Saturday, December 23, 2006

Storm Stories

The morning after the storm, I headed out with the dog to assess the damage in our little neighborhood. The sky was calm and the air was eerily warm, but the street was carpeted in evergreen boughs and it certainly smelled a lot like Christmas. I started to move the largest of the branches off to the side of the street and within minutes, my entire family was outside helping. Even my four year old had grabbed her child-size rake and was dragging the littlest bits of debris into piles. Half an hour later, sweating and panting with exertion, we stepped back and admired our handiwork. At least our little bit of heaven was restored.

My husband and I spent a few minutes talking to the girls about taking pride in our neighborhood and the importance of helping out where we could. Little did we know, the lessons would keep on coming for the next seven days or so.

The next day we were taken in, along with two other families, by my sister-in-law and her partner, no questions asked. In all, there were eight adults and eight children under the age of ten in the house and our seventy-five pound dog. I made a pile of grilled cheese sandwiches and some fruit salad for the kids, the adults dined on homemade gnocci and drank wine and we all agreed it felt like a "real" Christmas dinner. The kids spent the rest of the evening playing Xbox and doing holiday crafts and we all felt blessed to be sharing in the kindness of our hosts.

Across the street, our neighbors were fortunate enough to have a generator and when they went to drop off the gifts they had purchased for the family they had adopted for the holidays and discovered a single mother and her three children struggling to stay warm with no power, they decided to adopt them more formally. The family moved in to their house with them until the power was restored.

One day I took my girls downtown to enjoy the holiday spectacle and search for Santa Claus and I witnessed some unprecedented acts of kindness on the part of shopkeepers. One harried mother with two kids whose house had been hit by a falling tree mysteriously found herself exiting the grocery store with an extra bag of goodies. Another woman who patiently waited for the short-staffed shoe salesman to help her for over an hour while her displaced children tried on fancy shoes was given an extra discount for her troubles. Strangers were trading stories of storm damage and personal difficulty and those who were more fortunate were treating others to lunch or coffee and asking how they could provide more.

Although there are still two days until December 25th, I feel that my girls and I have been given the best Christmas gift of all. We have witnessed how the people around us care about others in times of crisis. We have used our energy to do something for the collective good, no matter how small it seems, and we have benefitted from the love and kindness of others. I hope that the momentum of these actions will carry us through the next week and beyond - giving us inspiration to continue sharing our talents and riches with those around us for a long time to come.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Northwest Christmas Carol

On the twelfth day of Christmas
Mother Nature gave to me (and a whole lot of other unsuspecting folks)
strong winds and seven days power-free.

Okay, okay, so it doesn't quite fit in with the tune of the original, but it's the best I can come up with on my first day back in my house after the ferocious storm that blew through here. Yup, those national (and international) news stories about the winter weather in the Pacific Northwest centered right here in our neck of the woods. We expected to lose power, so my youngest and I spent the morning of the storm filling the car with gas, my wallet with cash, and pirating batteries for the flashlights from every electronic kid-toy we have. (By the way, I'm not putting them back. In fact, I think life is much simpler and kinder without those toys for now...)

The first night without power was somewhat of an adventure, lighting candles, heating soup on the gas stove, going "potty" by flashlight. The following morning all of the neighbors congregated to share storm stories and I decided to walk the dog down to the woods to assess the damage. My poor dog, who was so terrified of the howling winds that he lost control of his bowels all over the carpet that night. Man, I've got to spend some time teaching him how to have accidents on the linoleum instead!

Anyway, the two of us stepped over massive fir trees (read: 50+ feet tall) that had been ripped from the ground, roots and all, and made our way down to the rushing creek. I lost sight of the dog for a moment and realized the retriever in him had taken over and called him to swim. I followed the thrashing sounds of a dog in water and found him trapped beneath a fallen tree, snout and eyes the only things showing above the rushing current of the freezing water. His eyes were wild and afraid, which jarred me because I've never seen him afraid of anything. I started to go in after him, but thought better of it and instead ran back to get help, not wanting to join him in the quicksand-like mud at the bottom of the creek.

My darling husband (now mostly recovered from his latest visit to the hospital) shot like a cannonball down to the creek and made his way across the tree to the dog as I talked calmly to him. In the end, all three of us were soaked but safe and I collapsed in tears almost instantly as our feet touched dry ground.

The next morning we packed up and moved to my sister-in-law's house, dog in tow. She and her partner opened their home and their hearts to us and for the next four days, we were treated with love and care. They fed us, gave us a warm place to sleep and play, and asked us to treat the house as if it were our own. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such loving people in our lives. My daughters got to know their auntie a lot better and we all crafted a more trusting relationship that may not have come about without this storm.

I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post. We finally got power to our house yesterday afternoon and today has been set aside for cleaning up and getting ready for Christmas, not for writing. I have so many wonderful stories of families and friends who reached out to others in this difficult time and I promise I will share all of them with you. I have recently been reminded of what Christmas is all about, trite as that may sound.

I hope you are all well and enjoying the company of loved ones.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What do I do with this?


It sits in the top of my chest, a bubble with a thick skin that causes the intake of air to be shallow and quick, the exhalations to be short and incomplete. It won't dissolve with forced attention to slower, deeper breathing, and I picture it sitting there, red and solid. Its name is anger.



It wants me to roar. A mother lion who has lost her cubs. It will not float free with any deliberate, quiet choice. I try to envision it like a balloon on a string and I cut the string, hoping it will float free of its moorings up into the sky. I don't want to make a sound or alert anyone to its presence because it feels wrong to be angry. There is nobody to blame, no mishandling or intentional action that put us here. Anger is not productive or helpful, but I know instinctively that it will not go away until I punch something, throw something, pitch a fit. As soon as I open my mouth to shriek and mobilize my arms and legs to flail wildly it will shatter and release its toxic brew. The contents will burn out like Fourth of July fireworks in the dark sky. I have to find a place where nobody will witness this and be frightened or contrite.


I am angry that he is sick again. I am angry that I had to rush him to the hospital twice last week and watch him suffer. I am angry that neighbors and friends had to be called upon to help my daughters at a moment's notice. I am angry that Eve thinks I'm lying when I say he will get better. I am angry that Lola won't sleep in her own bed anymore and I am awakened multiple times every night to soothe her and put her back to sleep. I am angry that the doctors aren't working on his case tirelessly. I resent having to tell this story over and over again, hoping that some detail will stand out this time and we will find some answers.


I hate that my house is a mess, loads of laundry folded and stacked along the backs of the couches in the living room because I am too tired to put them away. I hate that instead of playing Crazy Eights with my daughters after school I turn on the TV for them so I can collapse on the couch for an hour's nap. I hate the phone calls from family every night, checking on him and asking for some new development. I hate the voice mail I get for the medical assistant every time I call to talk to the physician. I hate that I know what time each of his doctors' offices open and all the receptionists' names. I hate the phrase, "...when Daddy feels better..." I hate that I can't fall into a deep sleep for fear that I might miss a telltale groan from his side of the bed. I hate that I'm angry and resentful and tired. I want to be happy and thankful and full of joy.


I know that the anger is a natural response to all of this, but I worry that it is destructive. I have managed to fend it off until now and know that it would make Bubba feel guilty and my children confused and frightened. I have to find a place to release it where I can give it its due. I want to acknowledge the fear and fatigue that caused it and its right to exist, but I don't want to unleash its hurtful power anywhere near others. I want to let it go. I want to make it go.


Friday, December 08, 2006

This is What Sleep Deprivation Sounds Like...

Shit, check the clock. Okay we have 45 minutes. "Girls, what do you want for breakfast?"No answer. Typical. Peek around the corner, yup, they're still in their pajamas playing with Eve's birthday gifts. Okay, breathe, give them a few minutes to play, and then start nagging.
Breathe.
Shit, gotta pack a lunch, and I promised Lola we'd find the perfect Xmas tree this morning. Check the clock. Forty minutes. "Girls, please go get dressed for school. I'll put couple of bowls of cereal on the table for you.Grilled cheese in your lunchbox okay today?" No answer again. Screw it, I'm making grilled cheese and throwing some other crap in there. She won't die if she doesn't have a well-rounded lunch today.
Okay, we need groceries before Mom shows up today, and I've got to get to the hospital to visit Bubba. Food for myself would be a good idea, but the latte will have to be done on the fly. How about cereal for me, too? Ooh, I think there's a brand new box of my favorite stuff in the pantry.

Shove a bite in and check the sandwich to make sure it's not burning. God, this cereal tastes like crap. Maybe they burned this batch or something. Ugh. Oh well, it's fuel. Sandwich is okay, check the clock. Thirty minutes. "Girls, please go get dressed and feed the animals their breakfast. Make sure you're taking bites of your own breakfast as you play." No answer.
Breathe.
Better jot down a few grocery items so I don't forget them. Lunchbox almost done. Christ! What is that smell? Shove in another bite of cereal before checking. Ohhhh, this is what I needed. The cat had diarrhea on the carpet. Like I have time for this? Quick, clean it up before the dog decides it's sweet-smelling lotion. Shit, the dog. He probably really needs to pee. "Has anyone let the dog out this morning?" No answer.
Let the dog out, clean up the cat shit, CHECK THE SANDWICH! DONT BURN IT!
Breathe.
Sandwich is fine, cut it into triangles. Check the clock. Twenty minutes. "Girls, I mean it - get dressed and pick up your toys so the dog doesn't eat them while we're out today. Are you eating your cereal?" Speaking of...shove another bite in. Man, this stuff tastes vile this morning. What is the matter?
Okay, a few more grocery items, make sure the dog has water, clean out the litter box, fill Eve's water bottle for school. Make sure Lola isn't wearing her Christmas dress since it's muddy at the tree farm. Call Bubba's brother and sister to let them know he's in the hospital again and I'll call again later with more information. Call Bubba's boss and fill him in.
Finally, they're dressed. "Make sure your hair and teeth are brushed, please. We're leaving in ten minutes." Finish the cereal. Gulp, chew. Gulp, chew. Oh God. I can't believe it. Open the fridge and check the milk carton. I'm such an idiot. The expiration date is November 28th. It wasn't the cereal, stupid, it was the sour milk you poured over the top of it. I just ate an entire bowl of cereal with sour milk and didn't know it. Ugh. Okay, move on.
"Can someone put the dog in his crate for me? Lola, you need sneakers or boots on to get the tree. Eve, don't forget your school bag, okay?"
Lock the back door, make sure the dishes are in the sink.Check the clock. Shit, two minutes. "How come nobody ate their cereal? And the Barbie dolls are all over the floor? Please clean them up, guys! We need to leave now and the house is a mess. Gram's coming today."
Why is Eve looking at me like that? "What?!"
She opens her mouth and looks up at me with hooded eyes, "You are not dropping me off like THAT, Mom."
Check self. Hmmm, bare feet, bird's nest hair, pajamas still on, and no bra. "You're right. Guess I forgot to get dressed. You guys get in the car, I'm running upstairs to get dressed and find a baseball cap."
Breathe.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I'm Breathing As Slowly As I Can...

Been away for a while, likely to be away for a bit longer. I really want to come back and write, but recent events have conspired to keep me away. As if the holidays weren't crazy enough, Eve turned seven yesterday (Happy Birthday, sweet angel!), and Bubba recently returned from his first business trip post-surgery. Crap.

Seems the surgery (the $40,000.00 one that took four hours and eight weeks of recovery, you know the one, right?) didn't do the trick. Not only is he sick again, it's worse than before. So at this point we're back at square one, visiting Emergency Rooms, frightening our children, calling on the resources of friends and family to help out, and pleading with medical professionals to help us figure this damn thing out! I'm researching mercury poisoning, naturopathic physicians - hell, I'll even pay a faith healer at this point if they have something to offer.

So, needless to say, I'm a little busy right now. Hoping to write more coherently soon, but at this point any free moments I have are for meditating and sleeping.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

One is Enough. Really.


No, honestly. Don't listen to the children. One snow day is plenty. Especially considering that, thanks to teacher conferences and Thanksgiving, we haven't had a full week of school in the last three weeks, I think the children really ought to be exercising their minds.


Three days ago my children saw a wishing well. Their grandmother, a wonderful woman who loves to indulge her only granddaughters, gave them each a dime to make a wish. A dime. Each of them. Can you guess what they wished for? Snow. I'll have to remind her that, from now on, a penny is ample for wish-making. Apparently when you combine two holiday-inspired little girls with a wishing well and 20 cents, that's some pretty powerful juju.


The layer of ice beneath the three inches of snow is an inch deep and has proven impenetrable to salt and sand. A new weather system is slowly moving in, determined to dump anywhere from three to six inches of fresh snow on top of this mess and, then, about midnight tonight, the meteorologists predict that freezing rain will come in to top it all off like a rotten birthday cake. Which, I suppose is perfectly okay if you're Oscar the Grouch, or a kid who is not particularly interested in going back to classes until next Monday, but I don't happen to be either of those.


I happen to be a mother whose husband is currently in South America, working, visiting friends, eating like a king, and basking in the sun. A woman whose Christmas shopping is not done, who hasn't even actually purchased Christmas cards yet, much less begun to address them. A woman who was desperately looking forward to having two hours for tea with her best friend tomorrow morning while the children are all AT SCHOOL. 'Scuse me. I think I need to go meditate. Or is that medicate? Hmm, I'll let you know which one works...Until then, toss a quarter in a wishing well for me, eh? You know what to wish for!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

SNOW DAY!

Yup, no school, no work, and my holiday guests can't leave. An absolutely unprecedented storm dumped four inches of snow at my house in about 45 minutes last night and we are stuck. Now, you readers in the midwest or Eastern parts of the U.S. or other parts of the world that are used to snow are thinking, "What a bunch of pansies! Four inches is nothing!" I know, I know. But here in the Pacific Northwest, we never get snow without its evil companion, black ice. Lying quietly and treacherously beneath the fluffy blanket of white is a sinister layer of high-gloss, just waiting for someone in a rear-wheel drive car to come innocently around the corner.

My kids were out gobbling up the fat flakes as they fell and rolling snowballs until dinner last night. They woke up at 6am to tell me they doubted there would be school, and by 7am, they were suited up and making snow angels. The dog, an almost-two-year-old who has never seen snow, wasn't sure what to do with himself. The girls tortured him by throwing snowballs for him to fetch and fell down laughing when he chased after them only to whirl around a moment later when they got lost in the rest of the white. He finally resorted to writhing on his back, making his own version of a snow angel, and eating as much of the white stuff as he could. The girls are cautioning the neighbors to look out for "yellow and brown snow" and building snow forts.

My husband phoned this morning from South America - his first business trip since the surgery. He is glad not to be here for the snow and cold and informed us that he is spending his days wearing shorts and sipping iced tea in the 85 degree weather.

I love sitting on the sidelines, watching the kids and the dog romp in the weather. They are grateful for some outdoor time after the weeks of rainy, grey weather we've had, and I'm happy just to see sunshine again. I'm baking blueberry bread and pecan cakes to stick in the freezer for the holidays and hoping the soft covering outside will muffle the noises coming from my brain today. Cloak the to-do lists and countdown to Christmas in a downy white blanket and leave them for another day. Today is a snow day.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

How Long is Long Enough?

"Americans are obsessed with longevity," my therapist said, cocking her head like the RCA terrier and raising her eyebrows, "You know that, right?"

Yeah, I know, and it seems a little weird. On one hand, we are the most unfit, obese nation on the planet. On the other, we scour magazine stands and evening health segments on the news in order to glean new ways to lengthen our stay here. We want to live forever, but we don't want to "get old". We spend millions of dollars a year on potions and treatments and advisors who will help us live longer.

But how much is enough? Is what I'm doing with my life now important enough to sustain forever? If someone asked me how many years I want to live on this planet, what would my answer be? Do I want to make sure I have enough time to be a mother, a wife, a career woman, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a hot air balloonist? The happy retirees I see around me are not rushing off to do more, to get more accomplished. They are slowing down. They are enjoying families and friends, golfing, walking, playing bridge.

There is a man who bags groceries at my local supermarket. No matter how long the line, I always maneuver my way through the choices to get to where he is. I want him to bag my groceries and help me out to the car. He jokes with my girls, he always has a smile on his face, and he pretends to know everyone. Rain or shine, he pushes my cart through the parking lot and never ever lets me help him unload the bags into the back.

"You love this job, don't you?" I asked him one day.

"What's not to love? I used to be a stockbroker, now I get paid for flirting with pretty women and giving stickers to kids. Benefits, too!"

He doesn't have to work to supplement his retirement income. He does it because it gives him a sense of purpose to get up and go do something every day. He doesn't have to hire or fire anyone. There is no pressure to "produce". He just comes to work, does a good job, and goes home with a paycheck.

My 85-year-old grandfather spent much of the last year undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for bone cancer.

"I can't tell you how much time you have left, D. But I can say that it will be the cancer that will take your life," said his physician. The radiation treatments shrunk most of the tumors in his chest and we all sat up a bit straighter. The chemotherapy wore him out and made him miserable. Three months ago he decided to quit. He couldn't sleep, he didn't want to eat, let him live without the toxic chemicals pumping into his body every week.

Last week another scan showed a new tumor in his esophagus. My mom made plans to fly down and spend some time with him. Her sister did an online search and found a man living near them who claims to possess a miracle cure for cancer. It only costs $15,000.00. She got the videotaped testimonials and watched them before urging her siblings to do the same.

Nobody wants my grandfather to die. He is the mortar between the bricks of his family. He is the moral center, the one who always knows how to look at a situation with love and logic. He has lived for 85 fantastic years, traveled the world for pleasure as well as war. He raised a fantastic family, owned several businesses, golfed his fill and watched his wife of 50 years die slowly of Alzheimer's disease. He has threaded silk strands of his strength and love throughout my family and allowed us to be better parents, siblings, and partners by example. How much is enough? Do we spend these last weeks of his life frantically chasing a mystery cure or do we sit with him and tell him the things we haven't made time to before? He will die soon, but he will never be gone. My daughter has his hands - long tapered nails and strong, capable fingers. My mother has his compassion, and every time my uncle laughs, my grandfather's eyes sparkle in his face. He has lived. Enough.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ripples in the Pond

Every time you make a choice, you change the future. The future, not your future. Our interconnectedness, while more apparent sometimes than others, leads us to experience the consequences of each other's actions more often than not.

There are times when our lives would be much simpler if we were able to isolate ourselves in order to make an important decision. Unfortunately, however, it is a condition of life that we are dependent on external forces for our survival and are unable to live inside a vacuum. Regardless of whether we can anticipate the exact changes that will come about as the result of a choice we make, the changes will occur. Occasionally, the effects are so far-reaching that their true measure cannot be assessed for months or years later.

Thirty years ago, our country went to war in Vietnam. During the height of the fighting, a decision was made to deforest the jungle in order for our military to have better strategic vision of the "enemy". The long-term effect of this action on the environment and the innocent civilians who inhabited Vietnam was not taken into account. The decision was made in order to "win" this war decisively.

Not only has the environment not recovered from the thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals that were rained down upon it, but the people of Vietnam have suffered countless medical anomalies and genetic defects generations later. They have attempted to farm the poisoned soil and fish from the tainted rivers and lakes so that their children may eat. Instead, they are contracting cancers and giving birth to babies with no eyes and enlarged heads. We neglected to acknowledge that the citizens of Vietnam were our fellow human beings, even when their leaders made decisions we did not agree with. Poisoning their food supply may have enabled democracy to rise victorious over communism in that small corner of the planet, but it also has disabled generations of innocent human beings and animals from thriving in their own land.

The United States went to war in Iraq over alleged "weapons of mass destruction". Saddam Hussein has been found guilty of using or attempting to use biological warfare, but America has yet to apologize or pay any kind of reparations to Vietnam for succeeding in doing the same thirty years ago. Agent Orange was most definitely both a WMD and a biological weapon and its effects have been more devastating than anyone could have foreseen.

Most of the decisions I've made when I am angry or judgemental of another person have turned out to be the ones I most regret later. As we begin to remind ourselves of the power we have to affect others, perhaps we can begin to respect it more and examine our own motivations for making the choices we make.

A group called "Vets With A Mission" devotes itself to repairing some of the damage done by the military in other parts of the world. If you wish to make a donation or see the work they have done, visit http://www.vwam.com/index.html

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Coming From a Place of Hope

"Chronic Jet-Lag Conditions Hasten Death in Aged Mice" shouted the headline from my email inbox. A resigned breath pushed out of my chest as possible responses scrolled through my mind. I know this person was just trying to be kind and alert me to the possible dangers of my husband's incessant business trips, but neither of us wanted this kind of information sent to us, well-meaning or not.

I still haven't responded, and I'm not even sure if the sender would care. My first instinct was to rise to a defensive position, justifying our choices as just that OURS, and explaining that, for right now, the choice to travel internationally poses more of an opportunity than...hey, wait. Why am I doing this? All of a sudden, four neon-red letters began blinking in my brain

H-O-P-E
H-O-P-E
H-O-P-E

This person is coming from a place of fear. They fear anything that changes their normal life. Illness, death, extreme weather, muggers, car-jackers, anything unpredictable that comes their way is frightening. At least once a week my inbox contains some sort of email instructions on how to protect myself from identity theft, carjacking, or rape in a darkened mall parking lot. I appreciate the concern that is being shown for me in this way, but I don't want to get sucked in to the fear. I hate that place.

I know from experience that it is not possible to talk yourself out of that particular ZIP Code. Logic does not penetrate that strongest of all emotions. But today, I am coming from a place of hope. I don't fully understand how I got here, but I am grateful that my core is at peace for now. I'm not going to worry about whether I'll find myself transported back to that dark scary place tomorrow or Friday or next week. For today, hope is in my heart and my head and I can look out the window and see the earth curling in to her slumbering position to rest for a while. I can feel the warmth of the love I have for myself and others unfurling inside me like a banner. I will radiate this today and submerge myself in it like a hot bath. I will let it steam my mind and heart open and surround me.

"Neither we, nor our children, will avoid change, loss, and death. But our children will interpret these things through the vision we give them. If you can manage to see through your fear of these three things, your children will have the greatest vision possible." William Martin, The Parent's Tao Te Ching

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Words I Love

Okay, this is a totally random post, but since monsoon season has officially begun in the Pacific Northwest, that's how my mind is working today.

I love words and language. I only really know one (okay, I'm passable in French), but I love the sound and feel of words on my tongue and the way they travel around my brain when I'm reading. I love that sometimes a single word will get stuck in my head, just like a catchy tune, and I can say it over and over again, feeling it morph in my mind. There are some words I just love for no discernable reason at all, and others I love for what they mean to me. Here goes:

fathom
choice (duh, of course I love this word - it represents possibility to me)
disdain
catharsis
plethora (even though I don't often say it out loud because it sounds a little pompous, I like the way it looks and feels on my tongue)
chasm
salsa (a Seinfeld episode comes to mind with this - I think Jerry said, "People just can't stop sayin' salsa."
fallible
fraught
desire
adore
excruciating
snuggle
playful
pendejo (actually a mean slur in Spanish, but it's fun to say with the silent j - try it, you'll like it. But don't say it in public, or to anyone who knows Spanish - they'll take offense for sure!)
blogger/bloggerific (I used to hate the word blog because it seemed so meaningless, but it has grown on me)
cocodrillo (Spanish for crocodile - it's fun to say, too)


I know there are more, but I'm getting distracted saying those fun Spanish words to myself. Anyone else have any ideas?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Head for the Hills!

This just in: Dick Cheney is spending Election Day at a hunting retreat in South Dakota. All you liberals, watch out! He may be channeling Elmer Fudd in honor of the second Tuesday in November, "Oooh, I'm hunting Democwats!"

Okay, okay, I realize this is a bit of a mean-spirited shot, but it seems fairly bold to be planning such a trip after the ill-fated consequences of his last one. After he accidentally shot his lawyer-friend last year, the disc jockeys of a local radio station wrote a song in honor of the incident which I, somewhat guiltily, find amusing.

You can hear the song by going to this site http://www.bobrivers.com/audiovault/tunes/tunes.asp?Var=C, or if you don't particularly want to do that, just get the Aerosmith tune to "Janie's Got a Gun" in your head and follow along with the lyrics...


Cheney's Got a Gun
(Parody of Janie’s Got a Gun by Aerosmith)

Dick Cheney’s got a gun
Dick Cheney’s got a gun
The safety’s come undone
Squinting in the Texas sun

What did our leader do?
Who’d he put a bullet through?
They say when Cheney goes to Texas
You’ll find him huntin’ fish and game

His buddy had it comin’
Cuz when Cheney’s got a gun
He’s just not that good at takin’ aim

Cheney’s got a gun
Dick Cheney shot someone
Cindy Sheehan better run
Better watch her liberal buns
Tell him that the war’s not through
He’ll probably put a hole in you

He tracked a little bitty birdie
Hopin’ to blow out its brains
They say the spell that he gets under
From double barrel thunder
Makes his eyes pop out like he’s insane

Run away, run away from the Vice President
Run away, run away, run from Dick Che-ee ay-ee nee

Dick Cheney’s got a gun
The safety’s come undone
Cindy Sheehan better run
He’s a weapon of mass destruction
Cheney shot someone

Now, get out there and vote, people! Regardless of your political leanings, make it count.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A little gem for all you Zeppelin fans who are now parents...


This is the song my husband was singing in the shower this morning:

"Five little ducks went out one day
To the land of the ice and snow
With the midnight sun where the hot springs blow
Aaaah, ah"

Nice amalgam of the Immigrant Song and a kids' classic, eh?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dia de Los Muertos


Burying the dead is a solemn ritual in nearly every culture. People of Greek descent shriek, tear at their hair and clothing, sob loudly and share their emotions very publicly. The Wiccan tradition includes a gathering where a poem is read and various herbs are sprinkled on the ground to encourage rebirth. Some cultures use animal sacrifice to appease the gods, others have a wake or feast following the memorial service.

Talking about death is difficult for most of us, but as we age, we begin to form definite ideas about our wishes for our own "death ceremony", whatever that may be. I have a friend who has ordered that nobody be allowed to cry at her funeral. She would like everyone to wear bright colors and share stories of her life, eschewing the traditional wearing of black and public mourning. My husband and I have decided that we would like to be cremated upon our deaths and I was surprised to find that he was nervous to share that decision with his family, lest they object for some reason.

I have known families with children who have died that refuse to move from the town where the child is buried, lest the child's grave be abandoned. Our link to the living is powerful, and at times, it seems as though our ties to the dead are no less important to us. Many who have lost loved ones have attached themselves to the importance of having a physical, tangible memorial to that person.

Some of the most heinous crimes we can conjure up involve desecration of cemeteries and exhumation of the dead. There are those who have been known to discard of bodies in mass graves for profit or simplicity, and those who have manipulated the bodies of the dead for their own pleasure. Autospsy and dissection of the human body has forwarded the causes of medicine and science immeasurably, but there are those who object strenuously to donation of one's body to science after death.

Mary Roach authored a wonderful book called "Stiff" in which she investigated what happens to bodies that are donated to science. I read it with complete abandon and found myself laughing and crying and, at times, nauseous. I left it with a sense of awe at the ways we human beings have changed our views of death and dying over the centuries. Autopsies and dissections were punishable by death mere hundreds of years ago, but as the wonders of surgery became more and more known, we have adapted our laws to allow for medical advances in order that we might avoid death for longer periods of time.

I empathize with the desire to have a concrete, tangible altar to visit and honor the dead, but personally, I find the intangible memories of my loved ones more satisfying. I can sit at home with a cup of tea and my animal companions and conjure up my great grandmother's legacy. Her strength and humor are more real to me than the gravestone which bears her name and date of death. I recall her love of strays of all kinds, people, animals, plants, and her overriding compulsion to care for them for a little while. Her vitriolic hatred of Ronald Reagan was terrifically amusing to me as a teenager and I loved it when she would see him on television and curse in Ukranian while spitting on the floor. I remember watching The Wizard of Oz with her for the first time and her childlike giggles of glee and wonder at the "special effects" of the flying monkeys still echo in my head. I hear her sotto voice sometimes when I am tempted to say no to my girls yet again and I feel the silken wrinkles of her hand covering mine on the wooden spoon as I stir the piroshky dough. My heart is full of her and my head follows its lead. Her legacy will outlive any stone memorial I could erect so long as I am committed to sharing it as she did.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hunting for Knowledge



Yesterday both of my girls had scheduled field trips to separate destinations. My husband accompanied our youngest and her class to the pumpkin patch for hayrides and cider and Halloween stories. I went with our elementary-school-age daughter on a mushroom hunting expedition to a local wooded park. One of her teachers is a mycologist (mushroom expert) and has been teaching the kids how to identify fungi. While the vast majority of these pre-adolescents would never deign to actually eat a mushroom, they have been eagerly anticipating this opportunity to don gloves and dig them out of the ground.

These children have spent weeks learning the anatomy of mushrooms and bringing specimens in to class to share. More than once, we have spotted some unusual mushrooms growing in our neighborhood and come back later to collect them only to find that some overzealous neighbor has mowed them down. Curses!

On Friday, 24 students and 12 adults clambered onto a school bus; sack lunches, non-latex gloves and paper bags in hand, to make the half hour trip to the state park where we would go a-hunting. Once there, we fanned out on the dozen or so trails, two children for each adult, and began searching. The day was a foggy, blustery one and after about 15 minutes we were wishing we had worn at least one extra layer between our shirts and windbreakers. We carefully selected long sticks to use as tools to push aside the damp leaves. Girls and boys alike sent squeals careening off the trees each time they located a mushroom.

The first little white parasol my daughter found was carefully extracted from the leaf litter and she shouted, “I got the mycelium! Look!” She held up the mushroom to display the root-like tendrils hanging down.

“Oh, cool!” It took a while for me to get in to the routine of looking down for little camouflaged fungi. Some of them had stems no wider than a pin, but by the time we had been hunting for an hour or so, we had collected over a dozen different varieties of mushrooms and our bags were over halfway full.

As we returned to the meeting area and the children reverently placed their treasures onto the white butcher paper that covered the picnic table, I was astonished. Together we had collected hundreds and hundreds of mushrooms. The solemn quiet was occasionally punctuated by an excited identification. Chanterelle! Look, it’s a puffball! Turkey tail!

These children were so elated to have surpassed their own expectations. They showed me how to carefully tear a mushroom in half to identify special characteristics. They pointed out the poisonous ones and cautioned me to wash my hands carefully before eating. They knew which ones had been found under trees, growing on tree trunks, and which we had found in the grass. The class favorite seemed to be one called an inky cap whose gills and cap start to disintegrate and leak a black “inky” substance that coats their hands upon maturing.

I must admit, I was originally unsure of how the dissection and identification of mushrooms was helping my daughter in school, but I left that field trip convinced of one thing. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the specific subject matter is. So long as the teacher is knowledgeable and passionate about the topic and is willing to allow the children to have some hands-on experience, they will find it exciting. These children displayed such ownership and pride at their accomplishments. I am sure that they will retain the intimate knowledge of fungi that they have learned. More importantly, however, I believe that they have learned that they are capable of delving into subjects they never before found interesting and discovering a world of possibilities.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Polished Rocks, Part Two

I broke this essay up rather unceremoniously simply due to its size. Sorry that this part starts so abruptly...


The three girls spent some portion of every day examining their finds, washing them off, and building structures with them on the pool deck. To the untrained eye, it might seem as though their standards were very low, but in fact, they were somewhat particular, looking primarily for rocks of unusual shape or smoothness and coveting especially those with sparkles.

The weather turned rainy the second week, and we spent more time inside the cabins cooking and playing board games. It was then that I had occasion to notice that the polish on my pinky toes was completely gone and the other toes were beginning to chip. This didn’t really bother me as it would have followed the same progression at home, and I certainly wasn’t about to use my limited Spanish to attempt to purchase nail polish remover in Patagonia.

The rest of the trip was fantastic, and the girls bid a tearful “Spanglish” good-bye to their new Argentinean friend. They were each allowed to bring three r-r-r-rocks home with them and each has earned a special place in their treasures at home. The week that we have been home has been filled with laundry, sorting photographs from the trip, and showing off our souvenirs to friends and family. We arrived home on Thanksgiving Day, unaccustomed to the wintry temperatures and completely unprepared for the impending holiday shopping season. Is it any wonder I just haven’t found the time to scrub my toe paint off yet?

Because of my propensity to just let my polish gradually wear off, it occurred to me this morning to wonder where all of those little polish bits end up. Certainly, a good percentage of them are washed down my shower drain into my septic tank. I imagine opening the tank one day to have it pumped and gazing down at a glittering rainbow of shiny sediment. I’m certain that nail polish is one of the items on the list of things NOT to put down the septic tank (along with eggshells, coffee grounds, and melon rinds) because it will never biodegrade, but I have a fantasy that it somehow makes its way into the environment in a more positive way. I am sure that I left miniscule shards of color on several beaches in Patagonia and some undoubtedly sank to the bottom of the pool as well. Perhaps it will bypass the filter and wash into the groundwater there. Maybe some of the pieces will be accidentally ingested by rainbow trout and incorporated into their shimmery scales or pooped out to fuse with the rocks at the bottom of the lake. Other bits might be run over by trucks and ground into the rocks on the road and eventually, hundreds or thousands of years from now, other children will be playing with the rocks and will discover some special ones with purple flecks in them. Maybe I am doing future generations of children a world of good by letting my toenail polish create those mysterious little glittery bits that will intrigue and engage them in play for days. My children used rocks to forge a friendship with another child with whom they needed a way to communicate. Those treasures will remain forever, like the rocks with a hint of something special on the tops of their dressers.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Polished Rocks, Part One

I wrote this piece last year and haven't posted it for several reasons. I've decided to break it up into parts and share it here in hopes of getting some feedback from my friends, blogmirers, and fellow writers. Have at it (but go gentle on me....)



Six weeks ago my girlfriend and I escaped from our houses for an afternoon pedicure. Because our birthdays are two days apart and we both have two small children, this was our treat to each other. We spent a blissful hour and a half getting our feet washed (I don’t care how clean you are, that’s not a job I want to do for a stranger, but I’m damn glad someone was willing to do it for me), buffed, polished, and massaged. Finally, our toes were painted and each big toenail was expertly adorned with a handpainted orchid. My daughters (3 and 5) were very impressed and promptly requested flowers on their toes, too. Never mind that I can barely stay in the lines when I paint their miniscule toenails, now I have to be able to paint recognizable objects on them, too?

This morning in the shower, I looked at my once shiny, beautiful toes and saw that approximately 60% of the orchid remains on both big toes, but the rest of the polish has gradually been rubbed away. This is the problem with having one’s toes painted, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I not have time to spend removing the old polish and reapplying new polish to my own toes, the particular tang of the polish remover (you know it – in fact, I’m willing to bet the mere suggestion of it has your nostrils shrinking back) is so vile that I can hardly stand to use it. The beauty of having my toes painted in the winter, of course, is that I am rarely without shoes and can hide the gradual peeling, chipping, and flaking of my nails until the polish is gone. I will admit I glean some small amount of satisfaction at not having used some toxic chemical to remove the paint as well, although if I hadn’t used the toxic polish in the first place I suppose I could have done the planet an even bigger favor.

Summertime poses an altogether different problem since my toes are almost always bare, but I usually get around that by applying lighter hues in the beginning of the summer. That way, when they start to chip, I can simply cover them with a darker color to cover up the chips. By the end of August, I generally have 4-6 coats of ever-darkening polish on my toes that will take a half hour to remove (not to mention a good deal of vigorous rubbing), but at least my toes have looked pretty all summer in sandals.

Three weeks after my birthday pedicure, my husband and I took our children to Argentina for three weeks. We left Seattle on November 4th and arrived in Buenos Aires on a sunny, late-spring day. We gleefully packed shorts, sandals and swimming suits and left behind the gray, rainy days of fall in the Pacific Northwest. We spent our days in the swimming pool, taking boat tours on the lake, playing at the beach, and going for long walks in the forest. My toes looked fantastic for the first week. Every time I caught a glimpse of those gorgeous orchids peeking out of my sandal, I said a quiet, “Happy Birthday!" to myself.

We joined friends in Argentina who had a five year old daughter and were looking forward to watching the girls interact. Candela speaks no English and our girls’ mastery of the Spanish language mainly consists of colors, counting to twenty, and “hola”, but it took only one day for the three of them to devise a way to communicate with each other. One game they invented involved Eve, my oldest daughter, choosing an object and saying to Candela, “Como se dice en EspaƱol?” Candela would teach them the name in Spanish and they would teach her how to say it in English. We, the adults, were of course impressed with the cleverness of our offspring and loved listening to them try to pronounce the new words correctly.

This game came about at some cabins in Patagonia where we were staying. A wide gravel path ran between our cabin and the swimming pool. My girls love rocks. Not shiny, polished agates, but regular, garden-variety rocks. They collect rocks at the beach, around our neighborhood, and frequently steal them from landscaping beds and walkways in various places we find ourselves. I borrowed some plastic bowls from the cabin so they could more easily collect their treasures and it was then that Erin held up a rock and asked Candela how to say it in Spanish. I could listen to Candela say “r-r-r-r-rock” all day long. It was completely innocent and natural for her and I had to walk away, lest my laughter offend her.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Who's Going to Clean That Up?

It’s a little bit like a pile of dog poop in the autumn grass. All around it is sunshine and glistening dewdrops, spider webs encrusted in shimmering jewels, birds calling to each other from treetops in shades of orange and red and yellow. The grass has recovered from the hot summer and has its lush emerald luster back, but smack in the middle is a steaming, smelly mound of shit. It needs to be cleaned up soon, although neither of us is likely to step in it. We are both painfully aware of the stain in our midst and give it a wide berth. Occasionally, one of us ventures forth to inspect it. Is it still there or has someone else performed an act of mercy and made it disappear?

I, for one, am determined to leave it there for a while. So long as we can avoid it, it will be fine. It is not likely to get worse. It can’t grow on its own, nor will it mold or fester or rot. Even after it has been acknowledged, it will dry out and be easier to pick up from the grass.

Do you remember the first close friend you made as an adult? As a kid, anything seemed possible and making mistakes was inevitable – not even worthy of worrying about forgiveness from a friend. As an adult, though, we are expected to be responsible and diligent, hardworking and realistic. I met my dearest “grown-up” friend as a new mother. It was perhaps the most frightening and trying time for me to have any kind of self-confidence and I was both intimidated and drawn to her self-assurance and composure as a new mother herself. Our daughters were born a few weeks apart and our husbands both worked for the same company. We attended classes at the hospital together and soon made play-dates a weekly occurrence. After nearly seven years of friendship, I still cannot make a cup of tea taste as good as she can, nor do I have her ability to remain unruffled in the face of whatever new phase my eldest is entering. I feel completely welcome in her home and she is one of the few women I will allow into my house when the floors are covered in dog hair and the laundry hasn’t been done in several days. We empty each other’s dishwashers and are referred to by each other’s children as their “second mom”.

She has saved me from boredom, taking myself too seriously, and severe depression. She stocked my fridge with milk, bread, salads, macaroni and cheese and butter on the day we returned from seven weeks in Europe, knowing that the last thing I would want to do was run to the store that first morning back. Our children consider each other siblings and have known each other their entire lives. I miss her terribly when more than three or four days go by without even a phone visit.

We have established yearly rituals together and our birthdays are within a few days of each other. We have met and love each other’s parents and have shared secrets we wouldn’t tell anyone else. Our daughters have bathed together, slept together and concocted some absolutely unimaginable schemes together. We have forged a bond that will transcend illness, sadness and stress.

She is my first line of defense when I feel myself sinking into the depths of despair. When she needs me, I would drop almost everything to come to her aid. I love her children as my own and have spent some of my most enjoyable moments giggling with her youngest child.

But someone has shit on my front lawn. Circumstances beyond her control may force her to move her family overseas and while I agree that her life would be simpler and, perhaps, significantly better overall, I can’t even stand to talk about the possibility.

I cannot imagine raising my children without her insight and practical point of view. Holidays will not be the same without the eager faces of the children I’ve watched grow up, hunting for Easter eggs in my yard and sitting on Santa’s lap. I will miss the effortlessness of this relationship – picking up the phone to share a hilarious anecdote or ask if I can pick anything up for her at Trader Joe’s. This noble spirit that came into my life just when I needed her and helped me become a better mother and a better person has raised herself above the status of a girlfriend. She is my sister and my confidante. I wish for peace and happiness, fulfillment and joy for her family. I also wish teleportation was an option…

Friday, October 13, 2006

Meet & Greet

We've met. You can officially say we've been introduced. The first month or two of the school year is one big meet-and-greet. I don't mean getting to know the teachers, my kids' classmates or even their parents. I'm talking about what happens after the two-week incubation period. That's when my kids have already picked up all the various bacteria and viruses that lurk in the homes of their friends and have mysteriously been transferred to every surface in their classroom. Okay, it's not that mysterious. How many six and seven year olds actually wash their hands every time they are done in the bathroom? Sneezing into their sleeves? C'mon, now. Most of them still pick their noses at least once a day.

Every year, approximately two weeks into the new school calendar, that's when it hits home. My husband and I wake up with sinuses stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, throats like sandpaper, and no end in sight. Until we've exhausted every possible combination and permutation of each individual virus from each of our kids' classmates' houses, we'll be popping cold medicine and running the vaporizer like prohibition's coming.

It just can't be helped. Maybe next year, we'll host a gala for the kids earlier in the year and encourage hugging and kissing. I'll remove all traces of antibacterial soap and Kleenex from the house and let everyone breathe on everybody else. Maybe we'll start two weeks before the first day of school so we can get this all over with sooner.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Making Lemonade

At a recent playdate, my four-year-old inquired of her friend, "What are you drawing?"
He replied, "I'm making a picture for you. It's a picture of your Daddy."
"Well, draw him laying down," was her immediate response. I laughed, my husband cringed. He doesn't want to be known as the infirm parent, the one who lies around and watches TV all day long.

The girls have recently informed him that he is watching way too much TV. He is current on all the college and professional football games and statistics. We have rented DVDs of past HBO series shows such as 'Oz' and 'Rome'. The other day I came home from the store and caught him flipping through the channels only to stop at a professional dart championship. The contest was being held in the UK and the prize for first place was 100,000 pounds. That's nearly a quarter of a million dollars! For throwing sharp objects at a bullseye on the wall! There was an entire audience of spectators, complete with individual cheering sections and homemade signs. After a minute, I realized I was standing still, eyes focused in on the score projected in the little box at the bottom of the screen. I shook my head and asked, not really expecting him to know the answer, how many games they were playing. "Best of 25," Bubba replied, not moving a muscle to shift his eyeballs in my direction.

"Daddy, I wish you didn't have an ouchie tummy and didn't have any surgery and could play with me right now." Lola hung over the arm of the couch, hovering over her Daddy's forehead.
"I know, sweetie. Me too. But we can play a game or color or something on the couch."
"No, I mean I want you to get down on the floor and play with me like Mommy can."
"Oh, I get it. But for now, Mommy's fun to play with on the floor, too."
"Yeah, except for the mean part she's just like you."
Ouch.

Lola and I are having a tough time. She is a very physical, high energy, push-it-past-the-limit kind of kid who thinks that bugging and picking at people is hilarious. Normally, I can find it within myself to see things from her perspective and laugh as I try to get her to tone it down a little. Not right now. With the acute crisis over, things have settled in to a state of grey. I'm tired. My routine is off and I'm torn between caring for kids and my partner and trying to find a way to get back to where we were. I bark at the kids quicker than I used to.  I'm more anal about the housekeeping and that means they have to be, too. The weather is changing and the mornings are darker. The dog is restless because he doesn't get out enough when it's rainy. I want comfort food - warm stew and casseroles and things that take lots of time and care to prepare. I feel grey, too.

"Is there any mail for meeee?" comes the slightly pathetic inquiry from the back seat as I close the mailbox.
"Yup, you got a new magazine today," I twist my shoulder to hand it back to her, knowing she'll never be able to wait the half block drive into the garage from here.
"Yahoo! Will you read it to me when we get inside? Pleeeeze, Mommy?"
"Sure I will, sweetie."

Thank god for new distractions. We spent the afternoon making Hedgehog Biscuits (those qualify as comfort food, by the way. They're warm and fresh baked and smell yeasty and fabulous) together and laughed at the black dog sitting beneath the counter getting sprinkles of flour all over him and licking them off. We read about owls that stay awake in the day and live in burrows in the grass and invented a new bedtime game that lets Bubba and me sit on the couch while the girls run around the house scavenging for unique objects. We take turns asking silly questions to discern the nature of the thing hiding behind their backs and they feel terribly clever when they stump us.

Life is good.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My New Favorite Song

I could just as easily have titled this blog post "Words to Live By" or "Thought of the Day". I received the new Indigo Girls album "Despite Our Differences" in the mail last week and have listened to it obsessively ever since. I LOVE IT! I'm printing out the chorus to the first track on the CD and posting it on my refrigerator door, office wall, inside my wallet, and in the car to remind myself. The words are:

"It doesn't come by the bullwhip
It's not persuaded by your hands on your hips and it's
Not the company of gunslingers
The epicenter Love is the pendulum swinger"

I want to remember that force and whining are not terribly effective if I truly want to change something and swing the pendulum back toward peace and justice. Both in my microcosm of the world and in the world at large - I must work to change things with love. Man, I love those chicks!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Obscure News of the Day

First penis transplant reversed after two weeksOperation successful, but recipient suffered 'severe psychological problem'http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14905485/

Man with 10-year erection may not get his cash
Judge dismisses handyman's claim against maker of glitchy penis implanthttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15018869/


Do I have your attention? These are both actual headlines I found on msnbc.com today. I am just wondering whether anyone has thought to introduce these men to each other. The first one suffered some secret accident that chopped off his penis. Because he was unable to urinate or have normal sexual relations, he underwent a transplant. After the surgery he was able to urinate normally, but he and his wife both apparently had some visceral reaction to the physical appearance of his new appendage such that they requested a reversal of the procedure after only fourteen days. Perhaps someone should have contacted John Wayne Bobbitt and asked him to share his experiences with penile reconstruction with the couple to give them a realistic idea of the recovery period. I can’t imagine how disturbed someone has to be to ask to have their penis cut off a second time.

The second man underwent surgery at the age of 58 to have a plastic and metal penile implant that would allow him to mechanically control his erections at will. Unfortunately, the implant did not work as planned and he has since been unable to “relax”. He states that he has had physical pain and suffered psychological humiliation (forget asking anyone to dance!) for the past ten years. When at first I wondered why he did not simply have the implant removed, I came upon the other headline (yes, they are out of order above). Perhaps undergoing surgery on one’s penis is more frightening than the prospect of living out your life with a permanent erection. Either way, it may be that medical advances are not always all they are cracked up to be, especially when they involve “elective” surgery.

For the record, my husband, bless his heart, is convinced that anyone who undergoes any kind of surgery on a voluntary basis may be nuts.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Reparations

“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul, and good for either the work of the other.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I am struck once again by the magnitude of abuse the human body can take and recover from. Bruises and cuts, broken bones and viral invasions are all suffered mightily and then the damage is repaired. There is often a scar or other testament to the painful blows but the body goes on. We have adapted our lives to having diminished abilities, using crutches and wheelchairs, eyeglasses and portable oxygen tanks. Digestion and respiration continue in the face of incapacities in mobility or loss of limbs or eyesight or hearing or speech. Our brain function continues so that we can make calculations and have social interactions. Often there are prolonged recovery times during which our bodies automatically marshal energy to heal wounds and restore balance within, completely invisible to us and those who care for us.

It is difficult to envision what must be occurring on a cellular level inside the body. I look at Bubba and know that his internal organs are bruised and swollen and stitches are dissolving as scar tissue builds up around new pathways forged by the surgeon inside his stomach and small intestine. The three layers of abdominal muscle tissue that were scored by the scalpel are held together with tight sutures and strain against them each time he coughs or yawns or twists or grunts. I can only see the thin red line that traverses his flesh and dips into his belly button. I imagine the blood flowing through his veins and arteries, carrying a healing tonic to the wounds and gradually patching the defects without knowing why. There is some comfort in knowing at least the mechanics of this healing process and I can trust that it is occurring even without seeing it.

I know, from experience, that the soul also endures a multitude of cruelties, but the process of recovery is not one I can envision. We also learn to adapt to the soul’s flaws in our every day lives, but I think we are perhaps not quite as kind to those who suffer these as we are toward those with bodily disabilities. It is possible to heal the wounds one’s soul suffers, but there is no pharmaceutical solution and, it seems, no conventional wisdom as to how one ought to best go about this recovery. I think that the repair of one’s soul may well be as individual as the character of the soul, and I, for one, have certainly struggled with finding the most effective manner in which to do this.

Any thoughts?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Eagle has Landed!



My husband is home from the hospital. He's steeped in oxycodone and at least ten pounds lighter and finds it difficult to move without wincing, but he's home at last. Never one to look at the rough side of life, he has surprised me over the last couple of days with his downturned mouth and the trenches that have settled in between his eyebrows. I cannot imagine the pain he must be in and how exhausting it must be to never be without it.

I have been reminded again and again of an important lesson I have been slowly absorbing over the past year and it is this: I cannot "fix" things for another person. It is not my place, nor are there usually simple solutions for the problems and pain others face. The most valuable thing I can offer is to sit with someone and help them hold their grief and sorrow. I can think of so many other things I would rather endure than watching my husband suffer physical and emotional agony, but I have to remember that simply being with him is helpful.

A little over a year ago I was in a great deal of psychological pain and found myself in a very dark pit from which I was unsure I would ever emerge. No matter how many times I heard from people I trust and love that things would be fine and I would get through this, I could not accept that. To be in that place of such despair felt hopeless and I only wanted to lie down and hide. I can see that enduring physical pain without even intermittent relief and having to rely on others for the most basic functions one normally takes for granted can produce the same helplessness and I sympathize. I know that his body will heal and I have witnessed him make leaps in his abilities every few days. I can conceptualize how his body is depleting its resources by fighting pain and growing scar tissue and performing the acts of daily living under such stress, but to communicate that to him is not as helpful as simply sitting with him and offering my love and support. Just because he will look back on this in a few months' time and be grateful to be without pain or physical limitation does not mean that today's pain is less. 
Acknowledging the power of his current state to affect his psyche is one part of the partnership I have agreed to uphold - sharing his discomfort and supporting his right to express it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tag: I'm "It"

Okay, my friend and fellow writer Michelle O'Neill http://www.michelleoneilwrites.blogspot.com/) tagged me with this meme and I couldn't resist. Here goes:

A book that changed my life: “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith
I read this book a thousand times when I was growing up. The fact that this girl could flourish in such rough circumstances and keep her eye on her goals gave me the courage to do the same. I soo wanted to be Francie, and did my best to live by her principles and mine.

A book that made me laugh: Anything by David Sedaris
“The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood” by Vicki Iovine

A book that made me cry: “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls
“Breaking Her Fall” by Stephen Goodwin
“My Sister’s Keeper” by Jodi Picoult

A book that I wish had been written: One that appeals to pre-adolescent and adolescent children and helps them navigate the tricky waters of growing up in difficult situations. For every kid who lives in such conditions and doesn’t have a positive role model, a book should be available to encourage them to find their own way to heal and grow and flourish.

A book that I wish had never been written: I don’t really have an answer for this one. There are certainly ideas and beliefs that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I don’t have the right to censor them. I guess any book whose sole purpose is to cause pain or destruction has no authentic reason to be out there, in my opinion.

A book I’ve been meaning to read: “Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd. I’ve looked in every local bookstore and library and cannot locate a copy of this book. I think I’ll probably be forced to buy it on Amazon.com, but I hate doing that so I’m resisting.

I’m currently reading: “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” by Julia Cameron
"The Breath of a Wok : Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore"
“Water Witches” by Chris Bohjalian

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Just Like a Coward!

Well, the surgery went well. The tumor is not, I repeat, NOT cancerous! We are obviously overjoyed and I feel as though we've gone down from DefCon 5 to PermaGrin. Yesterday was a very long and emotional day, and although he looks like hell at this point, my husband is going to be okay.

The bad news is they were unable to remove the coward (that is, the tumor). I am now even more convinced that Osama bin Laden is holed up inside my husband's pancreas - effectively the only place it is impossible to remove him from. It is difficult to accept that this little bastard will live inside my partner for the rest of his days and, indeed, I have blatantly lied to both of my children and told them that the offender has been removed so that they can believe he will be okay now. Perhaps someday I'll 'fess up, but for now I just want us to be able to move on, albeit with a terrorist in our midst. At least the surgeons made sure he won't cause any more trouble. I don't have the time or energy to go into details (nor do I expect you truly care about all of them), but my confidence in the medical team he has is strong and I believe they did the right thing.

Thanks for all your support and kind words. We felt them all and are truly grateful.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Humor in the Tumor

I married Bubba because he makes me laugh. Sometimes he makes me laugh so hard I hurt the next day and I love that. Don't get me wrong, he has a myriad of other fantastic qualities that endear him to me, but none of them would have sealed the deal like his twisted sense of humor. We understand that there are things we find hilarious that other people just don't get, and I take solace in knowing that there is at least one other person on the planet who will laugh when I get especially morbid or dirty-minded.

The past month has been especially trying for our family and we have sought out ways to make fun of ourselves as we struggle through the uncertainty and fear. My youngest is convinced that the egg-shaped tumor is either an egg that Daddy ate and it went down the wrong pipe and got stuck, or her long lost stuffed naked mole-rat that Daddy ate with BBQ sauce by mistake one day. She rolls her eyes as she tells him to pay more attention when he eats. My husband has taken to calling the tumor his "pet" and wonders aloud if it is actually a mole come to take revenge for all of the battles he has waged over the years to take our lawn back from the mounds that push up overnight in the spring and fall.

Yesterday, as I was asking if there was a way we could have a photograph of the tumor post-excision (so that I can reassure myself it is actually no longer part of my sweetie's body), a tabloid headline flashed through my mind:

Man's Tumor has Face of Osama

I mean, the trail for him has gone cold, right? Could it be that Bin Laden has found the perfect hideout, sequestered in the stomach of a farmboy-turned-Democrat? We may never have found him if my husband's immune system hadn't revolted and thrown him into periodic attempts to purge everything inside himself. I saw myself staring at the Polaroid of the tumor sitting in a gloved hand, my eyes searching out the beard and bound head of the Al Qaida leader and having it all make sense in that one moment...


I know, I'm weird, but you've got to allow me a little wiggle room here, right? Leave me to my coping mechanisms, no matter how strange.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For Part II

FANTASY SCENARIO

ME: I don’t do waiting.
BIG EAR IN THE UNIVERSE: Really? Oh. Gosh, I hadn’t realized. (pause) Okay, let’s see. We’ll take this waiting and give it to someone else who won’t find it nearly so stressful. Now then, what shall we do with you?
ME: Now that we know he needs surgery, let’s plan it, schedule it, and execute our plan in a timely fashion. Waiting three weeks to meet the surgeon and then three more weeks to get in for surgery and then waiting again for lab results is making me crazy. Why can’t we just schedule the surgery for next week and get it over with?
BIG EAR IN THE UNIVERSE: Well, when you put it that way, it sounds perfectly reasonable. I completely understand your impatience and the strain this is putting on you and your family, so let’s just do it. We’ll ensure that something opens on the surgery schedule next week for some miraculous reason. Don’t worry, we won’t harm anyone, and you don’t even have to know the details, we’ll just put your husband in that slot. We apologize for putting you through so much.
ME: Whew! Thank you so much. I really feel better now.

REALITY



ME: I don’t do waiting.
BIG EAR IN THE UNIVERSE: Well, let’s see what we can do about that. Perhaps if your husband’s condition suddenly worsens in the middle of the night, you could rush him to the ER and wait for five hours to have him admitted. They can do some blood tests and take some films to confirm that, yes, he does need to have his surgery performed quickly and they will admit him. After stabilizing him medically, they will schedule his surgery for two days from now. Is that soon enough?
BIG IRONIC MEANIE IN THE UNIVERSE: Well, she asked for it. I hope watching her husband endure severe pain and vomiting for several hours while sitting in a terrifically uncomfortable waiting room surrounded by sick and injured people isn’t too much for her to handle. Hope she knows she’ll have to find someone to watch her children while she rushes him to the hospital and she won’t know quite when she’ll be able to leave him when he finally is admitted. It’s too bad his surgeon isn’t the one on call and they will have to end up redoing several of his tests because the other ones are at different hospitals and it’s too hard to chase them down at 2:30am. Maybe as long as there is constant activity over the next couple of days (kids to be fed and driven to school, meetings to cancel, colleagues and family members to notify, doctors to meet with, and animals to care for) it won’t feel too much like “waiting” and will be enough to meet her needs. What’ya think?
ME: Crap. Wish I’d never said anything.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Can you say "precocious"?

Yesterday my daughter snuck her first boy into the house. Lola. She's four. As in, four years old. My older daughter has never had much use for boys other than her father. She falls firmly into the camp of those little girls who believe that boys are "YUK" and have cooties, and I don't anticipate that changing for at least a few more years. The other one is an entirely different story. The first time Lola fell in love she was two.   Our young, good-looking friend from Argentina came to visit for a few weeks and she must have felt that latin vibe, firmly wrapping her arms and legs around his shin like a monkey on a tree. He was forced to limp around the house for hours while she gazed up at him in adoration. He humored her, allowing her to "paint" his toenails and fingernails with sidewalk chalk and when he occasionally ventured out by himself to explore the local sights, she mooned around sobbing, "Mama, when is Carlos coming back? I loooove him!" Oy!

Yesterday evening as I was elbow-deep in dishsoap, she came to me, eyes wide underneath a furrowed brow. Her head dipped in contrition and she confessed that she hadn't told me the truth about something. I stifled a giggle and encouraged her to go on. She explained that when she had disappeared shortly after dinner to go upstairs and "play with the cat", she was actually heading up there to check on Troy, the neighbor boy whom she had led into her bedroom half an hour before. I was totally unprepared to react to something like that, so I just thanked her for coming clean. Apparently feeling absolved, she wheeled around, tore down the hall and slammed the front door on her way out.

I finished the dishes and headed upstairs to take a hot bubble bath. As I entered my bedroom I heard a scuffle and walked around the other side of my bed just in time to see a pair of five-year-old boy feet disappear underneath. She had abandoned him! I just assumed they had gone outside together, but she left him to his own devices up here. Deciding to spare him the trauma of being outed by Lola's mother (not something I will do when they boy in question is a teenager, believe me), I headed back downstairs.

I found her in the garage with her older sister and some neighbor girls, practicing dance moves to the soundtrack from High School Musical (don't get me started). I explained that inviting someone to sneak into your house and then leaving them alone was neither polite nor very wise and asked her to go get him. She looked at me as if I were nuts, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh, he'll be fine, Mom. I need to practice with the girls now. We're putting on a show later."

She is one child I won't have to worry about co-dependence with. She was willing to sneak him in and hang out for a while, but once she realized her mistake and confessed, he was on his own to take responsibility for his actions. I have no doubt that the whole thing was her idea, but at least she's letting him face the music for himself. I pity the boys who have to learn that lesson the hard way with her. From now on, when I hear someone entering my house, I'll be doing a head count. Until then, I'm opening a bottle of wine and watching the show.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Courage

Courage is going from failure to failure without losing
enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

I spent years struggling to overcome the sense that my life was a house of cards that was certain to collapse at any moment. The first day my daughter went off to school without me, I was terrified that she would be harmed or kidnapped. As my husband prepared to fly to Europe for a business trip, I felt with some certainty that he would not be coming home. I spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to be the Perfect Mother so that nothing would slip through the cracks. No boogeymen were coming in to my world, thank you very much! If I could just control every aspect of our lives, I could ward off the doom that was lurking just outside the walls.

Even after years without catastrophic events coming to pass, I still view unplanned events as suspect. Even with repeated reinforcements that my world is stable and strong, that what I have constructed is not a house of cards, I continue to look over my shoulder and wait for catastrophe. What is it about those events of my young life that were so powerful that they can override decades of peace and rational thought and cause me to cower in the corner? Why, after surrounding myself carefully with people that I can trust and learning to trust myself, do I still feel the sting of betrayal and terror of revealing the innermost core of myself to others? Emotional memory has incredible staying power. My logical brain can tell me that I did not invite these blows and have learned from them to become a compassionate, loyal friend and mother whose mistakes will not lead to destruction of my family. The third-degree burns on my psyche warn me, instead, not to take anything for granted and remind me that trusting others is dangerous. The pain response, that reflexive pulling away, is strong and so immediate that overcoming it is proving difficult.

After a year of exploring my motivations and fears, it is getting easier. I have pushed through that shrinking away, closing my eyes and sidestepping into the pain to deflect some of the heat. I am beginning to see the traumatic events of my childhood in adult perspective. They do not define me or my childhood years. They were instances that were tremendously harsh on a young girl, but there were others that were joyous and I have the power to put them side by side. At first, the frightening things were immense in comparison, but I soon realized they were ghostly and full of air. They seemed to float, while the joys of childhood and those that have come since rest firmly on the ground and feel solid and tangible. Holding my baby sister at two months old and calling her "my baby," playing in the sprinkler with my older brother - his auburn curls shining in the sun and me delighted with my new bikini, the freedom of driving my own car to school with the sunroof open, laughing with my friends on the beach when we skipped second period. Those memories I can see clearly and in focus. They are not holograms, but full-color video. As I open myself up to feel the emotional memory that comes from within them, the colors of the painful memories bleed together and go out of focus.

         If I can push through the initial stomach-clenching of fear to remind myself that I am not defined
         by my most frightening moments, I can begin to trust in what I am building and carry on.


The best way out is always through. Robert Frost


Monday, August 28, 2006

That's the Sound of my Palm Hitting my Forehead

I don't know why it has taken me so long to figure this out. I hate even more that there is a certain group of people out there who may have been shaking their heads in wonder (silently, thank God) for several months now.

Let me back up. Several months ago I attended a wonderful writing workshop led by Jennifer Lauck, the talented author of such books as Blackbird, Still Waters, and Show Me The Way. I spent three glorious days in Portland, Oregon sitting in a circle of knowledge and truth, soaking in the wisdom and lessons of these other wonderful writers. I came home changed and terrifically excited about writing like never before. One of the best things Ms. Lauck did for me was encourage me (and the rest of us in her workshop) to start a blog. I will admit it had never occurred to me before, but I was willing to give it a try.

The most difficult initial stumbling block was finding a name for my weblog. Hmmm, I had no inspiration at all and, to this day, have no recollection of how or when the name "The Writing Life" actually came to me. I wanted a name that said something profound or at least was somewhat of a hook for readers. I kept drawing blanks. I searched other blogs looking for inspiration but my impatience to begin writing led me to accept my first instinct and move on to the fun part.

Months later, I am enjoying writing my blog and reading the blogs of my fellow workshoppers more every day. As I popped onto Jennifer Lauck's site ( http://www.jenniferlauck.com/) to see what she was thinking last week, I felt as though I had just peed my pants. Oh, crap! The title of the workshop I attended, the one held at Jennifer Lauck's home, the one where I had been inspired to start blogging and where I met so many others who did the same, was "Writing Life". What kind of a loser am I?

I swear on a stack of dark chocolate (trust me, that's dear to my heart and soul) that, although I am certain I made the subconscious connection at the time, under no circumstances did I set out to steal this title. I cannot believe that the others who have been reading my blog for months now have not made the connection and called me out. I am glad, for I would certainly have been mortified, but I am so embarrassed right now I can hardly sit on my own ass. I feel as uncomfortable as if my pants were full of fire ants. I want to throw up (well, almost, actually I hate throwing up more than anything) and sincerely apologize to all of you who may have been wondering how I could be such a dolt.

Jennifer, if you're reading this, I am truly sorry that I don't have an olive branch to offer you. I am so stuck in this whirlpool of regret and shock that I am not even sure where to begin to make amends. I can say that I haven't felt this stupid in a long time, and hope that you can accept my sincere apologies.

Friday, August 25, 2006

1+1>2

I remember when Bubba graduated college a year before me and moved to another state to work. I had one year of undergraduate studies left and then I was off to medical school. One morning, as I drove east toward my job and watched the sun rise over the wheat fields, turning the sky into sedimentary layers of pink and orange and yellow I missed him so much that I began to sob. Thankfully, at this time of the morning, I was the only one on the road, although the fields were beginning to show signs of life with combines and win-rowers making their way through the crops. I drove slowly as my tears obscured the view and made the colors run together in my windshield. I wanted to lean over and interrupt his chatter in the passenger seat with a poke to the shoulder. I wanted him to see this beautiful day beginning with me and share my wonder. The sunrise suddenly didn't mean as much without someone to watch it with. I was in love.

Today, we have lived together for nearly 15 years, minus the nine-month separation after he graduated before me. We have been married for twelve and a half years and are raising two amazing daughters together. We had been married for six years prior to having our first child and I was certain I knew all there was to know about him. I was so wrong! I never knew he was so artistic until I watched him draw crazy characters with her. I had no clue how talented he was at defusing temper tantrums or creating silly games. I didn't expect him to be such a wonderful father and still maintain his status as a manly man who grew up on a cattle ranch in redneck country.

He is the breadwinner, the rock upon which all of us dramatic females crawl for refuge, and the one we can turn to when we have run out of ideas. He is the guy with the ridiculously big ideas who looks to me to fill in the details and make our shared dreams reality. He is my best friend, my comic relief, and one of the few who "gets" me. We share a love of cooking, wine, close friends, and bawdy humor. He was shocked by my ability to swear a blue streak, intruiged by my tattoo and brave enough to bring me (a vegetarian who worked as a nurse in an abortion clinic) home to his Rush-Limbaugh-fan, cattle ranching parents with no apologies.

As I contemplate the possible outcomes of his upcoming surgery (something I know I should avoid entirely), I strike a concrete barrier at the thought of life without him.

We have outlasted two beloved cats, college finals, some very lean years, job changes, wedding planning, family deaths, deep-dark secrets, childbirth and home-buying, to name a few things. We have survived trips to the ER, a child's serious illness, and disparate beliefs. Together. I trust him implicitly to love our children as much as I do. He is my go-to-guy and I am his right-hand-woman. We have the ability to make each other laugh until we cry and we are not afraid to cry together. Losing him would be more than a simple subtraction of one. It would remove something vital from the equation. It will take years of complicated calculations to fully realize the implications of a loss like this. In this instance, adding one and one is not simply a matter of putting two like objects together. It is more akin to a recipe where the ingredients knead together and become something entirely different and more than their individual sums. For him to leave our lives would be more like removing a piece of pie, leaving the filling to bleed out onto the pie pan.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Can it Really Soothe the Savage Beast?

I bought a new CD today. Now, being solidly in my mid-30s with two small children, this opportunity has not presented itself in a while, unless I was in the Children's Music (moo-gicks, as Lola used to call it) section at the local Barnes & Noble. Since then, I purchase my music online one song at a time and, not surprisingly, I am completely out of touch with what the young, hip people are listening to. I have to say, though, that I'm not particularly concerned since I am happily and safely cradled in my own rut at the current time.

Anyway, I happened to find myself in a lovely bookstore/coffee shop/spiritual awakening-type place today, wandering around looking at the crystals and perusing the workshops available on how to realign one's chakra and the proper way to read tarot cards, not that I'm about to sign up for one - I'll leave that to others, thank you. As my kids were doing their best to touch the fountains without getting caught I became aware of the lovely voice filtering through the room. Before the next five minutes were up, I was completely enchanted and, although I have no idea what language the woman was singing in, I sought out the CD and purchased it.

I spent the afternoon cleaning out Eve's closet, sorting through the toys and broken seashells, Ziploc baggies of trail mix leftover from Girl Scout Camp, clothes flung far and wide and the assortment of things "borrowed" from her sister. Normally, this activity throws me headlong into a cesspool of irritation, such maternal phrases as "how could I have raised a child who treats her things like this?" bubbling to the surface and prompting the design of an ear-scorching speech to be delivered as soon as I've martyred myself by completing the task. This time, however, soothed by the silky sounds of my new compact disc, I simply hummed along and reorganized everything.

I was so thrilled with my new purchase that I brought the CD down and played it for my girls as they sat coloring at the kitchen table. I asked them to listen to this new music, knowing that they, having inherited my appreciation of a wide variety of styles, would be as enthralled as I upon hearing it. Within five minutes, they were picking at each other, arguing over which crayons belonged to whom and what color was best for the princess' skin. I waited to see if the mood would blow over and be soothed by the background sounds of the music playing. I know I was feeling relaxed and content. As time went on, they began to get more and more irritated and my oldest left the table abruptly and walked to the computer to look at the song list. Just as I was about to sit down with her and discuss the beauty of the song we were listening to, Lola barked, "Mom, this music is making me really tired!" I was surprised and turned to her just in time for Eve to pipe up, "Thank goodness! I thought I was the only one. Now I can finally turn it off!" CLICK went the mouse and silence was restored. So much for that.

p.s. the CD is called "Grace" and the artist is Snatam Kaur. I still love it even if nobody else in my gene pool can appreciate it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Something Light for a Change

A friend of mine was asking for another meme on her blog today and I found this one one the web and thought it was interesting (and short). So, here goes:

1. If you could fly for a day, where would you go?
I guess that would depend on whether I could fly faster than a commercial airliner or not. Assuming I'm flying at the same speed of a jet, I'd head to Sooke Harbour, Vancouver Island, Canada. It is the most breathtaking place right along the Pacific Ocean with kelp beds full of sea otters and tidepools I could spend the whole day exploring.

If I could fly exponentially faster than an airplane, I would head to Eze in the South of France and spend the day exploring the cobblestoned alleyways, tasting wine and cheese and watching the lavendar fields from my supper table.

2. If you could turn invisible for a day, what would you do with the power?
Boringly enough, I suppose I would sit in my favorite chair in my bedroom with a stack of fantastic books and a pot of tea, knowing that my kids wouldn't be able to find me and pester me for help. They'd have to go to their father.

3. If you could teleport for a day, what adventures would you have?
I would go to Korea and drop in on my friend, Treena, then off to the Oregon Coast to visit Megan and her kids for a bit. I'd stop for a martini with my grandfather in Southern California since I haven't seen him in a while, and then I'd zip off to Providence, RI to meet the newest member of the Meisel clan who was born in July.

4. If you could change your appearance like a chameleon for a day, how would you use the ability?
I would love to look like G.W. Bush and head into downtown Seattle to chat with a bunch of liberals, agreeing with nearly everything they said and blowing all their minds (assuming I could reliably escape bodily harm).

5. If you could have any super power for the rest of your life, what would it be and why? Would you ever use your power for selfish reasons? Would you ever hurt anyone (either physically or emotionally) with it?
I think I would choose teleportation. I don't want to be able to read minds or have super-hearing, and flying would get old. Teleporting would enable me to visit places I've always wanted to go and still sleep in my own bed every night. I could stay in touch with my friends and loved ones in person and wouldn't need to pay for gas or worry about being late if my girls have events five minutes apart.

What do you think?

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Question of Prayer

So many people have responded to our recent news with kind thoughts and caring. Many others have assured us that we will be in their prayers that last night I lay in the darkness contemplating exactly what that means.

I am no neophyte when it comes to the concept. I was raised in the Catholic Church and spent hours memorizing the Lord’s Prayer and the rosary. To this day, I have difficulty walking into a Catholic Church and resisting the urge to dip my fingers into the Holy Water to make the sign of the cross. Like many teenagers, I later rebelled against the restrictions and “backward” ideas of this institution and left to find my own path to spirituality. My college years were entirely devoid of any religious experience whatsoever and today I can be most accurately described as an atheist.

Having said all of that, I must confess that as recently as six years ago I resorted to prayer in the most desperate of times “just in case”. I don’t know if it was force of habit or a measure of my true wit’s end, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I have since examined my true beliefs further and have discovered that my sense of spirituality flows more horizontally than vertically. I cherish the connections between people and animals and the earth and fully recognize the intangible strengths arising from those more than I believe in a Creator.

This led me to question the concept of prayer.

'People who pray for miracles usually don't get miracles...But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. Their prayers helped them tap hidden reserves of faith and courage that were not available to them before.' -- Harold S. Kushner

The above quote made me wonder how much of prayer is simply a meditation that helps us ground ourselves and focus on our strengths rather than a plea to a deity to grant us some special favor. I’ve often questioned the power of prayer, unsure how a single deity (even if s/he is omnipotent) could possibly hear the prayers of millions and then decide which ones to answer in favor of others.

I pray on the principle that wine knocks the cork out of a bottle. There is an inward fermentation, and there must be a vent. ~Henry Ward Beecher

I rather like the idea that praying is more of a solitary reflection on the predicament one is currently in and a way to get back to reality. Relying on an outside force to change our course or alter a certain path has always been difficult for me to accept. I left the Catholic Church largely because of the individuals in my life who abused the notion of confession as giving one a clean slate to transgress over and over again. I reject the idea that one’s beliefs, as opposed to one’s actions, will save a soul.

Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. ~Author Unknown

I am choosing to embrace the notion that the prayers directed toward my family will allow us to recognize our strengths and the connections we have forged throughout our lives. The people who are concerned about us are aiming their positive energies in our direction so that we may discover the love we have cultivated and the strength we possess in order to continue fulfilling our most authentic purpose. Thank you for your prayers, no matter what form they take. We gratefully accept them and you can be sure that ours are with you as well, both in times of need and times of abundance.
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