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Showing posts from 2009

Janus Proceeds

Janus paused at the garden gate, his hand on the latch.
"Might we rest a while," he asked from the back of his head, "Must we hasten already to the next path?"

"every year," his front face grumbled. The great figure withdrew his hand from the gate and sighed. Resigned, he slumped onto the marble bench next to the path. Almost immediately, the uncleared snow began to melt and seep into his toga uncomfortably. He fidgeted in silence, looking simultaneously at the frozen garden around him and at the path beyond the gate.

At last, one face spoke, "I think you increase the pace every year, my fellow. We travel so fast, I fear we have not seen all there is to see. What wonders we may have missed! Perhaps, we should return?"

"Dude, we're a god. We saw it all."

Janus shrugged and gazed longingly backwards at the sandal tracks through the snow. It seemed so recent that they had crossed into this garden from the one before it. He recall…

Practical Positivity

The human mind has a way of finding what it seeks. Studies of the brain have revealed that most of the time, we don't really see all of what we see. Rather, our senses only catch glimpses of the world around us and allow our minds to fill in the gaps with guesses based on experience. There are hundreds of optical illusions and other mind tricks to prove this phenomenon, and the art of prestidigitation counts on it. So uncomfortable are we with the missing things in our perception, that our amazing brains construct something familiar to see us through. As a result, each of us lives in a world largely of our own making.
This very personal relationship to our environment can lead to some interesting perceptions. Nearly everyone has a funny story about a misheard song and how the comical lyric seemed to make sense in its own odd way. Faced with random patterns, we unconsciously seek pictures, often finding faces staring back at us. It can be unnerving for some, miraculous for o…

Silent Night

As Christmas approaches, here in the USA, we can expect to hear a number of familiar sounds. There are carols we know by heart, the ones we've sung since we were old enough to copy the phrases. Instantly, they carry us back to grade school performances, standing up in our stiff and scratchy finery before a sea of parents' proud faces. We hear new renditions of old favourites and songs we may not know that carry the unmistakable tone of Christmas just the same. Add to this the sound of bells. The full and resonant clangs of the charity collector's bell accompanied by seasonal greetings and thanks are a signal that the holiday is near. If you're lucky, a bell choir or the bright jingle of sleigh bells will tickle your ears and put you in a holiday mood. Crunching footfalls in the snow, children's laughter, and cheery "Merry Christmas" wishes will conjure Christmas in nearly any American's heart.
Unfortunately, grumbling has been added to the list …

Next

As blogs go, mine is a simple one. This is intentional as I think it suits the content. The essays you'll find here are basically an extension of the written journals I've kept over the years. The blog is just another box to stuff with thoughts and meditations, and though I may hope that others find them comforting or useful in their own lives, these thoughts are not meant to be a grand display. Bells and whistles were unnecessary.
Still, I love the flexibility Blogger offers, and I love even more seeing what people have done with it. Individuals and groups all over the world have used this tool to record their lives, to display their art, to imagine and to remember. There are photography blogs full of unique visions, poetry blogs of unique voices. Some have created simple diaries and others, elaborate scrapbooks celebrating an important event or endeavor. Still others use their blogs to keep in touch with loved ones while away at college or if their work has taken them…

Being Grandma

Every so often, it seems I encounter periods when everything I try to do goes wrong. I set out to do some simple task and run up against an obstacle that prevents me from completing it. Necessary tools go missing, things break, emergencies occur that draw immediate attention from the previous plan. And it all seems to happen over and over until I'm weary of the pattern. Nothing can be easy. Even the most basic of goals are a struggle, and frequently, I'm left feeling totally incompetent. At times like these, I realize that my greatest wish is to be like Grandma.
My Grandma was one of my earliest and best examples of a strong, capable woman. She raised two daughters, much of that time as a single parent. She ran a small business. She made a home for my family when my parents were having financial troubles. Later, she masterminded the construction of an extra bedroom for my older sister and me and helped to build it as well. Grandma was tough, resourceful, creative, th…

Losing my Voice

The people in my life know I rarely get sick. I do try to live a healthy lifestyle: I generally favor healthy food options, stay moderately active, keep aware of sources of contagion without being overly cautious of them. (Your body can't learn to fight germs, after all, if it never meets any.) All this helps to ward against what's going around, but I don't think I have any kind of super immunity.
The truth is I'm just stubborn. Colds come my way from time to time, and I just refuse to let them stop me. There's work to be done, and people depending on me. If I refused to get out of bed each time I had a stuffy nose, or a little pain, or I just didn't feel right, I would spend most of my life under the covers.

So, sniffles don't slow me down, and I suffer headaches without aspirin. In general, I'll let the pain deliver its message, weigh it, and decide to go on if I'm doing no further damage. As long as I'm not making it worse or risking s…

What Scares You

I don't go into haunted houses anymore, not the commercial kind at least. It's unfortunate in one sense because I love to see the special effects, the makeup and the creativity. Spooky stuff is fun. When it comes to movies, I've always liked the classic monsters and have a particular fondness for werewolves. Though I've never cared for the simple blood-and-gore slasher sort, a suspenseful, truly creepy horror film is a delight that can prompt spontaneous shivers for weeks. I'll even take a little gore if the context is worth it, as in the case of the comedic horror movies that spoof our traditional fare. So, why avoid the seasonal treat of a trip through a haunted house?

We'll start the explanation with a story. I guess I might have been about ten years old, sitting on a bench swing in the yard with my older sister. It was a late summer night and as dark and quiet as a secluded community with only a handful of street lights gets. The moon was full but v…

Roughing It

There is a certain amount of security and comfort in doing things the hard way. That may seem counter intuitive, but it's true.
Nobody likes trouble, and humankind is known for going to great lengths to make their lives easier. The easy way has its obvious attractions: less work, fewer problems, quicker rewards. Still, troubles will come your way unbidden from time to time, regardless of your choosing the easy road. Every person must deal with hardships at some point. Occasionally choosing to rough it prepares you for the unexpected and gives you peace of mind knowing that you are capable of handling those troubles.

There is often satisfaction in taking on a difficult goal and working to the solution. People do puzzles and read mysteries for just that reason. Human beings need to be challenged to be happy. Yet, I'm still faced with quizzical looks when I choose a tougher path.

Several years ago, I spent a week of vacation building a large terraced planter in the far corn…

Olympics Fan

If you look very closely at the photo on my profile (at the time of this post, because I might conceivably change it at some point) you might notice I'm wearing a "Chicago 2016" Olympic bid jacket. It's actually difficult to discern in the photo, but trust me, it's there. From this, you might deduce that I am
a) from the Chicago area b) an athlete or sports fan
But, you would only be half right. I do live near enough to Chicago that it is my reference about half the time when I talk about "the city," but sports never were my thing.

There's no antipathy toward sports or athletes. The truth is, I have a certain appreciation for it all. I'll watch from time to time when my husband has the Bears game on TV, and I politely smile and watch the replays when he points out an amazing catch or cheers a touchdown. His excitement gives it weight, but it's rare when I watch any sort of sport alone.

I've come to realize that I'm just not com…

Family Pictures

Close your eyes and imagine... No. That's not going to work. Now that you have your eyes closed, you can't read the rest of the post. We'll have to wait here until you get bored and peek...
OK. You're back. Let's try this again. Get your crayons and a fresh sheet of blank paper. If you have no crayons, then borrow some, or else you can draw with imaginary ones (just remember to open your eyes when you're ready to read again.) I want you to draw a picture of your family. That's right, just like kindergarten. Don't tell me you can't draw,either, because if perfection were the goal, I'd have asked for a photograph. This is crayon art, and what matters is the spirit you put in the lines.
When you've finished your masterpiece, hang it up on the refrigerator and look at it. Who's there? Is it the same collection of smiling stick figures you drew as a child? Most of us begin with the concepts of mother, father, sister, brother, whe…

A Short Story

Today, I took a train into the city to visit one of the museums there. The trip began before sun-up, my plan being to arrive just before the doors opened; So, my breakfast and morning intake of caffeine was minimal. After exploring one floor of artifacts, silently absorbing the art and dreams of bygone cultures, I decided to stop in the little cafe for a small cup of soup and a large one of coffee.
There was a group there, breaking for lunch in the middle of their visit, and somehow my meal ended up tacked onto their bill. We recognized the mistake immediately, but the leader of the group, concerned about the look of anxiety that flashed across the cashier's face, cheerfully agreed to cover the mistaken charge. It surprised me, and I repeatedly offered to pay him for my meal, but he wouldn't have it. All I could give was my thanks.

Now, I have made similar gestures myself on occasion, and I know others who make a sport of anonymously paying for lunch or groceries for unsusp…

One Small Thing Now

This morning, I was amused by the irony that it has taken me so long to write this post on procrastination. The idea has been ripening in the back of my mind for some time, but the words just never fell into place. Every time I sat down to write, I found other things to do.
It's strange how the desire to do something the right way can prevent you from doing it at all. Fear of missteps keeps your foot off the path, or the knowledge that you may never finish the journey keeps you from ever starting. Sometimes you plan or dream, but wait for the circumstances to align before you take the leap. It's the wise thing to do. Pick your moment. You'll be better equipped to get the job done. You'll be able to do the most good. But, while you wait, opportunities slip by. Inaction can swallow up a life.

It's common enough in writing. Obviously, I fall into the trap now and then, and many of my friends who write have confessed to writer's block, stalling for months …

Forgiveness

Compassion should not be restricted only to those we feel deserve it. This is a hard lesson to learn, particularly when we think about those who have personally wronged us. Forgive your enemies. Turn the other cheek. These may seem like platitudes spoken only by those who have never really been hurt. But, the wisdom and the practice of forgiveness grows its strongest roots in those who have been wronged. Such offenses and injuries can be great teachers of compassion if you only see the opportunity.
There are lessons to be learned in contemplating our wounds, and they begin with this: holding on to bitterness is a wound of its own, and it is a self-inflicted one. Refusing to forgive only keeps the offense alive, allows it to fester and scar, and closes your spirit to all hope of healing. You may think that withholding forgiveness is some sort of revenge on your offender, but often they either don't realize it or don't care, and all you do is poison yourself with the act…

Finish Lines

One of our daughters is earning her B.A. this summer. I suppose it's the sort of thing that happens all the time. Summers are full of graduation celebrations, and it is, after all, the aim of every university to put diplomas in the hands of most of their students. Our daughter's story, while not unique, is certainly notable, though. She is the first in my branch of the family tree to earn one.
While my sisters and I, my mother and grandmother all completed high school, and some have even taken college level courses, none have finished with a degree. More common in my family are stories like my father's. He quit seventh grade in order to go to work and help support his family. My great-grandmother had only a year or two of formal schooling before she had to devote herself to the farm. None of these dropouts stopped learning. All recognized the value of education and sought out opportunities to learn. Dad filled notebooks with equations figuring air speed and lift a…

Inviting Serendipity

"What are we having for dinner?" he asks.
"I hadn't planned anything. Who are we feeding?"
"It's just us tonight."
"Oh, we should be able to throw something together from what we have lying around. There's leftovers from earlier in the week and some canned stuff..."
"Hmm. I'm kinda hungry now. Do you want to order a pizza or go out?"
"That would be OK, I guess."
"OK, pizza or restaurant?"
"What do you feel like?"
"I asked you. What do you want?"
"I don't know. What do you feel like having?"
"I don't know. You want Italian or Chinese or something else?"
"Anything is fine."
"Fine? Not great? What do you really want?"
"Seriously, anything is fine. It's all good."
"But what do you want? Something has to be better than the rest. Pick a restaurant."
>sigh< "Well, I guess we'll want to go someplace cl…

Imaginary Friends

I went to the zoo with Lord Byron once. I was standing there, looking through the glass to see polar bears swimming under water when I suddenly realized he was next to me, entranced as much by the window as the world it looked in on. He marvelled a while at the powerful beasts, familiar in many ways but at the same time so different from the old black bear he had kept as a pet. Lost in thought, the poet seemed to contemplate the two sides of the bear: one, serene, free and natural; the other, caged and dangerous. A soft sigh was the only hint of his melancholy before the wonder of it all overtook him again.
My companion had seen zoos before. He had kept quite a menagerie himself at different stages of his life, even travelling with a small flock of geese in his carriage for a time. But this modern zoo was so unlike the zoos of his time. There were no bars, no small cramped cages. The animals here were well-tended, given room to roam, and had the companionship of others of thei…

Boxes

Have you ever needed to move in a hurry - packed your boxes with only the most general sense of order, or worse yet, completely randomly? You may have started with the best intentions, but by the time you get where you're going, you end up unpacking a box that yields both toilet paper and forks. It made sense when it went in there. It might take weeks to find something you can't live without, but you quickly locate a large supply of nuts and bolts to furniture you no longer own. Sometimes, a cherished possession ends up lost forever. You'll always have a tiny frail hope that it will turn up one day (though you may have searched every box,) but you sadly have to content yourself with just the memory of it.

Welcome to my mind.

The attic of my mind is crammed full of boxes. Boxes on top of boxes. Some of their cardboard sides bulge out to accomodate the bulkier thoughts and memories. Some sag with the weight of them. There are new boxes here, supported by old musty ones patched…

Blessed with Misfortunes

Recently, I confessed to a pen pal that I had been struggling with a little depression a few letters back. I described to her the steps I had taken to shake it off and apologized if my mood had filtered into the letter. We correspond through audiotape, so I was particularly concerned about the infectious nature of vocal tone, and I also didn't want her worrying about me. The recording is just a point in time and not representative of the whole roundness of things as I've described in earlier posts.

My friend responded with astonishment. "Your voice is always so cheerful and positive," she explained, "I didn't think you got depressed about many things."

The truth is, everyone gets depressed. There is some comfort in that. We are all united in the experience. We can let go of any self-defeating feelings of inadequacy at our lack of perfect happiness because they're all based on illusion. Everyone feels sad or lonely or small. Everyone gets frustrated an…