January 31, 2007

Nobody Tells Me Anything

Hey! When was somebody going to tell me that Google Earth is available for Macs?!


Ahem. Carry on.

Poetry Thursday - Proof

Word Problem

Let X stand alone as a reminder
of the words that wanted to be written
but weren't.

Let Y hold the place
of apologies that were offered
but then negated with a following

Imagine, then, that a train
travelling through a range
of snow-dazzled mountains
increases its speed by a factor of Q
as the conductor longs
to put her feet up by a fire
and finish that book she's in the middle of.

Given that time is a non-renewable resource,
that everyone looks back on something
with a sense of bitterness and regret,
and that we creatures crave comfort,

solve for X.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday,
and to my poetry sister KD,
for their continuing inspiration.)

January 30, 2007

Practicing Patience

I have lately found myself re-telling the story of how I became a patient person.

Well, at least a more patient person.

When T & I were hoping to become parents, I had all the usual concerns... would I be able to care for an infant, would I be able to make all the decisions that parenting requires, would I be able to find another good job if I left the one I had, yada yada yada. But the one worry I decided to try to do something about centered on something less common. I was afraid that I didn't have the patience to be a parent.

I'd always enjoyed children, so I knew from experience that their sense of time is completely different from an adult's sense of time. Leaving the house with a three year-old in tow? Add 23 minutes. Trying to understand a two year-old's sentences? Pull up a chair. I trusted that it would be different when the small person in question was mine, but still... I worried.

So, in keeping with an oft-repeated pearl of wisdom from my father – "Fake it 'til you make it!" – I began impersonating a patient person.

Stuck in the slow lane at the grocery store behind some dingbat who couldn't remember which credit card still had some credit left, I pasted up a fake smile and breathed deeply. Waiting at a light behind someone who was apparently unable to discern green from red, I seethed while trying to move myself into a mental gear that could experience this as more time to listen to music. I felt like a fraud.

Still, I persisted. (I may not be patient, but I am for certain stubborn.) And slowly, as I started to vocalize my patient pretending, I started to feel a shift.

As I said, "It's not a problem, take your time," to the flustered Lands End phone clerk, she thanked me profusely. When I said, "Don't worry, I'm actually not in a hurry," to the restaurant's waitress in training, she looked shocked, then smiled and said, "You know, nobody ever says that." My little "patience project" was becoming less about my internal experience, and more about the gift that patience – feigned or not – could be for the people around me.

I love giving gifts. And during my whole growing up I watched my mom's kindness to the unnoticed workers of life – toll booth collectors, the woman named Mary who mopped the floor at our local coffee shop – so my gifts of patience began to seem like a small reflection of that legacy.

So. Am I a more patient person? I think I am. Or at least I am less reflexively impatient, and that's a start.

(Patient enough to graciously accept
offers of help that lengthen the task at hand.)

January 29, 2007

Roots/Connection Haiku

While we slept, the snow
dusted our walkway for prints:
Gaia's detective.

The snowclouds let go
and their burden becomes mine.
Time to sweep the walk.

The boxwood bushes
enjoy the attention while
they try on white coats.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.
Update: Now with photos!)

January 27, 2007

Bathtub Chronicles

Same boy. Same tub. So many changes.

D has always enjoyed his bath, and somewhere along the line we turned some of his baths into photoshoots.

One day about a year ago he announced that he was taking a shower, and to my partner's credit, she took him at his word and helped him get the water temperature right before he took the big leap of faith and stood under it. It mostly seemed like he wanted to prove that he could do it. As soon as he figured out that showers were mostly about efficiency, he went right back to baths.

I don't know how many more tub pictures I'll get; eventually I'm sure his modesty will kick in and that will be that. In the meantime, though, I have these bathtub chronicles (the last one was taken just a few days ago):

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

January 26, 2007


In the summer of 1973, I learned 23 new songs.

It was my first year of Girl Scout camp, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. After the first week, when some of the first-time campers were crying around the campfire because they still had another week to go, I could almost bring myself to tears with the thought that I only had another week to go. When my mother came to pick me up at the end of camp, I excitedly launched into some of my new songs, and I still remember how absolutely blown away I was to discover that SHE had learned some of the same songs when she went to Girl Scout camp!

I had always loved singing, but I think it was camp that helped me turn the corner and become someone who could write a song in a pinch. (Often with a borrowed melody, but hey, isn't that what folk music is all about?)

Nowadays, there's nothing I like better than finding a singer/songwriter who most of my friends have never heard of. And I haven't gone a day without singing since becoming a parent.

As for the next generation, I'm doing my best to pass along the songs. Call my house during a work day and listen to the outgoing message and you'll see what I mean. (If you don't know me well enough to know my home number and want in on the fun, leave a comment to that effect and we'll work something out.)

"As we leave this friendly place
Love gives light to every faceMay the kindness which we've learned
Light our hearts 'til we return."

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

January 22, 2007

Process Haiku

Just ask any child:
snow has a smell. These flakes are
pure confirmation.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.
The best writing for me has always had a kind of
"I'll know it when I feel it" quality.
Last night's snow, and the way children
seem always to be willing it into existence,
seemed connected, somehow.)

January 20, 2007


Not much point in talking about it. Advocating acceptance has got to be right up there with advocating for clean air... well, of course.

Living it, on the other hand, is a whole 'nother story.

For me, acceptance is a step in the opposite direction of judgment. George Fox exhorted early Quakers to "walk cheerfullly over the world, answering that of God in everyone." Classic Quaker simplicity. And, as it turns out, a lot harder than it sounds.

I appreciate the opportunity to be reminded of this fundamental need and gift; we all need to feel that we are accepted. If we're really fortunate, we get to feel embraced and celebrated. And the gift of acceptance is just that: a gift.

But there's not much point in talking about it.

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

Saturday = Wrestling

This one's for you, Grampy.

January 19, 2007

15,000 Days

According to some geeky-cool website that calculates such things, as of today I've been alive for 15,000 days.

I'm grateful for every one.

And for this fellow, who was out the door before 7am this morning, transported by the thought of the winter's first snow.

Check out the tiger paws.


(Not that kind of fantasy. :-) Maybe some other time.)

Sunday Scribblings' prompt has got me thinking about the role of fantasy in our lives. In my world, a fantasy is a dream that I think, or know – or have decided – won't ever be realized.

Besides D's constant pleas ("Mommy, how about you be a baby, and I can be the gorilla at the zoo that you want to bring home?"), some of my clearest cues to fantasy are sights and smells. The sight of two faded wheel tracks curving off into the unseen distance seems like an invitation, all-wheel-drive or no. The smell of freshly cut two-by-fours immediately gets me mentally drawing up blueprints for my dream house.

What I'd like is a clearer sense of discernment about which of my many fantasies deserve to be "upgraded" to "dream" status... and which of those should be further solidified into goals.

I have a pretty good idea of how to move a dream into the real world, because I have working examples from my own life to draw on. I have such a clear memory from almost 15 years ago, when T and I had decided that it was time to move the dream of a shared life into the "goals" column. I started saying it out loud to people: "Well, I'm actually thinking about maybe looking for work in New Jersey, so that T and I can be together during the week, and not just on weekends," and it felt like a complete snow job. I hadn't looked for a new job in almost ten years. I hardly knew anyone in New Jersey. I didn't even have a résumé. I felt like a complete fraud every time I tentatively shared my intentions with someone.

But you know what? People reacted as if my plan were the most reasonable thing in the world. "Well, of course you two should be together... that's great!" "Will you be staying in admissions, do you think, or....?" "Good for you; you know, the laws in NJ are better for gay families." And the more positive reactions I collected, the more "doable" it all seemed.

The trick for me was to go ahead and start building, even though I wasn't sure if I had enough concrete and nails, let alone a blueprint. Because my idea of what the ending looked like was so clear that it was bound to pull me along.

But now there are days when I'm metaphorically stuck in traffic, unable to see anything but the giant school bus butt in front of me and the taillights of the countless other seekers ahead of that...

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

January 17, 2007

Reflection Haiku Two

Pausing for reflection,

the water in this streambed
not quite frozen yet.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.
And to my sister-out-law for her beautiful accompanying photo.
My initial submission on this theme is here.)

January 15, 2007

My inspiration

I love Martin Luther King Day. I love being exhorted to live up to my fullest potential, to speak out in the face of injustice, to understand that non-violence is powerful and that violence represents a failure of imagination and courage. And if I ever start to feel my energy flagging, I think about days like this one, full of the energy of my family's next generation. I have a dream...


Reflection Haiku

Snowdrops at first light

Gracing a dead-but-green fir –
Is this winter, then?

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.
By now I think my neighbors might be wondering
about why it is that I lie down
on the (lately often wet) ground on Monday mornings...)
(Update: a second haiku on this theme is now here.)

January 12, 2007

I Have an Idea

Here's my idea:

I'm a college counselor, and I want to work story-telling into my day job.

I love stories. The older I get, the more convinced I become that my stories and I are in a constant dialogue of creation.

As I talk with students about their hopes and dreams for the next chapter in their life, I know the most important thing is for me to listen. If you know me, you know I'm a pretty good talker. The listening is work for me. I welcome the practice, and I am grateful to my students for all that they teach me every year.

Now what I'd like to do, as inspired by Patti Digh and others, is deepen my students' and my understanding of how the stories we tell affect our reality.

If you have any thoughts or advice about my idea, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

I'm listening.

(And thank you to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

Personal Best!

My best friend gave our family the game SET for Christmas, and it's one that we all enjoy. We've even managed to "hook" a few friends. [waving: Hi, Carol!]

The online version generates a new puzzle every day, and it's seriously habit-forming. Today, as you can see from the screen shot above, I managed to find all six sets in 2 minutes, 26 seconds, which is a personal best. Outstanding way to start the day.

For a less goal-oriented study break experience, you could alway try Sand or Throw Paper! But don't blame me when your productivity plummets!

January 11, 2007

Cliché - Poetry Thursday

Time Heals All Wounds

In your hour of need,
do you want to reach out
and literally stop people's mouths
before those words come out

I imagine the shock of it
your small warm fingers
gently but firmly
pressed against their lips
as their cheeks flush pink.

What are we left with,
between what you don't need to hear
and what we don't know how to say?

I'm sorry
doesn't work in English,
this messy language
that conflates apology with empathy.

Even how are you
seems fraught, with the "you"
in your life suddenly stripped down
to the singular.

Words fail me.
Again and again.
Yet here I lurk,
your friend and vampire,
ready to swoop in
at the first sign of trouble.

So that I can feel useful.
Needed. Helpful. Important.
So that I can stand close
and silent this time, maybe,
letting the words run through my head
like a prayer.

Let her find peace.
Let her feel hope.
Let her stay strong.
Let her heal. In time.

(Thank you to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration. This week
they asked participants to consider breathing life
into a cliché or two. (How many did you spot?)
It was an interesting challenge.)

January 10, 2007

Surge THIS

I didn't listen to the President's address tonight (I'll read it in the cold hard light of day), and I'm not going to be able to attend the demonstrations in Trenton tomorrow. But that doesn't mean that I'm disengaged.

Above is a picture I took last Wednesday of the weekly vigil for peace that has been going on in Palmer Square for months. There will be more demonstrations and YouTube videos and calls and emails to representatives tomorrow.

An increase in troop levels makes no sense. Even if it did, we don't have the troops to send. We need surges of compassion, advocacy, mediation, and peace.

As is so often the case, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks my mind: "Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows."

The Kitchen Sink

We were so pleased when we found this sink, a perfect little replacement for the previous back bathroom sink, which mysteriously jumped off the wall on D's birthday two years ago.

It seemed so cute and perfect. Now, not so much.

Because now it is having to function as our kitchen sink. And small and cute are not really what you look for in a kitchen sink.

The good news was, our basement wasn't taking on water during our recent heavy rainstorms. The bad news was, the water on the floor was the result of a leaky pipe. That serves as a drainpipe for both the kitchen sink and... wait for it... the dishwasher.

So we're suddenly back in circa 1988, when handwashing and drying were where it was at in our lives.

Moments like these make me realize that no one ever REALLY tells you that significant portions of your adulthood will be taken up by agonizing over which plumber to call, should we get estimates or just have someone come and do it, what if they think they have to take some of the drywall down to get to it, where will the money come from to pay for this after two rounds of car repairs last month, etc. etc. At least if someone did tell me, I wasn't listening.

I am listening to the bigger message in all of this, though, which is (I think):
our everyday life is pretty luxurious. We should try not to be spoiled brats.

January 08, 2007

Subtle Change Haiku

Browns on greys on browns
And the squirrels stopping mid-dig:
Remembering white.

Bonus haiku on the occasion of a 72 degree day, January 6th:

Lying on the earth
Like a hand on a forehead –
Checking for fever.

(Thank you to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)
(Pun intended.)

January 07, 2007

NOT a warship

This is Starscream, the Transformer of my son's dreams, the "big thing" he most wanted Santa to bring this year. (See evidence of his Christmas morning joy here.)

Yesterday we were in the First Day School building of the Meetinghouse; I had a day-long retreat to begin my year-long involvement in a Spiritual Formation group, T was off playing golf (on January 6th!), and D was in the room that is his school room during the week.

He asked to bring Starscream, and since he wasn't there in any Quaker context, we decided to let him, provided that it didn't cause any problems. (D has been learning that toys that seem too alluring to share are sometimes temporarily confiscated if kid tempers start to flare.)

Because Princeton Friends School was also having an Open House yesterday, we explained to D that he wouldn't be able to have Starscream in the room with him when the visiting parents and children came through, since we didn't want them to think that the toy was part of the room's holdings.

When one of the school administrators came through the room in advance of the start of the Open House (before we'd removed Starscream), he made a wry comment about D playing with a "warship."

D doesn't have any toys whose main purpose is violence. He doesn't own any guns. He knows that we hope that he remains a kind-hearted and good-spirited boy, and he's known boys who seem mean-spirited. He understands that we are concerned about how he plays with toys, and that if they seem to be bringing out the worst in him, they might go away. And he spends virtually no time in retail space.

But we are conscious of the fact that he's a boy with two moms who is going to be spending significant amounts of time over the next however many years living in Boyland. And we want him to feel like a native, not a foreigner.

So he has a Starscream Transformer. It can be a robot, or a spaceship, or a jet plane. It's really cool, and powerful, and he might save up his allowance to buy a different one. But Starscream is most definitely NOT a warship, at least not in our lives. D doesn't even know that word. And we're hoping that he didn't overhear it.

(Very tricky, this parenting thing. I'm constantly looking for other moms with whom I can talk strategy about resisting the strains of mainstream culture that are of the greatest concern to me.)

January 05, 2007

Pssst! This just in...

Hey, Miss Amy has a blog!

Happy, happy day! Clap your hands, everybody!

Kissing Lessons

Our son has come to love what he calls "true life stories."

He prefers stories with danger, or at least heightened emotion. So it's a lot of "tell me about the time you broke your jaw," and "tell me about that time that Grandpa was so angry at you," and "tell me about the time you and Aunt Tracy got grounded."

But the one story that has stayed in the rotation despite its relative lack of dramatic tension is the story of our teaching him how to kiss.

One day last year, when he was four, he was goofing around and gave me, instead of the usual smooch, a giant, sloppy, open-mouthed slobber.

"D," I rebuked, "that's a baby kiss. You're not a baby anymore; I want your big boy kisses."

He was fascinated. How is that a baby kiss? "Well, when you were a baby, you wanted to kiss us, but you didn't know how, so you started like this [open-mouthed kiss ala lamprey eel]. Then we told you to put your lips together, but you did this [small raspberry]. Then we told you to put your lips together and smooch, like this [regular little boy kiss], and you practiced and practiced until you could do it! And ever since then you've been a great kisser."

So now my five year old thinks he's a great kisser.

I am trying to imagine a day in the not-so-distant future when he and I have a conversation about grown-up kisses, and how they're a little bit like baby kisses, except you use your tongue, but only if the other person likes that, and for heaven's sake don't send your tongue in like a dog trying to chase a rabbit down a hole, and while you're at it have you flossed yet today, and not everyone is in the mood for kisses all the time, even if you both love each other more than anything, blah blah blah. Yikes.

Thankfully, for now, I only have to tell – over and over again – the true life story of how we taught the baby to kiss.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)
Update: I told D about this story and he demonstrated a baby kiss
just to prove that he still knows how. Blech!

January 03, 2007

Supersized "To Do" List

This list seems a tad ambitious for someone who is still writing "2006" on checks, but here goes...

Flicka says "Where's the confetti?"

Shelley's Uberlist
for 2007
(go ahead, click, I'll wait)

Knuffles says, "I never did care for champagne."

(Thanks to friend Chad for the fabulous blog dog bling,
and to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

January 01, 2007

New Year Haiku

Water in the street:
our sodden earth seeks to place
new tributaries.

And, just for fun, a bonus quasi senryu (not a kyoka, as previously thought... I'm still learning):

Will it be a year
crammed with danger and intrigue?

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration,
and to Manuel Kei for his playful spirit.)

The Hard Work

The African Great Lakes Region

In these times, I find that my spirit hungers for wisdom, passion, and evidence that courage and love will always prevail over fear and distrust.

John Woolman was a mid-eighteenth century Quaker whose powerful and personal way of "living into the testimonies" earned him great respect among his peers... even when he was challenging the very roots of their belief systems.

Because he was such a clear and powerful thinker, and because his family's land holdings lay between Burlington and Mount Holly, there is an annual John Woolman lecture here in New Jersey every year.
I was unable to attend the lecture this year. But I am grateful to Tom Hoopes, who shared with me a synopsis of some of John Woolman's teachings as highlighted in this year's address by Friend David Zaremka.

Here are some of Woolman's lessons, as evidenced by his life and writings, in a distilled form:

1. Rather than run from those in conflict, let us visit them.

2. Do not let danger deter us.

3. Let us confront the violence in the United States so that we lessen the wars, conflicts, and economic exploitation that the United States brings to other parts of the world.

4. Let love replace hatred. Let us restore that of God in those who have done bad things.

5. Let us address the roots of violence in order to reduce societal and domestic violence.

6. Let us bring enemies together to “look each other in the eye.”

7. Let us stop judging people as “good” or “bad” but answer to that of God in absolutely everyone.

And the unifying lesson:

8. Let us dwell deep that we may feel and understand the spirits of people.

~ ~ ~

Can you imagine what we could achieve, as individuals and as a people, if we were to take up this hard work?

(The full text of David's remarks can be found here: http://woolmancentral.com/lecture2006.html)