Archived Posts from this Category

Fifteen Years

Posted by on 11 Sep 2016 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, loss, Politics and War, Uncategorized

For fifteen years, we have talked about, and gone to war pretending it fixes, the events of September 11, 2001. On that day, I woke suddenly from deep sleep the instant the first plane hit.

I lost a college friend that day. Other people lost so much more.

We all lost a sort of innocence that day, I think — the idea that the United States was so big, and so prosperous, that no real damage would happen outside of a war.

And suddenly we were in a war. A war with a nebulous enemy. A war with no clear targets to strike.

But we had the good will of the world behind us, a world that (for the most part) was as shocked and appalled at the targeting of civilians during a time of relative peace in the world.

And then things got muddied up by “politics” and we lost the focus. And we are still engaged in wars in a now destabilized and volatile, and expanding, region. It got very messy, very fast.

I do not think we are safer, fifteen years later, despite giving up (and having stripped from us) some of our rights. I know that the more we objectify individuals and groups the less free we are.

I also know that, historically, when a society vilifies and dehumanizes a group, stripping them of equality, requiring people to conform to a narrow band of behavior, belief and speech, that society is on the downward slope. I know that it won’t stop with one creed, one race, one person — eventually more and more people are caught up and then no one is free.

Do we wonder why it is so dangerous to speak up in some countries? It is because when those governments first said “this person/group is a security risk” and instituted small restrictions, no one spoke up. When the first group was arrested, incarcerated, eliminated, the majority stood by silently. And by the time the majority realized they were ALL in danger… that anyone at any time could accuse anyone and that the machinery that had developed no longer cared about guilt or innocence, or intent, or outcomes… only about eliminating people who “might” be a threat to the government….

It is not yet too late in the United States to speak up, to fight for the traditions that underpin the constitution — no matter how unevenly applied in some times and places, no matter that it is imperfect — that ALL are created equal, and ALL are deserving of the same protections and opportunities.

Fifteen years ago, the United States’ population allowed a handful of angry, hate-filled people to start unravelling the core of our society. We gave up our freedoms in many ways out of fear and in a desire to be “safe” which we are never going to be. In so doing, the people who planned, carried out, supported, and approved of the murder of thousands — including my friend — were allowed to win. We allowed our freedoms and optimism, the very things that make us “Americans” to be undermined. It is not too late to reverse that trend.

Are you eligible and registered to vote? If so, do you vote? Even in local elections, perhaps especially in local elections, every vote counts. We shape our nation and our future by participating in our government. This is a right and privilege still denied to many around the world. WE CAN reclaim our rights and our national pride so that those who would deny us both do not win. We can elect people who keep military “answers” as a very last resort — not weakening our defenses but being more thoughtful and intentional about when to use force, and more intentional about when not to.

We CAN make this world better. It takes WILL. It takes time. it takes heart

Don’t let the terrorists win. Don’t let hate win.

Work for love. Work for peace.


Posted by on 14 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, house building, housefire, loss, Uncategorized

A year and a half ago this evening, I was planning the pizza party for the class that had “most improved” in behavior and academics; and deciding to have cookies and juice for the other classes, who had been working very hard as well.

Tomorrow will be the 18 month anniversary of the last day of that grading period, the day that I entered in all the data I had and started making comments in the evening so parents would know how their kids were doing in school. That was a Friday. I was so looking forward to the weekend, to the following two weeks (right before spring break). The weather was lovely and we were able to take Lucky out nearly every evening for a walk. I had plans for the garden, for the house, for figuring out where I was going after the break (when my long-term sub position would end).

I liked my home, my cluttered corner where I planned lessons, read books and watched TV. I loved my purple and yellow and green bedroom with the basketry light fixture over the four-poster bed and the walls of books…

I loved the times we spent cooking in the cramped kitchen, eating at the linoleum-topped table, playing games.

I walked the gardens daily. I knew the plants, the animals, the sunrises and sunsets. Predictable, but ever-changing.

On Thursday, it will be a year and a half since all of that was taken from us, the bright Monday afternoon that home was lost and we learned the true meaning of neighborliness and friendship. A year and a half since we ended up in a hotel without a clean change of clothes, or toothpaste or even a hairbrush. A year and a half … that feels sometimes like yesterday and sometimes like a completely different world.

We have been back on the land, in a new house, since the first of June.

I still sometimes feel out of place, not sure where I am.

I don’t yet walk the gardens daily, too many things perished while we were gone.

I don’t yet have a handle on everything that is lost, because there are still boxes to go through. Every box holds memories…

Every memory I have to let go because the papers or fabrics are too damaged (and toxic) to keep hurts. It goes slowly.

And yet, a year and a half of new memories are already built. The picture of Grant and his girlfriend’s senior prom is clipped to my lampshade next to my new corner where I plan lessons, read books and watch TV, and think about maybe tidying up someday…

Once again, Tom cooks in the kitchen, this time a more spacious and workable space, with a separate area for the table where we eat and play games.

This autumn we will plant bulbs, tubers and corms in the back yard, reclaiming the ground that was damaged by construction for a pleasant view that doesn’t need mowing.

This winter, we will sit in front of the fireplace when it rains (or snows), something brand new for us.

And in another nine months, we will have been back almost as long as we were away, and I hope we will finally feel home again.

For now, the memories still invade at inopportune moments, and I have to catch myself and figure on which side of the memory I stand…

This loss hasn’t been the hardest we have faced, but it has been very difficult. Recovering from something like this … never easy. But recover we do, and every day a little more falls into place. Every day, the new memories are stronger and the painful memories are easier to bear.

Grief and Loss Magnified (musings on disasters)

Posted by on 24 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: loss, Making a Difference, musings, Uncategorized

A landslide in Oso (this weekend, 8 confirmed dead, dozens more missing), an airliner missing and presumed down with all lives lost after two weeks, car- and suicide-bombers, slaughter of civilians and “enemy” prisoners… If I had all the money in the world, I could not fix the disasters that thousands of people are facing, whether caused by man or sad twists of natural events. What could we do to avert/avoid/amend some of these?

For the landslide (really a hill slide — half of the hill over the river looks like it gave way): have geologists look at topography before allowing construction, perhaps move people who are already in danger zones… a similar event happened a number of years ago in our county when an area that was (from topography) clearly prone to slides let go, destroying many homes. It wouldn’t avoid all such disasters, but perhaps we can at least side-step some of the worst ones.

For airliners, perhaps make it so that pilots and crew cannot disable tracking systems, and — we have the technology now at least — set it up so that the minute a plane deviates more than an amount (a mile? a degree of rotation) from the approved flight plan there is an automatic alert or secondary tracking via GPS? Planes would still have problems, crash or be diverted, but we might find them sooner and rescue survivors; at the least families would know sooner…

Bombings? Random mass murders by military, para-military and wannabes? Teach our children to love. Teach them to treat others with kindness. Teach them that the “other” is not automatically an enemy. But also teach them to stand up for themselves and for those who are not as strong. We won’t avoid all aggression, but we can make our communities and the world a little more safe.

What can we do when the world is broken? We can fix what we can, and we can be prudent about our choices in the future.

For those who have lost loved ones, homes, employment and the sense of security they used to have, I grieve with you.

Memories… Dreams and Wishes (Pollyanna speaks)

Posted by on 18 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: hope, house building, housefire, loss, Uncategorized

One year ago today I went to teach on a beautiful, sunny day. I left early, telling Lucky I would be home and we would go for a walk in the evening if it was nice. Tom was still asleep. So was Grant.

It was a lovely, sunny, warm day.

A few hours later, Lucky was gone. So were the birds. The house was uninhabitable. Family heirlooms destroyed and damaged. The accumulations of four lives smudged out. Grant was covered in soot and being brave, having come home to discover the house in flames…

Today was gray and cool. I left the apartment early to go work at the school, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I dropped Grant off at the college for his yoga class. I didn’t teach today because of conference scheduling, so I went to a dentist appointment before I met with parents, and spent the rest of the work day either organizing files (much needed) or in meetings.

Today, instead of my parents meeting me at the door of my classroom when the children left for the day, I called and went to visit after I left school. Just a quiet afternoon, looking at magazines of house things and dreaming about how the new house will function. Feeling so very very tired…

I want my home back. My yard, my gardens, my books, my child’s sense of security. Some things will eventually recover. Other things are going to develop a “new normal.” And some things just will never feel right again.

But in the grand scheme of things, the loss of a house, the loss of “things” is so small. In the grand scheme of things, I have my best friend to share my life with, my children, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my students and a world of possibilities that still extend for years in every direction. In the grand scheme of things, I have hope.

My wish is that everyone could have hope for a brighter future. It’s why I teach. And it’s why I plant trees as well as vegetables.


It makes the world go ’round.

The poem I wrote (caution: dark)

Posted by on 02 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: Family Matters, Gardens and Life, housefire, loss, passages, poetry, Uncategorized

Shortly after the house fire, I wrote a poem.

I think it’s time to share it.

Continue Reading »

Today, not in the garden

Posted by on 22 May 2013 | Tagged as: citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, housefire, loss, Making a Difference, parenting, Peace Making, social justice, Uncategorized

It has been a while again since I posted, but last night I wanted to share something with friends on a social media site and browsed through the pictures I posted here last summer.

How things have changed.

Hope, sadness; light, shadows; growth, decline; laughter, sighs.

I have been waking earlier than my normal the last couple of weeks, though I finally now sleep through most nights. And then I spend the time until I wake up reading the news and email that has been filtered and partially digested overnight. Thus de-motivated, I finally emerge into the day wondering what I am supposed to accomplish, how I am supposed to maneuver myself to get things done.

Today, once I got up I started soaking some doll clothes that were only slightly impacted (these are things that were inside plastic bags and are for dolls that survived!), got a load of laundry in, spent an hour cleaning jewelry with cotton swabs and makeup pads. I just sat down to eat a little something, and read more news…

There was a tornado in Oklahoma a couple days ago. Two that were particularly devastating. One that was in the most dangerous category. I look at the devastation on the television and it’s past my comprehension.

Until, that is, I think about what we are dealing with.

Compassion is the natural result of empathy, I think — understanding what other people are going through, if not the exact situation then being able to extrapolate from what is personally experienced to imagine a similar situation.

And what is similar is people leaving their homes in the morning, thinking they could play with (fill in the blank) when they got home. Then no home. Or, the remains of a home, but not much on first, second or third glance to salvage.

I know what that is like. I know how strange the landscape seems when landmarks are gone. I know what it is like to think there is nothing left and then return the next day and on subsequent days to find little hints of what was, and some of it good enough to keep.

I know what it is like to wake up and not know where you are for a few minutes, the light is wrong, the dog isn’t leaning against the bed, there aren’t any birds…

I know what it is like several weeks later to realize there were things that were supposed to be taken care of already and we haven’t started yet. So you start when you start, and the rest will fall into place as it can.

I know that in the weeks and months to come these families, like our family, will still be wondering what happened to (fill in the blank) and not sure if it was lost in the original upheaval or misplaced later on. And wishing…

I know they, like we are doing, will be wishing that things could just be normal. They don’t want new houses and new furniture and their “dream kitchen” — they want their HOME, and their treasured paintings drawn by loving toddler hands, and that wonderful teapot from the grandmother who is long gone.

And I know that in the midst of all of this, there will be good moments, too. Times that they smile, and times that they laugh. And they will feel strange, that in the middle of grieving and feeling lost, they also are “okay.”

I hope they will understand that it is normal to have alternating times of laughter and tears. It is normal to not always be looking around trying to figure out what to do next because soon — though never soon enough, it seems — things will start making sense again and they can get back to living.

It won’t ever be the same, and the losses will keep piling up for a while. But eventually, and sooner than they expect, it will be okay again. Not the same, but okay.

Parents, hug your children close, or call them to say you love them. Friends stay connected, even if just a phone call or facebook note. In difficult times, what saves us are the relationships.

To help the people in Oklahoma and other places devastated by tragedies and disasters, consider contributing to the Red Cross or Red Crescent.

Time and Change

Posted by on 27 Apr 2013 | Tagged as: Family Matters, Gardens and Life, housefire, loss, Uncategorized

I began this post 15 days ago (or so) and tried to work on it several times, but ended up giving up. It has all been so disorienting and difficult. And now, 6 weeks after the fire, we are realizing how many opportunities we have missed to move things ahead — opportunities we didn’t know we had. There is learning here, alongside the hurt. Here is the post I started, and the finish that will be “good enough.” Tomorrow I will post of more mundane, happy things (if I can get some pictures loaded).

Continue Reading »

Part of the story

Posted by on 20 Mar 2013 | Tagged as: loss, Uncategorized

Words might not be necessary…





We are sad. Not much left to rebuild on, but we will start again, at mid-life, and hope that experiencing this sort of loss now prepares the children a little bit for anything they encounter.