Archive for the 'Grace' Category


Home is where your….

We put our house on the market today. We actually bought a house in the city where Husband works (an hour away) at the end of November, but, for professional reasons, was keeping pretty quiet about it until recently. He’s been commuting that hour for 11 years, so we thought it was time.

The funny thing is, we were looking at houses on Zillow for a year, and weren’t finding much that we were really interested in. The house we ended up buying I actually saw last April, and sent the link to it in an email to Husband with just the line “This might be the house.” He didn’t reply (I think it was finals week), so I thought, “okay, it’s not the house,” and moved on. Five months later it popped up again because of a price drop. The week I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It did not seem like a good time to buy a house, but Husband did, in fact, think it was The House,* so buy it we did. (*Told ya’.)

As you can imagine, we’ve been very busy. Refinishing the floors in the new house (all oak or pine); decluttering this house; moving the decluttered clutter into the basement of the new house (where we will no longer call it “clutter,” it will, again, be “our stuff”); cleaning up this house. It’s never looked so fine. Of course, if I want to find my extra iphone power cord or my silk robe I’m going to have a hard time because there are four unlabeled boxes in the basement (actually, one of them is labeled “Surgical Stuff and Purple Things” for all you M*A*S*H fans out there) .

But that’s not why I’m writing today. Long intro, I know.

As any of you who have sold a house or bought a house or moved house know, such occasions prompt reflection. About who you were when you moved in and how that compares with who you believe yourself to be now. About the nature and joys and frustrations of fixing up a house and the sadnesses of leaving it behind. About the Christmas mornings, and hockey games watched on TV in the living room, the whispered (or not) fights in the bedroom late in the night, the first days of school and the day you finally quit the job that had been making you nuts for months. About the mornings you rush out the door with BelVita crackers and a banana in your bag because that’s all you have time for and the night you and Husband made a 3-course authentic Thai meal for just the two of you. About the childhood fevers and common colds and hysterectomy and stents and breast cancer and the healing that takes place when people who love each other take care of each other.

When I first saw this house, in May of 2007, I was at the end of a 20-year marriage; moving in with two of my children, barely able to afford the payment and the frugal life I was trying to lead. Shaky, and broke, and hopeful. I had barely any furniture, and many of the walls were an ugly color and there was so much to be done, so much to become.

A little more than a year later, the man I now call Husband (well, to you), moved in. He brought an Aga stove and his grandmother’s furniture, and we embarked on the beginning of a marriage. So much we knew, and so much we didn’t. We knew how much we loved each other, we knew what we wanted this marriage to be. We had no idea how hard any of it would be.

I look back sometimes and it feels like I scrabbled my way up a dusty, rocky mountaintop wearing ripped jeans and falling apart Keds and using just my fingernails for climbing tools, sometimes dangling by not-strong-enough fingertips, sometimes hiding behind a rock in the rain eating the last crumbling biscuit in my jacket pocket and hoping the rescue helicopter would find me soon.

But I also see a life well lived. Meals prepared together and laundry folded together and conversations late into the night. Laughing so hard over a “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker about Debussy’s La Mer, or reading “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly” to a group of friends around our dinner table and trying not to cry. Coffee brought and feet rubbed and shoulders leaned on. Dogs cuddling on the couch and Mahler blasting on the speakers. Nights in the hot tub under beautiful skies at 10˚ below. Beautiful travertine and bamboo floors installed with money I inherited from my Grandma. A bright and light-filled conservatory half paid for with money I inherited when my mom died after a five-year battle with brain cancer. Rooms Husband and I painted, sometimes more than once, and a pizza oven and patio we put in ourselves, proving that married people can work together. My daughter grew up here — she’s 18 and will go off to college soon; a force to be reckoned with, a shining light. A humble home nestled in the woods, surrounded by vinca and perennials and grass somebody should cut more often.

Every room is filled with our lives.

I would like just to take the joy with me, and to leave the emotional cobwebs and struggles of the past buried here somewhere; not in the basement, that would be haunting and weird, but maybe out in the woods, or in some kind of ceremony over the fire-pit out back. Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea.

New chapters, clean slates, fresh starts.

It is time.



happy haiku

Benign were benign.
Malignancy, wide margins.
All lymph nodes are clear.






counting the yays

Genetics came back — testing 42 (I think) genes for possible links to known cancer predispositions.

They all came back negative.


I’ve also been incredibly moved by the number of people who have responded to my first post about all of this, and to my message on facebook. I still kind of feel like

200w_d cancer.

But the “yays” are piling up, for which I am incredibly grateful.


screenwriting 101

Someone should write a movie scene, where a woman walks into a large room, wearing an extremely awkwardly-proportioned hospital gown (whose neck is 23” in circumference, anyway? And why are all hospital gowns designed for this person?), climbs up on a table, drapes her breasts through two openings in a plastic frame that looks a bit like a lobster trap, sticks her arm out for an IV, and then gets sent back into a large metal barrel upon which 20 dwarves bang with sledge hammers for 40 minutes.

I think this would be a very powerful scene.

They should then follow up with the same woman going to get her genetics testing lab work done and encountering a young woman in her 20s with a fantasmagoric scar on one side of her head and no hair, holding a sign declaring that this is her last radiation treatment, and beaming with joy thereto. 

Perspective anyone?

Another reminder of how grateful I should be. 



Putting things into perspective

At 3:40 in the morning on Tuesday, January 19, I was awoken by my husband calling to me from the floor. As I sat up and leaned over to respond, he got to his hands and knees and crawled over to the bed and put his head on the mattress, but seemed to be completely unable to come any further.

As he kept saying “I need to tell Sheri” (I’m Sheri) “that I fell on the floor,” over and over again, I worried that he had had a stroke.

Repeated attempts to get him to come up on to the bed failed, so I went out into the hall and called to some friends who had come in from out of town the night before to see if they could come help me. We managed to get him up on the bed, and he was able to look at me and talk and squeeze both of my hands, so I thought maybe it wasn’t a stroke after all. Then he told me that he needed to tell Sheri that he had had chest pains and while trying to take his pulse he had apparently fainted. There was blood on his lip and a split in the skin over his eyebrow, so it seemed clear that he had hit the floor pretty hard.

I called 911, gave him an aspirin per instructions, unlocked the door and turned on the porch light, and went back to sit with him and wait for the EMTs, during which time I made repeated calls (unanswered) to his cardiologist who is also a good friend.

Four people arrived — first, two firemen, who asked him some questions, had him smile and stick out his tongue (no stroke); then two EMTs with an ambulance who took a pulse, and ran a quick EKG which showed a mild arrhythmia but not enough to “require” a trip to the ER, although the EMT recommended it.

Our friends and I thought that would be a good idea, and he agreed, which kind of convinced me this was pretty serious, as he would generally resist such an idea, so off he went in the ambulance, and I followed with one of the friends in our car. The other stayed home with Second Son, StepSon, and Only Daughter.

We spent almost 6 hours in the ER while they monitored his heart rate, and took periodic blood tests for Troponin (sp?), the enzyme thrown off by the heart if there is a heart attack (all negative). He was then sent to the cardiac observation unit, so that they could do one more Troponin test and monitor things for the day.

He was allowed to move around, so we walked up and down the halls for a while, him walking his IV pole. His manner of speaking still seemed different from usual — not as different as in the first few minutes, when he didn’t seem to realize to whom he was talking, but still different — more monotone, at a slightly higher pitch. We observed people of many ages in beds, a young man in what seemed to be a 50% body cast walking (?) down the hall with crutches and family flanking him on all sides. We nodded to the resident who had come and asked him some questions already, heard rumors of the cardiologist’s impending arrival.

Six hours later (now 4:30 p.m.) the attending cardiologist, the resident, two students and nurse appeared in his room, where the doctor reported many lengthy conversations with Husband’s cardiologist friend and between the doctors at the (very excellent) hospital.

Many theories presented themselves, none with clearly obvious affirmative answers. Husband had an abnormal stress test in the fall, but only at the highest pulse rate they were willing to push him to. Perhaps a plaque had broken loose and blocked an artery, but there were no indications of heart attack and he had no physical symptoms of blockage — his pulse was good, his color was good, he wasn’t short of breath, the pain had been in his chest only, not radiating to chin, arms, shoulders, etc. Perhaps the pain had caused a vaso-vagal response, but there had been no moments of dizziness or nausea — he was conscious taking his pulse, then he was coming to on the floor. The attending’s theory was that there had been an arrhythmia, which might have caused fainting. The arrhythmia might be caused by some partial blockages, and the only way to know that for sure was to go to heart catheterization, so that was where we were going. Now.

So we went.

Thirty minutes later he’s in the cath lab, shaved and mildly sedated, and I’m in the waiting room.

For two hours.

And for one of them basically alone, as the routine procedures were over for the day, so the status board was shut off, then the woman at the desk went home. So I sat. And knitted. And texted people back who were checking in. And tried to decide if I had time to go get something to eat (had four bites of breakfast 8 hours earlier or so). And waited.

Granted, midway I did get a report from the nurse that they had placed one stent and were “trying” (?!?) to place another.

Finally he was on his way back. I went back into the pre-procedure room and waited; I could hear him talking to the nurse as they came down the hall, and he actually sounded much more like himself. When he saw me, though, there were a few tears in his eyes, and he reported on the surreal nature of undergoing a procedure on your heart while you can hear them talking about what they’re doing and what they’re going to do next and shouting orders to assistants and you can feel twinges deep within your chest as they run wires and place stents. Four were placed — one in one artery that had a 90% occlusion; three in a very complicated and zig-zaggy artery that had an 80% occlusion. There were pictures, of the before-and-after persuasion, which were fascinating; and a third artery with 70% occlusion that they left as is — he had already been in the procedure for two hours, and many doctors don’t seem to feel that stenting a 70% occlusion is a good idea.

Of course he was then admitted. As the procedure requires them to employ blood thinners, the cuts on his lip and eyebrow reopened and bled, and bled, and bled; the small contusion on his eyebrow swelled to golf-ball size proportions, and the lovely purple eye-shadow on his upper lid became a full-blown black eye. I sat by his bedside and dabbed blood from his lip for hours, and he tried valiantly to keep an ice pack on his very painfully swollen brow.

We slept, eventually, I on a marginally comfortable couch-like structure that “opens” up into a “bed.” By 6:45 a.m. the room was full of nurses changing over their shifts, and then the cardiologist and a couple different students appeared, with news that he would need a stress test, and if he “failed” they would have to go in and stent the one vessel they didn’t get to and if he passed he could go home.

And then the stress test was delayed until the next day because he had already taken his meds.

And then, a few hours later, the stress test was reinstated, because the meds don’t matter, but what? He’s eaten some of his lunch? Stop eating! Fine, a few bites don’t matter.

Stress test, wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait you can go home.

No, we don’t have results, but we have discharge orders.

So he’s home.

And then nobody sleeps. You think sleeping in a hospital is hard, but then you go home and realize that now nobody’s monitoring your heart, and there aren’t nurses a call-button away — just your wife, who slept through the whole thing in the first place until you called for her from the floor.

Not very reassuring.

And now for the point of this whole post.

Some questions.

Why do we get to live where access to this kind of medical care is available to us, just minutes from our house?

What happens to people who don’t live in such an area?

We were in the emergency room for 6 hours, and he was being treated the entire time. The friend who had come with me is from New York city, and pointed out that in NY we might not even have been seen yet.

He had state-of-the art care, within minutes of when it was needed. He needed a heart cath — there’s a doctor there ready to do the procedure within minutes. He needs a stress test, the woman with the wheel chair was in his room before I could even text his family. He needs blood thinners and a lifetime of anti-coagulants that cost $387 a month and will cost us $20 with our prescription insurance and THEY DID THIS PROCEDURE THROUGH HIS WRIST WITHOUT ANESTHESIA — he won’t even have a scar.

How can we maintain our normal work loads to continue to meet our financial obligations without losing sight of the fact that nobody gets out of this alive? That time is our most precious commodity and every single one of us might have a hell of a lot less of it than we think? That yes, life is full of frustrations and disappointments but joy and meaning and relationships are priceless so that we can should must try to overlook/let go of the former and treasure the latter?

Our friends were visiting at what might have been a most inopportune time — in the middle of a work week, while Husband suffers a cardiac “event.” But a snowstorm on the east coast meant that they were “stranded” here for a couple of days at the end of the visit as well, and we enjoyed delicious meals and great bottles of wine together, and laughed so hard last night that our stomachs hurt.

Yesterday I took our friends to a garden center with indoor greenhouses and sculptures and art installations. We walked around and took pictures of tulips and daffodils and cacti, with steamed-up windows and snow visible through them in an interesting seasonal juxtaposition. I watched a half-frozen waterfall through a window that flows to a Japanese garden and studied pieces by Rodin and Degas and Calder. I felt as I do when listening to Mozart — happiness and sadness at exactly the same time.

It all goes so much faster than most of us expect, maybe even than we would want. (I always say that the only way to slow time down is to just be really bored all the time; remember how long Sundays were when you were a child?)

We still don’t even know if the treatment resolved the cause of the problem. We might not ever know. So we live now with a lot of gratitude, and a little more apprehension, a little more care, a little more joy.

IMG_3499 IMG_3501 IMG_3504 IMG_3509 IMG_3511 IMG_3512 IMG_3513 IMG_3514 IMG_3515 IMG_3517 IMG_3518 IMG_3519 IMG_3520 IMG_3521 IMG_3523


Sorry the pictures aren’t better – I took them with my phone. Loved the colors though.



some things just shouldn’t be fixed

These are done by a 5-year old who is so deep in the autism spectrum she’s just beginning to speak.

Painting was part of her therapy to help her learn to focus and to take turns. She clearly has a gift. I’m wondering if I could buy one.

Click on the painting for a link to the article.


Did I mention she’s 5?


busybusybusybusybusybusybusybusy. . .

As I start this I remember recently reading an article about whether we are actually as busy as we think we are.* Whether maybe we know we’re not actually that busy but it seems important to society that we be busy, so we’re also not actually as busy as we say we are.

I googled “Are we really that busy?” and got article after article after article about how we’re NOT actually as busy, etc. etc. so it must be true.

But anyway. I’ve been really really busy lately. Usually this time of year I have lots of time to sit in the adirondack chair on my deck with a gin+lemoncino+tonic (a “lemony snicket” apparently) and a good book. Not so much this year.

We were very busy in April and May turning this:

Our backyard in early April.

Our backyard in early April.

into this:

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they're the best panoramic I have of each)

Our backyard now. (The perspective is the opposite, but they’re the best panoramic I have of each)

Of course it helps that the world also turned green during that time span, but there it is.

We leveled 500 square feet of dirt, and then spread and leveled (with a carefully calculated 1/2″ per 8′ slope) 500 square feet 4″ deep in gravel, and then laid 5 tons of flagstone one piece at a time; and Husband built the pizza oven.

Lots of work. My back is still pretty pissed off at me, but there it is.

We also had to deal with the fact that Second Son’s car (my old Honda Odyssey) finally gave up the ghost after 13 years of service and 240,000 miles. We drove it, gently (the transmission was going, so there were to be no sudden moves), to the Honda dealer and basically gave it to them in trade for a 2004 Corolla with 96,000 miles on it (a significant improvement, nonetheless). After cleaning out bags of papers and food wrappers and water bottles, and, mysteriously, the steak knife that has been missing from our set for ~ 3 years (our driveway is “dark and creepy” at night, apparently the steak knife was to offer protection; thinking if someone were on the attack it would have been either useless or turned on him, but I guess it made him feel better, so whatchagonna do, especially since I didn’t know about it at the time?), Second Son stood in the parking lot and said his good-byes. I found myself “harkening” back as well — it was purchased in the week or two before Only Daughter (now 13+) came to us from her birth home (South Korea), and has seen us through a lot of life’s changes. More of my life looks different now than the same — divorced, bought a house and moved, remarried, children grown and graduated, different jobs, opportunities, friends. That van was a pretty significant material connector really to what I would call my “former” life. Maybe I should have stood next to Secondo and said a more formal goodbye as well.

He rescued his lego Ninja from the dashboard, we drove away.

Dante? Is that you?

Dante? Is that you?


This past week I completed my apprenticeship (hopefully) to become a member of the Royal Conservatory (of Toronto) Board of Examiners. This Wednesday I leave for a 12-day trip to the British Isles to perform with a choir for whom I play. Husband’s unable to come, so I’m traveling with the group and he’s holding down the fort, such as it is.

I find myself with new chamber groups to work with, new performance opportunities, job openings that I may or may not apply for, so the transitions continue.

Have you heard the expression:  “You throw your anchor into the future you want for yourself and then pull yourself along by the chain”? The thing is, (or shall I say the things are):

  • Do you really know what you want from the future? So often it doesn’t turn out the way we had expected.
  • Have you ever found yourself dutifully pulling yourself along by the chain, and The Whole Entire Time nothing in your surroundings seems to indicate that you’re pulling on the right one? Like, “Now just wait one cotton-pickin’ minute. Whose chain is this? Am I pulling on the right one? Is that yours? Where was it this was going again? Who moved my cheese?“)

marine anchor chain


It seems that we can spend months and years if not longer chasing things, trying to form our futures into that Future; you know? The Future We Want? And then all of a sudden all of this stuff happens, seemingly out of the blue.

Now I realize that it’s not “all of a sudden,” that all of the things I’ve done and connections I’ve made and hours I’ve spent practicing and trying to be a good teacher and good collaborator have paid into these opportunities.  But it still seems kind of random, and quite unexpected. Good, but unexpected.

Anyway, I’ve been really really busy moving rocks and practicing and pulling on those damn chains. I have a zillion ideas of things I want to write about, but it seems that my hands have been pretty full.

Thanks for sticking around.

I’ll  post some pictures of really old castles and Stonehenge and this drink I’m supposed to try in Scotland (a crabby green something?) as soon as I can.



*Being me, I have absolutely no recollection of the source of this article; hence I am unable to link to it. My apologies.


Girls Who Read


empathy vs. sympathy; there really is a difference


Zen Rock Towers and Olympic Ridiculousness

This is cool.

I’m going to figure out how to do this, and then do it in my back yard after we rebuild our patio.

If anyone wants to come help that would be awesome.


Today I unclogged a drain (ick) and made homemade noodles.

Zen-like in its way I guess.

I miss you guys, but I’m too busy to sustain the time and attention needed to actually write something. I keep having ideas, and starting them, and then getting sidetracked or “called” away (child, dinner, students, practicing, the OLYMPICS) and then by the time I come back to it whatever I was going to write about has lost its lustre, so to speak.


Maybe I could do a quick list of this Olympics’ ridiculousnesses:

  • Super Finals? Just regular old finals aren’t good enough anymore?
  • The guy commentating the Biathlon and sounding like he was going to stroke out. It’s cross country skiing. It’s not that exciting.
  • The US losing at hockey. 😦
  • How many “slope styles” and “half pipes” does any one Olympic competition need? (Hint: Fewer than we had in 2014)
  • Putin clapping politely, hugging a figure skater (commentators ask, “what did he say?”), moments later the figure skater thanking his leader and country for all of their efforts in hosting the Olympics (gee, I wonder). Subtle.
  • The NBC commentator (did anyone catch his name? I missed it) before one of the women’s downhill events commenting on their speed, strength, and prowess, all demonstrated while wearing only their “thin little skiing suits and some makeup.” Condescension, anyone? (And did anyone else notice that NONE of them were wearing ANY makeup at all? It’s a wonder they could ski so well while looking so awful.)

Am I missing anything?

I was quite impressed at what great commentators Tara Lapinski and Johnny Weir were. (That’s funny, spellcheck just tried to change Weir to weird. Maybe it saw his outfits.)


“The Art of Presence”

David Brooks writes about a family’s coping with more than its share of tragedy.

Good advice, beautifully written, for those of us standing on the sidelines, wringing our hands, not knowing what to do.


gratuitous new year’s day post, no resolutions included

I laid in bed last night, well, this morning, actually, as the “old folks” managed to stay up past midnight to (quietly; no tin whistles, no confetti) welcome in 2014. (I want to say that next year there will be banging on pots and pans, and shouting, but that sounds suspiciously like a resolution. Hmmm. . . .)  I listened to the furnace shut off the last time before the Big Cooldown we have programmed into the thermostat (59˚ overnight) and to Second Son rustling around a bit in his basement bedroom (nice alliteration) and marveled at how well I could see out the window given that it was overcast and there are no street lights in our neighborhood — radiant light from the snow, I guess.

The trees were vague, foggy pencil lines against the gray sky. The house made its other noises. Husband snored quietly beside me.

I wouldn’t say that I’m more retrospective on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day than I am most other days of the year. I often think that if I spent less time “navel gazing” and more time looking out at the world I might even be able to release some of my mind-fuck obsessions and be, if not “happier,” more content in the world.

Coincidentally, though, we were wanting to recreate our New Years Eve dinner of a couple of years back, so I found myself paging back through this blog looking for the post–unintentionally exceptionally retrospective I guess. I had thought it was just last year, but it was two years ago, so I ended up reading a lot of other things, including some poems that were actually kind of not awful (and that I don’t actually remember writing), and watching some video clips of some pretty powerful performance art, etc. etc. A not-entirely unpleasant, short walk down memory lane.

It seems that I’m not ranting (or posting, for that matter) as much as I used to, and now I’m trying to figure out why. I’m a little more tired, I guess, or possibly (finally!?!) realizing that my ranting doesn’t really change anything. I’ve gotten pretty busy, although I was pretty busy when I was posting almost every day and averaging hits in the hundreds per day, rather than the single digits as I am now. I upset some people a few months ago, and felt badly about it, so didn’t post for a while, even though I thought they were kind of missing the point. I guess it’s as much my fault for not making my point clearly as it is for them not “getting” it — what is the writer’s job if not to communicate clearly and well?

I miss it, my daily commune with “my blog” and you, my readers; but I don’t seem to “love” it like I did.

All those words shouted out into the ether (until your face gets hoarse, ani dif.), never really sure what I’m hoping to hear in response. Validation? Empathy? The knowledge/awareness/hope that whatever I’m thinking or feeling, I’m not the only one? And why does that matter? I find that I want to write less and read more, but even then, I have the vague sense that l am (persistently) looking for (and never finding) the answers to life persistent questions. Caroline Knapp (Appetites) speculates that all a woman needs is a good boyfriend, a good job, and a good apartment. (relationship, financial, and domestic security). I have those things, but still feel I am looking for something (what kind of paradise am I looking for? ani dif. again)

Caroline Knapp, (and the writers of Serenity), speculate that the wanting, searching, the sense of lack, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is what gives our lives purpose, direction, keeps us moving forward rather than resting slothfully on our laurels munching grapes and watching bad television.

And yet I can’t help but be disappointed when things are less than I think they could be, or less than I hoped.

Again, Caroline Knapp writes of how, maybe, it is the moments we must treasure — of pure joy, contentment, ease; maybe in the afterglow of a great conversation/connection (even if brief) with someone we love, or with someone with whom we had no expectation of having a great conversation/connection; when we feel gratified or appreciated by that one person at our job; when the laundry is done and the dishes are washed and we sit on a comfortable couch in a cozy room after a delicious meal.

I can’t help but wonder (shades of Carrie Bradshaw) if those moments could be more often, or at the very least more easily held on to, if one could come to terms with the fact that there is no perfect, persistent joy. Maybe that’s the kind of paradise I’m looking for. Maybe, in this year where I, by the end, will have actually turned 50 (gasp!), I finally stop.

Now, someone else’s resolutions:

It’s still cold outside, we’ve had too much pecan pie and bad fudge, the family circus is performing, and we’re not sure what to make of this year that was pretty brutal at times, amiright? Take a long, belly deep breath. Feel your feet flat beneath you. Pull that core tall. Smile inside your mouth and feel your face soften. Put your head up, point your eyes forward. You with me? Listen … When your perceived troubles make you brood, it makes you a joy cannibal. Cut it out. We’re trying to have holiday spirit here. Maybe you’re bobbing along in the ocean of wherever you ended up. Pick a point, create a purpose, and move (ever slowly sometimes) towards it. Every day is the right day to reassess, make a map, rally the stakeholders to your own life, show up for someone else, and build capacity to be a better fucking human being. This is why love matters most. This is why you’re alive. This is why life is so painfully short and your sucky attitude is a waste of fine time. Break down the barriers you’ve built between you and the love of that god, that man, that woman, that child, and that person inside yourself you bully. Fly up to your own big picture. It’s a challenge to be honest with yourself, stop rating other people’s sins over your own, and steer your own damn boat. Change only comes with challenge. You can still be what you gave up on back when. You are in control of your own reaction in each moment and nothing else. Stand tall, breathe deep, smile softly, and forgive yourself for all that shit you won’t let go. Now is the time to put it down because it’s stupid heavy and you have a light heart. Get out of the harbor. Stop gripping the [buoy]. Be magnanimous, even when they don’t deserve it. Because you don’t sometimes, either. We’re all recipients of everyday grace and fear of hell isn’t what gets you into heaven. I don’t even believe in hell. Does that make you mad? Why? You are worthy of love and have so much to give. We all could work our hearts whole. Don’t be scared when someone loves differently than you, when their big plan isn’t like yours, and when their drive makes you ashamed at your own dog paddling. Pick a point, start a new year, and don’t look back. Head up, eyes forward.


Passion is never enough …

Just try. Always try.

Passion is never enough ….


“Plasticity” Sculptures by Aurora Robson

“Plasticity” Sculptures by Aurora Robson.


just lying there, listening

Had several sleepless nights this week; not really sure why for the most part. I have adopted a “move at least an hour every day” policy so I’ve been exercising more, and my legs get a little twitchy, but even when I take extra calcium and they aren’t twitchy I’m still kind of awake half the night.

Lying there listening to the whir of the ceiling fan and the really loud “tuck-tick, tuck-tick” of this new clock/picture frame Husband procured from somewhere and some nights the wind dances through the leaves of the trees over my house in such a way I’m not sure it’s not raining. There’s also this really resonant hoot owl in our woods and sometimes Dexter the Dumb Dog decides that he needs to bark at the grill or back to the owl or at whatever random shadows move outside the kitchen window; Second Son is also a night owl and home for the summer, (except for this week when he has been touring the midwest/east coast with his band, which is kind of cool for him and worrying for me while they drive from city to city through the wee hours of the night) so we hear him downstairs, or moving around in the kitchen.

Anyway, lots of time lying there in the dark, listening, listening, thinking, listening.

I start to write poems sometimes while I’m lying there, but I’m either too lazy or too sleepy to actually write them down, so then I lie there trying to devise mental tricks that will allow me to remember them when I wake up the next morning, but then of course I don’t. Some pretty good stuff, if I remember that much, which I probably don’t.

Stuff about the difference between being in love and loving and which is better and why sometimes you think one is better but then later you realize it’s actually the other.

Stuff about wishing you were better than you are — a better parent, a better pianist, a better person — and then realizing that you are actually usually pretty much doing the best you can (at the time) and that your parents probably were too and that all the stuff that you’ve been spending a lot of time being pissed off at them about you should probably just let go because it’s not doing you any good and it’s certainly not doing them any good and you sure hope that someday your kids will cut you a break and do the same for you.

Stuff about your professional disappointments and who stabbed you in the back and might even be stabbing you in the back still and whether your pursuit of inner peace and Happiness (rather than “happiness”) means they get away with it or just that you get to stop carrying that particular load of garbage around for at least a little while.

Stuff about friendships that didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, and friendships you’re grateful for; stuff about whether it’s worse to have been overlooked when one friend threw another mutual friend a party and you weren’t invited, or whether you were considered for the invitation list and then expunged; wondering why it matters and then wondering if maybe that can be just another one of those bits of garbage not to be carried around any more.

Stuff about whether it’s “fair” that I get to live in a cozy and humble but comfortable and beautiful home and cook whatever I want for dinner and sip gin fizzes at a cute little desk in the corner lit by a funky lamp bought for me for my birthday by my (now-deceased) mother in Nashville, Tennessee while we were celebrating her birthday, while elsewhere in the world women are raped on buses and child brides are married to men in their 30s in India and the people of Syria kill each other and those guys keep standing on exit ramps with their “Homeless. Please Help. God Bless.” signs and what does “fair” mean anyway and why does that matter so much to me and everybody else?

(Sheesh. Is it any wonder I can’t sleep?)

But the funny thing is, it’s not like I’m lying there all twisted up with anxiety and unhappiness.

It’s just all there, floating around me, while I get to feel lucky and grateful and regretful and sad all at the same time.

So not a poem really. A rant? Maybe.

Maybe I should have just stuck with what I put on my “Not a Guru” blog yesterday.

I’m scared, but I’m grounded.
I’m sane, but I’m overwhelmed.
I’m lost, but I’m hopeful.

I’m sad, but I’m laughin’,
I’m brave but I’m chickenshit,
I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby.

But what it all comes down to,
is that noone’s got it figured out just yet,
but I got one hand in my pocket, and
the other is givin’ a high five.


salt of the earth

When a farmer is shipping out his crop simultaneously with the harvest, coordinating and timing the trucks is a tricky business.  If the farmer estimates low and the harvest is going well, the farmer may have to end the day earlier than necessary, dragging out the harvest and risking adverse conditions later. If the farmer estimates high and the weather turns bad, or a tractor breaks down, or any of the dozens of calamities that can occur without a moments notice, the driver(s) has to sit there until the farmer can load the load for him or her to haul away. The driver doesn’t get paid for sitting there.

Farmers know this, my dad knew this, and was therefore always as careful as he could be about how many trucks he would request, would work through rainstorms and high winds and into the wee hours if necessary to get them on their way as soon as possible, and would loan the driver a pickup to drive into town for a meal, or even to be able to go home for the night if they were unable to fill the truck that night.

There was a young driver many years ago who often came and went with loads of potatoes for my dad. During this stretch of time, he was divorced from his wife and she and their three young sons moved a ways away, creating even more hardship for the young driver in his efforts to spend time with his sons.  My dad was at one of his favorite restaurants one day at lunch (kind of a greasy spoon diner out in the middle of nowhere), and the young man and his three sons came in. They exchanged light conversation across adjacent tables, and when my dad finished his meal he said good-bye and left.

When the young man and his sons finished eating, and he went to pay his bill, he found that dad had already paid it, and left three candy bars on the counter for the boys.*

I can imagine this whole exchange. My dad, all gruff exterior, with a twinkle in his eye; probably teasing the boys a little or stealing their ketchup bottle. And paying the person at the counter with a point and a grunt, and leaving so as not to be thanked.

This is just like my dad. A lot of good, not a lot of fuss. I imagine there are dozens more stories like this. I miss him terribly.


*My oldest brother just ran into this “young driver,” who had heard about my dad’s passing and shared this story with him; this happened many years ago.


just a touch of whimsy

Found these via Quieter Elephant.




Are you more beautiful than you think you are?


So stop it.

Believe it.

(g: Watch it!)



(trying to) hold on

Some times it’s harder than others.

She gets it. (Ann Carson, I mean. Not the other version of me.)

Sometimes I do. Sometimes I forget.

I guess we all do.


I used to love you. . .

I used to love you
With a kind of frantic breathlessness
Every hair follicle screaming

My hands would tremble when
I saw you on Fridays
I would lie

on my office floor in the
Dark feet on my chair
Talking to you on the phone for

My day ruined if I didn’t hear your voice
In my ear At least four times
Now the soles of my

Love you
I love you with the patient resilience
Of the seasons I

Love you even when I know I’m
Disappointing you
Or splitting my infinitives
Or when the world we imagined
Is not the world in which we find

It seems to be, really that I’ve always
Loved you. Al


and the award goes to. . .

Jennifer Lawrence, for wit and grace under pressure; also known as “maintaining poise and humor while answering stupid questions from the press.”

I mean, really — these are the best questions they can come up with? Seems like they don’t even need to be asked.

Anyway. I think she’s terrific. She was fantastic in Winter’s Bone, she’s young and beautiful and confident and not a wisp.

My only regret is I managed not to see this until today.



These two amazing people create beautiful works of art from the tons (I’m not exaggerating) of plastic they harvest from a small stretch of beach. They are completely aware of the irony.

“PLASTIC BEACH” Prepare To Be Amazed.

I will take this opportunity to reiterate a point I’ve made a few times before: don’t use plastic that you are going to throw away unless you can’t possibly help it. 

As they point out — the opposite of beauty isn’t ugly, it’s indifference.


how do they know?

I’m surprised now and again by young authors (Jonathan Safran Foer) or playwrights (Annie Baker) who seem to be wise beyond their years. I wrote about this when I wrote about Safran Foer’s story “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.”

Today, I read an article in the February 25 issue of the New Yorker about Ms. Baker. (And just now noticed, as I was pasting in the link, that the article is titled “Just Saying.” Weird.)

She is talking about a dramatic transformation from her sternly moralistic self at the age of 23, when she realized “. . .that she, too, would make mistakes and hurt people,” and this “annihilated her.”  The article continues: “It’s this crisis in her understanding the helped impel her to make the emotional teachers in her play–the beacons of moral honor–people who are themselves failing in full-fledged adulthood. ‘The story of their lives might not immediately appear to be exemplary or what the younger character would want,’ she explains. ‘But there’s a kind of transcendence and nobility they embody through having not lived the lives they wanted to.'”

She’s 31.

How does she know this already?


Really? That’s it? My quest for “happiness”

I am, and have always been, someone who strives to find/feel “happiness” every day. To live in the moment — to the point where I, a 48-year old woman, (with a nose piercing, but only 2 sets of holes in her ears), have seriously contemplated getting this tattoo’d on my inner forearm to remind me to live in the moment:


(This does, actually mean “live in the moment,” not “one order of Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side.” I know this because I’ve checked.) (Still trying to get up my nerve. Any suggestions? warnings? Anybody out there want to drive me to the tattoo parlor and hold my hand and hang around for the next 30 years and remind me of what a good idea it was when my skin gets all dry and wrinkly like paper and the tattoo ends up looking exactly like it it is actually an order for Peking duck, hot and sour soup on the side? I didn’t think so.)

Anyway. . .

As you all know, I am also dealing with the death of both of my parents, my father a few weeks ago, and my mom last August. As you might imagine, my relationship with them was probably much like yours is with your parents — I didn’t talk to them often enough, my mom was often “disappointed” in me being, well, too much like me, (I’m not making this up), etc., etc., but I loved them and they loved me and they were my parents, and now they’re gone. Despite knowing that my dad died exactly how he would have wanted to — peacefully, apparently in his sleep, perfectly healthy as-far-as-he-knew one moment, and gone the next — I am still so incredibly sad to have lost him. (And it doesn’t do much to reassure me that the same won’t happen to me? Husband? Heaven help us whoever next.)

I’ve also struggled with having to let go of some of my professional dreams, and am still struggling with trying to find time to do the work I need to do to pay my bills, be there for Only Daughter when she needs me to be, and pursue the other things in life that have always tempted or interested me — namely, I want to read more, knit more, would love to take a painting class, and a photography class, would like to try to write an actual book someday, etc. etc.

Yesterday in my yoga class, a class with one of my favorite yoga teachers, and one which offered exactly what I needed (hip openers!) after having missed yoga for two weeks, the teacher did the opening meditation on happiness. She started with the American Indian/Cherokee story a chief tells his granddaughters, about the two wolves which live and battle each other inside each of us. One of the wolves is anger, fear, resentment, frustration, disappointment; the other joy, happiness, contentment. One of the granddaughters asks which wolf wins the battle, and the answer is “The wolf you feed.”

I started thinking about how much of my energy is spent feeding my resentment towards the people who have wronged me, how I should stop feeding that wolf, but how their petty insecurities have interfered with my ability to really live up to my personal or professional potential, and how letting that anger go is like letting them get away with it, and how unfair that is, and how much energy do they ever spend thinking about me and so on, and so on, and so on.

By the time I left, I was all nicely warmed up and limbered up and felt like I had really had a good yoga practice, physically, and was an absolute mess emotionally; nearly in tears before Savasana, barely able to roll up my matt and depart at the end.

I came home, and Only Daughter was here, as it was still her schools’ mid-winter break. I decided that, rather than do our usual, which is her at the computer watching ridiculous ridiculousness on youtube (Dance Moms! Ugh!) and reading her books and me practicing and at my computer answering emails, etc., we would go see a special exhibit at the local museum. So I shower, and we grab a quick lunch, and off we go.

First I park near what used to be one of our area museums, but it’s now part of a local arts college. Of course, I don’t discover this until I’ve fed every single piece of loose change I own into the meter, trying to eke out 90 minutes. We then drive to the correct museum (which has the name of it clearly above the door, a name which does not resemble in any way the name of the museum on all of the billboards touting the new exhibit), and can’t find a parking space. After driving around the block twice we find that someone has departed, so I do an illegal U-turn, grab the spot, manage to find two more nickels in the bottom of my purse, (I’ll get change when we get the tickets), and in we go. . .but the line is 150 people long, and I have piano students in two hours.

Never mind.

The rest of the day is much like this. I won’t bore you with the details, but it did include driving a long way out of the way to go to an arts supply store, doing extensive research in books introducing painting with watercolors, selecting paints, and brushes, and paper, and getting overwhelmed and intimidated and putting it all back.

After a kind of restless but adequate night’s sleep I wake up with the decision (!) that this will be a better day; I will make it so if it’s the last thing I do, gol’darn’it. I will start this day by writing the name of every person who has “wronged” me on a piece of paper and burning it in a foil tray, and that will release me from their hold on me. I do this. And there aren’t really that many people. And I laugh and think, “that’s it? It seemed like so many.” I start to wrack my brain to see if I can think of anyone else, decide I’m utterly ridiculous, and that’s that.

Of course, it’s not really that simple.

I picture this ideal, where there is this part way down deep in the center of me that is strong and confident and good, like a little tiny diamond carat from which the rest of me radiates; and some days I know it’s there and some days I think it’s there and some days I hope it’s there and some days I just can’t seem to find it, or believe that it ever existed.

But I have everything I need, and my husband and children are healthy and smart and strong, and my problems, in comparison to the problems of the world, are pretty small. I know all of these things.  So I make these vows to myself, to be more present, to be more joyful, to be more that tiny little diamond carat and less the dark swirling shadows that engulf it. . .and then my students come and they don’t have their assignment book, or their Etudes book, or they were skiing for the whole weekend and didn’t practice until yesterday; or I will be a better and more patient mom and then I catch Only Daughter eating her fourth snack since school, at the computer, and three of her Tuesday chores not done; or. . .

But today, I wrote an eleven-page paper about a Bach piece that I love and that I will submit for publication. And I got a last-minute gig playing for two gala occasions in area cities this weekend. And I bought myself these boots:

redbootsHow fun/happy is that?

(Alas, I have to wait 30-60 days for them. Not sure why, but I think it’s important not to ask too many questions in cases like this. Of course, my credit card has already been charged.)

(And yes, I know retail therapy isn’t the answer to everything, and that it is not possible to actually buy happiness. But I’m thinking that it might sometimes help. I mean, did you see the boots? They’re red. And embroidered. And the toes curl up in that insouciant manner, almost like a smile. Did I mention they’re red?)


spot on, mostly

Been spending the past couple of weeks dealing with life after the death of my dad, following closely on the heels of the death of my mom in August.

Trying to decide the best way to spend my energy; whether I should: continue in the work I’m in, try to write a story or a novel or put together a book of poetry or take a painting class, yoga more often or train for 5K or both, keep blogging or stop blogging, etc. etc.

But here are a few funny moments/discoveries to share.


Valentine’s Morning

Little boxed rose plant sits on Husband’s placemat with a little hand-torn heart and a lovey-note written in pink pen. He is bustling around the kitchen making coffee and pouring cereal and chattering away about what a lame holiday Valentine’s Day is, how pathetic those people are who think they can make up for a year of benign neglect and/or indifference, how cynical the Hallmark company is for creating such a holiday to play on people’s guilt, etc. etc. I sit at my place, eating my eggs, watching him, smiling.

He comes over to the table with his breakfast, and says, “Oh! What’s this, then? How sweet.”





We were discussing the ridiculousness of how we can’t seem to agree in this country that nobody actually needs to be able to go and buy an assault rifle. Husband remembers this little gem from Eddie Izzard. (Don’t ask me about the clothes and the makeup while he makes no attempt to change the clearly-I’m-actually-a-man timbre of his voice. I have no idea.)



And I don’t really make it a habit to include advertisements for pickup trucks in my blog, but this was played during the Superbowl, as my family was sitting around writing the eulogy for my Dad. And it sums up my dad, and what kind of a man he was, quite nicely. I can’t watch it without crying.

A little story first, which basically sums up his, and my, parenting style.

I was probably 10 or 11 years old, and went out with some siblings to hoe one of the potato fields. I, in my infinite wisdom, (and given my propensity not to wear shoes unless I absolutely had to, which persists to this day), went out to hoe barefoot. Of course, I hoed my big toe pretty badly, and limped back with the toe all bloody and crusted with dirt, blubbering and looking for sympathy. Dad takes a look at me, looks down at my bleeding foot and says, “Hoeing barefoot, huh? That’s not very smart.”

Nope. Not very. And you were exactly right, and exactly right to say so. Miss you.



so THAT’s how they do math in Canadia

[Walking to our car from a hockey game.]

Me:  Brrrrrrshivershivershiverbrrrrrrrrshivershivershiverbrrrrrrrr. . .

Husband: What are you doing?

Me: I’m cold. It’s got to be in the single digits. It feels like my head’s going to explode.

Husband: What are you talking about? It’s 14˚ at the coldest; a nice, balmy, Canadian winter day

Me: Yeah, all true, except for that it’s definitely colder than 14˚, it’s anything but balmy, and we’re not in Canada.

Husband: We’ll see what the car shows for the temperature.

Me: Yeah, except it’s in a heated garage, so no pointing at it in the first 5 seconds and gloating.

[Arrive at car. Get into car. Start car. Handy little temperature indicator says it’s 43˚ out. Husband points and gloats. I ignore him.]

[Drive a few miles. Temperature drops. 38˚ 32˚ 27˚ 18˚ 14˚. Husband points. I give him the universal sign for “Just wait a minute.”

This one.

This one.

Not this one.

Not this one.

Temperature stops at 10˚. I point. Husband mutters: Your car’s wrong.]

Me: Okay, maybe not 8˚, but I was still closer than you were.

Husband: Yeah, one degree closer.

Me: I said it was 8˚, you said it was 14˚, how is 10 one degree closer? Is this how you do math in Canadia? (He loves it when I call it Canadia.)

Husband: It’s about how you figure out, not whether the answer is right or not.

Only Daughter [in back seat][did I mention Only Daughter was with us?] It’s dropped to 9!

Husband: Okay, now you’re one and a half degrees closer.

Me: What?

[Temperature drops to 7˚]

Me: Okay, NOW who’s closer?

Husband: I’m on a horse.

(It seems weird that we were at a hockey game last night, but Only Daughter’s youth choir was singing the national anthem, and we were still in town until this morning, and I think Dad would want us to keep on living, and laughing. Not sure how he would have felt about the gaps in Husband’s logic — even Only Daughter wanted to know what Husband being on a horse had to do with anything, especially since, clearly, he was not.)


welcome to the surreal

Found out yesterday that my dad had died on Wednesday. When my brother found him it looked like he was sleeping on his couch.

I guess I am thankful for things — he didn’t seem to have suffered, he was his goofy, grumpy, sweet, funny self right up until the very end. But no warning, completely unexpected. I’m alternating between coping, reeling, and stunned.

Last I saw him was right after Christmas. He had left my sister’s on the day of the family celebration when he had “had enough,” as was his wont, without saying goodbye to anyone except to those in the direct vicinity (I was not one of them), and I thought later, “oh, I didn’t get to say good-bye to Dad.” But it was okay, because there’s always next time.

Until there isn’t.

Every year on the 4th of July holiday there is a big camp out at my dad’s. Everybody who wants to, friends and family alike (I believe that strangers and passers-by would also be welcome, which precludes me from divulging the address), brings their tent or their camper or whatever !!! and camps out at Dad’s. He lived on a river, so there would be tubing, and “corn hole” (google it), and a fair bit of drinking (daiquiri made with the lawn-mower-engine-powered blender anyone?) and cigar smoking and fishing and lots of inventive cooking over campfires, and tall tales spun around the fire long into the night (don’t ask me how I know this). Last summer I had a student at Interlochen Arts Camp performing on the Prairie Home Companion show being broadcast live on the only night I had free, so I sat on stage with my student, and watched Garrison Keillor in action, and didn’t make it to my dad’s that night. Mom and dad were both there.

And now they’re gone.


He was, as my brother put on facebook, the salt of the earth.

Practical, hardworking, with zero tolerance for bullshit in either direction and a sweet kindness toward everyone he loved. He didn’t always agree with you, and he wasn’t afraid to tell you when he didn’t, but you never felt like he loved you any less for it.

This is a rare gift. I wish I had it.

There’s a picture hanging in his extra bedroom that we had made for him many many years ago, with one of his favorite sayings: “It’s a tough life, and it’s gonna get tougher” on it, signed “The toughies” with 8 little potatoes in a piled up little row and each of our names in a potato (we grew up on a potato farm, and yes, we’re all pretty darn tough.) If anyone would have made any kind of suggestion regarding boosting one of his “toughies” self esteem he would have sputtered and scoffed and suggested he/she earned it. Spot on, dad.

He loved a good Polish joke, even more so when we pointed out that he was 50% Polish. Husband had a few he had saved up. Guess he’ll have to just tell them to me, again. (Sigh.)

When we stayed with him he would growl at our dog, “C’mere!” because he loved dogs, and wanted Dexter to come up on his chair with him, and Dexter would growl and prance around and try to decide if he dared or not. Gruff, grouchy, and the sweetest man in the world.

I know this has to happen. But I wasn’t ready for this. Not yet. I haven’t even figured out how I feel about my mom dying yet.

I’m 48 years old. I talk to my dad four times a year. Why does it feel like I’ve been left out in the cold, completely unprotected?

I’m trying to figure out why I’m writing this, if anybody cares to read it, if it isn’t just self-pitying emotional drivel, whether there’s any kind of universal message to it that would make anyone but me care.

I just know it’s like there was a roof over you and now there isn’t, but even that doesn’t make sense. It’s not like I was going to call him tomorrow and ask him for money. Although, I guess if I would have had to, I know that I could have.

And I keep thinking I’m okay, and then I’m not.

I guess that’s okay, too.

Although I can hear him telling me to stop blubbering. Not like it’s doing me any good or anything.

Love you, Dad. Hope you know, knew, how much.


just do that, then

I know this, and I’ve done it, but why is it so hard sometimes to remember that it was the right/good thing to do?

I’m remembering it today. And yesterday. Maybe I can hold on to it, then.


cliché thanksgiving thanks

Oldest Son tells me that calling your mom on Mother’s Day to tell her thank you and that you love her is pathetic. That you should thank your mom and tell her you love her just because.

I agree, but I still like it when he calls me on Mother’s Day.

Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is also kind of pathetic — every day should be greeted with thankfulness. As I used to tell my dad when he would complain about getting old:  it beats the alternative.

So in yoga we thank our feet for carrying us through our days, and we thank our hamstrings (Hello, hamstrings!) and our aching backs and our hands for what they carry, and our hearts, for what they carry too.

And when we clean our floors we try to remember to thank the floors and the walls and the roof for keeping us from having to live in the dirt, in the rain.

And when we burn the pumpkin soup (just a little), we try to be thankful for all of the delicious ingredients in that pumpkin soup, and that we have good Calphalon pans so we know they’ll get clean again.

And when our children tease and spar and take 45 minutes to do the dishes we are thankful for their health and spirit, and that they are doing the dishes.

On the day after Thanksgiving 7 years ago I drove with my family to my brother’s for an extended family meal, not having yet told our children that their father and I were going to be divorcing.

Six years ago I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my children and my almost-ex-husband in some kind of weird (pathetic?) attempt to manufacture for my children some weird version of family, which felt to me more like a completely phony and unsatisfying version of “family”; and a few hours after they left I was curled up on the bed in a fetal position, mourning all of the mistakes I had made and how, despite my best efforts, I did not have the relationship I wanted with my children, much less with myself.

So now what am I thankful for?

Well, that the dark days are over.

That we’ve crossed over to the other side.

That everyone’s fine.

That my back hurts, again, but seems to be getting better, and in a little more than a week we’ll have a new hot tub on our back deck (thanks, mom), and that will hopefully help my back problems, and Husband’s knee problems, besides being a wonderful addition to a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For a life that’s being fully and gratefully lived.

For the physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional health of my friends and family.

For jobs that support us, working for and with people who respect our contributions, for food and shelter and kindness.

For a marriage with a man who is thoughtful, and sensitive, and supportive, and who likes, and loves, me as I do him.

He’s going to be embarrassed that I wrote this. But he is the thing I am most grateful for. And, for whatever weird (pathetic?) reason, I want you all to know.

I have it all.

I am the luckiest person I know.

Thank you.



he’s a good man, charlie brown; UPDATED

President Obama’s Victory Speech

What he said.

(I do wish we could skip the “God Bless America” part, since the implication always seems to be “and f@#$ everyone else.” Like praying that your football team will win, because they deserve it so much better than that other team over there in different-colored shirts.)

And then there’s this.


In a related story, Only Daughter was being harassed a bit yesterday in school by fellow students whose parents voted differently than I did. She pointed out that they were only parroting what their parents said, and didn’t know enough about anything to have any ideas of their own. (I asked her later what SHE thought, and she said she didn’t really think anything yet, although, from what she could tell our guy was more sympathetic than the other guy. I was very proud.) (This is the girl who worries for hours, and feels guilty eating her dinner, if she even SEES a homeless person or someone begging on the exit ramps.)

Her teacher caught wind of some of these arguments, and started to have a nice talk about how American democracy works and how likely it is that in any given election just <50% of people will be unhappy and just >50% of people will be happy. I was thinking, as O.D. reported this, that this was such a wonderful opportunity to talk about differences of opinion and our responsibility to respect them, about reasonable discourse and discussion, about what a privilege it was to vote for our leaders and to be able to talk freely about that vote before and after. Rather, she went right from her first, reasonable point, to this: We are so lucky to live in the best country on the planet.

Yeah, that should help.


speaking of keeping your eye on the light

Heard Salman Rushdie on NPR’s “The Story” for the few minutes I was in the car tonight. (Yes, I renewed my membership. Yes I asked for the Thank You gift. Yes, I donated $10 more than I planned to alleviate my guilt. Yes, I was raised Catholic. Any more questions?)

Anyway, he was talking about how he really felt a sense of accomplishment in keeping his ability to write books in a way that would not reveal the circumstances in which he was living. To paraphrase*:

I didn’t want to think about the fact that I was living in a small, afraid little world, in which case I would write these small afraid little books; and I didn’t want to think about being bitter or angry because then that would come through and those books would be miserable too. I really pride myself on the fact that someone who didn’t know the circumstances of my life from 1989 to 1998 could pick up any of the books on a shelf that were written by me in that time frame and still would not know that I was living under a fatwa.

What an inspiring example of the triumph of the human spirit and of mind over matter.

You can listen here. I’d listen and actually quote, but it’s past my bedtime.


*I am paraphrasing. I can’t find a transcript. I apologize if I don’t have it exactly right.


this morning’s sunrise

Caught a glimpse of this out my back window as the sun rose this morning, so rushed out in bare feet and pj’s (it was a crisp 32˚) to snap a picture.

Reminds me of life — darkness and light, sometimes at the same time. Always trying to keep my eye on the light.


In a not-really-related story, decided to impose my own fairness on the debate tonight by, when the speaker’s time was up but they continued to talk, going “Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. . ” as loud as I could. It really helped.

Have a happy day!




ah, autumn

Drove home this afternoon through a gentle “rain” of golden leaves. The whole world seemed to gleam with them.

Wanted to stop and stand in the middle of the street. It was a busy street, and I had 25# of carrots to buy (don’t ask), and, well, it was a busy street, so I didn’t.

This made me kind of sad, how living sometimes gets in the way of enjoying those moments. I have a friend who is a pretty fantastic photographer who takes his (really really nice and not all that small) camera with him everywhere, and is often posting photos he took of the fog catching in the branches of the tree across from his house or the snow drifting across his back field and I always think “Wow, these are beautiful” and “Doesn’t he have to get to work on time?”


It did remind me of a poem I wrote for my BFF J____ once a really long time ago. It’s a bit juvenile, I think, and I remember I was experimenting with a kind of chanting rhythm, and the first part is kind of confusing regarding “who” I’m actually talking to “when,” so I’ll just put in the last bit:

. . .I want to stand arms lifted
in fall’s golden shimmering shower
face and eyes and hands and breath in
fiery splendid autumn air. . .

Maybe I’ll drive down there tomorrow, when the streets are less busy, and stand in the middle of the road with my nice-but-not-that-fancy camera and my broken foot in my delightful little “boot,” and take some pictures.



waiting for mom to die

Husband and I were on our way to a lakefront cottage for a week*. We had rented it the year before, and peopled it with family and friends until we were literally bursting at the seams. We took turns cooking, and drank margaritas and copious amounts of wine, and had a fabulous time. But this year it was just the two of us, a conscious decision that we would alternate this week on a yearly basis, one year with as many people as we could squeeze in, the other just the two of us.

Saturday, our first day, was also the first day of a three-day gig for me at a nearby music camp, accompanying for an international brass competition. Husband loitered in the parking lot while I rehearsed, and then we headed the rest of the way at around 5 p.m. We stopped and shopped on the way, filling our cart with food we would both enjoy, and that we would enjoy even more because it wouldn’t be accompanied by the groans of picky children complaining about our choices: arugula, lots of seafood, sharp cheeses, local berries and corn and tomatoes; lots of good wine, loaves of sourdough. We tucked the grocery bags around and between the duffels and pillows and bedding and board games in the back of my Prius.

The first few days of the trip were quite cool and cloudy, but the sky would always clear faithfully right at sunset, so I ended up taking dozens of pictures as the view changed dramatically (well, it seemed so at the time) every few seconds. On the second night, Sunday, the clouds and water seemed to be competing to see which could display the most and most varied shades of purple, and one bird in particular seemed to be posing for his portrait by zipping back and forth in front of my camera and across the gleaming path laid down by the sun across the water.

On Monday morning, very early, the taptaptap of the coming rain woke us, and Husband dashed out to the deck, naked, to rescue chair cushions and towels. Monday night we made a fire in the hanging fireplace, using wood we had bought for $3/bin from a stand alongside the road. While we were loading the wood into the back of the car the neighbor’s mutt had dashed across the road to greet us, sniffing at our ankles and then the car door. I thought he might get in the car and go off with us, but his owner called him back, and he trotted across the road, no one seemingly concerned about the possibility of any oncoming traffic (there wasn’t any). We then drove to the nearest town, buying food at an excellent Mexican restaurant and beer at the Mexican grocery to bring “home” to eat. At the grocery the owner’s two children played in the store window, their black eyes shining as the younger one peeked out from the cardboard cutout he was hiding behind.

Tuesday was to be our first full day at the beach, as the brass competition had kept me traveling back and forth the previous three days. Monday night Husband had asked me about my “ambitions” for Tuesday, so I had listed them: sleep until I woke up, drink lots of coffee with breakfast, read on the beach, take a nap, swim if it were warm enough, a long walk on the beach before dinner, a good meal and a good bottle of wine with dinner, and then losing at Scrabble by the fireplace after sunset (I only win Scrabble in Pisa). I had managed the first two things, and had just settled down in my beach chair with “Ulysses” (I’m trying, but am mostly just puzzled), when Husband appeared at the bottom of the stairs with my phone in his hand and a concerned look on his face. One of my sisters had called the landline at the cottage, and told him to have me check my voicemail.

It was my oldest sister telling me that mom had taken a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, was in what the medical professionals called a stage of terminal restlessness, and was about to be sedated. The goal was for her to sleep, and, once sedated, it was doubtful that she would ever wake up. If we wanted even the possibility of one more conversation, or at least her awareness of our presence, we needed to come. Now.

The most recent development had been five days earlier, when, out of frustration with continuing digestive problems, mom had informed this same sister that she wasn’t going to eat anymore. We all figured that, once she had taken a day or two off from eating, her digestive system would “calm down” and she would resume eating at least jello and broth and the other few things that hadn’t been aggravating her stomach.

But all of these problems were actually a result of the fact that she had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma over five years ago, a couple of years after having one mastectomy, and a couple of years before having another. (These two cancers, the brain tumor and the breast cancers, were completely unrelated.) In hindsight, the digestive problems were probably a sign of her system shutting down.

She had outlived the prognosis for people with glioblastomas by around four years. She had long exceeded the protocol for chemo, and had discontinued it more than year earlier, merely because it wasn’t known what being on that type of chemo for that long would ultimately do to/for her. When the brain cancer began to show progression again she resumed the regimen that had been previously effective, but was immediately so tired and felt so generally unwell that she decided it wasn’t worth it and discontinued it shortly thereafter.

(It would seem that, with all of this history, this call wouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was. As one of my sisters put it at one point, we had been sprinting a marathon since May, with no view of where or idea of when we would reach the finish line.)

We decided to drive up, about 100 miles from where we were, so we filled up a water bottle and threw a couple of peaches and a can of almonds into a bag, and headed out. It seemed that our drive was destined to be thwarted by “life is a journey” drivers, and people turning left against a lot of traffic. What we calculated would take an hour and forty minutes or so took well over two, and mom was deeply asleep by the time we arrived.

I sat by her side in her hospice room for over three hours as friends came and went, giving quick hugs and kisses on a cheek or forehead, and ducking quickly out blinking away tears and patting us sympathetically on our shoulders. When we would tell mom that someone had arrived she would move one foot, which we took to mean that she heard and understood, although nobody could tell us for sure. When I was alone with her I sat, wishing I was one of those people who just knew what to say, convinced that she could hear us and would want us to talk to her and around her, but not knowing what to say. When I did speak, I would look at her feet. Neither moved.

When we left that night we drove to a nearby newly-opened, highly-acclaimed restaurant, and Husband and I ate a delicious meal — baked sunflower served on a tomato puree and topped with goat cheese and puff pastry, broccoli raab with lemon, caramelized scallops on creamy polenta with eggplant and tomato chutney, grouper on parmesan risotto so creamy and cheesy I’ve sworn off “healthful” risotto for the rest of my life as a waste if not a betrayal to the spirit of risotto itself. We accompanied the meal with a Sonoma Valley Chardonnay and finished with dark chocolate cake over a raspberry reduction. I felt this topped off the surreality of the day, and we toasted my mom and her life while I savored every bite and felt pathologically guilty for doing so (the story of my life; I’m nothing if not conflicted).

The expectation was that, once sedated, my mom would probably continue in this sleeping state for anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more. Our plan was to drive back to our cottage, spend Wednesday there, and return to her hospice room on Thursday.

I sat on the steps leading down to the water that night and listened to the endless ssssswwsssshh of the water against the shore. The moon was markedly absent, so the stars shone in stark relief against the night sky, and a plane at one point flew directly across the Big Dipper.

Wednesday was a beautiful day. We felt like we were stealing it. We slept in, puttered around, walked a good ways along the beach, picked up a plastic bag full of dead balloons and ribbon and plastic water bottles and other detritus on the way back; then I sat in “my” chair and watched the water. I checked my phone every ten minutes. We cooked a delicious meal, and had just settled in to a game of Scrabble when my sister called. Mom’s breathing had changed markedly a couple of hours before, and became slower and slower, until they — two of my sisters and my youngest brother — realized that it had stopped.

Mom had died.

We actually had gone through many weeks in May quite sure it was just around the corner as she recovered from a brain bleed after she fell in her apartment. It had been discovered early in May that she actually had two large blood clots: one in her leg from ankle to thigh, which had caused severe swelling and pain, and one in the airway between her lungs. We had rallied, and set up a schedule to have someone staying with her until she became more steady on her feet as she started a regimen of blood thinners and breathed oxygen from a portable tank. Blood clots, or what is technically referred to as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVTs), are common side effects of some cancers, as apparently the presence of certain cancers in the body alter the chemistry of the blood and make it more likely to clot. She was moved into hospice after the brain bleed and resulting paralysis on her left side left her unable to get up by herself and required the use of a catheter. Early in August she had regained strength and mobility, was able to walk with a walker, was deemed a hospice “failure,” and moved to an assisted living facility. This move was short-lived, and her return to hospice had just been completed on Monday.

And on Wednesday she died.

We drove back up on Thursday and stocked coolers for visitors and went through dozens of her photo albums to assemble a collage of pictures of her and her friends and family and travels. Back to the cottage Thursday night, up for the visitation and funeral on Saturday and Sunday. The services were evangelical, and disappointing to me as they seemed to focus on the pastor’s vision of what awaited her after her death, (a vision I don’t necessarily share, and certainly without all of his certainty,) rather than a celebration of her life and family. Maybe it’s just me, and my state of mind at the time, and my fate as the sixth of eight children, and my pervasive sense for most of my life that the afterlife mattered more to my mom than I did. I know there were conversations I had wanted to have with her, but chose not to, realizing that they would only try to serve what I needed, probably fail, and probably make things worse between us than they already were. I’m sure this is not only my story, but that of many. I also know there were conversations she had with my sisters about these very things, but she never had them with me.

I know she did her best; we all do. Knowing this, I am still sad that I will always feel that her best left me feeling that something was lacking. I worry that my children will feel the same.

At the burial we released balloons into a gorgeous blue sky, and I remembered all of the balloons we had picked up along the beach.

We drove back to our cottage the day after the funeral, Only Daughter in tow. The owner of the cottage had graciously offered to extend our stay for a few days, as our week had ended up so fragmented and difficult. We drove more than a thousand miles that week, and hadn’t spent more than 36 hours in any one place. We were very grateful.

We spent Monday afternoon, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning at the beach. It was warmer, and lovely, and surreal. Only Daughter practiced her balance beam routine on the deck’s benches; the water warmed enough for us to swim; the sunsets were beautiful.

On Wednesday morning, our last day there, we took one more long walk on the beach. A short way into the walk we encountered a gull, apparently sleeping, but as we neared he turned his head weakly towards us, and then tried to drag himself sideways away from us with a wing. He was clearly severely injured, and we know enough about seagulls to know not to try to get close to help. We walked our “usual” long path, and watched for him upon our return. He was still there, caught in the edges of the tide, waiting to die.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*This all happened in mid-August. I have just found time, and the frame of mind, to write it now.


time, and truth; from “Aubade,” by W. A. Auden

. . .But Time, the domain of Deeds,
calls for a complex Grammar
with many Moods and Tenses,
and prime the Imperative.
We are free to choose our paths
but choose We must, no matter
where they lead, and the tales We
tell of the Past must be true. . .


yes, they should

“When I look at nature — the way a sea gull spreads its wings wide as it hovers just above a meal, the way the tide rushes in, bringing shell sparkles and lost treasures, the way the sun rises every morning even when it is cloudy, the way a tree stands proud even when it is wounded, its roots deeper than the trials it endures — I see truth, a truth where there is no need for anxiety because things are as they should be. People should stand strong and say what they really feel, not what they think others want to hear. They should flow with their emotions, like the tide, whether they be happy or sad. They should rise bright with possibility into every day and hover gently near what they want instead of aggressively taking [it].”
~Alexandra Heather
“Surviving the Pain at the Roots,” NYTimes, Sunday, September 16, 2012


What one can bear

It seems like a man can just about bear anything. He can even bear what he never done. He can even bear the thinking how some things is just more than he can bear. He can even bear it that if he could just give down and cry, he wouldn’t do it. He can even bear it to not look back, even when he knows that looking back or not looking back won’t do him any good.


More Evidence that I’m a Big Fat Baby

If it doesn’t make you smile there’s something wrong with you.

Acknowledgement: Stole Found this at

Thanks for sharing!



But how does it work?



from Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson

“. . .Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally has come to look and not to buy. So shoes are worn and hassocks are sat upon and finally everything is left where it was and the spirit passes on, just as the wind in the orchard picks up the leaves from the ground as if there were no other pleasure in the world but brown leaves, as if it would deck, clothe, flesh itself in flourishes of dusty brown apple leaves, and then drops them all in a heap at the side of the house and goes on. . .”


I can’t decide

Whether I like this (the original, I believe):

or the cover by Jayme Dee:


I do know that I have a new favorite song. For this week, anyway, during which I will listen to it way too many times and by July wish I hadn’t. Like eating too much cake, that’s what I (always) do.


and this just proves that I’m a big fat baby

(Husband says it just proves that I’m a sap. I say it’s the same thing.)

I cry every single time I see this.

Every. Single. Time.



sorrows keener than these

. . .We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows keener than these. . .

(Jane Kenyon, “The Blue Bowl”)

I got up this morning and sat on the couch in my pajamas while Only Daughter got herself ready for school. She sat for a while underneath my legs underneath the alpaca blanket, chattering about this and that as she is wont to do. When she went out for the bus I went back to bed and slept until almost 11.

I can’t seem to do anything, at least not anything that matters.

After a brunch of poached eggs and bacon with the fattiest portion sliced off and sourdough toast I glued the broken-off border mosaic tiles back on to the table I made for my mom many Mother’s Days ago. Two of the border tiles, and most of the edging ones, are missing. I’ll have to figure out something else to do there. I had this feeling as I was doing it that I was reassembling more than a table; something right out of a Coppola movie. Forgiveness, absence, loss, misunderstandings, shortcomings, misapprehensions — all filled in with a squirt of glue and a purple glass tile.

As if, right?


Youth, by W. S. Merwin

He always just seems to get it, exactly.


Through all of youth I was looking for you
without knowing what I was looking for

or what to call you I think I did not
even know I was looking how would I

have known you when I saw you as I did
time after time when you appeared to me

as you did naked offering yourself
entirely at that moment and you let

me breathe you touch you taste you knowing
no more than I did and only when I

began to think of losing you did I
recognize you when you were already

part memory part distance remaining
mine in the ways that I learn to miss you

from what we cannot hold the stars are made


from birth to twelve in 2:45

Watch this.

Don’t take your eyes off of it, you might miss a year.

It’s really stunning.

Reminds me of that line in the Safran Foer story: “He suddenly spoke, suddenly reasoned. One day I couldn’t help him with his math. He got married.”

And the thing is, it almost feels that fast while living it.



on poetry

I find myself thinking still about Merwin’s “On the Subject of Poetry,” especially trying to figure out why Merwin called it that, and I think I owe oldblack an apology.

I think I got it all wrong.

Instead, the young man in the garden, with his hands in his pockets, listening to the wheel that is not there, is us, trying to discern what the poem means. And it is exactly that enigmatic nature that is poetry.

                               . . .He does not move
His feet nor so much as raise his head
For fear he should disturb the sound he hears
Like a pain without a cry, where he listens. . .


You can hear it, see it, just there. No, not there, there. And trying to explain it is the act which destroys it.


For some reason this reminds me of a beautiful, powerful moment in the haunting movie Tsotsi.  Tsotsi, (the name he has given himself means, literally, “thug,”) has invaded a young woman’s home and is forcing her to nurse the infant he has inadvertently stolen and then decided to keep. He notices some mobiles the woman has made. One is made of bits of scrap metal. When Tsotsi asks her why it’s all rusty she replies, simply, “I was sad.” Another is of broken, colored glass. He pokes his head into its dangling strands and asks, “This one, you were happy? How much?” She says “Fifty dollars.” “Fifty? For broken glass?” “No, silly, for light, and color, on you. Can’t you see?”



Heard in the bathroom, yesterday

Only Daughter: Someday if I’m rich I’m going to give most of my money away because I would feel really badly about having so much when some people have so little.

Me: (thinking many things, including “does that mean you’ll pay me back for the thousands of dollars I’ll have spent on gymnastics classes and college?“) Wow. That’s really generous of you. Some people would say that that makes you a “Socialist,” and the Republicans won’t like you for it.

Only Daughter: What’s the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?

Me: (thinking that I should be really careful to give a balanced answer, and not only because this might be a conversation I want to blog about later, but because I want her to think for herself not just spout whatever dogma she hears from me) Well, Democrats think that the world is a better place if we all take care of each other, so we should all have as many of the same chances as we can, and even though we should all work hard and do our best, sometimes we need a little extra help; Republicans believe that we should all “pull ourselves up by our own boot straps,” and that even when things are tough things will work out better if we are each responsible for ourselves.

Only Daughter: So how many Republicans are there? Like 5?

(I wish.)

(Good girl.)


from there to here

The left wing bowed graciously,
after the plane caught its pocket of air
and nonchalantly dropped the LaGuardia runway into its wake
(an hour and a half behind schedule,
not that anyone’s counting,)
and New York City gleamed as if gilded in gold,
the Avenues wearing their red and white stripes
of cars going this way,
and that way;
Central Park all darkness,
the pedicabs and ice skaters long gone home.

The stewardess fills up my water glass
for the fourth time, then sneaks me a bottle of merlot
minutes after turbulence shakes us all like
dice in a Yahtzee cup.

I am 38 minutes away from you,
that “you the singer sings to,*”
according to The Flight Deck,
and despite that promise I make to myself
time and time again,
You know–that promise
not to wish my life away;
It cannot pass quickly enough.

There. It’s 36  minutes now.
Not that anyone’s counting.


*Ani DiFranco


Hey Jude, the Canadian version

Heard in the bathroom this morning, from Only Daughter with the newly formed Beatles obsession:

“Eh, Jude. . .”



the (not living at all up to the hype) blizzard of 2012

I love the particular quiet
of a deeply snowy day
and that the swirl you met
at the top of the driveway
kept you home today

so that when I awoke you
were just returning to bed
and we lounged there until
almost 10, you snoring
while I read my book
(you know, the one I like
but wish I could have edited)
and Hannah came to the
door occasionally to see
if we were going to ever
get up.

We made apple cinnamon crepes
and bacon and drank cups and
cups of cappuccino
and then went back to bed
knees to knees, forehead to forehead
and slept some more
until I snuck out in my thick socks
and drove to get the oil changed
in my car.

I only slid a little at the bottom
of the driveway, and then navigated
down slushed roads as trees dropped
snowballs on me in their passive-agressive
way and the dog in the Kia waved
its tail at me as I passed.

I sit, now, in the “quiet” room,
waiting for new oil and something
called a PCV valve
and ponder the important questions:
whether I can take another nap when I get home,
what I should do with the next twenty
years of my professional life,
what to make for dinner.

Reader Appreciation Award

Share This

Share |

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 177 other followers

Follow me on Twitter: sheriji1

Blog Stats

  • 114,783 hits