Friday, January 23, 2015

What Would You Do...

So, suppose you were out for your morning jog/stroll/bike—whatever you do.

It’s about seven o’clock on a Sunday morning. You’ve just passed the gates to a (gated) community of really nice houses and you’re currently running past a parking lot for a car wash and a Steak N Shake. Then you see it.

On the sidewalk in front of you lies a hundred-dollar bill.

You think, “Cool! Is it real?” It appears to be, blue stripe and all. It’s wet from the sprinklers that ran last night.

You look back at the neighborhood gate, maybe fifteen yards back. If this bill flew out of a resident’s pocket last night as they punched in the code, this morning they’ll probably say something like, “Didn’t I have another hundred in here?”

You look at the car wash and the restaurant. If an employee of one of those places cashed their paycheck for the week and dropped the bill, they’ll probably be out here before long, frantically looking for it.

All this is speculation, of course. You have no way of knowing how the bill got there or what might happen to it.

What do you do?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Lingering Bias

I've heard it said that prejudging people by their weight constitutes the "last socially acceptable prejudice."* I think that might be overstating the case just a bit.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m basically privileged to move through life without an obvious calls to ignorant pre-judgment—because that’s what prejudice is, judging in advance of knowing.

Except that I’m short, blonde, female, quiet, and tidy.

None of that in any way prevents me from being strong as heck, smarter than the average bear, tough as nails, a fantastic leader, and a lot of fun.

But people think it does. Big A. recently said to me that he wouldn’t have really believed that women face a bias in today’s world if he hadn’t seen the way I’m treated when it comes to home repairs and cars, for example. (For the record, he feels that way because it wouldn’t occur to him judge women’s aptitudes as categorically different.) And, as he said, “You usually know more about cars than I do!”

That’s because I was blessed to know a mechanic who didn’t see a “girl” but someone who was fascinated by how all this stuff worked. He took the time to teach me what did what in my car and why it broke and how to fix it.

Our bodies are just vessels for our spirits.

Ah, yes, but what about our demeanor? Our actions? How we choose to present ourselves? Surely it’s okay to judge people—a little bit—on that?

I'm currently--and very slowly, out of respect for my blood pressure--reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As I told a friend, parts of it make me want to "rise up and politely ask my close friends to consider acting on behalf of introverts, if the spirit moves them to do so."

The Introvert Revolution, available in armchairs near you.

But seriously, why do people constantly assume, for example, that I lack authority? I assure you, my children will testify otherwise. I am not loud. I only speak when I have something to say. But if I go to the mat for something, I am all in. My word is solid. Not to mention that I understand and deliberately use all kinds of mad leadership skills in many situations. So why do people see me as a pushover?

Here’s another one that just baffles me. I had a friend decline an invitation to my house because she couldn’t bring her kids over—it’s too neat. But I invited her, so…you would think that I’d thought it through and decided I’d enjoy the company in my house. Did I somehow lack credibility?

Besides, can you imagine saying to someone, “I can’t bring my kids to your house. It’s too messy”? They’d post that comment on the internet, there would be trolls, Today Moms would do a fluffy article on it…. Total madness.

But I’m not just talking about me here. At least, I’m only talking about me to get to the big point. So this is not a pity party or a call to action. Well, not really. Or maybe it is a call to action. Yes, it is.

With my deeply hidden authority, I ask you to make a mess of your neatly labeled lives. Forget what you see, ignore these vessels we travel through life in. Speak truth in love and act as if others do the same. Be Quakers, for crying out loud.

Speak truth in love and listen, one spirit to another, in all the beautiful and endless possibilities those spirits hold.

That’s all, folks. Do that and we’ve just saved the world.

Speak truth in love and listen.

*For the record, in case the whole post doesn’t make this clear, I find no such biases acceptable.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Attention, Please

I'd like to increase my readership this year. I love you all, but I want more, More, MORE! <Laughs maniacally>

I'm mostly kidding. But this is supposed to work.

I no I'm an editor, but I would of probably started writing as a career, if I cold find a way to make money at it. Is their any money in writing in the 2010's?

Let me suscribe a seen for you.

Its winter, women hurry by in fir coats. Reefs hang on doors, ready for the holidays. A gentle snow continues on falling. People, rushing bye with presence.

Oh, my word. I cannot do this one second longer. Holy wow, that was hard!

Did it work?

Many thanks to my friend Samantha for posting this where I could find it!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy New Year

As I'm making room in my life for more writing this year and--hold me accountable, Dear Readers--hoping to vlog a spoken word poem before the year's end, I decided to begin the year with a few writerly fireworks: sparkly, fun, and ephemeral. Yay!

So, I began 2015 by feeling very, very old. Harry Potter has become a household topic of conversation as Little A. and his dad finish up the first book. And the other day, S. referred to Harry himself as "born in the late 1900s."

I opened my mouth to correct her, then stopped, jaw swinging open a bit--as tends to happen with us ancient fossils from the last century. Harry Potter was, in fact, born in the late 1900s.

Luckily, I have hope for the future. It's strawberry season here in sunny Florida. We had strawberries for dessert the other night and happened to have a huge can of whipped cream, so we went crazy. I mean, with fruit for dessert, a little processed dairy is fine, right?

So Little A. got the can out of the fridge, but Big A. snagged it first. He said, grinning, "Pretend I'm Uncle Sam. I'm taking a whipped cream tax before you get some on your fruit." Little A. played along, but--once HIS portion of whipped cream was securely in his bowl--said, "Who's Uncle Scam?"

All in all, we spent a quiet holiday season, enjoying family time and a respite from the beautiful business of our lives. I counted my blessings again and again, especially the two biggest blessings, the amazing souls who joined our family on this wild journey.

Thanks to them, I have a bigger heart and a much quicker brain. Thanks to them, my husband and I have grown closer than we imagined possible. Thanks to them, I have deeper fears and higher hopes. Thanks to them, I think before I speak--at least, far, far more often than I used to. Thanks to them, I do those things that I always wanted to try. Thanks to them, I laugh so much.

Thanks to them, I look at everything differently.

Even apples.

Apple Fort by Little A.

Apple Fish by S.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poem: Ties

I wrote this a while ago, but I've been thinking about it this weekend. I've started to get a little energy back lately and I really, really, really want to make some changes in our lives. I want to stop being so crazy busy eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. There's only one catch--I can't see how.

And until I can figure out how to change it, our life simply is what it is. Kind of like this poem I wrote back when. It meanders a bit, but that's kind of the point.

Sunny Sunday morning
Warmth in irregular
Squares on the carpet
Children sprawled coloring
Dog napping on guard
Poetry playing notes

Steam puffs from the iron
The crooked made straight
As my hands work on
My mind runs free
In separation and conjunction

The divergent tracks
Of my life crash together
A phrase, a measure
Calls forth tears
Spotting my work
Giving me pause

Forty years is not so long
These hands are young
In their work, too young
For my heart to surrender
For my soul to crave rest
For my life to be a chore

Mindlessly, I count—
As I do when bored
Or enduring—
The stops and stations of my trek
Thirty-three times three times 365
Setting the table—so what?

Twenty-seven times 365
Making lunch
That’s fine, really.
Vacuuming fifty-two times twenty-five
Plus more than a few…
Sounds good.

Fourteen times five
Dress shirts pressed, less a few
Plus pants—
My mind snaps back
To now
No need for dispensation

Blessed, privileged
My daily bread abundant
I live the American life
And I want to die to it
I want the peace
Of ending the endless

I do not choose this time
And this place, this race
I choose rest by a
Sun-dappled stream
Birdsong, hidden treasures
Children’s laughter

Warm, long-cooked meals
Full, rich nights of sleep
The joy of creation
The peace of making
The pleasure of adding
My craft to our home

Colorful cushions
Music that moves
Stories we share
The peace that opens hearts
And lifts eyes to meet
In shared truth

All that I’ve pushed aside
Dubbed optional, expendable
For the grim satisfaction
Of getting the job done
All that I let go is everything
That I want of life

Exhausted, shaken, I gaze
At the trainwreck in dull wonder
Which track leads away?
Which cars carry weight?
What to salvage? What to scrap?
What do I do?

What do I know how to do?
What do I want to do?
What if I do nothing?
Which question do I answer?
Somewhere under these iron weights
My heart beats, tired and stubborn.

“There was nothing to do, but always the next thing to be done.” Tehanu, Ursula LeGuin

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dog's Life: A Photo Essay

This morning our dog Bruno decided to do his morning business by the pond. In the dawn light, the pond lay still. Within its frame of water lilies, the water made a perfect mirror for the delicate tints of the sky and the crescent moon, still sailing high above.

I thought, Wow. Talk about a Poop with a View.
Didn't have my camera today, so this is a slightly less gorgeous morning, but you get the idea.
You know, dogs don't have it so bad. Our half hyper-fun Border Collie mix/half lazy hound dog mix certainly doesn't, anyway. His days consist of a variety of exquisitely comfortable naps interspersed with the odd rough-and-tumble with our son or a super cool field trip, usually involving dashing rabbits or squirrels.

Nap Position 1--notice the all-important "hanging out tongue" technique.
Nap Position 2--we politely don't mention what historical salute this resembles.
I can't forget--he does have some self-imposed duties. He gives every guest a thorough sniff-down. No smuggling illicit food in here! And he barks at everything that goes by the house...but only from eight in the morning until ten in the morning.

He keeps his work/life boundaries clear.
Self-imposed duty--but when his two hours are up, he leaves the stress at the office--er, house--door.

Variety in Napping Locations is the spice of life!
 Bruno does sometimes pick his head up when I come into the house--skeptical eyebrows are a bonus--and I am always flattered by the attention.

Guarding the Va'Cuum
And how could I forget his other job? He must use all his courage and might to guard the house against the evil Va'Cuum--and then he must repurify all the carpets that have been befouled by the monster. Once the Va'Cuum falls silent, he finds the exact center of the horrifyingly cleansed area and reclaims it for the Forces of Good!

Reclaimed by the Forces of Good!
"Yes, I admit to chasing the church squirrels, but I did NOT poop on the lawn. Mom did NOT pick anything up here. Move along."
No matter what, at the end of the day, he's an integral part of our pack, loving and well-loved. Enjoy that nap, Bruno!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Take It and Run

Last weekend our Girl Scout troop ran a 5k race to raise money for our local hospice house.

Let’s face it--I was worried. Very worried. I have a long track record of helping girls step out of their comfort zones, but this time I was out of mine as well. The only other even remotely similar thing I’d done was Tough Mudder AAAAAND…that’s not even remotely similar.

Given the crazy schedules of daily modern life, we didn’t practice a whole lot as a team. We did a half mile for practice one time and I got even more worried. I honestly wasn’t even sure if we’d all finish the course. Luckily, we have a great leader and great parents and fantastic scouts. So we went for it!

In short, I learned—AGAIN!—how stunningly beautiful young people can be when they rise to a challenge. Many of the girls and their families have already said how much they’d like to do another race. I know our family wants to do it again! But most of all, they showed that they truly live the values that scouting teaches.

We just got the finish line pictures today* and, in them, I see the bonds among the girls. I see their sense of fun. I see how they always give their best effort. Most of all, I see how they care for each other.  That day, they showed so clearly what I love about these kids.

Our first two scouts to cross the finish line did their best to tie, to cross the line together just as they’d run the course together.

Our next scout, one of the teenagers, flew across with a beautiful natural stride, crossing at 47 minutes because she’d run with our seven-year-old son the whole way. We hadn’t been sure he’d finish, let alone at just over 47 minutes and full of pride. What a gift she gave him!

Then came another older scout, partnered with our youngest, a first grader.  The older scout went on to earn her next belt in tae kwon do that day—testing an hour and a half after finishing the race. And how many six year olds can run three miles these days?
Somewhere in there, all the wonderful parents who made it possible finished strong. One mom, nine months pregnant, carried her two-year-old across in the best happy dance ever.

But the picture that really makes my heart catch shows the last two scouts in our group to cross the line. After they completed the course together, one girl pulled ahead at the end. She stopped—right at the finish line—and looked back, waiting for her friend. The photograph caught it perfectly, showing one girl throwing her heart into her running and one girl, waiting mid-step, head turned to look over her shoulder.

Sometimes all we need to do is put the opportunity in front of them. If it’s meant to be, they’ll take it and run with it. After this, I don’t care if we do anything else this year; it doesn’t matter if we earn a single badge.  Our scouts are champions!

*In the interests of privacy, I haven't used the actual finish line pictures (of other people's children).