Saturday, November 24, 2012


It is my birthday today...the calendar marker for the last year of a decade that has been filled with chaos and heartache, deep joy and great loss.  It seems like a reasonable day to ponder the future.
My thoughts have run me up and down life's path: Have I made the most of the years I've had?  Is there some great excitement I've missed that I need to snatch before I am too old?  What kind of person am I going to be when the body mandates a slower pace?  When is it time to let go of hair coloring and cosmetic hunting and fashion watching? 
I believe clear answers to these questions rarely come.  Fate has too much random access to our hours and days to chisel a list of wishes into granite and feel terribly good about the outcome. The best way to chew on life-my opinion-is one little bite at a time...spitting out what is bitter and savoring what is sweet. That's what I believe. 
Not so, though, for the driver of the pizza delivery truck I sat behind at a stoplight this week.

I have spent almost no time at the website...but I can tell you it appears to be a site full of free downloadable letters from God, transcribed via dreams by a willing contemporary servant named Timothy. I am skeptical.  Check it out if you are interested. 

But these are the words that got to me on this sign:  Are you listening? 

Listening to Creation?  Listening to my heart?  Listening to my body?  Listening to the voice of reason when it is spoken?  Listening to the voice of love when it is raised?  These are the whisperings of  the Lord to me...the gentle unfoldings of the tiniest mysteries that happen every single day. 

And so I sit, this day, pondering the final year of a busy decade and managing some real trepidation about the decade to come.  I have resolved only this:  I will be a better listener. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pie Eyed

Let's be honest - it's all about the pie. 

I have made no secret of the long held wish for my final week of life, whenever/however that should come.  I want to be in my kitchen, surrounded by pyrex pie dishes, butter laden crusts, syrupy fillings, a good dark roast coffee...and every person I've ever loved in my life. 

Thanksgiving comes pretty close to the dream. 

There are people I love behind every casserole dish and relish tray.  There is tenderness and joy and a bit of melancholy over the holes in the family fabric left by those who are no longer gathered with us.  We put down our politics and our jealousies and our insecurities for a few hours to blend into the whole that we create with our little piece of self wonderfulness. 

And there is pie. 

Does life get better than this? 

I always wonder, as I stand in my kitchen this week of the year - almost giddy with delight over the flour on my apron and the pile of dishes in my sink...why don't I make pies more often? 

Why don't I stop focusing on my differences with dear people more often?
Why don't I drop my raging insecurities more often?
Why don't I let everyone have a talent, a beauty, a thought, a presence grander than mine more often? 

Why do we stop so infrequently to ponder the goodness in this sweet old world? 

And why is there so little pie?

Be Thanks-Full. 
And enjoy your pie.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

About Last Week

Last Wednesday, 63-million of us Blue Americans were breathing long sighs of relief.  The race to the White House had been far too close for our comfort, and many of us spent several days pinching ourselves with delight over the final count. 

It was over.  Our guy would be sticking around to finish what he started. 

That morning-after last week, I decided my writing tone would be far too gleeful to be deemed responsible, so after sending a few texts and changing my Facebook background photo from FORWARD to fireworks and tweeting one or two poignant lines from the President's acceptance speech - I walked away from the 2012 election. 

I did not watch my beloved Daily Show.  I listened only to old Radiolab podcasts when I needed a dose of NPR.  I glanced only briefly at headlines before recycling the newspapers.

I was recovering from PESS - post-election stress syndrome.  The entire country is in the throes of it.  I'm not talking about the mouthy commentators on MSNBC/FOX - I'm talking about the 122,747,434 of us who cared enough to knock on doors, give money, attend rallies, make phone calls, wear buttons, post signs...and vote. 

Whichever candidate(s) you supported, I hope you are taking care of your politically weary soul in some way. For me, it is writing.

Not all my favorite people won last week.  A tirelessly passionate PhD education specialist and friend, Judy Jennings, was making her second run at Texas' infamously arrogant and ignorant State Board of Education.  She earned a respectable 41% of our super conservative district's vote, but she did not triumph over the Executive Director of the TX FFA Association.  How could she?

I met Judy years ago when we were candidates for different seats on our local school board.  She lost that election, too.  But Judy always stands back up, dusts herself off, and reminds herself she is a brilliant woman with a knack for understanding what works in public education and what doesn't. She doesn't seek elected office for the money (none of the positions she has sought are paid), for the notoriety, or to use it as a stepping stone to higher places.  Judy simply believes in the system enough to want to participate at a level that desperately needs her expertise.  She is my hero. And I hope she tries again. 

But she has got to be exhausted...perhaps a bit bitter.  There's a chance she's stopped to think about what she might have done with all that time and money if she hadn't spent it trying to make life better for teachers and students in Texas schools. 

And I figure that's how Mitt Romney feels too. 

Did you catch the compassionately funny way Saturday Night Live depicted post-election Mitt Romney last weekend?  I think it's worth watching, no matter what color you use to paint your politics. Surely we can celebrate good comedy writing together...


I absolutely believe my friend Judy would love a little time to learn how mayonnaise is made.

If you're not chuckling a little bit past the certainty that the future of the country is on the ropes because your guy lost last week, I leave you with the lovely truth that your blue friends (and your country) managed to muddle through a second George W. Bush term. 

And, if this whole piece has just brought on a fresh wave of PESS, I'll respectfully and quietly offer a quote from a wise guy who just became the 17th US President to be elected to a second term (!!): 
"These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty."
Peace, all.

The Bonus Day

This is what happened that day...

We woke up early without an alarm.  Hungry.
We got up slowly and easily, put on clothes from the day before, and left for breakfast at a diner on the corner near our hotel without even brushing our teeth.  We ate too much, studied other bleary-eyed pancake-and-bacon eaters, and did what we like to do - created wild stories to go with the faces of strangers around us.  Somehow, that always makes restaurant dining feel like a party...

Then we went back to our 35th floor room, marveled at the view of the rising sun over San Francisco Bay for another half hour, took our showers, packed our bags, and rolled out onto the sidewalk near Union Square before 10 AM.  We walked the 1.5 miles to the Ferry Building, purchased tickets from a machine, and boarded the day's first boat across the bay to Sausalito. 

Then we paused to celebrate the miracle of it all.
Yes, the day was magnificent - not a cloud in the sky, not too chilly. Our bellies were full and the day before us was wide open for whatever adventure we chose.  But that was not the miracle we realized.  It was this: We were on the first ferry of the day - and we'd gotten there without a plan, a schedule, or a fight

The lack of tension between us was, well, amazing.  It is rare for us - long married and generally reasonable - to make it through so many off-routine tasks without bumping into frustration and erupting into a bit of, "Why are you sooo difficult?"  Just take a look at our morning...

We were awake early.  This is nothing extraordinary for one of us on the team, but for the rock star sleeper of our duo (ahem-me), early is usually not the best time of day to propose anything too far from the comfort of a warm bed. 

We were hungry.  My niece has a word for what happens to people in our family when the blood sugar drops: Hangry. Enough said.

We had to decide whether looking good or venturing out was the priority.  One of us rarely puts looking good behind anything when ordering priorities.  Guess who?

We were not in our town, so we had to navigate options for food.  This is a task that quite often - even in our hometown - leads to a long sigh from one of us, followed by a stiffly surrendered, "Whatever."

The coffee was bad at the diner.  I've said it many times, nothing ruins a day quicker than a bad cup of coffee.

Then there was the packing - ugh.  I dread/fear/incompetently process the task of suitcase packing more than any other activity in life.  Toilet scrubbing included.  My husband, on the other hand, is a professional packer and generally has to bite his tongue in two to keep from telling me what to do every single minute of my suitcase stuffing chaos.  (And I would be dodging if I didn't mention how much like a two year old I can be when someone starts telling me how to do something in a way that is different from the way I'm doing it.)

Sausalito was the day's destination, but we hadn't really done a minute's worth of planning for that beyond finding out where to get on the ferry.  We actually had no idea, when we set out on foot from our hotel, exactly how far it was TO the Ferry Building or exactly what street to take to get there.  This is ultimate folly to me. I am a destination driven person.  I want to know how to get where we're going and exactly how long it takes to get there.  My husband could generally care less about the destination issues.  He's a guy who embraces the journey. be that person.

Are you getting the big picture?  The morning had been a mine field of triggers to emotional melt-down, but we walked onto that ferry as it pushed away from the dock just like we'd planned the thing down to the very minute. 

The miracle:  We'd not spoken one angry word or broken even the slightest sweat. 

The fact of it begged to be explored.  How had that happened? 

The miracle explained:  It was the end of a lovely weekend in a city we absolutely adore.  My flight didn't leave until 11:45 PM, though, so we had the whole day to play.  Usually leaving days are all about the departure.  This one didn't have to be. 

It was a bonus day.  We knew it.  We delighted in it.  From dawn's earliest light until nodding off in the middle seat of flight 1299 sometime after midnight the next day - the day was embraced as a gift. 

And that changed everything.  Everything.

So, here's the secret. You've heard it from sages and poets and singers and preachers all your lives. I'm telling you, it's a rich and wonderful way to live...

Carpe diem. Seize the day. -John Keats
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. -Robert Herrick
Wake up and live. -Bob Marley
Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour. -Walt Whitman

And my favorite: 

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the 'Titanic' who waved off the dessert cart. 
-Erma Bombeck

No promises for a tomorrow have been given to any of us. 
Every day is a day in the bonus round. Even this very one. Lean into it. Discover the miracle.