Wednesday

Flirting

It’s little more than a breeze
a moment on the skin
It’s only a minute
before the flutter sets in

It’s something you know
a simple look, a glance
Where you finally feel
you can take a chance

It feels so simple
in the moment you feel
like all that you wanted
becomes less than surreal

It’s one simple word
a meaningful nod
where eyes burn like fire
to melt the facades

There’s little about it
that’s less than cliche
but it never seems to matter
because it takes us away.

Sunday

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I go to, what I would refer to as, a very non-traditional church. We don't have a lot of standing traditions, but one of my favorites is our end-of-the year prayer cards. We fill out 3x5 cards (usually on the last Sunday of the year) with our prayers and hopes for the coming year. They are collected, stored away, and then sent back to us in December of that coming year for reflection.

The last couple years ... I've been broken and empty. A lot of things had stolen away my hope and I had nothing left. So, these cards became more and more difficult to fill out. When I got my card back this December, it said, "Read, 'A Note to my Future Self" from December 2009." And I remembered the journal entry I'd typed late one night last December. It took me two days to locate it as I didn't remember where I stored it, but I finally found it.

I want to share it here (at least in part), because I've reclaimed love and hope this year, and I'm ready to let that grow. Thanks to all of those who've started or shared in the healing process. I love you far more than you will ever know.


December 2009
Dear "Future" Self~
I'm doing something a little different this year.  I'm not making a list of things I want or hope to see happen in the 2010. 
For my card in 2009, I made a list of relationships that I wanted to see restored. I know what I was thinking last year at this time: That I'd strained so many relationships in 2008 and I was looking for 2009 to be a year of reconciliation and healing of those relationships.
Funny thing, 2009 was more a year of Reconstruction, but not Reconciliation.  And before the reconstruction, apparently, I needed to tear apart all that I knew before to make way for the new. I've been through a year of hell as far as relationships go, and I'm still dealing with the fall~out from that. I read the card for 2009 with a heart that's broken and bleeding.  Of those listed relationships, all but one or two (as well as many others) have been strained ~ some to the point of breaking ~ possibly beyond repair. This card is nothing more than a mere reminder of all I've lost over the past year.
I won't do it for 2010.  Not like that at least. I won't ask for anything specific, except to have some healing of my heart this year and to know love more deeply and more fully.  Even that feels a bit like tempting fate, though, and I had to hesitate to write it. I'm beaten by 2009. I'm bruised. I'm lonely. I'm tired. I'm confused. I'm hurt. I'm frustrated. I'm angry. But in all of it, I am loved.  I know this because, with all the pain this year, came love.  Lest I forget it, THAT is the reminder I want to have this time next year.
So to myself at the close of 2010: know you are loved, even by people who can't say it because of time, space, or just an inability to speak the things they feel.  You are loved. You are beautiful. You are better now than you were then, even if you don't feel it.
Always in Love,
~Nean

Tuesday

After the Hour

in the longest night
fear finally breaks

opens cautiously to light

shedding the earth
and the shadow that falls
from past indiscretions
that lie

in stillness it wakes
brightened slowly in grace

swallowing darkness

it waits

as the world's interference
slips softly away
and the focus of hope
is revealed

~~~~~~~

Solstice Blessings on this darkest of nights. 
May nothing overshadow your love or your laughter! 


~~~~~~~

Saturday

The Skunk in the Manger

I just returned from our first family Christmas dinner without Gramma, which went surprisingly well. With all due respect to Gramma, it was one of the most relaxed dinners we've had in a long time. Perhaps because no one felt the need to be on best behavior for Gramma's sake and we were all our true selves? I don't know why exactly.

Maybe because we all realize that life and family are precious, made even more so in the past year due to the loss of the one person we all had in common and loved dearly. We used to come to Christmas at Gramma's for her benefit. But this past year, as we all stood around the casket, mourning the loss of one of the most beautiful, feisty, and incredible women I've ever known, the question that I heard over and over from my cousins was "Will we still see you at Christmas?" Funny the things we struggle to hold on to in times of loss.

And we enjoyed being together today. We spent part of the afternoon reminiscing, sorting through old photos, recapturing moments from our childhood when life was simpler and there were no "family politics" ~ at least none that mattered to us. We took the photos that meant the most to each of us and thanked God for the invention of scanners for the ones we might have fought over.

No one asked today where the pizza was ~ a long-standing family joke when we would stare at each other over the usual spread of two meats, various vegetable dishes (including Gramma's broccoli salad), and miscellaneous condiments, pickles, olives, rolls, and butter mints. Instead, we had barbecue sandwiches and some of the "usual fare" but we didn't sit in our unassigned usual seats at the table or eat off of actual plates. And somehow we all mingled, rather than separating into the usual two groups of the "Christians" and the "Pagans."

One tradition I did miss today, however, was the skunk in the manger. It all started "innocently" enough when one or both of my twin uncles (the youngest of the siblings and the self-proclaimed trouble-makers), decided to add Gramma's ceramic skunk into her nativity set ~ always somewhere new. And one year the skunk replaced Jesus in the manger. It was intended to annoy Gramma and was, at least in part, rather purposely sacrilegious of course, and always upset Gramma. And then one year, the skunk disappeared entirely.

Who knows where that skunk is now? Such a little trouble-maker, it symbolized so much. It symbolized the fact that we all come to Christmas, and to God from very different angles. Some of us come as the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, the holy family, or even the animals. But we all belong there - together - and even the skunk is welcome, one of the most odious of creatures to many people. Welcome at the manger.

And as much as I don't condone the skunk replacing God in the manger, I would love to someday find a little skunk to add to my own nativity set. A simple reminder of, not only Gramma and the part that those memories play in who I am today, but also of God's love and grace.

Monday

Thank God for this New Laughter...

I was born to laugh
I learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I'm gonna learn to love without fear
~"Born" (Over the Rhine)

I'm laughing today. Not just at the moon. Not just at the night. Not just in some feeble attempt to convince myself that I'm happy. Today, I am truly laughing.

It's just... Something as small as laughter. Something as important as laughter. Something that I haven't fully experienced for a while. Something I'm afraid to allow myself to experience most of the time, because of what it usually means for me.

See, laughter often signifies a manic episode. I become hyper-active, bounce off the walls, fail to sleep (and sometimes eat), and laugh hysterically over stupid things; I'm invincible and uninhibited and I am literally unstoppable. And I'm often not aware of it. Oh, I know how I feel and I know how I'm acting, but it doesn't register.

It registers more clearly when I hit the intense irritability and anger, the almost paranoia over the feeling of spinning completely and wildly out of control, the panic attacks that make it impossible to breathe with stabbing knives in my heart, and the inability to stop laughing, even when it's wildly inappropriate to laugh.

During my last manic episode, I made a comment on Twitter about how the upside to a manic insomnia was the ability to go all night without sleeping and still feel charged and ready to go the next day. A friend replied with something to the effect of, "I think all moms should be manic."

No, Sweetheart, you really don't want that. Manic episodes are terrifying, and not just for me, but for everyone around me. Sure, I'm far more productive during those periods, but I'm also entirely unpredictable and irrational, and no child should ever have to deal with a mother like that. Happily, my mania is mild, my kids are in good hands, and I have the help I need to make sure we're all taken care of when necessary.

Still, because of this, laughter has become a bit of a warning signal for me. A symptom of something else that has incredibly ominous potential. And so, it's been a long time since I have been able to enjoy laughter this much.

But I do. Today, I do. This is a new laughter, a healing laughter. This is a laughter that overflows from hope and love.

Because I have found reasons for laughter. Reasons to believe that the pain of the past couple years might actually be closing and a new chapter in my life might actually be opening.

And this chapter might actually be full of real, honest, and non-mania-induced laughter.

Thursday

Bonus: Guest Holiday Poem

My little poet has been at it again. I thought about saving his work for next Wednesday's poetry, but it's about Chanukah, so it'd be sorta pointless by then. (It's already a bit late, but that's my fault for procrastinating on posting and not his.)

My 7yo had a school assignment to write a haiku. We had spent the weekend with friends celebrating Chanukah, so he had the holiday on his mind. Late though it is, here is his offering:

Chanukah Joy

playing dreidel's fun
having latkes is fun too
I love Chanukah!


No matter what holiday you celebrate this month, we hope it's a happy time filled with love.

Wednesday

Finding You

Each petal opens
awakes to the sun
as the new drops fall
making them glow
marking beauty within
blossoming to the world
as this flower unfolds
excruciatingly slow
some things can't be rushed
and pulling them apart
will just leave them crushed

Tuesday

Neverending Nonchalance

see eternity entranced
by a million mumbled moments
stolen under sordid sweet

where the wraith of weakened winter
wakes the weary water
lying love in languid loss

as moonlit music moans
and recall robs the reverie
of the spring in summer stilled

reflecting ruined reflex
and pondering poetic pools
of a thousand essential whys

Wednesday

Remember Your Thank You


It's waiting for Snoopy
to float down the street
or watching him deal plates
out like cards
making up name cards
with feathers and buckles
carefully penned in brown

It's hearing the tenor
of Scarborough Faire
watching my father
do his Thanksgiving dance
with the smells
of parsley,
of sage,
of rosemary,
of thyme.
as cranberries and orange peels
fall apart in the grinder
golden marshmallows melt
into cinnamon
and nutmeg

It's being too full
of turkey and family
and dealing the final cards
shrugging off questions
from Lake Wobegon
while flurries swirl outside


Thursday

Unassuming


glass fragility
sun-weakened under shadows
cracking unnoticed

fused together here
in darkness bathed in moonlight
slowly eroding

always protected
stored safely here forgotten
fading nonetheless


Saturday

The Colors of the Wind


My son's art lesson this week was on the use of colors in poetry. I was thrilled, and the song from Disney's Pocahontas kept playing in my mind (an environmentally/socially conscious poet's anthem*). I don't want my child to see the world in black and white. I want him to see all the colors in the wind and all the shades of grey in the rainbow.

In the poem he wrote, there are typical 6yo silliness, but there are also truths far beyond his years. I couldn't have been more proud. He loves playing with words and colors almost as much as his mommy does.

So, here is his color poem. I will leave spelling errors in tact, to preserve poetic (and 6yo) integrity.

Red on my bed,
Blue on my shoe,
Pink is the link,
Brown on my crown,
Green behind my lean,
White is the spite,
Yellow is the color of my jell-o,
Clear of my tear,
Black of my slack,
Tan in the pan,
riming,
riming,
riming.


~~~~~~~

* Side note: His science lesson was on recycling, pollution, and taking care of the planet. WIN!


Friday

Flash Fiction Friday: "Who's There?"

"Knock, knock."

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting cow."

"Interrupting --"

"MOOOO!!!"

The triumphant crow of my two-year-old in the back seat of the van would be adorable if I hadn't heard this joke a thousand times. ~ in the past hour alone.

"Knock, knock." She starts again. I sigh and glance at the dashboard clock. Just ten more minutes and we'll be home.

"Who's there?" Her brother, nowhere near as bored with this joke or his sister, answers with a grin.

"Interrupting --"

"MOOOO!!! Gotcha!" He beats her to the punch and they both giggle raucously. My head is pounding. Again.

"Knock, knock." I should really just be happy they're not picking on each other.

"Who's there?"

"Interrupting MOM!" I shout in annoyance and growl, "Knock it off. Both of you! No more knock, knock jokes!"

As I glance in the rearview mirror at them to see if they plan to obey me, I experience a twinge of guilt at the shock and hurt I see on their faces.

"I'm sorry," I backpedal. "Mommy has a headache. Can you please try to be quiet for the rest of the trip home?"

The excuse is worn out to them. Mommy always has a headache. It's a permanent part of my personality, just like the angry outbursts. Still, they try to comply.

I want so badly to tell them I'm wrong ~ and I do ~ often. But it changes nothing. Tomorrow will be the same. More pounding head and noisy children being yelled at.

I don't mean to. It comes out before I know what I'm saying, and I'm helpless to stop it. People think I'm awful.

I think I'm awful.

I pull into the driveway and unload my children. It's time for naps.

Finally, after minutes which seem like hours of screaming and crying ~ both them and me, we're snuggled in bed. Together. Because that's what we need.

And just as I'm drifting off to sleep, feeling like maybe the nap might stop the knocking in my skull for just a little, I hear it downstairs.

Knock, knock.

"Interrupting cow!" I mutter as I extricate myself from between my two snoring children.

And, just to taunt me, it's as repetitive as the banter in the car.

Knock, knock.

Saturday

This is Where

I come from...

the flowers on the mountain
the sunset in his eyes
the first snowfall of winter
the rain trapped in the sky
the crunch of autumn stillness
the moonbeam's starry cry
the piper's race with sea surf
and the dusk where shadows die

Friday

Flash Fiction Friday: "Shards"

"I would have said something, but I knew it wouldn't matter."

He looked at her, studied her face slowly, trying to figure out whether he agreed or disagreed. He raised his coffee to his lips, staring over the edge at her, buying time he knew they didn't have.

"Why?" It was a simple word, punctuated in frustration by the cup clunking on the counter.

"Because... I..." she shrugged and even her shoulders frowned. He understood that she didn't know why.

"We can find a way..." he tried to figure out if his voice even realized he wasn't coming along for the ride.

"You don't know how."

"No. I suppose I really don't." He stood, his eyes still searching for some reason.

"Shall I get your coat?"

"I guess." He watched her go, knowing that he should follow, not sure of exactly why.

He glanced around the kitchen, where the tea cups lined the top of the cupboards. He counted slowly.

One...

Two...

Three...

He didn't need to count, but it was what he did in times like this. He already knew there were seventeen... and a half. The broken one at the end was the last he'd given her.

She returned then, interrupting his count, holding his coat toward him limply. He couldn't read her expression. It seemed to be a mixture of resignation, frustration, and... sympathy? Did she really feel bad for this?

Shrugging into his jacket, he sighed.

"Can I have it?"

"Have what?" she asked and he gazed up behind her, waiting for her to turn around. "You want that?"

"Please?"

"Why? It's broken. I was going to throw it away."

"I know. I still want to fix it."

"Pieces are missing you know."

"Yes."

"What will you do with it?"

"I don't know, but I want to fix it somehow."

She nodded slowly and he knew that he wasn't the only one who had no idea what he was doing. Pulling a chair from the kitchen table, he climbed carefully up to the cupboard and reverently picked up the half of the cup that was there on the saucer. There were a few shards still there as well and he gathered them too.

"Do you have a paper bag?"

He looked down to see she was already holding one up to him. She always had known what he needed before he did. Packaging the pieces slowly, deliberately, and almost sacredly, he glanced yet again at the line along the shelves. Regardless what happened, he knew they would stay there. She wouldn't be able to part with them.

Neither of them said a word as he climbed back down carefully and returned the chair to its place at the table. It belonged, even if he didn't. There should always be five chairs at the table.

Turning at the door, he took one last look into her face. He felt he needed to say something.

"Make them butterscotch pancakes for breakfast. They deserve at least that much." It was hollow and they both knew it.

The door thudded softly and he shuffled through the leaves on the walk on his way to his car. The porch light went out as he slid behind the steering wheel and he realized he had nowhere to go.

He opened the bag and peered inside. Even if there were parts missing, she'd loved this once.

Even if she didn't think it mattered, he'd find a way to fix this.

Wednesday

It's a Purple Thing... You Wouldn't Understand


"If you judge people, you have no time to love them. " ~ Mother Theresa

Today there are thousands (millions?) of people wearing purple. And there are probably far more people who are upset about it for one reason or another. And that makes me angry.

It truly doesn't matter how you feel about who should sleep with who or whatever (and this is not a statement of my opinion on that in any way ~ I will discuss that only in private because it's not the point). The point is that people have a right to decide that for themselves.

People also have the right to be able to walk in public ~ full members of society, knowing that they matter just as much as everyone else and not having to be afraid of how people will treat them.

People also have the right to see more options in their lives than to have to kill themselves out of despair and escape from the hatred and violence resulting from intolerance.

People also have the right to express these opinions without other people being inconsiderate assholes about it by downplaying the issue, making jokes about the situation, or using this issue as a platform for their own political or religious agenda. That's right, I went there.

People need to realize that hiding their hatred behind their "Christianity" (or any other religion) makes God CRY!
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~ Matt 22:36-40 (NIV)
"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." ~ 1 Cor 13:13 (NIV)
16 years of Christian education and I cannot find in the bible where hatred in any form is okay.

Don't mess with me. Especially NOT today.

Not gonna lie... This rant was well-warranted (and a long-time coming). I'm not apologizing for the anger inherent in it. It's holy anger ~ anger over injustice and lack of compassion.

I'm not sorry for saying these things.

Not now.

Not ever.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday

Are You Pregnant?

Top three questions I don't want to answer, so please stop asking:
  1. "Do I look fat/ugly?"
  2. "What do you think of my new boyfriend?"
  3. "Are you pregnant?"
For the record, here are the answers (and yes, I have never met a single person for whom these answers are exempt):
  1. "You look fat/ugly only when you think you look fat/ugly. You are truly beautiful just the way you are."
  2. "You already know what I think of your new boyfriend, or you wouldn't ask me that question."
  3. "Hell no, and that's one of the most annoying and offensive questions ever."
The first question frustrates me because I don't believe that society has any right to dictate whether or not you are fat or beautiful. I, myself, struggle with how other people see me, but we're all exactly the way we're meant to be. And the sooner we wake up and realize that, the more beautiful we all become.

The second question is one that people only ask when there is something they are concerned about in their relationship. If there isn't an issue or concern, my opinion doesn't matter because flaws have been overshadowed by the attraction. This is why we date, yes?

Now, the question "Are you pregnant?" should NEVER be asked of any woman unless you are almost 100% certain already that the answer is yes. And even then, tread lightly. Most men are smart enough to know this. They're taught this their whole lives. Some boys still need some assistance in this area, though, and I hope they're reading.

You know who else needs to read this though? The three women who've asked me this in the past year (and any other women who asks this question) and don't know how to mind their own business.

Here's why it's a problem (in no particular order ~ aside from the fact that I am rambling and these things pop into my head as they do). It is important to note that, in most cases, these points also apply to the equally obnoxious questions of "do you think you'll have kids?" or "are you working/planning on having kids?":
  • Just ask what you really want to ask: "Have you put on weight?" And just so you know, backpedaling with "I'm sorry; you just had that 'glow' about you" or "Huh, I'm usually right about things like that," will not win your forgiveness or brownie points of any kind.
  • The question implies that couples who choose not to have children are somehow lesser citizens, are weird or strange, or are somehow "too selfish to have children and put their careers at risk." None of these are true nor are they your judgments to make.
  • I know, when you ask this question, you're thinking about me getting down and dirty. A large percentage of pregnancy is the direct result of said activity, after all. Frankly, it's an invasion of my privacy on several levels when you ask this. First off, this is none of your business AND secondly, it's none of your business. If I wanted to tell you, I would. And it really is that simple.
  • It's downright hurtful to a lot of women: painful reminders of children lost to miscarriage or infertility, and of being abnormal, marred, or worthless as a woman.
For years, I was grateful for any excuse to avoid baby showers. I would ask close friends (usually ones who understood the pain as well) to help me think up or plan somewhere ~ anywhere ~ I needed to be that day. I went to a few showers during those years ~ my closest friends or relatives. You know, the ones where it was less painful to endure the torture of hope and adorable futures I'd "never have" than to deal with being "the one that had better things to do than support a friend."

I screamed at the woman in the billing office of my OB-Gyn because I found out I was labeled "infertile" when a bill for an allegedly "diagnostic" procedure was billed as an "infertility treatment" and therefore not covered by my insurance. Yes, that really is how I found out. The poor woman was mortified that she'd been the one to tell me. Come to think of it, she didn't deserve my verbal abuse. She had no idea that I didn't know.

My husband and I have since been blessed by two incredible children, one through a miracle birth (I refused fertility treatments) and one through adoption (I would have chosen to do this regardless). Even so, it still hurts ~ a lot ~ when people ask. And I'm not the only one who hurts.

I respect you enough to help you understand. Please, respect me ~ and others ~ enough to think before you ask stupid questions.


Monday

Morality Play


Don't judge me because I finally understand all
the things I swore were wrong, all
the awful things that make you cringe
and wonder
why and how

Don't judge me like
I judged you

Forgive me because I don't
know what I’m
doing

This time I get it and I know what
will make a person
crack
or snap
or fall

I swore I'd never do that
never say those things to you
but I have
and now I know

what it feels like to become
the very thing you hate


Wednesday

Why Bother?


I feel alienated and isolated.

There's so much going on right now in my life and with people that I care about very deeply and I want to fix it all. I can't. And I know that my own limitations are only contributing to my feelings of isolation. I feel like I just can't quite grasp something very important ~ or even come close to reaching it ~ and I don't even know what it is.

My loneliness has nothing to do with a lack of people around me, or even any inadequacy of their depth of concern. There are lots of people who care about me. And they're coming out of the woodwork in droves. I'm so blessed with love, understanding, and support on all levels right now. And I know this logically and am INCREDIBLY GRATEFUL that they are here.

I have physical evidence to prove it. People ~ actual people ~ who are here helping where I need them to or just sitting and being with me if that's what I need. People who call, text, instant message, email, tweet, facebook, and even stop by to visit at random. Even people on standby if I just need to chat. I know they are there. And I know I can reach for them. And sometimes I do. But a lot of times I don't.

Why?

Because I don't want to be a bother to them. Because they all have their own issues they're dealing with and I don't want to add to those issues. And because I want to be there for them and I don't know how. Because I don't have the strength, energy, or know-how right now. Because I still WANT to be there for them ~ even if only to listen ~ but I feel like people don't want to bother me either.

Because I have an innate sense of paranoia at this point. Because I don't want to be accused in any way of taking advantage of anyone or using them just for what I need. Because I don't want the scales to be imbalanced. Because I feel I need so much more than anyone can give me, and so much more than I can give back. Because I don't know how to articulate properly what those needs are.

And so I feel alienated. Completely surrounded by people I love and who I logically KNOW love me. And I'm scared to reach out to them. I'm afraid of being needy or clingy or attention-seeking.

But I'm also terrified of being left alone.

Thursday

Night Echoes

The night
Won't save
You

Or anyone really
But especially not you

It is
The moment
Of death
Of the echo

There's no salvation
Not in death
Not in the night

Only an echo
Only a repetition
Something played
Over
And over
Something
That won't
Let you sleep

Until death
Until life
Is gone
From the endless
Repetition
The echo
Of salvation

But the night
It certainly won't
Save
Anyone.


Saturday

Still Waters

I woke this morning
with the awareness of you
lying beside me
your arms around me
your breath on my neck
your heart beating in mine
deep in the center of all that I am

You run deep through my veins
mingling in warm blood
quenching my withering thirst
flowing endlessly through
the basis of all that I am

Always there
Through unstable events
Through mitigating circumstances
Through life and death
in me and through me
and all that I am

Sunday

Father

We see him ageless now, but ancient,
with senility assumed,

because we skulk around
behind his back in alleged secrecy,

squirreling away these
f r a g m e n t s

assumed as something lost --

Finders keepers after all
and if you snooze you lose ...

Does he really never notice?

This coercing...

This cajoling...

This childish clamoring for more
While we curse this chaos
and call it's creation coincidence

refusing all responsibility for it's reality
or repair...


Somehow it feels just like forgiveness
when we've thieved only to waste, watching
all appreciation slip away in grains of sand,
within these missing moments fleeting
in a gift we'd rather steal, as
we're all stupider
than we've
known.
Yet
in his
wisdom he
allows it -- leaving
minutes unattended -- in this
lesson carefully crafted, then ignored;
letting yet more fall, he entrusts delinquent
stewards with a whole new day we've surely
stolen, in all this careless waste of time.

Monday

There and Back Again

I'm sure that some of you have noticed (assuming there are even still followers out there at this point), that my blogging here has dropped significantly. It's been a rough summer to cap a very rough year and a half or so. The artistic muses have escaped from me again. Every once in a while I catch one and make him or her sing for me, but overall, the poetic fountain is running pretty dry right now.

I also realize that I put too much of myself out there to too many people, and have had my heart broken too many times recently by the people I thought I could trust. I've been warned by family and friends that some of the things I post on here are just too personal or too vulnerable. And while my intention for this blog is to reach out to others around me who are struggling as well with depression, stress, etc., somehow my blog has become seen as something written for the sole purpose of garnering sympathy or attention.

So, in between the actual busy-ness of several huge transitions in my life, and the fact that I've needed to guard privacy of both myself and others around me, I've become less frequent here. I've been posting more newsy type stuff on our family blog and less artsy stuff here. Someday I'll get back to the art. Right now, life is in the way.

Tuesday

Migraine

Madly spinning chaos
pounds within me on my skull
followed by this quiet sinking
through sentimental filters of my soul

My fear defines the purpose
for the rantings that withdraw
into something simply heartless
watching shallow wraiths appall

Days like this are good for nothing
more than spilling out this dross
to try to make it feel less crowded
to sort what's left from what's been lost

Thursday

Through The Shadow

stop

please
just stop talking

it's lurking

here

under the oreos
behind the vase of daisies
clouded by this happiness
and childish conversation
joking with new friends

breathe
slowly in, slowly out
'til it feels like tomorrow
or three days past last week

what day is it today?

leave
the wilted flower petals
and cookie crumb pieces
on the tidy kitchen counter
reminders of today

and know
that this day is so much more

than what we see in just this shadow

Friday

Fireflies in Autumn

... sometimes we find things in the most unexpected places ...

I pulled the title for this blog post out of a variety of conversations I was following (more lurking to be honest) among my friends on Twitter. One friend mentioned that the fireflies were lovely. Another small group of my friends were discussing the merits of Autumn as a season, particularly since this week's been full of the usual summer mugginess of South-Central PA. I think they were pining for cooler weather.

At first I thought the concept of "Fireflies in Autumn" might be a poem, and it still may be someday. But for now, it's something of an idea that's floating in my head, like little sparkles in the night. Only flashing from time to time enough for me to know they're flying around... See what happens when my brain slips into poetry mode? I digress...

Fireflies don't belong in autumn. They belong in early/mid summer. Everyone knows this. But I was thinking about the things that don't belong together that are often seen or imagined by those who want to see them. Like small talk & superficially sharing lives through 140 characters at a time.. and the fact that I have a community of people who I can count on.

What a surprise it'd be to find fireflies in autumn! And what a surprise it was to find such amazing people on Twitter who are now part of my network of friends.

The image of fireflies in autumn is like the the beauty of Twitter. All those things that wouldn't necessarily come together on their own become connected through something manufactured. But that doesn't make the connection any less real. I've received incredible amounts of love over the past year or so from people I've met through twitter. People I may never have otherwise met.

This week's been very rough for me. I've been dealing with a lot of impending change and I've been feeling (quite literally) under the weather. But this week I've received love and encouragement from some of the most unexpected people both on and offline.

If you're not on Twitter, I recommend it. I thought it was stupid when I first heard about it, but it's led me to some incredibly important people that I now cannot imagine living my life without. No matter what I'm dealing with, there's almost always someone out there who can relate and lend support, and on the more "superficial" level, there's always someone out there with a common interest!

So, in honor of a surge of overwhelming appreciation for my fellow tweeps, I'm gonna do a #FollowFriday (#FF) here. It's a Twitter thing, where people suggest to others who they should follow. I don't like the usual incarnation of #FF, as it's usually just a list of usernames tweeted by someone with little to no explanation as to why I should follow them. If I wanted a random list of people that you follow, I could just look at your following list. So my list is here, with some of the many reasons why I love a small sampling of the people I follow.

Fellow Autumnophiles:
  • Jeff - web cartoonist (Zoidland, Frank & Linh, & The Ouro Bros.), techie man, and my hubby - source of endless love, entertainment, and amusement
  • Jeremy - self proclaimed "best" Jeremy ever, co-producer of The Ouro Bros. comic strip, and father of my future daughter-in-law
Fellow Photinophiles: (yes that is a made-up word for firefly lovers)
  • Sara - socially conscious, health conscious, and my spontaneous coffee date to remind me that my kids aren't the only crazies on this planet.
  • Susan - kindred spirit, writer, dreamer, adventurer, and one of those people that I can hang out with even when I feel anti-social
Other awesome people who have taught me that Twitter isn't stupid:
  • Ami - amazing artist, owner of the best dog in the world, beautiful singer, and my friend forever. It's her fault I signed up for Twitter. She still likes to remind me how dumb I once thought it was. Yes, Ami, you're right. ;)
  • Jamie - the mother of my future daughter-in-law and the Martha Stewart of Twitter... if Martha were actually cool
  • Kirsten - one of those moms who just always seems to understand
  • Ken - Social media guru & host of Frank & Linh, owner of "The Porch," and "that guy" we all love to pick on
  • Shanelle - Hot momma-to-be, owner of Bliss Baked Goods - the place to satisfy all your sweet-tooth needs
  • Meg - Amazing photographer and all around sweetheart
  • Brenda - one of the strongest women I know, who's walked through hell and lived to talk and smile about it
  • Jennifer - one of my most recent surprise encouragers with a huge heart
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of all the cool people on Twitter, but they're a good group of locals to start with. :)

Saturday

Redefining Friendship in an Online World


I've taken an unofficial poll on Facebook. Only two questions, but I think I'm good to write this post now. Granted, my poll combines answers of about 2 dozen people, obviously sampled from my Friends List which consists of a small percentage of Facebook users.

I had a "friend" decide that we weren't really "friends" and she "unfriended me" on Facebook (FB). Now, this in and of itself isn't a problem. We all do it. The FB world is a place where mere acquaintances become labeled as "friends" because it's our only option for keeping track of our connections online. Now, as nice as it is to think that FB would create an "acquaintance" option, it's likely not going to happen, because there just isn't any point to complicating matters that way.

However, if you do as I have done, there are many options in privacy levels by creating groups and allowing only certain parts of your profile to be seen by particular groups of people. It takes time to set up your groups and their settings, but you can get as specific or as general as you want to and customize it to your needs. (As a side note: I have no idea why everyone gets up-in-arms over FB privacy all the time; if your settings are set, you're safe.)

Granted, this can also create problems in relationships, particularly if you do something stupid which messes up your settings and you end up not allowing family members to see your profile at all. Oops & sorry! Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

Back to this "friend." We met on Twitter, in part of a local network. We've met in person, shared some very personal information, and we've even gone away for a weekend with a bunch of other online friends. And this is why her "unfriendship" hurt so much. I thought we were friends ~ actual friends. She decided to spend more time focusing on her "real" friends, and I respect her decision, but I was a bit baffled as to how it happened that I wasn't included in that category.

And, since I know this will be asked: Yes, I do make a lot of friends online and, yes, I have many online friends that I've never met in person. I don't use Facebook to meet people; I don't friend random people. I have, however, met a lot of locals whom I now consider friends (many whom I've met in person), and I have met several people in various online forums or games, whom I also now consider friends.

It's no different than making an acquaintance in any social setting. Sometimes an acquaintance becomes a friendship, sometimes it turns into an anti-friendship (I don't have enemies). And sometimes, an acquaintance is just an acquaintance.

A lot of people I know, this "friend" included (by her own admission) use social media as just a game. It's not. There are real people on the other side of the wire(less), with real feelings.

I use FB to "organize" the people I know, to bring together people I know from all different aspects of my life (both on and offline) and keep communication lines open. As I see it, this is the point. Not to be the end of all relationships, but to facilitate social networking and ultimately open communication.

Sadly, too many people use social media to avoid personal conversation. People say things, directly or indirectly, to people online that they would NEVER dream of saying in person. Because the computer is a convenient place to hide from actual conflict resolution.

So the irony: friends who aren't friends, and a vehicle meant to improve relationships that serves to divide people in a lot of cases. I've learned all of this the hard way, and I'll be the first to admit I've allowed and contributed to this problem. I've lost several relationships by not remembering this simple rule:

Do unto others as you would have them do to you, both on and offline.


Friday

This is not goodbye...


"it makes a difference
that i’m feeling this way
with plenty to think about
and so little to say"

This morning I sat with Gramma. That's about all it was ~ just sitting. We talked a little, but she was tired and lost her train of thought often.

Her health is deteriorating rapidly. It could be days, weeks, or maybe months (but "months" is far more fantasy than reality, I think).

She's a fighter. I've written about her before, and we've been blessed to have far more time with her than I thought we would at the time of that blog. So maybe there's more time now than I think. But I kinda doubt it.

She can't be alone anymore. Her legs are giving out. Her lungs are giving out. And several other organs have already gotten to the point of "critical."

In explaining the situation to my 6yo, I used the typical, cliched and, frankly, hollow lines:
"She's going to stay with Jesus."
"You can still talk to her whenever you want to; she'll hear you."
"We'll see her again someday in heaven."
And his response was, "But I'll miss her; we should have gone to see her more." And this is what everyone regrets when a loved one passes on.

I don't do good-byes. I don't even say it. I yell at people for saying it to me. It's just "Later," or "See ya," or just hugs & kisses ~ something that says, "This is not good-bye; it's just a chance for us to miss one another until we see each other again."

But I'm tired of saying good-bye to Gramma. I'm tired of seeing her in pain. I'm tired of knowing how defeated she feels. I want to let her go. I want to see her as I saw her when she drifted to sleep today: in peace and rest.

And I truly believe what I told my son. We have our memories, and we'll have the things she made with love for us. It's not good-bye; it's just a much longer parting than I like. And it means I'll miss her. A lot. I should have visited her more.


~~~~~~~

Soundtrack for this post: "Films for Radio"


Saturday

Swimming in Space


there's a hole
inside the universe
just past that little star
right on the edge
of this small planet
underneath of where we are

there's a spaceship
in the ocean
way below that coral reef
where the starfish rides his seahorse
in the shadows
of the deep

there's a manatee
that's hiding in the corner
of my dream
after all these bits of fancy
make my logic
want to scream

Thursday

Of Sporting Events and Nostalgia


There's a funny thing about memories. They define us: our likes, our dislikes, our passions, our pains, the how and why we do and say the things we do. Our memories (based on our experiences) make us into the people we become, and good or bad, they shape our world view.

Some of my friends from twitter are at a baseball game today. Because I pop into twitter from time to time throughout the day, I'm seeing the pictures: the parking lot full of cars, the marquis with the Phillies logo & the Phanatic, the excitement & anticipation of the stadium full of people, the over-priced stadium food, and yes, even the game itself. I don't even like baseball, but I want to go.

Why? Because I have happy memories of going to a baseball game with my daddy when I was fairly young. And yes, it was a Phillies game. And yes, they won. And it was a beautiful sunny day, just like today. And all was right with the world.

On the other hand, I have no desire to ever go to a football game of any type. I didn't even go to high school games with my friends. My only memory of a football game, was sitting on the bleachers, alone in the cold wind & the pouring rain. I had to have been in kindergarten or younger, because the only reason I was there was because my daddy was running the lines for Gettysburg College's team while I assume my mom was working.

I enjoy shooting hoops but not watching basketball or playing a "real" game. I enjoy kicking the soccer ball around but not actually playing (and I'm ambivalent about watching). And I call myself a Flyers fan even though I have never seen them live and haven't been to a single hockey game since high school. But none of this has anything to do with the games themselves so much as the people & the experiences associated with them.

Nostalgia is like that. It colors how we remember things in an over-idealized way. It exaggerates the details (good & bad) and makes them bigger than life. The trick is to master the memories and not allow them to master us. Save & grow from the good. Accept & learn from the bad. Shape the glass through which we view our memories and let them reveal the why rather than define the who of the person we become.

Saturday

The Cold (Shoulder) Wars

My 6yo son is just finishing Kindergarten at a private school in the area. He's been at the preschool for three years now and he loves it. And for the most part, so do we. As he gets older though, the cost increases and we find we can no longer afford it. And I'm not just talking about tuition.

Now, I've met a lot of great women (and a few men) who are parents of my son's classmates and friends. We get along just fine and smile and nod when we pass one another in the parking lot. There are even one or two that I could call and just sit and chat with over coffee if I wanted or needed to. I like them just fine, but barring one or two of them, we have very little or nothing in common. So I don't.

And I have to admit that the politics of the "mom wars" are just enough to make me want to puke. They may not be as blatant when your child attends a public school; after all we are Christians so any attacks must be so passive aggressive that they may be unnoticeable to anyone but the recipient of said attack. There is an inherent snobbery to people who put their children in a private school. There's a "better than you" attitude that manifests in all aspects of interaction (directly or indirectly).

I'm not as great a mom because I don't volunteer in the classroom and I don't go on every field trip.

I don't send candy or other treats in for the class for every holiday (and in fact, I end up throwing at least half the crap that comes home with my child in the trash when he's not looking -- he never even misses it).

I don't buy expensive gifts for the teacher and her assistants.

And I don't have elaborate birthday parties for my child or even take my son to half the ones he's invited to. See, there's a rule (actually stated, if not in the school handbook) that if you're passing out invitations to a party, you invite everyone in the class (or at the very least, all of the kids of the same gender). And most of the parents extend this to all of the kids in his grade (both classes of Kindergarten in this case).

So... here's the exchange that my son and I had roughly a week or so ago regarding the party he's attending this afternoon:

Me: (noting the close to tears expression as he got off the bus and traipsed into the house) What's wrong, Buddy? Something happen in school today?

Him: I hurt Logan's feelings and now he won't be my friend.

Me: What happened?

Him: I told him I couldn't come to his birthday party.

Me: (confused and trying to remember an invitation coming home in his bag in the past couple days) What party?

Him: On the 8th of May.

Me: Do you have an invitation?

Him: (bursting into tears) No, I gave it back to him.

Me: Why did you tell him you couldn't go.

Him: I don't know... but now I want to go.

Me: Ok, you're going to apologize to Logan tomorrow at school, ask him if you can still have the invitation, and then we can talk about it when I can see the details.
So today, we were looking for a birthday present for a child that I know nothing about (except that on the one field trip I did help to chaperone this year, it was obvious that he was "that child" who was always in trouble). I know what my son likes, but I also know that my son's interests are very different from many of the boys in his school. And I felt the pressure of trying to make sure my son wasn't "the friend who gave me lame presents," and that I wasn't "the cheap mom."

He's 6 and already the pressure and the drama that I can't afford to deal with. And this is one of the many reasons that we are homeschooling him next year.

Thursday

Across the Wire


Perhaps we've spoken
a mere handful of times
but we talk
almost everyday

I've never held you
in my arms
but you've become part of me
and I refuse to go away

There are secrets you try
so hard to hide
but I know you and I understand
who you are
what you want
and the reasons
you don't want to convey

But these concerns that you bury
are no less true than mine
and I carry them safe here for you
because to me
you're as real
as the people I touch everyday

Someday it'll happen

We'll stand face to face
and you'll know what I know
those things I remember
who you are to me
those things that I wish I could say

Tuesday

Live, Love, and Laugh

You've all seen it. It's everywhere in plaques, stationery, Facebook flair, etc.: that little motto life, love, and laughter with all of it's variations. My personal favorite:
Live like there is no tomorrow
Sing as if no one can hear
Love like you have never been hurt
Dance as if nobody is watching
Laugh like no one is listening.

It's a call to seize the day (carpe diem), but it's more than that to me. It's a call to abundant life, a statement of faith. It's about the triune God and the nature of who (S)He is.

Jesus is Life incarnate. The perfect melding of divinity and humanity. The victor over life and death. The ultimate example of how to live this life that we have and how to prioritize the things we deem important.

The Father/Mother is Love. It takes a loving and relational God to decide that it's not good to be alone, and therefore creates and loves an entire planet. Everything is done in love and through love, because of the fact that we are the children of the Supreme Father/Mother.

The Spirit is Laughter. This isn't a direct quote from scripture, but the Spirit helps and guides us and I think makes life worth living. The Spirit is the hardest to explain for a lot of people. Incorporeal. Abstract. Kind of like laughter. Joy.

This is, in no way, a complete statement of beliefs, but it is, in part, my creed -- what I aspire toward in my life. And, frankly, the rest of theology is fun to debate but really doesn't matter in the light of who God is. I want to be life, love, and laughter to the world around me. Evidence that life is indeed worth living.

I'm not there yet and I doubt I ever will be entirely, but that doesn't stop me from striving for it. I will keep working toward being this and becoming more and more like the Creator who made me to be an image-bearer. I never want to find all the answers in this life. There is something about the mystery of the ongoing dance between the three persons in one that intrigues me and makes me trust more fully in God.

Anyone who claims to have all the truth or all the answers becomes arrogant in themselves and negates any need for this trust. This is the same arrogance that led Lucifer to say, "I will be like God." God is bigger than my finite mind can handle and I'm okay with that.

I need God to be God so that I can live, love, and laugh.

Sunday

Circling the Breeze


circling
the edge
where the earth
meets the sea

along this space
in between
where I find
you and me

I trip
and I fall
as I land in
your arms



so we'll dance
for this moment
safe away
far from harm

as the waves
gently tease
kiss and nip
at our feet

swept away
in a whisper
like our hair
in the breeze

Thursday

Rice & Beans


I'm horrible at self-discipline. Sacrifice is particularly rough for me and developing new patterns for myself practically kills me, to be honest. It's part of the human condition. We're made to be selfish and to guard our rights and possessions. And we think we deserve it all, like we've somehow earned what we have and it's ours.

I took a challenge this week. I spent three days eating only rice and beans. It was supposed to be five, according to the challenge. I only made it through three, and here's what I've learned (or at least remembered):
  1. I'm weak and I need the support of my family and community. I was encouraged not to give up by my husband and several members of my community who also participated in this challenge, who acted as support, accountability and others who could identify with what I felt. I don't even attend the church which sponsored this challenge, but I learned about it through a friend, and it was something that I felt would be a good exercise for me in compassion, understanding, and even in spiritual discipline. This is the longest "fast" of any kind that I've ever done, and frankly, I'm actually proud I lasted as long as I did.
  2. I live in an environment full of temptation. I'm not really sure which is worse, having no choice but to go to bed hungry, like the people with whom I set out to identify, or going to bed hungry because I CHOSE to participate in this, knowing that there were all sorts of other options in my house and watching my children eat whatever they wanted. There was ice cream in my freezer, bagels in my refrigerator, Oreos on my counter, all kinds of processed "convenience" foods in my pantry. There is also a slew of menus from various restaurants in the area to call for carry-out or delivery, and money in our checking account to be able to do so when "necessary."
A friend told me that this sort of exercise did nothing for her, that she's identified with "third world" countries by being there and walking the streets. For her, that's enough "awareness." For me, even after having walked through the villages of Grenada -- seeing the dirty huts they call homes, watching them climb trees to find bananas and mangoes just so they can have lunch, and eagerly awaiting the one delivery of water a day to their village just to have a drink (I'm not sure when - if ever - they had baths or showers and I don't know where they went to the bathroom) -- even after seeing all that and feeling my heart break, you know what I did? I returned back to the "base" where we stayed and had a warm shower, changed into clean clothes, and drank a tall glass of water. I grabbed a fresh banana from the stash in the cellar, and waited to be called to a huge dinner in the "mansion" house. My biggest concern was whether I had enough sunscreen for the trip to the beach the next day and I knew that I had a soft bed to look forward to, but still complained about sharing the room with the other girls because they were "noisy."

Stepping out of my comfort zone was essential to my understanding and awareness. It was an exercise in compassion. Even knowing it was temporary, it hurt. And I spent three days hurting deeply for those around the world who don't have a choice about what they eat. I have utmost respect for anyone who doesn't practice spiritual disciplines, and do not in anyway look down on them. We are all where we are, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Another friend mentioned that he was glad that the "golden goat" he worshipped didn't make him do things like that. While I laughed a little at the comment, I was frustrated at the same time. No one made me do this, and no one is a lesser person for NOT doing it. Like all practices, you get what you give, and it was all about the decision to participate and engage myself fully in the exercise. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be changed. And if I'd done it just to "jump on the bandwagon," I don't think it would have done anything for me either.

But I needed to be reminded of how blessed I am. I needed to be reminded that it's not a right to have the luxuries I think I "need." And I needed to be reminded in a very practical way that there are those who aren't so "lucky" and that there has to be more I can do.

And I was never so thankful for the gift of the warm bagel I had for breakfast this morning.


Sunday

The Ceremony of the Dress



Burning
for Brenda

The strong are the ones
who've learned
to let go
who have walked through
the fire and left
some behind

as the dress slowly melted
to colorful flame
we shared in the awe of how
quickly it went
this one moment of time
this brief whisper
of life
flaring in violence
in a smoking black blaze

Amid tearful relief
this memorial to grief
in unspoken goodbyes held
in this breaking of time
and of moments we share

we hold what we've lost
in these scars in our keeping
and this knowing
we are
and still learning
what matters while watching
life burn

now this sacred rite passes
in the flowing of beer
our spectres released
of the things that once were
wafting on puffs
of stubborn cigars

What happens here, stays here,
but we carry it inside,
knowing we celebrate
with others who've vanished
and lost to the night
renewing hope for the future
gaining strength from this burn.




video

***apologies for the sound quality on this video. I'm not an editor.

#Twitchicks present: crazywidow, c_visual, jacksvalentine, jamiebentley, jbairy, jessm918, lholubec, mk_girl, mrsbenedict

Thursday

Happy Earth Day


There is so much I want to say and feel like I need to say about earth day, but I'm not going to say any of it. Because everyone has an opinion and everyone turns it into something political and it's just ... not. Frankly, I'm just not in a place to deal with any of that today.

So, instead, I'll just wish everyone a Happy Earth Day. Like Christmas, it doesn't matter if you believe in it or not; I do, so I wish you happiness regardless.

Do something to save the planet today. It's the only one we've got. Truth is regardless of politics or your personal beliefs on your responsibility to the earth, you do live here. So clean up after yourself. It's only fair to the others you share the space with.

Peace, love, and hippy freaks (which probably includes me).

Tuesday

Psychotropic


So I'm floating away
with nothing to stop me
no net to catch me
and I know that I'll fall

but I'm almost indifferent
lost in nonchalant apathy
like it wouldn't even matter
if no one was there

and the stakes are so high
that I can't even see them
and if I just pretend
they'll cease to exist

I'm not sure which is worse
the heart-rending pain
or this empty existence
where all feeling is numbed


Saturday

Beautiful World (Part 2)


I don't understand how or why anyone would call themselves a follower of Christ and NOT be involved in sacrificing themselves for the needs of those around them. Jesus said:
  • "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (from Luke 18:24-26)
  • "...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (from Matthew 25:31-46)
We all have passions and desires that guide our paths in life. One person cannot be expected to heal every hurt in the world. Even Jesus himself realized human limitations and took time to rest. He placed a trust in his bride to carry on his work when he left this world.

We don't have to do it all. We don't have to give away everything we own and live in a cardboard box just to "make God happy." That's not how it works. We are, however, asked to let go of those things that we feel we deserve and are owed to us, to lay down our claim to our "rights," and to be grateful for the things we take for granted in order to put others first.

I am part of an adoptive/fostering families group with my church. Every one of us has chosen to make a difference in the life of at least one child, by opening our families to include them. We know this is not something that everyone needs to do, but it's at least one way that we feel led to care.

This year, we're working on teaching our children what service to others means. The adults are working through a DVD series called Becoming a Good Samaritan, which is an excellent reality check for all of us. We are working on projects with our children where they learn to think of those who don't have as much as we do, like putting together "mystuff" bags with personal care items and toys for children who have been taken out of their homes with nothing the can call their own.

The idea is simple. Get out. Learn about what's going on outside your own little bubble. Find out how you can help someone, even in a small way. And help make this world more beautiful for those who can't see it on their own.


~~~~~~~

Need a simple place to start? It takes only seconds, but it could make a difference to hundreds of young people in Lancaster City, PA. Vote everyday in the month of April for Teen Haven to be the recipient of a $50,000 grant to remodel their gym.

More stuff on this:


Friday

Beautiful World (Part 1)


We live in a beautiful world...

Oh all that I know is nothing to run from
Cause yeah everybody here got's somebody to lean on
~Coldplay "Don't Panic"

Look around you. No matter what you're dealing with, you have to agree there is beauty everywhere. And it's ours to appreciate, enjoy, and take care of. Too bad not everyone can see that, eh?

Guess what; If you're reading this, chances are you have everything you need, and probably a lot of what you want:
  • a computer or access to one, which implies you live in an environment where there is electricity and other such comfort luxuries (running water, heat, etc.)
  • a home or at least a roof over your head, most likely with several rooms, possibly even one just for your computer
  • clothing, likely more than you can even wear, and the means with which to clean them with the touch of just a button or two, possibly even at your own home
  • a variety of foods to eat and beverages to drink, some of which are likely already prepared or semi-prepared for you already
  • some mode of transportation readily available to you, whether it's your own vehicle or public transportation
  • access to necessary medicines and doctors, whether you pay for it or someone else does
  • people who care about you and can help you out when you find yourself lacking in any of those things
And that's a partial list of what we have. Even if you're without a job, you probably have those things or you wouldn't be reading this.

How many people out there don't? This isn't politics. This is fact: we live in one of the richest countries in the world. Even the "poor" in this country, could go to a large percentage of countries on this planet, and be among the wealthiest people there.

And yet, we whine and complain when we don't have those things, or we don't get them the way we think we deserve to have them. When we lose our right to chose what we want for ourselves, we act like it's the end of the world.

And no wonder people around the world think we're selfish and arrogant.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday

Meditation and the Art of Worship

There have been quite a few "coincidences" or "divine appointments" (depending on your viewpoint) in my life lately, particularly in the area of my spiritual development. I've had some really interesting conversations with people of various backgrounds and experiences. I have people applauding my openness and desire to make my spiritual journey very personal, and I have people who are very concerned about all of the "weird" and "new agey" stuff that I'm into lately.

Regardless of your perspective on this, I've come to discover something that has become a very real and personal part of my relationship with God and my spiritual walk. The creative side of me really resonates with allowing myself to worship artistically and really appreciates the opportunity to love God with heart, mind, soul, and body.

As such, I've become very interested in the tradition of worship through mandalas. Psychiatry uses them to assist in the centering, calming, and compartmentalizing the thoughts and emotions. Nearly every religious tradition makes use of mandalas in one form or another to focus the mind, body, and spirit on God or on a central concept or idea. Like anything in the world, there is nothing sacred or secular in and of itself. It's the value or meaning that we assign to something. Everything in life can be used for "good or evil" but there is a lot of value to be taken from this ancient practice.

When I color mandalas, I'm able to concentrate on what I'm listening to or thinking about. I'm a visual and creative person. As such, if I don't have something to do with my hands and have the concepts right in front of me in color, my mind wanders and I can't pay attention.

So, I color them and jot down words and phrases I want to remember. And because I am artistic, I spend a lot of time on each one and often go back to it at later times. It's an act of focus, an act of worship, and an act of meditation and absorption. Here are my notes from church on Sunday, as well as my continued meditation through the next two days on the topic of worship.

The main points of the message are there. The message topic was "Now is the time!... to worship: The Songs of my Heart." And as I leafed through my book at the start of the message, this mandala caught my attention with it's "wings of praise." There were six of them, and we were about to walk through six different reasons or reactions to worship.

As the various reasons were listed, I wrote them clockwise around the mandala on the "wings," along with the scripture example and the response for each. I chose a color for each wing that represented the ideas to me, and I discovered something as a result that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The wings that were opposite one another were similar colors, and as I examined the concepts closer, I realized that those ideas that ended up opposite each other were also very similar, the type of concepts that usually go hand in hand.

As the message ended, the question was posed, "Which song are you singing right now?" We weave in and out of the different songs in our lives at different times of our lives, and we find worship in all things. To see a complete image of the God that we worship, we must allow ourselves to sing whatever song we need to at any given time, realizing that they are all woven together as a piece of who we are made to be.

And this all came out of the notes that I took, the pattern I chose, and the colors I used, repeatedly allowing myself to review these concepts and digest them in a different way each time I looked at and contributed to the artwork. There's glory (gold) in each form of worship and life (green) in all.

We become more beautiful through the process of allowing ourselves to be touched and changed as we worship God.


What You'll Miss...

Despite what anyone tells you, what you'll miss most when you die is the little things: the grass between your toes, the clink of the ice in your coffee, and the scent of the breeze as it lifts your hair and tickles your neck. Those things you'll miss and so much more, because those are the moments of life. Those major life moments, special as they are, are not the things you remember. They're made up of small moments, the ones that make your day unique to you.

Like sitting in the sweltering heat, in black heavy robes, just waiting for your name to be called. Of walking to the stage, just praying you won't trip or lose your cap, or do something else stupid stupid that will make you the one no one forgets. Of the smile and the handshake, the snap of the photo, and being handed the paper you paid for, only to return to your seat an realize it's not even the real thing, but only a prop to tide you over while you wait for the mail. Of the sudden realization that there are no classes tomorrow, and the freedom that turns to fear in the light of the uncertainty.

Like standing in the foyer with the storm raging outside that ruined your plans for pictures in the park and caused flooding severe enough to make the pianist miss her flight from Chicago, delaying everything as drowned rat guests trickle in. Of fighting the white runner that you didn't even want but you needed to have so you could live the dream of walking on those rose petals that never got dropped by a little girl afraid to walk through the crowd of people. Of the song that seemed shorter the day that you picked it, with everyone staring at you just standing there nervously giggling and waiting for the end. Of tripping on the long train you just had to have and paid far too much for, just so you could feel like a princess. Of good-natured laughter when you hiked up that skirt and practically ran from the sanctuary, dragging your baffled new husband behind you.

Like the sudden realization that you'd given up on tests and can't even look, not knowing where the sudden nausea comes from. Of that first tiny yawn and the hours of tears, incompetently fighting with sleep. Of standing over his bed and brushing his hair back from his face as his eyes flutter in dreams. Of the handful of crumpled violets, clenched in tiny hands and held as an offering of love and devotion. Of the single tear that runs down your cheek when you watch the backpack disappear down the hall, wondering with a mixture of sadness and joy how you'll spend the next 3 hours all by yourself.

Like the story of one child that pulls at your heart as the sun sets at camp and you know that you've only begun. Of the mountains of papers and hours of examination of every aspect of your life and the thousands of dollars and the perfect house you sacrifice to know what happiness really is. Of the pan of cookies that nearly burned to a crisp as the holiday tradition turns into that call that changes your life. Of the quick run to Target for itty-bitty diapers and formula for a little girl you've yet to meet. Of the round of applause from family and friends as this angel becomes more than just an idea and again when the final decree is spoken. Of the squeals of laughter that tickle your ears as you tease those chubby legs, admiring the strawberry blonde curls she didn't inherit from you.

Like the steadfast gaze of adoration after a decade of change and the knowledge that you'd never go back and you wouldn't change a thing. Only knowing all the memories of things that didn't yet happen all those things that you know you'll still miss. These tiny moments are the things you'll miss when you die.

Saturday

Killing Jesus


Absolution
lonely

held here by no one

only solitary confinement
abandoned by the conflict

when all is stripped
and left naked

hanging here

forsaken?

Negation
forsaken?

hanging here

left naked and
stripped from all

abandoning all conflict
for suicidal confinement

no one here to hold

lonely

Tonight

for those gone before

tonight

one angel drops from flight
this slight
not quite
a thing that's right

as tears shine bright
in our fright
so trite
wanna be alright
left with only this plight
for try as we might
we can't fight

as we hug our loves tight
contrite
we invite
anger to incite
from this failed delight

we're done being polite
this bites
like spite
or a horrible rite
returned to mere blight

still this candle ignites
a white light
in our sight
and these prayers we recite

tonight

Monday

Haiku for the Dawn


Tired of the fighting
"Girl, shut up and sit down now!"
Inside the heart weeps


Saturday

Where I Live


This is a map to where I live.

It's convoluted and most often, the quickest route to where you're headed is not necessarily the shortest. It seems to me there is always a lot of traffic on the roads, and conversation is easily derailed.

You can't get to where I live without this map, but for some reason people often try, as if something as simple as their internal sense of direction or a GPS will get them where they want to go. A simple stop at Google Maps won't do it either, as the web version is nothing more than a mere shadow of reality.

It's important to note, this map may be a bit outdated and may not be drawn to scale. Objects in the mirror may actually be closer than they appear, and there's always construction on the path. My apologies for the detours, the early exits, and the necessity of back country roads. You really can't get to where I live without enjoying the scenery or without truly appreciating and experiencing this road trip.

Please note as well, the landmarks and the mentions of where things "used to be," but don't worry if you missed them. Sometimes even I do. I realize that it's easy to lose your way in this ever-changing scape, but that same quality of never-ending shifting means there are always new and different paths to explore. These new and sometimes better paths continue to emerge for those who want to find where I live, and spend time with me in this place where I am.




Thursday

This is what we know...

for Susan, Jess, and all the rest


It's the smell of warm sunshine
and how the song feels
as it seeps into your tongue
with it's sweetness revealed

It's the sound as the snow falls
and the taste of the clouds
as it lays on the landscapes
silently screaming aloud

It's the flavors you see
with your eyes tightly closed
as you wait for a kiss
and smell music composed

It's these felt and seen mysteries
heard in softness of gold
where we hide all these secrets
that we know but aren't told


Monday

Flying Stars

Impatient bare feet tap on splintering steps
awaiting the sinking of day

To chase after these stars
like baby pieces of faerie magicks
and trap them in little jars

Like gathered pieces of our glittering dreams
displaying our hearts beneath glass

Like fractured moonlight
illuminated in breath
blinking here deep in the night


~~~~~~~

"Do these words tell you how deeply I love? Do they tell you what I dreamed of as a little girl; do they tell you what I dream of now? ... Do they tell you that in the summers, I sit out on the back porch and wait for the fireflies to emerge because they remind me of a thousand stars that I can actually reach out and touch?" ~ Susan Pogorzelski

Sunday

Slouching Toward Summer

A Martyred Memoir


They giggled as they ran through the field. Chasing one another, looking not quite alike, but not entirely different. They lived in different places, barely knew each other, but the bond between them was stronger than trust. It was blood.

As their grandmother watched through the farm-kitchen window, they hefted their bags over shoulders. The lunch she'd prepared to be eaten later bumped on their backs as they ran.

There were three boys and three girls, the six that were caught in the middle. The two looked like twin sisters to the indiscriminating eye, and they liked to pretend they were, although they lived miles apart.

Hot sun pounded down as they kicked off their shoes, sweltering toes released. As their freely bared feet padded through hills of weeds, all warnings of ticks and snakes were ignored, exchanged for the freedom of summer and this distance from rules.

As they topped the last hill and began their descent, the cool water of the creek invited. Dropping shoes and lunches on the bank of the creek, they raced toward the edge. "Last one in is a rotten egg," but no one bothered to note who that was.

They splashed for a few minutes and cooled themselves off, before returning to their bags on the shore. They opened the treasures that Gramma had packed: buttered bread, cold chicken pieces, sweet pickles, and still warm sugared cookies.

Laughing and teasing as if always friends, the six of them shared this meal.

The sun inspired a glistening sweat as they finished the last of their food. Quickly, they stuffed empty wrappers and shoes back into bags and threw them in a heap, before returning to the relief of the creek.

Several minutes later, the happy splashing became an all out war of girls vs. boys. What little they'd done to try to keep clothes dry, was thrown to the wind amid huge tidal waves created by their arms.

It was when she lost her footing and fell to the stony bottom of the creek, her ankle cut and knee skinned, that she screamed loud enough to cause them all to stare, frozen.

The eyes black as night simply glared at her as the body lashed against her leg. The angry hiss was covered by the shrieking of the other five, scrambling toward the bank, desperate to escape this sudden danger.

Never in their lives had they moved so fast, gathering their things as they fled.

She was last to get out, mesmerized by those eyes, and faltering to even stand. As she pulled herself out from the now-tainted space, she noted the others had left her behind.

She decided to run, but her feet wouldn't listen. Instead they turned in a fascinated draw. She stood on the bank and stared at the snake, striking visciously at nothing at all.

Somehow she knew this would be her whole life: constantly running from imaginary danger.