Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy dance

Oh what a glorious day!

My children went off to school this morning. Emmett proudly announced that he had brand new everything on, from his boxer briefs on out. My big little man started first grade, so I had the whole day to myself.

What to do? What to do?

At first, I was almost overwhelmed with the possibilities. But my house is a wreck after a long summer of having the boys home, so I wanted to do some tidying.

I cleaned the kitchen. I scrubbed the rice cooker. I mopped the floor. I shined my sink.

I started cleaning out my office, taking out bag after bag of paper and old bills and magazines and empty boxes. I even decided to pitch our old portable victrolla, which hasn't worked in about 40 years and is falling apart at the seams.

I practiced piano for the first time in weeks.

I sat down and watched half a movie on HBO.

I bought an iced coffee and drove to the school a few minutes early so I could chat with the other moms.

And then, the moment of truth: The boys came out of school all smiles and excitement. As we drove to the office supply store for Noah's back to school list, I chuckled when Noah was very carefully explaining to Emmett how buying lunch works.

"It's a chip system" he said. "Always order choice number one, which is the blue chip, so you don't get too confused."

"Ok" said Emmett.

After Staples, we walked over to the music store to rent a violin. Noah has decided, after two years of piano, that he would like to try another instrument. We ended up deciding to buy one because it was cheaper that way. The lessons are free at school, so the violin itself seemed like a bargain.

And then I took them out to dinner at the Newport Creamery because Nguyen had to work late. All through the meal, through the wrong orders, the ketchup messes and spilled drinks, I just couldn't stop smiling.

Tomorrow? Maybe I'll build some shelves.

Or buy a rug.

Or make a slip cover.

Or take a nap.

Or pray out loud.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What brings you joy?

When did you first realize that it was possible to have joy in your life?

What does joy mean for you?

Was there a time when you didn't have joy?

What changed?


Thank you for your patience and persistence with me. Thank you for leaving little crumbs for me to follow home.

You are joy. In you, I am joy.

I can't imagine life without you.


by Singing Owl!

1. A friend who has blessed me:

I can't think of just one! I have so many people in my life who are blessings to me. Let me just say, you all know who you are, LOL!

2. An unexpected gift:

Having Jesus in my life was a huge suprise. And the biggest gift I have ever gotten.

3. A kind word shared with me recently:

My sister in law asked me for the recipe for my roasted asparagas. That was a huge! (She is such a good cook!)

4. Something that makes me stop and praise God:

I praise God when, in the midst of my day to day life, I catch a moment of grace and recognize God's signature on a series of events. I am always filled with such joy at those moments.

5. Something I’m looking forward to:

Kids are starting school on Thursday. (Insert Hallelujah chorus here)

6. A particular part of me I’m pleased with:

my unruly red hair.

7. Something in my life I wanted but never expected: close friendships.

8. A place that moved/moves me:

The pond where I was baptised. And, in fact, any body of water. All water is baptismal to me now.

9. One thing/person that always makes me smile: My very naughty bunny, Theo.

10. Most recent “love note” from God:

A tarot friend has been going through some changes lately. As a former tarot person myself, I still sometimes connect situations with particular cards. I told her that I thought she was going through a very 'King of Wands' time and suggested that the ace of cups is probably looming on the horizon. (It's the next card in the deck.) She decided to pull a card from her own deck and it was, of course, the ace of cups. We both just laughed because it felt like such a God moment. The card is an image of a dove (Holy Spirit) carrying the Host towards a waiting chalice. It is an image of the Eucharist. I am thinking she ought to get to chuch, LOL.

Monday, August 28, 2006

4 days late

but here is the Friday Five.


1. What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember trying to read a book in kindergarten and being deeply frustrated because I really didn't know how to read. I also remember Fr. Cranston,the headmaster, walking around in his clericals. Carrying a stick. And I remember that my best friend in kindergarten was missing a foot. She used crutches and had a stump. She had lost it in an accident when her father was mowing the lawn.
(Can you imagine her dad's guilt over that?) When I saw her again, years later, she had a prosthesis. I can't remember her name.

2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education?

Miss Hall was chubby and sweet and gave us dum dum lollipops when we did a good job.

3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now?

Awe, heck, they smell the same to me. Paste and pencils and sweaty kids.

4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned.

8th grade:

Is this a dagger I see before me? The handle towards my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.


The raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements. Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, that I may be filled from crown to toe, top full of direst cruelty.

I used to be able to do the whole darn speech. As a joke, I used to do it with a RI accent. Lady MacBeth from Cranston. I once did it for the founder of the RI Shakespeare Theater. He didn't find it amusing. At. All.

Is dis a dagga I see befaw me, da handle taud my haynd?

Mrs. Penny, the English teacher, was a big one for memorization. She drilled the 5 paragraph essay form into our heads so much so that I can still write one in my sleep. That little tidbit of information saved my butt in college, when I was too lazy to do homework. I would whip out papers the night before they were due and still snag 'A's because they were half-decently structured. Thanks Mrs. Penny.

5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share?

I never did my science homework in 9th grade (sensing a theme here?) and as a consequence, sometimes had to go down to the Headmaster's office to get swatted on the ass with a stick. But I loved the headmaster so much that it was more of a privledge than a punishment because we would spend the rest of the class period discussing all kinds of things that seemed infinitely more interesting than science. Coincidentally, the Headmaster was the same guy who I had in kindergarten, even though it was a different school. I wasn't the kind of kid who embarrassed easily, I must admit.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fire and Brimstone

I stood at the lecturn this morning and was reading today's Old Testament reading when suddenly I felt all fire and brimstoney. I began to feel the words I was saying. My voice rose. I became emphatic. I paused and looked at the congregants in front of me. I could taste the poetry of the word of God in my mouth. It became huge. I wanted, for some reason, to shout.

I didn't. We are Episcopalians after all. I didn't want to scare anyone.

But for that brief time at the lecturn, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through my mouth.

Can I hear an amen, Brother?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

My mom told me that if you put her name in the search on, she comes up. A couple of her poems were published in a book of poetry called "Regrets Only", which is, not suprisingly, a collection on the theme of regret.

She was excited.

Getting on is a kind of benchmark for writers.

When my friend, Mark McElroy, wrote his first book, the biggest thrill for him was when he could find it on Amazon, before it was even released. Seeing it in the aisle at Barnes & Noble was another huge thrill. Holding his first copy in his hand, too. (It was a bit of a thrill for me, too, frankly, as I was in the acknowledgements!)

Yesterday I was searching on Amazon for a new porta potti for the camper.

Today I am looking at poetry.

What a world.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Emmett's wisdom

Emmett turns six next week. He has been full of pithy little statements lately. Things that make me realize that he is growing up. Fast.

Emmett in the car, while talking about a kid in the neighborhood who has been making fun of my children:

"Mom, I have never been mean in my whole life. Naughty, maybe, but not mean."

Emmett in a tearful rage after his brother beat the pants off him at Yugio:

"I don't play to have fun. I play to WIN...." (Must discuss that one with him!)

Summer is drawing to a close and the kids are BOTH off to school full time this year. After 10 years of full-time stay-at-home parenting, I am facing the prospect of, gasp, solitude. Every day. For years.

Part of me is jumping with joy.

And part of me is going to seriously miss the time I have had with my beloved children. They grow up so darn fast.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Grappling with Euthanasia

Because she was euthanized, Bumpus' death brought the issue of 'mercy killing' to the surface for me. In recent years, I have changed my opinion about it as it concerns people. I no longer believe that euthanasia is appropriate, for all the reasons I assume the Catholic Church offers. Death is God's realm and we are in no way qualified to determine when to end of our own or someone else's journey. I am a big fan of the culture of life concept. But what about dogs and other animals? Is it merciful to take their life if they are truly suffering? This is the second time I have participated in such a thing. While there may be salvific aspects to human suffering, is it the case for creatures?
When Jake first told me that his dog likely had a brain tumor and had had a stroke of some sort, he was already thinking ahead to the decision that inevitably exists when there is no medical coverage for such a situation. Money vs. quality of life vs. relief from suffering. My response was that if he chose not to take medical steps (ie MRI scans and Chemo and Radiation, et al.) then the litmus would be whether Bumpus is in actual pain. Not- "she is a pain in the ass because she is incontinent." Not- "I can't stand to see her this way." In other words, separating the selfish from the compassionate.
I honestly believe that Jake did that. He handled the inconvenience, the sadness, the frustrations, for months before the last, horrible, episodes. His decision to have her put to sleep was coming from a place of great love and compassion. He knew it was going to be a huge loss, for both him and his remaining dog.

So, is euthanasia wrong for animals, as I believe it is for humans? Or does God invite us, in this instance, to act on his behalf.... showing mercy and compassion to the creatures in our care?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Lazy Summer

What a wonderful thing camping is. We took the boys to a primitive campground here in RI for a few days and had the time of our lives. Beautiful weather, good fishing, a cute and tiny trailer and a tent for the boys all made for a lovely few days.

I forgot the camera (Jo(e), please tell me how you manage to remember! LOL) so instead made funny sketches of some of the details: a sassefras sapling, our clothes hanging on a line, the iron frying pan and enamel coffee pot.

On Thursday, we called my brother Jake and invited him and his remaining dog, Roo, to join us for dinner. We originally planned to have grilled flank steaks and roasted potatoes and corn and salad, but that day the boys and Nguyen caught 3 bass, one of which was HUGE, so we ended up having all of the above plus fish for an appetizer. Nguyen cleaned them and cooked them whole on the grate, marinated in curry and garlic and green onions. It was a flavor that brought me back to my own childhood, reminding me of summer mornings in Georgian Bay, with bacon, eggs and fried bass for breakfast.

At first, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of 5 days with nothing to do, but after awhile, I began to thoroughly relax and enjoy the pace. The kids found infinite diversions. I relished my naps and reading and sketching, bathing in the pond and cooking over the fire.

It was a lovely week.

Monday, August 14, 2006


died at about 2:45 this afternoon, in my brother's arms.

Her last day was very nice. She ate an oily can of tuna. Had a brief walk in the park. Took three healthy shits. Went swimming in the Providence River. Even flirted with an old flame.

I was grateful to be able to be there with my brother and his dog.

She was a good girl.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday- new life and impending death

A lot happened yesterday.

First, the fun stuff.

Nguyen and I finished our picket fence and it is GORGEOUS!!! It is 4 feet high and painted off white to match the trim on our house. My job, yesterday, was to paint the tops of the pickets where Nguyen trimmed them.

While we were outside congratulating ourselves, a big redtailed hawk flew over our heads and vocalized that almost cliche sound you hear in cowboy movies. I had never, in my life, heard a hawk actually make that screeching sound.

Later, when sitting under the big Norway Spruce admiring my fence, a cicada landed on my foot. It was gorgeous, with emerald wings and big buggy eyes. If you didn't know what it was, it would be terrifying, I think, but since I do, I was delighted. We have just had a big hatching and the remains of the pupal nymphs are littered around the bottom of the tree. Cicadas spend several years underground as nymphs before they finally emerge to molt, take their adult form and mate. I called my brother, the nature photographer, to come and check out the cicada, but it flew away before he got here. However, as we were looking for it on the ground, we found a nymph crawling across the lawn. I have never seen a live one, so I was very excited. And it seemed to be heading straight for the spruce tree. When Jake got here, he set up his macro lense and started taking photos of the nymph. To our utter amazement, it crawled about 5 feet up the tree trunk, latched onto the bark and proceded to molt. Jake spent several hours taking shots of it as it crawled out of it's pupal exoskeleton and emerged as an adult cicada. Once he has his website updated with the photos I will post a link. It was remarkable. Something I have never, in my 41 years on this earth, seen before.

Now for the very sad news. Later in the evening, one of my brother's 14 year old dogs had 4 grand mal seizures in a row. She likely has a brain tumor and has been having seizures sporadically for about 2 months now, but this was a very bad episode. One after another. And none of the emergency vets in the area were willing to see her right away. She and my brother ended up sleeping outside in our yard for the night, with my brother next to her on the lawn. This morning she had two more seizures. We are fairly sure it is time to say our goodbyes.

Jake has had Bumpus and her sister since they were 6 weeks old. They are beautiful and gentle old girls. We are utterly devastated. Since I was up late with them, I ended up missing church this morning.

But God, I know you are with us. Please comfort my brother in this time of loss.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Book Meme

1. One Book That Changed Your Life: Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time- Marcus Borg. I am not a big Jesus Seminar fan at this point, but this book was pivotal during my "I want to be a follower of Jesus but don't buy all the stuff I have to believe" phase. What is interesting is that once I was baptised and realized that I was going to be (gasp) a Christian, I DID believe all the stuff that just 3 days before I didn't. I think the Holy Spirit whacked me upside the head, but good. But Borg's book was helpful, nonetheless, because it gave me a way of approaching Jesus that I could relate to at the time.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once: I have read most of Yukio Mishima's books more than once.

3.One Book You'd Want On a Desert Island: The Bible. I know that is cliche, but it is true.

4. One Book That Made You Laugh: Heck, I could answer the bible to both of these next questions. I laughed, I cried, I was moved. But I'll throw in "My Secret History" by Paul Theroux.

5. One Book That Made You Cry: Yup, the Bible again. I can think of so many times when I have been moved to tears. I love, for example, the Luke story of when Mary comes and visits Elizabeth and fetal John the Baptist starts jumping for joy in his mother's womb. I cried when I read that. And the Mark Gethsemane story brings me to tears.

6. One Book You Wish Had Been Written. The Autobiography of St. Peter.

7. One Book That You Wish Had Never Been Written: What was that book that gave instructions for how to kill yourself?

8. One Book You’re Currently Reading: I have a bunch of books on my bedside table, including Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, the Grail Bird, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, among others.

9. One Book You’ve Been Meaning To Read: Confessions by St. Augustine.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Today I am grateful

for my 7 seat minivan.

On the way back from the beach my two boys and their friend Aaron were sitting all the way in the back

having a farting contest.

Thank you, Lord, for power windows and big cars. Even if the mileage, among other things, stinks.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I am going to be three

I know two posts in one day is excessive. I mean, can I really expect people to read TWO rambling posts?

But while I was taking my luxurious nap this afternoon, I was thinking about the fact that on September 10 I am going to be celebrating the 3rd anniversary of my baptism. And really, it just blows my mind that I have only been a Christian for 3 years. I am not joking when I say I can't remember life before. It seems that everything in my life up to this point was drawing me, inexorably, towards God.

This is a little bittersweet, too, of course. Last year, on my 2nd anniversary, I got the word from God that it was time to leave my church and set out for ports unknown. I spend a few months in the desert and finally landed in the biggest Episcopal church in town. So much has changed in the last year.

I don't miss my old church at all. I miss some of the people, to be sure, but I don't think I will ever again be able to live without worshipping God and Jesus in church again. (It was a Unitarian Universalist church for you newcomers to the Dunk.) I could never again spend weeks on end waiting for a passing mention of the Beloved.

I do, however, miss Steve, my UU minister. He was the one who dunked me. He was sort of a midwife-witness to the whole process. We walked on that early part of the journey together and I would love to sit over a coffee and share where the journey has taken me since we last talked. I wonder about his journey, too.

Maybe I'll give him a jingle.

Say, around September 10th.

Glorious Day

Low 80's. Sunny. DRY.

It is the perfect day for gardening or going to the beach or sitting under a tree and admiring my almost-complete new fence.


Taking a nap.

Which is what I am going to do, as my children are at the beach with a friend today and I am feeling extraordinarily




And, when I lie down to take a nap in the middle of the day, part of the luxury of it is that I can lie there and think about


my one and only savior. My dearest friend.

Often I imagine conversations with him. I picture him sitting next to me, or standing near me, telling me things. He is always cryptic in these encounters. Not effusive, not emotional, just matter of fact and laconic. Sometimes funny, but always dry.

Sometimes silent.

Just imagining myself in his presence is often the best of all.

Sitting silently with my Beloved.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I haven't shared this with anyone, but when I started selling high end kitchen tools, I decided that I would tithe 10% of my income from it, in addition to the small monthly payments I had already pledged to Grace church. So, each month, after getting my commission statement, I give 10% of it to Grace. It is a funny number, usually. $78 one month, $84 the next. I never told anyone at the church I was going to do it.

My business is growing.

I like the idea of tithing. It makes sense to me to acknowledge that God is both the creator and recipient of my success. It makes me feel more generous too. In fact, that is one very delightful side effect of this job. I give a LOT of stuff away. I share in my good fortune as part of the day to day job, whether it is giving a hostess a gift for having a successful party or giving my brother a full set of cookware I won and don't need. It is a wonderful thing to be in a position to give.

Also, since I now make enough money at my kitchen tools gig, I can volunteer some of my time as a childbirth teacher. It has freed me up to share my skills without having to charge for it, which opens the door to a whole new population. In two weeks I am going to teach my first, free, childbirth class for unwed moms.

10% tithe.

100% guaranteed delight.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Liturgy is the architecture for grace.

It is the structure within which I open my heart and receive God each week.

Today I sat in a very warm church and when the priest began the Eucharist, I imagined, for a moment, the angels and archangels, the whole heavenly host, smiling down at us. Applauding, even. Cheering, like fans at an olympic event. Rooting for us.

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration. It is one of the strangest and most wonderful stories of the bible. Jesus becomes luminous. He becomes the veil through which the light of God shines and illuminates the world.

I really can't remember what life was like before becoming a Christian.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's time to come clean

Sometimes I am not the pulled together Jesus follower you read about here in the Big Dunk.

Sometimes I am a raving maniac. This has been the case in the last couple of days. This week was Vacation Bible School for the kids. For the first time all summer, I had 3 hours a day to myself. Which should have made me more calm and focused, right? No. Instead, the pressure of having this tiny amount of free time caused me great panic. What do I do with my three hours today? Do I read a novel? (yes. And actually finished it.) Do I go grocery shopping? (no.) Do I take my car to get washed? (Yes!)

So off I trundle to the car wash place to get my car washed, waxed and detailed.

I was told that the whole operation would take an hour and a half. I sat at a counter that faced a glass wall overlooking the cleaning bay. After the first hour went by, I grew concerned that I hadn't seen my car in the bay yet. I asked at the desk and was reassured that it was being worked on outside. After two hours, I went to the manager and asked what was going on. My car wasn't anywhere to be seen and I was getting really worried about how long it was taking. Turns out, the car hadn't even been started on yet. It was out back. Abandoned. Forgotten. Still full of sand and gunky sludge that the kids had spilled on the floor. Still covered with tar and bird crap.

I started to boil over. I was loud. I got tearful. I threatened to take the keys and leave.

The manager came over and asked what he could do to make it up to me. (Nothing. You can't give me my two hours back. I can't wait a minute longer. I have to pick up my kids now. There is nothing to be done.)

He tried to make it right, really. He even offered to pick the car up and drop it off for me the next day. I tried to calm down. Then, of course, I saw the little fish on the back of my filthy car and made some attempt to be civil. And felt humbled by my rage at something as stupid as a wasted couple of hours and dirty car.

Unfortunately, the severe thunderstorms on Wednesday knocked out the power at his place, so I am still driving around with sand and bird crap.

I shared all this with Fr. P at our lunch on Thursday. About how just when I think I am getting the whole 'Christian thing' something throws me off kilter and I realize that I have a LONG way to go. He suggested that perhaps these little relapses are, in fact, gifts of grace. They remind me that I don't have to be perfect at this. They remind me that I desperately need God. They remind me that in this aspect of my life, I have the grace to allow myself to admit I suck. It is a lesson that I apparently need over and over again. And I am grateful to both God and Fr. P for helping me remember that in my weakness, I find strength.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Summer books so far:

The Red Tent

Tons of people have recomended this book to me and I finally bought a copy before heading off to Chicago for a week. Finished it last week and my response is....


Seriously. I can't for the life of me figure out what all the fuss is about. All my friends enthused over it. They are reading it in the book clubs in churches all over this great nation. I suppose taking a bible story and exploring from the woman's point of view would be a cool conceit, but, uh, this book is so poorly written I almost couldn't get through it. NONE of it seemed genuine. Not the relationships between the women, nor the relationships with the lovers. They all seemed false, somehow. And worse, boring. Yes, boring.

One reviewer on hit the nail on the head when he wrote that the author goes on and on about all the stories that get told in the red tent and never once tells us one of them. We just get to take her word for it.

I wish I had read that review before shelling out $15 bucks. Having been at a bunch of births, I can tell you right now I would be VERY suprised if Diamant has actually been at any. And since the basic premise of the book is that Rachel is a midwife, it would have helped if at least that part had been believable.

I wasn't impressed.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

I am a sucker for travel writing. I count Paul Theroux as one of my favorite authors. I love being an armchair traveler. This book, by J. Maarten Troost, is a fun read. As a late 20-something post graduate school graduate, he and his girlfriend decide to move to a tiny island in the Pacific for a couple of years. This hilarious (and sometimes snarky) book is the result. He speaks of his experiences there very frankly, but always with a definate and growing sense of affection for the people, which saves it from being a bitch fest. Reccomend it.

The Grail Bird

This is the true story of the most recent attempts at finding the possibly extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Like the Sex Lives of Cannibals, it seems like a great heat wave read, as it mostly takes place in the swamps of Louisiana. I have a personal vested interest in this tale, as my grandfather was good friends with the fellows at the Ornithology Department at Cornell who first got the Ivory Billed on tape and film back in the 30's. In fact, we have a letter from a guy named Kellog telling my grandfather all about his exciting discovery.

Unfortunately, the author of this newest book is probably a better bird watcher than writer. I am about halfway through it and am finding it very (very) boring. Which it really wouldn't have to be the case, now would it? I mean, I would imagine a good writer would have a ball with the pursuit stories... what with cotton mouths and alligators and bird watching tourists from New Jersey.

I am not sure I would finish this one except for the personal connection. If you are a birder, get it from the library. Otherwise, probably a pass.