g. the other dogs!) and the tasks of my days with a sense that I am doing anything well. By the way, that's Boris to the right. Is he cute or what?

Blessedly I was invited to join some friends last night for dinner. I timed the feedings to bookend my social engagement, which worked well, and it was an evening without stress and a delight to be with friends and eat too much wonderful food. Yolande made me a dazzling gin and tonic offered in a pilsner glass--how's that for a change of pace? My host, Linda, made "roasted tacos," using a beef roast rolled in small corn tortillas and fried (like a tacquito). Lettuce and cheese were available to pile on, and Linda's homemade salsa crowned the taco. Yum! We also enjoyed spanish rice, delicious beans, and a black bean/corn/tomato/onion and cilantro salsa salad topped with avocado. Double Yum! For me there was no such thing as dessert, and I was home and dependent upon a few burps (sorry if that's tmi) before I began to feel relief from my indulgence. It was a superb meal. The change of scenery and the socialiability of the evening proved restorative, and I came home feeling good and with spirits refreshed.

In the sort of timing that one can only laugh about, I was just starting to feed the pups when I went to the door to let in Juliet and Rigel from their little bit of relief. I was greeted immediately with a whiff of skunk, and Juliet was nowhere to be seen. Doggone it! I called and called. No response. I could have gotten in the car and driven through the neighborhood, but in the dark it would be difficult to spot her. I had to trust that she would behave as on occasions past, and respond to the sound of my voice calling her name as I belted it out into the night. I had squealing puppies to feed.

I prayed as I fed, and four puppies later I noted Juliet's shadow outside the door. Thank you, God! I brought her in immediately, and indeed, she had been sprayed. Fortunately it was not as potent a spray as in previous encounters, but she would still need to be bathed. Sigh. Deep sigh! Time to practice mindfulness, and breathe.

A bath later, I was more than ready for bed. I slept fitfully, and this morning the routine begins again, with the addition of cleaning the bathroom and doing additional loads of laundry. I do love my life. Really. I'd just rather do without the skunks. As long as they're around, however, just keep those gin and tonics coming.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I am feeling obliged to weigh in on the Obama school address. Can I just say, "what is with you people?" The resistance is beyond ridiculous, and the behavior speaks volumes about ugly traits that reveal some serious immaturity in this country, never mind racism, bigotry, and the very partisanship of which Obama is being unjustly accused. Indoctrination? Please. This is the President of the United States. Consider the weight of the office and the respect due to it if nothing else. Let his voice be heard. If there is something problematic in it then a teachable moment is available to every student and parent to talk about the issue at hand. Show courtesy, respect, and yes, patriotism. If this was G. W. B. (and I don't mean the bridge), not my favorite politican by a long stretch, I think I would actually feel proud of him for stepping up to the plate to say something of value. My very own county is citing a "scheduling conflict" as the reason for not showing the address. Pathetic, cowardly, small-minded, and intentional ignorance are a few of the epithets that come to mind. Get a grip, people!

Okay, I am now off my rant. I'm proud of you, President Obama!

Monday, September 07, 2009


To anyone else this picture looks like a flowering plant. Run of the mill.

Not to me.

Back in May small pots of Gerber daisies decorated the tables in our parish hall for Mother's Day. One of them came home with me. I transplanted it into a large bucket on the front steps, replacing the remnants from last year's blooms that were my Mother's Day gift from Junior. It went through some transitional death and rebirth, but from that moment on all that came up were leaves. Lots of leaves. Green leaves. Did I mention there were lots of green leaves?

Until a couple of weeks ago, when the first of these bright, almost neon orange blooms appeared in all its robust glory. And then the next one emerged, and the next. There's even a fourth flower hidden from view.

I'm loving this for several reasons. One is that I love flowers. Love the color and texture and life that they offer. To me they are icons to the brilliance of creation and the masterful ingenuity of it all. Which of course leads me to think about the magnificence of the Creator.

Another reason I am loving this is that this pot of Gerbers is representative of my own life at present. Feeling like it was being tended but not yielding blooms. But patience and faith and worthy of practicing because in due time, blooming is underway. There is renewal happening in my life. It is sometimes difficult to identify beneath the all-too common greenery of my days, but from time to time evidence of blooms are apparent, and a small burst of joy is set off like a firecracker in my soul.

Ken is gone for a couple of weeks to help Junior and Trisha with the "fixer upper" they are leasing and then purchasing. During his absence I had hoped to do a little more hard core tending of my dormant self to aid the renewal that I suspected was underway. The puppies have pretty much made that a difficult task, but over this weekend I have made some progress toward achieving at least one goal. The sewing machine is up and threaded. The iron and ironing board await. The dining table is cleared for cutting and trimming fabric. By the end of today it is my hope to have something to show for these efforts. And along the way I will be gleeful to celebrate that I am blooming where I have been planted.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Puppy update: Two of the pups, Boris and Zoe, have been having a rough time. They made a visit to the vet on Friday, and there was nothing specific to identify the source of their difficulty. They got a shot of antibiotics and I received a cautionary word that they might not survive. "Not on my watch," was all I was thinking. They have continued to struggle--I would celebrate when they guzzled at the bottle, only to worry at the next meal when they wouldn't keep down what I would force-feed through the syringe. Their poop was brown, an indication of intestinal irritation. Zoe's poop was looking better, but she is clearly the smallest of the litter now. Boris is eating much better and putting on weight, but his poop is still showing signs of latent distress. I am happy to report that the rest are thriving. If you would spare a prayer for Boris and Zoe I would be grateful.

Have a wonderful Labor Day.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

good things come

I've had some pain in my right heel for about a month. It's very painful to put any weight on it, at least initially, but then after I've walked for a bit, grinning and bearing it, the pain goes away (at least until the next time I get up to walk). I've been meaning to make an appointment with my podiatrist, but it's just one of those things I hadn't gotten around to. I've been living with the intermittent pain.

There is another health-related appointment that I needed to make, and since I have to get referrals from my doctor to see anyone else, I finally put a call into his office yesterday morning to ask for the two referrals. I was told that I had to come into the office, that he wouldn't do it over the phone. I began to fume. If I got there before 10:30 they could fit me in as a walk-in patient.

So in I walked. And waited. Two hours. It's not unusual to wait at my doctor's office, something about which I get rather annoyed. Sure, I'm happy to have a chance to read whatever book is in progress, but I really prefer to do my reading according to my own schedule. Everyone's time is valuable. I had things to do, puppies to feed, another person to meet. I mulled over the possibility that finding another doctor might be in order.

When I finally saw the doctor he was quick to point out to me that the need to see him for a referral was not his rule, but that of the insurance company. He's a gentle man, and he broke this to me in a nice way. My hostility level dropped by half. So. my foot? He found a tender spot and noted that it could be a number of things. The other matter? Ahhh, this is where it gets good.

I made reference to a matter about which we had spoken during our first appointment, was it last fall? Female stuff. He nodded. He probed a little, and then asked the bulls-eye question. I answered him. He then shared with me some information that I had heard before, but not in this context. It made sense, and I began to connect some dots. He shared some other things that I had not heard before. A light was beginning to dawn. He encouraged me on several fronts, affirmed some things, and in his gentle manner essentially handed me a road map toward some long-delayed healing.

I'm still not crazy about waiting, but I like this doctor because he knows what he's talking about. Takes time to talk. Asks and answers questions. Listens. I never get the sense that he's in a hurry. He never checks his watch. He sits down for conversation. He's the kind of doctor I think my father was, given his reputation with his patients (they loved him!). Time in the waiting room isn't the most fun thing, but the trade-off is so worth it. I appreciate having a doctor who can pierce the veil of medical stereotypes, but even more, what comes from his manner of care. My wounds, literal and figurative, are treated and healed. To be on the receiving end of that kind of care is worth the wait.

Friday, September 04, 2009

friday five: charging!

Sally at RevGals writes: This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....
So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?
1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low?
My Mom! She is wonderful at affirming people, has great insights, and is just plain old good company.
2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you?
Celtic music absolute puts my soul at peace. If I need cheering or quieting, this music weaves its way into my being and works whatever magic is needed.
3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope?
I don't know that I turn to scripture for refreshment or encouragement so much, but I do go to the psalms when I need to return my compass to God. I read them out loud, which never fails to move me to tears, and in those tears I find the Holy Spirit. I may not feel better, but I certainly feel better connected.
4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside?

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five....
I'm fostering a litter of orphaned puppies for a couple of weeks, and at the moment I have one of them in my lap. I find that very relaxing! Caring for the pups takes up some time, but nurturing them and caring for them is a joyful thing for me, and restorative.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I don't subscribe to the philosophy that everything happens for a reason. Let's just say that it has something to do with free will. I do believe, however, that there is synchronicity in the world. In the same way that pheromones communicate and appear to bring people (and hormones) into alignment, I believe that like energy draws people and ideas together. Over the last few days this has been the case with mindfulness: the idea that we become observers to situations and look at them without judgment. So much more could be said about this, but I touch on it because it relates significantly to something that has been bothering me for a few weeks.

Something written on another blog touched off a reaction in me. I wasn't hurt by the comment, which though not directed specifically at me could certainly have been construed to include me. But I did feel that what was written was a slight to some of the content that was appearing on my blog. Mindfulness looks at the feelings and thoughts that I experience. I'm not quite sure that I can identify the feelings, but the thoughts are that the comment made by the other blogger appeared not to honor whatever led me to choose to post what I did. (Is that too cryptic? It's difficult to keep the specifics out of this, but I am choosing to do that for a reason.) I don't need anyone else to value what I write here, but I guess I do have an expectation that bloggers don't go around trashing what someone else has written. The person writing the comment was speaking about her own reality and contrasting her life situation and blog entries with what was appearing elsewhere.

My struggle is whether or not to share my thoughts about this. I am new at this mindfulness stuff (looking at my own thoughts and feelings with detachment and without judgment). What do I do with what I learn from my observation? Is anything accomplished If I choose to note a response here? Do I dishonor myself if I choose not to write about it?

In short, this is my quandary. If you so choose, discuss!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


radiates refreshment

Raspberries * Red * Religion * Rest * Rivers * Roses * Rain * Raindrops * Relatives * Respect * Radio * fried rice * Relationships * Random acts of kindness * Road trips * Recreation * Romance * Redemption * Relaxation * Roadside stands * Returning home * Reunions

There's a pass leading to (or returningn from) the highlands of Scotland known as Rest and be Thankful. I suspect its name derives from having put the worst of travel behind one heading from the mountains toward the less arduous country of rolling hillsides and plains, and taking a moment to appreciate the victory. Whatever its origins, however, I am taking a moment to be thankful for rest.

There are different types of rest, of course. It can come in the form of relaxation, recovery, renewal and restoration, or simply taking a pause from what typically occupies us to pay attention to a singular opportunity or shift to something different.

One of the things I love about road trips is the spontaneous adventures that can occur. Roadside stands are just such a break from the hum of tires on pavement and the confines of a vehicle. I can recall when Ken and I were making a trip to Connecticut and a construction detour in Pennsylvania took us from the gentle curves of the interstate to the twists and turns of a country road. We came upon a roadside stand and stopped, not because we needed produce, but because it was an opportunity to take in the work and labor of another's world, and to appreciate the common ground of tomatoes and corn and the diversity of indigenous crops.

The stop along the road also broke the monotony of a lengthy trip, provided us with fresh grist for conversation and renewed road-weary bodies from sitting in the same position for hours. It also provided us with fruit, a welcome change from the usual carb-heavy snacks that accompany us on our travels.

Renewal comes in many forms, and can be found as close at hand as mindful breathing. A break from anything offers us a shift away from the ordinary and a glimpse into another world. While taking a neighborhood walk we can consider the landscaping of a home or a toy left in the yard from a child's romp; while driving we can imagine the journey of the passenger in the next car; at the computer we can follow a link to almost anywhere. When we return to our own world and environment we come back to a difference place from the one we left because our own world has been expanded, informed, touched. The time away, be it seconds or days, offers a reprieve from the grind that is our routine, and renews us even as we may expend energy.

We rest. We breathe. We find renewal.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

a qualified quotity

is for

Q-tips * Quilts * Questions * Quiet * Quiche * Quality * Quotations * Quakerism * Quebec

Several months ago one of the "friday five" posts over on RevGals invited us to share favorite blogs. Thanks to that posting I discovered three blogs that I now visit daily (and one of those has since led me to another daily giggle, which I'll post below). One of them is Kim, fellow Episcopalian and sojourner in faith, and an awesome quilter. The exposure to her creations and to her world has revived from dormancy my own love for fabric and quilting.

I've never thought before about putting into words just why quilting is a soul-satisfying endeavor. I suspect that, in keeping with my personality, it is about possibilities as much as anything else. And color. And patterns. And beauty. Hmm, I guess that is a lot of it! And then of course there is the experience of seeing it come together from individual scraps, pieces or blocks into a cohesive whole. Something from my own hand. There is enormous satisfaction in the experience of it all.

It's a challenge to quilt in our present abode. With three dogs, one of them a seven-month old puppy that thinks anything within her reach is fair game for her chewing pleasure, the use of space on a floor is out of the question. My office is at capacity for utilization of space and in constant need of tidying or relocating items in order to accommodate others. But my need to put hand to fabric and hear the hum of the sewing machine drives me with some urgency to make do and get on with it! There are several time-sensitive projects to which I'd like to apply myself, so the motivation is there, and it is high. I will perservere and find a way!

In the meantime I am enjoying another renewed interest (I'm liking this theme of renewal): quotations (is that not a fabulous wave photograph on the cover of that book of sea quotes? you can practically hear that wave break on a shoreline of rocks!). I have been a passive collector of quotes for a while, but Trisha's arrival in my/our life and her love of quotes is giving that passivity a run for its money. Seeing quotes posted around her apartment, and again decorating her graduation party I was mindful of the iconic draw they have into other worlds, thoughts and feelings. Very artisan, and one reason I am such a fan of calligraphy.

So my gratitude today is rooted, not surprisingly, in the creative realm. (Note to self: are you paying attention?). Where is your gratitude today?

notes: the quilt in the photo is the wedding gift to my goddaughter from her parents, made by her mom (second from right in picture). Click on the image for a larger view.

For some good laughs, check out
There, I fixed it!


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