June 27, 2006

Michi's Poem Title Generator

Pictured above is Michi's magical Poem Title Generator. You plug in some words (via her questionnaire), and out pops a poem title. All you have to do thereafter is write the poem.

Can't resist. Here are my answers:

I) Tuesday
II) Cairo
III) SheWho's The Earth Will Turn Over, Paul Simon's Surprise, and the Barbra Streisand recording of Hello, Dolly!
IV) e (there's a reason I don't wear open-toe shoes)
V) a - Merman
b - the hills are alive
c - tintinitis
VI) d (Ryme Intrinseca)

VII) a (To Help the Monkey Cross the River)

Whatcha got, Michi?

Update: According to Michi's magical machine, the title of my poem is "The Merman Attempts To Cross the River." Hmmmm...

(Image courtesy of the talented Wednesday Law.)

June 25, 2006

The Forgiveness Muscle

I first started thinking about my emotional landscape in muscular terms when I returned to regularly attending Quaker Meeting for Worship one fall after having taken the summer “off.”

I came to Quakerism as a spiritual refugee after being made to feel unwelcome in my family’s original faith community (long story).

And even though there are now few places where I feel more at home than in a Meetinghouse (that's my current one above), it took some getting used to. The kind of worship that Meetings here in the mid-Atlantic region practice is called “unprogrammed.” This means, among other things, that we arrive at Meeting and sit in expectant silence. And that sometimes, the silence lasts for a full hour.

When I first started attending Meeting, the hour felt like an eternity. I had a terrible case of what practitioners of meditation aptly call “Monkey Mind.” I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, or, worse, like I must be doing something wrong.

But slowly, slowly, week by week, year by year, I started to become more comfortable. My mind and spirit quieted down. I started to feel less like an imposter. So I was a bit taken aback when I returned to Meeting in the fall that year and felt like I was right back where I’d started. I recognized the feeling.

“I’m out of shape!” I thought, and that’s when the idea of spiritual flabbiness came alive for me.

When our son D was born, I immediately started bringing him to Meeting for Worship. Those Meetings spent with a tiny baby sleeping and snuffling in my arms may not have been among my most centered, but there was a different quality to the peace in the room.

When he was two, I talked with D about what people did in Meeting for Worship and brought him in, letting him stay for as long as he could be (relatively) quiet. (Some days, this was about two minutes, but we kept trying.) When he was three we started working on being quiet AND still (pretty much impossible, but a worthy goal)!

Now, as an almost five year-old, D has a developing sense of himself as a child of God, and he knows that he’s unusually good at being quiet and still when he puts his mind to it. “I have good quiet muscles,” he’ll say, and he’s right... he's up to about 20 minutes at a time now, I think.

Once we were both thinking about the practice of “settling in” to Meeting as something one needed to be in shape for, it was a short step to thinking about forgiveness in similar terms.

When I was growing up, forgiveness was in short supply. People in my family were often angry with each other – with good cause – and many of the apologies were negated by a trailing “but”…
“I’m sorry, but you just…”

I wanted to try to change that in this next generation. So we’ve been talking with D for most of his little life about forgiveness… what it means, what it sounds like, what it feels like. That it’s as much about healing the heart of the person offering it as it is about helping the heart of the person accepting it. That both the offering and the accepting can sometimes be really hard.
A few weeks ago, in the middle of impromptu livingroom wrestling match number 357, D miscalculated and accidentally launched himself full force at my head. (He weighs 41 pounds now!) His nose started bleeding, and my head felt like a gong. As soon as we got the cold compress on and the crying stopped, he looked up at me and said, “Mommy, let’s forgive each other quickly.”

Sounds like he’s well on his way to strong forgiveness muscles.

Which he'll probably need, once he figures out how many nudie bathtub pics I have of him. And that I've shared this one with the universe. :-)

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om for the springboard!)

June 23, 2006

Breaking the News

I had been dreading the moment since JT's Mommy told Sassafras Mama that she wouldn't be coming home. The boys have been friends since they were four and two... Aunt Lisa has been a part of D's life for pretty much as long as he can remember.

I felt the way I did when my Uncle George died: sad that I had to introduce my son to one of life's harsher realities.

I had really hoped to keep divorce off his radar for another few years. But now that he's bound to find out relatively soon, I wanted to be the one to break the news.

Finally tonight we had the chance I'd been waiting for... both parents home, no pressing commitments, good spirits all around. I told D that we had some news to share with him that was kind of sad, and that we wanted to tell him when we were both there in case he needed us. He immediately settled down and looked at us expectantly. When we told him the news, his first reaction was relief. "Well, it could have been SUPER DUPER bad news, like that JT was moving." (He's already experienced JT moving further away, and knows he doesn't like that one bit.) We told him that we might need to be especially kind, that JT and Stacy's hearts are really hurting about it, and he said, "and herself... Aunt Lisa, too," and we said yes, of course. Then we told him that we weren't going anywhere, and he looked at us as if to say, Well, of course.

After a few moments he said, "I didn't think that could ever happen."

We said we hadn't thought so either. And then, like a summer storm, the moment passed.

The rest of the night was regular Friday fare. We ate some apple pie and played a round of Chutes and Ladders. We are so lucky that for our little boy, this is just a true life story about someone else's life. The real lightning strike was up in Dunellen.

June 20, 2006

Happy (Almost) Birthday To Me

Earlier this year, I helped out with the fabulous "Princeton Idol" event at the Princeton Public Library, and was awash in gratitude for the spirit and energy of everyone involved.

Growing up, one of my all-time favorite movie moments happened when Superman scooped up Lois Lane midfall, only to have her ask, "You've got me? Who's got you?" I've always loved Superman. The cape? Impossibly strong yet frighteningly vulnerable? Always getting the girl? What's not to love?

So it seemed a kind of cosmic convergence when I found out that the library's upcoming fundraiser is taking the form of an exclusive sneak-preview showing of the new Superman movie. Next Tuesday, June 27th, 5pm, at the Garden Theater on the main drag in Princeton.

Tickets are $30, include complimentary snacks and a poster, and benefit the library. I am so totally going. And it's the day before my celebrated birthday, so I'll walk to the show in order to facilitate my partner and son doing some last minute birthday elfing. :-)

Want to join me? Quick, snag the form here. They still have seats. And let me know, so I can save you one near me!

Is It Too Late to Play?

Sarah of The Rain in My Purse made an intriguing offer back in May... is there an expiration date? If you answer these seven questions, she will use your answers to recommend a book of poetry for you to read. Here are the questions:

1. You’re expecting a baby girl. Which of these names would you choose for her?
a. Lilian b. Abagail c. Siena d. Cody e. Deborah f. Maria

2. Beatles or Stones?

3. Which of the following would be your choice of pet?
a. Beagle b. Siamese cat c. Mynah bird d. Seahorse

4. If you could change careers, what would you like to be?

5. Which of these mostly closely matches your present mood?
a. distant b. volatile c. content d. exuberant
e. preoccupied f. melancholy g. dissatisfied

6. Which city would you like to spend a year in?
a. Amsterdam b. La Paz c. Athens d. Chengdu e. Paris f. Honolulu

7. Name three of your favorite words.

And here are my answers:

1. Lillian, but with two "l's," after Lillian Hellman

2. Beatles (brainwashed in my youth)

3. beagle (had one as a child)

4. ummm... part-time reference librarian, full-time poet?

5. content

6. Amsterdam

7. ausgezeichnet, fathom, grin

Hope you're still playing, Sarah!

June 18, 2006

TOO much fun?

No such thing as too much fun! Here we are on Friday enjoying the outdoor movie series sponsored by the divine Thomas Sweet:

Saturday was the second annual Quaker picnic at Walnford, complete with stump jumping:

And on Sunday we made some new friends, re-connected with some old ones, and braved the heat in our kayaks:

(That's D discovering that he's strong enough to stop a kayak in its tracks, so to speak.)

Pretty tough to pack more fun than that into a weekend! Whew.

June 15, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Doors


The carpenter came
this week.
She finished the two small jobs
we had asked of her.
She told me the solid wooden door
I had found on the street
for my room
would fit just fine –
and it did.

she took the back door
from its hinges
planed the edges and
aligned it right,
hung it plumb
so the bolts slide
into the strike plate,
Now the lock turns

I can go out to the garden, now.
Sweet smelling curls of wood
have fallen among the purple violets.
I can close the door to my room
lie in the patch of east sun
that laps across the floor.

And I wonder,
that I never thought how all the while
what I needed was so simply
a door, to the outside
that opens
a door, to the inside
that shuts.

~ Becky Birtha

This poem by my friend Becky Birtha is one that I come back to again and again. I hope you find something in it for you as well.

June 11, 2006


When I was a kid, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for dinner was something of an event. It was participatory. Someone was going to get to cut the pats of butter in. Someone was going to get to pour the milk. Then the cheese. And then we'd all take turns stirring. It was my original comfort food.

I also clearly remember the feeling of abundance that went with that meal. I don't know how old we were when we finally finished an entire box in one sitting, but it was a long time coming. Leftovers were the norm for many years.

Now it's a new generation. My son is growing up on Annie's Shells and White Cheddar, which we try to make mostly when my lactose-intolerant partner is on a business trip or off in a field working on her chip shot. He likes to use a spoon. I like to use a fork. We both like it on the dry side. And much to my surprise, we've already had a night with no leftovers.

I can't help wondering if maybe someday I'll be mailing him a care package with a couple of purple boxes tucked inside. It's wild to be on both the giving and receiving sides of comfort.

(See what Krista, Amy, WAYA, and the other Mama Says Om gals have to say on the subject.)

A Great Race

Good afternoon, and welcome to another episode of Proud Mommy. Yesterday was the Princeton Fete, a community fair that serves as a fundraiser for our local heathcare system. After cheering on some of the 10K runners (the course runs right past our house!), we headed off to Princeton Stadium to check out the action at the track. D immediately wanted to know "what those big sand pits are for." A few seconds after my explanation of broadjumping, he was gleefully sprinting down the track and launching himself into the air. But that was just the warm up.

The big event was the one mile "Fun Run," which he participated in last year and was looking forward to signing up for this year as well. Last year, as an almost four year-old, he mostly walked. This year, he was ready. Long jump warmups were followed by stretches. Serious determination at the starting line was accompanied by stern requests: Could he just have his number on his back, because he saw that some of the grownups had it that way? And please could I let him just run, without tagging along? Since the course for the race includes sections on the track and an overland trek across some practice fields, we compromised: I wouldn't run with him, but was allowed to move around so as to keep him in sight. All through the race, I could see people looking at him and wondering where his parents were; a common experience for me as a parent of a determinedly independent child.

He understood that the big goal of the race was achieving a personal best, but his competitive spirit sometimes got the best of him, and he couldn't help stealing occasional looks over his shoulder to reassure himself that he was beating some people. ("Even some grownups, Mommy!")

When he felt himself running out of steam, he walked for a little bit, just as we had talked about, but I think he ran at least three-quarters of the time. And when he crossed the finish line, I thought, "Guess we'll have to pretty much plan on being around this weekend next year."

June 10, 2006

This Just In

Since becoming a parent, I've fallen off the wagon when it comes to making lunches. My poor partner, who used to be able to count on a lovingly assembled homemade lunch on a daily basis, now routinely finds herself scrounging for sustenance in town with the rest of the midday crowd.

Luckily, Princeton is crazy with restaurants.

But would you believe, that out of the 10 or so restaurants within easy walking distance of her office, the only one that offers an egg salad sandwich sans onion is... wait for it... The Red Onion?

You can't make this stuff up.

Great pictures and stories from today's Fete soon...

June 08, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Tomorrow Will Be Better

So it started off bad and then just stayed in the groove. My Thursday, that is.

1) Lousy night's sleep because I bought cough medicine on the way home which I then could not find at bedtime (NOT Wednesday, late enough that it was actually Thursday), which sent me on an obsessive recursive tear through our not very large house, how can I lose something that I JUST got, I've checked everywhere, maybe set it down in the bathroom, or the kid's room, or...? What the *!@$?!! (Finally found it in the car. About half an hour later. My poor partner.)

2) I absentmindedly let the kid use a Sharpie marker in the kitchen.

3) Nothing gets Sharpie marker off the kitchen table.

4) Kept feeling like the newscasters were trying to get me to do a little rah-rah cheer over the death of al-Zarqawi. Not my style.

5) Used up my emergency stash of OB's. 'Nuff said.

6) Database into which colleagues will be putting essential end-of-year comments acting glitchy. Discovered at the last minute because that's when people do things.

7) My kid started and ended his day by being taunted by some little mini-creep at his school.

8) My allergy-induced non-productive cough continues to drive me (and everyone around me, I'm sure) insane. Can't possibly be TB, right?

9) Productivity at work pretty much went down to zero, what with the sleep deprivation, database issues, and constant coughing laced with fevered hypochondriacal worst-case-scenario imaginings.

10) Heartsick about Sassafras Mama and her family.

11) Second day of not hearing back from the one person I DID remember to call at work.

12) Left my housekeys in the car while accompanying D home from school on foot, so had to pathetically hang out on the front lawns of neighbors until I could be rescued.

13) More rain. Coat's in the car, too.

Foolproof prediction: tomorrow will be better!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

June 06, 2006

The Mouth of My Babe

D and I went to a victory party for Chad Goerner tonight at Conte's. Since D's birth, I have been much more politically involved than I was before he arrived on the scene, and one of the results has been that I am now the mother of an unusually politically aware 4.75 yr. old. (During the last Presidential campaign, during a long string of Dean for America Meetups, D turned to me and said, with apparently mounting exasperation, "Is How'Dean gonna be dere?")

One of the other revelers tonight asked D wasn't it fun to win for a change, and on the car ride home he asked me why we don't usually win. I explained that part of the reason it feels like we don't win that much is that George Bush has been the President for D's whole life (!), and he has one of the most important jobs in our country, so he has a lot of power.

D: Why does he have so much power?
Me: Well, for one thing, everything he does is news. If you or I say something, we're just talking to each other, but if the President says something, there are a bunch of reporters there all the time, and they make a news story out of it and put it in the newspapers or on the television or radio. Yesterday he was saying that he didn't think girls should marry girls or boys marry boys, and even though lots of other people think that's ridiculous, it made the news. So that's some of his power.
D: And he has his own airplane, right?
Me: That's right.
D: Then he should have flown right home when the hurricane came!* He should not have stayed on his vacation. I wish George Bush was a two year old. I wish George Bush was a baby. Then nobody would listen to him, and nobody would vote for him. Or if he didn't have a name, then how could he tell people how to vote for him, that would be good. Or I wish he was on Pluto. Then he would freeze to death. No, that would kill him, that would be too mean. He's pretty bad, though. He's like, only 1 good, and Mr. Chad is infinity good. Maybe send him to the North Pole, or Antarctica. Which one is further away?
Me: Well, we're in the Northern Hemisphere, so Antarctica is further away.
D: Okay, send him to Antarctica, then. I'm going to marry a boy when I grow up if I want to, because George Bush is just wrong."

Note: D's class at U-League this year had several late-addition children of displaced professors from New Orleans, so he really "gets" Katrina.

The Beast

Today is 6-6-06. My very first car was nicknamed, "The Beast," and I'm well-aquainted with the "number of the beast" hoopla (ref. Revelations 13:18). When I went to get that car registered, finally making it up to the counter after waiting in the switchback DMV line for approximately two years, the following exchange ensued:

DMV clerk: Do you care what license plate you get?
Me, confused: Do I get a choice? (I had already scoped out the vanity plate options and decided they weren't for me.)
DMV clerk: No, not really.
Me: So, um, if I don't have a choice, why are you asking me if I care?
DMV clerk: [in a whisper] Because this is supposed to be the next one. (Holds up plate emblazoned with the license number CMG-666.)

Me: I'll take it! [Insert sound of the long snaky line of God-fearing Chemung County people behind me gasping in horror.]

Apparently the clerk had tried multiple times to assign that plate, but kept having folks flat-out refuse. Contrarian that I am, I thought, "Well, maybe this will lessen the chances that someone will steal it."

Not that theft was likely to be on anyone's mind. The Beast was a 1972 Buick Skylark, w/ a massive V8 engine that cranked out horsepower a-gogo. It also guzzled gas like nobody's business; if you went up a steep enough incline at a sufficiently aggressive pace, you could visually observe the gas gauge needle going down.

That's a fully restored and slightly souped up '72 Skylark, probably pretty close to what designers who had trained with Harley Earl had in mind... a thing of beauty, n'cest pas? If only I'd held onto her a few more years. But because of The Beast's strength and power, I tended to drive her like this:

So my car wasn't showroom material, but well-loved nonetheless. Eventually I moved to New Jersey; with new plates, the Beast no longer wore "the mark of the Beast." Still, everyone who ever rode in her called her that. And when the time came -- no functioning heat, scary knocking noises in the engine, etc. etc. I put an ad in the paper saying that she was free to a good home. (Since my chauffeur grandfather had given her to me, it somehow didn't seem right to make a profit on her.) I made sure to hand the Beast along to a mechanically-minded young man with a gleam in his eye, and for several years afterwards I was inordinately cheered by a few scattered sightings of her still out there on the road terrorizing the cars with some book value left in 'em.

So I'm not afraid of days or license plates numbered "666." How 'bout you?

June 05, 2006

Push Back

Now that the bloom is finally off the Republican rose, Bush is trying to rally the conservative troops by waving the dead-in-the-water Federal Marriage Amendment flag.

The only other time we've considered a Constitutional amendment that was exclusive rather than inclusive in nature was the eighteenth (Prohibition). And we all know how that worked out.

Feel like screaming? Go ahead. Then take a deep breath and call your elected representatives. Find them here.

Take 30 seconds to tell or remind them you're against the Federal Marriage Amendment and against amending our constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Tell 'em I sent you.

June 01, 2006

About Warmth

It wasn’t really a lie. Or was it? In the moment, coming out of nowhere because that’s inevitably how these things work, it felt like a lie. D and I were complimenting each other on our outfits one recent morning – a happy consequence of owning only one full-length mirror is that preening is a communal activity in our home – and he was particularly taken with my silky rayon pants. (Texture counts with this boy.) “Those are really fancy, Mommy. That’s probably like what you wore when you and Tama got married, right Mommy?”

And I said, “Well, yes, a little bit. Thank you, buddy!” It just came out.

He’s four and three-quarters years old, and I found, in that moment, that I am not ready. I don’t even know where to begin. He knows about prejudice and discrimination, and loves the story of Rosa Parks standing up for herself by keeping her seat. He knows that in our family we believe that who a person is matters more than what he or she looks like. He knows that different people belong to different faith communities and are differently abled. He knows that families with two moms or two dads are somewhat unusual. (The other day he quite confidently turned to a friend from school in the middle of a conversation about grownup life and said, “Boys can marry boys, it just doesn’t happen that often.”)

But I don’t think our son has any idea that many people in this country cling to a “conjugal conception of marriage as the exclusive monogamous union of sexually complementary spouses,” as Princeton Professor Robert George, who helped draft the dead-in-the-water Federal Marriage Amendment, has framed it. How would I explain to our son the existence of strangers who persist in the belief that our family is somehow a threat to them and their way of life? That people are fighting tooth and nail to prevent our family obtaining full rights under the law, as if that would somehow undercut their rights, as if there’s only but so much justice to go around. Our little man has no idea that every year for the last 13 years, as I complete my tax return, I check a box labeled “single” with a wrenching feeling of betrayal in my heart.

I don’t think he needs to know.

The laws are the laws, but they don’t need to intrude on my son’s happy life just yet. He knows that my partner adopted him – every spring we celebrate “Forever Family” day – and that we had to stand before a judge and promise to take care of him forever, and I think he likes that idea. (In fact, these days if you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he’ll say, “A judge. Or maybe a wrestler.”) He doesn’t know that without that adoption our state and federal governments would consider my partner and my son to be unrelated. He doesn’t know that we had to pay hundreds of dollars for a “home study,” in which a total stranger came to our home and asked a slew of invasive questions in an effort to determine our fitness to parent.

What D does know is that he is loved, and that his parents love both him and each other. He knows that snuggles are good for all kinds of hurts, that apologies and forgiveness help your heart feel better, and that if you hear a little voice telling you that something’s not right, you should take a moment to think about that. What he knows about marriage is that it is for people who love each other and want to stay together and be a forever family. For us and for our son, marriage is about commitment and warmth.

Did I lie?

The laws are the laws. But yesterday, New York's Court of Appeals (the highest court in that state), heard more than two hours of oral arguments on four marriage-equality cases. The New Jersey Supreme Court heard similar arguments in February. A decision in either case could presumably come before D’s next birthday. Our son has been to one same-sex wedding (in Massachusetts, of course), so he knows it’s possible. Maybe the next time he asks me about marriage, I’ll be able to give him an answer that reflects our family’s definition, one that I’m not afraid will hurt his heart. An answer that will enable me to buffer the discrimination by locating more of it in the past. An answer that is less about exclusion, and more about warmth.

(Thanks to Mama Says Om for the loving nudge.)