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Thursday, November 27, 2008

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Too stuffed to type. Another first in our new house. It's hard to believe how much can change in a year.

Apart from badly scorched chocolate pie filling (my teenage nephew offered chivalrously, "I thought maybe it was coffee-flavored"), Thanksgiving dinner was perfect. Patrick made his mother's dressing. The kids gathered autumn leaves for table decoration. Relatives came with warm casserole dishes and helped us shuffle a thousand puzzle pieces around the coffee table. The edible pies were served on the antique side plates sent by my mother to match the china set I started last Christmas.

The last guest was just sent home with a full foil pan. The kids are playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii. There's a stack of newspaper circulars on the floor telling me to get up early tomorrow and bust some doors, but honestly, I don't see anything in them that I would let come between me and my pyjamas.

At the end of our meal, the men pushed their chairs back from the table and sighed in unison. I feel like one of them. Enough.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

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My birthday gift to myself this year was to celebrate over brunch with a few of my favorite people, who each went home with a little symbol of the sparkle they bring to my life.

It's a wonderful thing to look around a room, and realize you can die anytime with the certainty that you will have a splendid funeral with charming guests, plenty of food, an abundance of kindness and wit, and buckets of flowers. Everything after that is icing and sprinkles.

"Will there be presents?" my sister asked me on the phone yesterday morning as I was putting on my jewelery.

"I hope so," I grinned, feeling deliciously birthday princess-y.

"Good," she said wickedly. "None of that 'no gifts' nonsense."

Anyway, what's a cake without icing and sprinkles?


There were lovely presents. A vintage desk (at last, a real desk!) from my true love. Kitschy-kitty salt and pepper shakers that instantly fell under the category of things to grab in a fire. Chocolates, wine, flowers, and many more pretty things.

I hate to play favorites, but I have to confess that this last present of the day beat all the rest:


As someone with a better grasp of math than me pointed out, my fortieth year is now officially underway.

So far, it rocks.

kyran's 027
(Snapped by Missy.)


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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

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Digging In


Over the course of a decade, you become intimate with the land you live on. It's the kind of physical familiarity you develop with your mate and your children, the cellular knowledge of their scent, their hair, the body's topography. Your hand wanders absently along the beloved's vertebrae, your fingertips small hounds on a knobby trail, stopping at the tailbone, muzzles pressed to the base of a tree. This place. I know this place.

I had that intimacy with the yard on Spruce Street. After ten years of gardening, raking, picking up toys, bringing out trash, letting out dogs, calling in kids, I knew every root and leaf, every shadow and season. It was weedy, as untidy as a little boy's unbrushed hair, but I loved it in detail and in particular. The scarlet of the Japanese maple at a certain hour, on a certain day in November, when the sun hit at a certain angle. The golden green of a patch of moss behind the spirea hedge in winter when the canes were laid bare. The exact weight of the back garden gate, laden under tentacled ivy.

I knew that place. It was home.

It's taking time to get to know this place. I haven't done anything with the garden yet. I thought I would watch it cycle through the seasons first. I guess I've been shy.

The kids aren't so hesitant. From the day we arrived here, they set out across the property like a small conquering tribe. They spent most of the summer spreading manifest destiny across the backyard. I got back there last week to do some long postponed fall clean-up, and I was staggered at their impact on the landscape, like reading statistics on how many tons of dirt earthworms can move. Literally, no stone was left unturned. As I dismantled rock cairns and stacks of deadwood that appeared to be constructed for trapping heffalumps and woozles, I rehearsed a lecture on respect for one's environment that would have been the equivalent of installing an electrified fence around the perimeter of the yard.

Then I softened, realizing they were doing what all animals do with their natural habitat: ordering it, owning it, digging in. We humans just do it on a grander scale than the others (except maybe the earthworms). Even the small ones among us. What looks destructive to me is reconstruction to them. I revised the lecture before delivering it. The relocation of the flower bed border stones has to stop, but I want them to keep digging in our little bit of earth, turning it over and shaping it as it shapes them. What gets planted in the holes they make is more important to me than perfect turf. As long as I don't fall in one.

Also, if they can move that many rocks and sticks, they can rake and bag leaves. Use your powers for good, I told them. I'll pay you five dollars.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I crossed the front lawn to bring the recycling to the curb. Coming back under one of the pecan trees, I automatically glanced down where I knew I would see the disc-shaped fungus clinging to the exposed roots like mollusks. It's one of the places I've come to know, a threshold into this new geography of ours.

I looked up as the lowering sun was streaming in through the forsythia hedge, and ran in the house to grab my camera the way I do when I want to capture the boys in a moment, the way I used to do when the Japanese maple on Spruce Street was in full flame. I stood there shooting a few minutes, tweaking settings on the camera until the display showed what I was seeing: something beloved, something known.

This place. My place. Home.


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

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And Many More...


I'm working on a fun new feature article that I'll tell you about in the springtime, a by-product of which is getting in touch with my latent Martha Stewart. Hence, I spent several hours today —when I could have been updating my blog— fluffing tissue paper poms instead, in preparation for an event next Sunday that I like to call my first 39th birthday.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

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Very Near


By almost any standard definition, I am a woeful Christian. I attend (irregularly) a liberal-leaning, liturgical church, because I love ceremony, metaphor and story, and because it orders my otherwise unbridled time. I like how it forces me into community with people I might else not associate with. I like singing the hymns and I like communion. When I can't get behind a single article of faith, I can always get behind the simple truth that "we many are one body, because we all share one bread, one cup."

Neither is my participation merely intellectual, though I am glad to have found a church where intellect is welcome. I have had a few true, numinous moments in the pew and on the altar step, when, like Carl Jung, I didn't believe, I knew.

But if someone were to ask me about my relationship with Jesus Christ, I would quite frankly choke. Relationship? Uh. Um.

Maybe all the gory Jesuses of my Catholic childhood spooked me. Everywhere I looked at school and church there was a crucified, bleeding Jesus, whom the priests and nuns assured, died horribly because of me.

It was a bit off-putting.

I know a lot about Jesus. I'm just not very Jesus-y. The word "Jesus" doesn't exactly roll off my tongue. He's not really part of my vernacular.

So I was surprised yesterday how natural it was to reach for some of the words ascribed to him when my children were speculating about the nature of heaven.

"Maybe you come back and live in a different form," my seven-year-old posited.

"Maybe it's another dimension," my nine-year-old said. "Maybe heaven is like a wormhole that brings you really close to God, really quick."

"Maybe God is already really close," I offered. "Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was very near."

"Maybe it's all around us!"

"Maybe," I said. Someday I will tell them— and you—about one of my numinous moments on a New Brunswick beach when I vividly knew this to be true.

My nine-year-old was caught up in the quantum grandeur.

"Maybe God is so big, he's holding our whole universe in his hand."

Well, it's nice to think something or someone has everything well in hand. It's only natural to want your god to be mighty. No half-assed, minor deities for me, thanks. In phone trees and in prayer, I much prefer directing my complaints to whomever's in charge.

Mighty is good. Especially when you are small. But I wanted them to know something else.

"Know what else Jesus said?"


"He said that God loves us so much, every hair on our heads is counted."

Those words always remind me of the first few days after each of my children was born—the dreamy, long moments spent gazing over every cuticle, every fold of skin.

"I love you more than I could love anyone, or anyone could love you, and I don't know how many hairs are on your heads. So maybe God is not just big and everywhere, but so close to you, he can count your hairs."

Maybe he loves to bend over you and breathe in your hair in the mornings, I thought. Maybe she smoothes your hair at night when you are asleep.

But I don't want to interject my ideas —or even Jesus' ideas— about God too much in their questioning. I want them to keep asking and keep imagining new answers. I think the Jesus of my understanding, the one who said a person needs to think like a child in order to understand heaven, would back me up.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

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Flies in the Annointment


For the first time in three presidential elections since I've been in the U.S., I accompanied Patrick to the polls as an "international observer" and watched him cast a ballot that his parents could never have imagined.

It was thrilling. We went home, turned on the television, and pretty much stayed glued to it until midnight. The kids, too, camped out on an air mattress on the family room floor. My nine-year-old called out the projections as they came in, state by state.

"All the blue is in the north," he observed early on.

And therein lies one of two flies in the annointment.

As jubilant as we are over Obama's win, I'm deeply disappointed in the South.

I know there are people all over this country who voted Republican for the right reasons, but I've been here too long to kid you or myself that the uniformly red overlay of the old confederacy is not largely about race.

It'd be like trying to tell you the Confederate cause was essentially about states' rights. There are people here who will tell you that with a straight face. And in the next breath, deny that they are affected by the racial baggage of this region's heritage.

All of us -- black and white -- are shackled together by that legacy of denial and shame. As long as we keep trying to get away from it, and each other, nobody is getting anywhere. It's like watching partners in a three legged race try to outrun each other.

I think I will have more to say about that in the days to come.

The other disappointment is in the various votes that rolled back civil rights for same-sex families, including a proposition in Arkansas that denies such families the opportunity to serve as foster parents.

I have such strong feelings on this topic because of the value I place on marriage as a legal and societal institution. People who love each other will find a way to be together, believe me. What possible justification is there for leaving them outside, no roof over their heads?

You want to know what weakens and violates the sanctity of my marriage? Denying it to people who love each other as much as we do.


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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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Not enough.

not enough

My friends and neighbors have been early voting for weeks. I've been vicariously experiencing their encounters in line, their emotions as they cast their ballots, their great hope for the future of this country. I've been so caught up in it, I felt like I was really part of it.

I almost forgot that I'm not one of them. Until this morning, when it hit me.

If you ever stayed home on prom night, if you ever missed your ride to somewhere wonderful, if you are always the bridesmaid, never the bride, then you know how it feels to be me this election morning, driving past everyone else lined up to cast their vote. A lump lodged itself in my throat at the first polling station en route to school, and it gets lumpier by the hour.

America, I'm so proud to be here today.

But for the first time in over ten years, just being here doesn't feel like enough.

Cherish your vote today. I'll hold your bouquet.


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Saturday, November 01, 2008

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Star Wars VII: The Prologue


"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, two bounty hunters and a stormtrooper..."

"CLONE trooper."

"...CLONE trooper traversed the universe in search of a new and powerful leader to help them crush the Rebel Alliance. They found the one they sought in a fausty English boarding school. Strong in the force, he was. And fortunately, it was term break. Thus, Hari Wan Pottah joined them as the new Imperial commander, and they set off at hyperspeed to terrorize the galaxy and shake down the populace for candy.

"The high fructose corn syrup made them strong. And loud. And then a little whiny and sick. Hari Wan Pottah returned home, and the rest of the Imperial force felt like they really needed to sleep with their mother. Their father fled into exile on the couch at the edge of the galaxy, cursing and vowing revenge."


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