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


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


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


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.