Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of the Year

I don't have a very good history with New Year's Eve.

Up until now, I'd say the best NYE celebration I've managed (since I've been old enough to do anything interesting, at least) was the year I was 18. I watched a Godzilla movie marathon with my brother, who was 4 at the time. And if a giant radioactive dinosaur can't brighten up someone's New Year's Eve, I don't know what can.

But now 2005 drifts away quietly, washed away softly into the river by the rain that's been falling all day. I can't say I'll be sorry to see this year go.

Of course many good things happened to me this year. Falling in love was certainly not the least of those. But so many bad things happened as well, especially early in the year. So much turmoil, so much change!

If I'd written such a thing on New Year's Eve 2004, it would have looked completely different. A year ago, I was still married, though the tensions which would eventually bring the marriage to its breaking point were beginning to grow. A year ago I was settling in for a rather mundane life, believing that it was all that there was.

Come to think of it, it could easily be argued that New Year's Eve of 2004 was the beginning of my realization that the marriage could not last. There was a horrible party, a horrible fight, a horrible drive home, all ending with me sitting up until 2 or 3 AM alone because I was too stuffed up from crying to sleep yet. All alone, pouring out my tale of woe on the snopes message board, because I had no one else to talk to.

Oddly enough, other snopesters were still awake, and offered me a glory of cyber comfort and tried to make me laugh until I felt better and could go sleep. Tirithien was one of those friends. Kindness to virtual strangers can have very long-lasting and unforeseen effects, apparently.

The ex and I patched up that New Year's Eve fight, but nothing was ever quite the same between us again. Trust had been broken, and never quite healed up.

This year, I swear will be different. 2006 is a year of great possibility, full of magic and hope, and I will see it in quietly, nestled safe in the arms of the man I love.

And that's all I ever really wanted of a New Year's Eve celebration anyway.

Happy New Year, friends. :-)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More Dreaming

“My child, my love, I need your voice. I need your words. They have forgotten the truth. Tell it to them.”

So has spoken the Being of Light in my dream. For two nights in a row now.

The first time I woke full of trembling.

The second time I woke sobbing with loneliness.

Why can’t I just have normal dreams?

I don’t even know why I’m posting this, except that I feel like I’m about to fly apart and need some place to put the story.

Those of you readers who pray, please pray for clarity for me. I am in sore need of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boxing Day: The Aftermath

No, I did NOT go out and hit the post-Christmas sales! I was quite thoroughly worn out from such a long musical program on Saturday and not too much chance to rest on Sunday, so I spent most of Monday hibernating. Ah, hibernating! I only ventured out to get some dinner and check my mail, and that was plenty good enough for me.

I did get my new TV hooked up: my family all joined in together and got me a nice 20-inch flat screen TV to replace the little 13-inch TV/VCR combo I'd had since my freshman year of college. And I hooked it, the cable, the VCR, and the DVD player up without the first glance at the instructions-- and they all worked on the first try! Technology, I vanquish thee!

My brother, for some strange reason, loved his Christmas Armadillo. Why? I don't know! I just can't figure that lad out. And my mama loved her truly strange ornament of a scuba diving Santa riding on seahorse-back. I was hoping my brother would have at least a hint of indignity about the armadillo, after he got Tirithien and me matching badgers. Eeek! And from the tag on my badgers, I discovered that real badgers weigh about 22 pounds; if I'd known they were that big when the unseen badger chased us out of the woods last summer, I'd probably have fainted dead away! But the badgers my brother gave us are really very cute. I named mine Belshazzar, after one of the kings of Babylon when the Israelites all were imprisoned there. No real reason; I just thought Belshazzar Badger was a very cool name.

Meanwhile, Tirithien loved the gift I gave him: a Scottish knife, a sgian dubh, with his clan's crest on it. (The internet is a wonderful shopping tool!) And I truly love the gift he made for me. Out of a block of oak wood, he carved for me a chalice, something like unto how the Holy Grail may have looked. We are both history buffs and very interested in the Grail legends, so this was a VERY cool gift!

And today I am back at work. Hardly anyone is here; the company is only open three days this week. I am doing mundane secretarial tasks for a boss who isn't even here! Argh. Oh well. At least it's not as bad as the stretch between Christmas and New Year's last year. Last year during the long weekend, a rat got into the building, nibbled some wires, and fried itself. The smell when we came back in was.... interesting, to say the least. *shudders at memory* This year everything smells fine, which makes work a much more tolerable place to be!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

And I finally finished wrapping presents!

And I must say, my living room looks very festive. :-)

And here is a closeup of the ornament Tirithien and I picked out together. Could they possibly be any cuter? :-)

My singing of "O Holy Night" went very well. I felt great about it. There was only one problem. Right in the middle of it, a little 3-year-old girl started yelling that she needed to piddle. Now, when I am singing a solo, especially a solo in church, I don't notice anything except the music, so I actually did not hear this. But her mama told me about it afterwards and apologized. Well, things at Grace Church are never perfect, but they are always good. :-) I will sing again for the 10:30 service, and there probably won't be any little kids at that one!

The thing I always love most about the Midnight Mass, though, is not the music, but the sense of expectant joy. When the service is done and I come outside, it's as if the whole world just for a moment is waiting in perfect silence and perfect joy. The hush of the snowy night wraps us all in peaceful stillness as we wait once more for the Child to be born.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Peace and joy to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday Odds and Ends

My boss gave me a small Christmas gift—a little silver ornament shaped like an apple, with different color crystals on it. It’s very cute. But the odd thing is that when I thanked her for it, she beamed and said, “As soon as I saw it I thought of you!” Huh? I mean, I don’t really make the connection between me and an apple. I’m not a teacher. I don’t eat a bunch of apples. I do usually make apple crisp for company potlucks, but that’s maybe twice a year. It’s very strange.
Yesterday I had a rather pathetic experience. I had choir practice earlier than usual last night, so I figured I wouldn’t go all the way home in-between work and choir, but would instead stop at the mall and get the Christmas Armadillo for my brother (I think this is probably the kind of gift we will wind up passing back and forth for years), and then get a little bit to eat before practice. So the Armadillo was obtained, and I decided I wanted one of those big soft pretzels. With cheese sauce. Yummy! The pretzel place had a deal where you could get the pretzel and a 32-ounce pop for … um … I forget how much. But it was cheaper than buying them separately. I was sitting on a bench, enjoying my pretzel, but when I went to pick up my pop, I discovered that apparently the lid didn’t fit the cup exactly right. I wound up wearing about 16 ounces of pop. Yuck! Most of it got on my coat, so at least I didn’t have to feel that cold stickiness right next to my skin, but some got on my jeans, in my hair, and on my glasses.

Pop is not easy to clean off of glasses. And of course I can’t just throw my coat in the washing machine; it has to be dry cleaned! And this is going to be a trick, seeing as how it’s too bloody cold to go without it while it’s being cleaned! Argh. Maybe I can get some of that Dryel and borrow my mom’s or auntie’s dryer.

On the plus side, choir practice went well, in spite of it being the last rehearsal before Christmas Eve. (Most years, this entails much wailing and gnashing of teeth.) I have a solo for Christmas Eve, too—“O Holy Night.” Only the most beautiful Christmas song ever!

I have all my Christmas shopping done. At least I think so. None of the gifts are wrapped, though; they’re all strewn about my apartment still in the shopping bags. I don’t have to work on Friday, though, so guess what I’ll be doing! Unlike Clew's experiences, wrapping paper and I tend not to get along. I usually tape myself to a package at least once. *sigh* But soon it will all be done. I still have Christmas cookies to make, too!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Light of Mid-winter

This is one of my church newsletter articles, which seemed appropriate to put in here this week. :-)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.—John 1:1-5

I seem to wind up talking to a lot of people on the internet, and this is usually a very good thing. This way I manage to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t because they live on the other side of the country or of the world, and I hear viewpoints I might not otherwise hear. I manage to get into religious discussions with many of these online acquaintances, and for the most part, they are very respectful. We all listen to each other’s perspectives, ask questions, and explain our own understandings of God.

This time of year, though, one of the things I often hear from my non-Christian friends is a bit of good-natured ribbing. “Well, the church just stole a pagan festival and named it Christmas. It’s not really Jesus’ birthday!”

Historically, there is much truth to this. When the early church wanted to set a date to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they had no real idea what that date had been. They weren’t even entirely sure of what year it had occurred. So they had to pick a date and go with it.

Some of my online friends will insist that the early church leaders chose December 25th simply to take away from the Roman festival of Saturnalia—that they didn’t want people celebrating that pagan feast anymore, so they would give the people something to take its place. I don’t deny that there is some truth to this. There is much historical evidence of church missionaries co-opting local pagan customs and adapting them to the new faith. Holy days were set at certain times. Local deities were reinvented as saints.

However, I also believe that in their search for an identity, the early church made use of a beautiful and symbolic truth in setting Christmas in December. The Winter Solstice is the longest, darkest night of the year, and nearly every ancient culture had a celebration of it. They celebrated not because of its darkness, but because it is the time of a profound shift. On the Solstice, the Earth crosses an invisible line in its orbit around the sun. Suddenly the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which had been causing the Northern Hemisphere to tilt away from the sun, begins to face us towards the sun instead. The nights begin ever so slightly to become shorter, and the days to become longer. It is the return of light.

The actual birth date of the historical Jesus is a matter of curiosity, yet it in the long run, it makes no difference. The old Christmas carol “Do you hear what I hear?” contains a phrase which makes this quite clear: “The child, the child, sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light.” The child Jesus is the light itself.

Historians and folklorists have a saying: “Truth passes into legend, legend passes into myth.” On the level of the truth of the spirit, hard cold facts come to matter less and less. The mythical truth is what counts. On the darkest night of cold winter, light returns through the stately turning of planet and star. In the darkest night of a human life, light returns through the long ago birth of a child.

Truly, symbolically, there could be no better time of year for our joyful Advent waiting and our celebration of the child’s birth. The birth of Jesus and the return of the sun’s light symbolize the very same thing. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it, for it is a light God has set for us to follow and find our way home.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dreaming Weirdness

As I was waking today, I had a very strange dream. As someone who's performed on stage and given speeches before, I'd almost be inclined to call it a nightmare, if it hadn't been so amusing to me after I woke up.

See, one of the ways I help out at church is by doing readings during the service. For each service, there are two Eucharistic Ministers, and one of them reads the Psalm and one of the Bible readings, while the other reads the Prayers of the People later in the service. Then both of them help the Priest serve Communion. During Advent season, there's also a script the two EMs read from at the beginning of the service, during the lighting of that week's Advent candle. So now that you have the background....

In my dream, I was the EM for the fourth Advent Sunday, which is tomorrow. (In reality, I am not supposed to be!) I processed in with the choir, as I usually do, but instead of taking my seat with them, I stayed out front to do the script-reading and candle-lighting. Now, for some reason, there was no other EM with me, and it wasn't like someone had forgotten and was hurrying to the front-- in the context of the dream, I was supposed to be the only one up there. Everyone was looking at me expectantly, so I started to read from the script.

It was absolutely unreadable. The words were in some foreign language with non-Roman letters, the letters/glyphs were blurry, and the things were moving around on the page! I'm sure there must have been a look of abject horror on my face. The actor's nightmare! Even worse, there was no one around who could help me out-- the Priest and Parish Coordinator were nowhere in sight (and why on earth I'd be up there without them around is a mystery too strange to contemplate), and none of the other choir members seemed to understand my gestures to let me look at the script in their bulletins. (you know, in case maybe mine was just defective or something!)

Apparently my dream-self is much more poised and self-possessed than my real self would be, because I started giving a completely off-the-cuff speech about the end of our Advent journey, and the quiet waiting in Bethlehem for the Child to be born. It was really very lovely and poetic, and I wish I could have remembered it when I woke up! I gave this beautiful speech, lit the fourth candle, and went to sit down in my usual seat in the choir stall.

There were no seats available in the choir. In real life we have seven members and twelve chairs. In the dream, every seat was taken! Eeek! So I wound up having to walk across the front of the church in my blue choir robe, all the way across to the chairs where the Priest and the non-choir-member EM would have been sitting. You know, if there had been a Priest. Or another EM.

Luckily for me and my stage fright-induced heart palpitations, I woke up as soon as I sat down over there and thus didn't have to worry about trying to continue the service!

So, any amateur dream interpreters care to take a try at this one?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Colin the Guinea

This is Colin.

He was just about 5 years old. I'd had him for 4 1/2 years. He was very soft and liked to nuzzle up under my chin when I would hold him, and when he was happy he would make soft squeaky purring noises that sounded like a tribble from Star Trek. When he was hungry, he would squeak loudly until I fed him-- and he knew exactly when mealtimes were, so I'd better not try to delay, or my eardrums would suffer. He weighed over 3 pounds, which is enormous for a guinea, according to the vet.

About a year and a half ago, Colin developed a strange scabby sort of cyst on one of his front feet. It didn't seem to hurt too much, but it was nasty. The vet had me treat it with oral and topical antibiotics, but it never would heal up. It was usually scabbed over pretty well, but I would bandage it up when it would ooze or bleed a little.

Last night, Tirithien and I left my apartment to go grab some dinner at about 8:00. Colin was fine then. He looked at us while we were leaving-- his cage is right by the front door, and I scratched his little velvety nose through the bars and told him we'd be back soon.

We made it home around 10:00 (the roads were awful, plus we'd had to stop at the store).

Colin had died while we were gone. He was stretched out in one corner of his cage, very still. He didn't respond when I shook the cage, or when I reached in to touch his soft guinea fur. His body was limp and lifeless. There was blood across the bottom of the cage, and when I rolled him over to see what had happened, it looked as if his cyst had maybe ruptured or split open.

We put him into a shoebox for a coffin, and we're going to bury him in my mom's back garden when I get home from work today.

Sleep well, baby guinea. I will miss you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Tree

I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done last night, so I feel better about that now. Just a few things left to pick up! I still have to write out some cards to send and to give to people at work, but I’m coming to a point where I don’t feel so overwhelmingly behind. (And this feeling of overwhelming behind-ness without even having kids to think about!)

I found myself looking longingly at the toy stores while I shopped last night. I miss when my brother and cousin were young enough to actually want toys. It was so much fun to shop for them! And of course I’d have to wander through the toy aisles, pressing the buttons on the toys that make noise, picking up the teddy bears to see if they were as soft as they looked. Last night I found such an adorable one—a baby’s snuggly doll, so impossibly soft, which looked like the “classic” Winnie the Pooh, wearing pajamas. I mentally ran through and through my gift list, but unfortunately I have no one for whom that would be an appropriate present this year! And of course my little Brendan is FAR too many years in the future for me to buy him a soft Pooh Bear, no matter how adorable.

(Mom, if you’re reading this, please do NOT take the preceding paragraph as a hint! I don’t want it for myself, really!)

My tree is up and decorated—my tradition is to put it up on the first Sunday of Advent. (For purists who complain about fake trees, I’ve always been in apartments where real trees are against the fire code, alas.) Tirithien helped me to decorate it. It’s a smallish tree, 6 feet tall, and after several years of use it’s become a little wobbly, but it’s still fully functional and looks quite nice, as long as you don’t look from the angle of its crookedness.

It’s never been any sort of fancy designer tree like department stores display, nor even one of the elegant trees with lights of all one color. I have two strands of regular multi-colored lights, because my tree is too big to use one strand. It is also too small for two strands, so the end of the second string always gets woven strangely in with the other, and the lightbulb density is much higher at the top of the tree. I got a new garland this year, a beaded garland with silvery and iridescent beads, so it went weaving in and out with the branches and lights.

Then the ornaments. The interesting thing about my ornaments is that some of them are nearly as old as I am, and I remember them from my very earliest years. I would tell Tirithien about them as we hung them up, and he listened to all my little stories about all my little ornaments, all these tiny treasures from Christmases past. And oh, how beautiful that softly lit tree was when we were done!

We’re going to go and pick out an ornament together sometime soon, some new and special piece which is just for us. His idea, a new tradition for a new time for us both. :-)

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Adventures in NW Ohio

On Saturday, Tirithien and I braved the World’s Scariest Mall, Franklin Park Mall in Toledo. It’s BIG. And it’s SCARY. It’s so big it has parking garages! And like any mall at holiday time, it was too warm and too full of perfume scents, and FAR too crowded. Malls are not my friend! But we had to go there, because it has the best movie theatre in Toledo. We saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Oh wow. Oh wow. It was done incredibly well. It was extremely true to the book, with the exception of a few minor details that must needs change to make a book flow as a movie. Nothing at all that detracted from the original, though. The CGI was absolutely beautiful. The casting was just about perfect. They made no changes whatsoever to the Christian allegory; in fact, it seemed even more pointed by seeing it rather than reading it. I absolutely loved this movie, and highly recommend it to anyone!

After the movie, we tried to shop for a special ornament to hang on my Christmas tree, but we didn’t find anything which we particularly liked, and the mall crowds were grating on us both, so we went to dinner.

Then after dinner, we went to see the “Lights Before Christmas” display at the Toledo Zoo. Oh, so very beautiful! Millions of points of light, shining out over the snow. There was this one particular gigantic pine tree absolutely dripping in colored lights. It defies description.

But then we had a problem. We wanted to buy some fudge from the candy vendor there. I wanted chocolate-peanut butter fudge. Well, apparently in Ohio, pretty much anything of chocolate-peanut butter flavor is called “buckeye” flavor. Now, as a Michigan resident, I can tell you that the idea of eating anything with “buckeye” in the name grated awfully. But…. it was chocolate-peanut butter fudge.

But it was Buckeye Fudge.

Tirithien seemed highly amused by my consternation. (Yes, let’s see how it is if we ever find some tasty treat called Wolverine Fudge. Then you’ll see!) “Oh, I want to hear YOU order it,” he said. Thanks a lot. :-P

So I ordered it.

And I ate it.

I ate Buckeye Fudge.

And it was as tasty as it looked.

I felt so dirty. :-P

Then on Sunday, I was sick most of the day. Hmm. Coincidence? Or can people from Michigan simply not eat “buckeye” items without ill effects? (And never mind that Tirithien claims this is the beginning of my “Ohio assimilation!” That’s just crazy talk.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prodigal Boy

I’m still waiting to get the digital pictures from my mama. And I’m still kind of sniffly. And it snowed WAY too much last night. And it’s very cold in my office today. So I don’t have too many updates for anyone, at least not fun happy vacation ones. But here is what happened to me when I went to Meijer on my way home from work last night.

I pushed my cart around one corner and discovered a small boy, no more than 5 years old, if that, sobbing as if his heart had broken. No adults anywhere nearby. I asked the little boy if he needed help, and he darn near flew to me and wrapped his arms around me. "I lost my dad," he cried. So I gave him a quick hug back and told him not to worry, I'd help him find his dad. My plan was to take the little guy up to the service desk and have the dad paged.

Well, before we got very far, a large man came around another corner and started yelling at the boy for "running off." He was so busy yelling that he didn't see how relieved the boy was right at first-- we'd found his dad, yay! Then the bastard of a dad started yelling at ME. "What the fuck are you doing with my kid, bitch?"

Well, my jaw about dropped. I was trying to help the poor kid who'd been crying, and I was getting cussed out for it? I mean, I know no good deed goes unpunished, but this seemed a bit extreme. To my great surprise, though, I did not feel the least bit intimidated and responded very calmly, "He was upset and I was trying to help him find you. I suggest you keep a closer eye on him in crowded stores from now on," and walked away.

So, I'm really hoping the dad was actually more scared than angry. My heart aches for the kid, though. It seemed even sadder to me, though, because when the dad was yelling at the boy, he called the boy Brendan. And that’s my own dream-baby’s name. Somehow, that just made it all seem that much worse. :-(

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sniffle, sigh, ack.

Okay, I'm home!

And my sinuses officially hate me for dragging them back north! I had SUCH a miserable headache today. I seem to be readjusting to northern-ness, though. The headache is faded.

I really had a great time in Florida. The best parts were when my Baby Brother and I would run off on our own for awhile. Whee, rides! We went on Space Mountain four times!

It's funny, but when I was a kid, I was actually scared of rides like that. Now when Baby Brother says, "Let's do it again!" I say, "Okay!" And then we run around in Tomorrowland hiding behind walls and humming the Mission:Impossible theme.

I think I'm actually a 10-year-old in an adult's body.

I will have some pictures to share once I get hold of my mom's digital camera and upload them, and some more details about the trip once I get them sorted out from the fragments in my travel journal. There's plenty of good stuff, including Baby Brother breaking the bus, and me getting stopped by airport security. Yikes! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Flying Away....

But only for a few days.

Yes, I shall be gone for awhile. I'm going to Florida with some of my family members-- to Disney World! I get to pretend to be a little kid for a few days, and just run around and have fun. Squee! :-)

Only... only... it will be my first lengthy separation from Tirithien! *sniffle* Five whole days without my beloved! (Yes, I sound like a lovestruck adolescent. No, I'm not the least bit ashamed of that fact!)

I will be back very late Saturday night, probably with all sorts of stories of comic misadventures. (That kind of thing tends to happen when I go places with my Baby Brother.)

Take good care of my blog while I'm gone. I'll be back soon! I'll try to bring some warm weather with me as a treat for all the Northerners. :-)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dreams of the Ordinary

Normally my dreams are very strange. I dream of myself as a hero or a seeker of lost truths, an explorer, a defender, or I dream of the magical child who may one day be my son. I dream of stories to be told, of myself as other beings, and of great triumphs. There's very often an epic feel to my dreams, a sense that my spirit has been wandering through an enchanted realm while my body slept peacefully.

Lately, though, my dreams have been most... ordinary. I have been dreaming dreams of children to raise, a dog to care for, a home and a garden to tend, and a loving and beloved husband to help me with all of it. Does it seem pedestrian? Dull? Far too ordinary when compared to my usual dreamset?

Oddly, it does not. In these dreams of what could be mundane, there are still stories to be told. There is still a sense of the epic. My dream-children have magic in their beings, and my dream-husband sees in me a weaver of enchantments, while I see in him a hero and warrior.

In this seemingly-ordinary dreamscape my subconscious has crafted for me, of cleaning spills, pulling weeds, and pushing the children on the swings, to my surprise and slight chagrin, I have found wonder-- strange and beautiful wonder where I never thought to see it.

So today, Thanksgiving Day, I offer my thanks for all the ordinary, beautiful things of my life-- the potatoes I will peel for dinner, the warmth of the water in my shower, my guinea pig's soft fur, my brother's laugh when we tell jokes the rest of the family doesn't understand, the gentle strength of my boyfriend's embrace, and all the other things that make up the words, melodies, and harmonies of the song my life sings.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Having Dinner with the Forces of Chaos

Last night Tirithien and I went to dinner with my baby brother. (Baby Brother is not-quite-14.)

I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I was when Tirithien met my mom, but I was still a little anxious. After all, a young teenage boy is a capricious thing, ever-changing in mood and word!

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried at all. They hit it off beautifully. I was thrilled! My brother and I are very close, in spite of our rather large age difference, or maybe because of it. So if he and the man I love become friends, that makes life so much the better for me. We can all enjoy each other’s company.

Of course, a large part of their non-stop conversation (I swear, you’d think they’d known each other for years) consisted of stories of pranks, strange ways of making people squirm, and other various forms of mischief. I’m quite sure that this is why the restaurant hostess seated us WAY back in the back corner, so we wouldn’t scare the other patrons. I’m also wondering how much chaos might ensue if my boyfriend and brother join forces. It could get messy! :-)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Honey, can we have a polar bear?

Last night was the University of Toledo’s last home football game for the season. Why did they have it on a Wednesday? That’s all ESPN’s fault. But anyway… I knew Tirithien would want to go, since if we go down to Wright State next year this would be the last game he sees in the Glass Bowl (wow, that makes the stadium sound like it’s an aquarium). And I’ve been to every home game this season, so why not finish it out? I agreed to this, of course, BEFORE I realized it would be -800 degrees out last night. But even after I realized this, I still said I’d go. I’d just bundle up properly, and be fine, right? So here is my travel journal for my trip to Toledo.

4:30- Leave work. Notice that it’s very cold and windy, and yes, those are snow flurries. Crap.
5:14- Arrive at home. Home is further south than work, so it should be warmer, but it isn’t.
5:16- Feed squeaky guinea pig.
5:18- Remove work clothes. Begin bundling up. Flannel pajama pants, then jeans over that. Hmm, should I wear tights under all this? Nah, I won’t need that. Tank top, thermal top, fleece sweatshirt. Ah, nice and toasty for the first time all day! I’m disguised as a college student for this event—the fleece is a yellow UT sweatshirt Tirithien gave me. No one will know I’m not really a student!
5:25- Walk out to get mail.
5:27- Conclude that wind cuts right through the denim and flannel on my legs. Go back in for the tights.
5:38- On the road to Toledo, making sure I also have my gloves, hat, and scarf to wear as I get colder.
6:23- Arrive at parking lot where Tirithien is waiting. Notice that he is much less bundled up than I am. For comparison, see the below artistic rendering. (If you click on the picture, you can see all the details of our bundled-up-ness.)

6:24- Decide to go get pizza before the game, since kickoff is not until 7:30. (I’d thought it was at 7:00.
6:36- Arrive at pizza restaurant. Place order. Gaze at each other lovingly across the table, annoying nearby patrons in the process.
7:02- Wonder if annoyed patrons somehow sabotaged our order, since it wasn’t there yet.
7:05- Receive pizza. Yum! I’m sure that the eating of pizza is also helping my college student disguise.
7:30- Keep trying to flag down server to get a box for the leftovers. Hello, we’re missing the kickoff here!
7:35- Get box, get check. Go to bathroom while Tirithien is paying the check. (Thank you, sweetie!)
7:36- Realize that going to the bathroom while wearing so many layers is a tricky sort of maneuver.
7:39- On the road to UT.
7:58- In the stadium looking for seats. It’s snowing. This is a bit more than flurries. Tirithien looks up at the falling snow and says, “Now this is football weather!” I look at him like he’s crazy. There is no snow in football. Football is played in the fall. It does not snow in the fall. It snows in the winter. Snow means hockey weather, not football weather!
7:59- Sit on metal bleacher (okay, we had a blanket to spread out on it). Okay, it’s cold, but not intolerable. I can handle it.
8:14- Realize that since the game is on ESPN, there are going to be far too many media breaks and they’re going to be far too long.
8:20- Realize that ESPN must have brought their own referees, because these guys are obviously blind, much like the standard ESPN play-by-play announcer. Find common ground with similarities between ESPN’s abuse of hockey and abuse of football.
8:30- Realize that my toes are a little numb. Think longingly of my warm apartment and my TV on which I could be watching my Red Wings… nah, they were playing in Calgary. That would make me cold just to think about it.
8:40- Halftime show. Apparently the opposing team’s band does not do well in the cold. The opposing team’s band wears marching band capes. How embarrassing, they all look like they’re trying to be superheroes!
8:49- The Rocket band takes over. Wow, they must have saved their best show for the last game, because they were on step and sounded great!
9:15- Game resumes. It’s getting colder.
9:18- Realize that my coat is covered in snow.
9:38- Referees make phantom penalty calls that result in a touchdown for the other team. Decide that referees’ brains are frostbitten because they didn’t wear fancy knit caps like mine.
9:39- Try to tell Tirithien of this theory. Realize that my face is numb enough that I can no longer talk properly.
9:52- Notice that one referee has a big “F” on the back of his jersey. Ask if there’s also one with a big “U.” There is. Laugh at the idea of the F and the U standing next to each other. Note that maturity level is dropping with temperature.
10:20- More interminable referee bungling resulting in another score for the other team. Stand on the metal bleacher in front of me and shout, “Kill the refs!” as best I can with my numb mouth.
10:20:15- Tirithien decides it’s time to get inside before either (a) I freeze into a solid icicle, or (b) he feels the need to throttle a referee or two.
10:25- Go into campus library to thaw before heading back to vehicle.
11:15- Head back to Tirithien’s car, so he can kindly port me back to my own car. (I didn’t park on campus because they’d have charged me money to park there on a game day. I guess my student disguise isn’t that good.)
11:35- Head back north. Hope that I don’t encounter caribou or polar bears on my journey. It feels cold enough for them to be around, and hitting one of those would really damage my car. Besides, polar bears are cute.
12:16- Arrive home. No polar bears or caribou in sight.
12:17- Wonder if I raised a polar bear from infancy, if it would still be tame when it was grown.
12:18- Go inside and make hot cocoa. Thaw self. Put on warmest pajamas. Fall asleep.

I am glad this was the last game, even though it was a loss. I can’t handle this kind of cold! At least in hockey the ice is on the rink, not falling from the sky!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Spontaneous Storytime

On the road between home and Dayton, we crossed a river whose green highway sign proclaimed its name to be Mad River. How very strange a name for a body of water! It didn't look the least bit mad, or even slightly perturbed. It flowed gently and placidly southwards-- probably a tributary of the Ohio. But why would such a calm and pastoral river be named the Mad River? My muse whispered this story spontaneously to me.

The Mad River is so named because in days of old, people who felt madness come upon them would go and pray to the spirit of that river. They would wash in the water, and the water would take their madness from them-- or at least enough of it that they could function. The creative part of the madness was left them, and the destructive part was taken away.

However, when the spring floods came, the Mad River would rage uncontrollably over its banks, all the madness in the water churned up and set loose, no longer held bound by winter’s ice, and vast was the damage that rushing water would cause.

At last a wise shaman was able to speak with the river god and cure him of his madness so that the river rages no more—yet she also angered the river god with her presumption in daring to speak with authority to an immortal spirit and work her healing arts upon him.

Because of this, the river god will wash the madness from the people no longer, and the people of the valley must bear their own ills as best they may.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Confusion, fear, and longing

This weekend, Tirithien and I went on a short road trip. To Dayton. Ah, beautiful Dayton. :-P

The reason we went, of course, is that Dayton (actually Fairborn, one of the Dayton suburbs) is the location of Wright State University, where Tirithien had a very favorable med school interview a few weeks ago. It’s his top choice school right now, so he wanted me to see the campus and the city and all. I had Friday off from work for Veteran’s Day, so I figured, why not?

The campus was lovely. Quite a lot bigger than the school I attended, but then, most colleges are. Dayton is just far enough south that it’s starting to get into the Appalachian foothills, and it actually does seem like a nice enough place.

Now, the thing is, I’ve been wanting to go to grad school for quite some time. Really, I’ve been trying to arrange it ever since I finished my undergrad degree. The trick has been deciding what sort of degree I really want.

English. I want an English degree. I want a Master of Arts in English. And maybe one in History for good measure.

Am I brave enough to do such a thing? If I were being sensible, I would get an MBA or a degree in some sort of administration or in social work or something like that. Maybe teaching, maybe health care, but something to increase my employability.

The problem I’ve found with trying to do this is the sheer vagueness of it. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe whatever. None of it jumps out at me, none of it possesses me and seizes my heart as The Thing I should be doing.

English? History? Every bit of it. Bring it on.

Wright State happens to have an English program which has an emphasis in creative writing. Most schools’ Master level English programs are literature only, or linguistics if one is lucky. I can picture myself in my most secret dreams, 3 or 4 years from now, graduating with a double MA in English and History. Just think of the background this would give me for the stories that want to be told!

But... Wright State is 3 hours away from home. Can I even contemplate such a thing, such a leap of faith? I’d have to leave everything I know—my secure (but unfulfilling) job, my home, my family, taking this chance that may or may not ever pay off for me. An advanced degree is certainly no guarantee of becoming published!

But… I want to go. I want to learn. God, for the first time in years, I truly want something for myself, something that actually shines brightly enough for me to recognize it.

I’m afraid of going and taking that chance. I’m afraid of staying home and missing that chance.

And so my heart whispers to me to look southward to the bright hills.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Old Poetry

This is an old poem of mine, which seemed appropriate to share today. It's one of my rare experiments with things like "rhyme" and "meter." Most of my poetry is more or less stream of consciousness free verse. This is from..... gah! It's from 1997! I feel old now. Oh well. Enjoy!

All the mist is on the mountain,
all the secrets there are hidden.
Twist of fate, drop of rain;
then the leaves begin to turn.

All the stars are in the sky,
all the tears within my eyes.
Words of pain, hurt of heart;
then the leaves begin to turn.

On the mountain there I roam,
seeking shelter and a home.
Flash of dart, borne of mind;
then the leaves begin to turn.

No true place for me to go;
surrounding me the voice of crow.
Peace of sleep, warmth of home;
when the leaves begin to turn.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Meeting of Mama and Boyfriend

Since some of you will be curious….

It went quite well. :-)

Tirithien made dinner. (I made things like salad and dessert—like I’ve said, he’s a much better cook than I am!) My mom came over, and we all had a nice time. It went surprisingly well. Much conversation about many varied things.

I’m still not sure why I was so horribly nervous, and I’ll probably go through the same thing again when it’s time for him to meet my other family members, but at least now I know it’s a survivable event! Mom didn’t run away screaming, and Tirithien didn’t run away screaming after Mom left, so I think I’m okay. :-)

I guess next it will be his turn to be nerve-wracked when I meet HIS family!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hey, I won an award!

At church this morning, I found out that one of the monthly articles I write for the parish newsletter had been chosen for an award in a competition for the whole diocese-- and we have a big diocese! It's the Red Ribbon Award for Excellence in Religious Journalism, in the category of Theological Reflection. So I had to get my picture taken, and the article and picture will be printed in December's issue of the diocesan newspaper. Not bad for a layperson! Here is the article. It was in January's newsletter.

Grace, Faith, and “Worthiness”

Someone asked me recently how we can presume to participate in the Eucharist week after week. She couldn’t deal with it, she said. She didn’t feel she could approach the altar at all, because she was not worthy. It really threw me off trying to come up with an answer for her. Worthiness and unworthiness don’t really seem to be issues for us in the Episcopal Church, so a person’s suitability to receive the Eucharist wasn’t something I had thought much about. “Everyone is invited to receive Holy Communion,” it says in our bulletin, and that was good enough for me.

To me, that’s part of the nature of God’s grace. None of us are worthy on our own. The Eucharistic Feast is freely given by God to all who are willing to accept it. It’s a gift, not a loan or something we can “earn.” Nothing we can do could possibly be enough to make ourselves worthy of that incredible gift God gave us through the sacrifice of Jesus, that gift of salvation that allows us to make the spiritual journey to reunite with God.

The Eucharist is a sacrament given to us to remind us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Its physical presence reminds us of the body which died and the blood which was shed, and its spiritual presence becomes the spirit of that body and blood, touching our own souls to strengthen our union with Jesus.

It is also a way of strengthening our union with each other. It is a meal we share together, an outward way of acknowledging that we have all accepted this wondrous gift of grace God has given to us, as unworthy as we are, to transform us into something better than what we had been.

I have been blessed enough to occasionally serve as a Eucharistic Minister. I was surprised to realize, as I carried the chalice to those who waited at the rail, that serving as EM is a ministry of hospitality. Offering the chalice is a welcoming act, an act of inviting others to share in this union. Through the sharing of bread and wine, body and blood, we are together given the chance to reaffirm our acceptance of God’s great love. The realization that my hands were among the ones helping to distribute this gift was a vastly humbling experience. Am I worthy to do this? Absolutely not. But I am grateful beyond measure that God has chosen to sometimes use me in this way.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” It is not our works which make us worthy of receiving God’s grace, but God’s grace which makes us worthy and willing to do good works.

May we never forget to be thankful for God’s grace and love, as we pray that one day all of the world will be able to accept it and shelter in its warmth.

A Nerve-Wracking Meeting!

On Sunday evening, Tirithien is going to meet my mama. Yes, that vaunted tradition in a new relationship, the boyfriend-mom meeting. Yikes!

Now, I should have nothing to worry about. They've been talking via email for weeks and they seem to be getting on famously! I mean, it's only going to be my mom, not my brother or stepdad or various other extended family members who are close. It's just going to be dinner, and I'm not even cooking it-- Tirithien is. Plus I've got a stronger sense of myself than I had last time I was in the boyfriend-meeting-parents situation. Let me explain that.

Every past time I've had a boyfriend meet my family, I was either nervous that the boy would say something to embarrass me in front of the family or that the family would say something to embarrass me in front of the boy. Not that they'd do it on purpose, just that there would be some sort of clash, and I'd be "tainted" by association. This time, I don't have that fear at all. I'm not sure if it's that I've grown up enough to realize that other people's "embarrassing" words and deeds are not my responsibility, or what, but I'm feeling pretty confident in that respect.

So I've got all this good stuff in my corner, but I'm STILL nervous! Would someone like to tell me why? Gah!

(Half laughing, half meaning it!)

Thursday, November 03, 2005


My prankful adventure with Tirithien got me to thinking about other pranks I’ve played over time. It’s normally kind of hard for me to pull off a very good prank, because I’m likely to start giggling and give the whole thing away. It’s like keeping a happy secret to myself. I just can’t do it! But still, I’ve managed some good ones in my time.

For example, back in my college days, I was on the speech and forensics team. The first overnight trip I went on, I wound up rooming with the coach, who had extremely long blonde hair. Amazingly long. The next morning when I got in the van with everyone else, while the coach was paying the team’s bill, I informed my teammates that the coach’s hair was really a wig, and that when she thought I was asleep she had taken it off for the night. I made the story completely ridiculous by saying that she’d forgotten her wig head, so she set it on the lampshade instead! I wasn’t really intending to be believed, you see; it was early morning and I was feeling more than a little punchy. Most of the team took this as the silliness I’d intended, but one guy actually believed it. Back on campus, he started telling it to people in earnest, lampshade and all! Then various people would come talk to me and ask me to confirm the story. Well, why not go with it? “Sure, I did see it,” I’d say. As late as my senior year, people would come ask me about this story and whether or not it was true. Stephen can confirm this.

Stephen and I would occasionally tell people we were twins, but for some reason no one believed that. Can’t imagine why… ;-) We had more success, though, in convincing people that he was a Black Muslim and that’s why he couldn’t eat chicken. Now, I don’t know if Black Muslims can eat chicken or not, but Stephen didn’t back then, so it got tossed into the story. Hey, it seemed plausible. And with him in his crocheted skullcap, calling me his “strong white sister,” no one questioned it. Never mind that we were at a Baptist college!

The past two April Fool’s Days I’ve accidentally pulled good ones on my family. In 2004, when I was planning my wedding, I sent my mom an email to tell her we were giving up on the whole thing and going to Vegas instead. I figured my brother would have done some prank or another that morning, so she’d already be on guard against such pranks. Nope. She fell for it. She even called my aunt to tell her, and my aunt emailed me to tell me what a good idea she thought it was! Oops.

This year, my now-ex and I were playing around with the idea of buying a house. So on April 1st, I found a listing for the shoddiest, nastiest, most run-down house in the nastiest part of Detroit. It cost $13,000. I sent this listing to my mom and aunt, gushing about this great house and what a great deal it was, it just needed a little cleaning up, and so on, and how friendly the neighbors seemed because they’d been looking at us so intently. I figured it was WAY too over the top for them to believe.

Nope. They played along with what they thought I was doing and pretended to be excited for us. Later I found out they’d been panicking and wondering how to convince me not to move to such a dangerous neighborhood. They didn’t catch on that it was a prank until I sent a follow-up email to tell them that the most dangerous part of living in that neighborhood was the frequent alien abductions.

I kind of hope that the timing will work out well enough that when I become pregnant some day down the line, the announcement to the family would be perfectly appropriate on April 1st. Then I’d get to laugh all day at my family not believing me until the next day!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hollow Halloween

Halloween is usually a huge deal for my family. We actually get together at my aunt’s house, since she is in the neighborhood most conducive to trick-or-treating. (There are actual sidewalks!) Usually I will take my brother trick-or-treating around the neighborhood for awhile, and he will split the candy with me. (Last year he thought he was too old to go, but this year he decided he didn’t like that and he was going to go again!)

My mom and brother are absolutely mad about Halloween. They usually have very elaborate decorations up, they will have sound effects tapes playing to scare the trick-or-treaters, and they just enjoy themselves thoroughly.

This year, though, my mom was too injured to play. She fell in the garage and really messed up her back and knees, so she couldn’t even make it to my aunt’s.

My brother did have a very cool costume—he and his friend dressed up as “Living Dead Dolls,” which I think are hugely creepy, but they love them, so I guess that’s the important thing. I took them around the neighborhood in search of treats—no tricks on MY watch, thank you very much!

We made it about two blocks from home base before I tripped on a gigantic root in someone’s yard. I stepped with my left foot part on and part off this root I hadn’t seen. My foot twisted up, my ankle gave out, and I fell. Couldn’t just stumble and rebalance, oh, no, I had to actually fall, right splat on my knees. It was such a sudden sharp pain that I felt a wave of dizziness and nausea hit me, but I was able to shake that off and not puke in this stranger’s yard.

My brother was slightly panicky. “Are you all right???? Should we go get help????”

I was muttering curses at my clumsiness in German. (I guess I hoped they wouldn’t realize I was swearing.) But I told him to calm down, I’d be fine, I just needed to stretch the ankle out some. And that did work enough for me to hobble back to my aunt’s house. My uncle took over the chaperone duties, and I sat on the porch to hand out candy to the little ghosties and goblins.

There were hardly any kids out at all. It was actually kind of eerie. I remember when I was a kid (and it wasn’t really THAT long ago!) that there would have been TONS of kids out. We’d have been tripping over each other instead of over roots. But there were just a few. The weather was nice enough—a few raindrops, but it was warm out.

So all-in-all, kind of a disappointing Halloween. My ankle is sore and my knees are bruised up.

Maybe I’d feel better if I went and got some of the Reeses Cups out of my brother’s candy stash.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Resounding Defeat of Resolution 11


For some reason, back in January, my church decided that I would do well as one of our three delegates to Diocesan Convention, which is the main decision-making body for the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. That was Saturday.

I had been dreading it horribly.

I don't want much of anything to do with church politics. It gets in the way of spirituality. I miss the days when I could just go to church and sing in the choir, maybe do an occasional reading. I have been "herded" into more and more of an administrative role, and I dislike it. I'll do it as necessary, but I'm not really all that comfortable with it.

This Convention, though, I'd been dreading more than anything. The job of Convention is to approve the Diocesan budget for the next year, and also to pass or block various resolutions which guide the Diocese on its way. There were huge budget cuts necessary this year, and I was expecting huge battles.

Even worse, though, was Resolution 11.

You see, the reason I started attending an Episcopal Church in the first place was that they elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, to be the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. I figured that if they would do that, they must align fairly well with me on political and social justice issues, so I'd be comfortable. And with the parish I chose, I was right.

The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, which is essentially a loosely knit group of all the churches which were founded by the Church of England. Much of the Anglican Communion was, shall we say, less than pleased about Bishop Robinson's consecration, particularly several bishops of Dioceses in Africa. The church may well wind up in a schism over this issue-- it's not there yet, but there's a pretty strong chance it will.

Now, I happen to believe that eventually, science will prove that one's sexuality is a matter of genetics and brain coding, thus meaning that folks who are gay were made that way by God, thus making homosexuality in no way a sin. So in my mind, Bishop Robinson has as much right to be a bishop as does anyone else, and I'm more than a little irked that it's such a big deal.

But Resolution 11 basically stated that we would apologize to the bishops in Africa, that we would repent for the election of Bishop Robinson, and we would never do such a thing again. That's a highly simplified version of it, but you get the gist.

I had a plan. If this passed, I was going to stand up and register a formal objection, then walk out in protest. I hated it, hated that it was on the ballot. I'm not at all sorry that Bishop Robinson was elected, and damned if I'm going to repent for it.

Anyway, back at Convention.... it was actually going quite well. The budget passed with a minimum of fuss, and we were making our way through the resolutions at a good pace. Ones that I thought would cause a lot of debate, such as support for adoption by "non-traditional" parents (step parents, or same-sex partners of parents), or in support of restoring domestic partner benefits to those who lost them when Michigan passed the anti-gay-marriage amendment last year? Went right through. Hardly any debate.

Then we came to Resolution 11, and the words flew. Up, down, for, against. Someone moved that we amend the resolution to be instead a feel-good resolution that he had written. The substitute resolution basically stated that we were sorry pain had been caused, but we had to do what we had to do. This was lovely and well-written, but since it wasn't really a resolution to do anything, it was defeated.

Then we had to vote on whether to pass the original resolution. Would we accept it? Would we apologize to the African bishops for taking what I feel was a prophetic action and a direct bit of guidance from the Holy Spirit? My heart was pounding as our bishop called for the vote.

"All those in favor?"

We voted by holding up voting cards to be counted and tallied.

When the bishop called for those in favor of adopting Resolution 11, very few people raised their voting cards. I could feel a big grin spreading across my face as I realized what was happening.

"All those opposed?"

Pink ballot cards up in the air as far as I could see. Everywhere, pink ballot cards raised high, pink ballot cards raised to show the world that we really did feel that we did what we had to do and what was right to do.

I actually had tears in my eyes.

I tell you, my friends, it was beautiful to see. Absolutely glorious.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Honeys, I'm home!

For the past week or so, I’ve been a Blog Refugee.

I’ve been hiding out at another blog, trying to make a place for myself there so as not to have to keep deleting the various rude comments which have been left in various posts.

But you know, I like THIS blog.

So I am back.

My finger is still on the delete key for certain types of comments. I believe strongly in freedom of speech, but as this is my own personal blog, I hardly have to let you use my space to insult me! I don’t care if you want to disagree about something, I don’t care if you want to debate me. A good challenge is always welcome. But insults, baseless accusations, and unnecessary rudeness (towards me OR towards my loved ones) won’t be tolerated.

If we’re going to argue, let’s do it honorably and with dignity, all right?

So, here I am. I’m back, nice and comfy in my blog home. :-)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Observations from the Grocery Store

This is the article I'm submitting for the November issue of my church's newsletter. I thought I may as well share with you all!

The Cheapening of Spirituality and the Tao of Shampoo

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the saying goes. There’s quite a bit of truth to this. There’s always been something very viscerally satisfying about a warm bath, or the smell of fresh laundry, or even a stack of gleaming clean dishes. But I think some marketing people are taking it a little too far these days.

The other day, I bought this nice new shampoo and conditioner with a citrus scent. I smell a little like a creamsicle after using it, but I'm okay with that.

This morning in the shower, for some reason I looked more closely at the text on the shampoo bottle. "Refresh your hair and spirit!" it proclaimed. Huh? Wha? It's shampoo! I buy it so I can have clean hair, I don't buy it so I can attain spiritual enlightenment in the shower! But this seems to be happening all through the Health and Beauty section these days. It's not just shampoo, it's not just soap, it's a "sensory experience!" It's "therapeutic!" It will refresh your mind and spirit! Excellent, I can wash my hair and wash my brain at the same time. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote eloquently of how we might find God in the “little things” of this world—everyday actions and deeds. “It is just the same in the world of souls - which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but he has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice his eyes whenever he glances down.”

Doubtless a morning shower can be part of this way of looking at the world. Water is a great gift from God, and the cleansing of our bodies might remind us of the cleansing our souls received in our Baptisms. But using a particular brand of shampoo or soap that promises to “refresh your spirit” on its own? A person would be soggy in the shower for quite some time waiting for that “instant enlightenment” we are promised by the marketing departments of these companies.

Spiritual enlightenment, the path home to God, is not easy. It is the camel through the eye of the needle, and it is the dark night of the soul, the forty days alone in the wilderness. It requires deliberate thought, conscious effort and dedication, and it is not to be had through anything that can be bought at the grocery store. It requires nothing less than an entirely new way of thinking and a shredding of old patterns that hold us back.

There are no shortcuts on the Spiral Path our souls dance as they find their way back to the Source of all Creation. And this is as it should be. You get what you pay for, after all, and a quick, cheap version of “enlightenment” will fade in the wash, be too stiff to move and grow with your spirit, and wind up tossed in the spirit’s version of a garbage can once it’s too worn out to be useful.

No, best to work hard at it and go the long way around. This is a journey, and must be played out in its own time.

Of course, if you’re really in a hurry to attain enlightenment, that shampoo is on sale for $1.98. Spiritual refreshment is not guaranteed through its use, but at least you’ll have clean hair while you reflect on how lucky we are that God called Apostles and Disciples instead of advertising people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Scary Lady at the Grocery Store

Last night on my way home from choir practice, I had to stop and pick up a few things at the store. I needed pet food AND me-food, so I had to go to the big superstore instead of the regular grocery store. But this is generally not a big deal. I know where everything is there—or at least everything that I needed last night, so theoretically, it would not be a long trip.

I was just about done, pushing my cart past a bewilderingly large display of shampoo, when one of the store workers pushed a work cart past me. She looked over at me, sighed a great sigh of exasperation, and said, “I wish I still carried a gun.”

What the…?!?

I’m sure my eyes looked about ready to pop out and roll across the floor, but I think I managed to sound polite and sympathetic. “Bad day?” I asked her.

Well, now that she had a sympathetic listener, the floodgates opened. This woman stood there in her red grocery smock, price gun in hand, telling me about how she wanted to shoot out the store’s loudspeakers because they kept playing Fleetwood Mac songs on the store radio, and she’d had enough of that when the guy who used to live in her basement would play Fleetwood Mac on his guitar while wearing nothing but his underwear, and if she had to hear Stevie Nicks one more time, that would just be the end of it because she couldn’t take it anymore, and her next job would not have any music at all!

Meanwhile, I was trying to edge away carefully. She kept following me, ranting all the way! Maybe she wasn’t allowed to leave her department, or maybe there was some sort of electronic tether that had her confined to the Health and Beauty section, though; when I made yet another empathetic-but-I-have-to-go-now noise and crossed the aisle to the dairy section, she did not follow me, even though she was still calling out how the guy who’d been playing Fleetwood Mac songs in his underoos had been diagnosed with depression.

Am I some kind of magnet for random strangers to tell me their problems, or what?

And then after all that, I still forgot to get the sour cream.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Race Riots in my Backyard

(Well, not really my backyard, but close enough.)

On Saturday afternoon, a racially-motivated riot broke out in Toledo. Toledo is about 30 miles south of where I live. Tirithien lives there, on the opposite side of town from the place the riots took place. So I am down in Toledo with some frequency. I wouldn't say I have my finger on the pulse of the city, as the saying goes, but I'm at least close enough to see that it's breathing.

As far as I can tell from the garbled news reports and the little bit of info I'd heard in advance, a neo-Nazi group had planned a protest in a "racially mixed" neighborhood. The protest was supposedly motivated by a disagreement between a black family and a white family, but I haven't found any news reports that describe the nature of this dispute or how it might have come to the attention of this neo-Nazi group.

The people who live in the neighborhood were (understandably, in my opinion) upset about these plans, and counter-protests were planned. Unfortunately, somehow, somehow, and no one seems to know how, the counter-protests devolved into violence. Fires and looting. The neighborhood was a war zone.

And then the neo-Nazis didn't even show up.

I imagine them sitting at home laughing at the fiery images on the news. "See, we were right!" they can say. "Look how they rose to our bait!"

Now, I am a firm believer in free speech in public places. I'm an ACLU member, and it's one of my central beliefs that people should be allowed to speak what they truly believe. But there's got to be a balance somewhere between statement of belief and statements carefully calculated to inflame tension and violence. Besides that, I'd feel a great deal of grim satisfaction if I were able to muzzle the neo-Nazi leaders and leave them voiceless for awhile.

How does this happen, this devolution into violence in protest situations? There have been many protests and counter-protests in the world which don't become riots. What causes certain ones to explode in violent flame?

Everytime I think humans might actually be evolving into something better.... then something happens. :-(

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Note to my future baby

Back in August, I posted a list of 100 Random Things About Me. Numbers 17 and 18 on this list concerned a little baby boy, a baby who has made recurring appearances in my dreams for years. My suspicion and my hope is that he is a vision of the baby I will have some day. He’s been appearing with some frequency lately, so I thought I would write a note to him, since he’s apparently wanting attention. ;-) His name is Brendan William—Brendan for St. Brendan the Voyager, and William because…. well, because.

Hey, little Brendan. Hey there, my little sweetie!

Yes, I love when you smile at me. You have the cutest smile ever!

But why are you in my dreams so much lately? You know it’s not time for you to be a real baby yet. You have to keep being a dream baby.

Yes, I want to hold you. Very much. I want to feel in my waking life how soft you are. I want to touch your curly hair with my own hands and see if it’s as soft as it seems like it will be, and I want to see you look up at me out of those great big green eyes with that look you give me in the dreams, that look of “Mama’s here and everything is good.” I want to see the sweet simplicity of your baby smile and feel the weight of you in my arms as I cuddle you to sleep.

There’s so much I want to show you, so many wonders in life! I will tell you stories and teach you to live your dreams. I will teach you how to learn and how to live, about dinosaurs and how to tie your shoes, how to make a peanut butter sandwich, how to love.

But this is not the right time, my dearest. Be patient with your mama. Give me some more time to get my life ready for you. I’m working on it, I promise. It will happen.

Be patient, my little one. Just wait for me to be ready, sweet little dream-baby. I love you with all my heart and all my soul already, and that’s why I want you to wait. You deserve a better life than I can give you right now.

Sleep, my love, my sweet baby. Sleep and dream of me, wherever you are, whatever waiting room babies wait in before they’re born. And I will dream of you. :-)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A Frozen Saturday Night in Glass Bowl Stadium

Okay, historically football has really not been my thing. I love hockey, I hate baseball. Football? Meh. It’s just sort of there.

Well, my sweetie adores football, so I agreed to see a few games with him this season. It’s part of our deal—he’s going to teach me about football and I’m going to teach him about hockey. Granted, we will probably see more football games in person than hockey games, seeing as how he likes college ball (University of Toledo, go Rockets!) and I like pro hockey (let’s go, Red Wings!), and college football tickets are MUCH cheaper than pro hockey tickets. Like, really, really, much cheaper.

So, this past Saturday was UT’s homecoming game, against Eastern Michigan University. Now, EMU was on my short list of schools to attend, and if I had gone there, this could have been an interesting dynamic. But since I didn’t, I don’t have a particular attachment to them, and Toledo and Ypsilanti are about equidistant from my home, so I didn’t feel any qualms about rooting for UT to win. (My joke of the evening was, “Don’t tell anyone I’m from the same state as those guys!”)

This was a homecoming game, so the stands were full of what I called with amused disdain “drunken freshmen howling in the background.” There weren’t any crowd problems or anything, just some people who weren’t making a whole lot of sense in what they were yelling at the players and referees. Well, no, we might have had a crowd problem at one point.

See, I have this problem when watching any sort of sport. I get really pissed off if someone stands up in front of me. I don’t mind people getting up and down, getting to their seats or whatever, but if they stand up and stay there, and I miss an important play? This is not a happy time. So when this crowd of people from a fraternity and sorority came and filed into the row in front of us and stood up ON THEIR SEATS, this was bad. “You make a better door than a window!” I told the boy in front of me. He just looked confused. We moved to a different section.

Ah, that was better. Now I could actually see this game I don’t really understand yet!

I could also see the marching band at halftime. I was a flag twirler in my high school band my senior year, so I feel qualified to say that UT’s marching band is really bad. My inner twirler wanted to run down there and take over the directing—“No! No! You’re offstep and off rhythm! What are you doing????” I didn’t, of course, but the temptation was there.

Meanwhile, as the Rockets were running up the score (30 to 3 final, poor EMU!), it was getting colder. And colder. And colder. I started out wearing jeans and a thermal top, with a fleece jacket. It got colder. I zipped up my jacket. Colder still. I put on my gloves and wrapped my fleece scarf around my neck. Even colder. Okay, I put on my knit hat. And I was still cold! I finally wound up wrapped in the wool blanket we had brought to protect our bottoms from the frozen metal bleachers. My sweetie was just sitting there perfectly comfortable, jacket unzipped. (“Oh, are you cold, my love?” Um, yeah!) So he cuddled me close. Then I was okay. :-)

I wound up having fun. I would jump up and cheer when the Rockets scored, just like all the real fans. I would yell at the refs when they made a boneheaded call. I laughed at the girls who had dressed for fashion instead of warmth and were shivering like crazy. (I’m a meanie, I know!) I cuddled with my sweetie for warmth, and we gave each other kisses between plays.

I think I could get to enjoy this.

But the funny thing is, now I kind of miss my days twirling a flag for the Flat Rock High School marching band. Our team was generally awful, but we could put on one fine halftime show.

Oh well. If I'd tried to twirl while it was that cold, I'd probably have dropped the flag anyway. And that would have just been embarrassing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Story About Tirithien

It was a bright day, a warm summery day, and we stood together looking out at the river. Just talking. Not about anything in particular.

We were friends, and had been for awhile. He was the best friend I’d found since my college days—making friends outside of a school setting was a trick which had eluded me until I met him. He’d listened to my ranting and dried my tears about the breakup of my marriage, helped me talk through some things, helped me focus myself again on the future and its bright possibilities. I’d listened to his hopes and dreams, been his sounding board, encouraged him to do things he hadn’t known he could do.

Friends. Very close friends. Best friends, as little kids say.

That day by the river, that sunny day, I hugged him. He’d been telling me of his grandfather who had died, and he looked sad and lonely. So it was perfectly natural to hug him, to comfort him.

He seemed surprised, his body language unsure at first. Uncomfortable. He relaxed into the hug, though, and his arms wrapped close around me. We held each other softly, each very careful of the other.

We pulled back a little, looked at each other with some surprise. We’d never done much in the way of touching, you see. Our friendship was based on words and stories, very cerebral, very platonic. So we surprised each other with that warm hug.

Even more than surprise, though, even more than that shock in his green eyes, I saw something else. I saw need, I saw fear, and I saw love. And we were both trembling, wondering what to do, how to proceed, each desperately afraid of hurting the other and each desperately wanting to act.

Slowly, in a moment that seemed to last forever, we pulled close again. A last second of indecision, followed by a decision to trust, to take my chance with the love I saw reflected in his eyes and had seen so much in the tenderness of his friendship. One last breath, and our lips met in a gentle kiss, a kiss of perfect sweetness and perfect love.

I’m not sure if I can say with any certainty who kissed whom first, or which of us was more surprised as we drew back and looked at each other in utter amazement. I do know that we pulled each other close again, kissed again, realizing now the truth neither of us had been able to see.

In that kiss, that sweet, soft kiss, my entire world changed. With that kiss I realized that somewhere along the way, some time when I was not expecting it, some time when I was not paying attention but only trying to focus on rebuilding my life, I had fallen hopelessly, deeply in love with my best friend. With the truth of that kiss, I knew deep inside my soul that nothing would ever be the same again.

I love you, my Tirithien. :-)

Monday, October 03, 2005

The one boy they left behind

Today on the message board at, someone posted a link to this article about eleven Marines killed in Iraq-- or rather, about the twelfth man in their squad, the one who was not killed by the roadside bomb with his comrades.

The men in this squad ranged in age from 19 to 25. The boy who did not die, Lance Corporal Travis Williams, is 21.

I know little enough about how close a squad of soldiers can become; I've never been in the military and I don't claim any sort of firsthand knowledge. Yet I know from my own life that the closest friendships I've formed, the strongest bonds, have been the ones born of adversity, the ones where we were working towards a common goal. The ones where we needed to trust each other and build upon each other's strengths, the ones where our striving together against the odds made our friendship into something strong and enduring. If I may form lifelong friendships in this way, here in comfort and safety in the complacent midwest, how much stronger must that be amongst people who face death together on a daily basis?

We were trying to get the college newspaper out on time. We were trying to form a new chapter of a service fraternity. There was stress. There was never danger.

These young men were trying to survive together, trying to battle what they saw as threats against our nation. They had to trust each other with their very lives. And in this squad, they did. In the article, the squad's platoon commander is quoted as saying, "They were like a family. They were the tightest squad I've ever seen. They truly loved each other."

The word I've most often heard used to describe the bonds formed between soldiers is "brotherhood." I have a brother. I understand brothers.

So I try to imagine, for the sake of this young Marine, how would it be if some tragedy were to happen, if my brother died while I lived? That would be a grief beyond words, a sorrow beyond compare. It is too much a horror to contemplate.

My heart breaks for this young lad in Iraq. So much death, so much loss.

Is he lucky to be alive?

The theological part of me says yes. If there is life, then there is hope.

But the part of me who is a sister, the part who understands what brotherhood means? I only understand the palest shadow of his grief and how he will rage at the heavens because he was not killed by that bomb with his beloved brothers. This part of me understands that life may not be luck at all.

Friday, September 30, 2005

And into the Present

The divorce hearing went well enough, as such things go.

My mom went with me this morning, which was nice because I was so nervous. I was so glad I didn't have to go alone. My mom absolutely hates driving to Detroit, and she was shocked that I did it with such ease!

We got downtown to the courthouse with plenty of time to spare, but then had to wait for what seemed like an hour for the elevator. (The courtroom was on the 16th floor, which is why we didn't just walk up!) It turned out fine, though, because the courtroom hadn't even been unlocked yet.

The 9:00 time which I had been given turned out not to be our hearing time, but registration time. There were a few more papers I needed to fill out, and then we waited. My mom and I sat and chatted quietly, while the ex sat just behind us.

When the judge was ready to come in, it was just like on TV! The bailiff actually said, "All rise!" and we all stood up, and then she said, "The Honorable Judge Youngblood presiding in this Third Circuit Court. You may be seated."

There was one case before ours, a small custody issue, and then the clerk called our case. The judge (who was super nice) asked us to verify our identities, then swore me in and asked me to testify that I'd lived in Wayne County for 180 days before filing, that the marriage had broken down, and that there was no chance of reconciliation. She confirmed that I wanted my maiden name back, then asked the ex if he agreed with all the papers he had signed. He said he did, then the judge granted the divorce. And it was done.

It was much easier than I had thought it would be. But I truly hope I never need this information for future reference. I'm glad it was so simple and didn't have to be drawn out, but then some part of me thinks that getting a divorce should not be so simple, if that makes any sense.

Now I get to start work on the part of my life I should have done years ago, the part where I figure out who I am and who I am becoming. Time for rebuilding.

Monday, September 26, 2005

To the past....

On Thursday morning, my final divorce hearing will take place. I’m nervous. I keep thinking of things that could go wrong. “What if I didn’t fill out the papers right and the judge makes us wait longer? What if there’s bad traffic and I’m late? What if the judge is just in a really bad mood?” (Because presiding over divorce cases can’t be good for a person’s long-term mental health!)

Most of the time, I manage a semblance of calm. I will be very glad and relieved to have this done and over with.

I’ve been kind of surprised at some of the very strange things people have said to me when they found out I was going through a divorce. One woman started a long lecture about how she could have told me the marriage would never have worked because I’m a Taurus and he’s a Cancer and that just never works out. Another person asked, “What happened? Were you shopping too much or not cooking enough?” Strangest of all was the one who said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. The first marriage is just for practice anyway.” I’m pretty sure they were all trying to be helpful, but help like that I need like I need an extra hole in the head!

The best advice I've gotten yet came from a lady at my church. She's not a whole lot older than I am, though old enough to have a 13-year-old-son, and she told me, "You feel whatever you need to feel. Don't let anyone ever tell you that what you're feeling is wrong."

Finally, someone who can understand how mixed I sometimes feel about this!

The STBX and I have split everything up ourselves. Things should be very simple on Thursday, I'll be glad to have it over, and yet I'm still nervous and sad.

I know I’ve found a wonderful friend who has helped me through so much of this pain, and that this friend will be much more than a friend to me as time goes on.

I know that I should have never gotten married in the first place.

I know that I have very clear memories of being afraid of my husband’s anger.

I know that I was discontent with the marriage from the beginning.

All this I know, and I believe in my heart that we will both be better off separately than we ever could have been together.

Yet I also remember other things—he took my guinea pig to the emergency vet for a wheezing cold and didn’t flinch at the bill. He sat and played video games with my baby brother for hours. He would bring me food or take me to dinner every time I said I didn’t want to cook. There was care given, and something which was once love before it became confused duty, but in the end love alone can not sustain a marriage. There was no room for either of us to grow, and so we grew apart.

One other thing I know: I know that by not knowing my own mind and heart a year and a half ago, I have caused pain. And I know that for this, I am sorry.

So here’s to the past. May we learn from it, and may the future be better for both of us.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A few random things....

Today I am going to be helping out at my church's Fall Fun Fest. All of us volunteers are supposed to wear a particular t-shirt-- it's bright purple and says "Grace Episcopal Church Fall Fun Fest" on the front. The shirt also has a "Jesus fish" on it. Is it bad of me that I'm tempted to get a white fabric paint pen and draw little feet on the Jesus fish?

The really cool part, though, is that probably no one at my church would mind in the slightest if I did. :-)

Here is an old poem I resurrected for filler in the church newsletter. (I usually write a monthly article, but didn't have time this month, so the parishioners are being subjected to my ancient poetry.) This is from 2/11/97-- a lifetime ago! But it's sill relevant to me, so why not?

The song of the Angels is being sung.
I hear them in my sleepy dreams,
or in the twilight place
between asleep and awake.
Celestial voices rising,
rising to the stars.
It is the song of all glory,
all love and all life
are contained within it.
It is the song of creation unfolding,
of diversity of creatures,
and of the similarity
between a galaxy and an amoeba.
It is the song of all names.
It is the song that makes us all ourselves,
and it is the song that makes us all part of each other.
God's pattern is sung in the song,
intricate harmonies and melodies,
counterpoint and chords,
woven somehow all together
to make us all a whole.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The sigh you hear is a collective sigh of relief and rightness emanating from Detroit and the surrounding areas. You see, last night was a TV broadcast of a Red Wings hockey game. The first one since spring of 2004! (Stupid lockout….) Oh, sure, it was only a pre-season exhibition game and it doesn’t count for a thing, but… but… it was hockey! And it was against the Colorado Avalanche! And the Red Wings won! My favorite goalie (Manny Legace) was in net, and my favorite skater (Brendan Shanahan) scored the only shootout goal.

And so my poor hockey-deprived brain began to relax.

Even better, I had someone special to watch the game with. First broadcast game of the pre-season, and I get to watch it curled up on the couch cuddling with my sweetie. Can life get much better?

It’s kind of a strange thing. My sweetie doesn’t know anything about hockey past the basic, “It’s good when the guys in red and white score and bad when the other guys score.” So I was trying to teach and explain things as they went along, which was a trick with all the rule changes that were instituted during the lockout and all the player moves that happened once the new salary cap was brought in.

(“Why did they do that?”
“Well, because they…. hmm, I don’t know why they did that at all!”)

My sweetie’s a diehard football fan. Football? Hmm. I can take it or leave it. But we have a sort of sports cultural exchange program planned. I’ll explain hockey to him and help him enjoy it, and he’ll explain football to me and help me enjoy it. I guess I can accept this. Besides, an NHL team has 82 games in a season. An NFL team has 16 and a college football team has…. um…. some small number. 12, maybe? Anyway, the balance clearly favors my and my ability to brainwash… I mean, convert…. I mean, help someone to appreciate hockey!

Everything was a bit rusty last night, of course. The players’ timing was off, as it always is in the preseason, and my ability to follow the game is a bit rusty as well. Hey, it’s been over a year, and this is a quick-paced game!

But snuggled like that in my sweetie’s arms, all warm and loving?

Rust or no, I don’t think it could have been a better game experience. :-)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Things I Never Thought I’d Say

You know how sometimes you’ll just be having an ordinary conversation, and you’ll say something that makes perfect sense in the context of that conversation, but would seem more than a little strange if taken on its own? A string of words is coming out of your mouth, and it’s truly bizarre, yet somehow it fits? That seems to have happened to me a lot over the past few months. I thought maybe I would share some of these phrases with you, without any of their explanatory context, just so you can see how insane random passers-by might think I am! Here are 10 of them.

1. Why is there an action figure in the freezer?
2. No, you can’t use the dog dishes as shoes.
3. Well, um, there was this badger….
4. Oh, yeah, some of my best friends are sea otters.
5. You mean, I’m supposed to enjoy it?
6. You know, tomatoes are completely overrated.
7. Why are my keys in the freezer?
8. Oh, so that’s what possums look like before they get hit by cars!
9. No, we are not naming the dog Satan!
10. Excuse me, where are the naked mole rats?

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Stream-of-Consciousness Hymn to the Forest Gods

I walk in an afternoon
in a land where bright light is green,
slanting through leaves and leaves.
A friend leads me down these quiet ways;
hushed voices and quiet steps.
A great green canopy,
an incongruity,
a wilderness in the middle of a city.
We speak softly in this cathedral of ancient trees,
daring not raise our voices, nor wanting to.
A strangeness—the woods are watching me,
inspecting me, and I hold my breath.
Acceptance? Yes, it is given;
I am welcomed into this sacred place
where the forest gods still speak.
Power is here,
rising from this ancient earth,
and I see strange visions of ancient days
when the forest gods ruled over all.
How strange, how strange to see such things,
city-bred as I am, granted visions of the eldest of trees,
the deepest of northern woods.
Yet I dare to speak, and my friend has also seen.
In olden days, we may have been there,
priest and priestess of the strengthening trees,
of the forest gods and their green-lit realm.
And so they recognize us now
and welcome us home,
their wayward children from days long gone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

What to do afterwards?

I’m developing a theory that the true test of a person’s purpose in life is to ask them what they would do if they won the lottery. The really big who-could-possibly-spend-that-much-in-one-lifetime lottery. Let them get past the parts where they would travel, buy lots of neat stuff, take care of their families, and so on. Get past all the standard lottery winner stuff. Ask them what they would do once that’s all done and the novelty’s off. What would they do with the rest of their lives if they had such ability, such financial freedom to do so?

If I were the one fortunate enough to have all the numbers come up, of course I would do the standard stuff. I would travel everywhere. I’d make sure my family was all set. I’d take college classes in interesting subjects that have nothing to do with any sort of overarching goal—anthropology, filmmaking, sociology, art. Just for fun.

And I would write. I wouldn’t have to worry about making a living, and I could just write stories, as much as I wanted to.

The problem with that, though, is that I seem to write my best when I’m under pressure, when I’m doing something useful. That’s the key, there. I can’t just be keeping myself busy; I have to have an actual focus, something helpful and useful I’m trying to do that will take the random bits of poetry and prose which float around in my brain and refine them into some sort of cohesive whole. If I had so many gifts, and didn’t find a way to help others, I’d probably never be able to write anything proper again. It’s just the strange way my brain, heart, and soul seem to be hooked together, that my writing ability is linked in some strange way to my sense of purpose.

So what would I do?

If I could, if I had these sorts of nearly-unlimited funds, I think what I would do is try to get medical treatment for people who couldn’t afford it. I would start clinics in inner cities and have mobile clinics in poor rural areas. Free or reduced cost services. I would spend my time trying to get grants (because with a project of this scope, even lottery winnings don’t last forever), trying to get health care workers to volunteer to help, trying to get the word out to the people who needed services that there really is help for them. I would deal with public relations, regulations, administration, and education. And then if I had any time left, I would go into the clinics myself. I would help change bandages or hold children getting booster shots, or hold the hands of someone who was sick and scared. I would listen to someone's story, or carefully and gently wipe away the tears of a hurt child. I would try to help them feel safe and cared for.

It is in this, the human face of what I would do if I could, that I would find my inspiration. My heart would be full, and the poetry would flow like water.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I have a fascination with maps.

When I was a little kid, I would spend hours looking at the maps in the encyclopedia set. Strangely-shaped islands, mountain ranges, mighty rivers—who knew what dreams these unknown lands might hide?

When I was a little older, I encountered a travel atlas, and maps took on a whole new meaning for me. They weren’t just pictures of where things were, I realized, but ways and plans to get from here to there. With the map, I could find all these places of mystery. It was more than realizing that other places existed—it was a sudden lightning flash of illumination that not only do these other places exist, but I could actually go to them.

Older still, out on my own and able to travel in my own car, and I had a travel atlas of my own. I am very proud of my own travel atlas. When I travel a new highway, I very carefully highlight that highway on my map. I want to know where I’ve been, of course, but even more so, I want to know where I have yet to go.

I see a map as something which tells a story. The lines on the map are symbols of journeys, and the journey is the story of a life—city to city, river to river, and all the fascinating stops in-between.

I know very little about my father’s family, but I sometimes suspect that they may have been of the Gypsy blood. For the road calls to me, and my heart yearns to follow—I wish to see the places I have never seen, the road that curves up and up through the highest mountains, the place where it slopes down to the western sea, the vast desert beneath the stars, woodlands and swamps and enormous prairies with their open sky-- small winding roads through small towns, the roads shaded gray in my travel atlas, the roads few people will travel. The road calls me to follow, to hear its story and the stories of all the lives who wander and intersect, and ever I seek to create this story, my own tale carefully marked out on the great map which is my life.

Friday, September 02, 2005


I have been avoiding TV coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans. I can imagine it far too vividly just from what I read in newspapers and on the web. I do not dare to look at the desolation reflected in the eyes of real people.

What haunts me is not the disaster itself, not the storm, the wind and rain flooding and destroying a vibrant city, not the people driven from their homes or the destruction of so many things. Nature is capricious. Such things do happen, and they are tragic.

What truly haunts me are the stories flying northward now, carried over wire and air and fiber-optic cable, stories of further devastation caused by humans.

Looting I expect. I do not care about looting. If people need food, fresh water, blankets, in cases like this, it is better in the hands of those who need it than stocking a store shelf waiting for a recovery that may never come.

Darker stories there are than of theft.

People are fighting, killing each other, raping each other. A sniper stood shooting people trying to evacuate a hospital. People have stolen guns and are trying to shoot at the police, the National Guard, and the emergency medical personnel.

I have no answers. I do not know why this is happening. A part of me points calmly to events in history, studies in sociology and psychology, of what happens when terror and stress take control of people who have nothing left. Another part of me recognizes this as evil and cries out in fear. And yet another part is kindled to bright fires of anger, but all of it together is confusion, wondering what I might do to help drive back this darkness of souls which threatens.

Because, you see, if it happens in New Orleans, it can happen anywhere. The fury of the storm itself will play out and end, every time. The descent into madness, though? Of that I cannot say.

Today where I am, the sky is a pure bright blue, the brightest blue of bright September. And yet it still seems dark today. The world is not what it was.

Abundant light and ordinary civilization are locked in battle with desperation, somewhere many miles to the south and in other cities all over the world.

And this is why I cannot watch the TV news. Hand me a sword and I will battle bravely, give me light and I will shine it, bring me those who are hurt and I will do what I can to comfort them. But I cannot bear to see the raging of those darkened souls reflected in those eyes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Fungal Omissions

One of the things my soon-to-be-ex has said to me several times is that he doesn’t know how many lies I’ve told him. My answer is always that if I was lying to anyone, it was myself. Anything I told him wrongly was an unfortunate side effect of my own self-delusion.

However, today as I was getting ready to go home from work, thinking about what I wanted for dinner, I realize that I did lie to him once—or at least, I omitted the full truth.

One of the meals I used to cook for us was chicken stroganoff. It’s really a very simple thing. Sauté some chicken pieces, let them simmer in the mix of water and sauce powder, add some sour cream at the end, and serve the whole thing over egg noodles. Very tasty! It’s one of my favorites, and he also seemed fond of it, which I considered fortunate because he is a very picky eater. He’s allergic to shellfish, so I certainly don’t blame him for avoiding that, but he also hates anything spicy, anything with mayonnaise, almost all fruits and vegetables, and most especially mushrooms. Oh, how he would gripe if I wanted mushrooms on anything! We had to order separate pizzas if I wanted veggie pizza—we couldn’t just get a medium with his toppings on one half and mine on the other, we had to get two smalls, because he didn’t want the mushrooms “corrupting” his pizza. Never have I seen a more burning hatred for any food item.

When my mom used to make stroganoff when I was a kid, she’d always include mushrooms in the sauce, but out of respect for my husband’s preferences I never did, even though I always kind of felt it was lacking without them. Not really a big deal.

Well, one day, I happened to look at the ingredient list on the sauce packet while the sauce was cooking. Powdered mushrooms???? Yes, the mushrooms were built right in to the sauce. Hmm. What to do? Should I tell him or not? He’d eaten it before and not noticed them, and if I did tell him he’d probably refuse to ever eat it again. So I never did tell him. I always felt a slight twinge of guilt about it, but I never told him.

They say that confession is good for the soul, and you know what? They’re right. I do feel better after getting that out. Thanks for reading.