September 29, 2006


Doesn't he look like a future surfer? I have exactly ONE picture of this boy crawling, because once he figured out that vertical was an option, he never looked back. This shot was taken moments after he'd dragged that stool out of the bathroom, having figured out that the linen closet doorknob was out of his reach without it.

And he was constantly pushing his limits. I still remember walking with him in the yard and realizing that he was deliberately walking around the tree with the knobbiest exposed roots -- he wanted to prove to himself that he could do it!

This pursuit of the limits of balance was nothing short of inspiring. It wasn't that he didn't know about falling. He absolutely did. But the thrill and satisfaction of mastering a new challenge was the hands-down winner every time.

I stood aside and kept up a silent running stream of self-talk: "He probably won't break anything, he'll probably be okay if he falls, he seems to know his limits, he's having so much fun, look how proud he is of himself..."

This shot is from the same day:

Yep. That's a fire truck with wheels. Have I mentioned that I have a lot more grey hair than I did in 2001? But look at how pleased he is!

Wouldn't it be great if we could retain this fearless acceptance of risk in the face of losing one's balance? Most falls only result in bruises, after all.

September 26, 2006

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Our little man has always been a good sleeper. And we have a great bedtime routine. Books, bed, songs, lights out; rarely any fuss. Last night, just before I See the Moon, D asked for a little extra time. I thought he wanted to get settled more comfortably, which is often part of his pre-Moon Song deal... likes to really drink that last song in. But this time, what he wanted, was "to pray." I know bedtime prayers are a pretty common part of a lot of folks' bedtime routines, but they've never really been part of ours, so I was pretty surprised. "Okay, sweetie, that sounds good," I said, and waited.

"I prayed that God would send me the very best Transformer ever," he shared. And for once, I bit my lecturing tongue and simply said, "Oh, okay."

"Wait, wait, I have an even better idea!" he said then. And went back to praying.

"This time," he said as he snuggled down into his pillow, "I prayed for a bigger heart, so I can love even more." He was excited and quite pleased with himself.

Just when you think your heart can't get any bigger, they go and build you a whole new addition.

(Thanks to Passing the Torch for the encouragement.)

September 25, 2006

Window Haiku

(Etching by Brian Dunlop.)

Birds into windows
sound like a heartbeat stopping.
Are we stunned, or dead?


Dear friends, I think this haiku will come as a kind of shock to many of you. This is not what most folks think of when writing to a prompt of "Windows and Doors." But as I was opening myself up to follow where this leading would take me, what I was remembering was closed doors and broken windows. I used to listen to the news every morning, but I cannot do that anymore. I have a five year old son, and he cannot start his day with roadside and suicide bombs. 2,702 US families have now been rent asunder by the war in Iraq. And the Iraqi civilian death toll, although less precise, has been no less devastating. In my day-to-day life, I appear well. But when I sit in the silence and let the words well up...

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath for their continuing inspiration.)

September 23, 2006

Instructions for Parents of Would-Be College Students

1) Who is going to school? Your kid. Not you. Keep saying it until you believe it.
2) If your student is not yet a junior in high school, forget about "what the colleges want." Focus on supporting her in taking on new challenges, and helping her follow her leadings.
3) Start getting a grip on finances. You're gonna need it.
4) Define success on your kid's terms.
5) Want schools to give your student a fair shake? Do the same for schools. Some of the colleges and universities that represent a terrific match for your student are probably schools you've never heard of.
5) Visit schools.
6) Take pictures and notes.
7) Understand that coaches and admissions people are nice to your kid, in part, because it's their job.
8) Calling schools for applications, information, and appointments? The student's job. NOT yours. For real.
9) Ditto "thank you" notes.
10) Sit your student down and tell them, kindly, that who they are – their integrity, their work ethic, their curiousity, their flexibility, their attitude, their sense of humor – will always be more important than where they did their undergraduate work. Repeat until you both believe it.

(Heaven help me, my day job has temporarily taken over my brain.)

(Want some instructions that might be more relevant
to your life? Check out Sunday Scribblings this week.)

September 21, 2006


If I'm crabby, try feeding me.
If I'm going upstairs, it's two at a time.
If I'm whistling, I probably don't even know it.
If I'm sleeping, look for the foot dangling over the edge.

If I'm dressed up, my day started badly.
If I'm wearing a dress, you're looking at an old picture.
If we're walking, I'll want you to my right.
If we're talking, I might forget your turn (sorry).

If I apologize, I'll be hoping for forgiveness.
If I get worked up, I'm maybe tired of waiting for justice.
If I say it's no problem, I'm trying to mean it.
If I go on and on, that's love for our little man D.

If I seem confident, thank my parents.
If I've got a spring in my step, talk to Terri.
If I'm singing, it's because I can't help it.
If I'm writing, I want you to read every word.

(Thanks to the good folks at Poetry Thursday for this week's prompt.)

September 20, 2006

Before You Enlist

Know anyone who works with teens?

"Before You Enlist!" is a 15-minute film that provides "the real deal on joining the military" as told by veterans from Iraq to Vietnam, their family members and other young people who've dealt with recruiters. Produced by Telequest of Princeton NJ with support from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Veterans For Peace, the Coalition for Peace Action, the Puffin Foundation and others, it is ready for viewing (and download) via YouTube and Google Video.

You can watch it at ... or at YouTube and Google video:
Google Video:
DVD copies are being ordered, and AFSC will play the lead role in their distribution. Many will be sent out at no charge; others will be included in training packages; and still others will be for sale at the AFSC online store for a nominal charge to cover duplication and shipping costs. Details on ordering will be posted soon at and

Many thanks to the participants who shared their stories, and to the many individuals and organizations who contributed time, expertise and resources to this production.
Dick Blofson, Scott Nielsen, Dan Preston

(Shelley's note: Dan Preston is my friend, so I'm totally biased,
but I think this video ROCKS.)

September 19, 2006

Time to Sell HP

How's your blood pressure?

Check this out.

How're you doin' now?

Not too many things leave me speechless, but this is pretty close. Fer cryin' out loud.

(Hat tip to BPhD.)

Pass the Torch Tuesday

Two great reports of kids doing the right thing to share today! First, on the way to school today I explained to D that I was going to want to do a little big of household cleanup after school in anticipation of tonight's dinner guests. Did he want me to pick him up asap, with the understanding that what would be happening would be cleanup, rather than playtime? Or would he prefer to stay a little bit late at school while I tackled the cleanup? His immediate uncoached response, "You should come and get me, Mommy, because then I can help with the cleanup!" Rocket.

Second (although temporally first), I spoke last night with the gal in town about the Darfur rally in NYC. I wasn't able to go, but wanted to touch base with someone who I knew had been very involved and who would be able to help bring me up to speed. I also mentioned the possibility of using one of the upcoming Family Dances at PFS as a venue for increasing awareness of the crisis in Darfur, to which her response was an enthusiastic, "Do you know who I should talk to at PFS about this?" The kicker? The gal in question is a fourteen year old. Hope for the future indeed.

(Want to see who else is Passing the Torch?)

September 18, 2006

Autumn Haiku

Green has gone amber
And here comes autumn, trying
To blow through the light.

(For more autumn haiku, check out One Deep Breath.)

PS: This is post #201. Whoa.

September 17, 2006


Here's our little man, telling us how it ought to go. The barefoot pro.

I love how tirelessly he works to understand the world, and how confident he is when he thinks he's got it.

His absolute faith in the power of the explanation, in his ability to make it all come clear.

I think he gets it from us. Even though our belief in clarity and its power is less secure than it once was.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om for their continuing inspiration.)

September 16, 2006

Tam Lin

I've got a thing for Jane Yolen. Or at least for her work. Owl Moon, one of her best-known children's books, was the first book D ever asked be re-read immediately upon finishing it. Since then we've also loved Letting Swift River Go (about the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir), Raising Yoder's Barn, and, at the moment, Tam Lin.

This story is a re-telling of an old Scottish ballad by the same name, and I've been wanting for a while now to do a little digging around in the loam. So I went a-Googling, or rather, a-Scroogling. (Scroogle is an alternative search engine that "scrapes" personal information from its searches. It has been my default search tool since 2005, when I became more aware of privacy concerns as they relate to Google. I know it may seem weird for someone who is out here blogging for all the world to be harping on privacy concerns, but everything I write here I mean to be shared. Anyway. Back to Tam Lin.)

What I learned is that Tam Lin, like any good folk song, has been re-recorded and re-interpreted countless times. Abigail Acland's got a good "one stop overview" site here, and there's an interesting "life imitates art" situation here (Mergatroyd Productions trying to "rescue" Tam Lin from lawyered-up Einhorn... of course in 2006 the nasty faery Queen would be a lawyer). If I lived in NYC, I'd totally head over to the free reading on Oct. 18th. (How 'bout it, NYC friends? Can anyone go so I can live vicariously through you?)

Collector of legends Paula Kate Marmor says, "Tam Lin is probably the best-known of the traditional fairy ballads. In many ways, it is the canonical ballad."

I still love Jane Yolen's version, although I do miss the Faery Queen's lament: "Whoever has stolen Tam Lin has won the fairest knight in all my Company."

I've always loved stories (see Your Life In Stories, above), and the nightly discipline of reading them aloud to our son since shortly after his birth in 2001 has only deepened that love. (We sing together every night, too.)

But I stand in awe of story-songs like this one, stories that live again and again, down through the ages, sung and told and sung again, burnished with use until they shine and shine.

(To see where the other Sunday Scribblers went exploring, click here.)

September 11, 2006

Beauty Is

I'm not that much of a flower person, actually, but black-eyed Susans just get to me.

My favorite color is the saturated yellow that they so proudly declare to the world, and I also love twilight, when this picture was taken, so this photo – which old-time But Waiters may recognize from last summer, when it was initially taken – is the first image I thought of when prompted by Mama Says Om this week.

Here's the second one:

Beauty is a boy deep in thought. I am so grateful that he is still willing to happily claim some things he enjoys seeing in his world as "beautiful." I hope that we can keep this alive in him while the world tries to squash it out of his vocabulary.

(To see what other mamas thought of, go here.)

Katrina Tanka

Who will we be now?
Stayed or fled, living or dead,
Our world divided:
Heavy, and mangled past use.
Light, to be broken and strewn.

(More tanka at One Deep Breath.
More on Katrina here.)

September 10, 2006

What I Would Never Write

This week's prompt at Sunday Scribblings is "I would never write..."

I would never write things about other people that I wouldn't say to them in person. And I would never write something that I wouldn't be interested in as a reader. I think that may be it.

(You can see what others will never write about here.)

September 09, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Lower 9th Ward

The Garden District, the French Quarter, the Superdome... much of New Orleans has moved beyond recovery and has re-achieved normalcy. And the people of New Orleans want you to know that.

But they also want you to know that their hearts are broken. That the Katrina diaspora has broken up families and communities. And that people all over the country are trying to figure out how to get back home to New Orleans.

Mayor Nagin got re-elected and he's got his hands full. Wrecked infrastructures, debris to be cleared, buildings to be gutted, decisions to be made about who will and will not be supported in their desire to rebuild.

What's it like here? It's haunted. Not just by the people who died – over 1570 people in Louisiana alone – but by the lasting presence of the physical evidence of what people here simply call "the devastation."

Katrina made landfall on August 28th, 2005. I took these pictures in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward today, September 9th, 2006. There are no signs of life in the Lower Ninth Ward. Just block after block like this:

These homes were mostly uninsured. Their owners couldn't get FEMA trailers because there's no power or water here. So those folks are in Houston or Baton Rouge or crammed into some tiny space wearing out the welcome of their friends whose houses survived the storm. Some of them will decide not to come back. Some of them will come back no matter what. And all of them are hurting.

September 08, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Tulane

When you walk out the back door of Gibson Hall at Tulane University, this is the sight that greets you. This part of New Orleans is on high ground, relatively speaking. They are fine. If you sit down to lunch at the cafeteria in Bruff Commons, you might even luck into some honest-to-God gumbo and hush puppies:

And if your luck holds, you might get to talk with some of the students of this world-class university. They know that even though they've told the story hundreds of times, that you'll want to ask them if they would tell it again. What was it like, last year, to be here? What is it like now?

And what you learn, as you listen, is that Tulane University had an evacuation plan that worked. And that the rest of the country's schools opened their doors and hearts to Tulane's students as it became clear that no one would be returning to New Orleans anytime soon. But that when they had the chance, they came back. Ninety-four percent of the students who were expected to return did just that. This percentage, this rate of return, was HIGHER than it was the year before.

And when Tulane did re-open, despite the sobering magnitude of the work ahead, the mood on campus was triumphant. As the largest private employer in the city, Tulane knows that it can be an important source of revitalizing energy to a battered city. And to a person, the students, faculty, and staff of Tulane stand ready to rise to that challenge. "
This is a great school, but there are lots of great schools. What makes this different is that this is a moment in time," said one of the students we spoke with as the others nodded in agreement. "This is Atlanta after the Civil War. This is San Francisco after the 1906 fire. This is our chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves."

Kind of makes you want to be a part of it, doesn't it?

September 07, 2006

Big Boy on the Block

Here he is, checking himself out on the first day of big boy school.

Me? I'm off to New Orleans to see for myself how Tulane and the city are faring a year after Katrina.

Him I'm not worried about.

September 06, 2006

The Moment It All Changes

D has been looking forward to "the big five" for what feels like 364 days. It's the first birthday that has really seemed to mean something to him. He was full of questions about when he could actually start answering the tired "how old are you?" question with the new number, rather than his cagey "4 and eleven-twelfths" or "almost practically five."

But then, as soon as the candles were out, he got a little case of cold feet. What if I'm not ready?, he seemed to be feeling.

Kid life isn't so different from adult life.

September 05, 2006

Birthday Sandwich

D was permitted to invite four good friends to his very first birthday party this year. He thought about it for about two seconds before putting his two Maryland cousins on the guest list.

And these smiles show just how right that decision was.

September 04, 2006

Back to School Haiku

Cool autumn daybreak
No child is calling for me
Still, I am awake

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath...
want to see some more solitude-themed haiku?)

September 03, 2006

Space: the final frontier

[cue Star Trek theme in background... the old one]

Here are D and his best friend from school this past year, deeply engaged in one of their many conversations about outer space.

They're five.

Even though
they're only just starting to read (did you see that the book in the photo is upside down?), they know a lot about space. They know that the earth revolves around the sun, and they understand why life gets hot at the Equator. (They also know that there isn't really a line around the Earth there, but that we usually draw that line on our maps and globes.)

They know that space travel is dangerous, and that scientists think the universe is expanding. They know that some scientists believe that the frozen surface of Europa (one of Jupiter's moons, as you undoubtedly knew) might conceal a frigid but life-supporting sea.

And they learn more every day.

My eldest niece is three years older, and hopes to participate in the next series of manned missions to the Moon. Like the boys, she is displeased about the recent "demotion" of Pluto from the planetary ranks. "It used to be my favorite planet," she says, "and now what am I going to say when they ask me what my favorite planet is, which I'm pretty sure is one of the questions they're going to ask me!"

It is possible to remain immune to space fever. You may very well be one of those folks who feels that our limited financial resources are better spent on telescopes and rovers, that we can learn almost everything we need to know through less dangerous means than human space travel.

But I'm instinctively in favor of anything that gets people thinking about the Earth – or Gaia – and the life she sustains in these terms:

Especially as the evidence of our need to shape up continues to mount.

So put me down as pro-space, pro-exploration, pro-big dreams. Whatever the risks. And I don't even drink Tang.

(Thanks again to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

September 01, 2006

Fortunes, Wishes, and Gifts

My Fortune Is

Resist convention. Follow instead the thread of your happiness. Tell stories.
My Story List (mostly just titles so far)

I like the idea of creating your own fortune cookie. What message would you be thrilled to read on that little strip of paper? What gift would you give yourself? I always loved the parts of folk tales in which the fairy godmothers bestowed gifts. Genii's, too. I used to plan for what I would do if someone showed up and offered me my three wishes. (Would using up an entire wish on the demise of all mosquitos be worth it? Or would it completely mess up the ecological balance? I remember agonizing over this one.) Eventually I gave up, figuring that it just wasn't meant to be.

But as I get older I wonder if maybe my fairy godmother just did her work quietly. Someone has given me some incredible gifts. My partner. Our son. My confidence in my own path even through those dark times when it seemed that I would be walking it alone.

(Thanks to the folks at Fortune Cookie Generator
and hello to all the Sunday Scribblers!)