Monday, April 30, 2007

Call Me Mom

Sunday was one of those magical days. I have decided to choose it as my Mother’s Day this year since that day has proven to be a bit tricky for me. Three years ago my mother died on Mother’s Day after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. It somehow seemed very fitting and appropriate for it was her time to go. She had endured a long battle with the big A and thankfully she went peacefully in her sleep before the rest of her body deteriorated slowly and painfully.

Two years ago my son (at almost 16) picked Mother’s Day (MD) weekend to disappear from our home. We did not hear from him for several days and it was an agonizing time. Last year while attending a dear friend’s memorial service in Prescott, AZ, we got the call that again MD had been marred. Our son had been arrested and was being held in the county jail. So, you see, it seems like a good idea for me to designate my own Mother’s Day. In fact, it helps to do it this way so fate cannot spoil a day that does not yet exist if it is not named until after it has already happened. So I choose yesterday.

It was a glorious sunny day which has been rare here this year. I delighted in spending some time snuggled up in bed with my books and pen and paper. The afternoon included watching my daughter play soccer—one of my absolute favorite things.

After the game we picked up our boy and had a wonderful lunch as a family—something we have not done since he moved out of the house in early January. He looked good and healthy and actually seemed glad to be with us. We went to a Mexican restaurant where the service was slow, the food was mediocre, but the conversation flowed like fresh water. My favorite part, of course, was a bit of laughter and watching J’s million dollar smile spread across his face.

I loved being with my whole family. They are beautiful, amazing and definitely individual people. After lunch, we dropped J off, took M to a friend’s house and came home for the afternoon. I then experienced the icing on the cake for a Sunday. I curled up like a cat, purred in the sunshine and took the Sabbath seriously with a dead-to-the-world, good old-fashioned nap. Ahhh. What could be better?

So, I declare yesterday my Mother’s Day. I’m not sure I could ask for much more. Today I share my anniversary of 20 years with a wonderful man, my children are safe and healthy, I feel rested and at peace, there are flowers blooming outside and fresh tulips in my kitchen and yesterday God shined his light on me. Call me Crazy. Call me Simple. Or, how about this?—Call me Mom.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Enter to Win

Last chance to enter a comment (or simple hello) at 100 Ordinary Posts and win exclusive and beautiful note cards from H3 Images (i.e. my favorite photographer).

Winner to be announced Tuesday, May 1.

Refusal to Journey

“The refusal to begin our journey doesn’t keep us from having one.” Julia Cameron The Sound of Paper

“Where are you at?” is the question posed in today’s reading by Julia Cameron. I am sitting in my bed on a Sunday morning once again contemplating whether or not to go to church. What is church anyway? It feels pretty holy here in my bed surrounded by my books, a candle lit, silence allowing for thoughts and meditation. But I digress. Where am I? I am sitting in the middle of my life. A life that has been full but at times has felt wasted, especially now that I see the potential and am open to the joy and expanse around me. But, you can’t go back and honestly I do not have regrets; for every moment has brought me to be the woman I am today. So, where am I?

The most present thought is that I have a month before me more open and waiting than I have had in a long time. I have finished my work at the graduate school for the year and I do not have a Soltura trip planned until the end of the month. The possibilities are wide open. So what shall I do? My writing instructor has suggested I send a piece to a couple of places for publication. Terrifying! Rejection looms on the horizon. Cameron says, “It is not the start, it is the finish that troubles us.” If I do not move, however, I may miss out not only on rejection, but on the possibility of success. This feels like when I considered returning to school a few of years ago. What if I could not do it? And, yet here I sit a full year after graduation, diploma in hand.

What do I fear? Missing out on something? Being hurt? Rejection? Those old words of ‘not good enough’ rattle around inside me. The conversation is running in my head. If you don’t start, how can you finish? If you don’t try, how will you ever know what you are capable of? If you don’t submit an article, how can it ever be published? Can I practice what I preach? I wrote just yesterday to Antony that “I don't think "calling" is past its time until we are toes up in the tulips.” So, if writing is my calling (at least for today), I guess I better keep at it.

So, one last look at the question “where am I?” I am sitting with the month of May before me. I am excited to have some space and time to reflect, to garden, to hang out with my family and maybe even to write a little and, even riskier, put a few writings out there for consideration. Whew!

After all, the journey will happen whether I think I’ve started down the road or not.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Common Cup

Although I have not been on the bus for a few days, the riders have continued to stay with me. A friend of mine e-mailed and said, “Based on the people you meet, have you considered taking another route?” I think his words were tongue in cheek, however, my immediate response was, “No way! These are my people.”

I find poetry much like the lingering images of my bus rides. I don’t necessarily understand what is being communicated, but the words and thoughts stay with me throughout my thoughts and dreams.

Two writings have been mingling in my mind for the last day or so that I would like to share here. The first are words from Sunrise Sister in response to “Chinese on the Bus.” The next is a poem from Elizabeth Barrett Brownings’, Sonnets from the Portuguese.

“The Chinese man - so willing to really, or even kiddingly, offer you a drink from a "common cup" - I, too, reach for the spiritual presence of God in each meeting. Are we more likely to share the "common cup" with a stranger than a person we "think" we know? Does the other person drink often from a "common cup" - making him eager to share the experience of communion with others?” – Sunrise Sister

“The face of all the world is changed, I think,
Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul
Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole
Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink
Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink,
Was caught up into love, and taught the whole
Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole
God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink,
And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear.
The names of country, heaven, are changed away
For where thou art or shalt be, there or here;
And this…this lute and song…loved yesterday,
(The singing angels know) are only dear
Because they name moves right in what they say.”

--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

From what cup shall I choose to drink today? How about you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bandito on the Bus

Riding the bus exhibits an infinite clash of cultures and gives the imagination an opportunity to run wild. On this ride I was seated near the back of the bus just behind the rear door. It was slightly later than the normal rush hour ride. At one of the first stops, three young women (teenagers, no doubt) boarded and were all giggles and conversation. They reminded me so much of my daughter and her friends except that their heads were wrapped in colorful scarves, they glittered with lots of silver dangling jewelry and rapidly spoke in a foreign language. I wondered about their nationality and smiled to consider that teenage girls are teenage girls regardless of their birthplace.

Soon, they exited the spot where they had blocked my view of a man I have fondly dubbed the “bandito.” He was straight out of a spaghetti western with his swarthy good looks and clothes of black. Instead of cowboy boots, he wore heavy black shoes that were firmly placed across the empty seat beside him. The seat faced the back door of the bus and put him at a great vantage point for me to observe.

There was nothing particularly remarkable about his behavior until the bus started to fill and he nonchalantly, yet quite defiantly, kept his leg across the seat. Dressed in black jeans and a black coat with a grey hoodie underneath, he sat and cleaned his teeth with the corner of a matchbook. He did not look up and no one seemed to even consider asking him to move his foot. There were no available seats and soon two young men stood in the stairwell by the door. One had a military haircut and a canvas computer bag slung across his body. The other had longish hair and wore the typical accessory of many riders—headphones—on his ears. Both looked like they were heading to work downtown. The bandito lazily pulled tobacco out of his pocket and rolled his own cigarette as others stood around him. He mumbled to himself that the bus driver had called a stop the Garfield Bridge rather than the Garfield “Street” Bridge and it really seemed to annoy him. He appeared very attuned to what was going on around him while at the same time being totally in his own world.

Finally another man came back toward the empty seat. He also had weather worn skin and wore long dreadlocks covered with a navy bandanna. His hands and fingers were covered with tattoos and it was hard to say whether he was going to work or possibly to one of the homeless missions downtown. Interestingly enough, the bandito looked up, nodded toward the empty seat and removed his foot so this man could sit down. They shared a few words (again something about the bus driver’s inability to name stops correctly) and then the dreadlock man exited at which point Bandito firmly planted his foot back across the seat.

It was such a curious interaction to observe. Shortly after his seat partner left, Bandito glanced around (I obviously was not in his direct line of vision) and pulled a very tall can of cheap beer from his pocket, popped the top and began to take covert sips between stops. I found myself wondering who he was, why he would choose to let one person sit by him and not others. Was he really defiant, oblivious or possibly just uncomfortable? I considered whether prejudice might play a role and finally I mused about what would lead him to sneak drinks of beer on a bus at 9:30 in the morning. Who was this mystery man? Was he as surly and self-confident as he appeared? Or was he just one more lonely person trying his best to make it through the day?

Today I will close with this lovely prayer from Christine that speaks well to my bus riding experiences.

"Pray for Peace"

"Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray." -- Ellen Bass

Chinese on the Bus

He studied Chinese. I studied the faces around me. I love the bus. It is delightful and scary all at the same time. So much humanity contained in a narrow transporter of people. Where are they going? What do they do? How do they dream?

The other day a young man sat down next to me. He was nice looking in an offbeat sort of way. Like most riders, he didn’t make eye contact and tried to honor the space between us. A tantalizing aroma wafted my direction and I was temporarily overcome by the smell of his fresh latte and heard myself saying, “Wow, your coffee smells really good.” He smiled and pointed toward the stand by the roadside, mentioned they were pretty quick and that we had a red light. Just then the bus started to move. “Not quite quick enough,” I replied. And then he made a very tender gesture that took me by surprise. “Want a sip?” he asked. I chuckled and politely declined, moved by his offer nonetheless. He may have just been teasing, but I had the distinct feeling he would have honored his word had I responded “yes” to his offer.

We rode along and I noticed he had some handwritten vocabulary cards he was flipping through in a study-like fashion. “What language?” I inquired. “Chinese,” he responded. “Going on a trip?” “Nope. Just a hobby.” Our conversation continued for a few more moments. It was brief, but definitely brightened my day.

I always wonder about the people on the bus. They seem so solitary—plugged into their i-pods and hiding behind books, newspapers and blank expressions.

A woman sat across from me on the ride home. She was self-contained and quiet like the rest of the riders, but at one point in the trip someone got on the bus and caught her attention. She must have been fond of the person because her face lit up and transformed into a beautiful smile. It was like magic.

We desire community. Communion means ‘union with.’ Maybe that’s why people ride the bus and don’t even realize it. Maybe it’s not economic or ecological, but rather it is communal. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch to consider, but it’s definitely a world in which I’d like to believe. A place where smiles light up faces and strangers offer to share their coffee. Hmmm. I think I’ll keep riding for now. After all, it’s good for my wallet, the earth benefits in a small way and my soul gets surprised in unimaginable ways. Who knows… maybe I’ll even learn a word or two of Chinese next time?

photo by bill hughlett

Sunday, April 15, 2007

100 "Ordinary" Posts

"Good Grief, Charlie Brown! It's a contest to celebrate our 100th post." Many readers and fellow bloggers have commented on my ability to take ordinary yet not so ordinary bits of life and connect them with faith and the presence of God. Others have said much the same about my husband's photography. What I would pose, however, is how can anything in life truly be seen as ordinary or simple, especially when considered within the context of God and creation?

Here I turn to one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who says, "I knew that if you had eyes to see, there was beauty everywhere, even when nature was barren or sloppy, and not just when God had tarted things up for spring."

There truly is beauty everywhere whether it is flying in the sky, sipping a cup of instant decaf, playing with the dolphins, waiting in the darkness or meeting a stranger on the bus. To mark this 100th post, I would love to have you share your favorite "ordinary" things from this site. You can choose either a post, photograph or sidebar. Everyone who participates will be eligible for a small set of notecards from H3 Images (i.e. my favorite photographer).

Entries will be accepted now through April 30 and the winner announced on May 1. So, leave your comment today!

moving toward myself

moving toward myself
embrace the face before me
pink-toned skin of newborn babe
diamond floating in the sky
fearless woman; tender child
eyes that shine with tears and light
lips of ruby red forming
words of new delight
feathered wings steer this flight of
fiercely tender paradox
moving toward myself

I found this tucked away in my list of posts never published. Somehow it feels right for this Sunday morning. (It was written March 20, 2007).

Saturday, April 14, 2007


"The most gracious and courageous gift we can offer the world is our authenticity, our uniqueness, the expression of our true selves." Sue Monk Kidd

For some reason the above sentiments have stuck with me for a few days--always together. So...Here's to being our authentic selves...reassuring as that may be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Woman on the Bus

Well, much as I would like to say I have another wonderful, peaceful story to share…that would not be the case with this tale—although it does start out that way. Monday afternoon I once again boarded a very full bus for my ride home. It started out delightfully as a man offered me his seat—an action almost never seen in my experience. I said, ‘thanks, I’m okay,’ but he insisted and told me that ‘chivalry was not dead.’ We laughed and conversed with a couple of other passengers until the next stop when he exited the bus. The exchange left me smiling and with a sense of hope.

The ride continued and I found myself between the window and a youngish man wearing large headphones, ensconced in his own world. As the bus came to a stop the woman in front of me needed to exit and her seat partner stood to let her out. The partner was facing me and just as I was about to nod and smile, her face darkened and she spit out, “Quit staring at me because I’m black!!” and then as she plopped into her seat she muttered rather loudly, “Bitch.”

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Thoughts raced through my head. Is she talking to me? How could she think that? What did I do? She’s black? Her color had not even registered in my thoughts. I found myself wanting to apologize and say something to her, but realized that would be for my benefit not hers. I then started to wonder about the obvious anger and hurt inside of her. How had she become so guarded? Who had done this to her? Why must people be so unkind and cruel? It felt like she was spitting hatred onto me that had been heaped onto her throughout her twenty-something years of life.

And so, while very different experiences, this one has continued to stay with me as does "The Man on the Bus." These encounters have been added to the fabric of my life. It feels somehow trite to say, but I pray specifically for this man and woman and wonder where their lives will lead them. I have been changed by my experience of them while realizing my existence may not even register for them. We never know in life when or how we touch others.

"In surrendering to the miracle of the everyday, the Warrior of the Light notices he cannot always foresee the consequences of his actions. Sometimes he acts without even knowing that he is doing so, he saves someone without even knowing he is saving them, he suffers without even knowing why he is sad." --Paulo Coelho

May we all choose to surrender to the miracle of the everyday!

photo by bill hughlett

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Musings

Why must we be so quick to judge others, particularly those who we believe to be different from us, or who see things in other ways? Why must we be so quick to decide we are right and someone else is wrong? Why is religion used to divide the world rather than unite it in love?

This seems to be Evil's most cunning trick—to take religion, our pathway to God, and use it to create dissonance and war. If the way of love is Jesus’ way and Muhammad’s and Moses’ and Gandhi’s, then evil gets the last laugh because the world has fallen into the trap of using faith, beliefs, Bibles, Qurans and Torahs as bludgeons against one another.

I hesitated going to church yesterday because I did not want to hear the voice of judgment saying, the Resurrection is the ONLY way to believe, thereby making “us” right and the rest of the world wrong. Ironically, the choice to go to church was taken out of my hands. My daughter and I were ready to go meet my husband who was already there. I went to pick up my keys and after a frantic search discovered that my sweet husband had mistakenly taken both sets of keys with him. Aargh!! (As Lucy is prone to say.) So I settled down to have a quiet reading time instead. Shortly, thereafter, a knock came at the door. It was a beautiful “angel” named Sabrina bringing my keys to me. So, once again my daughter and I headed out the door. We got in the car, turned the key, and nothing except a click click…Double AARGH!! Then we looked at each other and burst into laughter. We agreed that maybe we weren’t meant to make it to “church” this Easter.

Back in the house, I listened to my favorite Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” For me, it has always defined Easter and I felt no differently yesterday for I love to imagine Christ walking out of the tomb and overcoming death. Next I listened to several versions of “Amazing Grace.” Finally I opened my Bible to look for the Easter story and was stopped by these words:

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

There it was “love for one another.” I began to cry as I felt the peace and comfort of God. This for me is the key. Not judgments. Not being right or wrong. Not war and condemnation. But, LOVE. God had spoken to me more loudly and clearly in the silence of my own living room than any sermon from a pulpit on this Easter day.

Amazing Grace.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

Can't you almost see the cross on the hill? I have never really understood why the day about Christ's death has been called "good." And, I know that today as I have reflected on my life, I can only call it Good. Beautiful. Abundant.

While it has not been a day of silence, it has been a day I have spent with myself. I spent the morning communing with my home. It was very comforting to spend time cleaning, unpacking, doing laundry and welcoming Spring. It is a glorious day in Seattle. Blue skies, a slight breeze and temperatures in the low 70's. It is a spring delight. As I write, I sit on my back deck with my old yellow dog, Curry, at my feet. I have spoken with a few friends today. They have blessed me and I have blessed them. I have shared e-mails and received amazing words of kindness about my gifts. Buechner's words on vocation come to mind. "The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." I am blessed to have been called to that place of deep gladness.

And what has this to do with Good Friday? For me, it symbolizes life and the intricate role death plays in our living. Abundant Life. Life includes my friends and family as well as the man on the bus and the Native American woman I encountered on my walk today. Her toothless smile brightened my day as we looked each other squarely in the eye and greeted one another. I wept as I read Naomi Shihab Nye's poem at Chrisine's site about the beauty of community and breaking bread. Again, Good Friday points toward life. Welcoming the world, person by person, with simple gestures of love and care; being grateful for old dogs and clean sheets. These make life "good." Thank you, Lord, for today's reminder of life, death and resurrection.

"This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost." --Naomi Shihab Nye

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Man on the Bus

A very memorable experience presented itself yesterday during my bus ride home from downtown. I climbed on the 15 Local (slower than the Express I just missed) and found it to be quite full. There was an empty space toward the front next to a man in a window seat. After sitting down I noticed he did not seem to be aware of his surroundings and was slightly swaying in his seat. It was hard to determine if he was intoxicated or simply exhausted and having an impossible time staying awake.

As we rode along I realized he was tilting more and more in my direction. Normally I am very aware of personal space on the bus (both mine and other’s) but for some reason this did not feel like an intrusion. The weight of his body pressed more deeply against mine until I found myself holding onto the seat handle to keep from being pushed into the aisle. This, too, seemed okay to me. After a bit, his head came to rest on my shoulder. Other riders had started to look in our direction by this time seeming to wonder what was going on. At one point, a woman in the next row pointed out an empty seat for me in the handicap row. I’m not sure why, but it felt like I would be abandoning my seat partner if I got up to move. I was comfortable right where I was, and so we continued along, two strangers, his head gently laying on my shoulder and me feeling somewhat like a guardian angel.

As we rode along I was able to see him a bit more closely. I imagine he was in his late thirties or early forties although he could have been younger. He was well-groomed and cleanly dressed in a baseball jacket with leather sleeves, a button down shirt and nice jeans. In his lap was some type of canvas portfolio. His skin was dark and his features were reminiscent of someone from Ethiopia or possibly Eritrea although I could not know for sure. Again, I wondered about his state of near unconsciousness. He did not reek of alcohol although I thought I could detect a slight hint of something. He appeared totally incapable of keeping his eyes open or his head erect—bobbing as the bus continued its route.

Several times during the 30-minute ride I was given opportunity to move from my seat, but each time I declined. It is very difficult to explain the peace I felt as I sat next to this stranger. It felt as if for a moment in time it was my job to be with this man. I did not trust that anyone else would be kind to him if I left the seat open where I now sat. I kept thinking how he seemed to need a shoulder to lean on. Ironically, there were times in the ride when it would have been hard to tell who was leaning on whom as I pressed in to keep from falling out of my seat.

Fortunately, before we got to my stop he had shifted his weight to lean against the window side of the bus so I did not have to worry that he would fall to the floor when I left. I prayed for him as we rode side by side and wondered about his dreams and aspirations. Where had he been? Where was he going? Why was he so exhausted and/or intoxicated? Stories ran through my mind about the possibilities. While I don’t believe he ever cognitively recognized I was there with him, as I placed his fallen binder on the seat next to him, I hoped that somewhere in his soul he would be able to feel and recognize that someone had been with him as he rode obliviously through the streets of Seattle.

I will certainly remember him. It was a uniquely blessed time for me. I am not sure who ministered to whom in those moments, but I did recognize clearly that sometimes we all need a shoulder to lean on.

photo by bill hughlett

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


"Live loud enough in your heart and there is no need to speak." --Mark Nepo

When we listen to our hearts and find God's voice and connection through prayer and stillness, we cannot help but be moved to action.

When we move to action in kindness and with our whole heart, the act becomes a form of holiness and prayer.

It is a beautiful circle of life. Spirit within me through prayer. Taking love into the world where Christ walks beside me and in front of me. Listening to the Father. Seeing the world beating around me and feeling it move within me.