Monday, March 26, 2012

First graders on trees

When I was in teacher training, an early concept we were introduced to was called anticipatory set. Maybe you know it; it's a hook of sorts to motivate students and get them focused on an activity or concept. I like to use props or physical activity to engage the senses, and today I tried a simple exercise using the imagination.

Before we opened our fiction book about trees, I asked a small group of first graders to close their eyes. "Imagine this," I whispered. "Imagine you have a really big tree in your yard. Can you see it? What would you like to do with this tree? Think about that for a moment."

Fairly benign instructions, right? Hear what they offered.

Dylan: "I don't know. I can't see it. I don't know."
Alyssandra: "Mine is evil. I would cut it down; CHOP!"
Sloane: "I would let mine grow and grow all the way up to God."
Ivan: "Mine is an apple tree. I would harvest the apples and eat some and make dessert and and take some seeds and plant more and the apples are red and I like red and, and, and, ..."
Jayden: "I would make a swing!"

There you have it! Trees, as seen through the closed eyes of a handful of first-graders, and a diverse forest at that!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March 25

Dear Andy,

The sun is up! Shafts of morning light spread across the room, inviting us to rise and go outside. At the feeder, juncos jockey for position with remarkable civility, and my thoughts alight on you.

I think of you daily and shall always remember your breakfast rituals: the paired cereal bowls with silver spoons; the boxes lined up with their ingredients list facing outward; the sharp knife ready to slice the banana in carefully measured portions; the sweet music of your movements.

Today, on your 95th birthday, I raise my coffee mug to you: to your long and fruitful life, and to your memory among us.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Unsolicited advice

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Better yet, when in doubt, get horizontal. When in need of a sure-fire pick-me-up, grab Sedaris.

Pizza anyone?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seasonal gifts

The corridors and exam rooms tugged at me with their familiarity and storied history. But when the nurse walked me past conference room D with its cushioned chairs and sweeping view, the tears fell in earnest. "I need some time here." She stopped and turned and asked if I wanted to go inside and I nearly took her head off. "I don't want to go inside, I just want to stand here and look; to experience this." (Where the heck did that volume come from? Was that my voice?)

My nurse practitioner, Laila, completed her routine exam and talked with me about my emotional well-being, which was, I admit, both fragile and apparent. I was offered time with a social worker and, yes, in conference room D.

And so we entered, Katie and I, and we made new memories in that space, and I harvested the tender fruit of grief and of loss. Some of you have seen pictures taken in that room; poignant pictures of Faith, with her daughter in her arms. Pictures that hold evidence of the fear and uncertainty that prevailed in that time and place so many years ago when her breast cancer returned, seeding itself with abandon.

Katie says I am harvesting now, and though it is springtime and the season for harvesting seems so very far away, I shall accept the task- the gift- for the seeds within.

O' fruit of the earth, sustain us. Amen.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Beyond words

"I've really been enjoying ...

an internal shift; it's quite beautiful.
I'm afraid if I talk about it
I'll lose it."

My sister has found herself in a new place on matters of the head and heart and she shared some insightful observations with me in a recent phone conversation. Her voice was notably peaceful and calm.

And it hit me. How differently we process our lives. Each one of us. Through movement, music, writing, speaking, observing; using our hands, our full bodies. Through a vast terrain of processes we unearth new understandings that give clarity to our lives.

I love that for her, talking about something as profound as an internal shift might tilt the whole marvelous thing off its axis. Man, don't mess with a good thing!

Though I am drawn to words with a magnetic force beyond my own volitional control and use writing as a means of understanding, of going deeper- sometimes, even for us lexophiles, surrendering to silence is best. Like here, in Waimea Canyon, where, each time I stand at its rim, crying becomes my mother tongue.

So Mel, with no further adieu: to your internal shift!

For Jan

A poem for you today, dear friend.

Work, by Mary Oliver

How beautiful
this morning
was Pasture Pond.

It had lain in the dark, all night,
catching the rain

on its broad back.
All day I work
with the linen of words

and the pins of punctuation
all day I hang out
over a desk

grinding my teeth
Then I sleep.

Then I come out of the house,
even before the sun is up,

and walk back through the pinewoods
to Pasture Pond.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Of burdens and courage

A friend, 87, called me this morning to talk. It was the first time she's dialed my number and my first thought was that perhaps she'd taken a fall. In fact, it was her heart that prompted the call; not its ability to function within the small cavity of her 4'10" frame, but rather its heaviness under the weight of a burden she longed to release.

A few days ago when I expressed some kind words to her, she brushed them off with haste, teasing me in characteristic, true-to-her-nature style. And she's been fretting about it ever since.

It never occured to me that V has difficulty accepting compliments or gestures of kindness, nor that this character trait disturbs her. "Did I even say thank you?", she wondered, in a barely inaudible query.

One never knows what heaviness might be leaning upon the heart of another, or what resides behind their eyes. The courage to pick up the phone and bring this thing- this burdensome weight- forward into the light, is not lost on me. At 87; still seeking, reaching, evolving. A role model for me, and I told her so.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Leaning in

At the Lenten worship service last night, we were encouraged to listen to the reading and to note any phrase or word that might resonate, might offer some particular sustenance for us.

And as often happens for me, I slid into the reading with one focused ear; the other, poised and leaning toward a kind of auditory white noise, that sweet, elusive place behind closed eyes.

And this came through like a single bell-tone: Find the sacred in the ordinary; find
the sacred
the ordinary.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Convergence zone travel essentials, March 15, 2012

Umbrella? Useless in this wind.
Goggles? Check.
Bathing cap? Check.
Hip waders? Grand idea, though currently unavailable.
Submarine? Brilliant, and oh so very practical for errands today in the greater Lynnwood area.

Bugger, this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The passage of time

I remember when I stopped wearing a watch with any regularity. We were on vacation, settling in for long, lazy days of beach and water play with our young sons. I slipped it off upon arrival, embracing the beginning of our holiday and relinquishing my focus on flight schedules. From that point forward, some twenty years ago, a new practice began.

Though I'm still tethered to time, I've learned to intuit the hour and am often able to guess the time right down to the minute. What I really want to say is this: time heals.

I don't know that I shall ever understand how the passage of time can bring us to this sacred place where we can rest in reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace, but I can try.

The passage of time. Mysterious in its powers, elusive in its value. Looking back in awe; moving forward with gratitude.

Monday, March 12, 2012

On the right path

Two women, unbeknownest to the other, uttered words of great import to me today. A common thread connected their heartfelt sentiments and though their mother tongue and words were different, I heard the same thing.

"What you are putting out to the world is making a difference."

I am a work in progress just like the next guy, making choices along the path. But today I was reminded that those choices, whether intentional or not, affect the lives of others. I'm goin' for broke: be kind, extend grace.

I can do that; in fact, I choose it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One blessed family!

I've begun the process of planning the memorial service in Maryland to honor Andy, my 94 year-old stepfather, and today spent a few hours lining up musicians and attending to details via email.

Long distances among families are fairly normal circumstances in this day and age and ours is no exception. We hail from 8 countries and 8 different states. As a girl who grew up in a town where few ventured beyond the county line, I'm here to tell you, times have changed. I'm proud of my family and the diversity that frames us.

We are Democrat, Republican, un-registered, green-card holding, newborn, born-again, young, middle-aged, elder, caucasian, African-American, East Indian, Swedish, Canadian, Chinese, American, Finnish, Irish, stubborn, straight, gay, celibate, sexually active, adopted, conceived creatively, athletic, sedentary, retired, Presidents, contractors, students, teachers, healers, care-providers, care-receivers, widowed, single, married, living with partners, divorced, politically active, socially engaged, isolated, farmers, meditators, mediators, yogis, Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, cancer survivors, nature lovers, die-hard birders, avid readers, musicians, artists, therapists, canines, and felines, and that's a short list.

When our clan gathers next month to remember Andy and honor his life, we'll tip our hats to the family patriarch: stubborn, infinitely inquisitive, New Jersey-born, Italian; a one-of-a-kind man from a typical American family!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

I am thrilled to announce that my good friend, Jan, has successfully launched an app for iPhone and Android to inspire and support those in recovery or those simply seeking a healthy, vibrant life.

Today's Step has been in the making for quite some time and its launch this week is a cause for celebration! Kudos to Jan and Allyson for conceiving this brainchild and bringing it to fruition. I am so proud of you!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Decisions and how we make them

As a veteran Susan G. Komen 3-Day participant, I've spent significant time on fundraising and personal preparation over the past five years. This year, as a result of Komen's policy decisions regarding grants and the subsequent reversal of that controversial decision, I needed to carefully examine my stance before moving forward with my feet and my appeal for funds.

I reached a decision in late-February and began contacting past supporters this week. I am heartened by the feedback I've received in both financial giving and through words of support. This note, from a first-time donor, was especially validating. David works on the front lines helping women through the difficult process of decision-making that follows a breast cancer diagnosis. His work is not for the faint of heart, nor is mine.


I was really moved by your message about your personal struggles with SGK decision and your re-commitment to them. Causes need to continually pass the "right thing to do" test.

Go, Girl, Go!


Friday, March 2, 2012

A man for all seasons

He's had some priceless one-liners and I've told him so. He says that's better than being useless, which of course he's not. Useless, I mean.

Lest you think he's always solving complex health care issues or rearranging someone's intestinal landscape, think again.

Herewith, are a few classic utterances.

"I'm gonna start a business of evangelical religion, mega-vitamins, and bowel function and I'm gonna make a killing."

In response to Delilah's boycotting of the upstairs level of our home following the installation of a ceiling fan: "Give it time, hon. In 6-8 months, she'll be fine."

Penned in a card: "Thank you for your love and kindness and patience and silence when best to salvage the shreds of sanity!"

Lovely man. Quite witty. And so very dear to my heart.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A bright beacon from Poulsbo

She's a pistol, this one. Fit as a fiddle with a heart of gold. Tough as nails, steady, kind, considerate. Generous beyond measure. One of a kind and a bright beacon among us.

When not driving multi-wheeled rigs, shushing her yapping micro-dogs, or volunteering her time educating others about breast cancer, Carol shoots pictures and produces video clips. Here's her latest, a joy-filled, five-minute musical tribute to our beloved mutual friend and mentor, Ginny.