Tuesday, October 27, 2009

fast and blue

I pull into my drive and am accosted by a 9 year old. "Mimi!" she shrieks. She is very loud. "Mimi! Can you guess what I'm going to be for Hallowe'en?"

I guess. A princess? "No! Guess again."

A witch? "No! Guess again!"

A dog? Clearly this is going to be a long conversation.

Give me a clue. "Okay, it is blue."

I know! A smurf!

Complete confusion covers her face. "What's a smurf?" Note picture on left.

Well give me another clue. "It's blue. And it's fast. Mimi! You KNOW what it is!" But sadly I do not know. Superman? Is he blue? He is fast.

But of course I can't land on the right character. Finally she looks at me in disgust. "Blue. Fast. Haven't you ever heard of Sonic Hedgehog?"

Shaking her head in disbelief she walks away.

Come by for candy! I call to her, bleakly...standing there in the distant past, in smurf-land.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


It's been good year for rhubarb. There's hardly a yard in Canada that doesn't have a rhubarb plant sprouting up as soon as summer comes. But in Kentucky I had to work to have a rhubarb plant. The problem is heat. Heat and dryness... rhubarb needs cold nights and lots of wet. This summer was rhubarb heaven here... not exactly cold but cool nights and lots of rain.

So today I harvested my plant for (possibly) the last time. I came in with a great pile of strong red stalks and no real idea what to do. I know how to make a fabulous rhubarb custard pie but I needed more. I started through my cookbooks and found a pie or two, but not much. Then I came upon a cookbook called "Schmecks Appeal" written by a group of German women and given to me in the late 80's.

Schemcks Appeal has a WHOLE CHAPTER simply and beautifully titled "Rhubarb." Included in the collection of recipes for everything from stews to punch to coffee cakes is woven tales of great rhubarb feasts and funny occurrences. Friends tell stories about friends.

I had forgotten how much I love this kind of old German farm women who cackle like hens with roaring laughter, are undaunted by any problem and who can create meals that take an hour to eat. These are not ultra thin babes with 25 pairs of shoes. They may indeed have ten pairs of boots, but they are some kind of beautiful plain folk.

Not that these women can't really 'put it on' if they so choose. They know what beauty is, and they have resources. The thing is though, that they think not much is more beautiful than a kid with a big smile on his face, or an afternoon of work with a friend and a truck load of laughing. (Often at men.)

So my rhubarb is taking me on a walk back to visit Elizabeth and Martha and Bernice and Ruth. I hope someday my granddaughters have a rhubarb moment with me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Birthday boy

My kid Ben is 32 this coming weekend. I sent him a box to Indonesia and it arrived in ten days - which makes me endlessly happy. The boxes are always opened but nothing seems to be taken. Beautiful.

Also can I say that Ben and Kari have two of the most fabulous kids... who I am currently loving with candy and treats - but that must change. I hear Kari's folks are traveling to see them for New Year's which makes me just a tiny bit jealous.

Kari is running in a marathon in Malaysia on the 22nd. The family will travel there and wait for her at the finish line. I can't wait til little Flo runs a marathon with her mom. First she has to get through the baby fat stage. smile. Blaise is spider-man so he could probably just fly alongside.

Our people are what matters most, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No takers, huh?

So... no takers on yesterday's blog. That's okay. Perhaps it is too hard an issue.

Last night big Steve and I came to see Afrizo, (means African Zone) a nine person singing group from the Daystar University in Nairobi. They were led by a woman of 'traditional build' (as McCall Smith would describe her in "Ladies Detective Agency)whose sound and personality filled the room.

At one time in the performance the group moved through the audience, singing over and around people who mostly curled into themselves (and admittedly, the group had little sense of 'personal space,' embarrassed and awkward. With one shining exception. A Korean family with three small children were there... and when the group (still singing loudly and with passion) paused there, the children reached out their hands, fascinated, and the Africans responded ... and a lovely cross cultural moment happened. The children, in simplicity, were able to receive the gift of song, like few of us adults had.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


A woman friend wrote this little poem about her friend's struggle and I found it to be very visceral.

I watched you self-destruct

today when your disease consumed

your judgment

your reason

your bones

your steps

and that too familiar glaze manifested

in your childlike eyes before it snapped

like a light switch and turned on

the woman who handed you
the truth the rest of us can’t
or is that simply you
because I can't find
where your disease ends
and you begin

It was fifteen years ago when I first encountered an eating disorder in a dear friend of mine. As she destroyed her body she destroyed something inside all of us who were close to her. In her desperation she became a weapon of sorts and the shrapnel from her exploding soul still remains in small pieces inside me.

Another friend of mine who understands alcoholism told me that often the alcoholic who has acted destructive doesn't remember the incident ... it is the people around him/her that hold the memory. I think any addictive disorder has this element of putting the pain onto others.

We are connected to each other more profoundly than we sometimes allow. We are constantly receiving form from others, and donating form to them. In other words, what I am changes you, and what you are changes me. Who we are, matters.

As I've aged I have come to know that I can do hardly anything to change someone else's life, and certainly almost nothing to influence their choices. Many people ask for advice, few take it. Maybe that is just as well. But I have also come to believe that if I keep facing toward my own health, my own wellness, then I become, simply, a peaceful presence. This is what it means to refuse to cooperate with the dysfunction/manipulation. I think this is also the way to be of help.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Meg's book

If you want to be absolutely delighted, click on my daugher's blog, "Fresh Coffee on the Front Porch" and read ... my 9 yr old Meg is writing a book, chapter by chapter, and it is being posted on the blog. (Don't tell her but I am going to publish it for her for Christmas!) (Meg is the one on the right!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


More than one friend thinks the blog on Today's Christian Woman was a REAL interview...come on friends! It is comedy~!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Me 'n my IPod

I am listening to MY music. I am loving this! I almost want to cry. This is so fabulous!

I know - I know - it took me a month to get it up and going but I have seen the light! I have drunk the cool-aid!


Sunday, October 11, 2009

When Bad things Happen to Good People

This excerpt from a helpful interview might add to your social wisdom. Today's Christian Woman is interviewing Dr. Phil.

TCW - Traveling can cause people to spend time without a lot of private space. I have a friend who, when tightly seated by a handsome and proudly dressed man might have accidentally let a small indiscretion of air release from her body. What would you say, Dr. Phil, is the best way to handle this type of situation?

Dr. Phil - Well, there are several approaches often taken. These things can happen to anyone, and people understand that. I'm sure there was no offense.

TCW - Well, my friend said that it was pretty bad. Perhaps not everyone will be so understanding.

Dr. Phil - In that case I always suggest that people own their lives and simply smile and apologize.

TCW - That might be more than every traveller can manage. Is it okay to simply look out the window, and perhaps open the in-flight magazine with vigor to move the air around a bit?

Dr. Phil - Well, certainly, that might help. Air can get caught between those tightly packed seats.

TCW - How about the commiseration strategy?

Dr. Phil - You mean, look at your seat mate, role your eyes and tip your head toward the man sitting in the seat in front of you? I think that would be a socially acceptable move, and certainly you are going to build some camaraderie with your seat mate.

TCW - My friend said she was going to try that but the man beside her was leaning out into the isle, casually covering his face with his hand. She couldn't really catch his eye.

Dr. Phil - Sometimes people do lean away from situations, but that simply reveals their own weakness. I hope your friend wasn't too crushed by this rejection.

TCW - Certainly she coped. I have one more question - a significant one. My friend wanted to know. She wondered why it was so hard to keep her poise - she said she looked out the window and couldn't stop laughing. In fact, the more she tried the more she laughed. The question is, how does a mature person find herself with this obvious lack of decorum?

Dr. Phil - This is an epistemological issue, pondered in many a philosophy debate. In fact, it might be a good topic for a whole issue of TCW.

TCW - thank you Dr. Phil. This has been so helpful. I myself have never had anything like this happen to me, but my friend has, and she is going to be greatly helped to know her options.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Nine - two more sleeps

Reg and Jo Johnson came to join us for the end of this retreat and it was great to sit and listen to Reg this morning. He is a freedom maker, a gentle grace giver if ever there was one. Jo is great too - her real name is Diane ... wonder how that happened?

Ended up with a migraine yesterday - maybe it was the hours in the sun the day before - under the umbrella and well sun screened, but it was pretty bright. Today I have to dig deep to find energy - kind of on the other end of the migraine but gratefully going in the right direction.

Only two more sleeps til I am home - I have realized that although there are some glorious places on this earth, the place I most love to be is in my own home, putzing through life with Steve. And Walter the girl. I hope Steve is rubbing her belly every day. If not she will be in bad humor for about two weeks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day Eight

Didn't get to the beach today - until the very last end of the sunset which is hot pink swirled around with breezes and birds. I am having trouble finding the heart to interact deeply for three more days.

I am now going to watch House - I want to see another dysfunctional person to take my mind off myself. smile

PS High in my home city, Calgary - 32F and low, 9F.

Day Eight Still Dark Outside

I got up at five this morning thinking I would walk back to the ocean and try to find my glasses before all the walkers trod on them. I walked to the water's edge and sat on the lump of sand I sat on last night - and had a little think. I thought about Habakkuk (a Biblical prophet) who lived in a terrible time, and his conclusion was that 'though the fig tree doesn't bloom and the stalls are empty, I will wait for God.'

My prayers went the same direction. As important as my glasses are, they are not ultimate. And other things - like Vince getting a real job - that is not all of life.

So I prayed there in the dark, realizing that the tide had come up and washed away all the flotsam around the pile of sand, and even if I were to find my glasses now, if they've been tangled in the sand they are useless. I prayed thanksgiving - that even if I don't find my glasses, and even if Vince doesn't easily find a job (this was symbolic of all the waiting prayers I have in my heart) I will still wait for God, and praise Him. He is my God after all.

And then I decided to come in, since it was dark out and what was the point of sitting there in the dark. And I got up and turned around and... there were my glasses, a bit sandy but perfectly whole.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day Seven postscript

Funny I called today lost and found. Tonight i watched a movie that made me sad so I walked out to the ocean to sit on the sand and just think. Maybe be comforted. I notice the stars and lay on my back to see a bigger sky. I take my glasses off to see the clear sky - and hook them into my shirt.

When I get back to the hotel I realize they are gone. I go to the front desk and borrow a flashlight and walk the little route I had travelled, twice. Alas, no luck.

So will they be found? The day is ending in a way that is challenging my calmness... again.

Day seven - lost and found

I lost my wallet today. The one with cards in it. I found it. In a drawer with shirts ... I guess I stuffed it in there when I was emptying out my purse. Also lost my cash... but found it too. So I guess I haven't really lost anything. Don't know why I mention it.

Happy to say neither seeming loss made me frantic. I stayed calm. And I found my lost articles.

One of the men attending the retreat only wrote one 'rule' for his life: to be calm. The three sub-points were: to let other people live their own lives, to not push and try to change everything, to fight for calm and not control when things get bad. And he has had some big stuff go bad. Interestingly, he was a very happy guy.

This fits with Epiphany's (where I studied) adage to 'never push against the pace of grace.' Sometimes we push because we can't find the grace. And sometimes we see the grace and it isn't enough. And sometimes we are just so busy fixing our own stuff we don't even consider that grace might be at work somewhere in it all.

As beautiful as it is here, I haven't been very peaceful. Our work has been fruitful, but really, I have just been waiting til I could leave.

Today I spent the whole day (most of it) by the edge of the ocean. I put up my little umbrella and opened my chair and plunked down. Between sits I floated in the ocean... which was warm and clear and fish filled. And I read a whole book.

I also played a game. I would locate a massive school of fish and hang around in it, until a sea bird dived down and hit the water within feet of me, and I watched the whole thing from front row seats.

See, today I looked for grace.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day Six - muggy with food

First, let me report that by the pool today the women I had fun with yesterday would not let me go without answering their questions. The big one was ... who the heck are you? The woman who had used my lawn chair told me it was the nicest thing anyone had EVER done for her. It was beautiful and sad, really. She was adamant that I had done such a huge thing. Really it was so small.

The retreat ended tonight with a dinner on the beach ... pretty glorious really ... the sun set as we ate. I think I ate three lobster tails and a hunk of prime beef perfectly grilled over live coals (so it had a crunchy roasted outside and a hot pink middle - could cut it with a fork.) And a few huge shrimp with red sauce ... and maybe a large slice of cheese cake. I'm not sure. Sounds impossible. But that might have happened. There must have been a vegetable in there somewhere. I can't be sure - it was dark out.

Afterward I was feeling pretty hot - well, sweaty, actually, so I walked behind some tall grass and pulled my polyester slip off from under my beach dress (trying not to pull a Lady Diana) and put my feet in the surf for a few minutes. Warm and clear ... I felt like running out into the water.

All in all I remember why I do this thing ... the participants are so beautifully restored, have a plan to make small but significant changes in their lives, are inspired to step back into the fray. The retreats couldn't happen without someone hosting and leading - and that is my role. Ginny does all the administration.

It would be a perfect end to my day if there was a nice juicy murder on TV.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day Five ps

So after I wrote my last blog this happened:

I was sitting on my beach chair watching the waves and waiting for dinner time when we will eat as a group on the deck ... it will be nice.

Three older women (maybe 60 ish?) wander down to the water close to where I sit. The oldest and heaviest one sits on the sand, and the other two go into the waves and surf the waves, laughing uproariously.

I have an impulse. To suggest to the older lady to sit in my chair - the sand is not comfortable for a heavy older person. And then go into the water and ask the other women if I can play with them.

No that is stupid. But it would be fun. Here I sit all docile and boring. Why not. Oh I can't. Oh why not. I should. I will be mad at myself if I don't. Okay. This might work. It might not.

So I get up and invite the woman to sit in my chair. She is grateful.

I go into the water and immediately the women invite me into their conversation - we laugh as the waves toss us around. We talk a bit about health care. We look for sand dollars.

After we part, laughing, they return and invite me to come to dinner with them. I can't of course, but I feel like a kid who has just made a friend. Because I got off my chair. Because I followed an impulse. I laughed. I've experienced the ocean in a way I wouldn't alone. I feel darned happy.

Day Five. Impossible

I am walking back to my room after having lunch with a couple from the retreat and see a lovely sight. Outside the window, amid palm trees and wood chips and exotic flowers, in a place forbidden to tourists, clambers a boy of about 5, intent on his task.

He is bent over, still for a second and then lurching forward, completely unaware that he has broached the demarcation line of civility - repeatedly crashing and crushing through the resort landscaping.

What is holding his attention is a lizard of unusual size. (Remember the ROUS-es from Princess Bride?) Well, not that big, but a pretty big one. Over and again - the lizard holds still and the boy lunges and the lizard springs away. I know for a fact that this boy is not going to catch this lizard. But HE does not know it and he keeps at it. The moment literally glows with his intent on the kill.

I think about this tow-headed kid and how we lose the ability to try the impossible. We scan our options and discount a whole bunch of them because, "I can't do that," or "I can't have that in my life." Maybe there are things we could do that elude us simply because we don't think we can.

I for one hope no one says to that boy, 'Get out of there. You can't be there. You can't catch that!" Let him go to sleep imagining the big one that got away and hoping for another go at it tomorrow.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day Four ...ps

Weirdest moment. I am sitting on my little beach chair, and a young handsome man, kind of a young Desi Arnez, struts out of the surf carrying a very small baby - maybe a couple months old. I think, Oh, a dad. Sweet.

So as he walks right past me, close enough that the baby is dripping on me, I smile my grandmotherly smile and say, "Does she like the water?"

I think he misheard me.

His face lights up. In slightly broken English he rapsodizes, "Oh eet was so wonderful! I tuk my bathing suit off and swim without anything between me and zee water - eet was the first time I've done that and Oh! was SO wonderful! The water was feeling so good!"

Meanwhile the baby is hanging over his arm like a sack of wet towels.

"Oh yes! Being in zee water without anything was so egg-citing! Have you tried it yes?"

And he smiles the biggest possible smile.

And I smile a stupid kind of smile and say, "Oh good!" And "Ah, good!" And "Sure!"

So that was it. The weirdest part of my day.

Day Four. The Breeding Pool

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing for sale on the Florida coast that could make me cute on the beach. But I have also come to realize that as I am no longer in the 'breeding pool' my attire, and appearance, is of little consequence.

Abandoning wardrobe shopping, today I made a singular purchase that will put my week on a new trajectory. I bought a little folding beach chair in hot pink, and a stripped six foot beach umbrella. Situated right by the water where I can hear the constant churning waves and the laughter, radio music, old ladies conversations etc. - I find I am happy. It is a very Marilyn way of being by the sea.

I sit in my little cocoon of shade, book in hand and watch the dance of the breeding pool. I have only to look six feet to the right and into the surf. Two girls in black bikinis are practicing doing handstands and cartwheels in the shallow water - clearly they are of cheer-leading caliber. I can, then, not help but notice as the focus of the beach hones in like a laser beam. A man beside me stands up from where he lay beside his baking woman and saunters down to the water and stares while pretending not to stare. Dads put babies in peril as their eyes are taken captive, old men walking jauntily tripped over their feet attempting to make their necks swivel to a degree humanly impossible. (What is it about a lithe, tanned young woman in a string bikini standing upside down with her legs spread at inhuman angles that is so sexual?)

I watch all this, wearing my own beach attire like an embarrassment, but fully satisfied that NO ONE is looking at me.

The most dignified woman on the beach is a slim Muslim woman in long pants, long sleeves and a full head wrap of silky cream, sitting poised in the shade. I don't really want her outfit, but it certainly has its merits. Her modesty has taken her out of the breeding pool as well. She retains the dignity most of my western friends have so easily and completely discarded.

So I take a dip in the pool and slosh upstairs to the third floor to shower off and change. After so many Sundays of constant work this day is pretty darned close to being a sabbath.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day Three. Men should not wear speedos.

There is much to see on the beach. MUCH more than anyone could reasonably wish to see. Such is my experience today as I observe not one or two, but many older men in very flimsy bikini bottoms. I just have to say that to get it out of my mind.

I think if you ask most people here they would say they are having a good time on St Pete's beach. I'm sure more than a little money has been invested in them being here. But not many people look happy. Most don't look happy at all.

There are a few glorious exceptions of course. Occasionally I hear uproarious laughter coming from the pool or ocean side... and if I manage to sidle up and listen the common theme is a funny anecdote about embarrassment or awkwardness. I have to laugh into my book or towel as I take in the hilarity. I like those moments very much.

I find I am quite diminished by my Steve not being here. He isn't a really good vacationer... kind of a poop really. But I am quite used to his poop-y-ness and it suits me. The other kind of person I could use here right about now is a girlfriend (you know who you are!) with a sense of the absurd would would help me make quiet but deliberate fun of some of the oddities - like the old men in thin little potato sacks.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day Two. Mindfulness.

I believe that wherever we are at any moment, whatever is happening, is precisely the raw material for grace. But we can march past a lot of grace before we realize we've must have missed something.

The present moment is the only real time we have. And life is about time, if it is about anything at all. Today my time is spent in Florida watching people, well, use time.

All day I had a sense of crumbling. The peach hotels with plaster dolphins and blue rinse fountains ... crumbling.

Bodies crumbling too. A young woman with a serious disease holding her little boy who laughs into her eyes. Crumbling. A lumpy old man with a horrible scar on his face, lumbering along with who is probably a daughter. A heavy set, powerful looking man of about fifty strutting down the beach with a baby skinned beauty. Hotels with signs that plead for customers. A thousand lost golf balls. All crumbling.

I wonder if I am seeing rightly, or if I am projecting feelings my mother, always an immigrant farmer's daughter, passed on to me. That the world we walk so solidly in is, really, just a flim flam.

Not sure. I will eat some shrimp by the pool and think about it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day one. Florida.

Travel. Packing my suitcase is one of the least pleasant things I ever do. And walking out of my home is the other.

I hate to pack. I am not one of these people who can pack 4 1/2 outfits for six days - I don't know what my mood will be, what my waist will need in terms of accommodation, what my sense of style will demand. I always fail to pack what I will want to wear. I think my clothes don't suit other places. Maybe it is that I don't suit other places. At home I feel confident and well dressed and relaxed, but I don't automatically feel that in other places... even if I am dressed the same.

And then there is the issue of summer wear. What does a person wear in heat? I still don't have that one right. Mostly I think I will just dress and forget myself as I have learned to do.

But I still hate packing. I grumble and fuss and throw things in the suitcase and hate every bit of it.

And then I walk out of the house. I always wonder if I will come back ... I love being in my home. With my Steve. I love the old couch where I sit with coffee balanced on the arm. I love the cat hair. I love the garden that needs so much fall work. I have not been home long enough and alone enough to even wear junky clothes for the last month or two. Always just pausing til the next thing or person.

I am going to think on these things over the next two weeks. And I am going to swim. Every day. That is the plan.