Sunday, December 30, 2007

Her Small Hands

carefully smooth
and button the hangered shirt
from one more load

lift sports sections
from the newspaper to lay
at his breakfast

start the coffee
caress the bed, pillows, quilt
they rest under

kisses goodbye
a small hand touches his cheek
have a good day

years come and pass
hands rise to cover her ears,
heart, weeping eyes

kisses hello
how was your day? night hands on
his burning skin

Friday, December 28, 2007

Excerpt from Flying Over Midnight

She silently leaves the bed and moves down the stairs and out onto the creaking wooden front porch. She stands barefoot on the damp floorboards. There is a lavender light from above that leaves her colder than the halo of the moon. Elise looks up to see the mantle of purple sky that holds stars like twinkling satellites blinking a code to earth. The ambrosia of the lilacs sends a riptide of night air into her hollow lungs.
Out of the dark a car door slams and Elise looks across the street to see a neighbor returning home from a date. The young woman wraps her arms around the young man and they eagerly kiss each other in the glow of the streetlight. Elise quickly turns her head away, and wrapping her transparent nightgown close to her body, creeps into the house and back to the unwelcoming bed.
She pulls the covers tightly around her neck to remain untouched. She closes her eyes and the blanket becomes a body, a hand, a tongue, and she is once again cloistered in desire and need. As Elise moves in and out of consciousness throughout the night, she is waiting to understand - but peace does not come to her.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

COEXIST IV - The Faith Club

I recently read a book called The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Priscilla Warner and Suzanne Oliver: a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian, all residing in the New York City area in 2001. Out of concern for what their children had been exposed to after September 11th, they decided to write a children's book about religion. The women commited to meet regularly to learn more about each other's faiths, and it became an experience far beyond what they had expected. They argued, hurt, and insulted one another with their preconceived notions about each other's religions. They faced awkward moments when they reached the point of participating in worship services of religions not their own in order to truly understand their prejudices and misconceptions. Knowing that the three religions held great differences seemed to be a given, but ultimately they discovered more similarities than differences. They came to recognize the same God in everything.
Ranya said it best on page 258 of the book: As a Muslim I am called upon to believe that the diversity in human faith traditions is intended by God's design and not a random occurrence. The universality of God and his accessability to all is emphasized in the Muslim understanding that all religions have sprung from the same divine source and that God's message was sent to all people and cultures of all nations. Different communities are united in their devotion to God, yet what sets them apart is their good work, not the merit of one faith over another."
She went on to comment on how Gandhi's legacy and ideas were greatly influenced by the message of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi truly believed in the equality of all great religions of the world. He saw religions as being true but imperfect, "inasmuch as they are presented through human agency and bear the impress of the imperfections and frailties of human beings."
This strikes me as a notion that is at the heart of most religious and cultural conflict and strife in our world. We have taken religion and righteousness out of God's hands and put it into our own fallible human hands. We appear to believe that we know better than God, and it is up to (some of ) us to decide which way of life is right or wrong. What makes us think it has ever been up to us? How is it possible to believe that God created a planet full of the unfathomable diversity of people, religions, races, languages, cultures and lifestyles and then deem only one of them good?
I personally will never abandon the faith that I was born into, but I will also never tell someone else that theirs is wrong - I am not the judge.
I love my book club and book clubs are probably at the height of popularity now, but maybe we should all be starting faith clubs - maybe we could truly co-exist.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Welcome to our World


A song by Chris Rice

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
how we need to hear from God.
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome holy child.

Hope that you don't mind our manger.
How I wish we would have known.
But long-awaited holy stranger
make yourself at home,
please make yourself at home.

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking heaven's silence
Welcome to our world.

Fragile finger sent to heal us.
Tender brow prepared for thorn.
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
unto us is born.

So wrap our injured flesh around you,
breathe our air and walk our sod.
Rob our sin and make us holy,
Perfect son of God
Welcome to our world.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Breath of Heaven

A song by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant

I have traveled many moonless nights,
cold and weary with a babe inside.
And I wonder what I've done?
Holy Father, you have come
and chosen me now to carry your son.

I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone
must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now. Be with me now.

Breath of Heaven hold me together.
be forever near me, breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven lighten my darkness,
pour over me your holiness for you are holy,
Breath of Heaven.

Do you wonder as you watch my face
if a wiser one should have had my place?
But I offer all I am for the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong, help me be. . . help me,
Breath of Heaven.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Misfit Mug


I received this handmade mug from one of my students for Christmas. He came into my room, pulled it out of his backpack and said with a grin on his face,"You gave me something and now I give you something."

I looked at the mug and decided it was a perfect representation of the students I teach every day - odd, misshapen, crooked, imperfect. None of them would fit into a set because they each come with their own unique quirks and dis-abilities. Each of them unique, and each one is a misfit in a world of expectations beyond their understanding.

I will treasure my misfit mug.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Count your Blessings

I hesitate to repeat facts that may or not be facts - but I'm sure there is plenty of truth in these statements. If nothing else, it reminds us as Americans, that sometimes we have a pretty small view of the rest of the world. I work in an inner ring suburb and 70% of the children in my building live below the poverty level. Even so, our building alone collected over 1600 pounds of food to distribute to needy families this Christmas.

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in your wallet, in the bank, or loose change sitting in a dish you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If you've never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can attend a church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are blessed more than 3 billion others in the world.

If you can read this message than you are luckier than 2 billion in the world that cannot read at all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

If I believed in reincarnation I would come back as a bird

The other day my honey asked me what was so interesting out the back window. I guess he hasn't noticed my near-obsession with bird watching - every season - all the time. Watching the birds at my two feeders or in the branches of our trees is never boring to me. It's a peaceful, distracting pastime.

Yesterday the word blustery was an understatement. Turbid wind and snow tornadoed through the area all day. Birds played musical perches at the feeders. A large, stately red-tailed hawk sat on a nearby branch, unmoving, until it was snow-covered. (I cursed the weak zoom on my little digital camera.) The hawk appeared so big that Stella, my little pooch, stood at the glass doors and growled at it. It must have resembled a squirrel to her .(That's her obsession.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Grown-Up Christmas List

A song by David Foster and Linda Thompson Jenner

Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
and wrote to you of childhood fantasies.
Well I'm all grown-up now
and still need help somehow
I'm not a child
but my heart still can dream.
So here's my lifelong wish,
my grown-up Christmas wish
not for myself, but for a world in need:

No more lives torn apart
and wars would never start
and time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
and right would always win
and love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas wish.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My Church


This is a painting I did of my church - the church where I spent the first 40+ years of my life. I got to know God there, my babies were baptized there, I was married there, I prayed and laughed and cried there. I sang in every choir there. It was home. Now it's a community theater. At the top there are angels in the clouds. At the base there is a verse from Exodus : Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground. ( There are too many prayers suspended within its walls not to be.)
I have a new church now and it is a wonderful place - but there's no place like home. . .

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter

A song by Tori Amos

Snow can wait, I forgot my mittens
wipe my nose, get my new boots on
I get a little warm in my heart
when I think of winter
I put my hand in my father's glove

I run off where the drifts get deeper
Sleeping Beauty trips me with a frown
I hear a voice - you must learn to stand up
for yourself 'cause I can't always be around
he says
When you gonna make up you mind?
When you gonna love you as much as I do?
When you gonna make up your mind
'cause things are gonna change so fast
all the white horses are still in bed
I tell you that I'll always want you near
You say that things change, my dear

Boys get discovered as winter melts
flowers competing for the sun
years go by and I'm here still waiting
withering where some snowman was
Mirror, mirror where's the crystal palace
but I can only see myself
skating around the truth who I am
but I know Dad, the ice is getting thin

Hair is gray and the fires are burning
so many dreams on the shelf
you say I wanted you to be proud of me
I always wanted that myself

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Winter

slash of scarlet
bird in a mass of gray twigs
deer, like tree stumps blend
at rest on a cold cotton mattress
bough to toothpick painted
to the edge, white to the tip
heavy laden and bowing to their Maker

a robin living on the piece of
startling green by the septic tank
picnic tables smothered and flying creatures
clutter and waltz at the feeders
sunless months our skin
as sallow as the sky
quiescent neighborhoods hibernate
in primitive search of warmth

on the silent journey
flakes continue like fairies lacking restraint
in a freefall to earth
circling down slower than gravity allows
and sometimes a tuft is released
from a branch carried by the cold
across our path in the unchanging
quarter pattern of the Ohio winter

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Flying Turns (A Healing at Euclid Beach Park)



My daughter and I were going to show at the Beachland Ballroom. In my usual way I drove right past the street we were looking for. I found myself on Lakeshore Boulevard and pulled into a driveway to turn around. I looked up to see a very familiar sight - an archway - and said, "Oh, we're at Euclid Beach!" That prompted me to ask my dad about spending his summers in the tent city at Euclid Beach as a boy.

"Did you really ride your bike down the Flying Turns after the park closed?" I thought maybe I had misheard the familiar story in my own childhood, because it now seemed implausible.


(The Flying Turns was a slalom sled-like ride)


"No...(whew)... I had a sled with wheels for that," Dad answered, "I rode my bike down the Racing Coaster . . . but only once."


"How do you ride a bike down a roller coaster?"


"On the wooden slats between the rails," he replied, as if that would be obvious to anyone.


In 1933, when my dad was 10 years old, he contracted osteomyelitis, which is an inflammation of the leg bone caused by an infection. He almost died from the fever and was packed in ice, while in a coma, to bring it down. The treatment was to remove part of the bone and, (the details are a little vague now) pack the leg with some type of material until it healed. He was bedridden for a year and a half of his boyhood.

Dad's lower lip trembled as he told me of a nurse who came to his home to help take care of him. She was also a certified teacher and was soon to be married. The family wanted her to be Dad's teacher, so she asked her fiance' to delay the wedding for five months so Dad could finish the school year. Years later he would graduate from Cleveland Heights High School only a half-year behind his classmates because of her generosity.


When Dad was able to leave his bed, the doctors told my grandparents that he needed as much exercise as possible. There were not many opportunities for sports on the busy side streets of Cleveland Heights in the 1930's, so they rented their house to a professional golfer for the season, and took up residence in a tent on the grounds of Euclid Beach Amusement Park. The tents had electricity, but no running water. There were communal pumps and bathrooms. There, my dad played baseball and tennis, and roller skated everyday. There were other children to play kick-the-can and badminton, swimming at the pool in the mornings and access to the pier and the beach in the afternoons. They lived there from April to October for seven years.


When I was growing up, no matter what sport or game was being played, everyone wanted to be on my Dad's team. He was good at everything, and now I understand why. I always knew he was a champion Skee-ball player too. When he was 11 years old, the man in charge of the Euclid Beach Skee-ball gave him the job of retrieving balls thrown out of the alley. If he would crawl in the dirt and dust to get them, he was allowed to throw for free. When he was 15 he got the job of running the Skee-ball alleys. Dad claims to be the reigning Northeast Ohio Skee-ball (long alleys) champion to this day because he won the title the last year the contest was held.


"Because of the osteomyelitis I was behind in school, and then I was deferred stateside in the Navy during World War II. If you had the disease they wouldn't let you lead a battalion because they thought your leg would break. Now it would be different ... now they would know better..."

"But Dad , if it weren't for that disease you never would have had that magical childhood at Euclid Beach. And if you'd gone overseas and not returned like half of your buddies, maybe I wouldn't be here," I said, grateful in my heart for having this wonderful man for a father.


Of course, like so many Clevelanders, I have my own memories of Euclid Beach Park: the custard and popcorn balls, being terrified of Laughing Sal, the old-fashioned calliope music filling the park, riding the Racing Derby horses with my grandma. My grandparents took my brother Jimmy and me there for a last visit in 1969 before it closed down. I could have never know then how connected I would feel to a place that no longer exists, a place that helped to heal my father.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December

Here are lyrics to maybe one of my favorite songs ever. It's called December by Kenny Loggins and it's just beautiful. I'm not sure the lyrics will transfer the beauty of the song on their own - but I do love the snow and the magic of December.

Once upon a dream
Moonlit wings come into view
Winter casts her spell
And all the world is born anew
A child sees a star through a window
He knows with all his heart
That wonder is coming
Waiting, hoping, believing

Only in December
Are hearts so full
Or feel more alone
Could it be the same for everyone?

Only in December
Can the broken heart
feel so alive
And the autumn ashes
Become the fires of December

Only in December
Can I be inside
And out in the cold
Still I know December
Always leads me home.

I still believe in magic
I still believe in miracles
I still believe in Christmas
I still believe in love.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Second Chances (Over and over again)

After arriving home from work I flipped on the TV and saw Amy Grant and Vince Gill were on Oprah. Their blended family sat in the audience as they spoke of finding true love midway through life. They sang love songs to each other. Always having been a fan and admirer of Amy, and recently reading her book, I sat there completely immersed in their story, thinking how amazing it is that God gives us second chances, that He can heal what was once broken, that He can create love where there was a void.

I noticed the tranquility on their faces and the maturity in their voices as they spoke of unexpected challenges and changes. Amy said that when she first came into Vince's family she felt like she had borrowed someone's car keys, took their car for a ride and brought it back wrecked - I couldn't have expressed it better in a dozen of my poems.

Anyway - I'm sitting there thinking how wonderful it all was - how lucky they were - and then through my tears I realized - that was me - that was my life too.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Shift Happens

This is some amazing information currently journeying through the education community as we try to meet the needs of 21st century students. I took this from a video by Karl Fisch on www.teachertube.com. There is much more if you want to look it up - it's called - Did You Know?

Did you know ? Sometimes size does matter. . .

If you're one in a million in China - there are 1300 like you.

In India there are 1,100 just like you.

The 25% of the population in China with the highest IQ's is greater than the total population of North America. In India it's the top 28 - translation for teachers - they have more honors kids than we have kids.

Did you know that China will soon become the number one English speaking country in the world?

If you took every single job in the US today and shipped it to China it would still have a labor surplus.

During the course of this presentation:
60 babies will be born in the US.
244 will be born in China.
351 will be born in India.

The US Department of Labor estimates that today's learners will have 10-14 jobs by age 38. One out of 4 workers today is working for a company for whom they have been employed less than one year. More than 1 out of 2 are working for a company for whom they have worked less than 5 years.

According to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley the top 10 jobs that will be in demand in 2010 didn't exist in 2004.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't yet exist - using technologies that haven't yet been invented - in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet.

The US is 20th in the world in broadband Internet penetration (Luxembourg just passed us).

There are over 106 million registered users of MySpace (Sept. 2006). If MySpace were a country it would be the 11th largest in the world (between Japan and Mexico). The average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day.

We live in exponential times:
There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month.
The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet.
There are about 540,000 words in the English language - about 5 times as many as during Shakespeare's time.
More than 3000 books are published daily.
It is estimated that a week's worth of New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

Predictions are that by 2049 a $1000 computer will exceed the capabilities of the human race.

Today's 21 year olds have:
watched 20,000 hours of television
played 10,000 hours of video games
talked 10,000 hours on the phone
sent or received 250,000 emails or instant messages.

Nintendo invested more than $140 million in research and development in 2002 alone. The US Federal government spent less than half as much on research and innovation in education.

Ask your elected representatives - now that you know all this - what changes should be made to current education legislation?

What does it all mean ? SHIFT HAPPENS.
Now you know.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Poetry Reading

Some phrases
made us laugh and
the laughter seemed
uncomfortable
because, after all,
it was poetry.
Some of the words
were rooted in pain,
like a poem about
spontaneous abortion.
As blood and urine
were uttered, the
gray-haired woman
to my left frowned
and turned to
her gray-haired friend
wrinkling her nose.
Maybe everyone
does not love the ideas
if they are born of real life
as I do.
Then
there was a lull
in the reading and
my mind drifted away.
I looked down
at the diamond he gave me,
luminous
in the gallery spotlight
and thought about,
later,
making love with him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Poetry

My poems have been published in six different journals so far. I sense that poetry is my strength, even though I am laboring through a second novel. It is difficult to do both. Writing a novel requires description and detail, and you can write hundreds of pages to your satisfaction. Whereas the skill in writing poetry is to tell the most in the briefest way, to edit to only the most crucial words and still retain the essence of the poem. Many writers do both, but a complete shift in creative thinking is necessary and I have trouble switching gears! When I'm doing one I miss the other.


I didn't start writing poetry until I was in my thirties and I only started sending them out a couple years ago. My first poems came completely as a surprise to me. I did not read poetry and I knew nothing about poetry. It just started flowing out of my emotions and into my pen. I stayed up nights searching for words to express my angst. A little navy notebook full of ideas and words went everywhere with me. I had no intentions of sharing any of my poems as they were just an exercise in catharsis. When I did share some of them with a man I was dating he said they frightened him and he thought I was crazy. That didn't discourage me. I liked the fact that they had the power to make someone think that. I liked that the poems weren't ordinary. They were unique - good or bad - they were me.


In time I took classes and got feedback from very successful poets and learned what was considered "good" poetry. I attempt to write "good" poetry, but I do not censor myself. The words that enter my mind, and the ideas the poems convey, I believe, are coming from a sacred and personal place inside of me, and it's distasteful to me to consider them "wrong".


I do understand, however, that poems are not meant to be platforms for opinions or lectures. They are not meant to tell the reader something as much as they convey a brief slice of life, and hopefully something the reader can relate to. ( I do have an entire notebook full of poems that probably only I can relate to - I keep those to myself. . .)


Publications are each looking for different types of poems and you must send your offerings in accordance with what they are looking for or you're just wasting your time. There are hard and fast rules to submitting your work, such as - always enclose a self-addressed-stamped-envelope. I recently sent some out and forgot to include my SASE. I got a snotty reply by email saying my poems were in the trash because of that. I wrote back and said that I simply forgot, I was not a poetry ignoramous, and in the time she sent her snotty reply by email she could have actually read the poems. (I didn't use the word snotty though).


I've posted about 10 poems so far on this blog - often the ones that might not have any other home. Let me know what you think sometime.
Poetry is a language at its most distilled and most powerful. Rita Dove
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. Oscar Wilde

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Life

Life's a pudding full of plums.
Life's a canker that benumbs.
Wherefore waste our elocution
on impossible solution?
Life's a pleasant institution,
let us take it as it comes.

W.S. Gilbert

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

My Psalm (after Rainer Maria Rilke)

I need nothing
to prove Your existance.
Without my eyes I could still see You.
Without my ears I could still hear Your music.
When my heart's pulse if finally stilled
my soul will be flooded with You.
I need no proof,
yet when I see the heavens
I glimpse my insignificance and brevity
in this place.

You have the power to give breath or shut the sky.
You allow us to know what you want us to know
and nothing more.
I can rest in this.
If we knew all Your flawless glory
we'd need you no more.
My awareness of You comes in
the silence of my days,
but Your mindfulness of me has
no beginning or end.

Your love lives in my hunger for You,
and it is fulfilled in Your time.
Others speak and write of the last days,
but I don't care, it's in Your hands.
To prepare for the end is not to live the days You've given.
To choose for You is to diminish Your power.
I brought nothing to this world,
I will take nothing but Your love.
What we yearn for has not yet happened.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Things That Are Just Wrong

1. Using the Hallelujah Chorus in a toilet paper commercial.

2. The phrase "you guys." (I give all food servers permission to look at my chest to
verify-not a guy)

3. Garden hoses (Entangled the way only I can)

4. Egg nog

5. Ohio School Funding (wrong and unconstitutional.)

6. Mucus

7. The baby in the Family Guy.

8. Landscape trucks parked in the street blocking traffic.

9. Paper cuts

10. Celine Dion

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Loss and Gain

I didn't know a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow could make me cry.

Loss and Gain

When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.

I am aware
How many days havebeen idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.

But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.

Friday, November 16, 2007

After an Orchid

moth orchid
fairy girl
spreads her green, hairy-speckled wings
below a white lime-streaked halo
reaching out of her stem
budtips misty with light
her full cup below
the quivering roots
grow until her wings
explode off of her core
and lay at her spidery feet
in a single orgasmic
moment

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All Good Gifts

Many people think of talents and gifts only in the realm of the creative arts - acting, singing, dancing, painting, writing, playing an instrument. The longer I've lived, the more gifts I see in the people around me. It is my firm belief that we are to use everything we are given. I have a limited amount of talent in a few of the creative arts and the people who have been exposed to them have been generous in their praise and attention. I never felt compelled to do any of them for attention - it was just me being me. It's hard for me to call myself a writer because I came to this passion quite late. My husband has said that I've reinvented myself - and I love that. I love the freedom to reinvent myself and expand on or redefine my former self-image. As long as we live we are able to discover new things about ourselves - and then use them.

Madeleine L'engle, the wonderful writer, recently passed away. She wrote the classic children's book - A Wrinkle in Time and many others. She says: "The writer does want to be published; the painter urgently hopes that someone will see the finished canvas - the composer needs his music to be heard. Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been stillborn."

"We write, we make music, we draw pictures, because we are listening for meaning, feeling for healing. And during the writing of the story or the painting or the composing or singing or playing we are returned to that open creativity which was ours when we were children. We cannot be mature artists if we have lost the ability to believe which we had as children. An artist at work is in a condition of complete and total faith."

But I think this sentiment applies to much more than the arts. I work with a teacher who has such a big and open heart that she makes every child she comes in contact with feel respected and important. I work with a principal who takes the time to hear out every child's side of the story in the middle of a problem. I've known pastors who would get up in the middle of the night to help a family in crisis. During a crisis in my life a long time ago someone sent me a large potted plant anonymously, and in an envelope was $1000 in cash - which helped me pay the mortgage and buy groceries. A neighbor recently picked up the car I crunched into a cement pole - he fixed it and brought it back to me and took the insurance amount. Some people garden and grow beautiful flowers and vegetables, some people sew unique clothing, some people are really good at being a friend, some cook amazing meals, some care for the sick. These are all gifts, all talents, all given to be enjoyed and used. So if you think you aren't "talented" think again. I spent too much of my life being afraid of not being humble enough and therefore did not always enjoy what God had given me. I know better now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thank you to my readers

Today I want to say thank you to the people who actually take the time to read this blog now and then. I know I'm not the most fascinating person in the world. Writers are, however, like children in school - the more positive attention we get for our work - the harder we'll try. So if you're out there, please leave a comment now and then or email me at diane.ferri@sbcglobal.net.

This thing is keeping my brain working and it's a daily challenge that I enjoy (the writing and the brain working). Sometimes life (or work) gets in the way and I may skip a day or two, but please check back soon.

I'll leave you with some quotes from another favorite author - Anne Lamott. If you haven't read Lamott, she is funny, real, at times irreverent, blatantly honest, liberal - and a real-life struggling, imperfect Christian.

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch - you don't give up."

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates the same people you do."

God's everywhere. God's in the effort. God's in the struggle, whether that's for civil rights or creative expression. God's always in the struggle with us."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Coexist III - A Little Good News

Just when you think you don't ever want to hear another crime statistic - when you've read enough about the murder rate in Cleveland - when you're having nightmares about sending your children to school because they might be victims in a random school shooting - there's a little good news!

In my October 11th post I questioned why so many teenagers have access to guns. Today's Plain Dealer reported that more than 350 people showed up at the Convention Center to exchange their handguns for $100 gift cards to BP or Dave's Supermarket. The police collected 421 weapons. I call that good news. It just should have been on the front page, not back on B3.

Think about that for a minute. All of those people, at some point, decided it was necessary to own a gun. All of those people probably coughed up more than $100 to get the gun. But, given the opportunity and incentive, they changed their minds! Officials said they weren't surprised that 300 of the gift cards were gone in the first 90 minutes because they hadn't had a buyback in ten years. That begs the question - WHY NOT???

I loved the part of the article that described a man who "grinned from ear to ear when officers handed his wife a $100 gift card. 'I am moving from the 'hood to the Heights and not taking my gun.' " Let's see - spend $100 feeding your family and being able to drive to the grocery store - OR - own a gun that could kill one of them? Good choice.

If there were no stray bullets flying from a handgun as they flew through Slavic Village in September, Cookie Thomas and many other innocent children would still be here enjoying those groceries.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dominique


I think her name is Dominique, and her tender arms cannot cover all the injuries. Her happy hair cannot lift up all that weighs her down. The hunger that blisters within her is not for food - it is the cavernous void of a different life - the one she was supposed to have. Lipstick and mascara intact, safe in her frame, there is a nascent hope in the fragility of the morning light.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Flying Over Midnight

My first novel, which you can find a link to below, is Flying Over Midnight. It was a labor of love and, I now realize, a project in catharsis for me. It has a lot of poetry that is not meant to be "good poetry" but expands on the main character's feelings at that point.

Fly Me Over Midnight

I guess it was God
who clutched me
and flew me over midnight
into the breaking day.
My wounds of aberration
were irreversibly healing,
and when I looked up I saw
my tears were in his eyes.
Resurrecting what was lost in me
I acquiesce, I rest
in the whatever day.
The morning star falls on my head,
the balm leaking out fresh water
and salt water flow in tandem.
My lungs smile as I breathe.
I hear a song of songs:
I could not love you more
I could not love you less.
The exodus complete,
the bitter fruit candied to sweet.
Now when I fly over midnight
into the breaking day
I remember, I know.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My new favorite quote

"Not everything that steps out of line, and thus 'abnormal', must be necessarily inferior."
Hans Asperger

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Coexist II - Creatures of the Earth

I wonder why squirrels look so shocked to see a human in their path. You'd think by some evolutionary process they would collectively realize that we ignore them. Did you know that a squirrel without hair looks exactly like a rat - the only difference is that squirrels leap and hop and play - rats slink.

Here are some of my animal encounters: A bird got caught in the wall of my apartment. They had to cut a hole in the wall to get it out. A blackbird entered the kitchen of my first house through a gap in the aluminum siding. I was so panicked, having little children, that it took me forever to figure out I just had to open the door. That same luxury palace had raccoons yank back the shingles to get in the attic.

The next house was far from animal-proof as well. Raccoons came down the chimney and left tiny handprints in the fireplace. Luckily there were glass doors to keep them from joining us for dinner. That house was visited by a rat (I still shudder). It came through a basement drain and then through a hole by a radiator to feed on birdseed under the canary cage. We got a rat trap.

Now I live in a wooded area. My little 30 lb. dog, Stella, had a hostile encounter with a buck this summer. I imagine he was protecting a family in the woods. He stood firmly in the middle of the backyard as Stella charged towards him. As she moved under his belly, he reared up like a bucking horse while I screamed from the deck. Stella escaped unharmed, but shaken. Now she does not joyfully bark at a deer sighting, but growls, hair standing straight up on her back. She ran to the door upon seeing a coyote in the backyard last year.

I doubt when God created all living things, and gave humans dominion over the earth, that included culling deer as they do in our city. People chop down trees, bulldoze brush, pave, build and then shoot deer for looking for food in our yards. My belief is that nature will take its course and thin out the herd in time. I saw a deer start to cross the street this week, look both ways and turn back. Humans interfering in nature always messes up the balance.
Can't we all just coexist? :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Creativity

There must be creative genius in using every tool you own for a project - or using every pot, pan, dish, and utensil in the house to cook a meal.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Happy Holiday Headaches (from too much thinking)

If you turned your television on at any time yesterday - November 1st - then you have been fairly warned that it that wonderful time of year to begin wasting your hard earned money and to be relentlessly bombarded with everything that has nothing to do with Christmas.

Our neighbors had their Christmas lights on Halloween night (complete with a sign advertising the business that did the decorating for them).

I am sad to report that outside of seeing family and friends and singing carols (in December) I dread just about all of it. There is nothing that remains of the wonder of Christmas except a Christmas Eve service to say - here is the mystery - come in and quiet your soul - remember.

The art of giving has been shredded into unrecognizable pieces - most shaped in the form of a small plastic rectangle. It's the thinking of something unique that wears me out! No one I know needs a shirt, or a bathrobe or a scarf. If they did, they would just hop on over to Target and buy one for $5.95. As a teenager and young adult I always gave homemade gifts- a painting, a crocheted afghan, a cross-stitch pillow, a hand-knit scarf. Not only are handcrafted gifts not in vogue - now they will just make you look cheap. (Where's my $100 itunes gift card?)

At Christmas time (again, in December) I will celebrate and treasure the birth of Jesus and the symbolism of giving gifts as God has given to us . Don't get me wrong. I want to give. Strangers I don't know need food, and shelter, and their children need toys - there are always causes to give to. But what do my loved ones need or even want? If I asked my parents I know all they would ask for would be more of my time, more hugs, more laughing together. My husband might want me to give more of myself too (you can take that how ever you want to). Those things I can do - but I still have to buy them a freakin' present . . . . don't I?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

LET IT BE

was the 45 playing
on the record player
at someone's house
when I was kissed
for the first time.

Nicky went to another school.
His lips were wet and soft
in the dark closet
after the bottle pointed to me.

When Bob Dylan first heard
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand"
he thought the Beatles were singing
I get high
instead of I can't hide.

He brought marijuana
to the Beatles for the first time
and they were
basically stoned
for all of Beatlemania.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Prayer

Release me
from the things that stay
transfixed in visions;
they pierced my virgin heart.
Abandon
the cloistered dreams,
a token of an ancient memory,
those omnipotent one-time words.
Omit
from my seedy cognizant mind
that which now hurts me
and others. Surround me,
offer me
something new, replaceable,
rebirth of my singular realm.
Send
inpetus to my slackened thoughts.
Gift me, love me,
in lieu of my unrestrained years
and that which I can never repay
to anyone.
I will rest in my imperfect peace.
Forgive
me in grace,
and I will stand anew
in all that I am created
and exist to be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire in the Sky

This poem was recently published in the journal Poet Lore.

The trip from one industrial city to another
took two hours, but as a child, it seemed like forever.
We knew we were getting close to our cousins
when the shallow Ohio hills evolved
into Pennsylvania mountains and out of the
car window there were clusters of railroad tracks,
twisting, converging in a massive puzzle.

We followed the Ohio River, wide and
forbidding in the tiny town that sat
across from the inhospitable steel mills.
In the summer, the dirt falling from
the sky collected in gutters and grew weeds
and grass there and in the winter it blackened
the snow before it touched the earth.

The surrounding sky was perpetually sallow;
neutral from the belching towers
of fire and foul smelling smog.
The filth from the smoke stacks brought
a paycheck to its workers, but caused children
to come in from playing with black hands and
feet and begrimed faces and clothes.

At night I would leave whatever bed I was
sharing with one or two cousins to see
the sky that was lit up orange with the angry
fire that discharged from the mills all night long,
and listen to the howl of the trains
and wonder how anyone could sleep
with this beauty and brilliance outside,

the view at one forbidding and
inviting to innocent eyes.
The flagrant polluting of the earth
was eventually halted and the mills torn down.
The fiery combustive sky dissolved, the jobs lost,
the houses sandblasted of their scorching,
the heavens clarified and colorful,
and the children were clean.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Marriage

Today is my parents' 54th anniversary. Wow. That's along time to know and love someone. It has caused me to reflect on marriage. I have had two of them, and enough time has gone by that I can look on this statement with some clarity instead of shame, embarassment, bewilderment, horror, anger or sadness. Yet, it still surprises me.
It has taken me many years to accept that I am divorced and I have decided that divorce is something you never recover from. Never. You can get over feelings and thoughts of your former spouse - but you never get over the loss of your life dreams, the grief over your failure or the way it affected your children. The impact lasts forever. Divorce sucks and I would not wish it on my worst enemy.
Having said that - I now reflect on these two distinctly polarized eras of my life. The first marriage came much too early in my life. I was convinced that I was a mature adult, but I was not. Neither was he. Nevertheless we ventured through the wilderness of young adulthood together- we struggled to find jobs and create a life out of nothing but dreams. We exhausted ourselves trying to make a home out of a rundown house. We shared the ultimate joy of a daughter and a son. But we were not able to distinguish reality from the mere picture of a perfect family. We tried for 15 years and that cannot be ignored. Those years, I now understand, were equal in value to anything in my life now. It was my youth.
Now I am married to someone whose deep love, passion and friendship I treasure and appreciate. He raises the bar on integrity. He gives me space to grow and be a better person. And he will journey with me into old age. (Could this be the bigger challenge?) The second time around as not necessarily been easier, but the rewards have been countless. In our parents we see the security of a long life together and we are committed to that. We can also see the changes that aging will bring (but when we look at each other we strangely look as we did on the day we met).
One marriage was my youth, my past, my parenting years. And this one - this one is my future. I value them both and only now can embrace what they both have meant to me. I do, however, acknowledge envy for those of you who did it right the first time. If you did, please recognize how you have been blessed. You don't know the pain you have escaped.
Amy Grant has a song with the lyrics - if you find someone who's faithful, if you find someone who's true - thank the Lord. He's been doubly good to you.
So Happy 54th Anniversary Mom and Dad. God's been doubly good to you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lucy, Andy and Dick

During any channel surfing session I will always stop at an I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith or Dick Van Dyke rerun. I'm sure I've seen all of them many times. Some were in reruns when I was a child! For a long time I asked myself why I still loved them. Why is it a warm fuzzy to see those familiar faces? Why are Lucy and Dick and Barney still so funny? Why is Andy still the best darn Dad and sheriff ever? I think I know why those shows feel like a winter-day-wrapped-in-a-crocheted-afghan-sipping-hot-chocolate. It's because it takes me back to a much simpler time. A time which was, quite literally for some of us, a care-free childhood. The fifties and early 60's are idealized in my mind as the perfect era to live and raise children. Life was simple, jobs less stressful, houses uncluttered with useless crap. We didn't want much then because there wasn't much to want.

Now we are totally dependent on technology to make it through every day. This sometimes frightens me (I write on my blog before sending it into cyberspace).

When Lucy and Ethel got in double-trouble they didn't have the frustration of roaming cell phones or crashing computers. If Laura Petrie burned the dinner there was no McDonald's or Pizza Hut down the street to rectify the situation - and Dick was still hot for her no matter what. Opie learned a valuable life lesson from a slingshot and a baby bird - he did not learn it on the Internet, nor did he miss the lesson while he was busy inside being killed by a video game.

I am now completely aware that those shows allow me to experience a world of simplicity that will never exist again. They also bring back a memory of watching them at home on the black & white TV on Christmas vacation and then doing the same with my own children (probably huddled together under a crocheted afghan in our drafty house).

I'm OK with progress and I love the fact that I can reach my kids any time on their cells - but I think it's OK to miss the old days and to still laugh at Lucy and Barney and Dick. But I never did like the Beaver - did you?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Llamas

I have a belief that we all need to surround ourselves with as much beauty as we can.
To some beauty might be the clothing department at Nordstrom's or the multitude of shoes at DSW. It might be hearing the crowd at an Indians game or the organ in a Mozart mass. Your personal definition of beauty is what gives you peace - what you yearn for.
But I'm talking about something as small as taking the more scenic sidestreets on your way to work, burning incense or a candle you like to smell, looking at photographs of people you love on the wall each day. Hug the beauty instead of the ugliness the world can rain on you daily - on the radio - TV - newspapers - co-workers - whatever.
On my drive to work I have found a way to go past a small farm with llamas and a pond that almost always has a blue heron motionlessly stalking a fish. I planned it that way and I like looking at those sights each morning before I spend a day in the noisy, boisterous atmosphere of an elementary school.
Here's a poem I wrote about llamas:

The llamas look hungry
as I drive by at 7:45.
They linger at the fence
waiting for their plop of hay,
a clutter of absurd necks and brown pop-eyes,
an incongruous sight as the highway looms ahead.

Daily I teach children
who have never seen a llama,
who don't know they live by a Great Lake,
or a great zoo where llamas display
their silky coats, their piebald wools,
their pancake eyes and paintbrush eyelashes.

These children have never seen a blue heron
like the one standing in our lake all day,
would not recognize the houses
where two parents help with homework,
street corners where they stand at the bus stop
to wave goodbye each morning.

As I drive by at 4:05 the llamas huddle
under sheltering boughs in the drowsy spring rain.
They must not like the smell
of their wet wool sweaters.
I wonder if, they too, want to spit at me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

SEX (now that I have your attention)

Someone recently called me an all-around good girl. So here's my little poem about sex . . . .



Like Breathing

The going down inflated her to the hopeful bursting
with the unison of their animated transaction

the throats belched out shooting stars like
winning lottery tickets raining from the ceiling

there was a secret bouncing from between sticky surfaces
wallowing in silent places, reassembling them

as milkweed for the caterpillar or oxygen after a severed cord
there was nothing left to do but breathe

Monday, October 15, 2007

Never was a Cornflake Girl

I am fascinated and a little envious of people who are blatantly and successfully doing what they were born to do. Individuals given such an obvious and inflated gift that they had no choice but to use it and share it with the world. I think Tori Amos is one of those people. My daughter and I continued our tradition of experiencing our favorite music together this weekend at Tori's Madison Square Garden concert in NYC. (I really hate the way the word awesome has been abused and I rarely use it - but sorry - it was awesome! )
I discovered Tori around 1990 when I was in the middle of a life crisis. Her music gave me permission to be angry, to be a woman, a human being. It was like years of therapy in a CD called Little Earthquakes. I became obsessed with every word, every piano cord, every nuance of the CD. If women had balls - hers would be the biggest. She never sells out, is never mainstream in any way - musically, visually, spiritually. She crosses generations. When she sang Winter my daughter and I held hands and cried.
Tori can do anything with her piano, she can do anything with her voice - they are one artform. Her music has taught me, healed me, and I believe, inspired my poetry. We spent two hours, with thousands of other Toriphiles, and drank in the emanations, the vibrations, and the beauty of the music.
I hope I don't sound like a celebrity worshiper, because I am anti-celebrity if anything. It is just a great experience seeing and hearing someone do what she was born to do.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I Love New York

I am sitting here in New York City - well actually Astoria, Queens - with my beloved daughter. For the last two days we shopped in Manhattan till we dropped and now (as of the fifth inning) we are watching the Indians kick butt. I got to chat with the glorious fashion designer Betsey Johnson. We bought my Italian hubby Italian cookies in Little Italy (and he'll get the ones we didn't eat.) But the highlight was watching Tori Amos sing her beauty for two solid hours last night at Madison Square Garden. Life is good.
Oh! they're playing Cleveland Rocks on the TV - but I'm rambling - a good dinner, a little too much wine and great people will do that to ya. More tomorrow when I come back to the real world.
Kate fell down and got four boo-boos.

It's all good (except the boo-boos - but it was funny.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Schools are Not Prisons

There was a school shooting in Cleveland yesterday. A troubled 14 year-old boy with two guns. The media was zealous to place blame. It made me think because I work in an elementary school and we experienced a "lock-down" last year when an unknown person was seen in the building.
Setting: Doors always locked. A camera at the front door to buzz in visitors who are instructed to sign in at the office (up a flight of stairs and on the other side of the building) and wear a visitor's badge. Staff carries key fobs and are not to open doors to visitors. Emergency procedures in place and practiced.

Picture this scenario: 8:45 am - Bell rings, teachers bring classes in (300 kids) from outside where many parents are milling about. In the office phones are ringing, announcements being made, students are going to get their free breakfast, the copy machine repairman has arrived, volunteers tutors are signing in, college students come for service projects, late students need a late slip to get in class, the milk delivery is here. Teachers are herding 20-25 children through the hallways. The principal is dealing with two boys who were fighting on the bus. A parent comes to register a new student.

Could someone walk in unnoticed as students were entering? Yes. Could someone walk in behind the milk delivery person? Yes. Could a child leave the door open at recess after going into the bathroom? Yes. Could someone who buzzed in never show up at the office? Yes. Could a teacher busy looking after 25 first graders tell a stranger to check in at the office - and could that stranger (or even familiar parent) just have lost custody of his or her child and want revenge? Yes. Could that person have a gun? Sure. Could a ten year-old find a gun at home and try something he saw on TV? Yeah.

A school is not a maximum security prison. It is a busy, bustling place where people come and go all day.

Should we pay close attention to troubled children and teens? Yes, yes, yes.
Should we wonder where they get guns. Absolutely.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dreadlock Man

It's not really a dreadlock - it's more like a dreaded lock. It lives on a man I've seen a number of times at our local Borders. From the front he's an older ex-hippie college professor-looking guy. But his hair is a single, foot-wide solid chunk of hair - down to his ankles. No kidding. Whether things live in it is not in question. It must be a heavy burden in more ways than one.

I imagine time got away from him and now he doesn't know what to do. He can't live without it. Like a bad habit that's so engrained you're not even aware of it. Or how some people don't see the Christmas wreath on their door in February or the red bow on their mailbox in March.

I'm not really judging - everyone has the right to their hair.

Has anyone else ever seen this dude?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

All I can say today is: GO TRIBE!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Surrender

A therapist said to me - after hearing the details of my dilemma - sometimes you just have to surrender.
What the $#%&*?? I'm paying you $150 an hour for that!

Surrender sounds like a weakness, but in reality it takes an enormous amount of strength to actually achieve true surrender to something that you believe unfair, unjust, wrong - whatever it is that you're cemented to heart and soul.

Surrender is the hardest lesson I've learned.
I pray a lot. And when God tells me to surrender through His silent screaming voice in my head - or He sends a human messenger - what do I do? I fight and scream and kick and have tantrums, for months, maybe years. I have to go to time-out repeatedly and still I do not get my way.

Thrice

When I am rinsed of my duality
a small piece of purity appears
in my soul, on my skin.

1. Sometimes in life you just have to surrender
he says, and then I revolt in a bloody sound-off to God.

2. I Surrender All - the singer sings from the box
in my living room and in a providential moment
I listen, slack-jawed.

3. Sunday morning arrives. Yes, Mary surrendered.
And I halt my inner tantrum. I get it.

Abandon, acquiesce each living second
until it hurts a lot less.
It was never up to me anyway.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Spanking the Yankees and other October Thoughts

Yes, the humble city of Cleveland is reveling in two nights of YANKEE SPANKING! Greater Cleveland is actually a great place to live.( If you're reading this from afar). We have outstanding cultural venues such as the Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Museum of Art, respected universities and hospitals, a beautiful lake, and an emerald chain of parks surrounding the city and suburbs, among other attributes.
But I digress.

October has always been my favorite month. Today I felt a sadness and atugging on my soul. I needed something. All my life I have been in a hurry and I don't know why. The faster I can get something done, the better. Even as a very young person I sensed the brevity of life and felt a sense of urgency to achieve and experience everything without wasting precious time.

Today - Saturday - chores - a dirty house and piles of laundry. I admit I got most of that out of the way, but then - then I looked out at the back yard. My eyes took in the same beauty of nature they see everyday. But today I walked out and laid myself down on the hammock that's been hanging forlorn and empty all summer. Mercifully the neighborhood lacked the cacophony of noises usually emanating from humans and lawn equipment (Oh the peace before the leaf blowers). I stilled myself and suspended my sad thinking. Now in a meditative state - a warm breeze nudged yellow leaves off their lifelines to sail past me like so much confetti. I was renewed in the mindless moments of staring up at the sun-speckled leaves. Instead of thinking, planning, praying - I just shut up and listened.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays - Soren Kierkegaard

Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies - Mother Teresa

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

My Mother's Art

She does not compromise what she alone sees.
The generosity of her hands on the canvas or the piano,
the counterpoint of her brushstrokes and her voice,
the walls become a pastiche or hold a rhapsody.

Moving through eras of little expectancy, rising up
out of her service, when her world turned to face
the sun she did not rebel but floated forward
and now beauty exists where there had been voids.

We are juxtaposed in the choir lofts for decades
and still there are songs we haven't sung.
When her fingers were on the piano keys for me
my small voice strained to equal the passion,
the music eternally suspended in me.

What my mother can do always has a future
without a murmur of leaving it behind.
So I understand what I can become, what I must become
for the infinity of mothers and daughters
for her mother, for my daughter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Charlotte's Website

(In honor of all the spiders decorating the outside of my house. You have to know the story of Charlotte's Web to get this.)



Charlotte A. Cavatica here, your host. Today on the webcam you will see my guests: Wilbur Zuckerman, his wife Fern, Mr. Templeton and Mrs. Goose. Fern, Let's start with you.


Charlotte that's a lovely silk suit you have on, and I love the eight dreadlocks.


Thank you. I make all my silk threads. I catch all my own food. That's how I stay so trim, but once I was fat like Wilbur.


Yes, my husband has an eating disorder called Slops Addiction. He can't stop eating the leftovers in his restaurant!



Mr. Templeton, you work for Wilbur. Is this true?



It sure is Charlotte. Wilbur is SOME PIG.



Mrs. Goose, you also work at the restaurant. What do you observe?



Mr. Templeton has repeatedly stolen my egg dishes to tempt Wilbur off his diet. He's a RAT!



Wilbur, I suggest my all-insect diet. I'll give you a free copy of my book. Will you try it?



I will, Charlotte!



We will invite Wilbur back to see how much weight he can lose on the Charlotte A. Cavatica all-insect diet.



Well we're back - let's bring out Wilbur Zuckerman. Wilbur has lost 100 pounds on my all-insect diet!



I have a surprise for Wilbur today. I stayed up all night spin. . . I mean makting the sign above your head Wilbur. It says TERRIFIC! Because that's what you are!



Thank you, Charlotte. I miss eating my slops, but with your insect diet I will be a winner at the Weight Loss Fair next week!



Guests, I'd like to announce that I'm starting a family. You may have noticed the huge egg sac that I have. Five hundred and fourteen babies! Wilbur, you have been a HUMBLE guest.



Charlotte I will miss you when you're gone, but remember everyone - you can buy the diet book and see pictures of the babies on Charlotte's Website!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

I found The Road Less Traveled, a book by M. Scott Peck, in 1991 in the middle of a turbid life-crisis. The entire book was a revelation to me at the time. It was a 300 page, $10.95 hand-held therapy session. This is the first paragraph:

Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult - once we truly understand and accept it - then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Trolls and Other Dolls

When I was around 8 or 9 troll dolls were the big thing. They came in a variety of hair colors and sizes. I recently found one in a box - a forlorn leftover -still naked with disintegrating hair. It brought back a fond memory.
Out of great love and affection I remember giving my dad a miniature troll with red hair for good luck. I recall taking the troll to the basement where my dad and his friends were playing cards. When I put it on the table next to him he willingly and good-naturedly accepted my token. I believe it sat there on other occasions too.
Remembering that as an adult, I realized that my dad could have just as easily shooed me away, embarrassed or annoyed, but he didn't. He accepted my gift and therefore me. Obviously I never forgot that.
Trolls are so ugly they're cute, I guess. I liked ugly dolls. My favorite was Poor Pitiful Pearl (really) a plain, waif-like doll in tattered clothes. She still sits on my shelf. Another was Lonely Lisa. A shrink might have a field day with this. When I decided to teach children with special needs my mom commented that it seemed natural since I'd always sided with the "underdog".
PS - I never owned a Barbie - but I didn't escape those ever-present body image issues. Rats.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Martin Luther King Jr.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Salvation

Left behind
are the ruins of the days,
the whirrs and clicks and shouts,
the growling anger, the torrents.

Can mistakes
ever become pinpoints,
memories small enough
to eventually vanish
in the lengthening sprouts
of a tiny seed,

a mustard seed, a hope
too present to ignore.
Can the circle lead us back
to a beginning?

Shoving doors into new rooms,
the rubble of walls at our feet.
I erase my journals
for the comfort I once sought.
Years won't count
except the ones to be.

for Kate

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Writing Life

In adolescence I decided the greatest accomplishment I could imagine would be to write a book. It seemed a lasting contribution to the world. I made attempts to write stories, but faltered. I remember my mother telling me I needed to live longer to have stories to tell. She, of course, was right. It wasn't until my late thirties that I apparently had lived long enough to have a story churning inside me, trying to get out. I was compelled to spend a few years writing it. It became a part of me - like a baby you carry for a long time and then watch its birth. A satisfying and joyous occasion. Writing and attempting to get it published was akin to an MFA - I learned so much. But instead of actually studying writing the way most aspiring writers do - I did what I typically do - tried to teach myself.

On some levels I was successful. I attended workshops, got professional feedback and read dozens of books about writing. I rewrote, revised, spent many months and dollars looking for an agent. Then I learned about self-publishing. Perfect. I had no aspirations to be an Oprah pick - I just wanted to see what I had created from my heart and soul in the form of a book. So I put up some funds, got my daughter to guide me through getting a manuscript and artwork on a disk, got my mom to paint the cover, and sent it off. Within a couple weeks a single book arrived for my approval and I held it to my heaving bosom crying like a baby.

Next step -marketing. And I am a complete failure. It's not within my personality parameters to go out and sell myself. Local bookstores allowed me to have book signings and book readings, but I was always glad when they were over. So who read my bundle of joy? My two book clubs, most of my cousins and friends and a few book store patrons. Yep, that's about it. Some family members may have read it but said little or nothing to me (except my loving daughter). I've read that it's typical of family to do that to writers. I will not go into my theory on that.

Now I call the box of books in my closet my learning book. I'm under the impression that the book I am writing now is a much better story and more well-written. (I could be wrong). The characters appeared to me one day completely out of some esoteric imaginary place. I couldn't ignore them. The story had no initial plan or plot but seemed to begin writing itself every time my fingers landed on the keys. I've chalked the first book up to experience and strangely, it's OK with me if no one else reads it. I'm on to bigger and better things.

It's a conundrum why writers write. I recently formulated a small but devoted writing group. Four of us support and encourage each other. We critique honestly and give guidance. We can talk for hours about writing. And we're never sure why we spend the hours we do agonizing over word choices and grammar. Why we subject ourselves to the thrill of believing our work is perfect only to have someone point out a massive flaw.

We are compelled. I can only assume it is a gift that we are created to use. Near my computer are two quotes I believe in:

If God gives you something to do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it? Stephen King

when I stand before God at the end of my life I hope I will not have a single talent left. I will say: I used everything You gave me. Erma Bombeck

That's why I'm writing another book.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Miracles

On the way to work today I was thinking about the Einstein quotes I posted last night on miracles - and right before me in the expanse of the September sky there was a rainbow. I'm not kidding. My neck became giraffe-like in an attempt to see every moment of its brief effort to touch the earth (without getting into a car accident).

Then a song came on the radio and I heard - God of wonders beyond our galaxy - the universe declares your majesty - early in the morning I will celebrate the light - I'm not kidding.

Sun-speckled raindrops hit the windshield - teardrops hit my face - still I didn't get into a car accident. Now that's a miracle.

This is for Jacquie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Albert Einstein quotes

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. His eyes are closed."

"There are two ways to live your life - one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle."

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clarity

In the crosshairs of this life
the middle now, but closer to the finish
I fear I've left a trail of nothing behind me
until I feel the milk let down again and know
there are only two perfect things I have ever done.

As I search for myself in them
I am my own terrorist, something like
a body under frozen water gazing up
at the hopeful sky, trapped.
Maybe this decade I'll get it right
uncover the final catharsis
stop rejecting the grace
find beauty in the breakdown.

Recognizing what has gone before me
I discover that I believe much more
in what my eyes cannot see
in what cannot be proven
because it lives inside me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

PURPLE PEOPLE

Purple people are people who don't fit in. I'm a purple person, probably you are too. I think a lot about not fitting in. I teach children with disabilities of all kinds. I teach the required academics to them in the way they can learn best. But I believe my real role is to make them feel OK about themselves - show them I'm on their side - help them understand and accept that their needs are not the same as everyone else. Reveal their strengths.
When I got divorced a long time ago I really felt purple. I lost friends, made others uncomfortable and suffered with my purpleness. Sometimes I still do.

COEXIST

You may have seen this bumper sticker. Each letter has a symbol for a different way of life. When you think about it, the word coexist embodies all the good and bad of this earthly life. There is very little in life that does not require us to coexist with something or someone. When I see the word I assume it is in the positive sense - let's coexist peacefully - let's agree to disagree. But you can coexist in agony as well.
It's a constant conundrum to me that human beings have not discovered that we come in varieties and that's the way it's supposed to be. How boring the world would be otherwise. Yet, every news headline provides proof that we cannot surrender to peaceful coexistence. We cannot accept religions, skin colors, cultures, sexual orientation, lifestyles, politics, or hairstyles that are unfamiliar to us. Even in America where we celebrate the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
As a teacher I can talk about this country being founded on all men being created equal. But when I look out of a sea of eleven year old faces - the future of this country - I know that they will each face discrimination, rejection, abuse or assaults on their characters and self-image - no matter what their color. I cringe. I feel like a liar.
Some worry about the end of the world. I don't, but I wonder if God is just waiting for us to get it right someday.