Saturday, June 20, 2015

I drove home last week to spend a few days with my mom & dad. Things are changing, and I find myself grasping at glimpses of our lives together, stories that have become threads of our life tapestry: Dad's army stories, our vacation stories, things from our house that remind me of growing up and how good it was just living in the same house together. We share so many good memories.

My cousin, Regina, was there when I arrived last Saturday. I hadn't seen her in so many years. Wow, she's so beautiful. We played together a lot when we were kids, and she got to spend the night at my house, maybe not as often as we'd have liked, but still pretty often. I can hardly even think of Gina without remembering the 'iced tea incident'. All these years later, it still makes me smile.

It was the morning of one of our sleepovers and Dad made pancakes. There we sat, kitchen table covered with plates and forks, a platter piled high with pancakes and sausage, stick of butter, bottle of syrup. I think I was the first to go. I reached for the syrup and must have bumped my iced tea glass because over it went, spilling all over the table and soaking into the placemats. Dad jumped up and grabbed a towel, got everything cleaned up, and after I said for the umpteenth time how sorry I was, and after telling me it didn't matter for the umpteenth time, Dad got me a fresh glass and we sat back down to pancakes.

We were having a good time, eating our breakfast and planning our day, when Gina reached for another pancake and knocked over her glass. Oh, dear! Dad jumped up again to grab a dish towel, tea towel as we called them then, and started mopping tea and picking up ice cubes from the table. Gina said she was sorry about a million times, but my dad wasn't the kind of guy to get mad about stuff like that. He just got everything cleaned up and when he sat down said something like, "Okay, you two, how about being a little more careful with those pajama sleeves." Seemed like a reasonable request after all that mopping up.

Dad sat back down for the third time and as he reached for the syrup.... Yep, you got it. He knocked over his own iced tea. I laugh just thinking about it. He didn't jump up this time, but sat and watched as a river of tea moved across the table. Gina and I looked at my dad, then looked at each other, and it was just too much for our little girl selves. We started to giggle. Then we started to laugh. Dad lost all resolve and started laughing, himself.

He cleaned up the third overturned glass and was still laughing when he sat back down. Gina and I laughed and carried on all through the rest of breakfast, waving bites of sausage in the air on the end of our forks, and talking with our mouths full. Dad laughed with us and smiled as we retold the story again and again, belly laughing over how funny it all was.

Dad never has been one to worry much over things that don't matter. He's always taken things in stride, never let much of anything ruffle his feathers, even when three glasses of iced tea get turned over in one meal.

Love you, Dad.


Monday, April 27, 2015

To the Magi On Her Birthday:

My memories of my thirty-fifth year are laced with hard lessons, harsh realizations about myself. It was a year of awakening. It was the year of deciding to embrace who I am and live my life, not a version belonging to anyone else. It was a year of freeing myself from "shoulds". I traded them in for "musts".

Now, here you are, looking at 35, and you're so much more together than I ever thought of being back then. It's hard for me to imagine that you'd ever have a moment of doubt, but maybe there's something mystical about this birthday. Maybe it's a magic hour when the tumblers click, the planets align, and the fog begins to lift. We become brave and determined as we stand at the base of the mountain, considering all the climb will exact from us. There's a path that skirts the mountain to either side. It's level and it's safe, but it's not true. The trail over the top is the only one that leads to our authentic self.

Take a deep breath, my love. Lift up your chin, keep your eyes forward. Remember how very much you're loved in this life. You are spirit enjoying a human experience. Let that help you keep your perspective. Take the next step. Take another. You can make an entire journey -

one step at a time.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I read an article on panhandling when it showed up on my friend's Facebook page this week. Panhandling. I don't even want to imagine what it must be like to be so out of options that your only resource is to beg for change on the street, and yet, for many, this is life's reality. This is a harsh, dark reality and I don't want to think it could be true, that responsible, respectable people could find themselves in such a position. So I draw conclusions that the people out there must be irresponsible. That they can't hold down a job, that they can't hold on to their money, spending it on drugs or alcohol and gambling. I'm sure that's true for some,  but is it true for all? We don't want to think it could happen to us, or to anyone we know, but it could, couldn't it? Couldn't it just as easily happen to us? It's just too frightening a possibility to consider.

There's a part of town where I'm guaranteed to pass people asking for money on the street. I admit, I'm uncomfortable when I encounter a person holding a sign that reads, "Please Help" when I don't have extra cash in my pocket. It's really hard for me to face that person. I tell myself, "He doesn't know me, doesn't know that I've got my own stuff going on." And it's true, he doesn't. He just sees a person in a car going to work. And I see a person, standing on a street corner, asking for handouts. But who are we that we can't look at each other? What kind of person does it make me that I can pass this person who has nothing, without extending so much as a smile or hello? Is it too painful to look at him without sharing something? The simple answer is, yes. It's too hard to look at this person because if I were to really look, I'd want to change my whole world and see what I can do to help him find work and a warm, safe place to sleep and good food to eat.

I thought about this in the days after reading the article. It made me think about the times I've passed people holding signs asking for help, and felt a great chasm stretching out between us. I don't feel like anything I have to give would be enough. Nothing short of a warm bed, clean clothes, hot food and a job would be enough. In light of that, a dollar in a cup doesn't seem like much. And so I look away.

I suggested on my own Facebook page that maybe money's not the answer. Maybe the answer lies in a simple kindness, like a sandwich or a cup of coffee. My friend said that her daughter used to do that, pack extra sandwiches in the morning and hand them out on the way to work, but people weren't very appreciative. That made me sad for her daughter.

I don't often have extra cash, and I don't really even know if that's the answer. The question for me today is one of humanity, acknowledging another person's presence in this world. If I can look into the eyes of one person, even when he's at perhaps his lowest, even when I have no power to help him cross that divide, if I can offer respect in the form of a sandwich or a cup of hot coffee, or even just a smile - even if he declines to accept, I looked at that person. I acknowledged his place in this world.

Maybe it's as much about seeing a person's divinity as it is acknowledging his humanity.



Friday, March 27, 2015

So, yesterday I made a small batch of beignets. First time ever making these tiny pillows of goodness, and they turned out great. And I'm not just talking great. I'm talking the where-have-you-been-all-my-life kind of delicious. Thanks, Mary Jane, for turning me on to this delicacy. I'm not yet sure whether to love you or curse you.

So, I made these delicious little beignets, even got my husband to try one before he left for work. Luckily, it was a small batch, because over the course of the day, one by one, the tiny gems disappeared. I felt a little sheepish last night when Mark asked what happened to them all.

Fast forward to this morning. I brewed another pot of French roast. Hmmmm.... What a waste to have authentic New Orleans coffee without real New Orleans beignets. Awesome, I'll make another batch. I mixed the dough, turned it out onto the breadboard, kneaded it, cut it into tiny pillows, then dropped them into hot oil. Once they were done, I put them on a few paper towels and covered dusted them with powdered sugar.

I tasted one. Oh, dear me. These were even better than yesterday's. Wow, these tiny treats are amazing. I took the plate down the hall to Mark's office where I presented my peace offering,

"I think the difference is that I kneaded them." I said thoughtfully.

"Well, if you didn't 'need' them yesterday, why did you make them?" he asked with a smile. Always the comedian.

Then I noticed it. He was dressed for the office. "I thought you were working from home today."

"Nope, got to go in today, too."

Are you kidding me? Home alone with another plate of these puppies? My waistline is history.



I wonder how they taste if you dunk them...



Thursday, March 26, 2015

I am one lucky person. I'm a sign language interpreter and I love my work. I can hardly believe I get to wake up and do this every day, except when I wake up and do this every single day, which is where I found myself in the early part of this year.

I'm an independent, or freelance interpreter. Last year, however, I was offered a position as staff interpreter at a high school not far from where I live. Steady paycheck, benefits, and I get to interpret. Sign me up.

This new gig meant a big schedule change. I'm not a morning person, and I'm certainly not an early riser, but to make this happen, I had to set my alarm for 5 a.m. every morning. Wow. That is so early. I kind of got into the culture, though. I interpreted US Government, Geometry, English Literature, Art. I got to know the teachers and the administrators. I started hanging out in the library after lunch, even ate in the teachers' lounge. I really began to feel like I belonged, and despite the early mornings, I began to really love this job.

I have a few other assignments that I also love, assignments I had long before the position at the high school. Keeping them meant working some pretty long hours and also weekends, but great assignments don't come along every day, so when we get them, we hang on.

Working every day without a break for months on end is enough to wear a person thin, but there's an emotional factor, too. We interpret for people, and people sometimes come with baggage, and problems. It's hard enough when those people are adults. It's doubly hard when they're kids, and that's where I found myself. Day after day, expending so much emotional energy that every other aspect of my life, like a weedy garden, went untended. There just wasn't enough of me left at the end of the day. My laundry barely got done, and it never got put away, I was getting dressed every morning from the clothes dryer. I lay awake for hours at a time every night. My work began to deteriorate, too, and I began looking at my extra-curricular assignments, trying to decide which, if any, I could let go.

And then it happened. My student's family moved, and in a flash, I lost my job. I went from working every day of the week to ..... crickets.


****************************


As I stood at the counter this morning, waiting for coffee to brew, I thought about how different today is from all those months when I was up before dawn and dressing downstairs in the laundry room. And how radically different those months were from the ones before that. I really loved this job, loved getting up and out so early every morning. Each day, I saw the earliest glimmers of light as the sun broke the horizon. Some mornings, I even saw the moon hanging low over the treetops as the sun rose in the east. I felt thankful for the day, grateful to be up and out and alive. Today, I slept until 8 o'clock.

I felt out-of-kilter in those early days that that followed. Maybe herein lies the lesson. Keep your perspective, keep your balance. Life may serve you a big plateful of opportunity, but don't lose yourself. Don't lose what's important to you, and don't lose who you are.

Don't lose yourself. Keep your balance.








Saturday, February 21, 2015

I dove headlong into the Universe, a swan dive into a wave of wonder, stars cascading over me. Slipping through the cosmos, deeper and deeper it drew me. I breathed in the darkness, took it deep into my soul, traveling deeper and deeper into the darkness. Drawn like a magnet, through the depths of stars and plankton, fish the color of moonlight, carried along currents soft as velvet. And there she was. There she was in all her mysterious beauty, looking back at me, the secret of life and creation and the sacred story of time carried deep within her. And there she was, looking back at me.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I believe life is what you make it, that life can be just as fulfilling or tragic as you decide to make it. When I see wonder in the world, that's what I experience. When I focus on the tough stuff, well, life reflects that back to me in the same way. I really try to focus on the good stuff. Even so, sometimes life just gets hard. I'm not talking about the stuff that's really hard, some people have some real shit to deal with. I just mean the normal everyday tough stuff.

Last weekend, I got the same message from two different sources, to give up the hard part of trying. Give up the hard part of trying, what the heck does that mean? That's all there is in trying, the hard part. What's left without that? And so, I thought, I don't even know what that means. 

On my yoga mat, when I think I've reached my limit, and I try and hold a pose just a little bit longer, it's hard. I start believing that if I stay in that pose one more minute, I might die. I know, it's crazy, but in that moment, I honest to goodness think that if I don't come out of that pose, I might actually die. It's really hard. So isn't that what trying is? No? Okay, I just give up.

And that's when it hit me: Give up. Just give up, let go, quit trying so doggone hard to make it all happen. Give up the effort, give up the hard part of trying.

I know this stuff. This isn't rocket science. Just let go. The act of trying holds us back, impedes our progress, and I don't know about you, but it just flat wears me out. It makes me cranky. When I'm trying really, really hard and someone suggests it's not quite enough, I just snap. I'm TRYING! 

I'm trying. Yeah, and maybe that's the sparkling gem here. I'm trying. And maybe, just maybe, it's best to get out of the way and just let it happen.