Monday, December 19, 2011

Could Not Contain the Joy

Raised in a musically-inclined, church-going family has placed me amidst Christmas music and Christmas Services my entire life. I've experienced it all. From tiny church programs as full of sincerity as they were short on talent, to huge extravaganzas full of talent and seemingly full of pride as well, and everything in-between. I've enjoyed most of them, some very very much. There are many ways to tell the Story of Christmas.

But last night, ah, last night I experienced something different for me, something deep, true, transcendent.

Was it helping to festively decorate the rented church where our little band of Jesus Followers meets?

Was it new and old friends dressed in Christmas cheer, relaxed, happy, together?

Was it sweet children at the microphone perfectly reciting Bible passages?

Was it the small but excellent adult choir, short on practice time but, oh, so long on beautiful talent, precision, volume, and heart? A cappella! Better than any big-church choir - with or without full orchestra - I've ever heard! Perfect and goose-bump producing. Heart-massaging music. Bravo!

Was it Jack Crabtree's insightful reflections on the Christmas Season, resonating with my own heart, giving me not only affirmation of thoughts recently mulled, but more wisdom and truth to ponder? How I love to ponder the things of God, especially during this pensive time of year!

Was it Andrew Robinson leading congregational Christmas Carols with his enthusiastically strong/mellow voice and confident guitar playing, accompanied by Kris Campbell's smooth violin?

Was it the well-prepared - and adorable! - Children's Choir imploring us to Go, Tell It On the Mountain, and asking us to stand and join the chorus at the very end?

Was it Bob Blanchard's eagerness as he invited all to the Fellowship Hall for the Soup and Bread meal provided afterwards?

Was it overflowing joy in the form of salty tears sending me to the Ladies' Room in order to 'gather myself' before dining, only to find two other women similarly teary-eyed and 'gathering'? Hugs!!

Was it the aroma of fresh bread and three flavors of hot soup, of chilled raw veggies, and steaming hot pots of coffee? Was it the endless stretch of colorful desserts prepared and shared by our families?

Was it the merriment at the long tables decorated with white-cloths, evergreen garlands, berries, sugar-pine cones, and flickering crystal votives? The laughter, the conversations, the heartfelt sharing of harder parts of life, the understanding, consoling, cheer, sympathy, and empathy?

Was it verbal and physical hugs from friends old and new?

Was it the soft touch and fresh, clean smell of three-month old baby twins' heads?

Was it promises to get together to 'just chill' after holidays greeted with YES!?

Was it satisfied afterglow chattings while clean-up was underway?

Was it the invitations to friends to continue discussions at our home, the friends who followed us to stand before our tall Christmas Tree and pick out a candy cane before more hilarity as well as deep talks ensued, the kids in one room for a Christmas movie and energetic companionship, the adults in another room, palms around hot mugs of Jasmine tea, reflecting on Jack's words and more?

It was all of those things for each and all are simply...


While love has been experienced at other Christmas church services, last night was purer, somehow. Maybe my heart is more tender after a difficult year. Maybe it's my effort to make new friends rather than wait for them to come to me. Maybe it's the old and new combined, making a richer tapestry. Maybe it's spiritual growth, absorbing more meaning than before. Probably it is all of these. Definitely the experience was needed and is received with gratitude.

May our God - who is Love - make Himself known to you in small and large ways, and may your Home be a Safe and Trusting place now and in the future.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Blindly Rushing Past Beauty

‎"In Washington DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. 

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ...

How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?"

~~from Dr. Caroline Leaf's Facebook Page

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Whispering Shout

Vibrant and outstandingly different from the colors surrounding it, this leaf rubber-necked my attention just now.

To have that sort of influence, what a gift. To capture attention. To invigorate. To dispel the dull and ordinary with beauty and boldness. To surprise, quietly, with loveliness.

To such an existence I aspire. Not that I want attention for attention sake, no, but to be a vessel of awakening in this tired, worn-out culture with its gray background and forlorn heart.

Willing, I am.

Capable? Time will tell.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Free the Little Children

"Alarmingly, recess is vanishing in many primary schools. Kinder-garteners are expected to acquire 'prelearning skills' before they even get to primary school. In Sweden they have a very different approach. There, preschool children are encouraged to play and relax without any structured learning for the first six years of their lives. They go for nature walks every day, even in the bitter Scandinavian winter. They are not taught to read until they are seven years of age, yet by the age of ten, Swedish children consistently lead European literacy rankings." From 10 Mindful Minutes, by Goldie Hawn 
When I first began to homeschool my firstborn, twenty-five years ago, I enlisted the wisdom of my grandmother, a long-time teacher and remedial reading tutor. She encouraged me, "Late is better than early. The ones who start school later - even as late as eight years old - catch up and often surpass those who began 'on time.' The kids who begin at four or five burn out by the time they reach middle school. Those who begin later - at seven or eight - go the distance without burnout."

I wonder what Grandma would say to the early-age starters of today? Kids are in pre-school at two and three years old! It boggles the mind.

I thank God for Grandma's wisdom which has proven itself over time.

Please, if you have little ones, let them be little. Let them walk the garden, explore, breathe, relax, play. Far more is learned in this way than in the confines of a flat-walled room full of artificial smells, shapes, and colors. Nothing beats the wind on the face, sunshine, mist, warmth and chill, and all the living overhead and underfoot that life offers to fresh little beings.


And when they are not in the garden or park let them relax, follow you around, help you carry their socks to their rooms, nap, sit on your lap to listen to your voice as you read to them or sing little songs.

Simplify your life.

For the children's sake.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Summer's Over, Face the Music

My family and I stalled as long as we could before we lit the first fire. One evening last week when Caroline and I were home alone, we looked at each other and knew. It was time.

"It's so cold."


Tom and I had everything ready for the first fire of autumn. Kindling, firewood, ashes cleaned out of the stove.

Once we had a fire going, well, it felt really really good.

Haven't needed one again for a few days. When we do, it will nice then, too, and less traumatic.

Hard to let summer go, you know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Summer's End

I think today was the last real day of summer for our fair valley. Eighty-four degrees, blue sky.

Caroline Weeds
I told my family I was going to spend the day outside. And I did. Herbs were harvested along with tomatoes, green beans, and the last of the sugar snap peas. Then the beans and pea plants were uprooted, their short, wire protectors removed. The tomato/lettuce garden was relieved of weeds thanks to daughter, Caroline.

Then, I watered my flowers, wondering if it was for the last time. There was a lot of love there, in that gesture.

Not wanting to let go of the last blue-sky-golden-sun day I grabbed the cushion from the chaise, dropped it to the freshly cut lawn, slid sunglasses over my eyes, and stretched out to receive the nourishing rays. Glory! Above me green maple leaves gently swayed on graceful branches catching the afternoon breeze, lulling.  Fuzzy honey bees dipped, and floated.

Half an hour into my reverie I rolled over onto my stomach and began running my fingers through the grass. Thin blades thickly gathered, soften my steps, delight my senses. Hard to believe the days of plopping down to sunbathe have reached their end. Soon the lawn will be soggy, the sky gray, the air cold.

Lamentations rocked back and forth in my head. I don't want summer to end. I've had such fun this year! I'm not ready, not ready, not ready.

Sigh. Deep, long, loud, sigh.

Could it be, I muse, that summer was fun because of something inside of me? A thing that remains? A little attitude, perchance, that may infuse itself into my autumn as well? Yes, that's entirely possible. 

In that case, here's to autumn, to possibility, to keeping myself open to discovery!

Greetings, Autumn! What will you teach me?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pick a Salad, Any Salad

Grabbing my basket from atop the refrigerator I head through the house and out the side door where lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, peas, beans, blueberries, pumpkins, and herbs grow. I realize I'm smiling.

"I LOVE picking salads from the soil!" I exclaim to no one at all. Bending low to the ground I slide my hand into ruffled greens; a thumbnail gently severs first one leaf, then another. Into the basket they go. Today raindrops from a night's quiet drizzle crisped the four varieties of lettuce where they stood. "Perfect!" Peering through sheltering vines I spy three perfectly ripened tomatoes, easily pluck them, add them to my heaping container of greens. Plus basil, chives, and peas. Delicious!

Realization that this garden grows and feeds us because my family and I plant and work it amazes me, makes me happy.

An explanation for my joy is found in my friend, James', recent Facebook post:
‎"Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression."
While I never knew the scientific reason for my sustained garden happiness, I have always known there is something good and magical out there, in the dirt.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Filling

Fragile human beings. Overloaded and under energized. Sometimes life beats us up. Badly. But the faithful keep going in the face of darkness, through the gloom. Belief in change and eventual relief sustain until a finger points to God restoring balance and deep breath. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

Dispirited shuffling around a corner, eyes on carpet, mind foggy. "Lift your head."

From beyond just washed windows, rising in black sky above a sharply pitched neighboring roof glows - almost loudly - a crater-shadowed, intensely orange full moon. Huge.

Instant clarity and focus. A mind swimming in fear, doubt, and pain suddenly remembers purpose, beauty, realness. And God.

Who is always there.

Especially when situations seem hopeless.

He reminds me that hope remains, along with love. My love for Him. His love for me. Through it all and forever.

Strength enough. For right now.

All in that golden glow that affirms for me that there is something much much larger than my little problems.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Old Friend, This Blog

One season passed since I've posted.

Family, friends, vegetables, flowers, kayaking, hiking, canoeing, swimming in lakes, bike riding, tennis, festivals, food, and laughing. So much good laughing. Good crying, too, shared and bubbled up from hearts grown warm with love in moments tender.

Renewed I pick up where June left off. Caroline and I embrace fresh studies together. Just as my shoulders surged with power while pulling and pushing a canoe oar through summer waters clear and deep, my mind rises to the challenge of new ideas, words, phrases, and disciplines. Trigonometry, government, economics, physics, the history of painting lure me into worlds vast and different. Desire to dig into and move through places unexplored energizes me.

French language resumption finds an elastic mind snapping back, recalling a language unused for a quarter of a year. Muscle memory. Feels good, powerful, natural. Challenging.

Refreshment removes tension's blockage, allows freedom of thought, the ability to concentrate, embrace, enjoy.

Experiences varied and vast awaken thought to analogy, metaphor, simile.

Summer behind, autumn, winter, and spring ahead to capture observation, color, sound, texture, temperature, taste, and spirit.

It's good to be back here, dancing with you, old friend.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I am in love with languages, particularly English, Italian, and French.

My goal is to reach fluency in at least Italian or French before I die. Preferably both. I am a long long way from my goal.

Indeed, the journey is most enjoyable. I am in no hurry. My pleasure spurs me on.

Just now I have completed the Rosetta Stone French Course, Level One. Tingly with excitement, as though I've won a gold medal.


My Completion certificate for French, Level One joins my Italian, Level One certificate earned this spring.

On to French, Level Two.

The training begins!


Monday, May 23, 2011

May Sunrise

Golden sunbeams finger into the yard outside my bedroom window illuminating flowers, shrubs, trees, glinting sparkles off a window-silled, petite jar of three-year old lavender long-since carefully plucked and dried from my garden. Flowing white sheer curtains lift and billow in the gentle breeze. I push them aside, view the lovingly planted yard beyond my window. Birch trees to remind of Colorado. An azalea from Tom's dad's funeral. Poppies Cassie planted for their silky orange petals. A peony from Grandma's Idaho home. The tawny fence Tom built.

Lifting the lavender bottle in my fingers I carefully uncork it. Old, faded lavender buds quickly release delicious fragrance as pure and potent as new plump, vivid purple buds. Eyes shut, lips curve into relaxed smile.

Comparison. Just as elderly people lose the bloom of youth, fading into tiny, wrinkled, stiff beings so do aged lavender buds appear less potent, less useful. But therein lies deception. For aged lavender and human beings hold powerful gifts. Magic. Just as dried lavender's aroma remains strong, soothing, and sensual, the wisdom of our beloved elders releases into our lives offerings plentiful, aid comforting, encouragement and insight matured from when youth's dew smoothed now crinkly skin.

Lavender buds spill onto my sheets. Each breath reminds of bygone summers, of summer fast approaching. The past reaches out timelessly, infusing the present with its lovely glory, pointing gracefully to a not-quite budding future.

Beloved aged-ones come to mind, their gentleness and quiet strength pulse rhythmically, caressing my heart though they are far away. May my life's late years offer perfumes of experience, wisdom, and beauty, fingers of hope wafting through time, gifts offered from gifts received.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slow Revisited

"In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts. Boredom - the word itself hardly existed 150 years ago - is a modern invention. Remove all stimulation, and we fidget, panic and look for something, anything, to do to make use of the time. When did you last see someone just gazing out the window on a train? Everyone is too busy reading the paper, playing video games, listening to iPods, working on the laptop, yammering into mobile phones. [Add texting, Facebook, and Twitter here.]

Instead of thinking deeply, or letting an idea simmer in the back of the mind, our instinct now is to reach for the nearest sound bite. In modern warfare, correspondents in the field and pundits in the studio spew out instant analyses of events as they occur. Often their insights turn out to be wrong. But that hardly matters nowadays; in the land of speed, the man with the instant response is king. With satellite feeds and twenty-four-hour news channels, the electronic media is dominated by what one French sociologist dubbed 'le fast thinker' - a person who can, without skipping a beat, summon up a glib answer to any question.

The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. In Los Angeles, a man starts a fire at a supermarket checkout because the customer ahead of him is taking too long to pack his groceries. A woman scratches the paintwork of a car that beats her to a parking spot in London. A company executive tears into a flight attendant when his plane is forced to spend an extra twenty minutes circling Heathrow airport before landing. 'I want to land now!' he shouts, like a spoiled child. 'Now, now, now!' ~~Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed
I come back to Carl's book again and again as the Cult of Speed rudely, vulgarly tries to stick its nose into my life.

In my neighborhood park, on a wooden bench, under a tall decorative walkway lamp, in the last remaining light of the evening sat a thirty-something woman. Smartly dressed, posture straight yet comfortable, her thumb between the pages of a closed book in her hand, she pondered. Right there in the park, surrounded by flowers, evergreens, expansive lawn, sunset's first glow, and amidst people she sat thinking, mulling, lost in thought. Her face relaxed, pleasant. I smiled at her, she smiled and nodded at me. She seemed at peace yet somehow out of place as the world scurried. At the same time she was the most in-place, sensible, real part of the landscape. Engaged in life as opposed to driven by it.

I think of her often and am encouraged. The Cult of Speed lost that day. The woman won.

And so did I.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunny Tuesday

After a cold - for us - night with temps in the low 30's, today dawned azure and misty. The mist surrendered to the blue. Our closet rattled. The tennis rackets and balls wanted out, to play.


I have to say, I do feel sorry for people who have to work inside on days like today. A cubicle, office, or any building must seem like a prison when the sun bathes a perfect spring day. Flowering trees, bushes, and bulbs in yards and parks. Delicious air, ebullient scenery.

Exuberance! Tom and I on the court whooping when we slice an excellent return, chuckling when we goof. Across the park that way a group of young men similarly whoop and laugh, breaking into impulsive back-slapping and noogie-giving. Over the other way another group of kids laugh on the baseball diamond, suddenly, energetically wrestling each other to the ground, legs and arms sticking out from a mass of joyful grunts and victorious proclamations. More impulsive back-slapping.

Leisure spent with neighbors in the pursuit of pleasant sports lifts spirits and calms bodies. Friendliness, sweat, courtesy, fun.

Afterwards, my tennis partner and I share a bistro lunch together, then off to work, Tom to his job, I to mine. Both of us thoroughly enjoy our occupations. Most of the time.

Today, my work consists of tutoring my youngest in geometry, then allowing her the pleasure of tutoring me in French. Outside. On the sun porch. Amidst awakening strawberry plants, California poppies, oregano, lavender, sage, and chrysanthemums.

Below is a photo of my tutor. While cradling our French text, Caroline enjoys a grissini (Italian crispy breadstick) from the school-restaurant where Cassie learns her culinary arts. She and I ate there yesterday, in the Renaissance Room, with Cassie as our waitress.

I hope where ever you are that you make time for fun with those you love, that you open yourself up to serendipity, that life gives you a special and good surprise today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Common Art

Taking the jar off the frozen tomatoes from my freezer exposed this little ice sculpture. Fascinating. Stopping, stooping to get a closer look, marveling at the intricacy and beauty, all this left a question in my mind. Do other people stop and ponder life's seemingly ordinary occurrences the way I do? I wonder. So many lovely things, right under my nose, right in my hands. Like the bubbles in the sink as I wash dishes, silky, tickling, popping, each bubble displaying a rainbow of color.

Like sharp, cold, glistening ice crystals forming above frozen tomatoes.

Simple things. Beautiful things. Everyday things.


Please click on the photos to see the ice crystals more clearly. They are so pretty, and amazing.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tennis, Anyone?

My Aunt Joyce never stops learning. She never stops, at all. After she turned forty she learned to fly an airplane. She also took up golf, and tennis. And those are just the hobbies I know about. Forever my role model, I think of dear Auntie Joyce every time I pick up my tennis racket.

Every. Single. Time.

Naturally I thought of her this morning when Tom and I gathered our rackets and two bags of tennis balls from the closet. We practiced serving today and even had a few good volleys going by the time we were ready to stop.

We've played on and off, mostly off. Things get in the way, you know. Kids. Jobs. Yardwork. Housework. Oregon rain. Life.

But we decided this will be the summer of tennis! Perhaps we'll even work up to playing a game someday.

Like any discipline - whether work or play - practice is the key. I have to practice baking to learn to get it right, and cooking, and teaching. And tennis.

Tom and I had a blast today. At one point, after a good volley, Tom said, "That was good practice." I responded with, "It's all practice. And it's all fun." We laughed.

Life is full of delights. Pick a few. Like Aunt Joyce.

And practice.

(Incidentally, my aunt played tennis for nearly forty years. In her mid-80's her doctor recommended she stop after a fall on the tennis court. She groused about it but didn't want to risk becoming hurt and gumming up the good life she carries on with Uncle Floyd. Wise move, Auntie. She's still learning, though. A very high-tech octogenarian.)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Today is Farmer's Market day for our family.

Aisles and booths of beautiful food await us. We see, we smell, we savor. We select. Into our basket go the freshest most delicious vegetables, herbs, meats, eggs, and fruit. Vivid colors, varied textures, greens, reds, yellows. Ruffly lettuce, smooth duck, geese, and chicken eggs, sleek green and white leeks, pungent chives, cilantro, and parsley, crunchy orange carrots, red chili peppers ripe for heating a tongue, lifting a smile.

As we carry our precious cargo home enthusiastic sharing ensues. Ideas about egg dishes, soups, salads, savory meats rubbed with herbs are cheerily blurted. Senses stimulated with the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of the edibles enrich our food experience even as they will soon invigorate our bodies.

A quote from Mireille Guiliano comes to mind.
The best cook in the world can't make good food from poor ingredients; and it takes some perverse genius to turn great ingredients into bad food. Good food responds best to the simplest preparation; you really can't go wrong when you start with quality.
The Farmer's Market, bringing the best of the earth to our kitchen table.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Be the Reason for the Smile

My cousin sent this our way. Thought it a good story and a wonderful attitude to mark down in my blog, to remember. Hope it inspires you.
"A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign that said: 'I am blind, please help.' There were only a few coins in the hat.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.

Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were.

The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, 'Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?'

The man said, 'I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way. I wrote: Today is a beautiful day; but I cannot see it.'

Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign reminded people how fortunate they were to have their sight.

Should we be surprised that the second sign was more effective?

The Moral of the Story:

Be thankful for what you have. Be creative. Be innovative. Think differently and positively. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, show life that you have 1000 reasons to smile. Face your past without regret. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear. Keep the faith and drop the fear. It's a beautiful thing to see a person smiling. But even more beautiful is knowing that you are the reason for the smile! Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bright, Bright, Sunshiny Day

With the warm and sun comes energy! It's marvelous.

Tom and I juiced the last of our stored autumn apples which we'd picked at the farm last October. Oh my! Equal in taste to the juice squeezed right there on the farm all those months ago. Amazing flavor.

Bright idea? Pour a little of that sweet nectar around the roasting sage/garlic/lemon zested pork chops. Yes!

Add to the pork a little pile of homemade egg noodles dressed with homegrown, homemade pesto from last fall. Mercy me!

And it was so quick and easy.

Spring Break plus sunshine and the creativity flows.

I even washed from the car the grime of a thousand winter trips.

Welcome, Spring. You are most appreciated!

Monday, March 21, 2011

With My Own Two Hands

With no school to teach, no driving to and fro, my time is my own during this Spring Break Monday.

To the kitchen I go! A hankering to bake French Bread from an old family recipe - recently found - has been realized. The loaves are rising to the warmth of the wood stove.

The hankering was not completely assuaged with the forming of bread. No, noodles beckoned. Homemade Egg Noodles, to be exact, made Old Style with a countertop, my hands, a rolling pin, and a sharp knife. The slender pasta rests and dries on wire racks. Tomorrow they will be added to Cassie's fresh made elk stock and other ingredients to create Beef Stroganoff.

This is my love. Creating. Expressing myself. Bringing smiles to the faces of family and friends and contentment to their bodies through the sharing and eating of good food made with love.

The house smells heavenly and I am satisfied.

So is my hankering.

For now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Cares of routine evaporate quickly!

Fun bubbles with enthusiastic giggles.

Places to visit. People to play with.

Supermoons that mesmerize, foods that brighten, hugs of love, kisses of warmth.

Frisky pup.

Colorspots of flowers shoot forth. Delightful!

Quiet phone.

Happy children in park stop and chat, excited for Freedom.

Long-time neighbor friend, relaxes, smiles, shares a gentle greeting.

Carefree evenings, leisurely mornings.

Uncluttered mind. Time to choose or not.

Meditation without stopwatch.

Living unfettered.

Ten Days. Spring Break!

How I love thee.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

May your day be merry, full of the Luck o' the Irish. May laughter bubble up out of your belly, and may your belly be full of good Irish food.

And most of all, may you be ever gratefull for the good things that surround you. There is always something for which to be thankful!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stir the Soup

A zen monk once said: When you stir the soup, stir the soup. When you wash your hands, wash your hands. When you listen to your friend, listen to your friend.

So often our minds wander among a variety of thoughts, most of which are about things not directly in front of us. We are stirring the soup with our hands but our minds are a million miles away, pondering the past, the future, the To-Do List.

Today I absent-mindedly kissed Tom good-bye before I headed out the door and he turned back to eating his lunch. There was some place I had to be, so I left. Then I remembered, when you stir the soup, stir the soup. I turned around on the walkway to the car and headed back to the house. I found Tom. I told him about stirring the soup.

"I kissed you, but I didn't really kiss you. I was thinking about all that I was about to do and all that I have to do later."

We kissed.

And it felt very very good. Each of our faces genuinely smiled with contentment. A moment realized.

From now on I hope to remember to stir the soup when I'm stirring the soup, to wash my hands when I'm washing my hands, to listen to my friend when I'm listening to my friend, and to kiss my husband when I'm kissing my husband.

It can only make life more peaceful, more meaningful, and much more pleasant.

Stir the soup!

Sincere Realness

Yesterday I heard a monk speaking about an experience he had when he was the chef in a monastery. He'd begun to feel his age, wondered at his usefulness. He was all of 45 at the time. While working at meal-making in the orderly, peaceful kitchen he noticed the shelf of large, metal tea kettles. They'd been in service a long time. "They were ample, round, merry, and a bit banged-up but still they supplied their purpose faithfully. Dents and all. I realized one could apply thick amounts of wax into the dents and scratches, polish the kettles up, and make them look new. But then they couldn't be used, the wax would melt and what a mess. I realized at that moment that those kettles, with their dents and scratches, were sincere. They were real. And I with my wrinkles and imperfections - really though, imperfect compared to what? - am still fulfilling my purpose, growing, learning, and offering a service to my fellow human beings. Dents and wrinkles are real, sincere, they testify that something has been around awhile. I thought, 'If those merry kettles can keep at it, well, so can I.'"

I like that. For a couple of reasons. First, I like the idea that my wrinkles, gray hair, and scars are testimonies that I've been here awhile and have done things. I've smiled, and slept, and burned my hands while cooking. I fell off my bike, and broke a glass door with my elbow. My hair is graying, my hands have arthritis. But I am still useful, can still ride my bike, can offer my take on 54 years of walking this planet.

The second thing I'm drawn to in the monk's observation is the idea of sincerity, realness. When I think of tea kettles masked in wax and polish, unusable, I think of the things we do to ourselves that mask our sincerity, and often times render our experience, wisdom, and talent hidden and useless out of fear that we won't measure up should the real be revealed. Things we do to our bodies, our homes, the formation of attitudes that are not our own but absorbed from others, the aping of behavior in order to 'fit in', the things we insecurely keep to ourselves which, if offered to the world, could make a good difference.

It seems to me that we as a society are doing an incredible disservice to ourselves in our inability to embrace what is sincere.

Today, I have a fresh perspective on my dented, scratched pots and pans. Old friends, they are, and I shall never be ashamed to pull them out of the cupboard in front of guests while I prepare a special meal. And I shall never be ashamed of my laugh lines, my sleep crevices, my crooked fingers, and my gray hair. I am still merry and useful.

And so are you!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Gentle Washing of the Brain Can Be a Good Thing

Will skepticism hurt your brain? No, but cynicism will. Skepticism implies open-mindedness and the willingness to suspend judgment until both sides of an argument are considered, and this enhances neural functioning, particularly in the frontal lobes. A cynic, however, is a person who has taken their disbelief to a point of emotional distrust and rejection that borders on hostility toward the other point of view. This 'limbic' personality is pessimistic and is so neurologically dangerous it can even shorten your life.

Unfortunately, as far as the brain is concerned, negative speech has a stronger effect than positive speech. Negative remarks and memories are more strongly encoded in the brain, and they are the most difficult memories to eradicate. In fact, simply being around negative people will make you more prejudiced, because listening to negative opinions can easily undermine your positive opinions about virtually anything.

Being around negative people and/or listening to angry speech causes the brain to mirror the angry content, it emotionally reacts to the harsh, angry, or contemptuous faces of those around us with equal harshness, anger, or contempt. Simply reading emotionally evocative words stimulates the brain in ways that resemble the encoding of traumatic memories. The brain thinks it's really happening and retains the input as such.

Even watching violence on the news, or taking in a violent movie, will make us feel more angry, aggressive, negative, and powerless. Same thing when listening to songs with hostile lyrics even if the song is meant to be humorous. Violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults.

...our brains are designed to mimic the emotional expressions of others. Not only does this allow us to feel what others feel, but it causes what is known as 'emotional contagion,' a universal neurological process whereby subjective feelings are transferred to other people and spread through social groups. So, how fast does it take the brain to react to another person's emotion? When you see an angry expression, it takes less than one second for your brain to respond with fear.

Experience informs that this is all true. Constant bombardment of 'news' has wreaked havoc on our society. People are literally losing themselves to the anger, violence, fear, and political malice constantly pumped into our radios, televisions, periodicals, and computers. Frightening. Formerly sane people become aggressive news-zombies. They gather and emote, quoting their leaders, the talking heads and political forces who spoon-feed them, transforming thinking people into emotionally reactive drones. No matter how you look at it, exposure to, or expression of, any form of anger is hazardous, not only to the health of the individual, but to society as well.

We are not only bludgeoned with negativity from the media in all its forms. Seems negativity is everywhere we go; church, school, shopping centers, doctors' offices, banks. Is there a place that doesn't exert pressure on us to have an emotional response in order to goad us into capitulating to their 'desire for us?' Fear of hell without the comprehension of heaven. Fear of ignorance without the understanding of wisdom. Fear of losing status without the knowledge of self-respect. Fear of ill-health without information or realistic hope. Fear of poverty without the grasp of wealth's burden. We are coerced into fear, our brains react accordingly, and before we know it we are behaving unreasonably, though we are certain we are quite sane. We are feeling, not thinking. Emotions are fairweather friends, unsteady, unpredictable, undependable.

Reacting from fear is unbalanced. When we allow ourselves to be goaded thusly, we make mistakes. We must take back our minds, our whole minds. We must allow our brains to function as they were designed to function, with integration. We will still make mistakes, but at least they will be more along the lines of educated mistakes rather than strictly fear-based. If we can turn down the fearful negativity, opportunities for solutions will not only be more apparent, but more easily and quickly accessible. We can climb out of our default mode of being cattle-chute manipulated by unreasonable fear.

One of the story lines in C. S. Lewis' Narnia series which sticks with me best is the idea of the Narnian trees who forgot they were free to move around, to dance, to interact. Every now and then a Narnian would get the feeling that one of the trees was beginning to remember, to awaken. It made Lucy sad that the trees were asleep in the light and glory of Narnia.

We are asleep, too, and it makes me sad. We are allowing fear-based spells to still us, to dull and change us into who we don't want to be.

Acceptance of who we really are - human beings with strengths and weaknesses - coupled with compassion can begin the long process of awakening ourselves to factual thinking. And it must come from within, from each of us unplugging from the IV drip of doom. Anger - as a form of communication and dialogue - never works. It can injure our brains. Jesus didn't amass followers through fear but through truth, hope, and love in all its forms.

Compassion and forgiveness can heal those brain structures damaged by anger. Kindness. Attention. Sensitivity. Voices low and slow. Patience. Respect. Refraining from sarcasm, name-calling, swearing, belittling, and threats. Forgiveness. Self-awareness to be able to sense rising emotions in order to take proper precautions. Awareness of non-verbal communication in yourself and others that can serve as comfort or warning. Taking equal responsibility, working together, problem solving. Remember, a person needs to hear five compliments before he or she can listen nondefensively to a criticism.

A little mindfulness, awareness, thinking for oneself, whatever you want to call it will be a pleasant beginning. It won't change the world today. The Middle East will still be in turmoil. The U.S. will still have more debt than our brains can fathom. Gas will still be way too expensive. China will still be afraid of the Dalai Lama. Republicans will still battle Democrats. Some preachers will still try to scare the hell out of you. Health costs will still be obscene.

But. But. But in our everyday lives we will come to remember that, yes, we are free to move around, to interact. We can dance. Whenever we want to. With anyone who will join us no matter what their religious beliefs or lack thereof, no matter their political views, no matter their station in life, their age, their education, their health. We can dance. Everyday. The dance of kindness. The dance of inclusion and respect. The gift of the dance is the power of the people to take back their minds and to become a force of wisdom against an angry negativity.

We are the people.



And unite.

One family, one couple, one person at a time

(Italics are exerpts from Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman's book, How God Changes Your Brain)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Always Room for Forgiveness

We do not really know how to forgive until we know what it is to be forgiven.  
Therefore we should be glad that we can be forgiven by others. It is our  
forgiveness of one another that makes the love of Jesus manifest in our lives,  
for in forgiving one another we act towards one another  
as He has acted towards us. ~~Thomas Merton
To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive 
untold peace and happiness. ~~Robert Muller

It is freeing to become aware that we do not have to be victims of our past  
and can learn new ways of responding. But there is a step beyond  
this recognition... It is the step of forgiveness. Forgiveness is love  
practiced among people who love poorly. It sets us free without  
wanting anything in return. ~~Henri Nouwen

You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstances instead 
of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than 
angry with him.  You tend to have nothing left to remember to say about it all.  You understand the suffering that drove 
the offense to begin with. You are not waiting for anything. 
You are not wanting anything.  There is no lariat snare around 
your ankle stretching from way back there to here.  You are 
free to go.  It may not have turned out to be a happily ever after, but most certainly there is now a fresh Once Upon 
a Time waiting for you from this day forward. ~~Pinkola-Estes

To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee. ~~William H. Walton

Forgiveness is the scent that the rose leaves on 
the heel that crushes it. ~~Anonymous

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Tuesday in February

So many things coming at me all the time. All. The. Time. Keeping up is a challenge, but usually one I confidently manage. Thank God.

However, sometimes steamrolling happens. And tumbling as in the ocean's surf. Too much in my brain; clutter, seemingly impossible-to-solve problems. My limbic system is overloaded. Fear, panic, confusion, distress, anger.

This morning exhaustion reminds me that I need to rest and re-evaluate and for good reasons. Not only will I fail at constructively moving forward in my life, but my body will abruptly stop me if I don't take the time to relieve the log-jam in my mind.

So, I stop. I go back to bed after dropping precious daughter off at school in the early morning hours.

And I sleep the sleep of the just. I devour the sensation. My brain works out my problems while my body comfortably rests and restores in a sweet-smelling bed, in a sunlit room. Two hours. In the end I dream of a beautiful, white room, walled with clear, sun-streaming windows, a sparkling, wide-stretching wood floor, smooth and perfectly clean. Empty of furniture. It is an image of my mind. Stillness, loveliness, order replace confusion. Serenity. Relief.

The problems that unsettle me no longer do. Smiling a silly, happy smile I yawn, dress, chuckle. Life makes sense again. I feel like cooking a meal, like teaching algebra, like studying my current topics, like washing the towels, like being cheerful, patient, and kind.

What a difference ceasing makes, allowing my depleted body and mind to sort, organize, and rest. Catch-up.

The day is calm, quiet, productive, nourishing.

Thank God.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Secrets and Sadness

We all have secrets, of this I am most certain. Who can fully know our minds? Our hearts? Our inmost desires and dreams? Our pain?

Some happy secrets shoot out of us like sunbeams through stormclouds. More frightening secrets tend to fester deep and angry like cancer.

Some secrets heal us, some slowly kill.

The secret to secrets is to know when the secret is destructive before the damage is irreparable. To know and to act. To act and to share. To share, to become vulnerable, to cry, to share some more, to allow another to carve away a chunk of secret in order to carry that portion for you. To let go.

To simplify.

To allow time to heal what we ourselves are powerless to tend.

To trust that our Benevolent God is working carefully, knitting what looks like an utter, knotty mess into something beautiful, somewhere, for someone.

To stand and not fall. To maybe waver, but stand. To trust when all control is out of our hands, when we stand naked in the howling storm of situation, wind-whipped, drenched, mud-spattered. We stand.

We just stand.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


Contemplation can be defined as paying attention. It is about a way of seeing. We live in a world today where we are deluged with information. The emails come in. The mobiles ring. A text here. A website there. Excited by the process, we can all too easily become people who are skimming over the surface of life. John Naish has described our condition as infobesity, seeing it as a different sort of fatness and producing profound stress. There is a sense that we need to slow down, to settle and pay attention to things in a new sort of way.~~Chris Sunderland, The Dream that inspired the Bible
Recently Cecily posted this quote over on her blog. My Tassie friend and I are often on the same wavelength even while we are in opposite seasons. It's kind of fun and sort of mystical how that works.

I shall let the quote speak for itself, and allow you, dear reader, to ponder it with me.

Saturday, January 01, 2011


Happy Fresh Start!!

I love the blank slate that I realize when I awaken on January First. It's just another day, sure, but we humans are benefited by the notion of resetting our personal clocks. Feels hopeful, somehow, like we can junk all the bad stuff and start anew.

Works for me!

So far, so good.

Lasagna on the way, sunshine beaming down, happy chattering sounds of kids in the other room, and the pup is curled up in bed resting.

Good omens, all.

Let's make it a good one, eh?