Musings on a Thanksgiving Monday

Musings on a Thanksgiving Monday

So, I’m on fall break. People think it means that I don’t work, but no, not true. I worked today. Because grades. Oh, and meetings to schedule. It never ends, people. Really.

And, I’m not complaining. I worked in my pajamas. I know.

I’ve been trying to keep a more positive outlook on the state of our country, all the while scoping out land in Vermont (blue state, close to Canada, fairly cheap). I actually got to the point where I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Biden-Obama memes would get me through the inauguration and that Trump Twitter wars just might get me through until the midterms when it hit…that darn Neo-Nazi, crazy-ass video of the white nationalists doing their Heil Trump, with the salute and everything.

Yep.

I checked it out from several credible sources (I do try to practice what I preach), and it’s so real that the restaurant where their dinner was held issued a public apology. I won’t post a link to it because, because, because…

It’s Thanksgiving. Do your own research. I’M ON BREAK!

Saw the movie Loving last night. Cried. Watched Prince’s sister accept AMA soundtrack award for him. Cried. Got hit with a hard wave of homesickness for my mom, probably because of Thanksgiving. Cried.

Felt guilty about preparing for Thanksgiving while our country once again breaks a treaty with a Native American tribe. Felt powerless. Wept down deep in my heart.

Told hubby about Vermont plan. He said no. If the worst happens, HE’D run for office. He said with a serious face in a serious tone. I laughed…and laughed and laughed (which was his intention, lest you worry that I was making fun of him).

Still binge-watching The West Wing. Hubby has moved on to The Flash. The Netflix superhero series are endless.

But there’s GILMORE GIRLS. My next binge.

And one more PD James novel. My next book.

And my daughter, who came home from school, excited about so much…Thanksgiving with her cousin, Christmas, and a few leftover pieces of Halloween candy. She gets lovelier and lovelier every single day. She makes me smile. Every single day.

I am thankful for so much — my daughter, my husband, friends, family, and a job I truly love. I am blessed. I wish all such blessings for everyone this Thanksgiving. I mean that.

I leave you with words from Prince, as quoted by his sister Tyka, words of peace: “With love, honor, and respect for every living thing in the universe, separation ceases. And we all become one being, singing one song.”

Peace and love to you this Thanksgiving.

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Musings on a Monday

Moving my musings to the blog…or else I’ll never get started.

After three days of not eating much because it was too painful, I attacked three big squares of one of those fancy dark chocolate bars with shreds of almond and sprinkled with sea salt. Made the unfortunate decision to dip each square in a tub of peanut butter before eating it. I think I am now sick again, just of a different sort.

Sorry…I don’t count this as an election post (which I promised not to do)…but T wants his children to have top secret clearance? Really?

And some white nationalist dude as chief strategist?  WTF? I checked many sources for that one; it’s REAL people.

In trying to understand why someone would be happy with Trump, I’m reminded of the way I felt when I was at Aquinas Institute of Theology just after the priest sex scandal broke. I was all, “They should be in jail! It’s a horrible crime! These were CHILDREN!” and they’re all, “Yes, they broke the celibacy vow.” Stunned, I walked away muttering something about jail time while waving and flapping my hands.

I’m going to leave you figure out for yourself how that’s analogous to the current situation. ‘Cause I don’t feel like explaining it.

I am neurotic about what I put down in words so I must say that in the above statement I was not referring to the  professors or advisors at Aquinas, who were wonderful, but some of the priests who were my classmates. They kinda didn’t realize I wasn’t Catholic.

I’ve decided to binge-watch the West Wing. Just because. Problem is that my husband is binge-watching The Arrow. We take turns. It’s called marriage.

No matter who you voted for, if you need a laugh, check out the Biden/Obama memes. You will laugh. I promise. Trust me. Trust. Me.

Poetry is making a comeback right now. Poetry just might save our lives.

I’m still pondering Leonard Cohen, just beginning to delve into Merton again, and searching for Dorothy Day.

Let the light shine through the cracks.

Peace.

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A very late Easter post

Every Easter, I am transfixed by the resurrection story, the truth of death and rebirth and presence and death and rebirth and presence grabs hold of my senses, permeating through my very being.

I have seen it. In the most basic sense, we all have. We just argue over how we express it. Each winter we are reminded of it, with the cold brown earth and brittle leaves fallen to the ground overlooked by bare trees etched in the sky, a trace of life with death overshadowing. Then the earth recovers, slowly at first with a few warm winter teasers, and then more fully when we see the buds form. As I check my flowering plants, I always wonder if they’ve made it through. Every year I think they’ve died. And every year I am wrong, even the year when dying plants were the norm and experienced landscapers were amazed that my new and struggling little plants survived.

But resurrection is more than just surviving a “seeming” death. It’s being brought back from a real one. There are so many tiny deaths we suffer every day, and in that death is the making of a new life, not the same one, but life indeed, just like Jesus after bursting through the tomb. The presence of that mysterious connection between us–that relationship that is as real as sunshine even though we struggle to describe it adequately–seeps through my crusty soul, stiff with daily life and worry, into the air that we breathe in that place where we all turn our eyes to all that we cannot explain. It’s as if Jesus is standing right there, pointing to the beyond, with an expression that beckons us to wake up and take notice, there is life beyond what we can imagine.

As I pondered this reality this year, I was struck by the dates in my life that are steeped in significance. Random dates, to be sure, but to label them coincidence seems to diminish reality in some way, shoving it under the rug because it causes us to question our sense of logic and materiality. One such example is this: April 12 was my daughter’s original due date, which was Easter that year. With an April birthday, she often has a birthday near Easter, if not on it. The same is true for my mother, whose birthday was April 20. That year, our Easter baby was not ready. She never dropped, even one week after the due date. The doctor put me in the hospital to induce, but nothing they did worked. They sent me home to come back the next day, April 20, my mother’s birthday (and her last). The doctor did not know that it was my mother’s birthday when she made that decision.

This year, my sister’s open heart surgery is today, April 12. When I was speaking to her husband a few weeks ago, he mentioned that if everything went well, she might get out of the hospital on April 20, my mother’s and Sienna’s birthday. I don’t know what to make of such coincidences in life. I’m sure there’s some sort of math problem that you can conjure up to explain the possibilities of that happening, but what I can tell from just a little bit of statistics is that the odds are against it, although probably not extraordinarily unusual. But such things cause me to pause and wonder, reminding me of the resurrection story.

My sister’s surgery is a success I’ve just heard, and yet I know that she has a long road ahead of her, a road positioned in the same world as the one in which she closed her eyes this morning and yet one in which everything will be different. It will be her own journey, but it will be one immersed in a new kind of  life, a resurrection, if you will.

So here we are, the same dates popping up in our lives as significant of life and death and recovery and presence and death and life again.

And he is here, too, (or “she” is, as my daughter would say) pointing to that which is just beyond our view.

Happy (belated) Resurrection Day.

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New Year’s Resolutions? Nah

sienna_drawingI meant to write a post reflecting on New Year’s, not exactly resolutions but intentions. Not feeling it, though, so never mind. Except this:

My wonderful husband bought me a new digital SLR camera that I haven’t used yet. So I’m going to take some photos with a decent camera this year…not my phone!

That’s it for this year.

I’ll end by sharing a picture my daughter drew, just because I feel like it. She’s wonderful.

That is all.

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From listening to action, right?

I have only been to one protest in my life, and that was by accident. It was March of 2003 in San Francisco, just before the Iraq war. It was a much bigger protest than any we have seen in St. Louis this past year; there were thousands, not hundreds, of participants. I’ve been told since then that San Franciscans love their street drama and have to say my experience bears that out. I left when it began to turn into something dangerous, the crowd and police increasingly restless and antagonistic toward each other and the police marching down the street in militaristic fashion, even then. I admit that I was a bit worried I’d get swept away. And my friend nearly did. A protester left the protest line, picked her up, and drug her into the march, as she screamed for him to let her go. It was terrifying to say the least.

But, what should we do to affect change when there are injustices in our country, our world? If I’m honest, I must admit that, regardless of my feelings about any injustice, such as the Tamir Rice case, I’m just not much for being in a large chanting crowd. I’ve been drawn to the contemplative life for a long time, and I quickly get over-stimulated, cranky, and then downright dysfunctional around large crowds and  loud noise. (I remember having to tell my college roommates over and over that I was not angry when I came in from a long day of work and school. I just needed to be alone for a while.)

And there are other reasons now. I’m the parent of a small child and our start in this world was traumatic, with me spending the first 5 1/2 weeks of her life in the hospital, away from her. Doctors and professionals will tell a mother like me that the baby will quickly recover from that sudden separation, but if you read adoption literature, you will find that even the trauma of a one week separation of mother and baby will have long-lasting effects on the child. My daughter has always been anxious about my whereabouts, and she is especially prone to anxiety if the separation is unexpected. It is my job as a parent to teach her to live without me (as an adult, obviously). In fact, that is the primary job of a parent. However, the reality of how close she came to living without me — of never knowing me at all — lingers in both our psyches. Unexpected absences  — which she will have to learned to deal with — are anxiety-producing. I simply cannot afford to put myself in a position of getting caught up in a protest that turns dangerous, or worse, get arrested at one.

But maybe these are excuses. Wouldn’t the world change more quickly if we all demanded justice more fervently? If we all just admitted that justice in this country has a checkered history (not to mention present) and if we took to the streets we could change it? If we could just admit that, wouldn’t we solve our problems and inequities more quickly? Once an acquaintance of mine from Greece marveled that St. Louisans didn’t take to the streets after a long winter power outage. “We would NOT tolerate that in Greece,” she said (or something along those lines). She has a point.

Regarding the current social justice movement about racial inequalities in this country, I know that it begins with listening. It sounds simpler than it is, true, but it’s just a start. Thinking about this reminds me of the dialogue between Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. I’ve only read summaries of their dialogue, but from what I understand, she wanted him out on the streets in protest. He would not leave the monastery. He felt the monastic life is needed in this world because with it grows compassion and empathy (he’s right you know; the research on meditation is proving that it increases empathy). He felt that if you lose compassion for those who oppose you, you’ve lost. As for me, I can see both sides. I only know that I am still that cranky college student in many ways. (And, of course with Merton, we would not have his writings if he had left the hermitage. So there’s that.)

In the end, I believe that contemplation should lead to action. The question is, what should that action be for me?

It may not be to join a protest. But, no more excuses.

 

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Happy New Year!

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I’m a bit late with all my holiday wishes this year. I’m still a little slow at writing blog posts. We kept it simple this year, opting to stay home with our daughter on New Year’s Eve with noisemakers, tiaras, shrimp cocktail, and Casablanca (after she went to bed). The highlight of New Year’s Day was kite-flying in Forest Park after a visit to the art museum.

The sun is shining in St. Louis and the floodwaters are receding, thankfully. I leave you with a little winter poem I wrote, published in the online journal, Under the Basho (okay, it probably qualifies as a shameless plug, but I’m really trying to be a little more open with my poetry):

Poem from Under The Basho

 

 

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A Christmas wish…because it’s still Christmas, you know

I love Christmas. All of it — the music in stores in November, the cookies, the spreading of good cheer, the family time even when it’s trying, the shopping — both online and in person. The anticipation. I love the rush of excitement in a child’s eye when they talk about Santa and the work leading up to the too-many-days of togetherness. I love early Christmas trees and endless holiday light shows. I love Christmas cookies and playing Santa.  I love Silent Night sung by candlelight, a cappella. I love my father reading the Christmas story in Luke, and I’ll take Linus as a wonderful substitute as I am not with my father late on Christmas Eve any more.

You see, what I did not have for many, many years was a family of my own, or any relationship to speak of for that matter. In our culture that focuses on family and romance at Christmas, it can be easy to feel left out and lonely if you are single. And I was single for a very long time. Oh, I always had a place to go for the holiday. I spent it with my parents at their house, and we would keep up the family traditions even if it were just the three of us, adding a few of our own, too. But while others were getting married and birthing babies, my life took a different course (a good one, but different). During that time, the stillness of a candle burning at night in the low light of my Christmas tree lights spoke to me more than any gift or celebration.

And I relished in it. I’d traipse out to a Christmas tree lot in the middle of December, usually dragging my friend Tina with me. We’d pick out a tree that would fill up a corner in my apartment, one not too big or too small.  We’d do this in the rain or snow, cold or warm. (Once I swear it was below zero outside, but it was the only day we both had free. I’ve never made a decision about anything so fast as I did about a tree that night.) We’d decorate my tree and then eat homemade pizza. Every night from that day until New Year’s Day, I’d turn off all the lights, light candles around my apartment, and sit in silence. I didn’t imagine or wish that I had a love or a family. I would just sit, my very being soaking up the low light of candles. Sometimes I’d cry, because that often happens when you first become still. But often I would not. It is there, in the stillness, that I truly learned what Christmas is about. The light of the world entering into the shadow places, those places where we don’t think light can shine, those places we’d rather keep hidden, including the pain of loneliness that I worked hard to overcome. The low light of stillness is small and unassuming at first. But after a while, it does it’s work on you. It’s slow work but, I believe, it is the work of Christ, which is the work of transformation. It is that work that prepares us to do the work for good in the world.

These days, Christmas with my daughter and husband means magic and Santa and presents and angels in Christmas pageants and the blessed anticipation. I put up a tree but sometimes forget the candles. And, after playing Santa on Christmas Eve, I usually choose sleep over sitting in the glow of the Christmas tree and candlelight.  I barely make any Christmas cookies at all, and sometimes don’t get around to putting up lights around the windows. This year, I didn’t even pull out my mother’s Christmas dishes that she loved so much, and that I love to use to honor her memory. I wore myself out so much that I spent Christmas Eve in bed with a tension/sinus headache, while my daughter watched movies. I missed the Christmas Eve service, one of the few ways I am sure to sit in a little low-light stillness.

In the rush of it all, I carry the silence of those solitary Christmases with me, so much that it doesn’t feel like Christmas unless I find a way to find the stillness of light, a quiet moment just to connect to that which connects us all. I look for moments of stillness. It’s not the same, of course, because of my active household, but it’s there just the same. This year, I bought tickets to the Bach Society’s Candlelight Christmas concert, which turned out to be a stand-in for a Christmas Eve service. I wept as the children and adult choirs spread out throughout the hall, carrying (albeit fake) candles, while singing quiet hymns of Christmas. It took a few minutes for the stillness to settle in, but when it did, I could not keep the tears from coming. I wept because I miss my mother, who would have loved that concert; I wept because I love my family and the joy they bring; I wept for this broken world we live in, so wonderful and awful at the same time; I wept that it sometimes seems the hatred and evil in this world will win out. I wept that we still abandon pregnant teenagers, giving only small acts of kindness, if any at all. I wept for the baby of Christmas and all babies, who have to endure, like him, the awfulness of humanity, as much or even more as the beauty. I wept for the light and love that is with us always.

Six months after 9/11, I traveled to New York to help victims of the terrorist attacks wade through the endless paperwork of charities for a piddling of monetary help. They weren’t the victims typically portrayed when 9/11 is discussed, those who died. Rather, they were those who lived or worked in lower Manhattan on that day. Since I was there on a budget, I found the cheapest walkup hotel I could, which was way up by 103rd and Broadway. During the long subway ride to lower Manhattan, I meditated on a quote from a Thomas Keating: “Love is as strong as death.” I was happy he didn’t say “love conquers all” or “love will prevail” or some such thing. No. That would dismiss the pain so many were going through and that I was called to listen to that week. But to remember that love is as strong as death, that was helpful. That was my mission that week, to be the presence of love to those I encountered, to be the remembrance that although there might be hate, there is also love. And that is what the Christ child means to me.  It is the moment that love — that light — breaks in.

It is my Christmas hope that everyone experience that light, one way or the other. As for me, I will long for and cherish the quiet moments, like this one last night, when I captured the light of a Christmas full moon through the trees.

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Rare full moon at Christmas

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