Saturday, February 28, 2009

There's Nothing Wrong With Your Face

I'm a new and devoted fan of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco (thanks to my daughter knowing me so well). Her new CD has a song called "Present/Infant." I love these lyrics:

Lately I've been glaring into mirrors
picking myself apart
you'd think at my age I'd have thought of
something better to do
than make insecurity into a full-time job
make insecurity into an art

I fear my life will be over
and I will never have lived it unfettered
always glaring into mirrors
mad I don't look better

But now here's this tiny baby
and they say she looks just like me
and she is smiling at me
with that present/infant glee
and I would defend
to the ends of the eath
her perfect right to be

So I'm beginning to see some problems
with the ongoing work of my mind
and I've got myself a new mantra
it says: don't forget to have a good time!
Don't let the sellers of stuff power enough
to rob you of your grace
love is all over the place
there's nothing wrong with your face
love is all over the place
there's nothing wrong with your face

Friday, February 27, 2009

Loud Silence

I turned down the volume of life
to be quiet with God -
for I cannot hear Him

over the din of children in school halls,
the vacuum sucking dirt from my rugs
or the traffic sounds on my daily route.

The only sound was the speaking of my failures
and fears as I curled up in His open hand
to find grace with no language.

What will I do with something
I cannot attach words to?
Stop and wait for His poetry, not mine.

I heard the vocalizing of my tears
as they washed my corneas of the world,
making way for new eyes.

My nativity was at the bedside,
sore knees, leaking nose and a vow to
stop assigning God new jobs and accept
the one He's given me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent in Your Messy House

I have been reading "Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith" by Kathleen Norris. Norris takes faith words, or religious words, and discusses a different one in each chapter. Today is Ash Wednesday so I flipped through for an idea. When I got to "repentance" it seemed to fit. I have always been a Protestant and so giving up something for Lent has never been stressed, but it always seemed to me that giving up something is sometimes viewed as a sort of self-punishment for the sins we've committed during the previous year - or it could be a matter of focus, of not letting that beloved little addiction distract us from the meaning of the days leading up to Easter.
In the "repentance" chapter Norris tells a story of a little boy who wrote a poem called "The Monster Who was Sorry".
He began by admitting that he hates it when his father yells at him; his response in the poem is to throw his sister down the stairs, and then to wreck his room, and finally to wreck the whole town. The poem concludes - " Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself - I shouldn't have done all that." My Messy House says it all: with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in the fourth-century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on his way toward repentence, not such a monster after all, but only human. If the house is messy, they might have said, why not clean it up, why not make it into a place where God might wish to dwell?
I always think of Lent as a chance to clean up the messy house inside me, but more importantly to remember that God is waiting to be invited into my house every single day whether it's messy or not.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What I Fear

Lightning - the bolt that cracked open
our graceful willow tree with power
to transform it into fuel for campfires.

Sudden sounds - the thunderclap
after the lightning, firecrackers
shooing geese off the neighbor's lawn,
popping balloons, a phone call in the night.

Fire - in the children's ward so long ago
I saw a little boy's charred skin.
Burning leaves in ditches, infernos
that smell like childhood.

Flames haunted my dreams -
dreams of saving
my little brother and sister
as they rolled towards the orange heat.

Wasting time - always in a rush
to accomplish something, leave something behind
with the prescient knowledge
of life's brevity and its immutable end.

I fear - my children making the same
mistakes their parents made,
and I would live in a fiery thundercloud
and be struck by lightning
if I could keep that from happening.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Only Breath

Art by Bruce Holwerda. Poetry by Rumi


Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu
Buddhist, Sufi or zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the East
or the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not
composed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,
did not descend from Adam or Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a trace
of the traceless. Neither body nor soul,
I belong to the beloved, have seen the two
worlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only that
breath breathing human being.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bad News, Very Bad News


I had heard vague whisperings and inferences, but I didn't believe it - couldn't believe it. But now I have read it in black and white from a style reporter - straight from New York Fashion Week (for fall 2009). We're regressing back to the style of the 1980's, and when I use the word regressing I mean it in the worst possible way. Four seemingly innocent words, when put together make me shudder - big hair, shoulder pads. Actually big hair wasn't mentioned, but just the thought of it makes me want to throw up a little bit. I can't even extrapolate my hair into medium let alone big. My only hope in the 80's was a curly perm. I had one good one and 27 bad ones (well, it seemed like that many). Even then I had to bribe and coax my lifeless locks daily to get them to be anything but small hair.

Shoulder pads - I spent an entire decade cutting them out of every piece of clothing I bought. I already have the shoulders of Michael Phelps - no help needed. I collected a whole drawer full of them and then realized I would never be using them and they went in the trash where they belonged.

Let's see, what else was fun about the 80's? Bushy eyebrows? ( I don't even have any eyebrows to speak of), ripped sweatshirts, leg warmers to attractively add to the bulk of your calves, dresses that hit that unflattering mid-calf section, humongous costume jewelry - nope, none if it worked for me then - or now.

Oh well, hopefully this new trend will either stay on the runway or bring back such bad memories that consumers will boycott bringing back the worst fashion decade in history.
PS - don't click on the photo to enlarge unless you like being horrified.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Friday Haiku

You will never trust
as you did when Dad held you
in strong and safe arms

(Happy Birthday Dad!)


This shell, this vessel
can succeed or disappoint
fighting fat daily


Years have come and passed
hands rise to cover her ears
and her weeping eyes

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coexist XX

I have spread my dreams at your feet. Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paper

I daydream of papercuts
on delicate places
the innocence of the white paper
its purity defies
the pain it can hold
in flat black words
in the slicing of your skin

Monday, February 16, 2009

COEXIST XIX - Forgiveness

This is part of a report from ABC news on February 6, 2009

Man Asks Entire Town for Forgiveness for Racism

Nearly half a century ago, in a very different America, Elwin Wilson and John Lewis met under a veil of violence and race-inspired hate.
Wilson, a young, white Southern man, attacked Lewis, a freedom rider for Martin Luther King, in the "white" waiting room of a South Carolina bus station.
The men had not seen each other again until Tuesday when, with "Good Morning America's" help, Wilson approached Lewis again - this time offering an apology and a chance to relieve a burden he's carried for more than four decades.
"I'm so sorry about what happened back then," Wilson said breathlessly.
"It's OK. I forgive you," Lewis responded before a long-awaited hug.
For Lewis, who in the intervening years became a US representative from Georgia, the apology was an unexpected symbol of the change in time and hearts.
The outburst Wilson said, was just part of a life of hate he led for years.
"I had a black baby doll in the house, and I had a little rope, and I tied it to a limb and let it hang there," he said. Wilson went back to a diner where he threw eggs. He went all around town, apologizing to anyone he may have wronged. Pretty soon, he found out that one of the men he wanted to apologize to was a US representative.
"I never thought this would happen," Lewis told GMA, "It says something about the power of love, of grace, the power of the people being able to say,'I'm sorry' and move on. And I deeply appreciate it. It's very meaningful for me."

On the President's Day I am thinking Abe would be proud too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hapy Valentine's Day

These words have been going through my head recently. They are the lyrics to an old Amy Grant song that I have always loved called "Doubly Good to You" (I teared up just typing them. ) I think it can refer to any type of relationship.

If you look in the mirror at the end of a hard day
and you know in you heart you have not lied
and if you gave love freely, if you earned an honest wage
and if you've got Jesus by your side
you can thank the Father for the things that He has done
and thank Him for the things He's yet to do
and if you find someone who's tender
if you find someone who's true
thank the Lord
He's been doubly good to you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine from the Past

This is a mushy Valentine poem I wrote to my beloved a long time ago but I feel the same way now:

I only knew a Valentine
six years ago
when you became mine

grace revealed
in a burning love
we go in passionate waves

where
were you before
when I thought I knew of love?

now
your arms around me
are life-giving and we have created
memories in the cradle of our united life

even
when you are unaware
my bond and gratitude
are ever-present

then
I asked you to stay
and share the journey with me

now
I feel the same
only more

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Good to be an American

This was in today's paper:
New Delhi, India
Eight people were killed and their mutilated bodies thrown into a river over a wedding not approved by the couple's families in eastern India, police said Wednesday. Police said fifteen people have been charged with the murders in the Bhagalpur district of the Bihar state. The killings took place during a meeting between families and their supporters, police said. Police found eight bodies, four of them beheaded and others multilated, in a river Tuesday. No arrests had been made. The couple eloped and married against the wishes of their families in January.
God Bless America. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My High School Art Teacher and Frank Lloyd Wright


My high school art teacher was Louis Penfield. Mr. Penfield was 6 ft 8 in. tall and kind of a kooky eccentric type. He didn't do a lot of teaching, but he did a lot of art. In class we were mostly allowed to just do our own thing - and Mr. Penfield would do his own thing off in a corner painting in his watercolors. I guess he thought demonstration was the best form of teaching. Every once in a while he'd get up, walk across the room and draw right on what ever I was working on (GRrrrrrr - can't you just TELL me what's wrong with it?) He was cool in that he let us bring in albums to play. I remember a whole year of "Tapestry". Once on a beautiful autumn day he took us to his home to sketch. I remember that he told us that his house was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but that did not impress me at the time.

Flash forward to this past summer. My book club read a book called "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan. It's a novel based on one woman's affair with Frank Lloyd Wright. It sparked my interest and I discovered that Mr. Penfield's house can now be rented out for two days at a time. The house was indeed designed by Wright just for Mr. Penfield due to his height. It is one of about 100 Usonian houses and was built in 1955 on 30 wooded acres in Willoughby, Ohio. Only 1800 square feet, it has a floating staircase, a bottleneck entryway and several walls made almost entirely of windows. One might wonder how Mr. Penfield could afford to have a house designed by the renown Wright (specifically designed for his 6'8" height) on 30 acres on a high school teacher salary. I'm not sure, but I do know that Penfield was a prominent family and owned other property in the area.

So, I wish I would've paid more attention all those years ago, and I recommend the book "Loving Frank" too.

For more info go here or here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Here's Where Things Started Going Wrong. . .


Scroll down to my January 26th poem - this photo could accompany it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Today

I will return hatred
with love
When I ask myself
am I a spark or an ash
I will turn away
from the ocean of self-doubt
to belief
I will write my birth poems
and sing my praise songs
I will kiss my life
before I sleep this night

I only desire to be known

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coexist XVIII - Differing Viewpoints

This week I received several emails with messages referring to our new president's "evil attempt to impose socialism" on us. I would prefer not to receive these emails and here is why:

1. The campaign is over. Barack Obama is our president.

2. I am one of those who is choosing hope over fear. I have to because in the past eight years my stocks and retirement accounts have greatly diminished, 3.6 million Americans have lost their jobs since December 2007, sons and daughters my own children's ages are traumatized and dying from two wars, our country is eight years behind scientifically (science that my God created in His wisdom), and as a public school teacher I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of No Child Left Behind. I have to hope for something better.

3. No matter what I thought of our last president I constantly reminded my students that, as our president, he was to be respected. Now I get emails disrespecting a president that has been in office a whopping three weeks. Give the guy a chance.

4. You do not have to agree with me, but I don't have to agree with you either. Let's COEXIST and maybe do our part to bring this country back together again.

5. Luke 11:17 Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Coexist XVII - Religions

Today President Obama signed an order establishing a White House office of faith-based initiatives called the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He said that it was proper for the government to be providing help to Americans but the change will not come from government alone. He said the program would not show favoritism to any religious group and would adhere to the separation of church and state.
He said this at the National Prayer Breakfast:
"We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to 'love thy neighbor as thyself'. The Torah commands 'That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads 'None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.' And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucious and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule - the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth."
Even though faith too often has been used "as a tool to divide us from one another," there is no religion in the world that is based on hatred.
COEXIST

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Barbeque Anyone?

Maybe lounge on the deck with an ice tea? It's hard to remember all the months we sat in these chairs looking out on the back yard - but it WILL come again - God never fails. I do love the snow , but yeah, it's getting old now. Stay warm my blogging friends.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Proverbs

I have been participating in reading a daily selection from the scriptures and pondering a response to it along with people in my church. It is called Transformation Journal. I have to admit some of the Old Testament was excruciating to read. I had trouble focusing and gleaning from is what I was supposed to. Now I'm up through Isaiah (a beautiful book), Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes - all poetic writing full of wisdom. Some of it I have not read for a long time and I thought I'd share some favorite Proverbs.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left, keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27
For wisdom is more precious than rubies and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs 8:11
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy. Proverbs 14:10
Gray hair is a crown of splendor, it is attained by a righteous life. ( why are we all hiding it then?) Proverbs 16:31
A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions. (Know anyone like that?) Proverbs 18:2
Give me neither riches nor poverty but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you. Proverbs 30:8

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hawking Liquid Rubies

When I got my box of "Liquid Rubies" , I promised myself that I would not be overly sensitive to the fact that many people I know would completely ignore my sense of accomplishment, many would never understand the work that went into it, many would never bother to read one poem. I know this all to be true because I have another book and experienced all this before. But I'm still struggling. I want to share it with people I'm close to because it's a part of me.
Anne Lamott says," Even if only the people in your writing group read your memoirs or stories or novel, even if you only wrote your story so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child and you knew the name of every dog in town - still, to have written your version is an honorable thing to have done. Against all odds, you have put it down on paper so it won't be lost. And who knows? Maybe what you've written will help others, will be a small part of the solution. You don't even have to know how or in what way, but if you are writing the clearest, truest words you can find, and doing the best you can to understand and communicate, this will shine on paper like its own little lighthouse. Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining."
I need to absorb that message even though I want to say - that's easy for you to say, Anne Lamott, you're a famous writer!
I also understand that most people are afraid of poetry because they think they're not going to get it or don't know anything about it. Many of my poems are small stories or slices of life. Not so hard to comprehend. My little book doesn't look like much, but it represents hundreds of hours of writing and revising, of organizing a cohesive grouping of poems, of researching publishers and mailing out varying collections to suit their needs - and then, finally, after years of learning the craft, being mentored by other poets, years of effort and hope - someone says YES - I love your poetry collection! I will publish it!
Gertrude Stein said, "Everyone who writes is interested in living inside themselves in order to tell what is inside themselves." So I will continue to write, I'm sure, no matter who reads it - or not - and in time I will surrender to that which I do not understand - just as I have so many times on this life journey.