Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Destiny

My kids were here for Christmas. The Boy went home Thursday. The Girl went home yesterday. How is it that my home is no longer theirs?

I used to think my son's dark days would go on forever. They didn't of course, but having survived them, why do I not get more of his sunshine?

He and his cousin were locked in a laughing "I've done grosser stuff than you" verbal sparring match the other day. I pulled my son into the laundry room and whispered that I'd done grosser stuff than either of them—cleaning months-old used condoms out from under his bed after he left home, for example. We laughed together as though at a shared secret, and a pleasant afternoon went right on without incident or ugliness.

There was a time—more than a decade, in fact—when that exchange would have been unimaginable. Today it's just part of the flow of love and laughter when we're together.

The Boy's adolescence was stormy, to say the least. The Girl's had hardly a visible ripple. I used to think The Boy came to be my son because he would need me and The Girl came to be my daughter because I would need her. Now I see that we all simply need each other.

The Boy was born on my birthday; The Girl was born on her namesake grandmother's birthday. These children were mine and I was theirs from the moment they came into existence, even though each grew within another woman's womb. We are all part of one another's destinies, our lives fulfilling promises our souls have made together.

The Boy's third grade teacher once told me she felt as though he had an Einstein quality locked inside of him if only we could find and release it. Our extended family played Scattergories on Christmas evening and The Boy shocked, totally shocked, me with his quick wit and range and sheer intelligence. This from a boy who flunked every class in every grade from 5th grade through his sophomore year. Only a year in a hideously expensive private boarding school specializing in kids with emotional difficulties got him back on track and through high school. He has not been willing to even attempt college. He's 24 and working in a factory owned by his father, limping from one paycheck to the next.

What now? How do we fulfill those soul promises to one another? How do I help my son find his light? How do I support my daughter, who has followed a more traditional route—good grades, sports, college—but has no idea where she's headed? I do not know. Absolutely have no clue.

Years ago, in western states like Montana and Wyoming, driving speed was regulated only at night, when you could not "exceed the headlights." I never quite understood the concept before, but now that the kids are young adults it feels as though life is moving faster than our ability to recognize the terrain around us. Their choices are entirely their own and I'm a voice in the phone or a loving presence in their heads and hearts, encouraging them to (as I was horrified to hear echoed in the new Freaky Friday movie a few years ago) "make good choices."

In reality, I have my destiny to fulfill, and my children have theirs. We are interconnected, but they drive their own trains, as I drive mine. And so I pray.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Turf Wars

The kids and I are having a wonderful time together, but I had to put a moratorium on ugly-stepmother stories. They both dislike her with such intensity that nearly every story about time with their father begins and ends with their anger at his wife. It's not that I don't understand their feelings, I just don't want that stuff to color our time together.

Gang war broke out between flocks of geese visitng the pond this morning. Opposing groups line up and swim at each other menancingly, their necks stretched out as they hiss and spit at each other. Sometimes they flap with such fury they skid across the water in their attempts to drive each other off the pond. My sons says he can hear the music from West Side Story as he watches.

It occurs to me that the kids and the geese are playing out pretty much the same drama. Two groups are trying to claim the same territory, Neither can see there's plenty of room for both, so each fights with all its might to reign supreme. The end result is that no one enjoys the thing they're fighting over. I'm pretty darn sure I've done the same thing myself many, many times.

Funny how it's so easy to see the patterns on the pond.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Gifts of Love

The kids arrive in a couple of hours and I am dancing down the minutes.

If you have a few minutes, read this story of the power of the love between a mother and her child. Darlene's son, Mark, was in a horrific accident last week and still hovers on the brink though—fighter that he is— he's showing signs of improvement. Please join me in praying for them.

My prayers today are for peace; peace in the world, peace in our hearts, peace in our souls.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas to All

There's a party at my house tonight.

The mantle is dressed.

The candles wait for flame.

My children will be here in two days. We're hosting Christmas dinner, and fun will be had by all. As I type, I should be scurrying to clean and prepare. Instead, I'm sitting in wonder, in awe of (as a friend called it the other day) the game of ovarian roulette that made this my lot rather than a mud hut or a cardboard box under an overpass.

That's beyond my understanding, beyond my ability to know. But having been given the gifts of this life, I must use them well, enjoy them thoroughly, and share both my gifts and my love.

So MUCH love to you, my bloggy tribe. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be part of this miraculous circle of creative, loving people. Merry, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

May only good come TO you.

May only good come FROM you.

May you live in the Light of Love.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It Came Upon a Morning Clear

The air is so clear this morning it's as though yesterday's mist never existed, as though it could not exist in a world so sharply defined by morning's emerging light.

Maybe that's how it is with living consciously: the true nature of things is perfectly clear, then obscured by the mists of ego, then clear again for a short time. Maybe the openings and closings of the curtain between me and the understanding I seek is the way of the world rather than my particular failings. Gotta give that some thought as life reveals itself to me here on the pond.

Last night, in my winter solstice tradition, I wrote my worst fear on a piece of paper. At precisely 7:22pm, I stepped out onto my little deck, held a match to the paper and watched it burn. When my fears had become nothing but ashes, I blew those ashes into the air, letting the wind scatter them on my beloved pond.

When I started this tradition years ago, it was much easier to choose my worst fear. Once it was dying alone; I now realize we all die alone. Once it was being old, alone, and poor; in recent years I've come to recognize what poor really means and it's far beyond the version of my old fears. I once feared something happening to my kids; it has come to me that such things could happen and my living in fear will not change their life's path one iota.

After much reflection, the fear I released to the Universe last night was simple and related to the Rumi quote I referenced in a recent post. As the Earth once again turns toward the light, I am renewing my intention to live with an open mind and an open heart. I am reminding myself to recognize the blossoms of blessings falling all around me.

Light and Love to all.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Angel Hair Morning

The world is wrapped in mist this morning, a mist so thick it feels like doubt. Serious, existential doubt, the kind that keeps you from seeing things your heart tells you are right in front of you. Unless the world reconfigured itself last night, the pond is still 15 feet beyond my windows, yet it has ceased to exist to those who accept only what they can see. That group, I fear, has too often included me and my doubts about myself and my inability to trust in what I know without knowing how I know.

Does anyone else remembet angel hair? It was soft, white, slightly irridescent strands of fluff that we used as a Christmas decoration when I was a child. I no longer remember exactly how we used it, only that it was wondrous stuff and I loved to pull it apart to watch the strands separate themselves.

I'm having trouble seeing the strands separate themselves this morning. It's not the mist outside, though. It's the mists inside--the clouds of unknowing despite "getting it" for a few seconds every great once in a while.

In a comment yesterday, my wise friend Reiman wrote: Getting it is easy. Doing it takes diligent practice and reflective meditation.... to remind us.

Geesh. Truer words have rarely been spoken. Not two hours after I typed that post, I found myself shouting at a young man in a Sprint store. My phone, which was weeks past its warranty period, had up and quit on me, and I stopped by the unfortunate young man's store for help. It was his sad duty to inform me I had to buy a new phone because the one they sold me last time was BUILT TO BREAK just past its warranty period because the old one was beyond repair. To add insult to injury, he also informed me I had to pay an "upgrade" fee of $36. Yes indeedy, I'd have to shell out slightly more than $150 dollars to continue having exactly the same thing I'd had the day before—the privilege of pouring money into Sprint's coffers every month.

I politely declined the opportunity to pay the extra $36 for absolutely nothing, explaining that I didn't want to "upgrade" anything, I just wanted to continue to make and receive calls. He broke into his company spiel; I objected; he retorted. Feeling totally unheard, I smacked my hand on the counter and shouted—truly shouted, "Do NOT fight with me until you've listened to what I'm trying to say!!!!"

Before the breath propelling the shout had whistled past my teeth, I was horrified. It felt like my real self was up in a corner somewhere, watching a much more mentally ill version berate a young man doing nothing but his job. I've yelled at someone in public no more than two or three other times in my 52 years on the planet, so it was as though an alien had taken possession of my larynx. Well, more like my brain. After all, this was happening not two hours after I "recognized" what's worth fighting for.

I apologized (immediately, profusely, and often), bought the stinkin phone, paid the stinkin $36 dollar fee, and fled, leaving an invisible trail of guilt and shame behind me. For some peculiar reason, I've confessed this bit of ugliness to almost everyone I've talked to since it happened and now I'm confessing it to cyberspace. As I type here, it occurs to me that maybe I've been looking for absolution, unconsciously wanting others to tell me it's okay to yell at someone every decade or two, that cell phone company employees are used to being abused, that my guilt is groundless. The thing is, I know it's not okay.

The world is wrapped in thick mist this morning. Impenetrable, insubstantial, impossible mist.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Fight FOR

Fell asleep on the sofa last night, TV blaring, fireplace roaring, Christmas tree glowing. Woke this morning to a television evangelist preaching, and some things she said took root in my heart

Have to admit that my first response to ANY TV preacher is to turn them off. Can't say exactly why, but this morning I listened a moment before grabbing the remote. What I heard invited me to listen longer.

This woman's point was that any fight worth having is a fight FOR something, not a fight WITH someone or something. She pointed out that anytime you're fighting for your pride, you've already lost. How many times have I fought til I was exhausted just so the person I believed was wrong wouldn't be allowed to believe he or she was right? Couldn't begin to count. One of the preacher's points was that if you approach a situation with humility, the other person (the one in the wrong, you believe) thinks they've won. Her question was: So What?

In recent years as I've learned more about Buddhism and more about living in true peace, there have been so many, many situations where I've asked myself whether I'm practicing peace or being a doormat, so many situations where I've wondered if by refusing to fight over things that don't matter I'm simply giving in to people with louder voices and stronger opinions. After hearing this woman, my question to myself is: So What?

What a step forward it would be in my life if I could fight FOR others who can't fight for themselves: the homeless, the hungry, battered women, people living with disease of all sorts. Those are fights worth having. Fighting with my sister (and business partner) over how much more orange (her favorite color and my least) into the decor of the salon isn't just a waste of energy, it's stupid. I can't get past my emotional response to orange as representing anger. It makes me uncomfortable and I want her to respect my feelings as I try to respect hers. She wants me to finally "get" that orange is beautiful. So what?

She can fill the place with orange poinsettias next Christmas, too. Only next year, rather than seeing them as an act of agression on her part, I hope to notice their presence and ask myself, So What? I'm beginning to see that living in peace is much better than being right, and when that means letting another person believe they're right, it's a price worth paying.

Gotta go get ready. Running payroll today, always a good time. Not really. At least not for this non-numbers person, but it has to be done so I'd better get to it.

Blessings Be.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Anticipation

The first album I ever owned was Anticipation by Carly Simon. I wore out the cardboard of the aqua cover, drawing the album in and out of its protective sheath. I listened to its songs nearly every day of my freshman year in college, dancing in place in my tiny dorm room, singing along to "You're So Vain," and speculating with friends about whether Carly truly had written that song about Warren Beatty. I treasured that album and its music. Even today, I need to hear only a few notes to recognize any of its songs.

The second album I ever owned was Tap Root Manuscript by Neil Diamond. I got it for Christmas midway through my freshman year, brining my music collection to a total of TWO albums. That summer, Tea for the Tillerman joined the party. I still know every word of every song on all three of those albums.

Now I own an iPod that holds songs I've never even played. Don't get me wrong—I love my iPod and listen to it all the time, but it's unlikely I'll ever again appreciate any music the way I did back in the days when getting a new album was a major life event I'd remember for 35 years.

Today, life's about instant gratification. If I want to hear new music, I can buy it, download it, and have it playing in less than two minutes. An audio book takes 20. No more slowly acquiring a set of encyclopedias once a week at the grocery store and staying up late into five nights to read the good bits of A by flashlight under the covers so I'd be ready for B by the following Saturday. These days, if I want to know some strange detail, I push a few buttons and the information is on my computer screen in seconds.

There are lots of advantages to this "instant on" world of ours, but we lose the prickly, tingly, edge-of-our seats feeling known as Anticipation that used to keep us wa-a-a-a-a-ai-tin.

Who knew? Carly was right so long ago. . .those were the good old days.

So are these.

The Power of Our Bank Books

In comments on yesterday's post, Amber mentioned that we must embrace the fact that we're part of God and awaken to the power that holds; Anon. noted the awesome responsibility that lies within knowing that we each contain both good and evil; Holly referred to the power of our bank books. Their responses (and others who e-mailed because blogger's acting like a toddler in the middle of a tantrum these days) got me thinking even more deeply.

Before he left yesterday, Pink Boots Guy and I had a long, loud argru. . .er, discussion about the power of our choices to effect genuine change.

I maintain that we CAN make a difference. If we're going to buy an iPod, we can buy the red one that generates money to fight AIDS in Africa. We can choose cleaning products that are safer for the environment. (I'm going to blog about this at today, if you want more information on how to clean green.) We can PREcycle when possible—it's just not that difficult to use larger containers rather than those oh-so-convenient little single-serving dohickeys, and we can all say NO to buying overpackaged stuff in the first place. We can REcycle. (Do you hear me, Jackson County? We CAN recycle) We can drive small cars (love you, Paula!), or better yet, hybrids. We can, in effect, vote with our wallets. And our vote can be to purchase consumer goods manufactured, distributed, and sold in ways that support the health of the earth and causes we believe in. One person can't change the world, but I believe we HAVE to be ONE of MILLIONS.

PBG says the planet's too far gone for any of those things to make a difference. He says little changes, even by millions, do nothing more than appease our liberal guilt, soothe us into believing we're making a difference. He dismisses the RED campaign as mere marketing, designed to create more of a demand for iPods (and other RED products) rather than an genuine fund-raising campaign.

I'm with Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Let's be part of that small group. We'll change the world.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More on Blood Diamond

After speaking highly of the movie, it's only fair to warn you that "Blood Diamond" is filled with intense violence. Filled. Intense.

Normally, I scrupulously avoid violence, even the filmed version. Reviews of the movie and interviews with Leonardo DiC warned me about what I'd encounter, but the subject matter drew me despite fair warning. When the volume increased and the bass thumped faster, I closed my eyes to meditate.

I AM the safe, warm darkness of this theatre.

I AM a consumer whose demand fuels this conflict.

I AM a land being raped for its treasures.


I AM the beauty of the pond.

I AM a murderer.

I AM one of the slaughtered.


I AM the warm glow of Christmas lights.

I AM a child soldier.

I AM the parent of a child slaughtered for baubles.

I AM that.

We ALL are That. Please God, let us feel our interconnectedness and do whatever we personally can to stop this tragedy. Let's educate ourselves on the situation, insist on conflict-free diamonds if we must buy diamonds. Let's tell others what we've learned..

There is a solution to grinding poverty and hopelessness.

We ARE That.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All That Glitters

Saw the movie "Blood Diamond" this evening, and holy smokes, was it a mind-expanding eyeful. Violent? Absolutely. Horrific? You bet. Worth seeing? Totally.

My darling Girl called last night, thrilled because her boyfriend had given her a diamond necklace for Christmas. (They had exchanged gifts early because she'll be visiting me for Christmas. YAAAAAAAY!!) As she described the diamonds and their size and weight, an odd kind of pride was evident in her voice. See, I'm must be a worthwhile person if this guy loves me. And he must truly love me—after all, he bought me these sparkly diamonds.

Hearing these unspoken emotions set off my mom-radar, but who am I to judge? I've thought—consciously AND unconscioiusly—the same things. Many times. After 52 years on this planet and, one would hope, at least a modicum of accumulated wisdom, I never wear a ring on my left hand because it doesn't feel right.
Somehow it seems I'd have to earn the right by finding a man who "loves me enough" to gift me with a diamonds. I've even caught myself noticing another woman's rings and thinking how lucky she is that some man loves her enough to buy her such beautiful diamonds. (AAAACKKKK! I really am a nutcase sometimes!)

After seeing "Blood Diamond," I can not understand how diamonds became symbols of love. I've done a little wandering on the internet since getting back, and it seems diamonds are routinely sold to finance civil war and genocide throughout Africa. They are mined through torturous, inhumane labor practices and smuggled at the cost of many lives. In Angola, a 20-year struggle for control of the country's diamond mines has led to the seeding of 10 to 20 million landmines.

As the cinematography shows, Africa is a land of almost impossible beauty. Its beauty and its riches stand in sharp contrast to the poverty and the danger of the people's lives. Its lavish resources are controlled by the uber-rich few who exploit the many for their own gain. Tragic.

Americans buy two thirds of the world's diamonds. That gives us a unique ability to effect change. If you're shopping for diamonds, make sure they're not "conflict diamonds." (According to Amnesty International, conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war.) As of 2003, the Kimberly Proccess requires participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are "conflict free." This is a start, but more work needs to be done. If you're interested in further initiatives, check out Amnesty International's information page. Or, try The Blood Diamond Action site, where you'll find a guide to buying conflict-free diamonds and calls to action from our government as well as the diamond industry.

At this moment, I'm not sure I could wear a real diamond, conflict free or not. The question would hang so heavily with me: How many people lived in misery or died in pain so I could feel good about myself and my relationship with the man who bought the diamonds? Lord, let me not be that shallow.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

True Intimacy

He of the pink boots and snake repellant is visiting again, this time at my invitation. I know, I know, you're wondering why I invited him. Been wondering that myself.

The thing is, I've always understood that Pink Boot Guy is an incredibly generous, loving man. I've also believed that, deep down, he's very angry, and he admits that for much of the time of our relationship, he was angry with me because he didn't understand my priorities (kids before Everything) and was hurt by my choices. He says he's come to understand the reasons for those priorities and believes he can accept them.

Okay, that sort of explains why he wanted to come here to see me, but not why I agreed. At a friend's suggestion, I recently read Women Who Love Too Much. Boy, was that a whap upside the head with a big piece of heavy, wet lumber. All my life, I've gone after unavailable men. Emotionally unavailable, I mean. Men whose mothers rejected them, men whose parents were alcoholic, men whose families were deeply, deeply disfunctional—broken men who coped by maintaining safe distances from everything and everyone. Over and over and over, I believed my love could save the man I loved, could change him from an angry, distant, cold, impatient, agressive human into a koala bear without the fur and long toenails.

Didn't work. Never worked. Made me miserable and got me divorced. Twice.

After reading WWLTM, I realize I've been playing out childhood patterns all my adult life. I also realize that choosing unavailable men allowed ME to remain at a safe distance. It's no accident that I've picked men who can't tolerate intimacy—it's pretty tough for me to handle, too.

Pink Boot Guy arrived the day after The Great Mouse Incident and set about making sure there were no more mice in the house. Then, while I was at the salon and working on the DIY book in progress, he began cleaning and disinfecting every single inch of the pantry and laundry room. Even moved the washer and dryer to clean behind them.

What was my reaction to this act of generosity and kindness?

Total meltdown. When I came home and found him sorting the stuff in my throw-it-here-and-deal-with-it-later area, it felt as though I'd come across a burglar pawing through my underwear drawer. My tendency to put off dealing with paperwork and other annoying facts of life is my worst characteristic, and there he was, looking at and touching evidence of my massive failings. Might be easier to walk naked through Times Square at midnight on New Year's Eve than to let someone see my shortcomings. Wearing glasses no less.

Might be.

Anyway, when I stopped crying and shaking, I tried to explain my craziness, tried to tell him I knew it made no sense and that he was doing nothing wrong. Doing a lot right, in fact. Still, I asked him to stop going through the closets and drawers and refrain from messing with stuff not normally in view of visitors.

Why, I ask you, would I object to this kind of help? My average work day, which starts between 5:00 and 5:30am and ends sometime around 10:00pm, includes several hours at the salon and spa that I own, no less than an hour or two helping my parents with odds and ends, more hours writing the DIY books that pay the bills, more working on the novel that feeds my dreams, and more taking care of my beloved home with little or no outside help. Why am I not kissing this man's feet rather than watering his socks with my tears?

I can't imagine why he'd do these things; can't fathom what would make him care that much. I've spent decades doing similar things for the men I've loved, but never, ever has anyone done this sort of thing for me.

The question is why, and I'm pretty sure the answer is that I've chosen men who wouldn't test my intimacy boundaries, and then bemoaned the fact that they were distant or uncaring, trying every way I could to get them to love me enough to change into what I said I wanted. Who knows, if any of them had actually changed, I may have melted into puddles of icy water on their socks rather than on his.

Damn, this living consciously thing is tough. Self-awareness sucks when you don't like what you find in your own deep, dark corners.

From where I sit, intimacy seems to be the hardest word.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More on the Idea of Punishment

Long ago, when I was struggling with the end of my marriage, I read these words from, of all people, Richard Nixon. Tricky Dicky was never one of my favorite people, but I found such truth in this quote that I wrote it on my bathroom wall, where I would see and remember it every morning.

"The people who hate you don't destroy you. When you hate them back, you destroy yourself."

Nothing anyone can do to us is as powerful as what we can (and will) do to ourselves.

Sunday Scribbling: Punishment/Reward

As we found out Thursday morning, my "debt to society" came to $200 in American money. Can't figure out how to calculate my karmic debt to the Universe after what happened later that evening.

A mouse has been living in my house. In my pantry. to be more specific. After rejecting the idea of poison and spring traps, live traps were set in the pantry, laundry room, and kitchen. (I'm using the passive voice purposely here. I was not the one who set the traps and THAT is another story, entirely.)

So, when I got back from my day in court, I checked the traps. The doors on two of the traps were down, indicating the presence of mice. I picked those traps up and started outside with them, thinking mice didn't weigh anything at all. I opened the first little door, found NOTHING, and thought that meant there was nothing in the other trap, either, as they seemed to weigh exactly the same thing. Back inside, I opened the little door to reset the trap and OUT SPRANG A MOUSE!!!!

Little Mickey darted across the floor and took refuge behind a stack of old suitcases under a table in the front hall. When I stopped screaming enough to move the suitcases, he darted out into the foyer and to the basement stairs. My little dog, Cassie, got into the act, pouncing on the mouse and snapping at its head. I grabbed her, pulled her off the mouse, and set her behind me on the stairs. The mouse scurried down a few more stairs, Cassie escaped me and pounced on her again, and I screamed some more. We repeated this little act several more times before Mickey made it to the floor at the bottom of the steps. By this point, he was dazed but not dead. In fact, every minute or so, he tried to stand and collapsed in tremors.

To put it lightly, I was near hysteria and at a total loss about what to do. My original goal had been to release him unharmed, but boy howdy, that didn't happen. Now that he was hurt, my only choice seemed to be to put him out of his misery quickly; the question was HOW? Some of you have seen the stone Buddha head on my altar. I seriously thought about putting him in a ziplock bag and dropping the head on him. Surely a mouse killed by a stone Buddha would go straight to being a cow in India, don't you think? In my hysteria, I thought so, but didn't want to be disrespectful to Buddha or the stone, and so rejected the idea. I also considered flushing him, but that seemed really awful, too.

To make matters slightly more complicated, I remembered one of the most chaotic evenings of my newly-divorced life when our dog, Biscuit, managed to get our hamster, Snickers, out of the rolly-ball the kids had put him into. After lots of shrieking by the four 6-year-old girls spending the night with my daughter, we found Snickers behind the dining room drapes, stiff as a board. The whole story is hilarious—filled with flying grape juice, a scampering dog, and stampeding children—but the upshot is that we put Snickers in a shoebox for burial at a later date. (Can't break ground in Minnesota in January, not even for a hamster-sized grave.) The next morning, we found Snickers sitting up, ready to take nourishment.

Remembering that, hope for Mickey set in. Maybe he's just catatonic from fear like Snickers. Holding firmly to that hope and a broom, I brushed him into a bucket and gently set him out in the lawn, crying so hard I couldn't breathe. When light broke in the morning, I checked on him.

Dead as a little mousey doornail.

So now, I've not only killed a sentient creature, I may have let it die in agony. By the time I put him outside, he hadn't even twitched for more than 10 minutes, and I hope he was already dead but don't know for sure. Now THERE's a karmic debt for you.

Don't know what the bill for that will be, but I'm quite sure paying it won't involve my check book or my bank balance.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Debt to Society

Just paid my debt to society. Turns out my debt came to $200 even, including court costs.

Got my first ever traffic ticket in September. Actually, got ticket(s). After 36 years of driving with no tickets to besmirch my record, I racked up two in one day: One for speeding and another for not having a valid MO driver's license in my possession. Okay, okay. Not only didn't I have a MO license in my possession, I didn't have a MO license period. Here's the deal:

Got up at the very butt-crack of dawn to take my mother's dog to the groomer. Jumped out of bed a few minutes late, threw on some sweatpants and a sweatshirt and dashed off to pick up the dog and take her across town. After accomplishing that mission, I stopped at the salon (didn't intend to stay more than a minute, given how I looked and all) and, as usual, ended up trapped there for hours. Finally, about 1:00pm, I headed for home along the back roads.

A couple of miles from my house and about a quarter of a mile out of the 45 mph zone, I got stopped for doing 43 in a 30. There were 4 motorcycle cops hidden in a corner, and they were stopping about every other car, all containing motorists who had not yet recognized the shift in the posted limit.

As soon as I saw the lights, I knew my goose was cooked. There were so many cars pulled over I knew there was no way my patented "get out of tickets" schtick was going to work this time. Reached for my purse to pull out my license--a MN license, mind you--and panicked. No purse. I'd left it home on the kitchen counter. Very bad news.

Rolled down my window and prepared to explain myself, when I was confronted my the toughest, rudest, most aggressive police officer I've ever encountered. My respect for peace officers usually knows no bounds. My contact with these folks has been limited to situations where they were helping me or my family--the officer who responded when The Boy fell from his back yard fort, the fleet of officers who responded to the 911 call when the kids were in the wreck, the nice officer who stopped me for going the wrong way on a one way street and not only did not give me a ticket but walked in front of me, stopping traffic until I got out of there and then led me to my destination (I was lost). You get the drift, I'm sure.

This guy was not a member of that team. He didn't care to hear my explanations or my concerns. All he wanted was to see a valid license, and I did not have one in the car. I had to sit on the side of the road until a family member broke into my house, fetched my license, and drove it to the scene. As soon as I produced the magic plastic, he wrote me a second ticket, this one for still having a MN license, and he set a court date for my trangressions.

The bill came due this morning at 9:30 am in the Municipal Court of Jackson County, Missouri at 111 E. Maple Street in Independence, MO.

Wowsers, was that an eye opener. More than a different world, this place was another galaxy all together. The distance from my world to this has to be measured in light years.

To get to an open seat, I had to walk through a wall of smells: cigarettes, old sweat, an indefinable, sweet smell that might be fear, might be something else entirely, something more organic and less legal.

The prosecuting attorney sat at a table at the front of the room, wearing a pink gingham shirt and pink-and-blue paisley tie paired with navy suspenders. His thining strawberry blonde hair had been carefully arranged to cover his high forehead and then sprayed into immobility. He had a body builder's physique and a walk that broadcast how much he longed to be taller than than the 5’6” he probably claims or the 5’5” he actually is. Honestly, he all but carried a neon sign reading "Compensating."

A defense attorney sat at an opposing table, wearing a black skirt and sweater, a large gold watch and an expensive haircut. The designer handbag displayed prominently on table in front of her and her artful makeup looked like attempts to divert attention from the extra 75 pounds she carried on her mid-sized frame. She passed the time waiting for court to convene by reading a book, Violent No More.

Behind the tall counter, at the side of what I presume you'd call "The Bench," sat a tiny 60ish woman with teased hair in a style that was current back when lightened hair was called “frosted." She chewed her gum with the ferocity with which I attack spiders invading my house.

I took a seat in the middle of the room, behind a guy wearing t-shirt that read “I came to drink beer and kick ass.”

As people poured in for the 9:30 time slot, the room gathered a nervous energy quite independent of the change in the sound level or the potpourri of smells and that accompanied the crowd. People whispered together and the tinny sounds of phones being turned off echoed through the air. Some people squirmed in their seats; many tapped a foot on the floor or a hand on the bench beside them. Everyone seemed anxious in a weary sort of way.

The most shocking thing about the whole experience was the obvious poverty of the people involved. I was the only person in the room dressed in a way intended to show respect for authority. Unless, of course, you count several guys wearing tan trenchcoats buttoned over clothes far less presentable. One young man wore black dress shoes with white socks. His dark jeans with a few paint splotches on the left leg disappeared into an expensive tan trenchcoat. Not khacki, but a British racing tan kind of color. Very "found this on a Salvation Army rack-ish." He was holding a business card of some sort as though it held the key to getting out of whatever mess he’d created. Other young men wore screaming white tennis shoes, oversized sweatshirts and jeans carefully held in their left hands, even while sitting.

How is it that, except for me, only poor people are being called to court this morning? Don't the cops stop the more affluent? Or can it be that the more affluent just pay the tickets and go on? I'd have done that if only I had the option, but it would have been a pity. I'd have missed this spectacle, this revelation of how blessed I am. Driving away from the courthouse later, I passed a bar wrapped in a banner that proclaimed, "Welcome Bikers" and a little restaurant with a sign that declared "Gizzards are Here!!" Those are sights we don't find much in my corner of the world, where the general run of people is far more well-scrubbed, far less redolent, and oh-so-much more filled with the presumed safety of the world.

Come to think of it, $200 doesn't begin to touch my debt to society. How am I going to address the rest of it? Gotta give that lots more thought.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pond-a-Palooza and Other Things

Crazy busy here on the pond. Doggie has to get to the groomer before 7:30 and I have get a MO driver's license this morning then do a live radio show this afternoon.

Before I jet off, wanted to work on making manifest our Pond-a-Palooza. Please look at your calendars for possible dates in March/April. Expenses should be negligible. You can all stay here and there will be at least two cars at our disposal (Paula and my Mom's van). We'll do simple meals here at the house for the most part--I do loves me a chance to cook for a crowd. Don't have an '07 calendar yet, but the weekend closest to March 25 is out--I'll be in Mpls for Katie's birthday. Other than that, I'm pretty open. Going to Omaha to read at some big event one weekend in there--will track it down and get the info to you soonest.

Much love to all,

Friday, December 01, 2006

No Place Like Home

Holly and Jess mentioned visiting, and it launched an idea. What if we set up a writer's retreat here? Would any of you come? I'd love to host a long weekend writing/laughing/food and drink-a-thon among those of us who regularly read and support one another's work. Spring sounds good to me. Any takers? I'm totally serious here, guys. Plus, I own a salon and spa where we could take breaks for facials, massages, pedicures, manicures and so forth, which I'd happily offer for whatever the services actually cost me.

Next, more images of my home. Inside, this time.

This is Angelica, who greets you as you walk in the door. At night, she has her own spotlight and can be seen through the windows that surround the front door. She's an old wood mold for paper mache. She stands on a piece from an old church that was damaged by fire long ago. I drilled a hole in the angel's belly button and one in the top of the stand and voila! Together they're a strange kind of art.

This is the sunroom area from which I watch the pond over tea most mornings. Right against the window is the altar where I meditate.

This is the stuff on my altar: several small stones (including one that "fell" from an antiquity in Rome, which I won't mention lest Mystic Wing end up in the pokey for pocketing it), the big Buddha stone, a 27-bead, sandalwood Mala, the feather Jennifer gave me at the end of the workshop, a little pencil, and some candles. The thing that looks like a bunch of sticks is my "thinking cap," and yes, I do put it on my head when I'm writing sometimes. It's some sort of vine that I wrapped in a circle and has some ribbons tied to it. Kind of like an antenna, I guess. All I know is that it makes me laugh, and laughter puts me in touch with God and the writing gods. Always a good thing.

This is a buffet that sits in front of the basement stairs at the end of the kitchen area.

This is the living room area. You can see the inflatable bed I slept on last night to watch the storm outside. It's between the sofa and fireplace, about 10 or 12 feet from the windows. Perfect placement for romance, if only there were romance in my life. (more on that later. There are developments in the works. We'll see.)

This is optimisticaly referred to as the "dining room." As you can see, it's not really a room. None of these spaces are actually rooms, really. Other than the two bedrooms and bathrooms, the entire first floor is one big room. I've created the illusion of "rooms" with rugs and lighting and the arrangement of furniture, and it makes me happy.

The kitchen is too much of a mess to photograph tonight, but I'll try to post another photo or two later this weekend.

Think seriously about Pond-a-Palooza 2007. It's a happening thing if you guys will venture to the midwest. I've got three beds, two sofas, and an inflatable mattress, all just waiting for writers.
It snowed here in KC last night, a rare and wonderful occurence to be treasured. In MN, where I spent 28 loooooong winters, snow falls in late autumn or early winter and stays until laaaate spring, far outstaying its welcome. Here, snow comes and goes in a matter of days, always leaving me hungry for more. Not months more, mind you. Days or weeks more.

Anyway, we have about 6 inches of snow on the ground and Marvin and the pinduck have company on the pond this morning. A skim of ice is forming at the edges and everything looks perfect, perfectly Christmasy and magical and right.

From the vantage point of my inflatable bed (strategically located between the fireplace and the windows facing the pond) my little doggie and I luxuriated in the coziness of watching a storm while snug and warm and full. (Okay, so she wasn't thrilled with our dinner--vegetarian tacos are not her favorite. Doesn't like the "mystery meat" element of the things. I think they're great.) I had a glass of wine (she's trying to stay off the sauce these days and so lapped water from her bowl) and thought about but did not stir myself to make chocolate cookies.

This is what the pond looked like this morning.

Did I mention how much I love my home?

Oh, and when we got up, we discovered that tiny, silent elves had shoveled the walk and drive while we slept.

Who lives in the absolutely PERFECT place for her? Who?

ME!!!!! Lucky, Lucky me.

May you all be every bit as blessed as I feel this morning.