Sunday, May 31, 2009

All Creations Is Asking Me to Dance

I am sitting in the dark on my deck, pretending to work. What I'm really doing is listening to birds and frogs and bugs tweet and twitter and croak and chirp. They're singing harmony with the deep melodic bass of a wind gong somewhere in the distance.

After a long day of replumbing the water line to my parents' deck hose bib (the copper pipe froze and burst last winter) and replacing landscape fabric and mulch in their landscaping beds and planting some veggies in an old wheelbarrow for Mom, I am tired in that pleasant way that makes you thankful for a place to put your feet up. The breeze off the pond whispers secrets—stories that are nobody knows how old and as new as the yellow blossoms unfurling on my tomato plants.

The moon has a halo. I see it through the arbor roof and feel its glow in the marrow of my bones. It is exactly half a moon--light and shadow in equal proportions.

The same old challenges of my life are present tonight, but God is making music and asking me to dance. What can I do but twirl like a child at the farmer's market?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Farmer's Market Morning

The Independence Farmer's Market is 5 miles from my house. The Overland Park Farmer's Market is 24 miles from my house. I drive to Overland Park nearly every Saturday morning.

The vegetables are the same—asparagus and lettuce and spinach right now. Herbs. Spring onions. Beets. But the Independence market is set up in a parking lot in a derelict part of town. Some people smoke and others drag their oxygen canisters. I rarely see anyone else under 60.

The Overland Park market has a lovely green shed roof and the vendors line both sides of a boulevard in a lovely part of town. Smoking is not allowed. Hanging baskets sway in the breeze. On a ivy-covered brick plaza nearby, musicians play jazz or zydeco or folk songs. Old people in lawn chairs watch small children twirl til they fall down. Young mothers smile indulgently at their kids and the old people.

It's hard to justify adding so much to my carbon footprint each week. (Living alone in a house the size of mine puts me deep in a carbon hole as it is.) But I do it anyway. The music and the atmosphere and the sights and sounds and colors feed my soul. This morning, a small old woman made the trip worthwhile. Her dandelion-fluff white hair stood out against the red canvas lawn chair she sat in, and the red-and-yellow piping on her t-shirt stood out against the prominent blue veins on her neck and arms. Her smile was a living thing, growing with each child who joined the dance in the center of the plaza.

In exchange for the drive, I get musicians sharing their talents, the smell of fresh basil filling the warm car, a warm cherry-and-almond scone.

Yesterday, my neighbor angel, the dear, dear friend without whom I would not have survived the post-divorce drama, was told the cancer has spread from her breast to her lymph nodes. She will have to undergo chemotherapy.

There is nothing I can do but pray and take joy in all things, no matter how small. As our visor-wearing friend the Dali Lama says, the purpose of the life is to be happy. That's not always as easy as it sounds. Or else it's much easier than we think. I never can quite decide which.

Maybe both.

All blessings to you my dearest Cathie. My prayers are with you today and always.

All you need is love (and some damn good drugs).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Riding the Tail of the Kite

A dear friend called yesterday, at the end of her rope. She told me an amazing story of surrender and how the Universe responded.

I knew exactly what she was talking about--the feeling that you simply and absolutely cannot move, cannot pick yourself up and start again one more time, cannot. Cannot. Cannot.

But I also knew what she meant about the spark of connection to the Divine and how it lives inside us. I sometimes feel so far from it, but know that the spark has not moved. It is constant. My ability to perceive it shifts and changes. I miss feeling that connection the way I miss my daughter at college or my parents when I lived far from them. I miss it as the source of my strength and the nurture of my soul.

No feeling I know comes close to the feeling of being in the flow--riding the tail of a kite flown by God alone. It's free and effortless: simple joy in doing.

I sometimes feel the spark hovering behind me, just out of sight and reach. I whirl, trying to catch it, but that's no good. Maybe the only answer is to throw myself at the feet of God and surrender.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


My doorbell rang late yesterday afternoon. Doesn't happen much--people who know me just come right in and people who don't know me rarely show up at my house.

I glanced through the glass to see who it was and noticed that the person was standing freakishly close to the door, as if she didn't want to be seen. Odd.

When I opened the door, it took at least two full seconds to realize it was Katie. Right there on my front step. She's finished with school and has a few days off, so she hopped into her car and drove to Missouri.

Happy dance. Happy dance. Happy dance.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Inside Out

Went to my brother's house for a weekend of shopping and gardening and bird watching. Jeff's wife Nancy maintains a bird paradise in their back yard, which is now home to blue jays, cardinals, gold finches, Baltimore orioles, orchard orioles, indigo buntings, chickadees, nuthatches, and two varieties of hummingbirds. In the early mornings we drank coffee and watched birds. In the early evenings, we drank coffee and watched the birds. Lovely.

Sunday morning I weeded the strawberry and rhubarb patches and put down weed shield around four raised beds. When noon rolled around, I reluctantly rolled the two-and-a-half hours home.

30 minutes from home, a small convertible passed me on a country road. The top was down and from quite a distance, I could see the bright white hair of a woman in the passenger seat. It seemed incongruous with the zippy little car.

When the car got past me, I realized that the white-haired woman was my sister. Then I looked in the rear-view mirror and realized other people probably think the same thing when they pass me in Paula (my VW Bug convertible).

I'm 55 now but don't feel a bit different than I did at 40. This morning, my knees are sore from hours of kneeling in the garden, and that surprises me. I rarely look straight at myself, but when I catch an unexpected glimpse in a mirror somewhere, I don't recognize that person as me anymore than I recognized that white-haired woman as my sister.

Time marches, but my vision of myself runs in place.

Friday, May 15, 2009

16 Kinds of Different

Visiting a new hair stylist last Friday, I got an honest appraisal: "You don't need to look so old."


And then he cut 5 inches off my hair. Maybe 6. No one in my family noticed. Over the next three or four days, we had my niece's graduation and party, Mother's Day, and quilt night. No one said a word. Finally, I mentioned it to my mother and asked if she was being polite by not mentioning it because she didn't like it.

She looked straight at me and said she hadn't noticed. "It doesn't look that different, does it?"

Um. Yeah. 5 inches is a lot of hair.

On Tuesday, I walked into Barb's house and the first words out of her mouth were, "You cut your hair!"

I burst into laughter. When I explained why, Barb said, "Oh, Jerri. They don't see you. In all the time I've known you, your family has never really seen you."

And like someone flipped a switch in my head, I no longer needed to win their approval. The truth is, I'm never going to win that struggle. They don't see me. I can't be good enough or kind enough or loving enough to make them.

Freedom lives in the converse. If no amount of effort is going to change the circumstances, I'm free to make the amount of effort that serves me rather than others.

That looks sixteen kinds of different, from where I sit.

Freedom sang inside me all day yesterday. I went for a walk with Barb. Worked at a lovely little coffee shop and, later, a picnic table in a park. Ate sensibly. Listened to music. Best day I've had for many, many months.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Getting Better All the Time

Evan and I went for a walk on Mother's Day. He brought me a card and everything. (This walking thing is catching on with him. Yesterday he called to ask if I'd like to go again today if it doesn't rain.)

Katie sent a Mother's Day card that knocked me out. The printed message was about how mothers and daughters are each other's best friends. Forever. Nothing can change that. The note she wrote used words like "courage" and "selflessness." Adult words. Adult thoughts. 

Having babies and young children was one of the great adventures of my life. Having adult children turns out to be just as great. In some ways, better. No Cheerios in my hair and no one cries at the door when I take a shower. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kicking Fear's Ask, Part 2

After my meltdown at the Hallmark store,  I decided to invite N to lunch for Mother's Day. We met on Saturday, at a Cheesecake Factory on the Plaza. We sat outside, with one of KC's gazillion fountains behind us and bright sunshine all around. It was cool enough to be thankful for the big cloth napkin on your lap but warm enough for us. Both of us like to eat outside, even when we're pushing the season.

Out of the 100s of possibilities, we both ordered small veggie pizzas and Cesear salads and glasses of pinot grigio.

We talked about Katie. We talked about our respective work lives. We talked about how our families are doing. N told me some stories about Paul's family that I could have listened to all day. Completely fascinating. We laughed. (A lot.) We cried. (A little.)

N brought Kleenex to share. We used them.

I brought pink Gerbera daisies and a card for N. Inside the card I put a wallet-sized version of every one of Katie's school pictures.

Deciding to include the pictures was not easy. The idea popped into my head and wouldn't leave, but I couldn't decide whether it would be wonderful to see her grow (kind of like a flip book) or a painful reminder of the missing years.

My dear friend Barb was aghast--not for N's sake, but for mine. "I don't know N and I don't care about her part of this. I love you. I care about you. You can't make it right for her. You don't have to try, Jerri. Don't give yourself away."

Not giving myself away is kind of a theme in my life, so I took Barb's words seriously. But still,  moments before I walked out the door, I slid the pictures into the envelope and sealed it.  I did for N. I did it for Katie. Mostly, I did it for myself. 

The look on N's face as she thumbed through them seemed to be far more pleasure than pain, which is good. For me, it is good, too. Up close, it's easy to see that N and I are more alike than we are different. 

In our similarities and in our differences, we are bound by universal truth: When you share, you end up with more.  Always. 

Love abides.  And it kicks fear's ask.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

The other day I read or heard someone say you always love your children more than your parents.

New idea to me, but I think it's true. Your relationship with your parents is built on love and gratitude and memories, but your relationship with your children includes responsibility and fierce protectiveness. 

I met each of my children in the same plain, small room. The same maple rocking chair stood waiting in the corner  both times. The same linoleum floor caught my tears. For each, the first time I held them is etched crystal, sharp relief, clear and smoked. 

Evan was wearing a little sailor suit, tiny cloth blue-and-white shoes. He was, at once, impossibly tiny and the biggest thing that ever happened to me. I wrapped him in a blanket, sank into the rocking chair and became—thoroughly and forever—his mother before my butt spread across the hardwood. 

Katie was wearing a mint green and white dress and had a tiny mint green bow taped to her head. Looking at pictures now, I know she was funny looking, but to me she was beautiful. We brought a blanket my mother had knitted for her, and as I wrapped her in that blanket, she wrapped me in the joy of having a daughter. 

These memories are clear. It's the how of it that's carved so deep it looks smoked. How does merely holding a child for the first time make you love him so deeply? How does it make her yours for all time? The only answer I can come up with is that along with the baby, I was handed the responsibility and privilege of raising a child. 

The children became mine through the simple, complex, magical, mundane, overwhelming process of mothering that began in that moment and will continue until my last breath. 

Like anything, mothering changes over time. In the beginning, you're 100% responsible for this human being of the tiny variety. Over time, the job is to help your child take responsibility for himself, to make yourself redundant in her life. You work for the day you're not needed, only wanted. It's a tough job: alternately complicated and painful, fun and funny, completely terrifying.

Today, as every year, my thoughts turn to my children's birth mothers. To Evan's, whom we do not know, and to Katie's whom we now do. To Evan's mom, I send my love and thanks and prayers for peace. I had lunch yesterday with N, Katie's birth mother, to thank her. She, too, has my gratitude and my prayers. 

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers of all sorts and all women who help children grow and thrive. A big thank you to my own mother and to the women who made me a mother. 

All you need is love.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Cognitive Development

Edited a piece on cognitive development in infants yesterday. Had a good laugh over all the things I did right without knowing it. Just loving my babies. And I did (and do) love them so.

I remember...

Evan's weight on my hip as we walked outside, finding birds and trees and animals. After mama and dada, "Whazat?" "You right!" were his first words.

"What's that, Evan?"

"You're right! It's a robin."

"You're right! It's a daisy."

"You're right! It's a caterpillar."

The smell of the top of his head when we danced and sang together. Every word of every song on every album by Raffi and Sharon, Lois and Bram and Disney Kids. Sesame Street. "One of these things is not like the other...." Schoolhouse Rock. "Conjunction junction, what's your function?"

His weight in my lap and the warmth of him as we read Pat the Bunny and Good Night Moon and Green Eggs and Ham.

Again and again and again.

"Throw me the red ball."

"What does a cow say?"

"Which one is the star?"

You're right! You're the star.

Happy Birthday to you, my love. You were the greatest birthday gift I ever received.

"Little Evan came from Heaven one day. Little Evan came from Heaven one day. From Heaven came Evan, from Heaven came Evan. Little Evan came from Heaven one day."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dream a Little Dream

My dreams have been incredibly vivid lately. Saturday night I dreamed Katie was pulled away from me by a tsunami. She was 6 in the dream, but Evan was his actual age. He told me he'd stay with me and help me until we found her, and the gratitude I felt to him was overwhelming. No one else would listen or help, but Evan did.

Last night I dreamed I took the kids to Target. (They were both 5 or 6, which is clearly impossible since they're 5 years apart, but whatever.) I got so involved in finding everything my parents needed that I started home without the kids, driving a golf cart. When I realized what I'd done, it felt like the Universe was conspiring against me getting back to the store to find them: terrible storms, the golf cart broke and so on. You know that feeling of running in molasses? It was like that--tremendous urgency inside and no movement outside.

Got to try Carrie's "part of me" interpretation on these dreams. Lord knows I've lost parts of myself in the last couple of years. Hmmm.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Very busy weekend--farmer's market, starting new quilt, dinner with friends, birthday dinner for niece, baking 6 cakes for Meatloaf Monday today.

Fell asleep with the tv on in my room last night. When I woke in the wee hours, I thought I was dreaming.

The woman who owns the production company I'm working with was on tv. I opened my eyes just as she was introducing herself. She's a former anchorperson in Minneapolis, but hasn't been doing the news for years and even then it was local news in Minneapolis, 500 miles away.

Last week The Man asked some questions. When I supplied the answers, he said he'd forward them to this woman. Now I'm awaiting her answer.

And there she is, on my tv in the middle of the night. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Not long after Evan's accident, I was spinning in the night, trying to figure out what to do and how to find help. I left my room and went to the family room, where I eventually fell asleep on the sofa with the tv on. Woke to find Denny Green, then the coach of the Vikings and not a man I admired at all, doing a spot for the Epilepsy Foundation, which I did not know existed. I wrote down the phone number and called the next day. They led me to doctors who truly knew how to help and did, in a thousand ways.

I never saw the commercial again. Just that once. Just when I needed it. Just God speaking to me through the voice of Denny Green.

Mysterious ways, people. Mysterious ways.