Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Night

As much as I love my work,
I love Friday night and Saturday morning
much, much more.
The best thing about being chaplain
rather than church pastor
is the clear time boundary.
Now I'm working, now I'm NOT.
The edges of my life are much more clean cut
than they were the first ten years out of school.

A few minutes ago I turned in my time sheet,
came home, mixed a glass of chocolate milk.
Now I'm pondering what music playing,
house cleaning,
recreational reading,
socializing and,
let's not forget,
couch potatoing
I care to indulge in
for the next 24 hours.

A note to my Benedictine readers,
you know who you are...
a nice piece of the Benedictine tradition...
the clear division of time.
Time to work,
time to worship,
time to eat,
time to rest.
Each a time to pray.

Because they Make Me Happy

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why Men Have Nipples

When my cat Oscar was alive,
he went through a bad phase
where he mistook his nipples
for ticks and tried to chew them off.
We had long talks
about the fact that they were his,
even though God had no intention
for him to nurse kittens,
and so he should leave them alone.

But I got curious.
I called my cousin, Linda,
the PhD in Paleoethnobotany,
because I figured she would know
why men have parts they won't use.

(When I was 5 and she was 3,
I asked her if everyone's belly
went in and out when they breathed.
I knew she wouldn't laugh at me for asking.
She said, yes, her belly moved
when she breathed,
and she suspected everyone's did.
She's always been a good source
for scientific information.)

So I asked Dr. Linda, PhD,
about Oscar's nipples,
and she said,
"It takes less energy
to do things the same way
than to differentiate.
Men and women
are alike in many ways
to simplify our design
and development,
and our systems know
the subtle differences needed."

Basic wisdom here...
we resist change in part
because it takes so much more
of our attention and our effort.
But in living our lives,
we have to make some changes
in order not to starve our future,
in order to survive as a species.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Godmamas

One year ago today,
three godmamas went to Easter Vigil services
at an Episcopal church in Alpharetta, Georgia.
We participated in the baptism
of the screaming baby pictured above.
She screamed through the hymns,
she screamed through the sermon.
Her own mama paced and strolled,
took her out and brought her in,
and still she screamed.
Just after the handsome young priest
placed water on her screaming head,
they handed a candle to her papa.
She grew silent, captivated by the light.
The congregation, not able to see
the cause and effect,
murmured and laughed,
and said, "It worked!"

Blessings on Julia,
as she lives into the promises
made by God and church.
Blessings on Julia,
as she smiles and cries her way
into a faith of her own.
Blessings on Julia.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Updates on the Mundane

Two avocado pits in jars with toothpicks.
No signs of life.

Three beanie babies,
currently all in the dining room floor.

Garden pictures coming soon.
Cold, wet dirt this week...not much to see.

Pansies blooming quite happily
in the beds around the house. Pictures soon.

Daisy still playing fetch
with her toy mice, daily.
She has managed to lose 15 mice.
Need to hunt under all the furniture
this weekend.

The Mazda, driving well,
but desperately in need of washing
and cleaning out.
I don't keep a clean car,
even when I love and appreciate it.

Working increased hours,
making a bit more money,
feeling better about finances
and loving the work.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Back in 2002, I had a car I loved.
It drove reliably, I could crank up the bass,
and it was PAID FOR.
My mother, from her deathbed...
okay, from the recliner in the living room...
said, "I would feel better if you got a new car."
I was driving more than 10 hours each week
to come see her and Dad.
When I moved to North Carolina,
it would be a longer commute.
Since I had a job in my pocket,
I bought a new car.
Mom mustered her energy,
got up out of the recliner,
walked outside,
inspected the car, nodded,
walked back inside.
The next week, the job fell through.
Car payments, yes. Income, no.
When I moved to NC,
Erik hired me to inspect houses
for homeowners insurance.
As I drove all over the western part of NC,
through various parts of Georgia,
inspecting houses near and far,
the new car hugged the mountain curves,
climbed the hills,
chugged happily through the valleys.
Then I got a job teaching computer skills
to preschoolers.
Three full size computers went in and out
of my trunk each day,
as I went to different daycare centers.
Now, the car takes me all around the county
to visit homes and nursing homes.
I deeply hated this car at first,
for associations with the loss of my mom
and the loss (for a while) of my vocation.
But the car has driven me faithfully
on the road to find myself again.
Zoom zoom.

Pulling the Pieces Together

Oh, yeah...right.
I already had my midlife crisis.
I picked up and left
at the height of my professional career.
I was proactive...
I stepped right out of
all my roles
in exchange for new ones
that were less familiar
and less defined
and less aimed at public success.
It was much like stepping out of an airplane
and freefalling for six months.
It all comes back to me now.
Perhaps the task now
is to look back on my old life
to think some about
the humongous transition
to contemplate my new life
and see how things are going.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Lowest Point

I was talking at supper tonight
with the friend I met at sliding rock...
how long ago now? Eight years?
Reflecting on the season in my life
when I moved to North Carolina.
When I lost the job I thought I was moving to...
A few weeks later had my dear old cat
Oscar put to sleep on a Wednesday.
My mother died a week after Oscar.
Her funeral was on Friday,
exactly one week before
we loaded the truck for me to move to NC.
At supper tonight
we were pondering the freedom
that comes from living out
your deepest fears and pains.
The thing I remember most
from that horrific time
was the way my friends carried me.
Jan came and spent 24 hours with me
after I lost the job.
Jan and Esther took Oscar to the vet
because I just couldn't.
June and Steve came and sat with me as I cried
with snot all over my shirt.
Countless friends took over all
my overambitious responsibilities
at Annual Conference.
They came to my mother's funeral
and stood with me at the graveside
and ate fresh butter beans at the reception.
A small, incredibly generous army of friends
packed and cleaned and loaded the truck.
When I pulled into the parking lot here
in North Carolina,
my friend from Tennessee was just pulling in,
having preached her Sunday Service
and then come directly to move me.
Six of us unloaded together.
My dear friend Erik
provided me employment within a week of my move.
So many people...
it makes me cry now to think of it.
So much grace in human form.
But the other thing is...
when you hit the bottom,
not much else scares you after that.

Monday, March 20, 2006

But it Doesn't FEEL like Spring

The first day of Spring
came with sleet and big snowflakes
and bone aching cold and wet.
Maybe it is muscle aching.
Something aches.
The sleet and rain are watering the garden,
for which I am grateful,
even as I complain about the cold.
Planting a garden does
give one an appreciation of rain.
Not sure on this achey day
that I need to be writing cheesy books,
but we'll let it ride a while
and see what happens.
I wonder sometimes what it would look like
to choose a role.
Sometimes it feels like I have always just
wandered into my life decisions.
Like the woman I visited today
who said she woke up one morning
in the hospital, with no idea how she got there.
I tend to enjoy the places I end up...
but don't always have a sense that
I took a lot of initiative.
Even the roles I've had to fight for,
like ordination...
I'm still not entirely clear
how I wandered into the fight.
Did I choose this life?
I still fight for it.
I wonder sometimes if
my persistence in vocation is
or habit.
Still, as I said,
I've woken up in green pastures
beside quiet waters
and found my soul generally refreshed,
so maybe this is home.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Swimming in the Shallow End

Inspired by Spark,
today I started to write a book.
I talked about it over Sunday lunch,
then came home and wrote a couple pages.
After two pages,
I worried out loud to my lunch companion,
"I think I'm writing a Christian Self-Help book."
She assured me,
"You ARE writing a Christian Self-Help book."
Egads. How cheesy.
It reads cheesily, too.
This is generally the part
where I erase the two pages,
step away from the computer,
and try to forget the whole thing.
But here's the rub...
the two pages I wrote
are about the simple fact
that most dreams get derailed
by intimidation.
So maybe,
in my spare time,
I'll write a really cheesy
Christian self-help book.
I'll see if it helps myself
write it.
If it helps me
write itself
maybe it really is

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Breaking Ground

Today we went out
and turned the ground,
hoed and tilled
and planted.

Peas, turnip greens,
spinach, brussel sprouts,
salad greens.

The wild chive crop
was all around us
in the garden
and waving in the breeze
across the yard.

The grandchildren
of the cilantro plant
I planted two years ago
are taking up the whole
end of a raised bed.
A real self starter,
that cilantro.

Meanwhile, the pansies
and grape hyacinth
and forsythia are blooming.

The iris are sending up green shoots.

The trees in the neighborhood
are blooming with enthusiasm.

No signs of life yet
from the asparagus bed.

My back is very tired,
but I feel great
after an afternoon
of manual labor.

Nothing better than
food right from the garden.

Tomorrow, if I have time,
I'll take some pictures.

Friday, March 17, 2006

My Sunburned Nose

Lunch in the park today,
four women, contemplating
midlife crisis, midlife renaissance,

Contemplating parenting,
shifts in vocation,
book writing,
personal histories,
teenage hormones,
and a general need
to revamp the fun.

I was so happy to be there,
basking in the sun,
telling and hearing stories,
with some of the grooviest
women I know.

Somehow, it was less
about the things I needed to say,
and more about just having
the opportunity to say them.

We plan to lunch again,
and to hike, with families in tow.

How sweet it is
to once again
find companions for the journey.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why There are Beanie Babies in the Floor

When you walk into our house
you are quite likely to see
beanie babies in the floor.

For a couple years,
they were packed in a box
and the box was stuffed
in the back of a closet.

Then we adopted Daisy the cat.
One day, Daisy came striding
out of the closet
with a white baby bear in her mouth.

The next day, another baby, this one grey.
The next day, a third baby, a light teal.

Since then, the babies
move throughout the house.
During the night
they move from room to room.
You can go to bed
with a grey beanie baby,
and wake with grey gone
and white and teal
snuggled in the quilt.
Daisy is a good mama. Or a good ratter.
It just depends on her mood.
The babies always seem content
to play their proper role.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dancing at Rachel's Wedding

I got up at 4:00 am on Saturday.
The kitten squinted up at me
after I turned on the light
like I had lost my everloving mind.

But...I had a plane to catch.
Flew out at 6:00,
arrived in West Palm Beach before 11:00.

Went almost directly to the rehearsal lunch.
As I walked in, a lovely little woman
walked up to me and said,
"I know you! It is so good to see you again!"

I thought nothing of it,
as I spend my days visiting the shifting realities
of women her age who live in the nursing homes
I frequent.

But her daughter stood behind waving her arms
and shaking her head and mouthing,
"She doesn't know you!"

There was an explanation of brain damage
suffered in recent years,
but none of that mattered.
I was glad to see her again, too.
It turned out she was the grandmother of the groom,
and her arm waving daughter, the proud mother.

During the wedding, as I stood beneath the chuppa
with the bride and groom,
I could hear the grandmother's voice
floating over the wedding ceremony,
"Let me go! I want to go DOWN THERE!"

She was trying to get to the chuppa,
to the wedding canopy,
where the action was,
while her loving family gently held her arms
and shushed her.

Later, after the ceremony,
they took her picture under the chuppa,
and she smiled that lovely smile,

Later, with the same delight,
she danced at the wedding reception.
She danced with her husband,
she danced with her daughters,
she danced with her granddaughters,
she invited her grandson, the groom, to dance.

When seated at the table,
she danced with her arms and shoulders,
celebrating the marriage,
the music, the day.

At one point, she celebrated her 6 grandchildren.
"No...five," corrected her family. "Who is the 6th?"

"Rachel," she stated firmly,
naming the beautiful bride.

Vera may have had some damage to her brain,
but she knows where the action is,
what the mood should be,
who belongs to her family.

Of all my deep gratitude this weekend,
I am perhaps most grateful for Vera.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Things Break

When I was in the angst filled years of seminary
I threw my Greek textbook across my bedroom
one frustrated, angry evening.
The binding broke, and I despaired.
It only added to my frustration to break
a perfectly good book.
(I'm a 5 on the Enneagram...
I'm all about the books.)

The next day my gentle and wise advisor,
hearing my tale of fury and breakage,
nodded sagely and simply said,
"Things break."

That phrase has stuck with me
in the years since.

Tonight's breakage...

34 computer files infected with a virus.

Two salad plates and at least two bowls,
knocked off the "about to be washed" pile
into the kitchen floor,
by the younger cat, Daisy.

The Greek book is still on my shelf.
The computer files were deleted.
The bowls, shattered, were thrown away.
The salad plates, chipped, were set to one side,
with thoughts of putting them under potted plants.

Things break.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The house was built in the early 1950's,
expanded over the years
with separate crawlspaces--
much to the electrician's chagrin.

Painted Mother India blue
by the previous owner.

Since moving in, we have
painted, painted, painted,
replaced washers and sinks,
ripped up carpets and polished wood floors,
hung blinds and curtains,
cut a doorway between
the kitchen and dining room--
and this week, got grounded.

Modern plugs, for modern appliances,
in dining room, living room, bedroom...
and a bonus completely new outlet
on the sunporch.
The bedroom wasn't originally on the list,
but there was this small fire...
The electrician was skeptical of our account
until he plugged in his tester
and let out a scream of his own
as flames shot happily up in the air.
We told him so.
But now that bedroom is grounded too.

The list of renovations
still stretches out to the horizon,
but that is half the fun.

Top of the list, the dining room,
with water stained wood paneling,
and beebly bobbed chandelier,
and a conspicuous lack of piano.
Not to mention the acoustic tile
ceiling badness.

All in good time.
All in good time.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Year of Intentional Living

Call it a midlife crisis,
call it what you will,
I am shaking out the dust
and looking closely at who I am
and where I'm going.

Today's thoughts on the matter:

1) I like my job. In fact, I love my job.
If I were looking for a job today,
I would want this one.

2) It is time to decide
my denominational affiliation anew.
Do I stay United Methodist,
and keep to my roots,
my lifelong family of faith,
my theological heritage--
or is my current affiliation
with the United Church of Christ
more than just my local church?

3) I need to differentiate
my spiritual challenges and tasks
from that of my client base.
I am not an 80 (90, 100) year old woman
with less than six months to live.
One day, God willing, I might be.
But for my own personal,
outside of work life....
I am at a different stage of life.
I need to figure out
what people my age
are supposed to be doing.

4) I need to connect with these women
in my church and circle of friends--
who are also feeling a stirring,
a need to stop and take account,
a need to live intentionally--
and we need to have lunch
and talk these things out.
Our midlife challenges are very different,
I can tell this already.
But how much more
productive and fun
to share them together.

5) I need to paint,

So, friends,
how goes your living?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Today's Project

The Truth about Money

John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist church, preached a sermon in which he encouraged faithful people to "earn all you can, save all you can and give all you can." I've always been pretty good at the latter two. But for reasons I am only beginning to understand, I've always been resistant to advocating for my own income. In fact....what is the opposite of advocating?

The roots of this go back to childhood. I knew we didn't have a lot of disposable income, that we couldn't afford much outside of the necessities. I learned not to ask, because if I didn't ask, I wasn't disappointed.

As an adult, I worked many years in churches who wouldn't have voluntarily hired me. I was a young, single woman...not what they requested from the Bishop. The churches were struggling financially. While they always affirmed me as a person, and ultimately expressed deep appreciation for me professionally...there was always this thing about money. One of the ways I proved my worth was by economizing, and by not demanding extra salary or benefits.

Somehow that reluctance to impose financially has deepened and broadened...partly because of financial realities in my workplace...but more for deepseated unconscious reasons. As a result, I consistently send out very clear messages that I don't want more work time, that I don't want to impose financially on people willing to give me opportunities to fulfil my vocation, that I don't want or need more money.

The rules have changed at work. My newer coworkers came to the company able to state their need for full time salary, for more hours, for more income. I find myself suddenly in a situation where all my old grand statements ring empty. I'm frustrated because what I want and what I'm asking for are two different things.

I've recently contemplated changing jobs or getting a second job in order to generate more income. But I love the work I already do.

Perhaps...I need to learn to say what I really want, what I really need. Perhaps the world will not end, if I, like my coworkers, simply state that I want to work as much as I can. I want to earn as much as I can.

Perhaps the world will not stop spinning in space if I begin to ask for more work, to ask for more compensation.

Perhaps if I begin to tell the truth about what I want and need, I won't be as disappointed when people believe what I say.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Picture for Spark

This is the picture I am using
as my computer desktop
during the season of Lent.

I got it off one of my favorite blogs:

I usually don't know
what they are talking about
since they're not writing in English,
but I love their photography.

The Calming Influence of Lent

After spending several days
working up a head of steam
for my midlife crisis,
I'm finding myself calm
and content.

After preaching Ash Wednesday service
last night at church
and preaching a Memorial service
at a skilled nursing facility today,
I'm feeling back in balance.

I did figure some things out.
I need to do some intellectually stimulating
sorts of activities in the evenings
after spending quiet days
crooning hymns to demented old women.
I must keep my brain clicking
lest it leak slowly out my ears.

I need to work some artistic expression
into my days as well.

I want to buy a piano.
I think that would both fire some pistons
in my brain
and eventually,
with practice,
qualify as artistic expression.

On the whole,
life is pretty good.

I really like Lent.
I like the dark, the quiet,
the melancholy music.

I like the focus on contemplation,
on getting back to the basics,
on getting off our own
personal glory trains
and turning back to grace.

I like it when the church calendar
fits my own broody mood,
when suddenly I'm in step
with the season.