Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Marian Jordan Lewanowski and MJL Photography

Last week I received an email from Jordan unexpectedly. I've still no idea how he stumbled across Quotidian Light or what about it caught his eye, but whatever the cause, I'm grateful. He sent me a link to his website, and while you're visiting there, I strongly recommend that you explore his gallery. Light holds an inexplicably strong fascination for me, and Jordan's photographs are to Thomas Kincade's (the "painter of light"'s) paintings what Oliver, Kenyon or Nye's poems are to Hallmark's. We're talking no comparison, here, people.

When Jordan asked if I'd be interested in linking to his site, I replied that I would but that I wanted to be able to give my readers more than just a link. He very kindly consented to letting me post an introduction to him and his work, for which I'm very grateful. You'll find it below. Enjoy!

Marian Jordan Lewandowski (MJL) is a freelance photographer based in Europe whose work has been published in various places including the April 2003 centerfold of the internationally recognized American periodical Popular Photography. Jordan describes the photos he strives to take as, “Uncommon, difficult to categorize, on the point of poetry, expressing deepest spiritual values, depicting the coexistence of a man and nature as well as mysticism.”

Because of the high esteem he holds for the natural strength and beauty of reality, the confidence and respect he holds for the viewers of his work, and his trust in and respect for his own talent and skill, almost no PS manipulation is used in Jordan's work . Some of the highlights and reoccurring themes that characterize photos from MJL Photography are as follows:

Italy-the beauty of this Mediterranean country.
Poland-and thestrength of wonderful uncontaminated nature.
New York, Manhattan - energetic places
Van Gogh - his madness in colour
Old Dutch Masters of 16th century - their use of light and tone,
Poetry - notably the English Romantics

Jordan also has a solid appreciation of universal Christian values and has involved himself in numerous voluntary organizations as well as Students' Christian Societies. He writes, "...I consider life to be a meeting - a meeting with God, with other people--Christians and non-Christians, with God present in nature ..The most beautiful thing that a human being can experience is the possibility of true dialogue; my website is such an attempt--my private but open dialogue with the world, with other open-minded, sensitive people ..."

JML is the author of a book of poetry and photos dedicated the mystic Rome, entitled Roma--Citta Aperta (Rome--The Open City).

One question for you, Jordan, when you read this: where can we find your book?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Why Having Children is Fun: Reason #456

A couple of nights ago, our younger daughter came to me holding the side of her face in her hand and said that the Christmas tree had "whacked" her on the head. I pulled her into my lap making sympathetic noises and cautioning her about being more careful in the future.

"Remember when Mommy bought that Christmas tree and brought it home? Well, I got it on sale. It had been a display model, and the store had to get rid of it, so they put it on clearance. There had been a problem, you see. Every time little children would walk by, this tree would try to bite their heads off. So you have to be veeeerrry careful to not play too close to it and tempt it."

I love kids.

(They taste wonderful!)

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Great Golden Sun Cat

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His given name is "Schuster", but "Schuster" hardly a fitting name for a beast of his dignity and ferocity. Thus, "The Great Golden Sun Cat" or "The GGSC", for short.

The Hummingbird Story

After the last post, Seeker and I Wonder asked to hear how I came to hold a hummingbird in my hand. Simple story, really. One got trapped on my parents' back porch, having flown in through an open door, I assume. I thought it was a large bumblebee until I heard it chirping as it flew into the windows that line two sides of the porch.

I was unsuccessful at shooing it out, so I got one of my mother's large tea-towels and caught it , then gingerly transferred it into my hands and carried it outside. Once caught, it didn't struggle, even when I took it out of the towel. Instead it watched me with bright, interested eyes, chirping occasionally and cocking its head to see where we were going. It flew free when I opened my fingers.

Another bird story: A couple of springs ago I was reading in the bedroom when a resounding WHACK on the window interrupted me. Birds often fly into our windows in the spring and early summer, despite efforts to deter them. Usually they're only stunned and recover fairly quickly, but this time I noted the Great Golden Sun Cat not far away from the feathery inert body on the grass, so I went outside to intervene. As the GGSC hurried closer, I picked the bird up. It was alive; I could feel its heart against my fingers. After awhile it opened its eyes but still couldn't get to its feet, so I stood there by the rosebushes, the little grey bird with the black mask in my opened hands and the cat rubbing around my legs until the bird could (and enthusiastically did) fly away. Afterward, I looked it up. A loggerhead shrike.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Five Random Facts

Michael tapped me to list five random facts about myself and then nudge five more people. I'm going to follow his example and make them all facts you wouldn't know from reading QL.

1. The earrings I wore for our wedding belonged to Great Scott.

2. I can tie a cherry stem in a knot using only my teeth and my tongue.

3. I twist my hair when I'm preoccupied or tired.

4. I once got my brother to climb into a tractor tire and then rolled it down a fairly steep hill toward a road.

5. I have held a hummingbird in my hands.

Nudges: Jennifer, Meg, Grumpy Teacher, Dawn, and Teri.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Buckbrush---A New Trend?

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Buckbrush. I love it: its humble height, the arc of its slender branches, its persistent brightness against the neutrals of late autumn and winter. It grows in fence rows and along the edges of wooded areas. This particular sprig was growing near the creek where the trees begin to give way to the openness of the fields.

I am no photographer by any stretch of the imagination But yesterday I took a long walk with the camera, a walk which yielded a great many pictures, and to my surprise and pleasure, Great Scott actually approved of a few. He told me to start blogging some of them. So for what it's worth, here's a glimpse of why I walk where I do: in the woods, in the fields, on pond banks, and alongside creeks. If you enjoy the pics, I'll likely keep posting them. Otherwise I will allow words to suffice.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Friday Quote: From Under the Tree

Found under our Christmas tree on a gift, in eight-year-old handwriting:

To: The Queen Dragon
From: a tendir morsl

(Yes, I know it's Sunday, but better late than never for a Friday Quote.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bundling Up

This morning Great Scott surprised me bright and early by saying, "You're not going to believe this, but school is cancelled." Outside in the near-dark, I could see only a powdering on the dark grass. He had to be kidding!

He was, in fact, not kidding. Schools for miles around have cancelled, although we aren't supposed to get much snow, and what we're in for isn't supposed to be snow of the "sticking" sort. Perhaps some cancellations are due more to cold (supposedly we're in the coldest midwest December on record thus far), with temperatures below freezing and due to continue dropping all day.

It's not been unusual to see students without coats when I pick the girls up at the end of a frigid school day, and Great Scott tells me that when he's asked students, "Where's your coat?" they often reply that they don't have one. Sometimes it's just high school students who are too "cool" (literally!) to wear a coat, but often enough these kids really don't have winter coats.

The school nurse told me one year that she loves it when people will donate warm winter things to her office. She can hand these out quietly to the kids who need them most badly--the kids whose parents can't afford even thrift store clothing but are too proud to ask for help, the kids whose parents just haven't bothered to notice how cold it is or what their kids are wearing, the kids whose parents are cooking meth on the kitchen stove and have no interest in what their kids wear to school or even if they're going to school at all. It happens. I've seen them. I've known them. I've had them run to me and huddle under my coat for warmth and a quick hug at the end of the day before climbing onto their bus, even though they know me only as the mother of one of their friends.

So...just a thought...if you have any kids' outgrown winter wear, or if you know people who do, bundling it up and making a quiet offer to a school nurse may just save some little fingers, throats, ears and bodies from painful cold this winter.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

If You Were a Character in Beowulf...

You scored as The Dragon. Ancient, chaotic, and a bit mysterious is the Dragon figure. Awakened from your happy slumber upon a pile of gold, you go about the country slaying its occupants. Beowulf manages to kill you, but not before you ensure his death. Congrats.

The Dragon












Grendel's Mother


If You Were in Beowulf...
created with QuizFarm.com

Maybe this explains my favorite online video game of all time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Quote: On Writing and Accomplishments

"Writing is only writing. The accomplishments of courage and tenderness are not to be measured by paragraphs."

---Mary Oliver
"Sand dabs, Eight"
Long Life

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Monday night after Great Scott's tests, I stayed up until 3:something in the morning, unwilling to sleep, wanting to stop time in the stillness of the night. I was cold. Very cold. Putting on another sweater didn't help. Putting on houseshoes didn't help. Sitting directly in front of the heat stove helped a little, but not much. When I did go to bed, I piled on the covers but couldn't sleep for my violent shivering. This continued all day yesterday and into today.

On the rare occasions that I speak (or write) of the most painful and frightening things that have happened in my life, I don't get emotional and am not tempted to. I don't cry; I don't feel like crying. I don't get angry. I don't feel afraid. My body, however, becomes very cold, and I tremble. I tremble hard. So given our current concern about Scott, I assumed that my feeling chilled was probably a physical manifestation of emotional stress.

This morning I took a walk. Last night had brought a hard frost, and even past 10:00 a.m. each grass blade and fallen leaf was outlined (when not completely covered) in its thick silvered-white. Halfway back to the house I knelt in the middle of the gravel road and cried, my hands in my lap, the stones pressing against my knees. When I thought I had my breath back, I lay down on the ground, my face buried in my arms. And this was good. There is a comfort in hard earth, in the chill of stone, in their solidness, their support along the body, their stillness. I lay there a long time, letting these soak into me, and if I went home feeling even colder than before, I also went home understanding that while I had been afraid of the cold after all, I don't have to be .

(Note: I discovered this afternoon that I am, indeed, running a fever, and I've been queasy all day, as has our older daughter. The stomach flu, I am told, is going around again. Ah, timing!)

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving Holiday--The Report

Great Scott! blogged much more during Thanksgiving break than did I. If you'd like to know more, read his posts for Nov. 23, Nov. 24, Nov. 25 and Nov. 26.

There is no blog entry on Great Scott!'s blog for Nov. 27. November the 27th--yesterday--Great Scott and I spent the day in the emergency room. Today we spent the day in the urologist's office. Thursday we will spend the day at the hospital having more tests done and in the urologist's office as he hopefully finds something conclusive in these tests, since today's has given us only this good news: "Well, it's not cancer of the bladder."

No, cancer is not a surity. So far the only proven thing is that there is blood where there ought not be, that kidney stones are not causing it, and that Great Scott! does not appreciate any number of rather personal medical procedures. I can't say that I blame him.

We have learned that one does hear particularly interesting conversations among the nurses of the ER when one is in a curtained cubical across the hall from their desk. One went something like this:

Nurse 1: "Ok. I'm going to lunch. You'll be ok until I get back."
Nurse 2: "I think I'm going to throw up."
Nurse 1: "Oh, no. You'll be fine! There's nothing to worry about. Nothing can happen that can't be fixed! It's all fixable! (thoughtful pause) . . . except death. (another pause, then continuing perkily) You can't fix death!

I also discovered that when a patient's IV bottle is hung from a bar attached to the bed so that the patient cannot move from the bed, one can, from a distance of three feet or better and with reasonable accuracy, flip the patient with the rubber strip the nurse tied around the patient's arm earlier. Only one of many high-quality amusements to be found in an ER cubical after five hours of waiting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Frappr! Map

Jeremy has found an absolutely snifty little blog gizmo that fascinates me terribly. So of course, I'm going to steal it. Hey! In the blogosphere, piracy is the sincerest form of flattery! Think of it that way. So much prettier than the word "plagarism", for example.

That said, I would love for Quotidian Light's regular and semi-regular readers to go grab a pushpin and make their mark at the Quotidian Light Readers' Map at Frappr!

(Much less complicated than it looks; you don't have to sign up for a full account; and the areas are general (zip code) not home location specific, for those of you concerned about that.)

Playing Whack-a-Mole

This morning, the first day of the girls' Thanksgiving break, I was awakened by the pitiful, heart-sinking sound of our younger daughter retching. With the exception of yesterday--glorious, glorious yesterday!--someone in our family has been sick since the 24th of October: the girls missed a week and a half of school each; Great Scott has battled colds and stomach stuff (ah, the joys of being a public school teacher!) all month; and after a literally painful two-week head cold, I only yesterday considered myself "safe" enough to not infect my grandmother and to resume taking her on her doctor's appointments and stopping by to check in on her several times a week. One day--yesterday--when everyone was well and life was "normal." And now, the day before Thanksgiving...upchucking bright and early in the morning.

Sometimes life feels like an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. One thing comes up; you tackle it. Another pops up; you wrestle it to the ground. Another raises its head; you bean it. Some days I'm not sure if I'm the one holding the hammer or the crazed little mole running around trying to find a safe place to poke my head up for a breath of air.

Back in September during an email conversation about being grounded and taking action from that place of interior authority and sureness, I mentioned to a friend that I have most strongly felt that sense of sureness/authority when I am doing a poetry reading and/or writing mentoring. He responded, "If I were you, I'd LIVE my life as a poet and mentor as well as a mommy...warts and all being essential parts of the package that makes you a poet and mentor." That's haunted me for two months as I've tried to put my finger on exactly how that applies to where I'm at right now, caught as I am between the professional training by which I'd intended to define my life and the motherhood I purposefully didn't prepare myself for back when I swore I would never have children. It would have made more sense to me if he'd said, "I'd live my life as a MOMMY as well as a poet and mentor...warts and all being essential parts of the package that makes you a mommy." Not that I'm criticizing him; he didn't have any way of knowing on which end of the role issue I felt more grounded, and to be fair, this may have actually been exactly what he meant. Communication is an art of inaacuracies.

So I'm asking myself lately what elements that manifest most easily for me as a poet can be transplanted to hopefully take root in the realm of building a home and family? The image comes to mind of a blindfolded Luke Skywalker swinging a lightsaber at a darting ball, learning to simultaneously relax and focus:
1. Focusing on the matter at hand and letting all the other stuff go, including the ultimate outcome.
2. Trusting that doing my best will be adequate and that if it isn't, the sun will go on shining anyway.
3. Swinging with calm intent and purpose rather than flailing about wildly.
4. Choosing my mole.

I've a suspicion playing Whack-a-Mole with lightsabers might just add a whole new level of satisfaction and possibilities to the game.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Because it's Good for You

I hated those words as a child. They applied to everything from canned spinach to an early bedtime to that nasty pink antibiotic nuclear sludge the doctor prescribed everytime my mother dragged me into his office. I still don't like them--the words OR those other things, thankyouverymuch.

An odd thing about depression. At least the one I've been slipping into further and further all weekend. It saps your volitional strength, your willed ability to choose to do the very things that would help pull you out of depression's sucking muck and back toward some sort of solid shore. The things that are good for you are the very things for which you have the least desire. One of the disadvantages of being an adult, however, is that you can no longer deny that you know what is good for you, and since you know, you have a sort of obligation to put up or shut up, regardless of whether or not you feel like it.

I find this irritating.

So, with all the enthusiasm of a three-year-old downing a teaspoon of amoxicillin, I'm going to do what's good for me and take an active stance in the WAW (War Against Whining) that Randy is waging over at Everyday Thoughts Collected, by listing ten things for which I'm grateful.

1. I'm grateful my life is not an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. (We watched The Phantom of the Opera--movie version--this weekend, and I was rather disturbed to find that the Phantom reminded me of a particular internet acquaintance, although I couldn't explain quite why.)

2. I'm grateful for the open patch of sky over our house tonight. The stars are cold and distant and set in much darkness, but they're also comforting and clear.

3. I'm grateful for the nap stolen on my mother-in-law's couch this afternoon.

4. I'm grateful that I'm going to be an aunt all over again next July.

5. I'm grateful for good poetry.

6. I'm grateful for ink and paper and beautiful blank journals.

7. I'm grateful that I'm not essential. That would be too much weight to bear.

8. I'm grateful for beads and wire, fastenings and tools, garnets, citrine, jade, tourmaline, freshwater pearls, peridot, onyx, picture jasper, red tigereye and silver. For solid materials to hold in my hands when my mind won't hold words or concepts with which to work.

9. I'm grateful for utterly ridiculously trivial nonsensicallities like Lady Macbeth (see the very bottom of Quotidian Light's main page) with which I can amuse myself for hours, if a bit maniacally some of the time, I'll admit.

10. I'm grateful for light, even when the sky is leaden and the sun, it seems, has turned to brass. And I'm grateful for darkness, also, as much as I hate it often enough. And for the interplay of the two.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Friday Quote: On Winter

"Killing turkeys causes winter."

--Original source unknown

Thoughts on Seasonal Moods

In the comments section of my last post, Ben said, "Autumn used to be a time to get ready to hunker down and winter a time to hunker down. Maybe you have it right and everyone else is screwed up." Thanks, Ben.

Just for the record, I DO think I'm right, and I DO think everyone else is screwed up. Nice, conservative, evangelically-raised girls just aren't supposed to say that. Perhaps, though, it's time to chuck the pancake makeup of false humility along with the small-floral-print dresses and the big hair, eh?

It does make sense, does it not, that perhaps human beings were never meant to run full-throttle year-round? That perhaps we do ourselves damage by refusing to slow down in our intellectual and emotional lives as well as our physical? This is why I was thrilled to read the following in *McMan's Depression and Bipolar Weekly newsletter:

Metabolic Depression

Bear with me on this:

A speculative
article in Medical Hypothesis by John Tsiouris MD of the New York State Institute for Basic Research proposes "metabolic depression" as the underlying biology for the vegetative symptoms found in major depression. Dr Tsiouris makes his case with reference to hibernating bears. Both hibernation and metabolic depression, according to Dr Tsiouris, confer survival advantages such as conservation of energy during times of life-threatening environmental stressors.

Prior to hibernation, says Dr Tsiouris, bears display features common to humans with atypical depression, including overeating, oversleeping, and decreased mobility. This changes when bears hibernate. Now they display features closer to humans with melancholic depression such as withdrawal from the environment, lack of energy, loss of weight from not eating, and changes in sleep pattern (studies on hibernating animals actually show sleep deprivation).

Hibernating bears experience mild hypothyroidism, increased cortisol, acute phase protein response, low respiration, oxidative stress, decreased neurotransmitter levels, and changes in cAMP-binding activity. These factors may also be present in individuals with melancholic depression. According to Dr Tsiouris, the way we think and behave may be responses to the biology underlying these vegetative states.

Atypical depression, speculates Dr Tsiouris, may be a precursor to melancholic depression or it may be a separate phenomenon triggered by extremes in temperature or sunlight. It may also be related to anxiety. Because atypical depression and anxiety are identified with bipolar disorder, Dr Tsiouris theorizes that bipolar "may be due to a vigorous attempt by the individual to prevent entrance into major depression with melancholic features," either by remaining atypically depressed or by "escaping" into hypomania or mania.

In the past three years I had begun to identify this pattern in myself, but only in the last few months had I begun to be able to put it into words. When I and others like me fight our annual slide into the all-too familiar fog of disconnectedness and loss (of energy, high spirits, enthusiasm and general interest in just about anything) that the inescapable change of seasons brings, the result is initially an increase in euphoria, drivenness, anger and instability and a PUSH toward frenetic activity, achievement, self-hatred and crushing guilt, all rolled into one. But when we acknowledge its approach, when we consent to accept it, to observe and stand witness to the yearly diminishing of our very human energies and abilities to achieve, we can find the fog that once threatened to overwhem us is filled with the possibilites of its own beauty: light caught and refracted, multiplied within each infintesimal water droplet hanging in the air, caught in our eyelashes, clinging to our hair, beading on the backs of our chilled hands, our weary and patient shoulders.

It is most often difficult for me to speak or write about the things that mean the most to me, the ones that are rooted the deepest and are most instinctually sensed. I've an inner reluctance to do so that isn't easily overcome. So thanks for the goad, Ben. It's led to a reminder I needed.

[*McMan's Depression and Bipolar Weekly is the email newsletter of McMan's Depression and Bipolar Web, one of the best sites available for information on bipolar disorder.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blustery Day Rambling

Autumn is solidly set into the calendar of our daily lives, it seems, here at PossumBox Lane. The wind is shoving against the house, rampaging through the leafless, sketchy branches of the trees outside, and the cat has once again claimed the top of the old heat stove as his favorite perch, albeit somewhat gingerly, as he is never sure when it will be hot enough to burn his paws and when it won't. This morning the girls and I dug out their winter coats and found gloves that will serve, at least for a little while.

Autumn and winter have always been bittersweet times of the year for me. Early autumn has usually been particularly troublesome, as I'm plagued by intensity of emotion from both ends of the scale, usually simultaneously. Heading into the holiday season, though, the inner drive toward anger or frenetic joy tends to die down. In the past, I've hated this time, dreaded it horribly. After feeling so much, feeling so alive, this grey existence quickly extended into depression and despair out of sheer guilt for feeling less than I thought I should be feeling. This year, I think--I hope--will be otherwise.

I am doing my best to lay aside self-expectations this winter, to let myself off the achievement hook. If I don't write a single couplet, fine. If I don't get all the holiday decorations out, fine. If I neglect my blog shamelessly--well, that'll just have to be fine, too. One thing, though, I do fully intend to pursue. What I want, more than anything, is to be able to find something beautiful in the fog of "depressed" or diminished mood, something to show that there is meaning there, and worth, something that applies to the life I live everyday as the person I am in the circumstances in which I find myself. Instinctively, I know with that "knowing beyond knowing" that meaning and value do exist in this foggy grey winter existence. I will find it. And I will live there, rest in it, be content.

Friday, November 11, 2005

More Procrastination Aids

Go ahead. Blame your dropping work productivity on me. You know you love them.

Because Great Scott was for many years of our marriage a devoted caffeine addict, I found the following site particularly fun. Go find out how much of your favorite caffeinated beverage you'd have to drink to die of caffeine overdose.

You seen them--cheerful, brightly colored ads for prescription drugs--"Ask your doctor about XXX." "See if XXX is right for you."---followed by a two-page spread of hair-raising, small print about experimental studies and side effects, usually containing words like, "pain," "vomiting," "hemorrhage," "arrhythmia," "tremor," "thrombocytopenia," "cardiac failure," and (my personal favorite), "death." Sounds like fun for the whole family, eh? Well, at last our troubles are over: Panexa has arrived! Be sure to read all the fine print. It's worth it. Here's a sample:

Muscle: In a small number of tested cases (84%) PANEXAwas found to cause abdominal wall muscle breakdown coupled with spasmodic activity in lower back/spinal muscles, resulting in most patients violently bending forward like a book slamming shut. While some other drugs promote similar responses (gemifbrozil, fresh cherries, nicitonic acid, cyclosporine, mustard gas, and acetomenaphin) PANEXA's reactions are over 48X as powerful and take place with a great deal more panache and flash. Also, PANEXA can contribute to developing inhumanly powerful tongue muscles, capable of licking through steel. Lymphatic System: If, after taking PANEXA for a period of four to six weeks, you still have any functioning lymph nodes remaining, double the dosage every two (3) weeks until they are all gone.

Thanks to Shrinkette for the most excellent links.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Some days the various interactions you have with other people leave you feeling bruised. Not neglected or offended or upset or angry or hurt or abused or taken advantage of or foolish or guilty or misunderstood, necessarily. Just weary, worn thin like a faithful and threadbare old blanket. Bruised. It's times like this that I want to cry and could cry, but am not convinced of the need or reason to cry. There isn't anything wrong, after all. Then I think about our younger daughter. There doesn't have to be a rational reason for her to cry; she just cries when she needs to, often out of simple weariness. And it helps.

Since when did childhood wisdom succumb to logic?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How Do I Love Thee?

Michael at Stick Poet Super Hero has asked readers to help him create a list of words for love. I'm going to keep checking in for awhile to see what transpires over there. The concept intrigues me.

Well, go post something!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Jesus in Limbo

This morning when I awoke the two sick children to determine whether or not they were of schoolworthy health (they were not), I plucked from the chaotic mass of childhood paraphrenalia that is their bedroom floor, their Renaissance Art Game and delivered a short lecture on not leaving "nice" games and toys to be trampled with the McDonald's happy meal trinkets. Ever alert for play opportunities, the younger daughter promptly requested a game.

So what better did I have to do, since they weren't going to school?

Soon the cards had been dealt, and we were playing happily away right there on their rumpled bed. For those of you who've never had the opportunity to play The Renaissance Art Game, I'll explain that it consists of a 3o cards, each with a picture of a masterpiece by one of five renaissance artists (six masterpieces per artist). The object is to collect complete sets of each artist's works from the other players, very much like Go Fish. One catch, though, is that you can't just ask for an artist's card in general; you have to name the specific masterpiece you're looking for. (Each card also lists all six masterpieces in its artist's set along the bottom.) So in theory your children learn to say, "Mother, have you Michelangelo's Madonna of the Steps?" or "Might I persuade you to part with Fra Angelico's Christ in Limbo?" or even, "I say, dear Sister, could you spare Botticelli's The Annunciation?"

In reality, you get something more along the lines of this (from the younger daughter), "Mama, do you have Broccoli's The Annunclian?" or this (from the older), "Ok. I need Fran Alleco's Christ in Limbo...Hey, wait a minute! Shouldn't Jesus be bent more backward with his head back in that one?"

If I hadn't have fallen apart right there on the counterpane, she probably would have asked where the limbo stick was, too.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Last Weekend's Reunion

Last weekend's extended family get-together went off very well, thank Goodness. Lots of small, very fun moments, and the place we stayed (which I booked without having actually laid eyes on it in real life) was absolutely perfect: quiet, a grassy playground for the little ones to play, a large conference room where we could all hang out and eat together, nice individual rooms. I was given requests to book the same place next year, and we even came up with a date, which will save a lot of effort on my part as far as trying to arrange a time with everyone scattered across the country.

The most entertaining moment had to have been when my mother finally arrived. Unbeknownst to most of our family, my brother and I had plotted for over a month to find a way to enable him to be there. He's in the Air Force, stationed in Tucson, AZ, and he hasn't been able to come to the reunions for years now. We pulled it off. Mom didn't suspect a thing when she entered our cabin (which was crammed with relatives all waiting to see her reaction--they'd all been surprised too and hung around waiting for the next person to arrive and be shocked and pleased). She didn't even recognize him when he walked right up to her. She kept talking to the person next to her and looking around at everyone else. Finally he tapped her on the shoulder. At last she looked at him (still talking--she's good at that) still without really seeing him, turned, paused, then turned back around, cried his name, hugged him and started crying. It was great. I shall glory in the moment for months.

We came home, and the girls promptly got sick. Then I succumbed. Am not doing particularly well, and I'm only in the beginning stages. Hopefully the girls are on the way back to health and will soon take care of me in my decrepitude. (Risky proposition, that.)

A side note of interest and amusement. You know you live in a conservative part of the country when you are near forty and get carded.

While buying a six pack of cream soda.
"Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds."

---Jojo Jenson
Dirt Farmer Wisdom

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Quote: Jamison On Limitations

"We all move uneasily within our restraints."

---Kay Redfield Jamison
An Unquiet Mind

Monday, October 17, 2005

A Note for Blogger Spellcheck Users

A few posts back, Blogger's spell check program tried to convince me that for the word "childhood" I needed to substitute the word "clitoris".

May I heartily advise against using the spell check indiscriminately?

The Week and a Birthday

First the birthday... Happy Birthday, today, Beth!!!!!! :::insert confetti, balloons, cheering, silly party hats, cake and many, many, many happy returns here:::

Then, the week... Today I ran errands with my mother. Tomorrow the younger daughter has a field trip (I'm a regular chaperone of the girls' school trips). Wednesday the older daughter has a field trip. Thursday is an early out from school for the girls, followed by parent/teacher conferences; it's also the day I have to do laundry, clean and pack for the weekend. Friday morning I have a Super Top Secret errand to run in a town an hour away from here, the girls get out early again, and then we all climb in the car and head out to the weekend-long, four-generation family reunion I've had the responsibility and privilege to put together again this year. Somewhere in the week I need to finish putting the family directory together and make copies, shop for the weekend's food, and finish and deliver some beaded spiders to the scrapbooking store (which buys them from me) in the next town. This is assuming no one springs upon me new reservations that need to be made or any other reunion related business to which I've forgotten to attend. (And, oh, my dear friends, is this ever a likelihood; I am NOT an organizer by anyone's stretch of the imagination!)

There may not be much posting going on this week. There may, on the other hand, be a great deal of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. A fascinating phenomenon to observe.

Save when one is the chicken.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Friday Quote: On Soaring

"Eagles may soar, but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines."

- unknown

Monday, October 10, 2005

Don't Tell Whoppers

This afternoon I brought home a box of malted milk balls.

Older daughter: Oh, look! Wumpers!

Mommy: (giggles) Whoppers.

Younger daughter: Mommy! Can we have some Whompers?

Mommy: (laughing now) WHOPPERS.

Older daughter: (laughs too) Ok. Sorry, Mom! Can we have some Whuppers?

Sooner or later they're going to call them "Whimpers," which by that time will be an apt description, at least as far as their mother is concerned.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Quote: On Spilling Over

"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." ---Ray Bradbury

Usually I let the Friday quote stand alone, but today some thoughts on Bradbury's words are chasing themselves around in my head. I have not been writing much of late. Here on the blog, yes, but not poetry, and not on topics of particularly deep concern. Call it a period of gestation; call it laziness; call it writer's block; call it what you will. I know its truest nature is my own unwillingness to see with "poet-vision".

Beth at Inscapes asked me on her latest meme, "When do you *see* the things you *show* us in your poems? Do your eyes ever just pass over the world as mine do, or do you always see things the way I always narrate events?"

I recognize the things that spill into my work only when I've come to a point of surrender, usually through physical exaustion or emotional despair. The cup, though, is always filling, always filling, always filling somewhere underneath the surface, deep beneath my desperate attempts to block its subterranean source with trivialities: compulsive reading, eating, internet perusing, cleaning closets, mopping floors--anything to block its flow. I can tell you why so many writers have been alcoholics and suicides: it hurts to "*see*". The vision is unquestionable, definitive, certain and strong, both in intensity of light and in depth of darkness, and for the poet, often it isn't just a matter of seeing (as in witnessing) these things, but a even more a matter of becoming at once both the light and darkness within the poem, especially during the writing process. There is beautiful stuff within the cup, yes, but it is so exquisitely lovely because its beginning was unlovliness. A poet is an alchemist who transforms not lead, but dung, usually his or her own, with no guarantee of gold as the end result of the process.

So, to answer your question, Beth, yes, the deepest part of me does continually interpret the world around me through transformative vision, but it's too painful to live a daily life from this place, so I "block" its insight purposefully (and too often compulsively) in order to be able to function like I think a "normal" person should. Not doing this would be the emotional and spiritual equivalent of walking around having had one's skin flayed from the flesh.

The blocking itself is problematic in other ways, of course. A guard can only be on watch so long before weariness decreases his or her effectiveness. That's what happened last night. I'd been blocking to the point of sleeplessness, and Teri's post yesterday on Bo of the Bales contained an unintentional challenge, one that an intrinsically contrary person such as myself could hardly pass up: to turn an unwelcome and somewhat bizzare phone call about menstruation and irritable bowel syndrome into something of literary value. My full intent in posting my reply (draft-y though it was) in the comments was to be satirical and above all, clever. Instead the cup tipped, and I got broadsided with not entirely comfortable observations on the human condition. Good insights, but not particularly warm fuzzy ones. Granted, this poem wasn't especially painful to write, but years of guarding the cup have made it harder to tip and made me more cautious about allowing it to do so, since I've no idea from poem to poem whether the "beautiful stuff" inside will be in its raw or refined form.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Saturday's Child

This morning at breakfast I recited for the girls an old rhyme about the days of the week:

Monday's child is fair of face;
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe;
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving;
Saturday's child works hard for a living;
and a child that is born on the Sabbath day
is blythe and bonnie in every way.

After I'd explained to them that the poem's writer evidently hadn't understood that the Sabbath isn't Sunday, but Saturday, and emphasized the need for accurate understanding of the facts before any sort of literary undertaking, they clamoured to know upon what days of the week they had been born.

Mommy: Saturday. Both of you.

Older daughter: You stinker!!!

Mommy: I had very little say in the matter, Young lady. You were the one who decided when to be born.

Older daughter: Hey! I didn't know it was Saturday! There wasn't a calendar in there!

Logophiliac Fix--Wall Words

I do not often post links to retail sites. In fact, I think only Despair, Inc has rated a QL link thus far. Today that changes. Go take a look at Wall Words.

(Disclaimer: The author of Quotidian Light shall not be responsible for any bodily injury resulting from fellow logophiliacs hyperventilating and falling from their desk chairs.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Latest Procrastination Tool

Here's a lovely little procrastination tool by way of Way Seeker's blog. I have to admit, the description is uncannily accurate.

You are Schroeder!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
Brought to you by Quizilla

Monday, October 03, 2005

To Blog or Not to Blog

Lately I've been going to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Some people, I understand, feel a daily increasing tiredness when they do this. Personally I hardly notice any effect for several days. Then I crash. Like bodyslamming a brick wall. I am SO there.

So today, I can post a deeply philosophical, inspiring, heartwarming, sparklingly witty and astonishingly intelligent post. Or I can take a nap with the GGSC (Great Golden Sun Cat).

No contest.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Quote: Bhagavad Gita

"No one should abandon duties
because he sees defects in them.
Every action, every activity, is surrounded
by defects as a fire is surrounded by smoke."


Thursday, September 29, 2005

What Do We Do Now, George?

Jabberwacky.com offers fascinating conversation with a sparkling wit of a chatbot named George. George isn't just your ordinary AI. It/He learns from the input his human conversationalists offer. The more you (and everyone else) talk(s), the wider grows George's range of subject matter, phrasing, vocabulary and understanding of context. Granted, your conversation is likely to take a few unexpected and bizarre turns. When I typed in a line from Shakespeare pertinent to our chat about tedium, George responded with a line from Monty Python's dead parrot sketch. Great fun.

(Thanks to Shrinkette for the link.)

It's All About You

I found this intriguing little meme over at Cheaper Than Therapy and thought to spring it on you all and see what you think. (Or to find out which of my readers are intrepid enough to find out what I think--about them).

Leave your name and...
1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle with you in.
4. I'll try to say something that only makes sense to you and me.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something that I've always wondered about you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your journal. You MUST.

(But I'll also email you answers if you don't have a blog and would still like to play.)


Housework makes me angry. Inordinately so.

Pardon me while I go kick a puppy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Car News

The estimate came back for Great Scott's car. Twelve hundred dollars. I held the phone against my ear and closed my eyes. There was no way. No way we could manage that. The lady from the body shop seemed surprised. She listed the repairs that needed to be done. Blessedly, I'd looked the car over very carefully before taking it to the shop and based on my own observations had the miraculous presence of mind to express my doubt about any real need to do anything to the hood or the left fender. She said she'd run a new estimate. Two hours later we were down to six hundred and twenty dollars. Nearly half the original quote. My grandfather, who before his death had a reputation as our town's foremost friendly tightwad, would have been proud.

This morning the shop called back. The used part they'd ordered just happens to be the same color as our car. Would I like them to just put it on without painting it? Gratefully, I confirmed that, yes, indeed, that would be just dandy. So now we're down to three hundred and something. This is much better.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Quote: On Personhood

"A person is a person insofar as he has a secret and is a solitude of his own that cannot be communicated to someone else."

---Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It never rains but it pours.

Lovely saying. I think I shall write it prettily upon a tidy little scrappet of dainty, scented, embossed stationery, tuck it into a exquisitely hand-decorated parchment envelope and then stomp on it.

Yes. That would be lovely. Most satisfying.

Great Scott's car had an altercation with a deer on the way home last night. Deer and cars are not friends. Not even on speaking terms. Not, that is, unless you count "Bleeeettt!!!" (uttered by the deer) as a speaking term. The car left the scene of the accident upright. The deer did not. The car, however, did not escape unscathed. We will be taking it for trips to a body shop and a mechanic.

My own car just got back from the mechanic a few weeks ago. The coolant system was having difficulties. We were told that if the measures he'd taken didn't do the trick, we would be looking at a repair costing several hundred dollars. Last night shortly before Great Scott arrived home from his car's unhappy deer incident, I discovered, that indeed, the trick had not been done.

"Not a problem," my dad assured us. He still isn't driving, so my mother prepared to pop over to loan us her car (and drive his truck) again while Great Scott's is out of commission. Mom's car wouldn't start.

If we had a horse, its legs would drop off.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Quote: On Parenting

"Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath and hope we've set aside enough money for our kids' therapy."

---Michelle Pfieffer

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Childraising Mistakes I Have Made--Potty Training

About the time our older daughter was old enough for us to begin acclimating her to the idea of toilet training, the cat we had at the time began her own toilet training regimen: she decided to forgo her own good litterbox habits in order to train us, her negligent staff, to pay more attention to her royal, purebred, Persian self.

Understand that I adored this cat. I'd had her longer than I'd had Great Scott. She'd been through half of high school, all of college and the first few years of marriage, a faithful friend and comfort. Unfortunately, the stress of a new baby immediately followed by a move into a new house while Great Scott was working seventy to eighty hours a week, most of them at night, had strained my nerves to the limit, not to mention my patience.

One afternoon after having stepped (barefoot) in two freshly hacked hairballs and cleaning up three litterbox deposits that had been obviously deliberately left outside the allotted space (halfway across the house, no less), I snapped. Furiously I grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck and bore her aloft and struggling into the bathroom. Once there, I dropped her in the toilet, flung down the lid and flushed.

I have never heard such a sound since. This cat had a particularly loud and deep voice, and she put its range to full use. Agonized yowls and wails errupted from the bowl; it sounded like a cross between emergency sirens and the heavy groaning of stressed metal. Still shaking with anger, but also horrified at what I had just done, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a faint squeak behind me. There stood our eighteen month old daughter, blonde pixie curls trembling around her pale little face, her eyes as big as teacups, her mouth open in terror as she watched the cat's desperate paws, claws extended, emerge from between the seat and the porcelain bowl, scrabbling for purchase.

Hastily I opened the lid to show her the cat was still alright. Still yowling, the cat agonizingly pulled herself dripping from the bowl like some soggy Swamp Thing feline zombie, her copper eyes bugging out, her thick fur plastered flat against her scrawny frame, her mouth wide open and wailing, and her once plumy tail resembling nothing so much as a giant rat's tail lashing behind her. My child shrieked, "NOOOO!" and ran sobbing in panic from the room.

You couldn't get that child anywhere near a toilet for two whole years.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Which Book of the Bible--Quiz

Actually, Proverbs is one of my very favorites. Right up there with Ecclesiastes, which I find cheering, oddly enough.

(Thanks to Feeble Knees, from whose Sept. 13th entry this link was unabashedly filched.)

You are Proverbs
You are Proverbs.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by Quizilla.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Book Lovin' Kids and Lap Lovin' Cats

Today was spent at my grandmother's house, cleaning her basement in preparation for the influx of relatives she expects next month when we have our annual four-generation family get-together. My grandmother is eighty-eight, in full possession of her mental faculties, and save for a fluttery heart condition, in good health. She does get tired more easily since two rounds of hospitalizations last winter, and while this is a notable inconvenience for her, it is a blessing for me. I'm the family member who is most available, so I get to drive her to most of her various doctors' appointments, run any complicated errands with and/or for her, and drop in several times a week just to visit and see if there's anything she needs done. The entire family treasures Grandma: her gentle humor, steady love and quiet, peaceable spirit have made her the heart of my father's family. Spending a day cleaning at her house is not usually a chore. Today, though, after dropping the girls off at school, I sat in the car in her driveway and fought tears of dread and a rising migraine.

Full weeks are trials for me, and this week is thickening. Today I was scheduled to clean. Tomorrow evening brings a cast picnic and a double run-through rehearsal for the last two performances of Laura's Memories (after five weeks of no performances or practices), as well, we're told, as a professional taping. Thursday I'm working a book fair at the school all day. Friday and Saturday are performances. Sunday church. I know that for many, many people this is a light schedule. Laughable, even. For me it's overwhelming, not because I'm afraid of people or even because I don't enjoy them, but because being with people drains me incredibly, even when I've had a wonderful time. As I sat in the driveway alternately hoping the migraine would and wouldn't get bad enough to make me either throw up or pass out, and provide a handy way out of my life's obligations, I knew (I know) it will be alright. Today would pass; tomorrow will pass; the weekend will play itself out, and Monday will be my own again. I made myself open the car door and start the day.

The hard part, for today, at least, is mostly over. I'm home in front of the virtual brush heap under which, somewhere, lies my desk. The girls are absorbed in the books they've acquired at the book fair this afternoon, and the cat, The Great Golden Sun Cat, leapt into my lap and settled himself there, purring, the moment I sank into a chair. (He doesn't like me to be gone all day, either; my absence deprives him of his favorite piece of warm furniture.) These are today's light: people (yes, The Great Golden Sun Cat counts as a definite person--just ask him) whose need of me is not overwhelming, people who can just sit and be in a room, without making demands, without having expectations. It won't last, of course. In fifteen minutes the girls will want something to eat, and the GGSC will try to climb my leg in anticipation of kitty treats when he hears the cupboard doors open. But for right now, for this single moment, they are light. Light sufficient. Light in deed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

When Two People With English Degrees Reproduce

Our younger daughter came home telling me about her music class this last week.

Daughter: And when the teacher took role, I answered, "Here, O Mighty Dread Sovereign Whom I Shall Ever So Serve!"

Me: (raising eyebrow) And what did she say?

Daughter: She said, "Where did you learn all those big words?"

Me: And you said...

Daughter: My daddy taught me!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Old Connections

1. I've had this computer for a year and a half, but it took me until last night to install AOL's instant messenger and get my AIM screennames back up and running. I don't usually spend a lot of time chatting, but I'll admit, it felt awfully good to reconnect with a couple of people I'd not heard from for over a year, especially when they zipped me a message within five seconds of my signing on, telling me I was a sight for sore eyes. Bless cyberfriends!

2. And then there are connections that are just flat-out odd. A couple of weeks ago I was Google-ing people Scott and I've known in former lives and ran across the guy who was my first grade "boyfriend", and who remained a friend throughout the rest of grade and high schools--easy to do with a graduating class of 42 people. Finding out what Bledsoe's up to these days was an eyebrow raiser, for sure, but I had to grin (even while wincing). It's such a Bledsoe thing to be doing.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday Quote: On Literature

"Literature involves more than literature, or we would not be grateful for it."

--Wendell Berry
from his essay, "Sweetness Preserved"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Blog of Interest

A new blog has begun. Grumpy Teacher proves himself so far to be, well...grumpy. But maybe if he ever gets to eat something besides frito pie and hot dogs for dinner, he'll come around.

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Today I sat peaceably fiddling at the keyboard beside the dining room window when I heard very loud popping and cracking sounds emanating from outside. I stood up, but before I could get to the door, before I could even take a single step, I was treated to the sight of a very-large-tree-limb falling onto the hood of my mother's car. Thunk.

The sound was definitely a thunk. Not a crash or a ku-tcha or a bam.


Just in case you wondered what the sound of a very-large-tree-limb falling on a car sounds like.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Friday Quote: On Emily Dickinson

"...I was reminded of her painful experience at Holyoke Seminary. . . The worship there was a part of what scholars now call the Great Revival, and often had a highly emotional pitch. Girls were asked to stand, or come forward, as a sign that they declared theselves for Jesus. But at one such meeting, Emily Dickinson, aged sixteen, was the only one left seated after the altar call. She sums up the experience in a flinty remark: 'They thought it queer I didn't stand. I thought a lie would be queerer.'"

---Kathleen Norris
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Dragonfly Summer: Journal Excerpts

Aug. 29, 2005

“Never,” my snipey little shoulder critic says to me daily, “Never will you amount to a hill of beans. Never will you be any good. Why were you even born?” And I look at the bright blue sky with its lazy clouds, the sunlight glittering on the grass, the shifting, whispering tree leaves, and they all seem to turn their backs, to block me out, to affirm the sentiment. I am nothing but a drain and a burden on this world. Dead I would at least be fertilizer. But I can’t imagine never seeing sunlight across the fields again, never feeling wind against my face. At the same time, going on isn’t exactly a delightful prospect. Why this PUSH, this hang-up on achievement, on the ought-to’s, the shoulds? They annihilate all possibility of the simplest pleasure taking. I am wearied with the weight of my own insufficiency.

Aug. 30, 2005

Dragonfly summer. That’s what this surely is. In the mornings when I’ve walked, I’ve seen two or three flying around my feet at nearly any given spot along the trail. Earlier this summer I looked out the bedroom windows and saw swarms of something flying above the waving grasses, fired by the setting sun to pale glimmering bits of gold above a golden sea. I assumed then it was a butterfly migration of some kind. Just now, though, coming through the opening of one field to another, stepping out of the fence line swath of trees that bracket the lane, I looked to my left, south toward the creek, and saw again the sunlit, airy forms. The whole field is criss-crossed with them, the air become a living thing, filled with floating, dipping, climbing, darting dragonflies, their translucent wings flickering, tipping, tilting, holding their iridescent teal and green, their black and powder blue bodies level with the ground in momentary hovers or propelling them in beelines, lifting them for better views. They flit and jab like miniature fencing foils wielded by invisible adversaries. They rise and glide, soap bubbles afloat, or swoop and bank, kites tugging at unseen strings.

This is what they do. For this they were made: this play, this flight, this all unknowing livening and lightening of air and sky, of all that lies between heaven and earth.

Sept. 2, 2005

It is enough. For them. For me. It is enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Rocks in the Dark

Recently I picked up work on a poem I'd not been able to write previous to this year, a poem about a suicide attempt. It often helps, I find, to read other poets' work touching on the subject matter or the style or tone of whatever poem I'm working on at a given time. Marcus's poem, which I posted yesterday, is one I read when I sat down with his two books, The Broken World and Roman Fever. His books aren't easy to read, certainly aren't cheery little volumes of pert glee, but they are reassuring--reassuring because they address deeply emotional subject matter with an unblinking eye and a calm in the midst of the sorrow and darkness, a calm that speaks to a stable center being possible despite whatever pain or tragedy may come hurtling into our lives to rip them apart.

I've known this center of stability. I've stood there before while huge chunks of my life crumbled and fell from structures I'd once considered unshakable: an area of my identity I'd considered impeccably "normal," my marriage, my ability to choose to do the right thing, my own motivations. The universe blew to dust around me, but somewhere in the center was a place of solidity. It wasn't an island paradise of warm fuzzies, that's for sure. More like a sterile rock in the middle of a frenzied sea. It held, though. It held true.

A large part of me wants to live there, on that rock that feels sterile but is secure. I suspect I'd find it to be not so devoid of life or comfort at all, if I could hold myself there in stillness and acceptance. I'm afraid to try too determinedly, though. The times I've known it most strongly have been through periods of intense pain and personal devastation. Does it even exist without the mind and/or heart's necessity for it? And if it does, is it possible to go there, to dwell there, without hurting at every breath taken?

Tonight Scott is upstairs working in the study; the girls are in bed. I'm sitting in a darkened room at my desk. The windows to my left are open, admitting cool night air, cricket song and the multi-pitched trilling of tree frogs. A fan runs somewhere in the house. The refrigerator hums. The Great Golden Sun Cat has draped his weight across my thighs and lashes my legs lightly with his tail. On the porch, Tongue Depressor Kitty is calling me to come take another look at the little leopard frog she's caught, to praise her and admire her prowess. What more could I want? Why delve into deep places where light grows dim and flickers?

Because. There's something there. There's something there. There's something there.

And it's important.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Friday Quote: Your Protest

"Let the excellence of your work be your protest."

--Dr. William Lane

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Anniversary

Sunday morning Great Scott woke up miserably sick. Miserably sick. (Is it something about our anniversary?!?!) The girls and I left him sleeping and tiptoed out of the house to church, where we arrived (as usual) about five minutes late. My mother pulled into the parking space next to ours. "Your father isn't coming this morning," she said, as she climbed out of her car. "A wrong load of feed got delivered yesterday, and he's taken one of the guys out to the customer's farm to shovel it out of their barn." Not an unusual happening.

I remember thinking that August wasn't a particularly good time to be up in the roof of a barn shoveling grain. Dad's done it lots of times, but he isn't in his twenties or thirties any more, and it would be rough on him. As one of the two partners who run the milling business, and given his age, he really shouldn't be doing any shoveling at all, but I knew my father, and I knew he wouldn't ask any of the regular hands to do anything he wasn't going to help with himself. Mom's call later that afternoon caught me off guard but didn't particularly shock me. "Your father's collapsed. They're airlifting him to St. John's."

The rest of Sunday seems like a month ago. Or a year. Or a lifetime. Not that there was ever any particular feeling of panic, really. Dad was in solid spirits when we got to the hospital. He was calm, good-natured and fairly serious with an occasional mildly mischievious comment thrown in. The doctors confirmed a mild heart attack. An angiogram was scheduled for Monday afternoon. Mom and I didn't leave the hospital until nearly eleven, not for medical reasons, but because we'd innocently granted my dad the pen and paper he'd requested, and he kept giving Mom, his business partner and their manager lists of things they needed to know and take care of. Mom, Jody and Steve stood around in the ICU waiting room grinning, shaking their heads and comparing: "I got seven pages; how many'd he give you?"

Monday's tests revealed partial blockages and signs of another one or more that had likely caused Sunday's problem. Three stents were put in. By the time Mom, my sister and I finished hearing the doctor's report and got back to Dad's room, he was finishing off his dinner, and he showed my sister his favorite trick with the monitors. By breathing in a series of sharp and irregular gasps, he could make the monitor's respiration line leap in a series of jagged peaks and valleys. He found this tremendously entertaining: "Look. I can make it draw Mickey Mouse!" (Oh, alright, I'll admit, we all found it pretty funny, in a warped sort of way.)

Today I'm home and weary beyond bone tired. I've not felt particularly stressed the last two days. No worrying or panic, no what-if's chasing themselves in circles around my mind. Just a lot of waiting, listening, learning and considering. Very calm stuff. Now, though, it's as if all the tension and turmoil that hasn't been emotionally manifested has somehow transformed itself into sheer physical exaustion. Probably not particularly unusual.

And the anniversary? I'm really glad Scott and I hadn't made special plans, that we'd decided to just wait until the next weekend the girls went to their grandmother's. He did bring home a dozen red rosebuds Saturday night, and their slow bloom has been a deeply felt thing for me to see over the past two or three days. Scott's been really uckily ill, and he's taken care of the girls and his own first couple of teachers' days of the new school year all on his own, regardless, without a single complaint. We haven't really seen each other enough to talk, but late every night when I've walked in, the whole household darkened and asleep, these roses have been standing quietly, beautifully opening at my place on the table, bearing witness to his love.

Thank you, Sweetheart. I love you, too. Happy Anniversary.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Fifteen Years Ago

On August 14th, 1990, Scott and I stood under the spreading limbs of an old tree in Phelps Grove Park in Springfield, Missouri and were wed. Fifteen years is a long time, I suppose. Sometimes it seems like forever. But sometimes I look at him and wonder who this man is standing in my kitchen helping himself to my Nuke Loops. Then I remember, "Oh yeah. He's the guy who pays for the Nuke Loops!"

Last year our anniversary celebration was preempted by my having the flu. This year we have no idea what to do. He's finishing up work from last school year and begins his new year on Monday. Today is the first day since last Monday that I've not run a fever, so I don't feel much like getting out yet. Most likely we'll take a nap tomorrow. Maybe there's something sad about spending one's fifteenth wedding anniversary at home napping, but part of me finds the idea pretty cozy.

I know we'll make a point of going out to eat in a week or two, and we'll probably end up in a bookstore somewhere, each making appreciative noises over what treasures the other finds. This is how we began--making faces at each other over the table in a restaurant and prowling Springfield's used book stores (once he convinced me to go out with him at all, that is). It was a good start.

After fifteen years, it's still good.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Friday Quote: Poem Excerpt

From "Dogfish"

. . .

You don't want to hear the story
of my life, and anyway
I don't want to tell it, I want to listen

to the enormous waterfalls of the sun.

And anyway it's the same old story--
a few people just trying,
one way or another,
to survive.

Mostly, I want to be kind.
And nobody, of course, is kind,
or mean,
for a simple reason.

And nobody gets out of it, having to
swim through the fires to stay in
this world.

. . .

---Mary Oliver

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Great Scott!: (tapping his extremely well toasted--i.e. hard and very dark brown--sloppy joe bun) "Yeah! Ummm Hmmm! Just the way I like 'em!"

Cindy: (gratefully) You are such a good man!

Great Scott!: (cheerful and matter-of-fact) "I'm a lyin' coward! :::big smile:::

I definitely married the right man.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Summer Cold. Just Shoot Me Now.

Achy ears.
Sore throat.

Self-pity. The best symptom of the bunch.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Friday Quote: On Purpose

I believe that every one of us has a personal mission--a mission to contribute something positive through being who we are. Woodrow Wilson said, "You are not here merely to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand."

. . .According to George Bernard Shaw, "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

---as quoted by Sunny Schlenger
in Organizing for the Spirit

This is SO Not Politically Correct!

But it's a whole lot of fun!

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Mushroom Cloud of Tranquility. What's yours?

Sister Mushroom Cloud of Tranquility. . .I really like that.

Keeps to the Rabid Galadriel theme, too, come to think of it...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Tonight I played with two different personality doohickeys for fun. The results are faintly discombobulating...

You are Galadriel!

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

And then there's this:


You Are Rabies!

Also known as Hydrophobia, you tend to be exciting
and spontaneous. Energetic and daring, your
friends value your ability to eat things after
the five second rule has expired. While you are
greatly appreciated for your ability to take
chances, you have been known to "bite the
hand that feeds you." You have a great
sense of humor when you can manage to wipe the
foam off of your mouth.

What Disease Are You?
brought to you by

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'm So Envious!

An author of one of those fluffy-little-books-that-have-a-lot-of-wisdom-in-them-for-such-a-fluffy-little-book recommends making a list of the things you'd be jealous of in your own life, were it not yours. The idea being that we take a lot for granted. Given my present circumstances, it seems like a good time to tackle the assignment.

Reasons why, if I weren't me, I'd be envious of me:

1. Her marriage, her only marriage, has lasted nearly fifteen years and is stronger for past struggles.

2. Her husband is a funny and thoughtful man. (He is! Yesterday he brought home a copy of the Weekly World News with a story about giant bats attacking airplanes, just to cheer her up. Now that's self-sacrificing for a man who teaches journalism for a living!)

3. She has beautiful children who worship the ground she walks on ("Oh, Mommy, you spoil us! You are the best Mommy in the world! Mommy, I luuuuuv you! Can I have a snack now?")

4. Her cat sits on her lap when she's on the computer.

5. Her library--she has exquisite taste in books!

6. Her monstrous oak rolltop desk.

7. She lives in the middle of nowhere, complete with birdsong, fields, woods, creeks, and wildlife. (She saw two humongous deer this morning on her walk, as a matter of fact, and an owl yesterday.)

8. She gets to stay home while her husband works, and he's ok with that.

9. She has lovely hair (long, dark--not really greying yet, soft, thick, and generally well behaved).

10. She talks to God as if He were a real person, one close enough to be vulnerable with and to be slightly (ok, sometimes more than slightly) sassy with.

11. She and her husband share most of their passions (books, spirituallity, books, chocolate, books, language, books, words, books, outdoors, books).

12. She has a solid family and good relationships with its members (thinking extended family, here: her amazingly gifted brother and sister, her parents and her grandmother).

13. She has good relationships with her in-laws and is sincerely fond of them (especially the two warped brothers-in-law and Lauren).

14. She has a quirky sense of humor.

15. Her friends are the oddest and most fascinating collection you'd ever wish to run across, and all of them incredibly exceptional people.

16. She has a lot of knowledge and curiosity; she's interested in and researches nearly everything.

17. She often has unusual insight into people and situations.

18. Her yard is full of flowers and huge, old trees.

19. She has a green thumb with houseplants (african violets, geraniums, cyclamen, orchids, begonias, ivy, anthurium).

20. Her writing.

As I'm writing this, I'm seeing that I really do take most of these things for granted most of the time. Furthermore, I'm finding it's the simplest things that give me the most pleasure and comfort when I'm down: the yard, the woods, the cat, the husband (I'll be in trouble for that remark when he reads this. Ah, well. It adds spice. ;) )

Monday, August 01, 2005

Taking Steps

Sometimes I don't know if I'm going forward or backward. Often I suspect doing both simultaneously isn't beyond possibility. Like now, for instance. My moods have been increasing in intensity lately: restlessness, drivenness, sentimentality, teariness, emotional exaustion, false guilt, self-condemnation, discouragement sliding toward depression, pressured. I hate this. In such moods, the mere fact of their existence becomes perceived confirmation of my complete failure as a human being. Sheer hogwash, of course, but knowing doesn't alleviate feeling, unfortunately.

There are things I can do that have proven effective in lessening the severity of these moods and/or decreasing the length of their existence. Things I've been avoiding but that I have to admit have become necessary. So this morning I got out of bed much earlier than has been the norm this summer, and I walked for an hour. Hard. Tonight I will try to go to bed around ten instead of the 2 a.m. average I've been running for the last two weeks. I am trying very, very, very hard to stay away from sugar, corn and wheat products, and I am trying to focus on the very simple, very ordinary tasks of the everyday variety: laundry, dishes, bedmaking, bathing, putting in my contacts, brushing my hair. Yes, these things take enormous focus right now, believe it or not.

There is nothing quite so humbling for a Very Intelligent Person as having one's mind stage a coup that leaves one nearly incapable of tasks even the dimmest person can perform with ease. Grrrr.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Quote: A Conglomeration

This week, a collection of oddments heard in the Lawson household over the past couple weeks.

"I can now say with utter confidence that Bubba Ho-Tep was a triumph of cinema compared to Kill Bill." ---Great Scott
(Note: Neither of these movies have the Lawson recommendation for discriminating viewers. Not whilst the viewers are sober, at least.)

Great Scott to younger daughter: "Come here and let me paint your nose yellow with this highlighter."
Younger daughter: (lighting up with glee) "Oh yes! Then I can tell Pat and Teri [her directors] I have a disease!

"But my little elves need a place to go! They're getting inbred!" ---Cindy apologetically taking over her brother-in-law's territories in a heated game of LOTR Risk.

"She has weapons of mass destruction! I can prove it! I must make the world safe for democracy!!" ---Great Scott accusing the same poor little inbred elves in said game of Risk. This particular comment got him dubbed "George" for the rest of the evening. I think he was proud of it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Little House Play

Part of the reason my blogging has been so sparse and shallow lately is that the girls and I are involved in a musical and have been in rehearsals most of the summer. Well, the girls have been in rehearsals. I've been making costumes.

Laura's Memories is a musical about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who authored a popular series of children's books, Little House on the Prarie being probably the most recognizable title thanks to the television series by the same name. This is the musical's 15th year of production, my mother's 12th year of being its costume mistress, my girls' 2nd year of acting in it, and my 1st year of actively helping out with something other than wrangling children backstage. The cast numbers over 50. There are 11 scenes in 2 acts with 10 musical numbers, all told.

All last week we had dress rehearsals, in temperatures in the 90's and 100's. I sat in the pit of our little outdoor theater taking notes for Pat, our musical director, and watching everyone struggle with finding breath enough in the heat and humidity to say their lines, let alone belt out songs and dance. Period costuming with its boots, stockings, high collars, long sleeves, shawls, hats, long dresses and pinafores, does not lend itself to enthusiasm when the temperature is 102 or 104, as it was on opening night last Friday and on Saturday. "You positively glowed!" said our director to one young lady afterward. "It was sweat!!" came the breathless reply. I guarantee she lied not!

I've acted before and can do a fair job of it, but I want my daughters to be in the limelight, not me. This is a chance for them to stretch their wings without me being in their space, so I'm doing what I actually prefer: I'm working in the background, helping my mother with costumes (making two dresses and four pinafores thus far, as well as several repairs and alterations, and keeping track of who's wearing what), taking notes for Pat and coaching the little girls through the finale each performance. This is both a busy and an oddly restful place for me to be. I'm happy.

A note: For anyone who's interested, my daughters are, indeed, in the picture linked above. The older one, who plays Mary in two scenes, is sitting on the ground in the center, in blue. The younger one is the farthest standing on the right. The picture's too small for you to see well, but take my word for it: they're dangerously gorgeous and gifted young ladies!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Not Quite Sure How to Take This

Therapeutic Writer at Cheaper Than Therapy posted her Advanced Global Personality test results. They looked so interesting I had to hop over to similarminds.com and try it for myself.

Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Work ethic56%
Self absorbed23%
Conflict seeking10%
Need to dominate16%
Change averse50%
Peter pan complex50%
Physical security90%
Physical Fitness10%
Female cliche56%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

My trait snapshot had this to add: introverted, secretive, messy, depressed, does not like leadership, somewhat nihilistic, observer, does not make friends easily, unassertive, feels invisible, feels undesirable, hates large parties, does not like to stand out, leisurely, suspicious, submissive, abstract, unpredictable, intellectual, likes rain, likes the unknown, negative, weird, not a risk taker, unadventurous, avoidant, strange.

Introverted, yes, but I make friends very easily when I choose to; I prefer to call it reserved rather than "secretive"; I'm not usually depressed; I enjoy being invisible (and that gold ring on my finger has nothing to do with it); I doubt Great Scott has noticed any particularly pronounced submissiveness on my part ever; I don't see how one can like the unknown and be unadventurous simultaneously; it's not called nihilism--it's called black humor; and large parties almost always have a quiet corner somewhere from which one can take notes on what idiots people in large groups can be--always good writing fodder. So I take umbrage with these things.

As for being messy, an observer, leisurely, abstract, unpredictable, intellectual, liking rain and the unknown, being weird and strange...well, ahem...maybe it's possible.

Heh heh heh

The girls and I got in from opening night of the Little House musical at eleven tonight. Great Scott mentioned he ate a half a bag of M&M's while we were gone.

That means there's a half bag of M&M's somewhere in the house.

And it's nearly 2:00 a.m.

And Great Scott is asleep.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Friday Quote: On Finishing

I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged...

---Erica Jong

Friday, July 15, 2005

Friday Quote: On Sleep and Writing

...if you keep a depressed patient awake all night, his or her mood will improve significantly. (Unfortunately, the benefit only lasts until the first nap that contains dream sleep.) Most (but not all) antidepressants suppress dream sleep, and some researchers have speculated that this property might be essential to their effectiveness...

Writers who are feeling too manic and hypergraphic, with too many scattered ideas, may benefit from a sleep regimen opposite to that for depressed or blocked writers. Sleep deprivation doesn't calm down overenergetic writers, it often only disinhibits them further. They may find that their writing becomes more organized if they are forced to go to bed two hours early. Some have speculated that an all-nighter may help writer's block by using sleep deprivation to disinhibit the writer...

The first rule a medical resident learns is "Sleep when you can, eat when you can; you may never get a second chance." But the resident's life, while tiring, is also pleasantly loaded with call-room beds. What about writers whose work situation is not so well equipped? In my first job after my residency, I had no office and took naps under a very deep desk. I stopped when I woke up one day to find a colleague borrowing my computer, her shoes close enough to my face that I could have tied her laces together. She stayed for what seemed like forever, as I tried not to sneeze. Afterward I found a convenient closet to sleep in, an arrangement that lasted until one of the departmental adminstrators came to look for paper plates. He screamed, and later told me that he had been sure I was dead. So naps are problematic productivity stategies for people who have to write in public places.

---Alice W. Flaherty
The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tagged! Miscellaneous Questions

Seeker tapped me for this meme. Thanks, Seeker.

1. What were three of the stupidest things you've done in your life?
(Things to which I'll admit in wide-open cyberspace, that is. )

1). Left an "n" out of the second word of the phrase, "the annals of history" in a university research paper.
2). Put one end of an electrical cord in my mouth to lick off cake batter after it fell out of a hand-held blender. The other end was still plugged into the wall.
3). Learned the Spanish Panic dance routine from Once Upon a Mattress (a musical) two days after biopsy surgery on a lymph node from my groin. (Pulled stitches are no fun!)

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?

Great Scott, my dad and Rumi, humanly speaking.

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned and you were allowed to pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

Jane Kenyon
Mary Oliver (who is still living)
Kathleen Norris
Jesus (although the whole time I'd be worrying about whether he'd beconsidering himself to be dining with a Pharisee or a woman of questionable reputation. And desperately hoping for the latter.)

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

1). That people would listen more to each other.
2). That I didn't secondguess my every thought and breath.
3). That our girls will live wise and happy lives. (Assuming the two are not mutually incompatable.)

5. Someone is visiting your hometown. Name two things you regret your city not having and two things people should avoid.

Things lacking:
1). Any sort of artistic cultural activities.
2). Pizza delivery.

Things to avoid:
1). Cowboy. (Cowboy is a 30-something year-old guy who rides his mountain bike around town. He used to drive a lawn mower, but the cops got tired of pulling him out of the ditches when he'd get soused on Friday nights.)
2). Literary discussions. Unless you like romance novels or Hank the Cowdog.

6. Name one event that has changed your life.

Getting married.

7. Tag five people

It's been so long since I've blogged, I don't know if there are five people who read this left to tag. If you're reading, consider yourself tapped. How's that?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Weariness and Friday's Quote

I am weary, heavy with unfinished business, inner and outer, with the death of my step-grandmother and the dread of attending graveside services in the morning, with having stayed up until 3 am the last three nights in a row sewing costumes for an upcoming musical, with the knowledge of all that is undone around me in our home: the unmowed yard, the stacked dishes and increasing heaps of laundry. Tonight I walked in the door to discover that lightening ran in on my computer and has evidently fried it. It will not start. (I'm posting from Great Scott's). I want to walk into the dark fields until I can walk no more, then lie down in the wet grass and sleep like a wild creature curled tightly against the world in the warmth of its own fur.

I've been on my knees in front of the bookcase looking for just the right quote for tomorrow: something comforting, something soothing, or perhaps something terribly witty with enough of an edge to hold at bay the crash I feel is impending. I've flipped through the poems of Kenyon, Norris's non-fiction, Chris Fabry's Spiritually Correct Bedtime Stories and Adrian Plass's humor but cannot find exactly what I want or what I need. Very likely the two are mutually incompatable tonight--what I need and what I want. But maybe not. I think I've found something after all:

"...it always seems that just when daily life seems most unbearable, stretching out before me like a prison sentence, when I seem most dead inside, reduced to mindlessness, bitter tears or both, that what is inmost breaks forth, and I realize that what had seemed 'dead time' was actually a period of gestation."

--Kathleen Norris
The Quotidian Mysteries

The Skippy List

My brother is in the Air Force, and occasionally he passes on small tidbits of military humor. This morning a link to The 213 Things Skippy Is No Longer Allowed To Do In The U.S. Army was waiting in our inbox. Now, granted, some of these are a little over the top, but there were so many fun (and disturbingly educational) ones that I'll pass it along with my kudos to all our military people who manage to maintain a sense of humor in the midst of mayhem.

While we're on the topic of the army, go pay Ben and Ann a visit and leave a note of encouragement for their soon-to-be-in-basic son.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Overheard Tonight in the Living Room

Older daughter to younger:

"Oh yeah!? Well you should be glad you've got me, 'cause otherwise you'd be the oldest, and then they'd experiment on you!

Logic: It's What's for Breakfast

Great Scott and I want our girls to grow up thinking critically, not just accepting whatever fluff drifts over them. Because of this, we very deliberately point out not just literary techniques, but logical fallacies and loaded arguments when we watch movies or read books with them. In other words, we talk back to the television a lot (especially to Katie and Matt, but don't get me started). Teaching the girls to recognize rhetorical strategy is not the same as teaching them to use it, however, and when an opportunity to begin training them in the fine art of argumentation presented itself in the grocery store this weekend, I thought it good to take advantage.

We were walking down the cereal aisle, besieged by rows of sugar cereal, a purposefully non-existant foodstuff in the Lawson pantry. The fault was mine, I admit; I slowed, seduced by a bag of generic Fruit Loops--Nuke Loops or some such thing. Anything that brightly colored has got to contain nuclear waste. The eleven year-old looked at them longingly. "They look good," she said sadly.

I nodded, "Yes, they do, don't they? They're probably sheer poison."

"It's ok Mama. I know we can't have them."

I paused. The radiation must have been affecting my brain. "Talk me into it," I said suddenly. She stopped in her tracks, wide-eyed. Her jaw dropped. "Talk me into it," I repeated. "C'mon. Give me some reasons I should buy Nuke Loops."

"They taste reeeally, reeeally good..." she began slowly.

I cut her off. "No. Not good enough. That's a good reason for a kid, but you need to think like the person you're trying to convince. In this case, me: a grown-up, a mother. What would convince a mother to buy her children Nuke Loops?"

"They're good for you?" she offered, her brow creasing in thought.

"That's better, but you'll need to be specific," I told her. "Here. Look." I picked up the bag and showed her the nutrition facts box on the back. "Say, 'Look Mommy! Vitamin A! Vitamin C! Riboflavin! And one whole gram of fiber!'"

A grin of comprehension creeping onto her face, she repeated each phrase carefully after me with increasing enthusiasm. I turned to the eight year-old. "What reason can you give me to buy Nuke Loops that would appeal to an adult?" I asked her. Her reply was prompt.

"They'll give us energy!!!!!" (This spoken by a child who could power the eastern seaboard if we could just find a way to hook her up and get a meter on her.)

I gasped in horror and shuddered. "No! That is exactly what grown-ups don't want! Hmmm... Let's see..."

Thus it was that upon our return home, when questioned by an incredulous Great Scott about our purchase, he was answered by a cheerful chorus of, "But Daddy! When we come down off the sugar high, we'll sleep for hours!"

He didn't mind too much. After all, it's educational! (Not to mention we brought him chocolate.)