Friday, December 22, 2006

End of year gratitude

What a year this has been!

More and more lately I have to simply abandon even keeping track of the body count in Iraq. I can't stay that angry. I can only hope that the change in leadership in Washington will do something to balance the abuse of power, and get us out of that quagmire. I take no solace in having been right about this war: I've had a "No Iraq War" sign posted since before we even got there. If I knew it was a bad idea, why didn't Hilary and the rest of the Democrats who could have voted against it? Why didn't our President know it? Or did he?

As a stark contrast, my life with Ben has been so filled with goodness this year. Making this move to Ann Arbor was scary and exhilarating. I was so fortunate to be able to sell my house (literally at my yard sale I held to clean it out in order to sell it), to be able to afford the move and the incredibly high cost of housing here, and to live in this town that was declared the third brainiest city in the nation. We beat Cambridge, Mass., coming in third after Boulder and Bethesda.

I miss my friends of two decades who stayed behind in Port Huron, and my sister and brother-in-law and nephew, but we keep in touch and Ben and I get back there about every six weeks or so. Ann Arbor is such a cool destination, they visit us too. Jackie and Phil were here just Wednesday, and we had a wonderful dinner, replete with tears and laughter. I really miss them, and I miss having a house full of friends eating and drinking and laughing, the way we did fairly regularly at my house in Port Huron.

My job is rewarding, even today when I basically dealt all day with parents who can't set aside their own grievances to allow their children to have unfettered relationships with each other. It's so sad, especially at Christmas: one mother who had snatched her kids early from school to keep them from going to celebrate Christmas with her ex-husband's family was talking to me with the kids in the car, on her daughter's cellphone. "If they go with him, who will I have at Christmas?" she said, as if, of course, it was all about her. On another call, after I listened to the dad lay out his grievances, I suggested that he needed to learn to talk to his kid's mom. "Oh, I don't talk to her," he said. Job security for future generations of therapists.

My co-worker Jayne reminded me that there are lots of parents who make it work for their kids, and we don't hear from them because they are making it work. Of course that's true--we have 22,000 open files in our county, and I only dealt with five sets of parents today. It's a matter of perspective.

Tomorrow Ben and I leave for my mom's, where we'll be joined by my two sisters and three nephews and one brother in law. I am glad both my parents are living and in relatively good health: my co-worker Sarah is watching her father die in her home this Christmas, with Hospice lending compassion and care. I am so glad my sisters are making the trip so that we can all be together for this holiday. Ben will love it, and my sisters and I always have fun. Two Christmases ago we were all at my sister Melissa's house in Boca Raton, and I confess it was nice to sit on the veranda with a cocktail and look out at green everywhere. It's been so warm here this winter, our grass is still almost green.

I'll be offline for a few days. I am grateful for those who keep reading and encouraging my attempts at writing here in Blogosphere. One of you even traded couplets with me this afternoon, just to keep our spirits up. May each of you find inspiration and encouragement in your corner of the ether.

Peace, shalom, salaam to all of you, and to all a good night!

Monday, December 18, 2006

The right words

Today I have been writing all day at work: recommendations on child support and custody. It's not easy, at all. It's not even really much fun, although I love my job. On my monitor I have a poem that I wrote last year to remind me that I love finding the right words, even if it's at work. A potter friend acutally uses it in her advertising for The Empty Bowl fundraiser: a benefit for the Soup Kitchen in Port Huron-- local potters make bowls, and you buy them and you get a bowl full of soup and the Kitchen gets the dough.

And yes, I am posting this from work. It's taken me exactly five minutes of a break I never use.

A Potter's Wish

The perfect poem:
a mixture
of passion,
flesh and bone,
phrase and memory;
an empty bowl
built to hold words.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why do I write when there's laundry to do?

This afternoon I can honestly say that my house is such a mess it smells. And I have a lousy, muted-by-middle-age sense of smell. It smells like sheets that haven’t been changed, a couple of wet diapers, and dirty dishes in the sink. And here I sit, writing.

All afternoon I have been looking for the right words while Ben sleeps.

I just went to the mailbox.

There was an envelope from my friend John. In it was a copy of Sy Safransky’s piece on writing from The Sun (December 2006). It is full of good advice for writers. It’s moving and right and makes me glad I spent all afternoon at the keyboard rather than cleaning.

But even better was what John had written in his lefty scrawl on the back:

Please write some more music for our eyes. Love, John

Thank you, John.

Reflections on hearing "The Windmills of My Mind" in French at the Detroit Jazzfest

The child leans her tiny ear
to her mother’s pregnant belly,
auburn ringlets fall across her smile
both barefooted in the sunshine
dappled light near fallen leaves
rolling heart below her ribs
drumming child’s fingers echoed.

”. . . Ce jour-la pres de la source Dieu
Sait ce que tu m’as dit. . .”
The quartet softly climbs:
“Comme les chansons qui meurent
aussitot qu’on les oublie . . .”

Round and round
like the windmills
of my heart,
Autumn’s breeze stirs the leaves above us
fleeting portrait etched forever
in the canyons of my mind.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent ramble

Advent, for Christians, is a time of waiting, of experiencing the mystery of the promise of the Messiah. Never mind that the whole Christmas thing was an invention of the first century Church trying to steal thunder from the goddess religions and their winter festivals.

I have always really enjoyed Advent--that time leading you to the holiday gathering and giving of gifts. I have enjoyed it even more in these last few years, as my siblings and I have all agreed that gift giving is about our kids, not ourselves, and we no longer exchange any gifts among the adults. We keep trying to convince our parents that this is wise, but they insist on giving us all something. They don't need to. They gave us a good start in life, the values of education and compassion. What more could parents really give to children than those things?

Although I call myself a "small c" christian, I have always been drawn to things Jewish. The fundamental underpinning of the Judaism seems to be a celebration of the holy of the everyday. Hanukkah starts this weekend, and I am glad to say that outside Ben's preschool, there's a little holiday banner with a mennorah with little driedels along the border. They're learning about Hanukkah, they will learn about Christmas, and they will learn about Kwanzaa. It's a great place.

Anyway, Christianity, at its root, has such a deep foundation in Judaism. That idea of the holy of the everyday is so pervasive when you strip Christianity down to its core. Jesus described heaven as simply being in the presence of god. To be in the presence of god as if god were the air you breathe, the food you eat.

So Advent, with all the hustle and business, the parties, the shopping, the pressure, should really be 40 days of thinking about the presence of the coming god. That god so magnificently born in a stable amid the lowing cattle and the fresh hay and the manure to very poor, wandering, homeless and bewildered parents. The wonder of finding the king of the Jews in a little wailing babe, the illegitimate offspring of a very young, unmarried mom and her older soon-to-be husband. God is a little kid, the lowest possible class in Jewish society, the illegitimate son of a carpenter, and he outsmarts all the rabbis and pharisees even before his bar mitsvah. It's a great story.

But when I think about the season and how frenetic it is and think about what the story really might mean to all of humankind, I feel like a fish gasping for air.


The fish in my hands
tries to breathe
in the way that fish do:
air from water.
But the fish
I hold
is in the air.
Eyes wide,
mouth gasps,
gills, useless,
gape wide.
I cast the fish
into the water,
he pauses,
to curse me
and thank me,
then disappears into
deep green life.
Dependent on water,
eyes always open,
I wish I could
feel god
as the fish feels water:
swim in the presence
of god.
Instead, my eyes close.
I try to breathe again
your scent,
god's displeasure.
Could I cast my sins
into the pond
after the fish,
be given a chance
to make things right,
to breath god,
as the fish
breathes water ?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Singing to sleep

Ben was just a few minutes less than four hours old when I first held him in my arms. 21 hours after that, I was rocking him in his bedroom at my house, singing him a song. I have sung to him almost every night of his life since then, except for two weekends when I have been away from him. He'll be three in January.

Tonight, he was cheerful after his bath and reading our two books. He seemed to want to put himself to sleep. “G’night, Mommy, kiss,” he said.

I gave him the requested kiss and said, “Do you know how much I love you?”

He answered with my phrase, “A million trillion,” and smiled his broad smile.

I kissed him again and said, “I’ll be in the kitchen, doing dishes. Good night my sweet,” and left him in his room.

A moment later I heard his voice. I thought he was calling me. I walked to the foot of our short stairs, and heard:

“ Eee I, ee I oh, a duck duck here, a duck duck there, ee I ee I oh.”

A moment later, all was quiet.

Ben has learned to sing himself to sleep.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


The cooling was almost imperceptible
at first, just a slight variation
in temperature, from a rapid boil
to a slow boil.
Then, a simmer.

Soon no bubbles at all,
the molecules slowed,
some steam rose.

A solid layer appeared as a thin skin,
a slight thickening of the liquid,
molten surface less movable than
before, though it still undulated.

The skin thickened and cracked.
Soon there was no heat at all on the surface,
except what came from the sun.
Life began to appear:
weeds and small rodents,
flowers and small trees gave blessed shade.

Now we could build a hut,
hoe and plant food.
We were, at last, able to
sustain ourselves on the land.

I loved the molten days:
the energy, the heat
the fire just beneath
our feet. I knew we
couldn’t walk away :
there was nothing to walk on.

Now we plant and tend,
cook and feed,
build and borrow
and staying close
isn’t a matter of survival.
The making of a family is a complex
thing as the surface cools:
we need work and tools,
we know life depends on us.
In that truth there is an ache,
like sore muscles after weeding.

It is simple, good work,
and necessary.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One more blogosphere note

The cards arrived yesterday. Yesterday. They are gorgeous. Bennie and Ben and the Waddell Family, Merry Christmas.

Then I realized I had forgotten to order reprints of my Ben's great school picture, and that studio wants at least two weeks lead time. Plan B--my local UPS ship store will do color copies for 39 cents. So, I'll add Ben's picture to a brief Christmas letter, have copies printed and enclose them in the Wonderful Waddell cards.

Speaking of warm Christmas feelings, there's a reader that leaves me smiling everytime I check my sitemeter report. I see that she (or he) checks in just about everyday. That site meter report is like a Greek chorus that chants, "Write something new, keep them reading, keep writing, they'll keep reading." I don't know who it is. I don't know anyone who lives there. But that little dot on the map tells me that someone is reading, getting to know me, looking into my life through these musings. It's a wonderful, weird sort of feeling, like when George meets the angel on the bridge. OK, not quite that dramatic, but it's knowing that someone is reading--a stranger--not my mom, my friends, who check in because they love me and Ben, but someone who actually found something here that resonates with them. It's wonderful.

That loyal reader is located 772 miles from here. I get hits from all over, Malaysia, London, Florida, Colombia, France. Not many of them come back. I know all my other regulars because they left me a comment, or I checked out their blogs, left them a comment and they responded. There's a part of me that loves the mystery of not knowing who it is who checks in. There's the other part of me who is simply dying to know, who are you?

Who are you right smack in the middle of the heartland of this country?

If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I can understand that. It's just that we've been on the same train now for a while, and I'm curious. I moderate the comments, and you could leave one and ask me not to publish it, and I'll honor that. It could be our little secret. I'm a lawyer, I've been keeping people's secrets all my adult life.

Or, maybe you won't tell me, and that's OK too, tis the season for mystery and marveling at the wonderful gifts in our lives.

Thanks for reading, all of you, known and unknown.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Reflections on the Blogoshpere

More than ten years ago, I was reunited with my college boyfriend, John Meyers. John had written a letter to me, and on the outside of the envelope he had written "Don't throw this away without reading it." He thought I might still be mad. Funny, I thought I dumped him.

I was actually really glad to hear from him. We quickly traded 'where we have been' stories and started a great correspondence. He was getting in touch with all the former girlfriends (in his shorthand, the "fgf's") because he was feeling nostalgic, and wanted to have community again.

John introduced me to the internet, and I got my first email account on CompuServe from the disc he sent me. Remember discs? Remember when our email addresses were numbers?

When I started blogging, I discovered this community thing is very important here too, and I think the blogosphere is sort of fueled by an energy created by the connections made.

Bear with me here.

Somehow, a few months ago, I stumbled onto the Curmudgeon's site: he's a lawyer in Chicago who is really a funny writer and a great philosopher. From his site, I found a number of other, most of them linked at your right.

But the other day I was despairing because I didn't have any good Christmas cards yet. I was too late to order the UNICEF ones I thought about, and I didn't want to get Hallmark ones, or buy any in the store.

Then, after chuckling over the Curmudgeon's latest musing, I found this card:

OK, well it wasn't quite that easy. I was stalling and internally whining, and I was clicking on blogs linked to Curmudgeon's, and that's how I found the extra-ordinary site of Bennie and Ben Waddell at from there I was able to find my cards.

I also bought some of these:

OK I didn't really buy these. I got an email from Bennie confirming shipment and showing me this lovely assortment of cards, chosen by him: what he added as a bonus.

Then, I was absolutely thrilled that he added a comment to my blog.

Then, my cup runneth over, Bennie actually did a blog post about my poem (I use the term liberally) Thanksgiving, and provided a link in his blog.

It's like the old days, when I would discover a poem, and turn to my pal Susan at the dinner table in Baldwin House and say, "Wow, read this." Only it's all in the ether.

And the surprising thing is it's just as nurturing and just as fine a community. Of course you have to wade through a lot to find gems, but it's really no different from getting on a train headed home at Christmas time, and wandering through the cars, and finding something in someone's face that made you think, OK, I'd like to talk to THIS person.

Thanks, Bennie. And those of you still looking for wonderful, affordable gifts which serve a real purpose, check out Bennie Waddell's art. You can Google him. Or find him through this blog. Or the Curmudgeon's. I haven't learned yet how to artfully imbed links to instantly transport you there, to Bennie's EBay site.

But trust me, he's just one car back, about three seats from the front, near the window. He's got a big canvas in front of him and he's painting with his son by his side. His wife and red-headed daughter are sitting in the two seats across the aisle. You'll love talking with them all.

It's worth the short walk. Let your fingers do it.