Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 11

What day is it? I'm not sure.

This day and some others I am grateful for salt.
A simple combination of elements. It's harvested from the sea.
Warm and salty broth that restores little healing bodies after being emptied out in the most horrible ways. Bowls of comfort and restoration, bringing color back to cheeks, sparkle to eyes, life to demeanor.
Sprinkled in my bath to soothe aching muscles from nights of holding hands and heads and wiping mouths, floors, brows.
Sodium bicarbonate sprinkled on carpets, in laundry, in the dishwasher. Working its simple magic and drawing out odors and germs from things soiled with illness.
The salt of my tears that fall from exhaustion, from worry, from inadequacy. I taste them and I'm grateful that I care enough to cry. That I try hard enough to fail. That I have the energy left to keep moving.
The grains of salt with which I take the things my upside down brain tries to convince me are true. The good and the bad, you know. I remember to salt my words to myself and both give myself a break and try to do better.
The crunch of salt in my little treat to myself - salted caramel hot cocoa. Decadent and unexpected. Delicious and necessary. It's my personal reminder to rest and to savor the beautiful, rich things in life that can be so simple and so satisfying.

And this salt. The salt of the words I try to live by:
"You are the salt of the earth...You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others..."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 10

I am grateful for Lysol. For a large hot water heater and not having to wash clothes (and bed linens, and towels, and more clothes) by beating them against a rock.

I am grateful for hand sanitizer. I am grateful for teaspoons full of water that finally stay down.

I am mostly grateful for a little boy who is finally sleeping peacefully in his bed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 9

It's Veteran's Day.

I am grateful for the people who choose to do this kind of work. Who put aside their personal comfort, their safety and their whole lives in many ways to serve our country. I don't have to agree with the leaders who send them to and fro at their own whims to appreciate the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make.

The effects of war are far reaching and the injuries are not just from bullets and mortar shells. It is not with empty flag waving and marching tunes that I express my appreciation for the people who do something that I, myself, just wouldn't do.

I wrote about my personal Veteran's Day last year, here. I don't really have a whole lot to add.

I am a pacifist, I am a liberal, I oppose war for almost any reason. I rarely think that displays of might and firepower are productive solutions to anything.

I have the utmost respect for the men and women who wear the uniforms, follow the orders and face the unspeakable for me so that I can sit back and say "Nah, I don't think so."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 8

Patient, patient people.

I forget now how I came to discover Sleepy Joe and her Life and Writings. She lives on the other side of the pond from me and works in one of the coolest fields, ever - library science. I have such respect and gratitude for librarians in general and it's somewhat akin to knowing a rock star to be associated with Sleepy Joe.

As if that weren't enough, she is a steady and constant presence on this blog with her constant encouragement and her unfailing loyalty to reading and commenting. She's an aspiring writer, herself, and leads a busy life with two little people and working full time and just generally being fabulous, yet she always finds the time to root for other writers and bloggers. That really means a lot. It takes some effort to reach out to other people and she does it anyway and is a cheerful presence here and on a lot of the blogs I read.

Over the last several weeks, she has gifted me with two different bits of blogging love. I have been woefully behind in catching up with all things blogging and they have slipped through the cracks. These little blog award thingies have been a delightful little surprise bonus to blogging. I'm not much one for memes, generally, but to have someone take the time to single out my ranting over here is touching to me and I really do appreciate it.

So, for you, Sleepy Joe, I am grateful. For my Wonderful Team Member Readership Award, because I am not a wonderful team member, actually. Writing is a generally solitary and lonely pursuit. I spend hours buried in things invisible to the naked eye. It is exhausting and exhilarating and it appears to waste a lot of time. In what other endeavor would you strive to eliminate at least 20% of the work you've done after you've done it? As a result, I get all down deep in my head and shut out the rest of the world. Writing is not a team sport. Blogging is, though. And I deeply appreciate my teammates. And for my Reader Appreciation Award.  It may seem from time to time that I do not appreciate my readers as much as I should. If appreciation is measured in mutual comments or responding promptly to Tweets and comments and Facebook notes, then I fail at this. If appreciation is measured in the thrill of seeing a familiar name on my stats and taking the time to really savor and consider the words that you've left behind, then there it is.

I encourage you to go check out Sleepy Joe's blog if you haven't already. She's really a shining light, the encouragement fairy, if you will. I am so grateful for her and all of the people like her who populate this world and make things just more pleasant. I am going to change the rules of all this up a bit. Instead of answering questions about myself, instead I'm going to ask you to leave your favorite thing about Sleepy Joe here in the comments. Let's fill her bucket at least half as much as she does for others.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Day 7

Twenty-nine third graders sat on the floor in an old refurbished building. They were collectively writing a story and the leader of the discussion was a patient man named Steve with lots of enthusiasm. There was talk of a rapping hamster who was stuck in a tube. There was mention of rocket boots, of money, of wanting to see the world. I stood and watched this creative chaos and wondered how it would end.

The sweating volunteer paused the discussion and asked a question: "OK, wait a minute. We have the hamster in this dark and strange tube, but why would he go in there in the first place?" There was general shouting and creating and "Rocket boots!" and "Why not?!" and such when a hand shot up in the front row. Steve the volunteer quieted the mob and pointed to the intense little girl, sitting straight-backed and waggling her hand in the air as high as her shoulder would allow. "Did you have an idea?" Steve the volunteer asked. A loaded question, if ever there was one.

"Well, you want to know why he is in the tube. He wants some money, too. So why not let the motivation be  the same? Put the money in the tube, just a little back so he has to go in to see it, and then he can get stuck. It will be a trap." There was a chorus of "Oh yeah!" and Steve the volunteer bounced a little bit, "Great! And what is hamster money?"

The little girl answered promptly and calmly. "Why cheese, of course. It's funny because 'cheese' is an expression for money."

I have written a lot about my daughter. She is the walking embodiment of where all of my nerves and feelings and heart end. Bruise her and I will bleed. She smiles and I dance. She storms and I drown. I work hard to keep the responsibility for this intense visceral connection off of her young shoulders. I am supposedly the grown-up here, so I carry the weight of these intertwined souls and all the beauty and heartbreak that involves. I am the mother and this is my job. As she gets older - suddenly so tall! - she pulls away and defines herself in contrast to me. I celebrate this even as I feel the tiny stabs of loss. This is the way it is supposed to happen. This is what I am raising her for - to be independent, to think for herself, to find what she loves and pursue it. This is not about me.

My wee girl with her nose in a book.
She's in her Halloween costume, but it's not Halloween.
But sometimes, you know, it is. I stood with the other parents along the edge of this mayhem of ideas and laughed with them at the cheese, if only to mask the vivid, grateful tears that suddenly threatened to fall. I will never force my kids into being like me - heaven forbid they be like me. I would never insist upon their interests or their goals. I will not project my unfulfilled fantasies onto their small frames and make them live for me. I just won't. But my little girl - my beautiful, independent little girl - loves to write. She loves to tell stories and has invented them since she could talk. She loves to play with words and make them sing for her. She amuses herself with plays on words and explains them carefully to me. She has journals full to overflowing with bits of ideas and and dialogue and characters. She totes them everywhere with her and stops to write when she feels like it. Her spelling is atrocious, her handwriting is sloppy, punctuation is frequently optional - but she writes. Oh, she writes.

There are times when we don't communicate very well. There are times when my "I love you so much I could just lay down and die," comes out in a shout or a criticism. There are times when I try to tell her all the words she needs to avoid the heartbreak of growing up. I try to fill her up with the information that I felt I lacked as a child, not realizing that she lacks it for the same reason I did, she's a child. Sometimes she's weary and says, "Please can we stop talking, now?" Sometimes she has more ideas to share, more questions to ask. I try to listen and answer the questions she asks, not the ones I think she needs to ask. I try to listen to what she tells me when she rages or fumes, or can't sleep at night. I try to hear what makes her truly happy, what she really needs from me. I fail at this as often as I succeed. So it is to be a mother.

But this intense little straight-backed girl with her ready smile and waggling hand so high in the air, who is thrilled by "motivation", who thinks a story through, who makes a silly play on words - she is familiar to me. So familiar it hurts. I see me in her, but she is not me. I don't have enough words to explain to her how this fills me so. I have only my stupid, grinning tears that embarrass her on a field trip to communicate this deep connection to her, this gratitude for a shared love, some common and sacred ground. We don't always communicate very well, but I hope that we will always write.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 6

A long time ago, while I was between lives, I worked at a large book retailer. For $6.00 an hour I could stand for eight hours and point breathless housewives to the giant shelf of Oprah Book Club books that they had just walked past in order to demand that they hadn't seen it anywhere. I also got to clean the restrooms.

One day, someone did something unspeakable to one of the restrooms and we were all back in the break room fighting about who would have to clean it up. A very cute boy with whom I had never had a shift before, finally sighed and said: "You all are useless. I'll just do it," and walked off with rubber gloves and a mop. I sat and watched him leave and wondered at this boy who would calmly step up to take responsibility for a vile and disgusting task that no one else would touch. I wondered at this boy as I watched him in the days to come, flirt with the middle-aged ladies who ran the office and make them blush. I watched him draw customers in conspiratorially to find the title of a book. I watched him dress up as Waldo from the Where's Waldo book series and entertain a room full of screaming children. I just watched for a while, though, remaining mute and trying to melt into the background.

I watched him save me a seat on a bench for my lunch break, with a cup of hot coffee waiting for me. I watched him dance to Birdhouse In Your Soul in a deserted parking lot in the middle of the night and tell me I was the only bee in his bonnet. I watched him ask my dad important philosophical questions and listen carefully to the answers. I watched him make my mom laugh. I watched him hand over money to my sister so she would quit the job where her boss sexually harassed her. I watched him while he drove us in midnight circles, listening to music and talking about all the world. I watched him introduce me to his friends and family. I watched him leave work to go and sit with his mom at the hospital when she had an emergency hysterectomy. I watched him take his little sister to dance lessons and pick her up again, turning the music up loud and laughing at her junior high silliness.

And then one day I watched him through a plate glass window after the store had closed, as he got down on one knee in the cold and showed me a picture of a ring.

I have watched this boy over the last fourteen and a half years grow into a man - become a husband, a father, a lawyer, a leader. I have watched him get up every day and shoulder responsibilities that the people around him have refused to do. I have watched him walk boldly into unspeakable messes and try to clean them up because it had to be done and no one else was willing. I have watched him work as many hours as were necessary to support us. I have watched him study long into the night for finals with a newborn baby on his shoulder. I have watched him take care, take action, take part, take responsibility. I have watched him bestow fatherly gentleness and affection that he has never received. I have watched him smile just for me. I have watched him dance, I have watched him cry, I have watched him survive, I have watched him live, I have watched him give and give and give.

I sat in a crowded room last night and watched him tell a group of people that his marriage is a tiny piece of the divine. I have watched this man over so many years and I hope for many more. I renew my vows every morning with such humbling gratitude that this man has let me watch him all these years and that he shares his magic with me. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Days 3 - 5

I have been absent from this space. But I have had so much for which to be grateful. So much it has drawn me away from dwelling on the things in my head; away from personal observations into the shared observations of special days with a family that fills my heart and breaks it open and fills it again.

This past weekend we have celebrated a little boy. A hooligan of sorts who has been making this planet a more spontaneous and joyful place for six years now.

He was my surprise baby. I thought he was a stomach bug, perhaps. I thought I was exhausted from moving to a new town, from raising an active and inquisitive toddler, from the miscarriage I'd had mere weeks before. I thought there was something wrong. When I finally went to the doctor because the symptoms were undeniably familiar, I discovered that there was absolutely nothing wrong. There was a tiny peanut, two months along, standing on its flipper legs and doing a little jig. I looked at the grainy picture full of snow and wondered at the tenacity of a little being who would come twice to see me. Who would hang out inside, ignored, disbelieved and dance.

This is the kernel, the essence of my Hooligan. He hangs out, content to live and talk and imagine in a world where everyone in the house is bigger than he is. Where people are busy with other things and he patiently follows them from room to room explaining the details of his latest creation, the game he's designing, the dream he had, asking questions about space, about eternity, about the flexibility of time. He walks in circles while he talks, to organize his thoughts. He dances from foot to foot while he stands. He jumps from space to space while he walks. He stops and grins and winks at me. He gives me a thumbs-up and finishes his sentence. He bounces merrily through a world that sometimes won't slow down and wait for him.

He is my surprising boy. He taught himself to walk while I was unpacking a house. He stored up all his words and expressed himself with sound effects until one day they all came tumbling out in complete sentences. He taught himself to read while no one was looking. He draws schematic diagrams of inventions that might actually work. He figures out his world by quietly building things and then demonstrating how to use them. He loves to run and laugh and make large messes.

He understands being the smallest person in the room, so his perpetual motion will slow and stop for a gentle word to a baby, a helping hand to a peer who lags behind. He is generous with praise and with gratitude, but he will brook no whining. He covers his ears and closes his eyes to shut out the noise of others' displeasure. "Just stop that and try," he will say, not unkindly. He reminds me not to yell. He holds my hand and hugs me. He does not understand meanness or smallness of spirit.

He is my Hooligan. He is always up to something. He was my surprise and he completed our family in a way we didn't know it needed to be done. He showed up and smiled at us and we all fell in love with his dark, mischievous eyes, the dimple in his chin, the smile that splits his face in half. He hugs with abandon, he kisses on the mouth, he pats arms and knees and shoulders while he speaks, and snuggles with sibilant S's. He gives us these connections, these simple reassurances that he is here, that he is real, that he is to be believed. And then he wanders off to the place inside his head that is full of tall buildings and space ships and mechanical devices, time travel, music and math equations of his own making and no one really knows what else.

I have spent these last few days in celebration of this strange and wonderful little boy who determined that he would live with us; that he would take his place and wait quietly for us to notice and that in the meantime, he would dance.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Day 2

The earth has turned a little bit more and suddenly it is November. It is the beginning of that steady slide toward the end of the year that is full of so very much.

I have committed to a massive writing project for November as well as some less massive real-life kinds of things. I've gone, in the last few weeks, from reveling as a lady of leisure - one who wanders malls with a latte in hand and photographs her boots midday for the pleasure of it - to a busier person who has to keep a calendar. This is a good change of events for me, and an intentional one, so never fear. There will be very little whining about it. Or whinging, if you prefer.

All of the above is a series of social disclaimers (detestable things, but sometimes useful) to say that I will be wholly unoriginal in this blog space this month. I will be playing the tuba on the gratitude bandwagon and posting about things I'm grateful for every day. I made a list of 75 things last year and you can read them here. I love Thanksgiving because it is about food and the giving of thanks and all that lovely stuff. It's nice for gratitude to have its own holiday (we will not speak here of the genocide of indigenous peoples or religious persecution, except to admire the large buckles on hats and shoes. Deal? It's about gratitude.) However, this thankfulness things should extend a wee bit further than one weekend in November, no? It's nice to have a holiday, but the giving of thanks should be daily. (Not, however, the watching of football. That can be relegated to one weekend a year.)

The whole point of this is to put my cranky pants away and don my pants that are woven from blessings and light and realize that I should wear them more often. Without further ado, I bring you

Day 2:
Today I am grateful for excellent public school teachers. They make very little money compared to the work that they do. They deal with unruly bureaucracy, unruly children, unruly parents, limited resources, excessive expectations, long days, and cramped classrooms. I have had two opportunities this week to see my children's teachers in action and I'm humbled by their skill, their patience, their insight, and their experience. I would throw large temper tantrums if I were stuck in a smelly room with 29 children every day.

We moved to a new school over the summer and so much was unknown. I want to write gushing love letters to my children's teachers. I want to bake them treats and hug them and weep openly in appreciation. I may do that. I know that there are vast inequities across schools, across states, across neighborhoods. There are so many things that are broken about public education; so many things that are frustrating, heartbreaking, infuriating. I know that in my little neighborhood school here in the corner of the country, tucked away in a valley surrounded by trees and hills and birds, we are blessed. We are richly and abundantly blessed, in spite of setbacks. I will not take this for granted. I will not focus on the broken system except to do what I can to help change it. I will not take these people for granted. These people who know the inequities and problems better than I do and choose to show up every day anyway and give their best to other people's children. These people are heroes and I am so humbly and thoroughly grateful for them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Today's The Day!

This Thursday the 1st of November is the first ever Mindful Writing Day, organised by Kaspa & Fiona at Writing Our Way Home. To join in simply slow down, pay attention to one thing and write it down (making a small stone). Read all about it here. small stones are easy to write, and they will help you connect to the world. Once you've started, you might not want to stop... You can read more about small stones and find out about Lorrie with pea-green eyes in Fiona's free ebook, Write Your Way Home. If you visit Writing Our Way Home on Thursday you'll find out how to download your free kindle copy of the new anthology, 'A Blackbird Sings: a book of short poems'. You can also submit your small stone and see it published on the blog, and be entered into a competition to win one of five paperback copies of the book. There's a Facebook invite here if you'd like to invite your friends, and do feel free to copy this blog onto your own blog. You can tweet this: Connect with the world through mindful writing - join the first Mindful Writing Day on the 1st of November:  #smallstone


Kaspa & Fiona were kind enough to provide the above text about Mindful Writing Day, and as it is their project, they describe it succinctly and wonderfully.

My day hasn't started terribly mindfully - just a bundle of reactions and emotions. I will endeavor to channel this throughout the day and will update with stones that I find. Wishing all of you blessings and safety and peace. Keep thinking, keep writing.

8:00 AM:
Torrent of tears and rain on the way to the bus. 
Sending them off with an umbrella for the rain.
Nothing to protect from the tears.
Stretching my heart taut over a fragile wire frame.
Doesn't quite reach far enough.

11:00 AM: 
Inhale, reach up and back. Higher than I think I can.
Exhale. Swoop down, supplicant, gather my courage from around my ankles.
Inhale again. Reaching up, but with focus. Pointing to the sky and pulling it all down to my heart.
Sun Salutation on a day with no sun.

2:00 PM:
I overhear a snatch of conversation as I walk past, busy with my groceries.
He is either saying something racist, or talking about good food.
I will believe it's the food.
I am hungry for humanity.

5:30 PM:
She sits on the kitchen floor with me while dinner cooks.
She asks me to tell her about God and love and a time before she was born.
Math homework is happily forgotten.

9:00 PM:
He fell asleep with a book on his head.
Wrapped in blankets of galaxies and hugging his new tiger tight.
His mouth opened slightly as if to let off the exhaust fumes from his full throttle adventures in his dreams.

11:00 PM:
Adding up the day before I fall asleep.
The columns are out of balance.
There is always profit in finding gratitude.