And the Turtle Shall Spin

•June 20, 2015 • 2 Comments

I vowed to try to add some meaning to Memorial Day. To my generation, the holiday is a welcome day off from work to celebrate the start of summer. My father and his lady friend, however, “decorate graves.” They remember war veterans and extend the sentiment, per the Day of the Dead, visiting cemeteries to pay tribute to all those who have left Earth. I live far from my hometown and the graves of my family. Try as I would, I simply couldn’t locate the graves of my son’s friend (who died in a car accident on the night of their senior prom) and that of my husband’s close friend. I knew approximately where we’d laid the boy’s body to rest, but the cemetery is huge! I could have wandered it for half a day and not found the grave. My husband’s friend was buried in a remote country plot we also couldn’t locate. Foiled. In came Plan B: attend the local Ho-Chunk (formerly called Winnebago) Pow Wow. Their culture holds warriors in high regard, and hey — drums always do a soul good.

So my husband and I headed for a short drive west. Between a marshy area and a lake, a turtle had overturned on the highway. It lay on the back of its shell, spinning with every passing semi and car. My heart wrenched hard. There was too much traffic to stop and move the poor creature. I watched in the rearview mirror as it spun back and forth in the middle of the highway, waiting for its impending, terrifying death. I vowed to make an attempt to move that turtle if it survived the return trip.

The Pow Wow was wonderful. The Ho Chunk have held firmly to their culture. They introduced the groups of dancers who were competing that day, and they called out each branch of the military to dance as a tribute. The drums pounded straight through my heart.


On to Wednesday. My husband called me at work shortly after noon to let me know we would be going to Madison. Our sister-in-law had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma in November, and if anyone’s fault was in their stars, it was her. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer in the bones (my simple understanding, sorry). By the time she was diagnosed, her kidneys were compromised. She received treatment from a hospital that wasn’t equipped to treat the relatively rare illness–I so wish she’d have gone to a more sophisticated hospital in a big city! Her remaining kidney function was damaged beyond repair, leaving her on dialysis. The multiple myeloma advanced, and then shingles set in as well as pneumonia. Between the cancer and the treatments, she had no immune function left. Her body ended up fighting an antibiotic-resistant infection on that Wednesday. We arrived to support her and my husband’s brother just in time to follow in the doctors, who explained the hopeless situation to the gathered family. They made the decision to end life support, with her (Ruth’s) assent.

So the strong, smiley woman who was tough enough to fight forest fires was bravely dying. Of course she didn’t look like herself. The treatments had left her puffy and bruised. She’d had her head shaved in preparation for treatment. The family chose to continue oxygen as long as possible and continue painkillers until Ruth passed. But let’s be brutally real–death, in my two close experiences, sometimes arrives with flailing and groaning. I’m sure that’s not always the case, but my husband and I both told each other the same thing: “I don’t want to die like this.” As if we have a choice, but if we do…well, it’s in print now! (We also made another vow to each other. If we come down with an odd illness or cancer, it’s the Mayo Clinic or bust. We’ve seen miracles come out of that place. If you’re going to go broke on health care, you might as well get the best shot possible.)

Ruth’s family insisted on the woman’s dying requests. They produced a CD of music she wanted to hear. Her ultimate request was to die beside the lake where she lived, but that was five hours away. Could she be transported to her sister’s nearby property, which had a pond? No. The doctors said firmly that she wouldn’t survive the trip, so it would be pointless. Could she be moved from the trauma center room to one with a view? Some assistants tried, but Ruth kept squirming in the slick wheelchairlike device they used to move her. No again. After twenty minutes, the hospital arranged for all of us, including Ruth in her hospital bed, to go up to the helipad. We grabbed the music, crammed into an elevator, and came out of the top of the hospital to a view that took our breath away (yeah, all of us). The sky was blue, the moon was hanging in the perfect spot for Ruth to see, the hills rolled away green with summer, and one of Madison’s lakes sparkled below us. Ruth kept stretching her eyes open wide, and she hugged tight anyone who came close. She turned her gaze toward the moon several times. Other lessons: it pays to make your dying wishes known, and it pays to be a family member who insists on fulfilling them. This was a great act of love and humanness on behalf of Ruth’s family and by the hospital staff.

Madison helipad (1)Madison helipad (2)

But Death plays by its own rules. There was an unspoken feeling that, “Okay, Ruth. This is what you wanted. Go ahead! Go! This is perfect!” She didn’t. The reality of shift change came in. Our fine hospital attendants had to go home, so we packed up and headed back down to the trauma center, inside and dim.

My husband and I decided to leave, as Ruth’s husband, sisters and brother were in attendance. We left for home. I received a message from Ruth’s sister before we were even out of Madison: “Ruth transitioned.” I like that word: transitioned.

But we’re not done yet! Thank you for reading this far, because JEEBUS am I full of words. Someone else did not transition that week.


My 25-year-old son called at 10 PM the next evening. Oh dear God, a late phone call is never good…At the invitation of a friend, he had been in a Crossfit competition in the Twin Cities the previous weekend. He has trained and run for years, but he doesn’t “do Crossfit.” Good thing, because I’ve read a lot of bad reports about it. Nothing wrong with cross-training, but the idea of pushing your muscles until they give out and the competitive, seemingly cultish nature of Crossfit makes it suitable only for Navy Seals. A little moderation is a good thing. But as for the competition — hell, he’s a young male, so he’s invincible, right? So he competed — run a sprint, do 100 pushups; run a sprint, do 100 pullups, etc. He beat his friend, proving that a person can prevail without Crossfit BUT…the big BUT…this is a formula for trouble. He said his arms were shaking violently as he drove home to Milwaukee. Over the week, he began to feel as though he’d been hit by a truck. Most importantly, his urine began to resemble cola…Very bad sign.

Three good things: He’d read about this condition. He paid attention to his body. I didn’t say the usual thing when he called, which is “wait and see how you feel in the morning.” That morning might never have come. I told him I didn’t understand what was going on, but it can’t be good. Get thee to an emergency room.

It turns out my son had rhabdomyolysis, a condition that happens when you push your muscles like this, with many repetitions and without working up to it gradually. It’s particularly common when people compete and push themselves harder than usual. The muscles basically fall apart, littering the bloodstream with debris that the kidneys can’t filter out in heavy concentrations. The highest level of “debris” (myoglobin, I believe) this hospital had seen prior to my son was 1000. He came in with a reading over 140,000–on the verge of kidney involvement. People have died of kidney failure at far lower levels than this. (He was required to have a reading between 200 and 300 to be released.)

After an eight-day hospital stay (with a bill that so far resembles my salary), he is home. He was inflicted only with endless IVs, frequent pee trips (his kidneys performed valiantly!), and a lot of awful TV (he survived on Nat Geo and is now an expert on Border Wars). He will have no lasting damage–simply a whole lot of caution right now. He is my miracle child, and I am thanking God with great joy for sparing his life.

I can’t get that turtle out of my head. Are we all just waiting, spinning on our backs?

It Depends on the Sky

•January 31, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Just before I scrambled out the door to work yesterday, my husband asked if I’d be coming straight home from work that night. I told him seriously, “It depends on the sky.” His puzzled look said it all.

Figuring I should clarify what seemed to me an entirely reasonable response, I added, “I mean that if the sky is clear and I can see the ice on the paths, I’m coming home to run. If it’s gray and ugly, I’m going to stop for groceries on the way home.” There. That fixed it for me. He, however, couldn’t wipe that amused look off his face. (“Uh huh–she’s a fruit loop.”)

I knew as I drove to work just how ridiculous that statement sounded to him, but it made me realize how far I’d come in a couple years. “It depends on the sky” is a completely fine Holly approach. For one thing, did I need to explain that part of my decision to run depended on if the sky was irresistible or not? Winter skies have been pretty dazzling this year–partial cloudcover is especially beneficial at sunrise and sunset. When those opals and jewels are multiplied by ice (preferably not under my feet) and the river, they are, yes, irresistible to me. Pardon my addiction.

photo (1)photo

As a person who organically views her life as a map and thrives on multiple to-do lists, it’s been an accomplishment for me to become way more loosey-goosey about this scheduling stuff. Sure, things have to be done on certain days, and there is never time for everything in my life. It’s not necessarily bad to have so many things I want to do that I could fill several lifetimes. That’s just lust for life. Rigidity, however, is a problem. I used to try to fit in everything I had written down as if they were commands, even if it meant staying up way too late or not spending time just being with my kids. Oh, the regret…I did a lot with my kids, but I could have just hung out a whole lot more instead of ticking things off the to-do list. Maybe I am a casualty of the insane American drive for busyness and accomplishment? I’ve learned to take care of what must be done each day, and then everything else on the to-do list is a candidate. Many of those candidates are now “woods,” “read,” “collect music” (iTunes, baby!), or even “yoga/meditate,” instead of 7PM: clean hallway closet. 8PM: replant aloe. What was wrong with me, anyway? I felt like I had to fill every minute with productivity. Part of that came from the experience of having a shift-working husband–if he had to work at all hours, so should I! That was wrong. Looking back, I can see why this kind of scheduling made my stomach twist. I now move my mobile, to-do Post-It to the next day or month with ease–only minor gut wrench involved (still learning). LIVE is #1 on the mental list.

My next move in any day is often up in the air. I often pray first–So what’s next, God?–or I take a look at the sky. Much better.

The rest of Enlightening Friday: When I got to work, I was curious about a chill song that I love dearly, called “Amor Fati.” What does “amor fati” mean? The best I could conjure up is “love of the father.” I Googled it and found that it means “love of fate”–how appropriate! Something else I’ve slowly adopted that meshes with loosey-gooseyness! It’s a philosophy of accepting all things in one’s life, good or bad, as having been (or being) necessary and crucial. Looking back at the map of my life (and the maps of my children’s lives), I see more clearly how things tie together and lead to the next step. Looking forward, I can never anticipate where life will lead–nor should I bother. It’s best just to watch it unfold.

(not my favorite video, but I love the music…)


•January 13, 2015 • 2 Comments

I can’t even make a joke here. Hello. Nice to meet you.

Yep, I’ve been busy writing my ever-nodey arthritic fingers off on that book of mine, hoping to make a nice stack of scrap paper to keep forever and ever in the heap of crap on my dishwasher. Well…I’m actually more optimistic than that. The Thing has reached a great enough length that I sometimes go back and fail to recognize words that I wrote months ago. “Wow! That’s really nice! Great writing, whoever the brilliant author is…” I’m sure this tendency could work against me in the end, resulting in a completely disorganized story with threads like a cat’s hairball. Oh well–I’m trying! Still having a lot of fun with the process. Still entirely uncertain when The Thing will be completed and to a finished-enough state that I feel confident in trying to snag a publisher. And then maybe I can get a crack editor to convince me to rewrite it. And then…?

(And then, for one, I try to come up with enough cash to convince a certain ubertalented photographer/skeleton assembler/all-purpose artiste to design a cover for me. Just sayin.’)

So here I am to incriminate myself further. Things are going relatively smoothly at the Qorp. My Qube is fairly peaceful these days. That’s usually a sign of impending doom. I am still quite at peace with the supervisor with whom I’d had such difficulty in the early years of my job. Even she freely admits she was mean to me. It’s been a great effort to find peace and even friendship with each other, but we do just fine now. I would never have anticipated that…And of course, the male co-worker with whom I frequently butted heads died out of the blue in the spring. Ironically, his son now works for us, and we all adore the guy. He’s unique, true to himself in being a hipster starving artist, and he has an endearing irreverence and edgy sense of humor. We visit often. That relationship is another irony in my life. I sometimes think the kid is actually just a young version of his father, and this is sort of a second chance to get things right…

Anyway, peace in the Qorporation really is likely to be short-lived. Change is constant in qorporate environments. There is more money to be made. Rumor has it that we will become lean and agile, like killer cats in the jungle. We shall also wean ourselves from paper entirely and become e-editors. Eeditors. Lovely. These changes can happen, but which of us jungle eeditors will torn apart by other lean, agile, and bloodthirsty cats?

In the meantime, I continue to wonder why my brain expends its energy playing the radio in my head sometimes. I just walked my dog for fifteen minutes, my face extra crispy from the cold, and all I could hear was “It’s a cruel, cruel summer…” What a waste! The stars were bright and sparkling, and Maya was huffing away happily, sticking her nose deep into each footprint and pawprint she came across.

I’ve been desperate for walks. We’ve been easing back into them around visits from the Polar Vortex. Maya had ACL surgery in mid-December and has to be walked on a leash for three months. We are following her physical therapy plan to the letter, because I don’t want The $5,000 Dog to become a $6,200 dog too soon (yeah, $1200 is the price of ACL surgery). We were just allowed to start walks a week ago, but we move up to two 20-minute walks a day tomorrow. Yesssss…. My little accident-prone beastess and I are on the move.

I am on the move myself, following a training plan for a half-marathon. What the hell! So far, I am injury-free. I really don’t think I could remain injury-free without the complement of yoga. Now, all I need is a half to sign up for! Must shop for one soon. I’d love to go see my friends in Memphis, but I think I need to run one while I’m fresh off training in early spring–the Twin Cities always seems to have something to offer.

So that’s the 30-minute minimally edited update. I really want to say, “See you next year,” but ya know…I can’t. I do love this. Ah, writing…

Qreative in a Qube

•March 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Damn, it’s a bad sign when she starts in with that Q-stuff.  I can just hear your minds churning that one around…

It’s a fairly warm day here for the end of March: almost 60, with comfortable breezes blowing.  It was a good day to run a few miles and let the winds blow some clarity into my mind again.  The winter has been too long and severe.

First an update on The Book to Nowhere (like the road to nowhere, the bridge to nowhere, etc.).  I write on it as much as my butt and my fingers can manage around the full-time job and the restlessness of my body (I’ve always struggled with calming my creative “monkey mind,” and it seems to be tamed by releasing some energy from my now 50-year-old body).  I really enjoy writing, and I think it’s a better creative outlet for me than my painting (and maybe drawing).  I’m not that good at painting, though I enjoy trying.  I’m a hell of a lot better with walls than I am with canvases.  The writing bit might surprise you with the nearly unedited brain farts you encounter here.  Still, in my wildest fantasies I think, “I could enjoy doing this for a living!”  So I write.  We’ll see in a few years if my work leads anywhere.  I think the storyline is good, but it takes a long time to feel like any part is complete!  Then I regularly go back and revise, and when the whole thing is done, I’m sure I’ll start the revisions again.  The story is sort of a skeleton with osteoporosis right now, with flesh maybe up to the knees (I’m working from the bottom up).  Can’t wait to get to the eyes.  That would be the title.

In the meantime, my days and my monkey mind are in the Qube.  THERE IT IS AGAIN!  It’s been interesting.  My job can be a haven and rather peaceful, and the company I work for is good, though it’s the creative Qreative in me that has been struggling for years to find a home there.  It’s still just a difficult spot for someone with ideas that need to get out, who has to sit there for hours and incubate those ideas (whether words or visuals).  I try yoga in the AM–especially some balance work that forces me to focus or topple.  I put on the headphones and listen to music sometimes at work, which seems to grab a part of my mind and tether me to one spot.  Good thing.  I do manage to get quite a bit of work done, and the analytical part of me forces order on the subjective nature of the work.  A system for the Qube work allows the rest of my mind to fly free.  And last of all, taking notes (or sending home cryptic e-mails) is helpful in saving my ideas for later.  I guess this is the compromise that creative types have to make in a corporation.

There have been a few changes.  A ways back I wrote about a co-worker, under whom I worked on a project, who had angered me by tattling on and blowing up over a step in a process that someone had pointed out was probably not kosher with company policy.  This was a process that, months earlier, I had laid out in print per his request, he approved, and he sent a thank you note for the detailed document.  Months later, he nailed me to the cross for what he’d approved…?  Enough review.  The man, with no apparent health problems, died of a heart attack a month ago.  As you might expect, we were shocked.  He tended to bustle around the department, baffling us with words with didn’t understand, yet he lent some very positive vibes to the place as well: being very supportive of the workers who report to us, and often cutting through the bullshit at meetings to say exactly what needed to be said.  We’d had “issues” in the past, so our work relationship was distant at first, but it became a healthy enough work relationship.  I, however (in a feminine way, I bet), wanted to clear things up in words:  “Are we all right?  Have we moved on beyond the past now?”  When I spoke with him for the last time before his death, we talked about Mexico (and why he’s never going there) and dogs (and why he wasn’t the dog-hater people might take him to be).  It was a good conversation, and when I left his Qube, I swear I turned around five different times, ready to go back and ask him the questions I so wanted to ask.  But I chose not to, because he didn’t seem like the type of guy who would be comfortable with this, and I thought it would just embarrass him.  So I went off to Mexico on vacation, and a few days after my return, I learned that he was never to return.

I spoke at his memorial.  I sang his good points (he truly was a big presence in the department), and I mentioned (through sobs, dammit) the conflict inside me about wanting to make it all right (by the way, most people at the memorial admitted how difficult the man was to get along with, personally and professionally).  That was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, admitting my failures with his family right there.  However, his closest friend said that if he was laughing and joking with me, all was well.  And the man would have HATED it if I’d have tried to patch things up in words.  My gut was spot-on.

Turns out the man was also strongly devoted to his family.  His entire paycheck went to send his kids to college, and he lived to write poetry.  His poetry was excellent.  Now I wonder how his mind had bounced around in his Qube all day…

And then there is my boss, about whom I’ve also written.  She had a reputation for persecuting workers, and I found this to be true when it was my turn.  Things slowly turned around (I can be an easy victim, but I rarely lose a fight afterward).  Our relationship improved a lot, especially after she apologized to me for “the meanest thing (I’ve) ever done.” (You know, there are so many awful ways in which “the truth will set you free” that it’s worth tuning into the idea pretty often; run your daily experiences through that filter for a while and see what you fish out).  It’s strange that our relationship did improve, but it did…to the point that she is somewhat of a friend now.  And lately I feel really sorry for her.  I know she’s longing for retirement, and that there is still at least one (professional) thing that she wants to accomplish at work.  However, work is like a huge cyclone right now.  Start with the vacuum created with the death of my co-worker, and add in an important new investor followed closely by the sale of the company.  She (we) are now dealing with the world of lean agile scrumming in sprints with scrum masters, which is being forced like the square peg in the round hole of our work.  It’s hard to match that method up with content, compliance, and editing.  We’ll see what it goes.  Anyway, bosswise, I’d be surprised if she didn’t go home every day with a massive headache.  Most of us go home with little Tylenol-worthy headaches on a daily basis now.

Soooo…I miss you guys and the world of blogging.  I will write more ridiculous bullshit as time allows, and we’ll see what happens when Le Book is complete.

and don't forget this

and don’t forget this


The Worry Machine

•January 26, 2014 • 2 Comments

It’s nice to have a list of personal shortcomings to attend to.  My list is endless.  I tend to deal with them one at a time because it’s mostly a matter of changing my habits.  It takes time to make a permanent habit change; usually by that time I’ve racked up another new one. Don’t bother pointing them out to me.  I know, I know…

A fun family tradition, hailing directly from my depressed mother, is over-worrying.  This is a distinctly feminine tradition, which usually is centered on worrying about children.  There is probably some genetic reason for this.  Most likely it’s to hasten the death of the mother so the kids can get her stuff.  Otherwise, I know (mentally, but not the in-my-heart kinda know) that there is no good reason to worry about children who are hours away or half a continent away.  It’s just not doing any damn good.  I can pray, but I think God has a handle on matters though I offer up a prayer or two, and I should let up on him and not nag him all night.  The latter shows a lack of faith, right?  That said, I think it’s normal for me to have concerns about my adult children, but not to spend hours in worry about their safety or jobs or love lives or whatever…It does nothing to improve their situations.  It may even distance them from me.  I remember my mom having the “worry finger,” which drove me absolutely to the defensive berserk when I saw it.  She would put her right index finger to her lips as she spoke, and it would often twitch.  “Sheesh,” my teenage self would whine, “Get a grip!”  I don’t think I’ve developed such a physical tick yet, but I have an i-tick.  I initiate stupid texting conversations when I’m worried about my kids.  If they don’t respond, I’m certain that a lunatic has them entrapped in his evil dungeon.  (Sadly, we have all seen the news reports about this happening, but it’s rare…)

Anyway, my worry machine was starting to overheat.  Its gears started to turn as soon as my first baby had jaundice.  Dammit–a very typical infant experience, but it set in motion the machine that would never stop.  For 1/1/14 to 2/2/14 (notice something? more on that later), I decided to invoke the power of the mental rubber band snap to force myself to simply STOP and be aware when it kicked into high gear.  The  mental rubber band had been exercised before when I had been in need of leaving work at work.  As a reminder, I left a Charlie pass (Boston’s public transportation ticket) on the seat of my car when I parked at work in the morning.  It served as a reminder that when I climbed into that car again, I was leaving all of work behind.  If I’d start to ruminate on any work problem again, I’d snap the mental rubber band and divert my attention to doing something else (also slightly reminiscent of the Dog Whisperer waving a “bully stick” in front of a puppy’s nose, though I’d prefer to refocus without bullies, personally, because once I found out what a bully really is…let’s just say no one better put one under my nose).  Anyway, the MRB worked for work.  It also stopped my worrying about kids, BUT…

The strange thing about killing such a long-entrenched habit mixed with parental love is that something filled the gap: guilt.  Guilt? Really?!!  Can’t you just go away?  I felt guilty for not worrying about my kids.  It was as if I wasn’t fulfilling some parental duty. After a night of NOT worrying, I’d wake up in the morning actually feeling good, and then guilt would kick me in the head and say, “Why aren’t you obsessing about your daughter/son?!!  You forgot your child!  Bad mom.  Bad!”  So I had to drive away guilt.  Stupid guilt.  SNAP!  And I did.

Still a week until 2/2, when I switch to some other part of my life that needs attention.  That gives me one week more to practice.  Kaizen, baby!!!


It’s a Matter of Faith

•January 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Isn’t it always?

This is nothing new.  This is a conflict I’ve hinted at but decided to clarify for you intelligent people.  Then I am inviting you, “Please advise.”

I haven’t been to church in ages.  My church background is this: My family was Methodist, where I was confirmed.  In high school, I hung out with and attended church with my closest friends, some Presbyterians.  Their parents worked at the colleges in my hometown, and I appreciated the willingness of this particular Presbyterian church to tackle the big issues.  In fact, they would dissect and debate church issues no end.  Cool!  Those issues can stand up quite well to inspection.  My high-school boyfriend was a very traditional Irish Catholic, and his faith education shaped our relationship to some extent.  Sex = No.  I respected that, despite (of course) tons of temptation.  (A side note: my sweet very Methodist grandmother, who didn’t approve of me dating a Catholic, once commented that “those Catholic boys are so cute!”  My right eyebrow shot up a mile.  “Really?!!”  I mean, he was cute, but I hadn’t realized that denomination affected cuteness.  I was enlightened.)  In Sweden (exchange student time), I frequently attended the Lutheran church with my little sister.  She was going through confirmation and was required to attend church a certain number of times.  She begged me to go with her.  It was beautiful!  The church was an old village church, and the service seemed more traditional (probably was) than the services I’d grown up with.  Then came college.  My truth-seeking heart led me to hang out with two conflicting parties–what fun!!!–Baptists and Catholics.  It was both educational and frustrating.  I took away from the Baptists these things: We are equal, so get over yourself being superior and show a little humility; every single one of us is faulty (“has sinned in the eyes of God” sort of thing); and forgiveness comes from and is between you and God. However, the Catholics had a different take on the matter of forgiveness.  They seemed more likely to live fully as they felt certain of their forgiveness, instead of walking around looking sullen and carrying a big ol’ nasty chip on their shoulders.  (Later, I learned that the act of actually verbally confessing to a priest is–surprise!–quite a wonderful, thrilling thing.  It is so freeing!  Yeah, forgiveness comes from God, but a priest is a wonderful tool, in the old-time sense of the word.  Not as in “you are a such a tool!”)  Oddly enough, I know the Baptists often gathered to pray for people who were “in danger” of joining the Catholic church.  I’m sure I was mentioned in the Baptist prayer group at some time.  That must have had a positive effect on my faith formation.  Cool, and many thanks to them.  I met the man who became my husband while in college.  He was raised Catholic, though I’d say it was more of a tradition than a choice.  That’s often the case–no criticism here.  As you might have guessed, I’ve forced him into inspecting his faith a whole lot more because my mind lives often in that world.  I eventually joined the Catholic church, learning about the whole tradition and everything the church was willing to officially share with me.  I fortunately had a very liberal (go figure) priest to deal with at the time.  He was willing to answer honestly any weird question I threw at him because he’d been a priest long enough to know where he stood, and he had no fear of repercussions.  One of my favorite things about the Catholic church is their official (again) willingness to accept the fusion of science and faith.  I’d come to the conclusion ages before that science discovers–slowly and minutely–the work of God.  To me, science only confirms God and doesn’t act as a replacement for God.

So this makes me a Methopresbyluthebaptiscatholic.  That looks like a good drug, doesn’t it?  It is a good label for me.  I am a Christian, and a very liberal one.  So why am I not at church (which would be the Catholic church, at this point)?  My main problems with human church organizations in general are these: (1) the lack of joy, and (2) the limitations.  I know there is little I can do to start a fire under the ass or in the belly of those people who aren’t wired like I am, who attend church out of habit or a desire to gain good fortune (“We went to church last night, Mabel.  That’s why we won big at the casino!”).  At least they are taking time out of their week to tune in to the greater part of existence.  However, the songs sometimes sound like dirges and the prayers like compulsions.  Where is the joy?  As far as limitations, I don’t think that any particular denomination is wrong, but is rather just a small part of the big truth.  That’s probably a reflection of human nature.  We all can’t agree as we are so diverse, so it’s natural to cling to others who believe the same as you do.  The Catholics (sorry, I love this church as well as the rest) seem to have boiled Christianity down to algebra equations.  This particular value of sin (x) = these certain prayers and acts of contrition (y).  I guess I could add a number 3 to my complaints as well: the judgment of people and assessment of their value.  Even though I’d learned and believe that we are all the same in the eyes of God (all faulty), there is a tendency in every church to judge the value of certain people or types of people, and then to judge that they are of lesser worth.  This makes those in the church elevate themselves, inflate egos…Again, human nature, but I have higher expectations of those in church than I do in, say, the office.  The Christian church is supposed to be about love and acceptance and personal humility and reaching to God and being joyful…right?

So why, besides those things, am I kinda sorta disturbed that I’m not attending church? For one, it’s nice to share discussion about faith, God, and the truth of things (as far as our little human minds can discern).  I also believe strongly in prayer and in the power of people praying together. My daily and weekly routines hold God close, and they work!  I begin each day with prayer and a reading from Jesus Calling (a devotional that really gets what Christianity is about) or one of Sarah Young’s other devotionals.  After lunch, I refocus with prayer and reading Joyce Meyer’s daily online devotional.  I do a bit of yoga every morning, one class, and one extended podcast a week.  You might be wondering about that, but as a human, it seems that my soul and my body are entangled. The physical practice of yoga seems to loosen those ties a bit (the ancient people got that right), and it allows me to do a bit of meditation/savasana/shavasana afterward that really helps me let God in.  Nicey nice.  No, no yoga instructor worth their salt is pushing a particular religion, so I have no altar set up to the elephant-headed goddess or anything of that sort.  (Just thought you should know.)  I read about other faiths, and I read the gospels on the weekends.  I pay particular attention to the words and actions of Christ, and I go slowly enough to stop, digest, and re-read as necessary.  Most importantly, I take long walks with my dog.  Sundays mornings are full of outdoor adventures for us.  These, above all, fill me with joy about God’s work–in her, and in everything I see.  (I sure hope I don’t get conked in the head and molested when I’m out doing this–that would be a downer.  For the most part, I feel a whole lot safer out in the woods with Killer the Puppy than I ever do walking the streets of a town).

All in all, I think I have Unitarian Universalist leanings.  There is one big truth out there, and God reaches to his people–ALL his people, no exceptions–in the way that speaks best to them.  Every person is of equal value.  I am fine in NOT having all the answers (like the God-algebra equation) because I think I’d be fooling myself.  I’m happy to be human and let God be God.  If I ever understand God and his work, it would be a miracle.  I don’t think I’m wired for that.  Sooo…

Please advise :-).

I’m Fresh Outta Titles, Which is Sort of Ironic

•November 6, 2013 • 11 Comments

If you’ve guessed that I blog only when I travel…you’re half right.   It’s the only real undisturbed and awake time I can find.  Too bad I don’t travel more often!  I figured it was time I reach out to you hangers-on who have come to mean so much to me.  Yes, I read YOUR stuff–I just haven’t produced anything for you to read for quite a while.  What a slacker.

However, this doesn’t mean I’m not writing at all.  I am working on Other Stuff, finally!  I really can’t figure out what has possessed me to explore and expand on the “what-if” ideas that have been bouncing around my brain all these years.  The time has come to see at least one of the stories through to the finish.   Yes, we must be up to Plan M or Plan N for my life by this point.  Rather than a Plan, it’s more of a hobby, but I am enjoying the process like crazy.  I don’t have any idea where it will lead, and I’m not setting up any preconceptions about that.  Doing so seems to be a dangerous route fraught with fantasies (not usually THAT kind of fantasies ;-)) and setting myself up for disappointment.  Sensitive little me is not in the market for that.  For now, it feels as if I’m creating the threads of lives and knotting them together in some sort of macramé, complete with braids, weaves, and knots (no funky beads).  It will probably end up looking like some sort of freaky hippie contraption, too, but it does have a master design–just not a master to tie the knots.  The plan is to carry out the story until it’s finished to my satisfaction–quite the lofty goal, eh?  This could take months or years.  It’s just good to get the creativity beast off my chest and out of my mind on a regular basis.  I’ll try to keep you posted.

Now here’s another catch to this latest hobby: trying not to alienate and/or victimize everyone I know.   (Be assured that none of you bloggers are involved.)  Writers are supposed to write about what they know, right?  Don’t go faking unless you’ve got an inkling about where you’re going and some really great research to back you up and make it believable.  To prevent my ass from getting kicked if anyone should ever read this tale of mine, I am going to have to get research on my side to alter some strong and recognizable characters–just base them on a couple people present in my life who really deserve to be outed, you know!  I’d love to do that, but it’s not gonna happen unless I plan to steal out of town by moonlight.  As much as I’d love to point straight at a few people and say YOU ARE FRICKEN INSANE AND IT’S TIME EVERYONE KNOWS IT, *sigh* it’s just not going to happen this way.  At best, if I should ever get this thing published, I’m guessing more people would be pointing at me and saying THERE’S THAT “LOCAL  AUTHOR” (OR SO SHE THINKS), AND SHE IS FRICKEN INSANE.  Damn.   As I said, enjoy the process, Holly.  Enjoy the ride.  It’s a hobby, it’s life…Like running, yoga, and painting.  But I really do like it 🙂

faith in how far

Of Dogs and Deities

•August 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Just got back from my evening walk with Maya.  Twilight is coming earlier already–aaack!–and I read on Accuweather (which is notoriously inaccurate) that the Upper Midwest, which envelops the Land O’ Cheese, can expect an early frost this year.  The blessed event will occur somewhere in mid-September.  You gotta be freakin’ kidding me.  We just got rid of winter in June.  Winter in this part of the country lasts way too long for this Illinois girl, so I long for a proper winter where snow falls for the first time around Thanksgiving and the daffodils are in full bloom by mid-April.  Guess I’ll have to shop for some new woolies instead.

We ran into some unusual twilight delicacies for Miss Maya tonight.  There was a small, winged and squealing creature that she felt obligated to pick up in the Bunny Field (another Poohlike name).  It took me a few pokes with a stick to be sure it was not a rabid, frothing bat, but a baby bird instead.  After another type of poo, we crossed the street to deposit the matter in the trash can by the tennis court (because it inspires them to play better I can’t stand to carry it for long).  Next Maya found the internal organs of a tennis ball, which looked as if they had been dragged through a pool of saliva, rolled in parking lot leavin’s, and aged in the sun for several days.  Maya thought it was divine.  She carried it for blocks–occasionally shoving her head between my knees to encourage me to take it and give it a try.  I declined.  In fact, I eventually made her drop it and leave it, because I didn’t want her consuming the thing at home.  I’d have to boil her mouth or something.

It was after all this that I was thinking about how our relationships with our kids and our pets are often like the relationship God has with us.  For now, I’ll deal with the doggie analogy.  I delight in her beauty and her skills, and I want to her to be in situations that put them to their best use.  Real-life agility would be perfect.  We’ll see if she’ll ever do contrived doggie obstacle courses.  She loves leaping over logs, slogging through swamps, and long-jumping over creeks.  She is pure joy when she runs free, and she stops frequently and looks back at me to check in.  She also runs to me just to get a pat or shove my hand before she runs off again.  And then…she often sticks her nose into empty cups or licks carcasses and junk food she finds in a ditch, and they sometimes make her sick.  She wades into the bluest muck she can find, and when I demand that she come out, she looks at me defiantly and plunges her head in.  (And I love her for that stubbornness and her attitude that hey, I’m beautiful, but I’m tough–but it’s a pain in the ass.)  As far as training her to walk on the leash without straining so often, I stop whenever she puts pressure on the leash and guide her back to my side, all the while looking ahead at where we are going.  When she stops trying to lead, I move ahead toward our goal with her at my side.  Does this need any further explanation?!!

Hopefully I’m a merciful deity to the little furball.  She’s grown up into such a beautiful, brave young dog.

 Maya run

Pie Wisdom

•August 11, 2013 • 1 Comment

This is a little bit of a deviation from the catching up I’d planned to do on my blog, but for you thrill-seekers, I’m keeping it brief (HAH!).  Just keep in mind that I’ve had unexpressed thoughts bouncing around in my head for months, and that I have to stay true to who I’m writing for: me.

I was making a couple pies today–one for us and one for the neighbors who brought food to my son while the rest of the family was away in Boston.  It’s a Bakewell pie, based on an English tart (and I’m guessing tart means it is a concoction that contains fruit).  The pie has a raspberry jam bottom and an almond meal sponge cake top.  I adore any combination of almond and raspberry.  A little whipped cream and a side of coffee (Irish, maybe?) and my day will be made.

Anyway, while I was cooking, I decided to “turn it all over to God.”  I’m back to wondering what comes next.  It’s clear from my latest posts that family comes first, but now I’m down to my husband and son in the house, and my son’s programming keeps him extremely busy.  The departure of my daughter left me with a lot more time on my hands, and when my son moves out again (Imminent–note that menacing capital I), I’ll have even more time.  I hope to handle it even better than I have in the past.

So, what now, God?  No exact answers as to what, but a few things came to me from my latest and past experiences.  Pardon the new-agey/flaky labels, but I had to put a name to them to help me remember them:

(1) Go into the in-between.  This means prayer (reaching out to God) and meditation (being still and letting God in).  That will be the source of the what.  Doesn’t matter what your faith is, you need to be still and present sometimes.  My yoga training is pretty apparent here.

(2) Cast your net widely.   I learned this in searching for housing for my daughter in Boston.  We contacted people about a wide range of housing in a wide range of places, let people get back to us, viewed the places, and selected from what remained.  Sharing the top of house with two other women was not at all what she had in mind, but she’s now in a lively neighborhood, in a beautiful apartment with a lot of space, with at least one roommate (the one I met) being a wonderful companion–uncannily similar to my daughter in outlook and goals.  This wouldn’t have come to us if we hadn’t put forth some effort and kept an open mind.

(3) Get your hands into it (whatever you try).  This is the Pie Crust Approach.  For a short time, I worked as a waitress in a downtown diner in northern Wisconsin, complete with country music and a polyester dress.  When the owner/head cook was gone, a real cook filled in–she’d run a restaurant in Ladysmith (love that name), Wisconsin, for years before retiring in the Rhinelander area.  Edie is one of my all-time heroes.  She could make pies and stir up soups like no one’s business, and she yodeled like a bird while she cooked.  One lazy, rainy afternoon, she took it upon herself to teach me how to make pie crust.  She explained cutting in the fat until the mix stuck together in pea-sized pieces, the importance of using ice water, and then…of sticking your hands into the dough to really get a feel for what was right.  I’ve been able to make top-notch pie crusts (and pies) ever since!  (Wish I’d picked up a few more cooking tips from Edie…)

(4) Feel gratitude.  I’m not going off on The Secret here.  I’ve heard Secret People say that “The Universe loves gratitude!” but I also think The Universe is not stupid and sees right through attempts at exploitation.  What I mean is that–again, no matter what your faith–it just never hurts anything to count your blessings, even when it’s hard.

So that’s it–a little Pie Wisdom for the day.  Winnie the Pooh would be so proud of me!

And What Exactly Were You Expecting?!!

•August 9, 2013 • 6 Comments

Still pondering the whole bouncing kids deal–you know, kids being home, leaving home, coming back home, and eventually leaving for good.  As I mentioned before, it breaks my heart every time they leave.  A part of me even wishes they’d just stay away (aside from short visits), just to save me the heartache.  But no…it’s a good heartache.  Sometimes love provides the right kind of hurt.

So what was I expecting?  Really, nothing at first.  Waaaay back in the beginning, it was more of a lust deal and a guess-the-time-is-alright-if-kids-happen deal and…probably shouldn’t go back to conception, though, right?  So we had kids, like all of you did.  Maternal hormones spun around this ambitious girl who hadn’t really considered the undertaking fully.  I’d been concerned only with continuing on with my education to get my master’s degree in psychology.  Amazingly, it appears that I got pregnant the night of my college graduation, in fact (now how would that ever happen?!!).  However, hormones are mysterious, ancient forces one should not underestimate.  By the time I was fully enjoying the nausea, I was also swearing that I was going to raise that child, and I would do it alone, and no one would take that privilege away from me!  Gawdammit.

And so I did, or we did–my husband and I had been married for around five years when our son joined us.  Twenty-three months later, the future Bostonian was born into the family as well.

And what did I expect after those fuzzy-headed babies started to grow?  Kids who would not be perfect, because my husband and I are not perfect.  How could I expect something from them that we are not?  Kids who had their own interests and goals in life, and did not exist to fulfill my dreams or my husband’s dreams.  People who would handle the joys and disappointments in life as fully and bravely as they could–it was our responsibility to guide them toward that (because life is never easy or predictable or stable for long).  People who would make the most of their one shot at life, maybe better than I have made the most of mine (*ahem* let me insert here that I’m not fricken dead yet).

And what did I get?  Kids who are fully alive and pursuing their dreams as they should.  I guess that part went well.  I comfort myself by thinking of our American ancestors who left their homelands and said goodbye forever to their parents.  That would not only break a heart, it would crush it to bits.  And today we have technology.  By the time I’m a few miles away from my kids, there are bound to be texts, which make the separation strangely more bearable.

But for now, Interstate 90 is the ribbon that binds me to her.  And from time to time, I have to send my love in a box.