Monday, November 30, 2009

Really, Really

You did make a difference. You have made a difference. You must make a difference. You will make a difference. You can make a difference. You didn't realize it when you made a difference.
You want to make a difference. You know how to make a difference. You love making a difference.

Just so you know........ it matters. Really, really. Please don't stop. Please.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mr. Wong

He was delicate without being feminine. Mr. Wong was tiny, dressed fastidiously, didn't grow a five o'clock shadow and had thick black hair which couldn't decide to stick straight up or lay down. It was the only thing indecisive about him.

Carson was his first name. I feel disrespectful saying it. He didn't demand respect or honor. We gave it to him gladly. Using his given name seems too familiar for someone with such dignity.

We lived in Southern Idaho. Jerome was a small, mostly Mormon town. At the time, there were only a few Hispanic families representing our total ethnic diversity. Soon after graduation there was an influx of Persian, Filipino, South American and Mexican. No black or Asian people, other than Mr. Wong.

I love to travel and taste what I missed in my bland vanilla school diet. The Basque girl in my class was the most interesting thing we had. I peppered her to tell stories of her pure heritage, and begged her to bring her family's food to try.

Mr. Wong looked very different, but we never thought of him as Chinese. We thought of him as a musician. Mr. Wong was music, had music, taught music, dreamed music for us, wanted us to understand music, loved music, pulled miracles of music from our rough voices, and gave us musical memories to last a lifetime.

Music defined him. Watching him conduct from the audience was delightful. He was too little to be so full of energy and passion, and ended up being the focal point, no matter how hard you tried to focus on your sibling or friend. When in the chorus, it was impossible to look anywhere else.

His toothbrush hair flew madly about, swirling his cowlick around like a palm tree in a hurricane. Hair product would have complicated things, and distracted him, and us.

When he came out on stage in his elegant tuxedo, step bouncing, tails flying, we clapped our hands numb - until he bowed. I have never seen the equal of Mr. Wong's bow. Royal. Distinguished. Eloquent. After he bowed, thunder cracked, shaking the floor, walls and ceiling.

His timing was perfect. Not only was the chorus well trained, but when he stepped up on his wooden platform the audience stopped the applause on cue. Courtesy, no more, no less. We were enamoured of him and would not have known when to stop. He knew. When the silence was complete, he would bring his white ivory wand down to click twice on the music stand, before bringing his child sized hands up to charm the proper notes out of his pupils.

His hair was comical without being ridiculous, his tuxedo elegant, his body busting with vibrant energy and passion, but it was his hands that touched our hearts. His eyes were too black to read, but his hands expressed his vision and love for us completely. Don't confuse it with smarmy, sentimental love. We didn't feel loved or experience it as love during the grueling sessions of practice.

During a concert his hands caressed, pulled, held us back, brought us together, tickled, stroked, aroused, assured, comforted, healed, forgave, infused, exuded pride, cajoled, pleaded, and affirmed us. His miniature, magnetic hands shaped us easily, like metal shavings.

We performed complex, intricate music far above our abilities. He introduced us to a new world, beyond our culture. He delighted in surprising us with a new genre. We were never stuck in a rut, or bored. If we snickered looking at a new piece, it was under our breath. We always ended up thinking it was our favorite. Till the next one.

Dear Mr. Wong influenced my life deeply; I never actually touched them, but the poetry in his hands reached in to throw open the window of my soul. Many more windows have been opened since then, but he was the first. You never forget the first time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Swans and Tulips

We live about twenty minutes south of the famous Tulip Fields of Mt Vernon, Washington. Each spring we meander the back roads through the fields to feast our eyes on the slurpee colored rows. It's hard to be considerate, enjoy it, and take pictures without trampling the farmer's field of labor, love, and his hope for the harvest. The flowers aren't the 'fruit', the bulb is what he harvests.

The tulip fields are famous, drawing people from everywhere. There are tours, a festival, and art walks. The area comes alive.

The fields are stunning, but there is something I enjoy more. It happens when the ground is dull and brown. What is even better than the fanfare is not only quiet, but happens without much of an audience to enjoy it or notice. No signs, no advertising for a magical event.

I don't know the science of it, can't tell you the exact days of the year, or tell you which field to go to. It has been serendipity or lagniappe each time. Lagniappe is a beneficent kind of extra, an extra you weren't expecting, but immensely glad to have.

We must be on the migration trail for white swans. They must like daffodil and tulip leftovers? They land to rest or feed on something in the bare soil, completely covering a field in white, like a thick plushy blanket. Acres of white blanket.

The few people who come upon this sight pull over to the side of the road, turning the engine off. They wait. Photographers will quietly set up a tripod. No one moves fast, honks, yells or waves. We all wait for it to happen. If you've seen it once, you'll wait as long as it takes to see it again. Making it happen would be considered poor sportsmanship.

Finally, some signal alerts the whole flock of these heavy, royal swans it's time. With wingspans as tall as a person, they spread their massive wings to fly. It always starts in one corner of the field as they begin to lift off, looking just like a blanket gently being turned back on a bed, then hurled high, across the sky.

It's not the same as a flag being raised, the national anthem being sung, Fourth of July grand finales, a parade, or a Hallmark commercial. The emotion it evokes might be in the same family, but it's nature, a symphony orchestrated by an unseen maestro.

It is rare to see it happen, but each time it feels like a peek into Finn McCoul's giant private bedroom. Or God's.

The earthy part is that the farmer feels like they leave a gift, fertilizing his fields evenly, organically and generously.

The only response is a long whispered sigh, as you shade your eyes to follow them. During the turning down of the coverlet though, you want to stand, put your hand over your heart, salute or raise your hands to heaven in spontaneous worship, while trying to follow them through flooding eyes.


While many people are out shopping the sales today, Craig asked me for a date. A day off with him, playing outside in the sunshine? Such an invite chased all sorts of clouds away for me.

We brought Maggie with us to Peet's at Greenlake. Nothing like washing down an oatmeal raisin cookie with a hot breve. We cut into the stream of people using the path around the lake. Some were pushing strollers, others were jogging, biking, rollerblading and walking the dog. A few were huddled on a bench holding hands, just watching. Participants and spectators. Purpose driven and the playful. Bundled up and those traveling light. Exercise and leisure.

Courtesy reined, eye contact was easily made, smiles exchanged, easy conversations began, dogs politely introduced and affectionately patted, no one shoved or pushed. There weren't any rude, grabbing, angry people around. They must have all been banished to the mall, which left plenty of open parking to choose from.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pie Snobbery

We were invited to be company today for Thanksgiving. It was such a gift. We were asked to bring pies and green bean casserole.

Craig peeled and prepped, opened cans and cleaned up while I was knee deep in flour. The result; 3 Pumpkin, 1 blackberry, 1 deep dish rustic apple, and 2 lemon curd tarts. A cloud of home made whipped cream and ice cream for those who wished it.......

I need to quietly mumble in my shirt collar, to sheepishly confess: I come from a long heritage of pie snobs.

"Hi, I'm Kathleen, I'm a pie snob."

Will you welcome me?

Grandma and mom can make a crisp, flaky crust that frames the filling, whatever it is, with tender, perfect style and panache. Mom usually has a warm pie welcoming us home when we visit. How do we spell love? P-I-E. My favorite is rhubarb strawberry.

There is a gold standard to reach. A thick, soggy, tough, mealy pie crust would shamefully ruin the family's reputation. There's a little pressure to try and measure up. OK, more than a little. There's family pride at stake here.....

To buy a pie would be an infamous scandal, worthy of a proper shunning. A skeleton in the closet forever, never to be spoken of again. We feel pity for the people who buy those tough, thick, crusted pies made assembly line fashion from Costco and think they are eating pie.

Pride, shame, pity.....those are strong, dangerous words for something as harmless as pie, huh?

Whew. The pies passed today. Or maybe people were just being kind, sampling one of each? :)

I'm so glad my worth and value doesn't hinge on my pie performance. It's nice having it mastered after all these years of practice, but I HAVE conveniently bought pies from the store when desperate. One year I forgot the sugar in the pumpkin and almost made the guests throw up in shock!

Being worthwhile is about being loved, even if, no matter what, in spite of ourselves, no conditions, no strings. Worthwhile is different, opposite of trying to be 'worthy'. Worthwhile isn't about our performance.

When the girls had piano recitals every year, Craig would hand them a bouquet before the performance. We wanted to make sure they knew they were pre-worthwhile because we loved them. No pressure to contaminate the pleasure of the creative process. The end result was delectable.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"We Have This Moment Today"

There's an old Gaither song called "We Have This Moment Today". It always makes me clear my throat and wipe my eyes. Make fun if you want or join me in drooling sentimental soppiness.

It is my ode to thankfulness ~ all kinds of thankfulness. In all the real life stuff (scat), there are moments of exquisite joy.

"Hold tight to the sound of the music of living, Happy songs from the laughter of children at play; Hold my hand as we run through the sweet fragrant meadows, Making mem'ries of what was today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, But we have this moment today.

Tiny voice that I hear is my little girl calling, For Daddy to hear just what she has to say; And my little son running there by the hillside, May never be quite like today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, But we have this moment today.

Tender words, gentle touch and a good cup of coffee, And someone who loves me and wants me to stay; Hold them near while they're here and don't wait for tomorrow, To look back and wish for today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, But we have this moment today.

Take the blue of the sky and the green of the forest, And the gold and the brown of the freshly mown hay; Add the pale shades of spring and the circus of autumn, And weave you a lovely today.

Chorus: We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand; Yesterday's gone and tomorrow may never come, But we have this moment today."

I took Maggie to the river for the morning. She morphed into Tigger for some reason, jumping, bounding, twirling, cavorting, smiling, drooling, racing, plunging, splashing and tumbling. I almost felt twitterpated with life along with her. It made my head and heart skip and dance....

Then the duck parade. For some reason a small local duck family decided to ride the current. Maybe they were going to grandmas house for snail soup or something? I've never seen this happen before. They were playing, bobbing blissfully along, carefree and enjoying the scenery. The thing is, they came into my field of vision in a slow trickle, one at a time, spaced about 20 minutes apart, so the show lasted a long time. Every time one would quack by, I couldn't help but smile.

As I packed up to leave, an eagle soared up river, slow, graceful, watchful and silent. Playfulness and majesty, together. It was one of those moments.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving day. May all your senses enjoy the banquet of love, food, gratefulness, stories, and affection. The entire day may be one of those moments.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tic Tac Toe

For twenty years we've been having big gingerbread house decorating parties the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It has become a tradition we have skipped only once; last year, simply from being disheartened.

This year I decided to get up and try again, within a new context. A different group. It was mildly uncomfortable, vulnerable and a bit of a risk. After 3 weeks, only 2 moms replied - a total headcount of 4.

This afternoon, with Thanksgiving coming soon, and needing to prepare for both events, I had to call and tell the 2 moms it was cancelled due to lack of interest. I needed to release myself from trying to make something happen. Freedom. Seeing reality as a friend.

I cried a bit. Yet, since it is a big undertaking, makes a huge mess, is a lot of work and we spend lavishly and generously, I felt OK about it after processing it. Persuaded myself it was a good thing.

I keep trying to do the same thing, the familiar, the comfortable, the traditional, the thing we've always done.

It isn't working.

Tic Tac Toe.

It must be time to start playing a different life game, figuratively speaking. A new normal is needed and I can't figure out what that looks like or feels like.

Maybe it'll be something uncomfortable, unfamiliar, nontraditional, scary, different, radical, and wild. Or invisible, careful, quiet, common and ordinary. In secret? More Public? Joining a team, partnering with someone else's effort or cause? A completely new thing.

What? If only I knew the answer to that.

I do know that the important thing is movement, for you can't steer a parked car.

Will someone shove me, so I won't get stuck.......and paralyzed? Frozen forever in neutral.

Maybe we'll tackle cleaning out the garage Saturday instead. That would be a good thing. :)

Does that count as movement? Yes, but more like a bowel movement...........

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Carolyn See is entertaining me while I learn. She is raw, funny and so real. In "Making a Literary Life", she has a short paragraph that startled me with the truth:

"My goodness me; what about love? I say fun first, and this is why: My dad left my mom. My first two husbands and I had many maudlin arguments over the question of who loved whom when. I've thought long and hard about this question. My father had the golden knack of making fun wherever he went. I had a lot of fun with my first two husbands before (and, miraculously, after) our divorces. I never want to be in a position in my life where some beloved can tell me, "I never loved you," and have that break my heart again. I take the aikido position: "Yeah, but we did have a lot of fun." It's complimentary to all, makes no one a villain, minimizes heartbreak."

Kasey Chambers sings in her "Rattlin' Bones" album a song that says something similar:

"If I wasn't all you wanted
If I wasn't even close
I only hope that I made you smile
Maybe more than once in a while

If you never felt the blessing
If you only made it through
I only hope that I made you smile
Maybe more then once in a while

If we sleep right through the ending
If we slowly fade away
I'll only hope I went that extra mile
Maybe more than once in a while

I only hope that I made you smile
maybe more than once in a while
maybe more than once in a while

There is great sadness from relationships gone bad, along with the grief attached from knowing there will never be restoration.

I don't know why it happened. There is nothing to be done to fix it. We just weren't skilled enough at loving. Being able to remember both the good and bad times with affection brings a bit of comfort to the black and blue parts.

Nothing is ever all good or all bad, it's both, and we did have fun also. We did. Maybe we didn't make each other feel loved well, but we did have fun! I have pictures capturing these moments. Proof. The pictures are priceless. These ideas give me something good to take away. I'm not left with only a painful THE END. Why? Because I'm slowly recognizing the even so part.

Even so... we did have a lot of fun and made some memories that make me smile. I sincerely hope the fun memories make them smile too, once in a while......

It is another way to 'care for grief to care it away'. (J.Stephens) From Strict Joy via The Swell Season.

Tying One On

Many Christmases ago, we took the girls out for our new family tradition of picking a tree to cut down from Farmer Brown's Christmas Tree Farm.

It is a friendly family atmosphere that makes for happy memories. We munched on our warm bags of popcorn and sipped the hot cider they offered while we went up and down the rows.

Craig became the hero of the hour when the final cut toppled The Tree. We all helped drag it to the car to heave on top. Standing back, we watched in admiration while Craig tied it securely to the roof of our little car.

He took the saw and twine back after paying for our fragrant, freshly cut treasure.

When we tried to get in the car, all the doors were firmly tied shut. Craig looked confused. He looked over the top of the car at me, tried the door again in disbelief, then stood there scratching his head.

When he realized what he had done, he quickly started untying all the mess of knots, or trying to. He was desperately wishing for a knife. I can't remember, but think he had to go get the saw again. Never was a tree untied as fast as that one, while he looked around sheepishly, hoping none of the other dads were looking.

It is the only time I have seen him flustered enough to blush. As much as we tried not to, we laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. We could not help it. It was the 'what on earth' look on his face when he tried the door that did it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pretty Revisited

This is a public confession even though I don't need to, because I get to live in redemptive time now. The last post was about Tessa and her preoccupation with 'pretty'. It was the pretty story about pretty.

This is the ugly story about pretty.

Along with the sweet memory of her love of pretty Christmas lights, there is a bittersweet memory of her creating a pretty. At least she thought it was, I didn't. Not then. Now, I'd give anything for a redo.

We were broke and shamefully used food stamps. Craig worked 8 hours, followed by night school for 8 hours for his A&P license, plus he commuted 4 hours a day. He crashed asleep for the remainder of his 36 hour day. Loneliness and hard circumstances on top of parenting while broke, sick, tired and pregnant didn't bring out the best in me.

One afternoon, Tess excitedly called me into our little bathroom. She was babbling over and over again, "Pretty, Pretty, Pretty". "Mama! Pretty!"

When I stuck my head around the corner and saw the fluffy, white, toilet paper mountain heaped all over the toilet and floor, I lost my mind. In frustration of the whole roll wasted (maybe .25) and anger at having to pick up this mess, I spanked her. Hard. Long. Too long and too hard.

It wasn't about disciplining in love or training. It was me destroying her joy because I was incapable of feeling any.

I only saw the amazing creativity and remembered the sparkle in her eyes and big innocent smile afterwards, after I battered it, robbing us both.

I have asked her to forgive me. She has forgiven me. I have forgiven myself. The sorrow was the good kind that led to true remorse, which led to profound change.

Grace invited mercy to live in our home where we still have the WELCOME sign out.........

Forgiveness ~ it's pretty.


Tessa loved Christmas lights. Her first words were By by, Mama, Dada and PREEE'EE!

She was a year and a half. We would drive around at night to enjoy the houses and yards lit up- all decorated for the holidays, but ended up enjoying her delight more than looking at the lights.

We weren't very strict about her being in her car seat at all times, so when a lavish light display came into her field of vision, she would mash her face against the window, press her quivering body as close to the door as possible, while spreading her little hands out to try and grab the glow, squealing PREEE'EE, at the top of her lungs. It was her favorite, most frequently used and most exuberant word, that first Christmas she could talk.

She was saying pretty, or trying to.

Her enthusiasm and passion for pretty has never diminished. We are still delighted watching her.

There really is nothing as attractive as a soul on fire....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Front Porch Smile

Depression has been a constant companion since forever. I don't put the words suffer in front of it. I haven't suffered from it, but the people who love me have.

I wish I understood it better, knew why the cycles happen. Over the years depression has been the thing constantly by my side, like a shadow. Attached. I take it off the leash but it comes back 'to heel' without me calling for it.

Kay Redfield Jameson's books like 'Unquiet Mind', 'Touched by Fire' and 'Exuberance' help me know I'm not alone, which is always a comfort. And helps me know that the flying is part of the flopping. I like the highs and most the time the lows don't scare me.

Sometimes I look back at the valley times. Some were dark fetal position times. Some were just lethargic. Some caused collateral damage.

Some were so close to complete despair that the only thing that kept me from making a terrible choice was the fact that it would have been the most self centered decision a person could ever make; one that would forever translate as complete rejection by the people who love me most - my children and husband. They would have to know forever that I didn't love them enough to stay. I'm selfish, but not that much.

At times the darkness would be preceded and followed by incredible spurts of creative activity.

When I was younger it was the symptom from feeling powerless, trapped, angry, hopeless or even brought on by circumstances. I was incapable of knowing how to process or deal with life issues.

People don't often talk openly about such things. It is scary and vulnerable.

Gnarls Barkley understands! Sometimes I let 'Crazy' blare in the speakers and scream it with him. Most of the time, by the end of the song I'm laughing, at us.

I think of depression more like the hormonal cycles of a woman. PMS and menstruating have a bad rap these days, but in ancient times it seems like it was more honored. Cared for. Respected. Acknowledged. Looked upon as an insulated, protected time for keen and astute ponderings.

The darkness of depression now is more like the darkness of an incubator or cocoon. A waiting place growing something. Something wanting and preparing to hatch. Something inside me that wants birthed.

An old friend, Bill Kaloger told me not to mess with or rewrite the rules when traveling the dark valley.

Today, instead of putting a blanket over my head and giving into the familiar sucking, swirling eddy of darkness, I put on a coat and gloves. Maggie and I took the pickup over to a neighbor who had an evergreen tree cut down. I brought back enough evergreen boughs to decorate the 3 front windows, the front door, bench, and porch railings with swags and garlands. Big, oversized red bows and huge sugar pine cones finish each one off.

It's a bit early for Christmas decor, since we haven't celebrated Thanksgiving yet, but it brought my heart sunshine and filled me up with light. More than that, it kept me from the dark, for today. The porch looks like its smiling too!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Craig The Rock

Today is Craig's 50th birthday. He is a.k.a. Shrek, Shrekerby, Loverby and Loverbee. Craigy. Craigo. CoverB. Cob, as in corncob. Rock.

I'm not very good at gifts. On the 'love language' scale of importance, gifts are last for me. They are not last for him. I am hopeless at finding the right thing, wring my brain for ideas but come up empty. Today is not any different than the other 20 years. He's coming home early today - how can I celebrate him?

I can make him meatloaf and mash potatoes? Let him unwrap me? Give him a kiss that will make him forget he doesn't have a present?

Tess is going to bring home an 'Uncle Seth's' pink frosted cookie for him. As masculine as Craig is, his secret is out now; he likes cupcakes and sugar cookies with thick, sweet frosting. A pink frosted cookie makes his dimples flash. The deeper the frosting is, the better.

Craig is an amazing man. He is innovative, his attitude is amazing even when he's in pain, he's creative, he is so generous, he's kind, he works harder than anyone, he's a good provider, he's empathetic, he listens well, he loves the girls and me with actions instead of meaningless words, he is self-effacing and mostly he's humble. He defines the word. Humble is not thinking less of yourself, it is simply thinking of yourself less.

There have been times when I have been angry with him for not being a risk taker, sad when he can't or won't dream big, hate it when he defaults to passive. I get irritated when he's mostly a 5 on a scale of 1-10. Laugh when he trips over himself and gets to a 4 or a 6! I tease him for his silence. I have berated him for not punching some one's face in. A few times I have almost emasculated him for not making me happy. (In the days when I thought it was his job?)I have been embarrassed by his stoic courage. I have been irate, a bitch, and all of the above, for the very things I dearly love about him and what attracted me in the first place! Go figure?

I could go on and on exposing my dark shadows. It is futile, for he has forgiven me and doesn't seem to remember.

The lovely truth is that he has steadfastly refused to be anything other than what he is. Thank GOD! I am more grateful than mere words can express.

He has earned my deepest respect and admiration over the years for his capacity to keep showing up for the job, day after day, rain or shine - whether for shepherding, blazing trail, loving, providing, sheltering, covering, doing battle for our hearts and souls, care giving, nourishing, nurturing, encouraging, coaching, applauding, showing grace, showing mercy, being tender, being a man of integrity, keeping his promises, being a true companion, knowing instinctively, against great odds - how to be a steadfast friend. Honorable. A gentleman in the true sense of the word. Agile in relationships. A trustworthy son, father, brother, spouse, friend, employee and neighbor. Playful. His laugh is fetching. If Craig supports you, endorses you-that loyalty stands forever.

I am the most blessed woman in the world and truly feel like the most beloved favored one.

Today, how can I make him feel like that? With actions instead of words? :)

These are our life songs. Lady by John Denver. Heaven by Bryan Adams. In Spite of Ourselves by John Prine and Iris Dement.

Now you know. If you ever get the opportunity to be loved by Craig, you are hugely fortunate. I really, really like him. All the time. Can't help it.

He seems invisible, unobtrusive......but the effect he has on the lives he touches is not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Sara Groves' Fireflies and Songs-that's my post today. Because it came in the mail from Amazon.

Even though it is so easy to download songs, I like to hold the cd and read the insert, read the lyrics with all five senses.

Sweet songs.....

My favorite. All of them. Great lyrics. Troubadour extraordinaire.

Sting has a new Christmas cd out. I saw it at Starbucks. Don't tell Tess I was there, she would feel like I was unfaithful to Peet. But that is the next album to purchase. New Christmas music is heart skipping.

The Swell Season's Strict Joy is painfully joyful. The poem by James Stephens which the album is named for is heartbreakingly sweet. He says, 'caring for grief he cared his grief away' and 'because the poet makes grief beautiful'.....

I'm so melancholy today. Just melancholy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mix It Up

Many years ago when Victoria magazine first debuted, I subscribed for a while. A quote from one of their contributors has served me well since then. The author needs thanked, but her name is unknown.

"Put your skirts on the table and wear your curtains" or something like it. She was an artist. A creative thinker. Most of all, she regularly changed the context of the medium she used to create with.

This one thought always helps me turn a new light bulb on. It illuminates and highlights what would otherwise be invisible or unthinkable.

Going to Lowe's or Home Depot or an old authentic hardware store from the past can jump start a creative surge. Slowly I go up and down the isles picking up things, turn them around and upside down, wondering how I can change the context. What could it be used for instead of what it was made for.

One Father's Day, I went to Lowe's for ideas to decorate the table in a masculine way. I came home with 8 huge over sized black bolts which held a votive candle perfectly. The dollar store had some made in china tools which I stuck in a bucket like a bouquet. Manly decorations for under $10.

My sister has used black, recycled motor oil to give patina to wood, walls and more. She used a copper over sized pig scalding basin for a kitchen sink, complete with handles and a hole punched for a drain. Her kitchen is full of surprises tucked here and there.

Turning things around, upside down and inside out, makes interesting interpretations of the common.

Many books I read don't fit the context of my life, but I switch the principle to fit my life. Sieve the information, gleaning and discarding. I adjust songs, tools, books etc, using the idea in a different way. From a different perspective, a different point of view, everything is new and fresh. It is illuminating and stimulating to explore the possibilities. I probably won't ever make it to Shackleton's South Pole, but I can still go on expeditions.......and archaeological digs.

Staying curious is the playground where I really like to hang out and play.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wonderful Disaster

We love having people over to our house for a meal. Most the time 2 hours before they come I'm still wondering what we'll eat. Right before they come, I'm rooting around in drawers like a pig hunting for truffles, for some lost article of clothing, food or idea.
Candles help hide the dust in the corners.
The bedroom door needs a yellow quarantine ribbon taped across it.
The couch cushions need double sided tape so no one can lift them for a look see.
The furnace filter needs changed to keep people from sneezing.
We hope against hope no one gets a dog hair from Maggie with a bite.
The goblets might have spots.
The oven has drips.
We might not have napkins, paper towels will do.
The bread might not rise.
Once I forgot the sugar in the pumpkin pie, which made it the most humorous and memorable Thanksgiving ever!

But when the first knock comes, I forget all this completely. "Ah, it is so good to see you" ~ trumps it all. The hugs, smiles, stories, laughter and warm food will be the memory we will have when we're old. The mess will never let us miss this part. It's the good part. Feeding each other's hearts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Signature Fragrance

Old friends have a scent associated with them. Glynn has been wearing a blend of Bay Rum for all of the 30 years I've known him. Richard wears Aqua Di Gio which draws our daughters in for a hug. Old Spice is old fashioned, but it still pulls me like the smell of bacon or baking bread.

Craig, being a farm boy, loves the smell of diesel fuel. Diesel emissions make him long for a tractor and a field to plant or harvest. He has always wished he could bottle that scent. A few years ago I found it. Diesel cologne. Oh my, he smells so fine when he wears it. Perfect for him.

I wear Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint. Pungent is my favorite. Something with a bite. Spice. Bam. Clears not only my nose and head but yours. Bracing.

What's your favorite aroma? What fragrance do you give off? Sweet, tangy, pungent, woodsy, spicy, flowery, fruity?

Fragrance entices if you have to chase it down to get a whiff. A hint of it hooks.....


I asked. He did. Touch that spot. Bind that wound. Caress this place longer. Move me to tears. Soften my heart. Don't leave me alone. Give me compassion. Teach me empathy. Stay longer. Enjoy this part. Pour me another cup. Scratch this itch. Mend this tear. Glue this crack. Applaud this effort. Play with me. Want me. Laugh with me. Be with me. Speak to me. Remind me. Show me how. Create a new thing. Lead me along new paths. Whisper sweet nothings. Sing songs which seduce me. Never stop pursuing me. Let me know what makes you sing, cry, and laugh. Invite me. Dress me. Fill me. Infuse me with vision. Infect me with hope. Inoculate me against despair. Anoint me. Let me swim in the ocean of your love.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Toot, Whistle or Honk

Four hours passed quickly on the bank of the river today. The trail, scented with moist evergreens mixed with ferns, moss, and spongy loam made me feel drunk. Splash a blue sky overhead, sprinkle the grass with cut glass, then layer a continuous sound loop from the river skipping over the laughing rock; I'm completely seduced.

Rudyard Kipling's line.....'the great, grey, greasy, Limpopo river, all set about with fever trees' kept jiggling around in my head.

My river spot is in the path of small planes coming in or going out from the airport. I have a childish habit of waving to them. Eight times out of ten, they gallantly tip their wing at me, gentlemanly like. The sunshine makes the wing appear to wink. This always makes me smile. Sometimes they put on loopity loop shows for me. Free. This makes me clap.

What is it that makes me try to get a tug boat captain to toot, a truck driver to honk, a train engineer to pull that whistle? It's seems ridiculous, but it's a little like an acknowledgement that we're both enjoying this moment today. Liking where we are, loving what we are doing, seeing each other, noticing. I never tire of the game, because the response is its own reward. It always makes me smile.

Sort of like shaking hands or hugging a new friend, but across impossible distance, which makes the connection a small miracle.

Down to the River

It's not raining today. Finally. The vitamin D drops are good but the sun will provide it much better. I'm going to shut this laptop down, get dressed, bundle up because it is brisk out, take my favorite journal, a blanket and one good pen.

I'm going down to the river to find a story, be in the story, get rekindled, filled up. Found.

I'm going down to the river to feel that astringent walk in the woods.

I'm going down to the river to feed on beauty, eat nature, sip blue sky, tune in to bird songs, let myself be loved, play and pray.

Especially pray.

I really like our talks.....

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Proper Response?

My first exposure to fine art was a reproduction given as a gift from my aunt to her mom, my grandmother. It was carefully centered, then placed in a prominent location. It hung quietly until The Discussion.

My intellectual aunt, asked my mother and grandmother what it meant to them. They puzzled over it looking intently to uncover the hidden message. At around 13, my opinion didn't count, however this did not keep me from coming up with one. Invisibly and silently.

The picture was of a young girl sitting by a stream. Those are the only details I remember other than the muted colors. It gave me a soothing feeling for she looked like she could have been a melancholy kindred spirit.

Since it was a test in perception, mom answered correctly and intuitively when she said it was about a young girl, coming of age, wanting the freedom of childhood but hindered by the constraints of her upcoming womanhood. It would have been entirely improper of her to take her stockings off and be seen in public bare legged in her time and culture. It was a defining moment in her life. A choice had to be made. She was in agony wanting both.

I was silently biting my lips, keeping my obviously shallow and childish opinion to myself. All I was thinking was; I knew how much she wanted to get in that lovely water. Period. Why the quandary? What was the big problem? Go girl. Make a splash.

Standing in the National Gallery in London a few years ago, I again fell silent. All these original masterpieces under one roof. People were sitting reverently before the highly prized and tightly guarded treasures in awe.

Once again, my response didn't match. I wanted to rub my cheek up against a few or lick those luscious colors. Ancient colors which still looked fresh and vibrant made my eyes leak and blur. I wanted to curtsy to the unknown artist telling the story in colors, shadows and form.

I could never be a curate, the temptation would be too great. The paintings aren't under glass; they would have bald spots from where I'd petted them one too many times.

How do you experience art? My way is unrefined, but it works for me. It's like tasting wine. Like what you like, no matter how cheap or expensive it is. Enjoy the sensation it gives you, nobody else. Swirl it, smell it, taste it, see it and then clink a glass to hear it with someone you love. Lick the drips, if any drop........

Playing at Night

Mom made my little sister a life sized Raggedy Ann for Christmas one year. Every detail was crafted to represent the original in the story, even to the embroidered heart on her pink cotton chest. Her tangerine colored yarn hair blazed, setting off the calico dress and crisp white pinafore.

Her fingers were forever sewn together, but somehow, on Christmas Eve she snuck into the cookies we had left out for Santa. My little sister found her on Christmas morning with a few crumbs on her face, and one last swallow of milk in a glass sitting sheepishly at the breakfast table. Embarrassed because she couldn't even wipe her mouth.

Mom had convinced us that when we slept, all our toys woke up to play. We knew it was true years before Toy Story arrived to confirm it. Finally, we had evidence.

I hated falling asleep and missing out on the fun. My little sister outgrew Raggedy Ann, but I have never outgrown my curiosity about what really goes on at night in our house. Our dog Maggie looks a bit secretive some mornings, unable to wipe the smile off her face.


Someone was prompted to speak words of life over Craig and me recently. Simple words. Words which slathered healing balm. Directly addressed and counteracted the old words of death from an old wound which gets the scab peeled off at times.

These words offered hope, helped us remember our 'white pebble name'. Validated. Affirmed.

Have you ever been X'd? Unnamed? Everything you are, rejected? It makes you question what is real. You feel crazy. It makes you question reality. Did you imagine your desire to bring or add value to your world. Being unnamed causes you to believe that you really haven't, don't and won't make a difference. Ever. Stuck in the never want to try again part.

Then, along comes a person who breathes on the dying embers of what used to be a blazing fire in your soul and you remember. Remember who you really are, remember your passionate desire to reach out and make a difference. Remember it does matter. All of it.

How to pass it on? Consider yourself tagged. You're it. Grab someone today, kindle them, give them a kiss, a hug and a whisker rub~for their body, mind, soul and heart.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Maker's Mark Instead

The term brand is repeated all over the Internet associated with social media/marketing. Everyone is frantically trying to boost and build their brand! Nobodies, Somebodies, and Wannabies.

Exposure, trending topics and viral are the catch words. Every one wants a viral website, tweet, brand or blog. Sounds likes rabies a bit. The most viral wins. Big it seems. A brand ends up being about money in the end. Influence too, sometimes good and needed.

If you google it, the words associated with it are; generator, abuse, social networking, social media, Internet marketing, image, loyalty, development, label, advertising, pirating, squatting, identity, equity, registered, domain, audience, platform, positioning and strategy, to name a few. Dizzy yet? Like putting your 10 point 'z' on the triple word square in scrabble, it's about strategy.

Little known bloggers and small companies seem panicked about having a brand. Saving a domain name for your children is highly encouraged. Get them a twitter account while you're at it so they will have a brand.

On a ranch, branding time started by rounding up the cattle then separating the bellowing calves from their frantic mamas. They were thrown quickly to the ground and a sizzling hot iron with the ranch's brand/logo was stamped through the burning hair to the flesh, forever marking the animal as being owned by that rancher.

Slaves were often branded or would have an ear slit by their owner, marking them as owned.

A maker's mark is different.

When an artist creates something beautiful, usually the last thing he does is puts his maker's mark on it.

Looking for a maker's mark on antiques is like finding treasure. Wooden furniture, porcelain, pottery, silver, ceramics, statuary, silver, jewelery, paintings, wrought iron and more will have the maker's mark.

One of the most curious things to look for in some of the old finely carved pews in the European cathedrals is the maker's mark. One artist carved a small mouse somewhere in every piece he did. The marble work also always has a quirky signature left. Some artist's leave a blue dot in their painting. Each artist has a unique mark, leaving their imprint, their signature.

A friend of ours who is a blacksmith, presses his maker's mark in each original piece he creates. Finding it and rubbing your fingers over it is part of enjoying the art.

A maker's mark signifies we are finished, loved. I like that better than a mere brand. A maker's mark is about love, in the end. The artist and the created piece, satisfied.

Mark me all over. Stamp it, carve it, press it, emboss it, ink it, scratch it in. I'm yours.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Secrets of a Bride

Here are a few secrets. I very rarely go to Costco. Never like standing in line with all the other bulging people pushing fat carts. I don't really like it when we Christians say stupid stuff either. I'm twittering and love some of the movies and sights that make fun of the ridiculous things we 'followers' say and do. "Stuff Christians Like" and "Lord Save Us From Your Followers" a movie I can't wait to see. Us is the key word. I'm a follower too. I have and do and will say thoughtless things. Cliches. Have habits that I fall into by default. Empty religious behaviors that need ruthlessly shaved off.

Following is great. We should. We do. But there's more. We're the bride. The girl in the story, the princess, decked out, bejeweled, all eyes on us, stunning. Or we could be if we lived like we believed this part. God wants lovers to love on, but the church pill we have been taking has taken our spiritual libido away. To say that we go to church is as ridiculous as saying, "Let's go to bride".

My husband of almost 21 years loves to please me, treat me, serve me, surprise me and show off for me. I'm his bride. He loves it when I eagerly respond and notice his overtures. I'm his lover and he is mine. Sound familiar?

Think of us as the bride in a spiritual way. Lovers. We need to keep discovering, exploring each other. Craig can't mindlessly rub that spot under my ear that used to tickle. My response is his guide to loving me.

Craig struts when he knows he has completely satisfied me. He can't wait to do that thing again when he knows I'm content and grateful. He feels like a studmuffin when he knows he's my hero. When the kids were little, he would gift me with dishes or let me have a long bubblebath. He has new ways of loving now that fit the context of our 'new normal'.

Giving the lover of my soul mere human attributes might be lessening him, but in the context of being His bride, it won't degrade him.

In "Anna and the King" when Tuptim is given to the King as a gift, a concubine, the first wife reassures her that 'he is a kind and generous lover'.

We have one also. Along with being kind and generous, he's passionate, strong, hungry for us. Like the spanish word quiero. Love like desire, a craving. Think chocolate.

Change out some of the soggy white bread 'christian music' once in a while. Turn on some music, listen to good art. Period. Turn it on LOUD. When your very favorite love song comes on, belt it out to Him at the top of your lungs. Listen with your whole heart and you will hear Him seducing you. Lean in................

At times, it might sound like Bryan Adams or Cyndi Lauper, but don't be confused. It's Him.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Grateful to You!

To the people I follow on twitter.

There is no other way to do this; usually, I send a simple handwritten card with a stamp on it through the UPS when I want to thank someone. I don't even know your real name sometimes, just your twitter handle. And we don't give are addresses to strangers. Pretend this is hand written with a good pen on fine stationary.....and has a stamp on the envelope.

After only a month on Twitter, navigating, translating, decoding and getting accustomed to its strange world, I wanted to tell you all how much my life has changed since "following" you. I could stay embarrassed at the 'mullet' blog I have with it's rough toothed edges, get stuck at ashamed, compare or instead be hungry and thirsty grabbing what you offer, teach, feed, introduce, exhort, caution, coach, inspire, spur and expose me to in your world. Your point of view is changing my point of view.

This is what you've done for me. I'm thankful! It has been one of the most amazing things in my life to be connected to so many other creative thinkers, artists all. I don't feel alone. You have kindled and sparked my spirit, each of you. I know I will grow and get refined as I listen, read and glean all that each new status offers.

Here's some comic relief, the first few days, I clicked on the follow button or subscription button of all of the 213 people I follow. My google reader was busting its seams. I could not keep up, could not sleep and could NOT get rid of the 'word cloud gadget' in my head! To survive the onslaught of stimulating conversations/your blogs, I had to delete and do 1 by 1 from twitter posts.


Way Beyond

At the intersection where the first half of life and the second half of life meet, it feels like the ride has been way beyond my wildest dreams. A roller coaster ride. The old wooden kind with creaks and groans only hinting at, the next hammering plunge.

Here's the progression, you can literally hear and see "the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift" of the "Hallelujah" timeline in my life.

Spiritually, most of my life was moving sideways from the frying pan into the fire into a forge. They wore different costumes and different names. Each time I stepped sideways, I thought I was stepping up. At some lonely unmarked junction, I took a turn for freedom. Nothing has been the same since.

The forge experience melted me and formed me, tempered me. The strongest iron is heated, bent, sometimes folded, pounded and finally baptised in cold water where it coughs and sputters breathlessy in shock. The process is worked and repeated over again, until the instinct of the blacksmith knows it is finished. Tempered. Tempering is what makes it strong, reliable and usable. Elastic. Resilient. Not easily cracked or broken. A reliable and usable tool.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Colorbook Masterpieces

With only an over sized princess coloring book, a big box of color crayons and anticipation for the morning, I'm almost ready to leave the house. We don't have grandchildren yet so I entice my friends to share theirs.

My grandmother was an artist who infused me with the creative urge. If a coloring book was well crafted, she would often color a page with me. The details she added, the shading she used, the color combinations and perfect way she laid on the color was enviable. I wanted to color just like her but at 49 haven't yet reached that caliber. I keep at it......

Grandma drew lovely things with pencil, charcoal and painted with acrylics. She artistically made pie and biscuits that evoked emotion deep enough to make you cry. But she is a celebrity in my mind most, for her coloring book masterpieces. I've never seen their equal.

Today, as I go fill in the black outlines of princesses in a coloring book worthy of our best, I want to color a masterpiece like her. I want my little miniature girlfriend to want to color one too. Contagious creativity. I wonder if the memory is so beautiful because someone wanted to spend time with me sharing and enjoying the same box of color.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gratefulness Go Round

Our twenty year old daughter, who thankfully still lives at home, gave us an edible gift. Supper.

She picked out a recipe from her favorite Jamie Oliver cookbook, followed his instructions to the letter, even when she questioned him. He said that taking the time to scald/peel the cherry tomatoes would make a difference. It did indeed!

She bought all the groceries, prepped and cooked everything. We enjoyed gourmet lemonade in goblets to drink, along with pumpkin pie crowned with thick whipped cream for dessert.

We felt like we had crawled into a movie set as extras from Chocolat, Babbette's Feast or Like Water for Chocolate. Food really is love. In eastern cultures, breaking bread with each other is becoming one.

There is a wonderful two way street going on with our grown children that money can't buy. They have become our friends. They reciprocate. They are generous with us. Gratefulness going round and round isn't making us dizzy. This part of life has an ease and rhythm that feels like we're all swinging in a big hammock. Together. When it slows or comes to a stop, someone invests in the 'we' and gets us going again. We get love dripped on us which makes us full enough to drip over onto someone else.

Yesterday, I was planting 350 tulip and daffodil bulbs around the yard for spring. By the time I opened the last bag of 90, my energy, by back and my digging arm were played out. I
asked Brita if she would help me finish. She cheerfully came out and partnered with me to finish the job. I couldn't have done it on my own. When I asked for help, she responded willingly. It blessed me. It was a gift. She will be part of the color burst next spring.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The View Outside

Grape vine dying on arbor looks stunning as she blushes,

embarrassed by the many colors

of a brutal bruise.