Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jingle Bells

All day I've had Christmas songs in my head. Jingle Bells at six in the morning is not good. And just before, while sweeping the driveway at 8:45 at night, O Come All Ye Faithful was looping around. I think it's some kind of disorder, this song thing. I've had it for years. I even Googled songs that play in your head once. There were lots of comments from people, most of them trying to drum the songs out of their heads with Cymbalta or some other drug, like Lyrica?

Don't you think it's odd that these drugs have musical names? And even though they may cause liver bleeding, body rashes, dizzy spells, death, they might cure the songs?

The songs are one of the reasons why I read so much. When I'm reading, the songs go away. There's no room for Barry Manilow's At the Copa Cabana, when I've got my nose in a great read. It doesn't matter what it is: my horoscope, the electric bill, a great novel. Somehow words short circuit any excess matter twisting and shouting in my head.

We Three Kings of Orient Are...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Small Fingers

We are under the covers watching the rain pour down.The backyard is lit in green light, darkness tops the trees. The light is yellow now. It is the afternoon in the middle of the week. I imagine people in their cars speeding down the highway, people working in tall office buildings paneled in clear glass. I move my feet around under the sheet, feeling the cool cloth against my skin. Books are piled up at the end of the bed. We watch the rain. Claire pushes down on my eyelids, pressing them shut with her small fingers. Close your eyes, Mama.Take a nap.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I must be an emotional archaeologist because I keep looking for the roots of things, particularly the roots of behavior and why I feel certain ways about certain things.

~ from The World According to Mister Rogers

I'm so glad Claire was in kindergarten when it was still a half day affair. She'd get home a little before noon, just in time to watch Mister Roger's Neighborhood. I'd whip up a plate of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with two glasses of cold milk and we'd settle in and watch Mister Rogers burst through the door, a beam of light.

Fred would slip off his blazer, hang it in the closet, pull on his cardigan [and button it], change into his sneakers, all while singing It's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

Mr. McFeeley would stop by, Speedy Delivery!, and drop off a video about how vacuum-cleaners were made, or maybe Fred would meet a friend at the pool who was a champion swimmer even though his legs didn't work too well. There was always music. And make-believe. And all feelings were welcome.

Who knew, that at forty-six, this noon-time ritual would become the anchor for my life, five days a week. I admit I often felt lost on the weekends.

I wish I had written Fred a letter telling him what good work he was doing in the world. That in fact, this was my second time around with him. That Jesse was all grown up, that she had turned out great, and I think he might've had something to do with it.

And I would've told him I was thankful, so thankful, that some things never change.

Like Fred. And his wonderful neighborhood.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Dig You Baby

In celebration of our thirteenth wedding anniversary, Michael surprised me with this I Dig You Baby ice cream cake. I got my first one when we were courting and I flew to LA to spend Valentine's weekend with him back in February, 1997.

Two I Dig You Baby cakes in one lifetime...

Ain't life grand?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Foot Reflexology

Michael and I were finishing up dinner when he said, "Come with me. We'll clean up after."
I balked at first, feeling the need to clear off the table, fill the dishwasher, wipe the counters.

He took my hand and I trailed after him into the living room. Blankets were spread out on the rug with two green pillows, at opposite ends.

"What's this set-up for?" I asked.
"I thought we'd lie down and put our feet together," he said.
"Okay," I said, "I guess so. I mean, the kitchen is..."
"We'll get it after," he said.

Quietly I resisted. My stomach was too full to lie down and everything was still on the table as if the occupants had vanished out of thin air leaving dirty dishes, sweating glasses, empty shrimp shells, slightly pulled out chairs.

Then I thought, The man has made a bed on the floor, the hell with the dishes!

We stretched out; his head at one end, mine at the other, bottoms of our feet together. We stayed like that for a good twenty minutes, toes kissing, while the evening light spread over the ceiling.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thank You, Mary Oliver

Some Questions You Might Ask

Is the soul solid, like iron?

Or is it tender and breakable, like

the wings of a moth in the beak of the owl?

Who has it, and who doesn’t?

I keep looking around me.

The face of the moose is as sad

as the face of Jesus.

The swan opens her white wings slowly.

In the fall, the black bear carries leaves into the darkness.

One question leads to another.

Does it have a shape? Like an iceberg?

Like the eye of the hummingbird?

Does it have one lung, like the snake and the scallop?

Why should I have it, and not the anteater

who loves her children?

Why should I have it, and not the camel?

Come to think of it, what about the maple trees?

What about the blue iris?

What about the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?

What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?

What about the grass?

- Mary Oliver

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keep It Current

"Keep your guilt current," he said.
"What the hell do you mean by that?" I said.
"What happened in the past is over, done. There's not a damn thing you can do about it. But today, yes."
"But, shit. I feel a bunch of guilt. I mean, especially with Jess. I was so young with her. I did some pretty stupid stuff and..."
"Are you feeling guilty right now?" he said.
"Amazingly, no."
"Well, then, do yourself a favor. Keep it current," he said, resting his case.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Long Light

It's late. I've been sitting out front enjoying the long light, watching the sky slowly ease into night. In the stillness, memories bubble up freely; like fireflies, appearing, disappearing. Night's magicians.

This tiny window opened for me tonight:

Mom and I are in the elevator of the 14th Street apartment in NYC. She is dressed in a skirt, maroon pumps, a blazer? Her hair is permed. She is holding her handbag in front of her body.

I am wearing a patchwork skirt [I loved that skirt!] that falls to my ankles, a shirt sans bra, tawny-colored Frye boots. My hair is long and pin straight. A backpack is slung over my shoulder.

We are facing the elevator doors, not speaking and then, we glance over at each other and burst out laughing. Or maybe shake our heads? Either way, a good moment.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Washed Clean

I could write about my pecan thing. I keep them in a jar in the freezer. I lay them out, oh, maybe five or six pecans at a time, in the palm of my hand, three or four times a day. This has been going on for awhile.

Then there's Alyssa, the third grader. The girl with her hair pulled up in blue butterfly clips except for one yellow strand that hangs over her eye. We were all writing, the whole class, something about what we'd learned. Brian, the boy with round glasses read and then Alyssa stood up and read, "I learned I was afraid of things."

I think that's one of the bravest sentences I've ever heard.

I am afraid of things. I'm sure I could write one of those little books, 1001 Things to Be Afraid Of. It would help people focus on a whole slew of things to worry and be fearful of...sitting in a plane on the tarmac for six hours, being stuck in an elevator, Lou Gehrig's disease. How about having your body completely covered in bumps, not one smooth place for your lover to lay a hand. Losing the house. Losing your mind. Dying. The marriage going sour. Getting lost and never being found....the wheels of the car falling of...See? It's easy once you get started.

And then there's this; that none of this writing makes a damn bit of difference. That much of it will never see the light of day. That the idea of getting published is so far-fetched I should get rid of my computer, all notebooks and pens, and stop. Stop the ranting and all the dark, shadowy stuff too. Who wants to hear it anyway?

But I can't/stop. I gotta write. I gotta write until I come clean. I need to keep writing until I get washed clean, yea, washed clean like muddy feet under the hose on a summer day. Yea, like that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Bucket Game

My brothers and I use to play a game in the backyard of our house in Delaware. It was a summer game with very easy rules to follow. They go like this:

1. Fill *four buckets with cold water from the hose.
2. Place buckets around the yard, possibly in a diamond formation.
3. Strip down to your underwear.
4. Each person stands by a bucket of water.
5. Someone shouts switch or go
6. Run to a bucket and dip your bottom in the water.
7. Repeat # 4- 6 until you drop in the grass; happy and cooled off.

There are no age restrictions for this game. And as I recall from those long ago summer days, underwear was optional. You may want to try The Bucket Game as a new Solstice ritual, or bring some buckets to your Fourth of July picnic and feel the family out. It's really not hard to get the hang of it once you play it a couple of times.

* Depending on number of players, you might want more buckets. But sharing works.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dad's Blue Raleigh


We live in a brick house in a quiet neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware. Our house, 110 South Road, sits on a hilly street lined with sycamore trees.

I am six. We are out biking; me and my brothers, and Dad. I am straining to climb the hill on my blue bike, about to give in to the hill when Dad swoops up from behind, on his old blue Raleigh, and effortlessly pushes me up to the driveway. I can feel the palm of his hand, strong, in the middle of my small girl back.

I am flying.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I read this somewhere and loved it. Every now and then, in the middle of sweeping, or folding laundry, or sitting under the white oak tree, it comes back to me...pssst!

Hint: the cage is not locked.

[photo of Mer-man from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in New Hope, New Jersey.]

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Math

basil in a pot + thinly sliced tomatoes with (slivers of red onion) drizzled with olive oil on your mother's china = the stirrings of summer

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Holding Nothing Back

Walking into the bedroom tonight, my eye was immediately drawn to a book called The Exquisite Risk by Mark Nepo. It was sticking out from under a few other books in a stack by my desk.

The title alone is a good place to hang out and ponder. The word, risk, reminds me of a therapist I saw probably twenty years ago, after my first marriage ended in divorce. I was a shell-shocked thirty year old who had managed to get out of a rough marriage in one piece with my daughter by my side.

During one session, she said, "You don't take many risks, do you?" And I remember thinking, Are you kidding me, lady? I stopped seeing her after that.

I like to open a book and read what shows up. I opened The Exquisite Risk and landed on page 54 and found this poem called Holding Nothing Back. And, like any good writing, it made me think. And feel.

Some days I look back over my life and it feels like it's been one huge risk. And other days, I'm still poised on the edge of my nest waiting to leap. Often, I can't seem to decipher where I'm at all. And maybe it doesn't really matter.

Holding Nothing Back

My purpose
at last,
to hold

My goal:
to live
a thousand years,
not in succession,
but in every

~ Mark Nepo

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Are You Following?

Can you say, Tasmanian Devil? That would be me since Monday night,which is why yesterday's post was a photo of my yard blanketed in snow. I'd been painting Claire's bedroom for four hours straight, a lovely shade called White Heron. I was sweaty and paint-spattered. What better time for a winter in June photo, right?

The paint job came on the heels of moving Claire (and all her things) into the study where I had recently relocated my *writing room since Dad moved in. In the heat of the moment on Monday night, we thought, okay, let's make the switch. First, Michael needed to take apart Claire's old-fashioned teacher's desk. The damn thing is so big, Michael had to take the door off, which accidentally hit the spinning ceiling fan, snapping one of the blades and sending it into the air.

Are you following me?

This morning I had a feeling that the three large bookcases needed to be together in one room, so I single-handedly moved the one from our downstairs bedroom up the stairs to the new study; a feat I shall not repeat in this lifetime. Any sane person would've waited for their spouse to come home to help, but why wait? All those years as a single mom made me a one-woman, furniture-moving, total crazy person. I'll use anything to pull things across floors and up stairs; rugs, towels, sheets. Who the hell needs weight training when you can move furniture all by yourself? (I know some of you are reading this and nodding, yes.)

Are you still following me?

Okay, so right now, I am at my desk which now sits in front of the window in our bedroom. There are no filing cabinets, no staplers, not even a printer down here. Just my desk, a lamp, my laptop, and a window.

I am like a dog that keeps circling around til it finds the right spot. I think I've landed. For now.

*Read "Displace Writer/Space Wanted" 5/2/10

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Note from Joy

I had a hankering last fall to take yoga directly to teachers, so I sent some emails, made a few phone calls, and with nary a hitch, started teaching weekly classes at three elementary schools close by. Three times a week, I showed up at the end of the school day, mat in hand, to lie down and breathe with people...who quickly became my yoga family.

My students, comprised of teachers, instructional aides, and student helpers (like Joy) would come in, stretch out on their mats, and often, sigh heavily. And breathe. The room would grow quiet. Then, slowly we'd move, and stretch, and breathe.

(Right now, while you're reading this, stop. Take a deep breath. Exhale.)

Most of these students had never tried yoga before, thinking like a lot of people, that yoga was either too weird, too hard, or they were just not cut out for it. But the ones who tried it, stayed. Like Joy.

Joy sent me this note over the weekend. I was pleased to hear she was practicing at home, and trying out a new yoga prop...

Hi Betsy,
Just a short note to let you know that there is something other than chairs and blocks that can be used for props. Large black dogs ( in my case named Peanut) make great props when you are squatting and trying to balance on your toes and start to tip. She was just the right height sitting down for me to use to balance myself. She was very patient about the whole thing even though she had no clue what I was doing :)
Hope you are having a great weekend.

Yoga translated from Sanskrit means: union with Self, including a large black dog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Bird People

Dad likes to sit out under the trees in our back yard, and listen to the birds. The Bird People, he calls them. According to Dad, there's been one very vocal bird the past couple of days. He can't see it tucked in the green leaves, high up on a branch, but he tells me it has a distinctive call...

Bee-Pee Bee-Pee Bee-Pee Bee-Pee Bee-Pee Bee-Pee

I think The Bird People are rallying.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Red Geraniums

A few weeks ago these geraniums were dry, dusty, almost dead. I thought, these guys are goners. But, things aren't always what I think. No kidding.

I moved them to a new location, gave them water, pulled off the dead leaves, and let them be.

Note to self: Things may appear to be on the brink of ending, but can come back to life more glorious than ever.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Let's Make God

Elizabeth and I were sitting at the round kitchen table, rolling out play dough and somehow we got to talking about church bells and how we'd heard them in town the other day.

"I like church bells," I said.
"Me too, Bean," she said.

And then while I was making spirals with the purple play dough she said, "God's in Gram's church."

Gram, Elizabeth's other grandmother, goes to a local Catholic church, and must've told Elizabeth that God was in her church.

So then I said, "Well, God's right here too. You, me, even this play dough."

Then Elizabeth said, "Let's make God."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flying Heart

Yesterday marked the 100th post of

This Being Alive.

This flying heart is for you, dear readers!

xoxo b

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Hand of Ethel

I was on my way to teach yoga, windshield wipers thunk-thunking, when three baby turkeys, 1 2 3 scurried across Chipperfield Drive and up the steep hill leading into the woods.

First thought: Why are those birds walking and not flying?

Second thought: Oh my God! Oh my God! Hurry hurry, come on you guys, you can do it.

Third thought: Thank you, *Ethel, I needed this.

It was five seconds tops. But in that breath, I felt the hand of Ethel, well, actually it was her long, slender finger, gently take my face and turn it so I could see what was right there in front of me; three miniature miracles that would've fit in the palm of my hand, doing the twenty yard dash across the wet road to get to the other side.

* Read "Call It What You Will" 3.29.10

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Off The Ledge

Yesterday, I discovered Cartridge World, a small business sandwiched between Moe's Burrito Place and maybe a nail salon? I should pay attention more, I know. But Michael was with me and we were holding hands and I was looking at him as we strolled and talked.

What can I say, I'm very good at multi-tasking.

Anyway, things work this way. Someone mentions something to you and then a short time later, that same thing pops up again in your conversations or as you're walking down the street. Teri had told me about getting my ink cartridges refilled at some place and then a couple of days later Michael said, "Let's go to Cartridge World."

I know, very woo-woo.

There was a poster at Cartridge World titled, Did You Know?
Here are some startling facts:

Each cartridge can take up to 1000 years to decompose.
Every re-manufactured laser cartridge saves nearly 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic waste from being deposited in landfills.
About 60 printer cartridges are used each second around the world.

So, I'm not married to Cartridge World. Any place that can re-fill your cartridges will do. If you're already doing this, consider yourself hugged, as Nan would say. If not, add re-filling cartridges to your save the environment tool kit.

Between oil sliming our beautiful oceans and all the Burger King bags ignorantly tossed from cars, we better start doing everything we can to get ourselves off the ledge, and back on solid ground.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Joy In The Doing

I like projects, especially ones that require old-fashioned physical labor; painting, hauling wood, stacking bricks? Besides getting things done, I end up with toned arms and a clear head, so I've concluded it's like going to the gym with a therapist, sorta.

This pretty pile of bricks originated from Main Street Jukebox, a local music store in downtown Stroudsburg that burned down a few years back. The buildings that caught on fire were old, and beautiful. The fire left a gaping hole in the center of Main Street.

Michael and I had the idea to add onto our brick patio out back. And build a labyrinth. So, we negotiated a price and ended up with a dump truck full of historic bricks in our front yard. We've been working our way through them ever since.

First, we tackled the labyrinth out front, cleaning bricks, then laying them in a spiral through a tall stand of pines. We didn't do it in one day. It took a while. But we got it done, one brick at a time.

It must've been the crisp air tonight that started us digging where we want to lay this next stack of bricks. Claire had the hoe, Michael was using a pick to loosen the soil, I filled the wheelbarrow with rocks. Claire was speaking all twangy like Michael's cousins from Louisville; we had a pretend farming moment. It was fun.

I used to feel a lot of frustration with projects that weren't finished around my house. But that's shifting. Now I'm seeing them as family time, or date night, or alone time; a meditation on life, asking each of us to simply do what's before us, and take joy in the doing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Beginner's Mind

It’s always good to come to things with beginner’s mind; to let go of worrying that you’ve got it wrong, that you had to cross out, that you’ve lost your way.

In the end, it’s good to remember that this is enough.

This moment, these words, you.

You are enough.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'll Always Have Paris

I have gloves and a kicky pair of red garden clogs but do I use them? No.

I think it goes back to my mudpie days when Mom would set me up with two cake tins and I'd go to town with water, a measuring cup, a wooden stirring spoon, and dirt.

Years later, she often remarked at how content I was, out near the sandbox with my baking utensils gathered around me.

"Bets, you'd sit all afternoon making cakes! I never saw a kid happier!"

So, when I looked down and saw my dirty pedicured toes (which I sparingly treat myself to once or twice a year), I felt washed with happiness. And sweat. And then I remembered the name of the nail polish; I'll Always Have Paris.

C'est manifique, n'est pas?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Main Street

I don't go downtown very much but I dropped Dad off at Ken's for a haircut this afternoon, and rather than drive home, I sat on a bench and watched the comings and goings on Main Street. Here are a few things observed from my ringside seat:

The lady in the black and white striped sweater with the lime green bag.

A teenage boy on a small bike with a girl draped over his shoulders from behind, somehow standing on the edge of the wheels. She hopped off and pretended to slap him, then she hugged him.

A guy with his black and white pit bull strolled down past The Anointed One's Salon, which is nestled between The Sherman Theater and an Insurance Agency. A few minutes later he strolled back and headed the other way. The dog's pink tongue was hanging out of his mouth.

A young man walked by in a wool cap with his skate board tucked under one arm.

A truck rolled by with a man in the passenger seat. He looked out and gave me a crumpled grin. He appeared to be missing a few teeth.

A pretty young woman walked by in high heels, swinging her hips all the way to her car.

It was a warm day. Fortunately, my bench was in the shade. Every now and then, a slight breeze passed over me. For a brief while, I had no place better to be; a front row seat to a whole lot of This Being Alive.

And it only cost me a quarter in the meter.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Left Hand's Voice

I have lots of journals, notebooks, slips of paper, that I've written in, and on. The slips of paper usually appear in the pages of a book, or maybe the visor in my car. Yesterday, I found this small treasure written on a grocery receipt, what's so scary about living the life you want?

This morning I opened up a small black notebook that I began in August 2009 and finished in the middle of October. It was a hard fall, literally and seasonally. And like everything, things changed and didn't feel quite so hard, then the squeeze would come again, then peace.

Occasionally I write with both hands, asking a question with my right hand, then answering it with my left. I don't do it often, but when I do, I am always surprised by my left hand's voice. The writing itself is like chicken scratch, but legible. The voice; soft, direct, kind.

Anyway, I found this dialogue that bubbled up, last October, between right hand/left hand and thought I'd share it. You might want to try it for yourself just to see what bubbles up for you. If you do try it, don't over-think it, or try to control what shows up. It's just another way to have a conversation with yourself...

What would my life feel like or become if I radically trusted that my path was unfolding just as it's meant to?

Well, that's easy! It would feel lighter, less cliff hanger-ish, okay, are you able to handle this?...way more fun.

So, If I just stopped all this worrying and gnashing of teeth over my life's purpose and work and money and aging, just dropped it, even with hormonal surges and imbalances, I would have more fun?


Then, why do I always return to the difficult path, the worry, the fear?

Because you're an expert at all of that. The thing you must realize is that the trust and ease piece lives side by side with the crazy-making stuff. You already have it. Like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Deep Wise Place

"I think you can only hold out for so long. I think secretly each and everyone of us longs to fall, and knows in a deep wise place in our brains that surrender is the means by which we gain, not lose, our lives. We know this, and that is why we have bad backs and pulled necks and throbbing pain between our shoulder blades. We want to go down, and it hurts to fight the force of gravity."

from Lying [A Metaphorical Memoir]

by Lauren Slater

Let yourself fall, gently.