Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year of Healing

Jesus is a healer.  This year I'm going to let Him do His work in me.

(As if I had a beautiful, ever-loving savior.  Once He begins a work...)

This thing that I am:  mind, body, soul.  Whatever this instrument is:  His hands while He is absent in body here.

Let it:  Live.  Love.  Laugh.  One mighty prescription written for me to see in various locations here:

1.  On the doormat in front of my dad's front door.
2.  Over the archway in my sister's kitchen.
3.  And today, on my grandma's sweatshirt.

I will take them each day.  The most effective cure is usually the simplest one.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why it's scary and exciting to become something else.

Geez louis, I'm one heavy chick these days.  (FYI:  I'm the only one allowed to refer to myself as a "chick" or a "skirt."  Don't test me.  I do have a minor in Women's Studies, which included a free handbook with instructions for how to turn sexist remarks into delicious casseroles and right hooks.  Strangely, I'm not uncomfortable with "dude.")

I was just writing this to Michelle:

Perhaps it doesn't matter that I can't remember her name, but some author I love once said that moving creates ripples on the surface of your life and that you must be patient while the movement stills itself before you attempt to "settle in."  I suppose it's akin to not anchoring your boat during a storm.  You have to be willing to endure the turbulence of newness.

I was embarrassed by my post yesterday because it seems self-contained and self-absorbed in so many ways.  (Embarrassment is such a useful thing--pointing to areas that need work, places that are raw, shy, mistaken but still "true".)  What's so interesting about my pain that I'd want to live in it, cultivate it, grow it, nurture it?  It's like some exotic and captivating plant that requires all my attention.  (Clearly, ferns fall under this category, too.  That's why I don't have one.)  And all the while, the time investment, the energy and devotion this dark magnet requires turns my heart and hands away from others.  The only way out is out.  Help someone.  Move.  Do it now.  (Truly this is the only way I've ever found to cure what ails you, and the heart of why and how we must die to the self in order to reflect Christ's love for each other.  My pain must never become more interesting to me than another's need.)

I'm not really sure how (or I have been unwilling) to accept the pain of loss, the heavy disappointment in my own choices and actions in the past, the present and those I know I'll make in the future.   And I know where I should hand this, but it's so hard to do.  Why is that?

(She entered her closet and cried there with Him.  A necessary, ongoing confession.)

On the brink of becoming something else, something stripped clean of fear, something other, something completely foreign--the work He is doing is the work of newness, and the unsure footing is the turbulence that must be approached in complete faith.  Beneath the wire, there appears to be no net.  So walk ask if you never fell.

("At what point did you doubt?")  Otherwise plummet.  His hand extended.  All is forgiven.  It is always already so.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And then sleep overtook me.

I was set to write a few thoughts down last night after Nora fell asleep.  We were curled up in my bedroom circa 1982-91 (and a couple of summers that required a bit of rest and recovery between semesters at school.)  And, bam, it was the next day.  Well, it wasn't so much a "bam" as it was a slow sort of leak into unconsciousness that eventually allowed time to pass without notice, sort of how a tire goes flat.  That must be why we say we feel tired.  (I know.  Many of you will probably stop reading after this point because of that horrible pun.  Believe me.  I understand.  I have to live with it everyday.)

I've been on the road with Mom and Mike and Nora visiting family in Colorado--the snow is falling, so the mountains and trees are beautiful--all lumberjack and fur trader.  We've watched 8 or 9 deer across the way on the side of a hill moving up to the top where the cemetery is located--my grandpa is there, another friend lost in high school.  These aren't the things on my mind though.  What I wanted to say is this:

I can tell He is at work in me, but I can't tell what it's about yet--only that I feel elsewhere.  Part of me feels like a dog licking wounds she can't even locate.  I am attempting a tight-rope walk between then and now.  When reflecting on the past seems deadly.  When you're right in the middle of it all, and you can't look back, and you can't look forward, but you need to understand both directions in order to find your footing in the present, to know how to continue.  It's a leap to go from feeling like a dog to being a tight-rope walker.  Just imagine a dog tight-rope walker.  There, now we've got a bit of continuity.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Driving and staring long distances.

7 hours sitting in the back of the pick up on the way to Colorado
and the big sky obliterates the distance ahead of you.  The sun
sets the silence from (you are living in the past) the passing cars.
From the window you see a daughter face her mother and tell her
one by one how many mistakes she's made (caught and gotten away with)
and the road behind her, though she can't see it now, is made only of stories
and stories continue to tell and retell themselves
until they no longer resemble the road behind her
but the distance others have yet to travel.

(Your life is more than your story.  Tell me:  what else is it then?)


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Doing jigsaw puzzles with your mom can be hazardous to your sleep.

"Have you seen this little gray, speckled piece?  Hold on.  Let me get a pen."

"Why did they even cut the picture up in the first place?"

"Mom, that's not a puzzle piece.  That's a potato chip."

"How long have we been sitting here?"  "I don't know.  How old are you?"


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Love Notes

Give me Your peace, Your freedom, Your love, Your burden, eyes, Your hand, Your heart, Your words, Your night and day, Your food, Your rest and work, Your light, Your spirit.

Your water, Your faith, Your tears, Your blood, Your voice, laugh, hand, Your sight, Your patience, heart, Your news, Your praise, body, Your song, peace, and yet again, Your peace.

The light broke in me, so shatter and shine through the parts of my life that seem cracked and dry, dark and scared.  Afraid to feel, to fail, to fault.  I'll give you this knowing You can make something good of it, that you'll know exactly what I mean before I do.  Lift this with me if it be mine to lift.  I know you'll say one way or another.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Miracle on 16th Street

Driving around York with Mom and Nora drinking hot chocolate and looking at Christmas lights, there is a row of houses to the left that could double as a landing strip at La Guardia and to the right are fields and  rows of trees black against the graying sky, and I can't take my eyes away from them.  There is something in the layers and the colors: field, trees, field, trees, sky--various shades of gray.  And when we drive past those other houses with the giant blown up Santas and polar bears, my eyes find single leaves hanging from the trees, filigree and lace silhouettes.

I was thinking a couple of weeks ago that miracles pervade everything in our lives, but because of their repetitive and stable nature, we stop seeing them.  Cuts heal.  Light shifts and gathers.  Water pools.  I don't know.  I guess that's one reason I always wanted to be a poet or a painter--to try to document the miracles like the kind I saw tonight--the silent ones that just happen if we notice them or not.  We change.  We grow.  We age.  Miraculous.  Language: miracle.  This:  miracle.  Love:  miracle.

God becoming one of us...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Over the river and through the woods

Just a quick stop in to say we are at Grandma's.  I am crocheting till my heart is content.  Tonight, I will sneak out of the guest room and sit with my mom late into the night, something I wish I could do more often.  And we will sip a beverage of some sort or another, I will continue to work on this giant, rust-colored afghan, and we will talk or we will be silent.  I learned everything there is to know about moms from her.

Tonight, I look forward to learning even more.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Little Things List

1.  Nora dressed as an angel in her Christmas gift to me, frame of popsicle sticks around her gentle gaze on baby Jesus in the manger, a star above:  "You can use it as a picture frame or as a hat."  Her joy and confidence.  Her patience with me when I'm not patient.  Playing Barbie for two days straight.  Cracking her up with Ken's "bad back" antics.  "I have one hug left tonight.  It's for you.  And let's make a deal:  let's take care of each other the rest of our lives."  Amen, little daughter.

2.  The Miseducation of Lauren Hill.

3.  An armload of incredible books found at Et. Cetera.  The remnants of a retro dish set called "Blue Heaven."  Calling the women there:  "I was just there and I can't stop thinking about blue heaven."  "What?"  "I mean, can you set something aside for me?"

4.  Joe March.  Marching on.  Your heart (k)new my heart.  A finger stained with ink.

5.  The joy of waking up slowly, drinking coffee in bed while Nora explains how robot kitties sometimes run out of battery acid.

6.  The gift of knowing when I am paying more attention to the flaw in the glass rather than to what good it can do pouring itself out.  Give it away.  Give it away.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Who is responsible for the mess in my closets?

As my brain has been thawing the last couple of days, my pulse regulating itself to a rhythm opposite that of "Flight of the Bumblebee"--as all these tiny, necessary undoings take place, I've been looking in my closets.

Okay.  I know what you're thinking here.  Given my usual sense of symbolic import while waxing and waning about life's deeper mysteries, you are thinking I am talking about something other than a closet.  But, dear reader, I assure you I am actually talking about my literal closets (though they will probably be held under a symbolic lens at some point in this post...)

What I want to know is this:  who has been coming into my house and throwing stuff in my closets?  I mean, seriously, I would never create a physical hazard like the ones I am discovering here in my own home.  The only person capable of this kind of chaotic, potentially deadly, anti-feng shui, tetris meets jenga nightmare would be my sister Julie.  (Julie, you know it's true.  Remember when we lived together in college, and the strange apartment we rented was designed so that I had to walk through your room to get to my room?  Remember how I missed an entire semester because I couldn't find a way out of your room?)

It appears that anything I couldn't deal with over the last few months got thrown in a closet:  60 pounds of stuffed animals?  No problem.  Throw them in the closet.  Limited edition VHS box set of The Terminator.   Well, I might need that later.  (Opens door, throws object into dark space of closet.)   75 bubble wrap envelopes from .01 +3.99 shipping purchases--I hate to waste them.  Shower curtain rod?  Empty picture frames?  Shrunken sweaters?  Surely I can unravel those and make a scarf.  (Pile lands on floor of closets, obscuring view of Terminator box set and rolled up poster of MADD race car.)  Why are there rocks in there?  I mean, why did I throw rocks in my closet?

I can only guess what the skeletons are saying about the kind of landlord I've become.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Break(down)

When I am not runningaroundcrazy (shout out to Teagan for the word convergence) while classes are in session, I find I am easier to be around, relaxed, quicker to drop to the floor for a game of "Don't Wake the Monster" with Nora, a better conversationalist while on the phone with my sisters, a discerning shopper, a book reading, biscuit-and-gravy-eating-at-the-gas-station-in-Utica-local and a better cook.  I show signs of slightly improved muscle tone.  I become a skilled crossword puzzle-ist, a crafter-- a stare into space for as long as you like woman at (not) work.

And when I am at work, I am all those things, too.  Just faster.

Let this break unwind the places wound too tightly around the world.  Remember there is work being done you can't even see, and this is your real work.  Now is the time to connect with that and when it begins again, never let go.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Love and Work

Tonight getting out of the car after visiting Ila at the retirement home, the moon glows through the clouds over the grain bins and the windmill, and it smells like pigs.  A man's work left behind for his son and then who?  Three generations now.  And I stand there too long making patterns out of the tree branches--a kite a cross a shovel a hand extended.  "Mommy.  Mommy."

There was a man, Merle--Ila's husband, born in a house where the garden sits now.  Tomorrow he would have been 92.  I found out yesterday that he passed away a week ago.  And there was a stillness there in the tree as I stood with the smell of his legacy, his father's too, not a bad smell at all, really.  And our lives aren't separate.  If anyone ever tells you they are, they don't know how much of our love and work takes place for years and years after we've died.  It goes on in me, in you.  Strangers are working in you now--the apple tree planted 130 years ago.  The cathedral that took over 100 years to build.  The cobblestone streets in Seward.  Merle's fields and pigs.  This house.  I put together some Rhubarb and Apricot jam we made in August from the things growing here on the place, a couple of colorful dishcloths I'd crocheted while watching Westerns, a card asking that the His love comfort her now.  "He was so quiet.  He was like my mother-in-law, so quiet, and a saint.  I suppose I talked enough for two."

I will do my best to pull the weeds, plaster the cracks, prune the trees, plant a few new ones, keep the soil rich where you were born almost 100 years ago.  The apples are sweet.  The ground is good.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Home Making

I'm feeling fragmented but in a joyous kind of way--when life sparkles, reflected in pieces.

Reading my friends' words of making homes and traveling, moving things, gathering objects--reading of leaving things behind, what we can keep, what we must take with us until we've "worked through it"--until we've convinced the ghost to go home.  Making a living space large enough for our lives, for our friends, for our soulmates, rewiring, removing, letting go.  The temperatures and textures of our arrangements.

Everything must change.  We reach for our own lives placed high on a shelf.  "Higher.  Reach higher.  Higher still.  I know you can do it."

It hurts--taking it down, peering into the shape of it.  A remarkable thing.  So new.  I remember feeling this terror and awe the first time I held Nora, her tiny arms flailing in the too large universe, her skin so new, afraid the air would burn, the sounds would deafen.  The light would blind.  This life is too much.  And yet, it is everything I can and must do.

Love without fear of it not returning.  Love--because it is what eases the space into itself like your body slowly being lowered into the unbearably hot water of your own life.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good night, friends!

Tomorrow:  because I did the dishes, because the coffee will automatically start brewing at 6AM, because I still have miles and miles of papers to climb, because it took turning on every light in the house and singing, "I Will Survive" at the top of my lungs.  (You may be thinking, "Hyperbole?"  Not in this case.)

Because of this:  I will wait for that miraculous transformation that takes place between who I am now and who I will be after a few hours of rest.  And then, I'll try again.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing, Mama

Too much on my mind:

1.  The madness of shoppers and the parking lots surrounding them.

2.  Nora wanting to talk (shy, hesitant, afraid to uncover it) tonight before bed about what to do when kids make fun of you.  My nose stings.  I bury the tears before they emerge (the awkward girl-self, the too tall, too strange looking, high-water pants, gap-toothed, wallflower, third wheel).  You tell them this is how God made you and He doesn't make mistakes, Nora.  In my mind I'm thinking: run.  Run away from them.  Get as far away from those words as possible.   Tell them this:  Go defeat someone else.  I've got work to do.  It took me so long to learn this.  I learned it from you.

3.  Art and motherhood.  Motherhood and art.  Who first said there was a conflict there?  Again, I say:  Go defeat someone else.  They are one and the same.

4.  I paint.  I plant. I write.  I see.  I love.  I pray.  I cook.  I listen.  I long.  I sing.  In me, there is no difference between my life and my art, my prayer and my life.

Everybody needs a change
A chance to check out the new
But you're the only one to see
The changes you take yourself through 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, mama
Cause I'll be standing on the side
When you check it out

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I must be growing up.

I'm not sure what to write about tonight.  There is a sort of hum inside me that can only be explained by a week filled with the warmth of loving company, with prayers passing across tables, music and language filling a room, opening my (fragile-hoping) heart.  And it's only Wednesday.  It's only December.  It's only 2010.

Nora's birthday.  A night on the town.  A first Christmas program.  A song lifted.   A train constructed.  A word read.  Cookies made.  Grading in tandem.  Language left in love.  Healing and recovery.

I am usually introverted, born quiet.  Preferring the quiet space of a mesa, a page, a field.  This is so new, this feeling that I am more myself around people than alone.  (Still--I hear Him calling me to shut the door of the closet and listen.  Look.  Be still.  This servant is listening.)  We meet Him in both situations.

Talking to a friend this morning over bisc(q)uits and gravy, we both agree that as time passes, we become better at being who we are.

I am grateful for this realization.  I am grateful for those people who continue to teach me how to love.  (Including you.)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Shelter and the Things We Carry

I'm listening to this great song by Ray LaMontagne called "Shelter."  The message is similar to that of a Bob Dylan tune that says this: "But if I can save you any time, come on, give it to me.  I'll keep it with mine."

Ray's song says this:  "All of this around us will fall over.  I tell you what we're going to do.  You will shelter me, my love, and I will shelter you."

I like both of these plans.  I suppose that's what they have in common--my fondness of them.  I'm working on the schematics right now, and they include both concepts.  This is going to be a pretty great machine if I can just get the building inspector to approve the unique wiring.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Word to those Graduating from College (or moving on from anything really)

One of the more difficult experiences I have had as a human is that of change.  When something is working, I tend to cling to it, repeat it, knowing that the previous success of that activity must surely be mirrored in each subsequent repetition.  When I was a student, I understood the rules for success.  If I showed up, did my work, and used my head, I could usually pull through.  And that's what I did for four years.  In fact, it's what YOU have done these last four (or more) years.  You've been present, you've applied yourself, and for the most part, you knew what to do because you were a student.

But all that is about to change.  God has a way of forcing us out of our comfort zones.  Have you noticed this?  One need only look at the changing seasons and how we must adapt to them to know that change, transition, transformation are all part of God's plan to challenge us, to keep us reaching and working toward a closeness to Him that only the sloughing off of the old life can bring.  For a long time, I was under the illusion that it was up to me to learn how to adapt, that part of the test was to see how well I could make do, on my own, a victim of good old-fashioned self-reliance.  But I know that I do nothing on my own.  Not one thing.  And this is such a relief.  I hope it is to you, as well.

I think there is a bit of this notion of self-reliance attached to the concept of graduation, isn't there?  "Well, here you go:  a bucket of knowledge.  Now, go out there and use it.  You have everything you need."  Many of you may have felt this voice in your ear as you've approached this final week of your college career, felt it settle around you like the weight of a brick necklace.  But this has never been the goal at Concordia.  And you knew this in your decision to spend the last few years in the middle of Nebraska.  You have known from the beginning--that what you were given here you would be asked to return to others as you left Seward and found your place in other towns. 

Even so, that fear of the unknown appears when we feel the most vulnerable, the most new:

We think:  I'm on my own?  I have to DO something with my life?  This is the end?

I know how terrifying and exciting the answers to these questions can be.  One moment, you can't wait to move on and the next, you're curled up in your bed hugging a pillow and wishing you would have failed at least one semester's worth of Gen. Ed. classes just so you could put off graduation another four months.

But let me tell you this, and I will try to tell it to you as plainly as possible:

You were never, nor will you ever be alone.  You are not expected to be self-reliant.  In fact, now, when that blank page sits before you on the desk of life, now more than ever is the time to bend the ear of your heart to God's word and to the space created in prayer.  In faith--knowing He has brought you here to this terrifying, this thrilling new beginning so that you might know again and again that in life you will be continually asked to accept the breaking of your old life, your old self so that you can be His new creation again and again forever.

Many of you may not know what the future holds, but truly, not one of us does.  You are simply in that blessed and awkward position where the present moment and your future meet in full force.  God would not have brought you here to this point had He not known that you were ready.  Trust this place in your life as being exactly what you needed. 

And I can tell you this:

There is no end.  What you have been given, what you HAVE given here at Concordia is yours forever.  And the lives you reach, the light you shine into the hearts of those you will help in the future (and you WILL help others--knowing you, I can say this with all certainty)--this too is part of His plan.  All things connect in His love. 

So let this seed of your life break open.  Bear the weight of the change.  Bravely (because you were made with courage) take up these moments before you and become other than what you were.  Onward.  Upward.  Toward your becoming.  Toward Him.

God bless you as you continue to grow in His perfect care.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Woman leaves dirty dishes in sink, goes dancing.

I am leaving the dirty dishes in the sink tonight.  I never leave the dirty dishes in the sink.  I know.  Many of you reading this right now probably have dirty dishes in your sink and you might be wondering what I think of you.  And I'll tell you:  You are terrible people.  Just terrible.

Ah....but seriously.  I don't leave the beds unmade.  I don't leave the dishes dirty.  I make the coffee the night before.  Every night.  And this might be why I feel like dancing right now.

I'm not talking about the nice kind of step-to-the-side, step-to-the-other-side kind of dancing here.  I'm talking about the kind of dancing that makes you look like you are either on fire or like you just volunteered to test whether or not the barbeque was ready with your bare feet.

A few dirty dishes in the sink and I suddenly want to live on the edge, live dangerously--dance like I used to dance in grad school when too much poetry and language theory made me yearn for a voice louder than the one in my head and the one in my books.

I know you've been there, too.  There comes a point where you either get up and dance like your life depends on it (see audition scene from Flashdance) or you just do the dishes over and over again and hope nothing in your life changes or gets too out of hand or makes you stretch beyond your normal activities because there you KNOW what will happen.  But this control is an illusion, baby.  (Visions of discotheques dancing in my head are making me break out the lingo.)  I dare you, Lisa.  I dare you to leave the beds unmade tomorrow.  I dare you to just let it be.

Double dog dare you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Now:  Wind and cold and finally wrapped under this comforter after a day of gifts.
                  Safe, warm.  Nora sleeping.

Earlier:  Morning coffee with Nora.
Breaking out the recording equipment with Emmi.  A joyous song lifted up (3, in fact.)
A plate of cookies and a poem (a heartsong) left in secret beside Lucky's goldfish bowl.
A message from Robin, her warmth, her hug.
The Gift of the Magi with friends who laugh and laugh hard (possibly during inappropriate moments during the play.)

Everyday:  I needed this today.  Friends and the time to be with them.

Always:  Help me to actively seek more of this good company in my life.
                Let me be good company to others who may have prayed the same prayer tonight.

Now:  Good night, friends.  We're in this together.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I love Nora's birthday.

Small things and incomplete sentences:

1)  A morning spent with Nora and her 9 preschool friends practicing for the Christmas program, celebrating her birthday, and helping with a field trip to the Community Center.  "I love you" scratched into the star of a stranger, handed to a child, "You can have this."  Mr. Brown Can Moo and a chorus of hearts singing with abandon:  "Gloooooooooooooooria."  White cupcakes with chocolate chips pushed into the fluffy white frosting.  So good.  My first time baking something for Nora's class.  An honor.

2)  Mrs. B and Miss S driving all over Utica's back roads as I followed them to the school.  (It was only 3 blocks back.  Apparently they were trying to make fun of the fact that I still wanted to follow them just in case I got lost with 4 small children singing "Jingle Bells" at the top of their lungs while throwing Teddy Grahams at the back of my head.  It seemed legitimate to me.)  Nora's teachers were in hysterics when we pulled into the school parking lot, both of them bent over laughing in the front seats of the minivan.  "What is this?  The Dukes of Hazard preschool?" I asked them as we unbuckled everyone from their booster seats.  I love Nora's school and the people there.

3)  Walking back from the Chapel with Nora's small, warm hand in mine.  She reaches my hand up to her chest, palm down and tells me that she has put her heart there for me to have and "I love you, Mommy."  I think most moms can attest to the fact that kids often choose the strangest times to tell you they love you.  The first time Nora told me she loved me was in the cracker aisle in Walmart.  I stopped, pulled her out of her seat in the cart and just held her right there in tears.

4)  Reaching into the freezer for apples for the birthday dessert, I notice that I've written, "(How do you like) Them Apples?" on the baggie, obviously the same person who wrote, "Wouldn't you like to be a pepper, too?" on all the baggies of green peppers lives in me, and I am grateful for her small gifts of humor meant only for me, knowing I would need a little extra something in the future.

5)  Nora says to me, "Do you know, Mommy, I adore God."  I find her one morning bent in prayer.  She looks up:  I was praying because I don't really feel like going to school today.  And then I know why "I love you" happens at the most random moments.  Because He is everywhere.

Happy Birthday, Nora.  God be with you and protect you.  I love you.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Waterline (Possibly Maybe)

Reflections of the final day of classes, the day before Nora's birthday, the day I felt so far away from being inside my life because it was happening so hard.

And I needed a quieter music, one that would unwind the knot that's been in my left shoulder.  Relax.  Relax.

(Try harder to.)  Relax.

And I am reminded that I tiptoe on the edge of wanting to be perfect, failing, suffering the lost footing miserably.  Get over yourself, Smith.

Christ lives in your heart.  This alone is perfect.

More growing pains.  How to be a haven, a house for the Son?  It seems so hard sometimes because of who I am and how much I rely on my head rather than the Spirit.  Lean not on your own understanding, stubborn child.

I need Spirit.  Less speaking.  A presence that holds me still when I think I should be running.  A hand that stills and breathes and summons.  A note sustained.

At the end of the semester, saying goodbye to these good people, all of whom I'll miss.  The time we spent working through all of it:  the writing, the giving, the sharing, the reading.  Leaving each classroom for the last time, I turn around and touch my lips with my fingers, a silent "thank you" for the space He created for us.  And then, it's time to move on.

He will continue to find new ways for my life to be made and lost, this rolling over, the drowning and the recovery.  That hand extended as the lips slip below the waterline.  Speaking silently, a kiss for the water.

I apologize.  I think I'm heavy tonight with change.  So be it.  Help me understand, Lord.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When I miss my sisters, I write about them.

I'm the oldest of three.  We were a wild bunch, wrestled a lot.  We'd push all the furniture to the outside wall of the living room and throw down WWF style, leaping off couches and inventing new ways to incorporate the carpet burn into our defensive strategy.  Eventually, we had to make it a rule that we stay on our knees the whole time and absolutely no one was allowed to get a running start from the top of the staircase, jumping directly into the ring, which was made up of all the couch cushions.  You can do quite a lot of damage from the standing position especially if you've had over 4 gallons of grape kool-aid to drink that day, which we usually had as evidenced from the perpetual purple mustaches in all our childhood photos.  There's nothing like three sugar-addled, furniture rearranging, maniacs shouting, "Go for the eye!  Go for the eye!" to make your parents question whether or not they would have actually preferred boys.

Truth is we watched a lot of The Incredible Hulk back then.  Julie spent a good 2 or 3 years telling people not to make her mad because "you wouldn't like me when I'm mad."  And it was true.  Everyone in the family including aunts and uncles felt Julie's wrath at one point or another.  Though she never turned green or ripped off her shirt or anything, she did go for the shins and hard.  After she'd given you her verbal warning and it was clearly not taken seriously (and woe to those who actually laughed!), she'd just pull that little Osh-Kosh B'Gosh shoe of hers back like she'd just slung a bow and arrow and--swack!  Shin splint.  What else can you do when you're only 3' 6"?  (Don't answer that.)

Sometimes when I look into Nora's face, I see my sisters there and I'm suddenly 6 or 7 years old again.  Having children does so many miraculous things to your heart and your memory.  Watching Nora practice her Viking sword fighting techniques with an empty paper towel tube, I'm suddenly back in the ring with Julie and Rasa.

I wonder if they'd be willing to go just one round when I see them this Christmas.  I'll bring some kool-aid just in case.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fishing Dreams

My Sisters on the Fly book came today, and I'm having dreams of finding a vintage RV, some fishing poles, and a dutch oven.

I don't even know what to do with this dream but dream it for the time being and see...

It's so new, and I love it.

I figure I've got two choices:  do it or don't do it.

That simplifies it quite a bit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Motorcycles, Deer, Birthday

I'm not sure what this is about, but I have a strong urge to rent a motorcycle and one of those little side cars for Nora and drive across the country with an 8 ball black helmet, a red scarf and goggles.  I would probably carry a large supply of fish crackers, too.

Exhaust and exhaustion disappearing behind me.

When I was 4 and lived in Apple Tree Trailer park, my dad would break up hay bales in the front yard during the winter, and the deer would come down.  We'd watch them a long time, our breath on the glass softening the scene, as if it needed to be any softer.  Silent night.  I remember this because my dad had a motorcycle then, and he'd take us up into the hills on it.  There was a stream there, and he'd park the bike, and we'd wade and crawl on our bellies, our legs floating behind us as we pretended to be alligators.   Then back down from this other world to the one we usually lived in.

Nora turns 4 on Friday.  Will there be streamers?  Oh, yes.  Cake.  Absolutely.  Motorcycles.  Not yet.

But I'm still going to wear goggles.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Growing Pains

She is digging with her shoe a tiny, secret spot in the broken land 
And into it, she places a seed she pulled, a glowing tooth
Out of the mouth of a  dream she had about her unborn daughter
Who covered her mother with a sheet of paper and waited
Shy behind the door for the word: Grow.  

Even when it isn't comfortable or convenient.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Up early to read more of Matthew and stunned by "At which point did you doubt?"  The feet slipping beneath the surface, the hand extended.

Grading in bed, I wait to open the blinds until well into the morning.

Finally up and showered while playing Arcade Fire as loudly as possible and dancing in the kitchen as a way to summon my strength, warn the enemy that I am stomping and I am dancing, grabbing my keys and out the door to McDonald's because "the Inn at Panama was full" to find Cody and Adam and a large fry and coffee as we discuss their writing, which is inspiring to me.

I get a migraine and have to wait until the sparkly blind spot moves out of my field of vision, so I can drive.

Nora and I return home for an afternoon of pretending to be elves wrapping Christmas presents.

Sitting outside in the dead, yellow grass, singing to the 7 yellow farm cats as I explain to Nora that they are sitting there with their backs to us as a way to test us, see if we'll attack.  Eventually they turn around and watch us through half-closed eyes.  One rolls onto her back, and I figure it will take a few more days of this until one of them finally approaches.  I feel like I'm in a movie called Dances with Farm Cats.

Playing kitties and mommy kitties.  Nora sticking her tummy out.  My fat cat.

Crocheting, eating ice cream and pretzels, watching the game.

And that was the day, beautiful, beautiful day.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Ya know, one of the hard things about the 365 blog challenge is that some days are just kind of rough, and when you go to sit down and write--oh, who am I fooling here using the second person--when I go to sit down, I feel that writing about this roughness is somehow bad.  But, because I have to believe that whatever brings me to this point must be a way for me to come around to another point, a better point, then I'll go through it, if that's what He asks of me.  So, I debate about how to write about a day like today, and I think the best way to balance it out here is to include as much of the good with the bad as I can because as James Baldwin writes, "the tale of how we suffer and how we triumph must be told."

1.  Wanting to warm the car up this morning before an impromptu trip to the doctor (Nora is sick again and I am a worried mother), I throw some boots on, a sweater, run out and Lynn is out back working and I hold my hand up high toward the sky, and he holds his up in the sky and we keep them there for a good long time.  It wasn't like one of those flap your hand around kind of waves.  It was a kind of salute, I suppose, one that said, I see you there working and I see you there with your daughter, and we thank you for the fruitcake and I thank you for taking care of the house and here we are and, yeah, it's cold, but here we are.

2.  Words from friends and family saying I am doing okay, making good choices, being a good mother, and I am saved by their encouragement, how they sustain me.  I want to tell them as I told Nora last night, "Did you know, Nora, I am almost always talking to God, even while I'm putting these socks here into the laundry hamper?"

3.  Running around Walmart for medicine, there's a single long, black cardigan hanging on the rack for 15 bucks, the sweater I've been needing for awhile now in order to hide my...uh, I grab it and continue walking around looking for the Christmas light section and when I finally make it there, I look down and realize I'm just carrying around an empty hanger.  Feeling like someone who forgot to attach the dog to the leash, I have to figure that wasn't the sweater I was looking for after all.

4.  My mom's Christmas open house at her pottery studio in York was a big success.  And I'm proud of her.  If I weren't already sitting so close to her, I would lift my hand up into the sky and hold it there for a long time in her direction and it would say, "I see you there, Mom, working and making things with your hands, and they are beautiful, the same hands that shaped me and this wood burning stove is really hot, don't you think?  Should we open the door?  Man, I love peanut butter cookies with a hershey's kiss on top."

So there, suffering.  Take that.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And then he said,

"You are more than your story," and I had to rewrite everything.  More importantly, everything rewrote me.

Breath:  where the edges meet and fade together.  The light from two passing cars intersects, and we can no longer tell who owns which portion of it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lists often help when you can't think of a paragraph

Little Things:

1.  The new faucet in my bathroom.  SO shiny.  SO working.  I like shiny.   I like working.
2.  Nora saying goodbye to Grandma last night:  "Good night!  And a happy new year to you!"
3.  My friends and their adventures both internal and external.  What this inside does to the outside; what the outside does to the inside.  Their courage.
4.  Only 6 essays left to grade.  Alarm set for 5:30 AM.  I feel like I'm running through quicksand and then my mom says, "Don't give up, Lisa."  How did she know I was even thinking about giving up?  Was it because I couldn't remember how many p's are in appreciate?  Did she see the look on my face that said, "You teach at the college level?!  How did that happen?  God, are you sure you want me to teach?  Wouldn't I be safer in sales?  Perhaps you aren't aware of my spelling issues.  Oh, wait.  I suppose you are.  Well, all right, God.  If you're sure."
5.  Two new books in the mail about preserving seeds and feeding your family on a 1/4 acre of land.  (I skipped to the chicken nugget and mac n' cheese section, naturally.  Looks like I'm going to need some chicken seeds.  Eggs.  I mean eggs.)
6.  The saying, "Don't want to waste your time chewing the cabbage twice."
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