Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thankful Thursday

I am thankful for the library: for the freedom to choose fantastic books and movies and bring them home for free. The freedom to choose terrible books and movies and being able to return them without having wasted money. I'm thankful for the rain we have received this week. That our roof doesn't leak. That I am no longer afraid of thunder and lightning.

I'm thankful for the gift of prayer and mercy and grace, for peace and strength. For the Bible and the comfort it brings to me every time I sit down to read it. I'm thankful for the multi-national family and friends that surround us and call and visit us and care and pray for us. I'm grateful for Suzy, who wrote to me and called me to let me know she was back in town, visiting from Arkansas. For her sense of humor, her tears, her prayers, and her friendship. For Lisa and her wise and womanly words. For Karen and her green lifestyle. For Jill's late night sense of humor.

I'm thankful for Leonie and Ian and Magpie Girl and Kelly Rae and Kristin and Karen and Melodee and Natalia and Jen and Jena and Eduardo and Andrea and Andrew and Laura and Lori and Laurie and Shelby and all the other men and women I know who write and take photos and make videos aand tell stories and laugh and cry and live full, confusing, doubtful, joyful, traveling, singing, dancing, funny, fun-loving, musical, artistic, playful and fearful and creative, serious, seeking, laughing lives. For the ways in which each of them, each of you, has accepted me and reached out to me and loved me.

I'm thankful for the internet, cell phones, blogs, digital cameras, and external hard drives. For Trader Joe's, Harris Teeter, Fresh Market, for organic onions, soy milk, chocolate bars and brown rice. I'm thankful for fresh fruit and salad and homemade dressing. For sorbet and gelato and ice cream sandwiches and butterscotch bars. For ice wine and gin & tonics and caipirinhas and mojitos. For Nicaragua and Spain and Brazil and Argentina and Italy and South Africa and England and Costa Rica and Puerto Rico and Rwanda and Germany and France and Ireland and all the countries, the cities, and the towns that have been the holy ground on which my life has been and is being lived.

I'm thankful for A-line skirts and flats and denim jackets. For padded bras and argyle socks and suede boots. I'm thankful for beads and wire and ear hooks and the tools to make my own jewelry. For colored pencils and stickers and scissors and glue sticks. For candles and incense and room spray and perfume. For magazines and mailboxes and stamps and envelopes. For passports and airplanes and backpacks and tray tables and duty free shops. For ipods and earphones and podcasts and cds and dvds.

I'm thankful for shampoo and hair dryers and Dr. Bronner's soap and homemade skin care products. I'm grateful for Lockstar, the amazing salon that caters to black women with natural hair. For hair color and rubber bands and plastic caps and hairpins and towels. I'm thankful for the stories and laughter and food and joy that are shared between the women at the salon as we "suffer for sexy."

I'm thankful for my children and my husband and that they know when mama needs a break. For my study and my books and journals and elephant collection. For the seashells and smooth stones and cathedral candles and tiny vials of olive oil and limoncello that line my travel altar. For travel journals and momentos and maps and old museum entry stubs. For peace flags and crosses and magnetic words and collages and photographs of my children. I'm thankful for tennis rackets, walking shoes, wristbands, and NBA basketball and hand weights.

I'm thankful for my minivan and open parking spaces and shopping carts and personal sized watermelons and free samples and money back guarantees. For salespeople and store clerks, especially the ones that remember me and ask how the children are doing. For employment and debit cards and credit cards and a husband who insists on paying everything off every month. For a home I love and a life that is full and frustrating and overwhelming and peaceful and adventurous and blessed and mine.

I'm thankful that I have a hope and future. That I am not alone. That I do not have to be afraid to walk through all the valleys and shadows of everything that looms above and ahead. That I know that I know that I know that all shall be well.

I'm thankful to be alive at this time in this place living this life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In the land of giants...

Shadowed by powerful friends,
Punitive foes.

Overwhelmed by internal fears,
External conflicts.

Feeling unnoticed,

Sit still.
Breathe deep.
Stand firm.
Walk steadily.
Live fully.

I often feel small, insignificant, unimpressive,
overshadowed, unprepared.
But still... But still...

Celie said it so well in The Color Purple:
"I may be poor. I may be black.
I may be ugly. But I'm here."

Kristiana spotted the car as we pulled into a parking space last night.
I had to take a picture. I absolutely had to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Memorial Day Prayer

by William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

Gracious God, whose own Son's term of service to humanity was so full that its brevity was no distress, we call to mind on this Memorial Sunday those who will not grow old as we are left to grow old, those whose lives were too brief for us but long enough, perhaps, for thee.

Forgive us that they died so young because we were too unimaginative, too imperious, too indifferent, or just too late to think of better ways than warfare to conduct the business of the world.

Gratefully, we remember the generosity that prompted them to share the last of their rations, the last pair of dry socks, to share in the course of one hour in the foxhole more than most of us care to share with one another in a lifetime.

And we recall the courage that made more than one of them fall on the grenade there was no time to throw back.

Grant, O God, that they may not have died in vain.

May we draw new vigor from past tragedy.

Buttress our instincts for peace, sorely beleaguered.

Save us from justifications invented to make us look noble, grand and righteous and from blanket solutions to messy, detailed problems.

Give us the vision to see that those nations that gave the most to their generals and least to their poor were, throughout all history, the first to fall.

Most of all, give us the vision to see that the world is now too dangerous for anything but truth, too small for anything but love.

Through Jesus Christ our Savior, who became what we are to make us what he is.


Friday, May 22, 2009

This life work I am called to do...

K, wearing earrings given to her by Lisa and Doug on their recent visit.

I just started Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Judging by the size of the tome (387 pages), I don't expect I will read it word for word, but I plan to scan it for nuggets to shine up and store in my storehouse of needed helps and hints on how to do this parenting thing with intention and integrity.

D, at a local barber shop having something fantastic carved onto his scalp.

This is the first nugget mined from the book, taken from the prologue.
"[Parenting] is clearly a life's work, and it for life that we undertake it. As we all know down to our very bones, there is no question about doing a perfect job, or always 'getting it right.' It seems more a quest than a question of anything. 'Perfect' is simply not relevant, whatever that would mean in regard to parenting. What is important is that we be authentic, and that we honor our children and ourselves as best we can, and that our intention be to, at the very least, do no harm."


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Life as captured at World Market

I really like that store, World Market. I have enjoyed every one of the strolls I have taken through it over the years. Chairs and jewelry, food and wine, dishes and candles. It's all there. Jumbled together. In no particular order, it seems. But all so colorful and inviting. So tempting and so reasonably priced.

In my more sane moments, I ask myself: do I really need any of this stuff, really? Is there one single, solitary thing in this store that I can honestly say that I need? Perhaps not. But it sure is fun walking through there. In my less than sane moments, I have been known to fill an entire basket with stuff that I don't need and, even as I am being checked out, I shake my head at the excessiveness of it all.

I was introduced to "Illy from the Bialetti" many years ago. I hope I never recover from that introduction. Italian coffee from an Italian coffee maker. Memories of Italy, Orvieto, Firenze, and wandering around up and down the streets of Italian cities and towns. Again, I hope I never recover.

I am not much of a cook. Well, I cook pretty regularly because my family has this nasty habit of wanting to eat every day. But if I didn't have to cook, if someone were willing to come and take over that chore, I'd give it up pretty quickly. I'd rather clean than cook.

So when I gaze with fear and trembling at spice racks, when I see the names of herbs I wouldn't even know what to do with, I wish I were more creative or at least more interested in creating dishes that we would find delightfully delicious. Until such time, I finger the spice bottles and pray for invitations to other people's houses for dinner.

Sweet syrup. I buy the peppermint syrup every now and then for peppermint mochas, especially around the holidays. Yum, yum. And of course, one bottle of syrup which will flavor 2 or 3 dozen drinks, costs less than two white peppermint mochas at Starbucks. Yikes!

One lesson I learned the hard way: don't ever use one of those pumps in a syrup bottle at home. It's the same as leaving the bottle wide open. And ants really like open bottles of flavored and sweetened syrup. Yikes - yet again!

I love candy. I really do. I like fruit flavored candy. But I refuse to eat something from a bag with a label that I cannot understand. I must admit that the colors caught my eye. The display of all the sweets produced somewhere on the other side of the planet made me smile: there are people all over the world who like fruit flavored candy. What a great reminder that there is much more that we share as people than what divides us. Everybody likes sweet stuff and peace and love. Everybody loves their children and wants the best for them - except for a few whose thought processes we will never comprehend, that is. Quite unexpectedly, those brightly colored candy bags brought it home for me.

I'm feeling cut in half and blurry a lot lately. Happy. Wandering. Wondering. Grateful. Fascinated. Enchanted. But blurred and blurry too. I feel split between wanting to be the best wife and mother possible, wanting to live alone in Madrid and be a tour guide for solo women travelers, wishing I could be the next door neighbor to so many amazing people I know, in spite of the fact that they happen to live in distant countries and cities (India, Italy, England, Spain, Nicaragua, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sandy Hook, San Francisco, Dayton, Baltimore, Chicago, Williamstown, Ponte Vedra Beach, Norwalk, New Canaan, Stamford, Brooklyn, just to name a few), wanting to dedicate my entire life and all my time and resources to helping people who are in desperate situations, wishing I could teach and lead retreats for exhausted people in need of renewal and refreshment, and wanting to be the ultimate wasteful, thoughtless, excessive World Market shopper that ever did walk the face of the planet. Mine is a deeply divided spirit and heart. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Who knew that a stroll through World Market would bring so many thoughts and questions and confessions to the surface of my soul? Who knew?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Between the doing and the being...


Living at attention.

Seeking light.
Seeking heat.
Seeking peace.
Being drawn inward.

Be back next week.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Please read this post - it says everything I would love to say about Mother's Day. But better. Thanks, Jen, for your eloquence.

These are the two people that fill my days,
warm my heart, and gray the hair at my temples.
They make me laugh and weep and want to live forever and want to run away - usually all of the above at some point every single day.
Thanks, K and D, for giving me the gift of motherhood.
The gift that truly keeps on giving.
I love you both - more than you will ever know.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I'm going to _________ in my mind...

It doesn't take much to make me start to dream of travel again.

* seeing an airplane float by overhead
* receiving an email from a friend in Spain or Italy
* reading stories in the newspaper or online about places I'd like to visit
* being berated by someone that I thought liked me, loved me, supported me
* cleaning poop out of Maya's box in the morning

So when I found this post at a very interesting blog this morning, I began to make a mental list of the places I'd want to visit if I followed this man's advice. But first, I need to get a job - and then I can quit it in order to travel around the world. Minor details, I know...

PS. Check this post out and you will understand why Jen Lemen is one of my idols. She really is.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My Chicks Listen to My Voice

It was a sunny Charlotte evening. I was on my way someplace... I can't even remember where. I saw them. A family of geese. The parents are over on the right with two babies near them, and six others stood a few feet away eating.

I couldn't just drive past such a serene family dinner. I had to stop and watch. I pulled out my camera and captured a few photos. First the babies stood together in a group eating. A little ways from their parents.

Then when I got out of the minivan, they took off running.
In the wrong direction.
Nooooo! I called out to them and told them that their parents were the other way. They didn't listen.

What did I expect? Half the time, it feels like my own kids don't listen to me. Did I expect to be a cross-species mother to six geese??!!

I jumped back in the van, following them, hoping to figure out a way to herd them back towards their parents.

Then Mom must have called out for them because suddenly they all stopped.
A few of them looked back the way they had come.
Still. Quiet. Listening.

Then they turned for home.
And took off running again.

I could almost read their little goosy minds:
"We hear you, Mom. Don't leave us. We're coming."
And in one furiously fuzzy blur, they sprinted past my van.

As I watched them make their way back to their parents, I thought to myself,
"There may or not be a deep lesson in there someplace.
It was great to watch the story unfold.
I am so glad I had my camera with me and that I stopped."


Later on, as I thought about that scene and looked at the photos I'd captured, I was reminded of the teaching of the one I love most of all. He once spoke about being the watchman-shepherd to his sheep. He said: "The watchman goes on ahead of the sheep, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from her because they do not recognize a stranger's voice... My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."

Friday, May 01, 2009

A week ago right now...

Whenever I take a trip, no matter how long or short, I spend inordinate amounts of time sitting still, looking around me, listening, breathing deeply in order to live and experience the moment fully. I take photos of my hands and feet so that later on, I will have proof that I was, indeed, there.

Whenever I take a trip, no matter how long or short, I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the trip once it is over. I rehearse meals, conversations, activities in order to remind myself that I was, indeed, there. My thoughts sound like this: "Twenty-four hours ago right now, I was... Six weeks ago right now, I was ... Two years ago right now, I was..."

This is our little clan at a gas station, taking a quick break on our way to the beach last Friday. No, we didn't buy any of the fireworks or pecan log rolls or gourmet peach syrup or pecan brittle available at the shop next door.


Today, I have thought: "A week ago right now, I was..."
For example, right now: "A week ago right now, I was still in the car driving to Doris' house for the weekend. We were eating Cracked Pepper and Salt potato chips, and I was sipping my water bottle."

This afternoon, I pulled out my favorite travel book, The Way of the Traveler, and read about the final stages of any journey: pondering and retelling the tale, putting away all the things taken along and displaying the momentos brought back. On this trip, the only things I brought back were a few seashells, five postcards, and a bag of lifesavers. (So far, so good on my resolve to spend less and give away more...)

One of the gems from the book is in the form of a quote that
Pam Brown wrote about the treasures brought home from travel:
"You will bring back pots and pictures.
A sheaf of photographs. A jingle of coins.
But you will bring back more.
A vision of a wide world. Remembered laughter.
New friends. New understanding."

No, I didn't parasail. But I did watch in wonder at the courage of those who did. And I thought of the courage it took for us to go
- in the face of criticism and contempt.

There were many reasons and excuses I could have given for not going on this trip. The criticisms from friends/enemies/critics almost kept me at home. But I went. I am glad I did. I ventured forth. I returned exhilarated, rejuvenated, recharged.

Once again, this treasured volume spoke truth to me as I perused it earlier.
"Everywhere I have gone, everything I have done,
has been for this - the spiritual lesson I now take within.
Had I stayed at home when the journey called me,
I would never have learned this lesson.
Gratitude fills my heart."