Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
I do NOT know when I wrote this! Probably before 2008. Not before 2007. I think it was when the boys and I were visiting friends I had met online. Here is the unedited text:
The sermon was about the Martha and Mary story where Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better path… and the rector’s take on it was based in part on what society was like at THAT time (an approach that I know some people find odd) rather than on society as we know it. At the time the story was written (and purportedly took place), women were definitely second-class citizens. Like many arab societies today, women did not sit with men, nor speak with men who were not part of the immediate family. Taken in that perspective, the meaning shifts slightly — not to belittle the people who do the necessary work, but to remind us all that there are some times that it is good to sit and listen and talk… it was not a scold of Martha, but an affirmation that women also had the right to participate in the intellectual and spiritual life of the community.
This is how I have generally made sense of this passage and similar ones in the Christian New Testament.
[Draft One, 12 March 2015]
Did you know that before you were here, another structure inhabited the land?
In the first Act of this land’s existence, there was a deep, varied garden, filled with nut trees and timber trees, with berries, with vines and flowers, and with creatures that depended on them all.
Then silence while the land that had been cleared regrew; Life being such that fire and harvesting do not dissuade the green mantle.
The Second Act began as a new millenium approached. For nearly 15 years, a home lived here.
A smaller structure, true, but one filled with hope and happiness. And, yes, its share of sorrow and worry.
But one filled with life, with the details and baggage of living. The cluttered countertops (no surface was safe!). The muddy steps, both in front and behind.
An entrance door with dents, scuffs and scratches from feet, boots, paws and who-knows-what attempting to get in. Or out.
The front looked out over a rapidly establishing garden with fruit trees and roses, bulbs of various lineages, lilacs and lavenders. The rear entrances referenced but did not invite the back yard, wilder and less-tamed than the front garden (but no less beautiful and in my mind more radiant).
I walked the gardens daily, front and back, when I could. When I couldn’t I watched from the windows as birds and beasts visited and moved on.
I relished the sounds of my children playing, talking and even arguing. Young life, finding its way into the maturity of young adulthood. Some times more gracefully than others.
Life ebbed and flowed in the other house, fortunes waxed and waned, time passed.
And one day, it was gone. For reasons still too painful to reflect on for long, and so I will pass over it except to mention that it was hard. So hard…
We had to leave the garden and the back yard. There was no shelter in between, nor even shelter at a distance, for a while.
But life must needs proceed, and so we planned and worked and toiled and waited until one day we could move back to the land.
Back to the land and into a new structure. A larger, more substantial dwelling, in keeping with our larger, more substantial, mature incomes. A home with a front entrance like a warm embrace, and back doors that beckon to those inside to explore the wonders of the wild unknown.
And yet, with one child grown and gone and the other on the verge of escaping the bonds of childhood, the house that finally has enough storage, fewer drafts, better plumbing…
You are emptier and harder to fill than we expected.
And here is the secret that I will share, the hope and the dream that I have for you.
Where once I wrote to my sons about staying grounded — being at one with the home-as-place; now I write to you, my home-that-is-becoming.
For it is not the structure that matters, nor even the particular shape and content of the landscape that surrounds the structure. What matters is that love lives there.
The dream is that one day, some day (not yet, for I am too young in my maturity), eventually, this house will shelter not only two people who love, but those they love. The children of the next generation. The hopes and dreams of their own parents. A dwelling, however rich and grand, does not become a home until that hope of hospitality permeates every nook and cranny, and, messily and happily, invites the clutter and chaos of friendship and family.
This space between the walls and under the roof, this is a holding zone. A moment in a larger world that waits to welcome life. The things inside are props for the play that is ongoing. Act III is about to begin.
And the trillium are in bud once again…
Almost fourteen years ago now, the house was placed in the yard (September 1999). I planted trees in front and on the sides the following Spring. Flower beds in front the year after that, if I remember correctly. And gradually the yard and the home took shape. A few years into the process, I started recording the changes here, in the A Garden View page under the About tab.
Now, the house is being removed. Where there was a home, there is now only memory.
Memory, and hope. Monday morning, bright and sunny, the house still stood, but not for long.
And in the middle of the day… the roof gone, the interior exposed, the bulk of our lives in tatters.
And toward the end, the excavator in what was Matthew’s room. The remains of our lives together were piled high in dump trucks.
In a few weeks, with luck, we will have begun the process of rebuilding for real. We will have approval from the county, and from the bank, for a home that has more than enough space. We will have space to gather, to linger, to grow old.
I have a garden still, and that will have to do for now. Do the children understand how important it is that we have space for them? Do they understand how hard it has been, to work for so long, only to start again?
They are about to begin their own lives, and in the beginning when everything is incremental and one is responsible only for oneself, it feels much simpler. The idea that beginning now means we will be well past middle age when all this is resolved seems horrible to them.
It’s not easy, but it’s possible. We have lived through difficult times, and even now, thinking about a new thirty year mortgage it’s daunting. But we have made it this far.
The anchor of “home” will give us what we need to go a little farther.
Posted by stidmama 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.
I don’t have a lot of energy to write at the moment. I taught six consecutive school days in a high school classroom, which was a lot of fun, but tiring. Different type of environment, and I spent a lot of energy helping the kids stay on task. And then, of course, I caught the virus they were sharing… and spent the weekend feeling pretty miserable. Better enough last night to get to Grant’s first SOGO concert of the year, and enjoyed myself.
Feeling good enough to get a start on the NaNo novel, not a good start, I had to spend a rather large chunk of writing and time wandering around before a good story began to gel. But now I am thinking it isn’t really meeting my need as an author. Second-guessing! Not a good trait…
What follows becomes a bit political in tone, fair warning that I am not advocating for any party or person, just expressing my concerns that people who could vote, don’t!
I get tired of the hyperbole so common in the media today, particularly when it comes to their descriptions of sports stars, actors and others in popular news. I have heard too often a high-scoring player referred to as a “hero.” And then they need to up the ante when they are faced with someone who actually does good in the world, who takes risks to help others, who is true to their values, who dies in order to protect others from harm.
Our children take what the media says seriously, and begin to emulate the non-heros. They feel as if they can never measure up to the unrealistic expectations, and they miss out on forming strong relationships in the rush to be “better than.”
True heros are not “better than” other people, they are just people. People who do amazing things in big ways or small. From the spectacularly visible work of women like Fawzia Koofi to the quiet work of people who go into dangerous neighborhoods to locate and protect children in danger, to the reluctant hero who in the moment makes a decision to do something dangerous to help another, heros take advantage of opportunities to make a difference. Many people in the public eye are doing difficult work, and good work, but are not heros. Many people who work daily at simple tasks are.
Sports “heros?” Not usually. Just highly visible people who make a lot of money until they use up their bodies.
Actor “heros?” Rarely. Recognizable, and often involved in a high-profile cause or another, but only as long as it gets them attention.
Daily heros? Many — from the parents and grandparents and other relatives who work long hours and come home tired but still have time for the kids. Teachers, firefighters, police, nurses, doctors and others who have complicated jobs and do them faithfully, year after year, never knowing how far their reach extends. They show us how to live good lives, no mean feat today.
Other heroes, like war heros and people who save others from drowning or fire, those show us all how to face our fears, face death and come out triumphant.
What is a hero? Heros are not perfect — and do not need to be. A hero is someone who demonstrates the best that humans can be at some point. A person who can, with one action, remind us all of our potential.
It’s father’s day. In the United States, people are having barbecues, parties and celebrations in honor of their fathers — and those who stand in for absent fathers. The dads who have been there for their families… daily heros. Celebrate the loving caregivers in your lives today.
Mitochondria (suggested by Krista)
the difference between
the greatest danger
and not caring
when knowledge is lost
and we whistle while we work
I first heard the term mitochondria when I was about ten, I think, reading A Wrinkle in Time. What stuck with me was the amazing intricacies of science, how little “ordinary” people know and how easy it would be to forget it all.
I know I read a little about them when I was in high school, when I was studying for a biology test (I never took biology, this was an extra-curricular competition), and then not again until microbiology (see yesterday’s post). Their purpose is simple: take the materials that the phospholipids let through and use them to make power. I like the Cells Alive page about them, it is short and easy to follow. Biology for Kids also has a great explanation. I am always astonished and excited at the infinite possibilities and the rare and wonderful coincidences that create life as we know it.
For me, what popped into my head today was the effort of the bad guys in the Wrinkle in Time series to erase the work and knowledge of science. Science threatens abuses of power. Knowledge threatens despotic regimes. It is true that, generally, life goes on in the wake of serious abuses, but at what cost? Knowing how the world works, the mechanisms that drive life, allows us to enhance, to make choices that can save lives. Yes, knowledge can also be used for evil. But at the risk of getting too far onto my soapbox, I believe that the greater the number of people who understand, who know, the less likely it is that knowledge and science can be used for negative purposes.
I see, today, a rapid and relentless attack on the progress that was made during my own lifetime — a rejection of so many positive things; an attempt to create a new generation of people who know so little they cannot discern fact from fiction and who therefore readily follow any leader who makes pretty promises. As a teacher, my biggest goal in life is to share what I know (admittedly a drop in the bucket) with others, to help them retain excitement and to contribute in their own way to the lives of those around them. In remembering the past, in preserving and promoting knowledge, we can create a future that is ever better.
Posted by stidmama on 30 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Making a Difference, Peace Making, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized
This is a good time to dedicate ourselves to making the world a better place. Rather than focusing on self-centered goals at this time for resolutions (lose weight, clean out the garage, exercise more), why not choose one specific project that will help many people?
For example, this is an election year. If you are eligible to vote but aren’t registered, register! If you find yourself feeling powerless, assert your power: write to your elected officials, volunteer in a campaign (whether for a politician or a cause, you can help spread the word about something you are passionate about, even from behind the scenes and even if you are not eligible to vote), attend rallies and opportunities to meet the candidates. Do you attend your school district’s board meetings? Some things they do are mundane, others affect how the school interacts with the community. Do you know who your school board members are? Or your public (utility-port-library…) district’s board members? Do you know what budget or project issues they are discussing?
Obviously, no one person can keep track of everything or participate in everything. But every person can keep track of something, and participate in some way, whether eligible to vote or not. Not everyone can attend rallies, not everyone can write letters, not everyone can run for office. But everyone can be creative and realistic about volunteering time and talents!
In the United States, while corporations are adept at purchasing face time and favors with politicians, the people still have a great deal of influence, if they choose to wield it.
A democracy functions best when all the people make their wishes, dreams and needs known.
I have friends who volunteer at the food bank, who volunteer in schools, as firefighters, for political causes… each one of these people makes a difference in the lives of many others in the community. And in the process, their work expresses their values.
How will you choose to occupy your time in the new year?
How will you express your values in the world?
How will your life this year make things better for other people?
I am thinking over my possibilities. I will definitely continue volunteering at my local school as I have time and energy… is there one more thing I can add? I lack monetary security that would let me donate money to organizations and causes I believe in. Perhaps I can use my writing ability more productively to support them. I always vote, but I think this year I will write to one of my elected officials on a cause I am passionate about (education!). I also hope to have a productive garden this summer, and to donate some of the foods we grow to the local food bank. I want to be more consistent in keeping in touch with some of my friends who aren’t in the same spheres as my daily life. Keeping my resolutions to a reasonable list is the hardest part. But I think I will stop there so I don’t feel overwhelmed.
Feeling a little or a lot sentimental this evening, I am thinking about what it’s all about.
If life isn’t about (and for) doing good, even great, things, then I am barking up the wrong tree.
So, what is great, or even good? Does it mean becoming someone like Steve Jobs? He was apparently so enamored of his own greatness, or at least genius, that he rarely ever listened to others. He was certainly no great philanthropist. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to remember or imagine what life was like before the Apple products changed personal computing and communications. He opened up the world to so many people.
I think, though, that genius is not as important as love. It’s what motivates, stirs the imagination, and helps people persevere through the most difficult times. Love gets the tired parent up in the middle of the night to tend to an ill child, prompts one spouse to work longer or harder so the other can rest, inspires a stranger to reach out to help another. The list is long, the tasks whether small or large are powerful, and the results are often miraculous.
It’s what gets us through times of loss, which I am sure the Jobs family is experiencing, and what many others who knew him or followed his journey will go through as the reality, the finality, of his death hits. Loss is a motivator, too — wanting to make a difference before it’s too late, to leave something behind. But what?
For me, it’s about learning, but not selfish, sponge learning. It’s about learning that allows people to do or be better than they were. To learn to write in order to communicate. To learn to listen in order to hear. To learn to consider, to weigh evidence, to explore. To learn to get along even while standing up for those non-negotiable issues and projects that light up our lives. We learn, and then we do. We learn, and we become. We learn and our lives, and the lives of those around us, are made better.
What’s it all about?
It’s about living, in the best ways we can, each of us becoming great in ways small or big.
Carpe diem. Each, and every day.