Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Want A Cowgirl Hat

Spring cleaning is a four season project; sorting through, giving away, re-cycling, tossing. 

Occasionally, I find a treasure like Claire's Christmas letter to Santa, circa 2003? She dictated it to her Dad, then drew illustrations just in case...

Claire wants for Christmas please:

1. Mickey Mouse doll that's Mickey Mouse
2. Horse for Real Life.
3. The book, Red Riding Hood
4. Stuffed Green star
5. Pretty pillow for Claire's bed
6 Frosty the Snowman book
7. I want a cowgirl hat

She got everything on her wish list except for #2. 

I want a cowgirl hat.

Make a simple clear list about anything in your life.

Write. Draw.

Put it down in black and white.

or crayon?

see what happens.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Very Quiet

Your breath should be light, even and flowing, like a stream of water running through the sand. Your breath should be very quiet, so quiet that a person sitting next to you cannot hear it. Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a water snake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse. To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds. Each time we find ourselves depressed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Light Spirits

Last night, I taught a Scratching On Paper writing workshop at our local library. Taught doesn't feel quite right. Shared some thoughts on writing sounds better. I shared. We wrote. Some people read aloud. We listened. It was a good crowd. I wanted to make eye contact with everyone but a big post dissected the room so I walked from side to side, like in a tennis match. I wanted to hear everyone's pieces too. But there were too many of us for that. We would've had to have a sleep-over to hear everyone read.

Making eye contact and listening to everyone is not easy to do. 

I try hard.

But I am circling my writing in this moment. What I want to say is how great it was that so many people came out with notebooks and pens to write under the white fluorescent lights. 

There was Hu (without the gh) in his suit and bow tie. Iretha with an I, not an A, in her black and white dress. Larry. Mike. Denise.Yvonne. Donna. Mary and her daughter, Lisa. Tom and Rosemary - to name a few.

"Do you ever get stuck, frozen with your pen hovering over the page? What do you do about that?" Dale asked.
"Write I don't know what to write, I don't know what to write until something pops up. Even if you have to fill three pages. It's okay. You'll get un-frozen," I said.

I came home wiped out from all the adrenaline coursing through my veins. Speaking to large groups does this. It's a huge rush. But afterwards, I'm completely spent. Sometimes, later, comes the analysis, the going over. Small mind (aka EGO) steps in and wants to have a few words with me. Share a few pointers about how to do it better next time.

We wrote about our critics last night. Mine is always changing. Last night, she showed up on the paper as Jean. Jean was my grandmother's name. My cousin's too. It's a beautiful name. Two beautiful women. Why Jean? I don't know.

Jean is petite, wears a push-up underwire bra, has very straight white teeth. She follows me around the house, plumping pillows, pushing in kitchen chairs, re-folding dish towels.

When I sit down at my computer, she sighs, loudly. And then bends over to straighten the fringe on the carpet. Jean is forever straightening the fringe on the carpet.

Fortunately, Jean doesn't come around as much anymore.

That's what I wrote last night. That she doesn't come around much anymore. But she's been around most of today, straightening and folding and nipping at my heels. Whispering about how I could have done things differently, maybe not rushed so much at the end.

Even after I received the loveliest emails from participants thanking me for the evening, you are a light spirit. you lifted mine. thanks, for some reason I am letting Jean get the best of me today. 

It's all so tender, this being human. And writing is so vulnerable, even if it never sees the light of day. Here's to the writers who came out last night to sit under the bright lights and write in community.

Thank you.

You are light spirits. You lifted mine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"Gosh, aren't the daffodils stunning, Dad?"

"Gloriousity," he said.

word for the day: gloriousity

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good With My Time Here

Sam was out running with her dog when she came upon a small tree that had fallen across the path. When she moved the tree, a sudden terrible pain pierced her chest. Somehow she managed to get home to her husband and three children. That same day, she had emergency triple by-pass heart surgery.

When I heard the news, I damn near fell to my knees. 
How could this happen? 
She's young, fit, forty. 
It happened.

I was lucky and this was a freak thing, she wrote in an email. I still have "lots of livin' to do" (to quote Bye Bye Birdie)! I will value that and be good with my time here.

Sam is very lucky and very brave.

Just for today, let's feel very lucky (and very brave) too.  

Repeat after me:

I will be good with my time here
I will be good with my time here.
I will be good with my time here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Within Ourselves

Truth is within ourselves; it takes no rise
From outward things, what'er you may believe.
   There is an inmost center in us all,
      Where truth abides in fullness.

- Robert Browning

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Peace & Blessings

Peace and blessings 

to you 
and your families 
and this sweet old green earth ~


Friday, April 22, 2011

I Have Never Missed

When it's over, it's over, and we don't know 
   any of us, what happens then.
So I try not to miss anything.
I think in my whole life, I have never missed 
   the full moon
or the slipper of its coming back.
or a kiss.
Well, yes, especially a kiss.

- Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Any Questions?

Please discard all other dental riders and keep this version with your important papers...

We are sorry for any confusion we may have caused. Please review the rider carefully. If you have any questions, call our Customer Service department.

Section IV: Limitations and Exclusions

Treatment as a result of, civil insurrection, duty as a member of the armed forces of any state or country, engaging in an act of declared or undeclared war, intentional or unintentional nuclear explosion or other release of nuclear energy, whether in peacetime or wartime is not Covered.

any questions?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day Changer

Drove out through the foggy morning to take Dad to a cat-scan appointment for his neck. 

(The hope is that when we meet with the doctor in May, there will have been significant healing!)

"Hi hon," he said, arms wide open for a hug.
"Hey, Dad."
Then he hands me this card.

You know the drill. I just about wept.

Beaming Dad + small yellow card = day changer.

passing on the love ~

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Before They Come Into The World

Every morning, Claire and I take Chewy for a brisk morning walk down Truman Street before heading to the bus stop. We walk and talk, pausing to let him sniff the grass and leaves so he can find a place to do his business.

"I know he has to go," Claire said. 
She was smiling at me. 
Chewy was sniffing and circling.
"I have a sense about this." 
"I believe you," I said.
"Well, a dog looking for a place to poop is kinda like a kid looking for the right parents."
"You mean, before they come into the world?"
"Yeah, kinda like that," she said.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Make Much Of Your Time

...kiss the earth & be joyful
& make much of your time
& be kindly to everyone,
even to those who do not deserve it.

~ from Notice by Steve Kowit

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Break Into Blossom

...Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom

- from A Blessing by James Wright

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Things Work For You

I was lost in my usual spot on the highway heading down to Pearly's house in New Jersey when I came alongside a van with these words: 

Worry Free.
Things work for you.

...found my exit a couple of miles down the road.

I was never lost to begin with. 

Just in case you're wondering, you're not lost either.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

After Every Heart

The morning phone call went like this:

"Hi Dad! How are you?"
"I'm very happy," he said.

That stopped me. I'm very happy? I can't recall the last time I answered how are you with I'm very happy. 

"Wow, Dad."
"I was telling my physical therapist," he jumped in, "I think her name's Paula. I was telling her about when Snuggy and I were young boys and we'd sing these little songs, maybe at Wednesday evening Bible class, or some other...Do you remember this one?"

And he burst out singing:

I've got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart
down in my heart, down in my heart
I've got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart
Down in my heart to stay!

By the end I was singing along, inserting WHERE? after every HEART because I know this song too. Dad taught us when we were kids. My brothers and I shouting the WHERE with a fervor, mingled with laughter, seeing who could sing in the loudest voice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yellow Things

Today is rainy and cold and dark. 
I need yellow so I've started a list of yellow things. 
Feel free to add to the list. 
Or take five minutes and write your own.
A list can be about anything.
Lists are lifesavers.

the smiley face
a legal pad
Dad's hospital socks with skid things on the bottom
my grandmother's dishes
a vase of tulips
the slide out back by the woodpile
my t-shirt 
a lone golf ball on the kitchen counter
the fridge magnet that says spooning leads to forking.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Watch And Witness

Open the door to all of what comes up.

This is what I tell people during writing or yoga practice.
Sounds like a plan but let's face it. This is difficult. The push to edit our feelings is huge.

I am working on allowing it all to come up.

Sounds like vomiting, I know; some moments feel like that. Others, light as a feather. Easy, no pushing. Then, labor. Then, a white puffy cloud in a blue sky. Then rain.

I am learning, at this late date, to watch and witness. 

"I feel like I'm in labor," I told Michael the other morning.
He looked at me, tilting his head like the dog?

Doors are opening all the time.

This is a good mantra when feeling closed in, antsy and impatient, or believing you are compass-less.

Doors are opening all the time. 

Which brings me back to something I've probably written here before but am being urged (by whom or what?) to repeat ~

hint: the cage is not locked.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pass On The Love

May today there be peace within. 
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

- ?

Occasionally, this quote arrives in my inbox, just when I need it.  Most forwards get deleted, but this one I always read out loud to myself...and let it settle in my bones.

Here's to you on this Monday morning, dear reader. Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, however you're feeling; breathe into it...

pass on the love ~

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dog In Birthday Hat

happy birthday to you
happy birthday to you
happy birthday, dear chewy
happy birthday to you...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Whole Life

Last spring, Claire's foot was a few inches shy of reaching the gas pedal on the John Deere which she desperately wanted to drive.

But it was a growing winter. Today the snow blade came off and Claire climbed on for a test run. Feet reach...Ta da!

Michael said, "Man, they sure do grow."
I said, "Yes, they do."
Claire shouted, "I am so excited! I've been waiting for this my whole life!"

What have you been waiting for your whole life?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dash Like The Wind

"I can dash like the wind, Bean," said Elizabeth. 

Ah, the difference a day makes; from *personal care homes with racks for walkers to wind-dashing...

Can you, Bean? Dash like the wind?

She took off ahead of me up the dirt road along the river, pink arms pumping. Chewy came crashing up behind us with a log in his mouth.

I can dash like the wind.

ps. Green frog boots are helpful, but not essential to wind-dashing.

Okay, your turn...

Fill in the blank for today -

I can _____________________.

*read "Did It Okay"/ April 6, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Did That Okay

Everywhere I look; attachment. 

Fungi, like barnacles on a whale's back, cling to a tree trunk. Patches of mossy-green lichen stamped on wet rocks. Me to my old father who looks me in the eye and says, "I'm settling in here. I'm...", and for a moment pauses, then, "happy. And grateful," he adds.

Why does my heart race when Claire and I walk him to the dining room for the evening meal? We meet Dad's dinner mates; Ed, Jim, and Bob. Bob is curled over himself, but smiling. I shake each of their hands. Bob's are red, worn, crumpled. 

"I hate to go so soon, Dad."
"It's fine, all fine," he says, hugging us goodbye.

"You're awfully quiet," I whisper, leaning into a table of women. They smile, eyes wide, hands clasped on table.

Claire and I pass a rack outside the dining room. 
"Look Mom," she whispers, "like a bike rack, but walkers."
I want to run, but don't.

Pushing out the doors, the air is damp and cold.
"Well, we did that okay, Mom," Claire says.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All The Loveliest

And all the loveliest
  things that there be
Come simply,
  so it seems to me.

 - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

To The Minute

I used to teach yoga in the music room of a nearby elementary school. We'd slide the chairs to the side of the room, spread our mats out, turn the lights down. Actually that's wrong; the light wouldn't turn off. It was an emergency light because the room had no windows. The whole school had no windows. Unless you were in the cafeteria. Otherwise, no windows, like living in a cave. Nobody would know if the sun was out, or sheets of rain were making huge puddles in the parking lot. We'd get the very tall teacher to stand on a desk and cover the one overhead light with a black cloth held up by small magnets. Only then could we sink into the soft darkness of the room, interrupted occasionally by a voice on the loudspeaker.

The walls were plastered with posters of songs, Oh Beautiful for spacious skies, index cards with music words, allegro, fortissimo, interlude, rules for behavior, listen, raise your hand, respect each other, keep your hands to yourself, stay in your seat.

I always arranged my mat by the piano facing the big white marker board, the one with lots of writing on it. I'd get dizzy if I stared too closely, black quarter notes mingling with This Land is your land. 

And this posted near the teacher's desk...

School Schedule
Time 1: 9:10 - 9:52
Time 2: 9:55 - 10:37
Time 3 10:40 - 11:22
Time 4: 1:20 - 2:02
Time 5: 2:05 - 2:47
Time 6: 2:50 - 3:32

How did they figure it down to the minute like that? 

10:37? 2:02?

I'm just wondering.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Not An Emergency

Reading more passages & snippets from old journals...

Opened a random page and found this one for today ~

Life is not an emergency.

(drop your shoulders.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

You're Just Alive

Ever since Thursday, when Dad was moved to a personal care home to continue rehabbing his broken neck, I've been too restless and tired to sit down and write. This restlessness, I know, is born out of my need to figure things out, to make sense of what I'm judging to be a difficult situation. Ditto for the tiredness. 

let go let go let go let go let go let go let go let go

Love yourself, hon! Take care of yourself, Dad said. 

That made me weep.

Dad is settling into his new surroundings.
"What's the alternative?" he said, "To be a whiner? Then they'll come and close my door and where will that get me?" 
He was smiling, leaning back in his chair while I sorted through some of his bills. Michael was hooking up the television. Claire was rummaging through his welcome basket for a snack. The sun was out!

I'm a bowl full of shiny, gold-flecked fishy emotions. One minute, mouth gaping, watching all the old ladies with walkers; 3 Bettys in a row! next, brave and grown-up; shape-shifting by the minute. 

This is why I haven't been writing much. Of course, it's these fishy times when writing is the best thing to do, even if you're gasping for air. Write anyway...

Neeny said, "You're not a mess. And you're not depressed. You're just alive. And so is your Dad. It's so good. Really."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tangled In My Hair

Journal entry/ 2003

Bill lived in Bernardsville. I drove home with him one Christmas on my way to NYC. His small bird sat on my head the whole way, tiny feet tangled in my hair.

Bill was dark, Italian, handsome, gay. 

He's dead now.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tiniest House

When you look for me, you will see me instantly - you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

- Kabir