I was re-living some Christmas memories when I came across this post from December 2007. It’s a clip of GameBoy and his cello teacher playing a Hannukah song:
It seemed time to run this post again–it was orginally published on October 20, 2006. A lot has changed in our home since this video: we’ve moved to a slightly bigger place, we now have a couch, and we no longer own that big table. But a lot has stayed the same (i.e. BOOKS)…
For your viewing pleasure, I’ve created a brief house tour video. This is for all those folks who are shocked/amazed/mortified that our family lives in ~750 sq ft of space. Of course, if we were in Japan, we’d probably have half this space and call ourselves lucky. But here in SoCal, our ‘living small’ lifestyle is definitely an anomaly.
The tour is limited to half of our home, so you’ll miss about five bookshelves (primarily the kiddos’ books and our magazines and journals). TobyJoy decided not to make an appearance in the show (EllyCat is the star) and John, CatGirl and GameBoy were at school during the tour, so the house is pretty quiet. One note: I mention that the table in the LR is “my desk,” well it’s also the heart of our home. We eat meals, watch movies, play games, read books, pray, and entertain guests around this table. Even as I type this post, John and I are working on our laptops at the table, and CG has a whiteboard that she’s drawing on at the table.
Our home is my very favorite place. There is a lot of love within these walls. It’s not fancy, but it’s home. :)
PS: kudos to John for helping me to compress the video for youtube!
PPS: Did you notice my oh-so-vintage-cool record player?? I’ll play some of my 80s record collection for you the next time you drop by for a cup of tea :)
This post was originally published on August 25, 2008:
I spent several hours this weekend in my garden. It was bliss. I pulled weeds, watched insects, and chatted with my neighbors. I also ate mostly out of the garden because I was on my own and I’m quite content with a lunch of grilled zucchini.
I know everyone isn’t as enthusiastic about gardening as I am–what are your magical/blissful spaces and places?
“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
Photo: Bee on the lavender bush near my sidegate. If you look carefully, you can see my red bike parked just beyond the fence slats :)
First published on July 1, 2007:
My lantana plants are such a source of joy. I have three now: purple, yellow-orange and red. I just love the ways their colors spread and change as they open their series of petals. Truly a burst of sun each time I gaze on them. :)
The windows of my soul I throw
Wide open to the sun.
~John Greenleaf Whittier
Republishing this post from 2/19/07:
[Full disclosure: I kifed this book from John’s pile this morning. And I am ‘stealing’ one of its ideas for this post.]
Are you good? Are you bad? A host of consequences hangs on the answer. Yet, a brief experiment can easily convince you that the question, so grave in appearance, has little foundation.
Consider how you spent yesterday. Retrace the main events, how one led to the next, and, as far as possible, reconstruct the thoughts that went with them hour after hour.
From this reconstruction, consider your attitude. Not objectively. In a partial, exagerated, and tendentious way. Note first the extreme magnanimity of your smallest actions. Be a benevolent judge of your innermost thoughts. Look how devoted you have been, how attentive, altruistic, sympathetic, humane, supportive, charitable, etc
And then do exactly the reverse. Force yourself to discern, in your acts and thoughts during that day, the obvious signs of perversity, your ability to harm, your taste for destruction, your fundamental wickedness…
And then, if you have carried this out completely enough, try believing in moral judgements and the searchings of conscience. What have you learned?
A bit of my experience (note: somewhat sanitized to avoid speaking of particular interactions w/people who might be reading my blog):
In worship yesterday I felt lightness, love, goodness. A closeness with the spirit. I reached out to newcomers after Meeting. I ate lunch with friends and enjoyed their thoughts and their humor. I ate a divinely-tasty egg salad sandwich. I spent time interacting with my kids and John in the afternoon. I did the family’s laundry rather than spending time on my own tasks. Assembled a favorite salad to share with friends at dinnertime. Was gracious to Friends for their hospitality, etc, etc.
Slept in and was grumpy in the morning, as usual. Was testy with John and the kids because I was ready for Meeting before they were. Got to church late, despite having arranged to meet newcomers there beforehand. Resented some disruptions during worship. Had difficulty quieting my mind. Thought mostly of myself and all I want to/need to do. After meeting, left fellowship early to spend time with my friends. Ate egg salad sandwich for lunch w/no remorse about consuming animal protein. After dinner, poked fun of 50s movie and traditional Quakers. Tried to be funnier to impress friends. Thought more about how I was feeling than about others. Didn’t reach out to those I didn’t know well.
More than ever I agree with C.S. Lewis that:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.
It seems to me that we are, all of us, both gods and devils simultaneously. We are selfish and selfless in the same moment. And as such, we should be gentle with judging ourselves, and also with judging others.
Originally posted on 11/14/2008
(looking a back to a year ago)
I really needed this poem today. So for the love of you, I share it here, along with a few recent garden pictures. :)
For the love of a tree, she went out on a limb.
For the love of the sea, she rocked the boat
For the love of the earth, she dug deeper.
For the love of community, she mended fences.
For the love of the stars, she let her light shine.
For the love of spirit, she nurtured her soul.
For the love of a good time, she sowed seeds of happiness.
For the love of the Goddess, she drew down the moon.
For the love of a good meal, she gave thanks.
For the love of family, she reconciled differences.
For the love of creativity, she entertained new possibilities.
For the love of her enemies, she suspended judgment.
For the love of herself, she acknowledged her worth.
And the world was richer for her…..
~ Charlotte Tall Mountain
Photos: Top photo is a close-up pic of a deep pink and red rose. Bottom pic is a closeup of an orange and black butterfly with wings spread, sitting on a helitrope bush with bright green leaves and purple flowers.
I’ve been feeling resonances of this post as I’ve dealt with the various challenges of this past week, and especially as I’ve tried to understand how the excommunication and the murder are affecting my kids’ sense of security.
To work out some of my own pent-up energy and frustration, I got into the pool this morning and swam dozens of laps until I was spent. Long ago I learned that you can cry into your goggles while you swim and no one around you is the wiser…
This was originally posted on August 7, 2008, just a week after the surgery to remove the infected tissue from my left leg.
I have a ritual that for my twice-daily wound dressings. It involves the expected hand-washing, opening of sterile wrappers, cleaning and laying out of tweezers and scissors, a dousing of the affected area with saline. Then I start to breathe.
In my yoga practice my teacher taught us to send energy through our bodies by imagining a furnace sitting at the base of our spine. With each breath in we stoke the fire of that engine, make it burn hotter and brighter, and as it enlarges and warmth shoots down our legs and arms–creating arcs of energy that spit out of our finger and toe tips. While I am doing a dressing change and I breathe this way I am less interested in shooting sparks out my fingers bit–rather, I imagine a pinwheel of fire in my belly that sends its light to my leg. The light warms and soothes the tissue, preparing for the moment when I have to grab the tip of the gauze that’s packed into the wound and pull. It doesn’t come easily–it is packed in with pressure and cemented by blood and slubs of new tissue. And that’s exactly the point–the pull debrides the wound, “cleans it,” keeps it open. For me it is a horror to hurt myself that way–to rip open a sore that is doing its best to heal closed. To tug at the tissue that is so raw and tender from months of inflammation feels counterintuitive from my deepest fibre. I find that it’s only when I breathe my special way that I can make my hand do what has to be done.
As I performed my ritual this morning, my mind stuck for a moment on how “this has to be done.” In my case it has to be done in order for my surgery to be effective. But I let that thought expand and enlarge as I thought of other times in my life that I am doing what “has to be done.” I thought of my life as an amputee, how much of that is simply finding ways of doing what “has to be done.” Walking with a prosthesis, ignoring the stares of passersby, standing unselfconsciously in front of a classroom–not easy things, but to me they are not courageous, heroic or unusual. They are a means to an end. I have little choice in the matter. Like the gauze that must be pulled, I cannot change my physical difference. It is what “has to be done” for me to move through my daily life.
And of course we all do things every day that “have to be done.” It occurred to me in that moment of gauze pulling that my situation is no way unique. It is what makes me just like you. You have lots of things you have to do, things that bring a twinge of discomfort and frustration– even outright pain. But they are “what has to be done.”
Although I didn’t articulate it in this way when I first began blogging, I would say that most of my online writing (at least on my personal site), is my attempt at making peace with the “what has to be done” of my life. A big part of that is writing about my disability. Because it’s so often difficult to experience the pity of complete strangers, I need to discuss what that feels like. I need to tell the story of what happens when a one-legged woman walks into an athletic facility or is harassed by TSA employees at the airport.
Last night as I was hobbling across the living room in frustration–trying to walk on my fake leg and my wounded leg and taking one big leap to the sofa because I just wanted to get off of both of my feet as fast as possible, my daughter came over to comfort me. She expressed her sympathy at hard it must be for me to walk right now. I was angry and tired and hurting. I looked up at her standing over me and suggested that her life might be a whole lot better if she’d been born to a Mom with two good legs. A Mom who could be outside playing and running and not one who had to ask for help each time she needed to use the toilet.
CatGirl, with all of her young wisdom said, “I only know what I have. I don’t know what it’s like to have a Mom like that. I only know what it’s like to have a Mom like you. So I only want you to be my Mom.”
I think CatGirl understands a lot about “what has to be done”–maybe more than I do. She knows that you only know what you’ve experienced and that’s that. So “what has to be done” for her is to be gentle with her Mom when she’s healing, to refill my water cup, to not complain as she trails alongside me through clinics and hospitals. She hears me scream and cry when I’m hurting and she takes in in stride. This afternoon she patiently helped me clean off all of the adhesive residue that was still stuck to my arms from my latest round of IVs–knowing that I couldn’t reach the goop on the backs of my arms myself. It was “what had to be done” for her Mom.
I think I’m still learning “what has to be done,” and that’s why I keep blogging. I’ve got to write to make sense of my place in this world, to understand the madness and beauty and arbitrariness of it all. And I also feel like someday after I’m gone (let’s say in 30 or 40 years from now) CatGirl might be facing something as painful as having to debride her own wounds, and maybe she’ll look back on this blog–these thousands of words that I’ve written here over the years–and something here will strengthen her to face the realities of her life. To do what “has to be done.”
The celebration of Mother’s Day originated with poet Julia Ward Howe, as a movement for women to fight the devastation of war and to show the way towards peace. Today’s sentimental-flowers-&-Hallmark-card bedecked event hardly measures up to the fiery rhetoric of the day’s founding mother…
Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Originally posted on The Exponent:
In my family, each of the women make quilts in preparation for their marriage. My mother’s quilt had a white background with intricate blue and green designs embroidered onto the quilt top. My older sister’s quilt was pieced—an Amish-like simple navy blue and white design.
I knew I would want something special for my quilt, something that reflected the symbolism of my wedding and also would be traditional and elegant. I became enchanted with ‘whole-cloth’ quilts–where the fabric is all one piece and the design comes from the quilt stitches. I found a design that I liked—a pattern taken from a 19th-century wedding quilt. With interlocking rings and vines, on all-white fabric. I loved the way the rings and circles in the pattern symbolized the eternal union that I desired. And I wanted it to be white, to remind me of the temple and of purity. Yet I knew that a quilt of such complexity would take a long time to create and I ran the risk of never finishing it! But I also knew it was the one. And I wouldn’t be satisfied with anything else.
At the time I settled on this particular quilt pattern I wasn’t yet engaged. It was my sophomore year of college and my boyfriend of my freshman year was serving a mission. I was also dating two other RMs rather seriously. I figured that one of the three would be proposing soon enough and so I ought to get started on the quilt just in case. As a Christmas gift my Mom purchased all of the supplies for the quilt and she marked the design on the quilt top. We set up the quilt frame in the Dining Room and began quilting.
Now, for those of you who aren’t quilters, let me explain a few things:
1) Quilt stitches are small, often 4-5 stitches per inch. I was planning a king-size quilt with designs so close and complex that there were often multiple rows of stitches per each square inch of fabric (was I crazy???).
2) When you quilt, you have to send the needle through three layers: the top layer of fabric, the ‘batting’ or cotton stuffing in the middle, and the bottom layer of fabric. There’s only one way to know if you’re needle made it successfully through all three layers, and that is to use the tip of your finger to ‘feel’ the needle poke through underneath. This means that with each and every stitch, the tip of your finger is ever-so-slightly pricked by the point of your sharp needle. The upshot: after about 2 hours of quilting, the tips of each finger are full of so many holes that the skin resembles raw hamburger—and are often oozing little drops of blood.
At the time that we were making my wedding quilt, I attended a university about three hours from my parents’ home and I lived in the dorms. So I could only work on it when I traveled home on weekends. Which was, at most, twice per month. When I did come home, I would spend much of the weekend bent over the quilt frame. My mother also put in many hours stitching during the days that I wasn’t home. It took us eleven months to complete the quilting.
As I sat sewing I had much time for thinking. A lot of my thoughts were about my future. It was as I was sitting over that quilt that I read the letter from my missionary where he said that he intended to propose to me when he returned home from Japan. And as I thought about that for a long time, I decided that my future was with him, and the quilt would someday grace our bed.
Ironically, perhaps, even though we married five months after John returned to the States, we have never used this quilt. We have never slept under it. It seems far too precious and too fragile. Until very recently, I’ve never felt that I had a bed that was pretty enough for such a quilt. But even now that we have a nice bed, we use an inexpensive (and washable!) matlesse spread. Our wedding quilt is carefully folded in my grandma’s cedar chest that sits at the foot of our bed. Occasionally I take it out and look at it. But usually only when we are moving to a new home.
My older sister, on the other hand, put her wedding quilt on her bed for everyday use. My Mother also had her wedding quilt on her bed until it was stained by diaper changes and the messiness of raising five small children.
Today, to take these pictures I spread out the quilt on my bed in the morning light. As I did so, my kitties kept jumping up on the bed and frolicking. They wanted to lie in the sun on the quilt. I fretted a bit about the black and grey cat hair that I could see already accumulating in their favorite spots. Then I let myself stretch out over the quilt and I thought about the intention, love, and hard work that I had invested in this one simple piece of cloth. A few yards of fabric, some cotton stuffing, and thousands upon thousands of tiny stitches. Blood, sweat, and tears. Joy.
And I thought to myself: What am I waiting for? Why not use it tonight and tomorrow and from now on?
Originally posted on 7/31/08:
I’m taking some new meds and we’re watching carefully for allergic reactions–given that I’ve had some rather spectacular allergic reactions in the past few days. So after taking a new type of pill I called John in to tell him that it was making me kind of itchy especially under my left armpit.
After I scratched there a bit (yah, I know I’m not supposed to scratch, but I do it anyways), I realized that there was a metal snap in my armpit.
“Can you take a look at this?” I said, lifting up my arm (and do keep in mind that looking into the armpit of a woman who is unshaven and unshowered for the past week is not for the faint of heart).
“Yep, it’s a snap,” John said as he peeled off the adhesive metal electrode that must’ve been left there after my surgery.
John then took a peek into my right armpit.
“There’s a USB port in that one, but I’m going to leave it there. Because you know that could come in handy later.”
Originally published on 6/8/2006
you know you’re getting old when…
You’re teaching class, standing up in front of 60 undergrads, and about ten minutes afterwards realize that your fly was down the whole time. And after the realization you’re not even embarrassed.
But I am pretty glad that today’s the last day of classes. If one is going to teach with one’s zipper unzipped, the final day of the quarter is a good time to do it.
Originally posted 11/30/2006:
Can I just say that I really dislike quotes like this one:
“I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.”
Ahem, but what is that saying about men (and women) with no feet??? That they exist as morality lessons for all those shoeless joes out there? Or as objects of pity for all those folks whose closets are so full of shoes that they don’t have enough space to keep them in???