Saturday, June 30, 2007

GodSpeed, Jess

I can't fully explain what a joy it's been to have Jess here the past few days. She's such an easy guest, full of interesting stories and able to go with the flow. Yesterday we left my house about noon and didn't get back until after 8:00pm, each little thing flowing into the next. And she flowed right along with it, even though it wasn't what we expected to do or really were dressed for.

In fact, she introduced me to a great little tea shop down in Westport. Yep, that's right, the guest introduced the host to her own town. How great is that? We went to a self-defense class at the salon and then had lunch with Barb (Barbara Robinette Moss) at a little Thai place and then the three of us went to Westport to the tea shop. She introduced me to bubble tea, which was interesting if not fabulous. (Jess assures me this place doesn't make it right.) Eventually, Barb's husband, Duane, joined us and we got a drink at a little outdoor joint. Jess kept her equilibrium through it all, even though some of it (especially the class and the outdoor joint) included some odd folks and sharp edges.

Maybe Jess has learned to keep the Second Agreement: Don't take anything personally. She has a copy of the book with her, and just before sitting down to write this, I flipped through the pages and came to this: If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart open and no one can hurt you. . . You can choose to follow your heart always.

So, I'm getting ready to wish her well and watch her disappear down the street, following her heart and the stories of her family. I'm so glad she stopped here at the pond for a bit. Her visit reminds me (though I never actually forget) of the power and grace of this group of women. It reminds me of what can happen when you open your heart and take risks. It reminds me that all we need is love.

Godspeed, my friend. Traveling mercies.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Green Tara and Red Toes

Jess brought me this beautiful print of Green Tara. I absolutely love it.

Here are Jess's toes, post pedicure. She keeps petting her feet, talking about how soft they area. The red polish looks great, don't you think?

Finally, here's Jess in her semi-permanent position in a comfy chair facing the pond. We're actually writing this evening, between stories and pictures and laughter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jess in KC

Jess is HERE!!!

She arrived a couple of hours ago and we've been talking non-stop. Now we're having a snack and playing with our computers. Updates soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Such Sweet Sorrow

Katie will go back to Minnesota this afternoon. I started crying last night. Why wait? It only adds pressure later. A certain number of tears must be shed every time we part, and I might as well get on with it.

My eyes feel like they're full of sand this morning and my heart feels hollow, a space where unwary birds bounce off the walls with the same PLONK as when they fly into the sunroom windows. Their beaks twist on impact with the windows, small clicking sounds the only evidence of their contact with the Great Transparency, but they rend holes in the walls of my heart, pecking out a fretwork of love and loss.

As you can hear, I'm in contact with the Great Opaque, fully engaged in the mystery of pushing a rock up a hill with my nose.

This, too, shall pass.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Happy, Happy

Last night Katie and I went to see "Romeo and Juliet" at KC's Shakespeare in the Park. It was a beautiful night and the production was lovely. Sitting there laughing together, whispering to one another from time to time, watching the shadows gather and darkness slide over the stage—well, it was just about as good as life gets in some ways. On the way home, we talked about love and relationships and the differences between men and women.

I loved being a mom when they were babies, toddlers, and young kids. The teen-aged years had flashes of brilliance along with plenty of challenges. But this, this young adult stage has a grace I could not and did not imagine. I am so thankful, so grateful for this front row seat where I can watch the drama of their lives unfold.

It's not all beer and Skittles, of course. From here you can see the hair in the noses of their mistakes, feel the pinch of their small pains like too-tight shoes, and their bigger pains strike you like silver stakes through the heart. Worst of all, there's precious, precious little you can do to warn or redirect them. When a toddler gets too close to a flame, you move the candle. When your candle-moving days are over, all you can do is trust that they learned to step away on their own. Or to use a fire extinguisher.

So far, so good with that. Happy, happy.

May each of you know such happiness.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Making the World Your Home

Katie got here last night and it's wonderful to have her sleeping in the next room as I write.

At dinner I told her about Jess and her journey and about Holly's travels with the Dead. We talked about how travel opens your mind and lets you see not just places and people, but new ways of being in the world. I think I've got her convinced to do a semester abroad next year.

We spent the evening researching programs. She's most interested in Australia and London, but I might get her to be a little more adventurous than that after she gets used to the general idea. Katie's a girl who likes to have a plan, likes to know exactly what's in front of her. She's organized and thorough; she plans ahead; she makes more than a list, it's more like a grid. God alone knows where she got these tendencies.

Her first comment about every single program we checked into was about the cost. I kept telling her not to worry about that yet, kept explaining that finding ways to pay for it was my job, not hers, but she persisted. We had a wonderful time, laughing and looking at pictures and imagining her adventures.

After overhearing a conversation between my nieces the other day, I called K to ask her whether she had thought I wanted to be a mom as she was growing up. Her answer: "D'oh. It was only what you were born to do."

She was mostly right. Being a mom, her mom and Evan's—was one of the things I was born to do. More find me all the time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Coming Home

My girl arrives for a visit in less than 12 hours. Lucky me!!!!

Last night on the phone she said she'd be "home" in less than 24 hours. You can not imagine how happy I was to hear those words come out of her mouth.

She has never lived here in Kansas City—she's a Minnesota girl, through and through. And yet, she feels as though coming to visit me is coming home, and I thank God and all the angels for that.

As the kids were growing up, that was one of my goals. I wanted the word home to mean me. I wanted to be their anchor in the world, a safe place, their one true thing. I wanted them to know they belonged somewhere and with someone, no matter what.

And so, Katie's random, without-any-thought reference to home sets my heart afire. . .with love and hope and pride.

While she's here, I'll continue to try to teach her (by example) that we carry the answers inside ourselves, that we only find true happiness within, and so on. And while I do, I'll go right on being glad that she's grown to equate me with the feeling of being most thoroughly at peace and at rest.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Racing Time

My mother and i made a quilt this weekend. To be accurate, we pieced the top. We'll turn it into an actual quilt over the next few days. We're making it as a birthday gift for my niece.

Over the last three days, Mom's been as happy as it's possible for a 73-year-old woman with assorted health problems and tired eyes to be. She has bounced out of bed and hit the ground running. I know this because I stayed at Mom and Dad's house Friday and Saturday nights. (We worked so late I was too tired to drive 4 miles home.)

Yesterday afternoon Mom and I were making salads to take to a Father's Day feast at my sister's house when she sighed deeply, and said, "I must be about to die."

My neck actually snapped as I whirled around to confront her. "Why would you say such a thing?"

"Thing are so good right now," she said, "and no one gets to be this happy for long."

She's wrong, but I'm racing time to demonstrate that.

As difficult as it has been in some ways, the move here to MO has been truly successful. The time is going to come—a long time from now, I hope—when I am even more thankful to have spent this time with my folks. I will never, ever forget the day Mom thought she was too happy to live.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fearlessness and Right Action

Had the strangest dreams last night, including this odd little bit.

I was traveling, visiting someplace in the US, an urban area near wild and beautiful settings. My folks were with me and we had rented an apartment-like place to stay while we were at this festival. I had been enjoying the events and spending time with many of the locals. At an event late at night, I reached for my purse to pay for a glass of wine I'd had with a couple I'd gotten to know and like. It turned out I'd left my purse at the apt., so I ran back to get it. Running back, I felt strong and healthy and as though running were no challenge at all. My dream self observed how strong and capable she felt and knew that she'd found her stride. I felt what it would be like to be a real runner, just the movement, not the drudgery and effort.

I was surprised to find the couple still there when I got back. After I'd paid for the wine, they began to explain to me that they were planning to sue me. They showed me pictures of watches the woman designed and told me I looked like I had money. They'd seen me wear jewelry too close to her designs and they were going to sue me for it.

I stood up, told them they could certainly try, but they'd have hell to pay making it stick. I walked off without a backward glance. The guy caught up to me and told me they would back down. He said his wife thought I was a soft touch but he warned her against trying. When he walked away, I could hear him talking to her: "She's not who you thought. For one thing, look at her. She doesn't weigh any XXX pounds (my actual weight). She's much smaller and stronger than you thought. Forget it. This isn't going to work."

I ran back to the apt. and started to go in the back way so I wouldn't wake my folks. As I went down the stairs to the basement, a man followed me. I turned and told him to get away from me. He shrugged and continued to follow me down the stairs. "There's nothing down here for you," I said, and I walked toward him, which made him back up the stairs and then turn and run away.

Another man appeared, This one older and not so large, but drunk. He, too, felt threatening. He walked toward the stairs, boasting about how he would take me where he wanted me. I waited until he got near the stair rail, then pushed him and watched as he toppled over the rail and down the stairs.

The next morning other people in the apt. building were looking out their doors, chatting with my mother about what had happened. My mom was about to defend my actions when the other women broke in to tell her they'd heard and seen nothing, but whatever happened was good and right because no man had a right to threaten a woman and no one who didn't live there should be trying to get into the basement so late at night.

I woke, feeling strong and confident. And thin.

The thin feeling didn't last long, but I think Green Tara's fearlessness and compassion are working on me through my dreams.

If you guys have ideas of the meaning, I'd sure be interested.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs

While sitting down to meditate yesterday, I noticed a feather floating at the edge of the pond. It looked mighty similar to the two feathers on my meditation altar, the ones Jennifer gave me at the workshops. I thought about going out to pick it up, but let that thought go and got on with my meditation.

This was the first feather I've seen on the pond or on the banks in the two years I've lived here. It's always seemed strange that, with dozens of geese around all the time, there are no feathers lying about.

This morning, as I was lighting my meditation candle, I wondered what had happened to the feather, wondered whether it was—by some really strange chance—still out there on the pond. It didn't seem likely, but I checked.

I found not one but two feathers floating in almost the exact same place the feather had been yesterday. One is floating along, held up by the other. Reminds me of the circle and the way we hold and suport one another.

Bidden or unbidden, God is present.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Thinking of England

Remember a few weeks ago when I was all verklempt over the intros an editor rejected? The ones I couldn't find ways to write?

The comments I got were—as always—kind and loving and helpful. Realized this morning I'd never let you all know what happened.

One day I sat down in my beautiful red leather recliner and refused to let myself get up until I'd written them. I visited web sites and bulletin boards for cigar smokers and people who love to pamper themselves to get a flavor of what they talk about among themselves.

Then I mediated a moment, consciously turning loose of my reservations and my own opinions about the topics. Finally, I wrote.

Can't say it exactly flowed, but I did manage to hit the word count with every one, "pumping up the envy factor" all over the place. They were pretty over the top if you ask me, but I got it done.

The editor sent a one line response: Thank you. These are exactly what I was looking for.

I read one to Mystic Wing yesterday and he informed me I'm now officially a literary whore. Works for me. In the end, all I had to do was close my eyes and think of England the pond.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Is Silence Golden?

A friend told me something in confidence the other day, and now it's boiling inside me, bubbling in my brain, looking for someone safe to discuss it with. I have not repeated what he told me, and I will not. But, woooweee, it's hard to keep my mouth shut.

One of our employees told me something slightly alarming yesterday and asked me to keep it confidential. I've been down the path she's on right now and it leads to disturbing, frustrating, just-plain-ugly places. I want to talk to her best friend; I want to call her mother; I want to confront the issue, but feel I can't because she asked me not to.

A colleague is in the process of making me totally, off-the-wall, batshit crazy. I'm pretty sure I'm returning the favor—not on purpose mind you, but simply by being myself (albeit a sometimes sarcastic, snotty version of myself). We are bringing out the worst in each other, but we are doing it beneath a threadbare blanket of civility.

Repeating a confidence for the zing I'd get from the gossip is just plain wrong. I'm clear on that.

Repeating confidential information in a way I interpret to be helpful—that's not quite so cut and dried. After all, my intentions would be good. Trouble is, my perceptions might be wrong in the first place and there's always the chance that whoever I chose to tell might not handle it well. The whole thing is fraught with peril, a phrase I remember from the boxcar-load of romance novels I read the summer after sixth grade. Best to keep my mouth shut and my eyes and ears open for now.

And finally, there is my say-nothing-but-leave-no-doubt-of-my-true-opinion situation. Jeeezus, squeeeze us. How old am I now? Have I learned nothing in the 43 years since I was 10 years old? In this case, not speaking up is just plain childish. Chicken shit. Not helpful to me, not helpful to the colleague. Not helpful.

Why is it so hard to be silent in some situations and so difficult to speak up in others?

Small mysteries, but they are the stuff of my life.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Further Thoughts on Practically Perfect

The other day I wrote about a new book, Practically Perfect in Every Way. At the time, I'd read 17 pages. Now, three-quarters of the way through it, I still love her voice and admire her writing, but I'm not so sure what I think of the book.

The premise is that this non-introspective type woman spent two years exploring various self help books in an attempt to improve her home, finances, marriage, parenting, and so forth.

So far, she's pretty much refuted the advice of each "expert," concluding that it's not possible or necessary to improve on her natural style. In fact, as she turned her attention to the issues of her life, she began sleepwalking and having panic attacks. It seems that the less introspective she is, the less she is troubled with these problems.

Most of my (ok, all of my true) friends and I are trying to live consciously. It's fascinating to read the thoughts of someone who finds introspection to be self-indulgent. Her views, while not my own, have lots to teach me.

There's a line between self-awareness and narcissism. In fact, they may be kissing cousins. It's easy to get carried away and forget which side of the line we want to be on. I'm trying to figure out how to recognize and respect the line and would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Stepped outside to walk my little dog last night and got hit full blast with the smell of Missouri, the smell of my childhood.

Just before it rains here, you can smell iron in the soil, heat from the rocks, and snakes in their holes mixed with something indefinable and sweet, like cookies baking in the next gallaxy—first star to the right and straight on til morning, or some place close to that.

Fecundity. Maybe that's the sweet smell—ripeness and possibility.

Since the blast from the past of The Counselor's cologne, I've been obsessed with smells: noticing them, dissecting them, describing them. Nothing jerks me into the past or pitches me into the future as thoroughly as smells and nothing is as difficult to explain. At least nothing I've tried so far.

Ever noticed the smell of berries baking? Their sweetness turns inside out, deliciousness shimmying in the air like the a preview of coming attractions.

Or vanilla? Why does the scent of warm vanilla makes you want whatever it's attached to? And what exactly does it smell like?

Ahhhhh. The mysteries.

I've got to go. It's still raining and I've got to sniff the pond.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Writing this post from my brand-new, 13 inch, white MacBook--the first words I've typed on it.

While I love this new laptop, I'm still mourning the old one--just a bit--a much beloved aluminum 12-inch MacBook with attitude. As many of you will recall, I smelled The Counselors's cologne at a restaurant last week and dropped my laptop on a tile floor, mangling its case and, as it turns out, the power port. When I tried to plug it in yesterday it buzzed ferociously, clearly a sign of impending laptop doom.

Anyway, here I am with a new computer in my lap. Kind of like turning a page, I think.

Stay tuned for further developments. So far, I love this little gem. Its keyboard is comfortable and its screen, which is an inch bigger than the old one, easy to see. Maybe it will inspire me to be braver and bolder. I hope so. I'm really working on that bravery thing.

much love to all.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Words of Wisdom from Barbara Robinette Moss

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Meeting Expectations

My sister, one of the people with whom I'm struggling at the moment, often speaks to me in a tone of resigned patience that makes it clear I'm getting on her last nerve and that it's quite an effort for her to slow her thinking down to the level of my lower, reptilian brain function.

I am not the only one who notices this, so I'm sure this is a fair and accurate observation, not my own stuff. Or, not JUST my own stuff.

What is my stuff, however, is how I respond to this: By being as stupid as she clearly expects me to be.

In the rest of the world, I'm my normal, relatively competent self. But put me in the same room--or even the same building--as my sister, and my brain melts like an Otter Pop at a Fourth of July parade. In Death Valley. At high noon.

This morning I needed to send a fax from the office. My sister has moved her office recently and doesn't have the phone lines resituated yet, so it was necessary to unhook the phone line from the phone and plug it into the fax. Well within my capabilities. She offered to do it for me, poor little soul that I am, but I opined that I could manage myself.

Yeah. Sure.

I went to the back room, removed the phone line from the wall and plugged it into the fax. I punched in the number, the screen indicated it was dialing, but all I got was a strange tone rather than ringing or a connection. I hit redial several times and then decided to call the intended recipient of the fax to see if their system was working. When I reached over to reconnect the phone, it hit me. I had connected the fax to the phone rather than to the wall jack.

Now, I screw up as often as the next guy, but not much more than that. Unless my sister is within close proximity. When she is, this is the kind of stuff I fall into.

Thank the Good Lord I figured it out, connected it properly, and got the damn thing sent before she realized what I'd done.

Talk about living down to someone's expectations. Sheeeeesh.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Practically Perfect

I am having a practically perfect evening: wearing ultra-comfy pjs, curled into my favorite chair, a red leather recliner. Above me, the ceiling fan stirs the cool evening air and outside, the midnight blue sky embraces india-ink outlines of trees circling the pond. Josh Radin sings to me from the iPod (thanks, Jess).

Best of all, I'm diving into a new book, practically perfect in every way, by Jennifer Niesslein. I'm only on page 17, but I'm in LOVE with this woman's voice. She's absolutely fearless about revealing her flawed human self and reading along feels like listening to your best friend telling stories. (Well, it feels like that to me. But I'm lucky. My best friends are really, really good storytellers.)

Check out Jennifer's blog or her magazine Brain, Child.

Back to the book now. More soon.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Anger Management

Chanting to Tara this morning, I wonder how anger fits into compassion.

I have been angry lately, with several people in my life. I don't like anger. Like the color orange, it scares me with its intensity. When people around me get angry, I head for the exits. When I get angry, I keep quiet until I can walk it off and yell all I want without bothering anyone.

Not good, I know, but I'm a work in progress, you know.

Barb and I were talking about anger the other day, and I oh-so-wisely told her that anger is a call to action, a sign that something needs to change. Easy to say to someone else, right? But even in my own life I know there's a reason for my anger, that's it's a call to stand up for myself. Necessarily.

But I never quite manage to ride the fine line between standing up for myself and getting obnoxious. Mostly I stay on the silent side of the fence, stewing dangerously. Two or three times in the last two years that stew has boiled over and I've yelled, screamed actually, at someone.

These are not scenes I want to repeat.

In other people, it's easy to see the fear that lies beneath their anger. Its harder to diagnose the fears that lie beneath my own.

Ah HA! That's the key. I need to find that fear, work on it with active compassion, and face it head on. Then maybe the anger will dissipate, like Smoke from a Distant Fire.

Okay. That's the assignment. Thanks for listening while I worked this out. Updates at 11.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Magnificient Obsession

Cleaning the house in preparation for a baby shower tomorrow, I watched "The Starter Wife" on USA. I'm hooked. Completely. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Now, I may like it for obvious reasons, but even without my background, I think you'll find it interesting and funny.

My favorite line was "It's hard to find inner peace when you worship at the Church of Perpetual Upkeep."

Amen, Sister.