Monday, December 11, 2006

Makin' that list and checkin' it twice

OK. So it's been a while.

A looooong while.

(In fact, I'm absolutely amazed that my blog is still here.)

There is no way on earth I will be able to fill you in on everything that's happened in the nearly 2 years since I last posted. So, no. That's not going to be the list.

It's almost Christmas, that means the end of the year is HERE!

  1. Friends and family members are getting sick and old so I dare not miss sending a card to any one of them.
  2. My co-workers are young and restless and will get smashed with or without me. My sober date is 1-6-1983, so I'd hate to blow almost 24 years. It's still one day at a time. Guess I'll pass on the party.
  3. An inconvenient truth is foretelling tidings of the great impact of global warming on the future of my grandchild and any offspring that happen to be viable in the coming 50 years. There's a list of 10 things to do about it somewhere around here.
  4. I am frantically spreading out all of the papers in the pile of filing I let stack up all year. My medical expense records for 2006 are in there somewhere. I need to figure out if I have spent enough to collect my entire FSA balance.
  5. Do I have enough to get any reimbursement on a pair of computer glasses?
  6. Should I get the crown now or wait until 2007?
  7. I should be tabulating my charitable gifts for the year and writing checks to meet my tithe for the year.
  8. I should be figuring out if I have enough to play catch up with my retirement fund.
  9. The kids need presents. Yes, I know. They don't NEED presents. I just NEED to give them presents. Their parents are getting an inconvenient truth. If we all make up our minds to do something to cut greenhouse gasses, maybe that's just about the best present we could give.
  10. I'll have to put blogging on my list for next year.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the traditional Christian Lenten season. In terms of 12-step recovery, it can be considered a formal time for Steps 4-9 as well as for intentionally practicing kindness. Here is a beautiful poem about the blessed kindness that emerges from what Jesus called being "poor in spirit".

From Words From Under the Words: Selected Poems
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day
to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pedestal Smashing

Only a few men in my life ever made it to the pedestal. Until recently, all had either climbed or fallen down off of it.

One was my grandfather, although I loved him more as “Grampa”. He found my endless adoration somewhat annoying. I always felt he just tolerated me. I cried when my brother put a muskie lure in his jacket pocket in the casket. I was so jealous of my brother. He was my Grampa’s only grandson. Crash.

One was my dad. He was up there, then fell and fell and fell. He managed to get back onto the pedestal just before he passed over to eternity and he stayed there.

One was my brother. He was up there for 14.5 seconds and then fell off and cracked his head. It was sad, really. He has been accidentally making his way back up but I keep pushing him down. I’d really hate for him to fall again. People you love really don’t belong on a pedestal. Down boy.

One was a priest who was one of my teachers in high school. On the pedestal big time. Then left the priesthood. Slip. Then he got married. Slide. Then he was divorced. Sloosh. Then we dated. Was he ever NOT what I thought. Kee-RASH! I still love him, and he still loves me, all in a distant, Christmassy "we feel the same way about important issues but I'm glad we don't see each other socially because you are so freaking nuts" kind of way. Run aWAY!

I'd like to shamelessly babble about the First Man I Ever Loved (FMIEL), who asked to remain nameless, and pretend anyone on earth cares. How much self deception can I stand? I ask myself that when I'm alone and tired and wishing he were half the superman I used to tell myself he is. I let myself down as easily as I could, but it wasn't as easy as I wanted it to be. I'd believed in the fantasy for more than half a lifetime. Nursed it back to health over and over and over. I did that really well for all the practice.

FMIEL 1.0, the handsome 19-year-old kid of 1968, was a smouldering fantasy. He was on his pedestal, frozen in time, until October 2004. Now, FMIEL 2.1, a balding giant-girth man with an evening alcohol dependency, hasn't been able to get up there. Not without it crumbling underneath him, the big lovable lug. FMIEL is like most people. He can't give what he hasn't got. But he is a dear friend who does give me several hours of enjoyably challenging intellectual and playful conversation every few months whether I need it or not. I generally do. He has been teaching me that I may already have more of what I thought I needed from him in my little toe than he has in his whole body. Now I give it to myself freely without the necessity of coercion.

What am I saying these days? People you love really don’t belong on a pedestal.

Recently, I met a man named Tom on a matching service. I wasn’t looking for Tom. So, when he showed up and said he was looking for someone he could put on a pedestal, I decided it must be my fate. Somehow, I found a way to put Tom on a pedestal within a week of his pursuit of me. As I fell more madly in love with him every minute, he swept me up into 4 days of la-la land over the New Year weekend. Yes, he flew me to the moon and let me swing among the stars, let me know what Spring is like on Jupiter and Mars, then dropped me into an active volcano where my heart exploded into 10 kazillion-billion galaxies that were sucked up by a black hole no bigger than Chicago. Shhhhhwoooolksssssssssssssssssssst-uh!

Although Tom left behind a distinctly awful taste in my mouth, I have to admit he did me a huge favor. As he was falling off of HIS pedestal, he managed to break it into microscopic dust particles, thus creating a swirling vortex of pedestal smashing energies that sucked all of the pedestals I ever created into the black hole with him. Thank you, Tom, and best regards to you and Sylvia, or whoever the gal on the pedestal is this week.

Some define insanity as doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I define insanity as pedestals. They are no damn good. Nobody can move on them, or grow, or dance, or do anything but disappoint their audience. That’s because people—and yes, I reluctantly include men in this category—are not statues. People change. At least you hope they do.

Frankly, I’d rather change, too. I mean, how boring is it to stare at a statue on a pedestal all your life? I need to go dancing once in a while, or hiking through the woods, or singing on the mountain tops.

Singing on the mountain top!
Now there's a pedestal I might enjoy.
Race you to the top?
Let's go!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Reposted: Holy Mother of Maya the Genexhibitionist

The Virgin Birth of Grammajan's Blog

Most people are able to define themselves in terms of being somebody else's something or other. For example, I'm the daughter of a central Illinois Methodist Republican and a Chicago Catholic Daley Democrat. These two remained faithful (as far as I could tell) and devoted to one another until Dad's death in 1991 by which time Dad had become a both Catholic and a Democrat.

The impact of all that shows up as a tendancy to think on both sides of every conflict and, in general, to go with the flow. Ah, but that's a topic for another blog night. Right now, I just want to focus on being grammajan, the mother of Maya the Genexhibitionist.

My more than exuberant appetite for romance has endured since well before I became the mother of Maya the Genexhibitionist. By the time of the initiation of our gestational journey together, my inclinations were as dreamy, mystical, and romantic as anyone could want. A gentle breeze stirred more than the flimsy, moonlit curtains in the upper story of a soon-to-be-bulldozed farmhouse in south central Iowa.

My imaginative libido trumped the annoying little Deuce of Diligence--"I guess I should dig out the diaphragm and the spermicidal jelly"--with the Ace of Co-Creative Sensibility. I took the breeze for an old soul asking to be given haven and a chance to float a while on the blue watery ball circling the sun.

The soul's presence drew my attention and I thought at it: "Are you sure? Do you understand that we are very poor? I'm not well and I am not even certain I want to stay with this man. Be aware of what you are asking. Yes. Yes, it is true. You will be loved. If that is all you ask, then enter. It won't be easy for you. But, yes, you will be loved."

Nine months later she slugged her way out of my belly looking like a marathon racer ready to puke. Truth be, she and I labored much harder than any runner ever ran. Maya's journey from my watery inner space to Earth's outer world began at Midnight a.m., March 4, 1975. She burst forth at 11:17 a.m. March 5, 1975.

Around us, in a Missouri Ozark cabin with no running water or electricity, were 28 witnessess to the arrival. A home-school classroom exhibit, we were surrounded by the awe inspired men, women, and children of Seven Springs.

Seven Springs Reunion 2003

The Genexhibitionist was born. I was her mother.


Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Mother, Mary, and Janet standing in the
dining room of the yet-to-be-built home in
Mundelein (1955).


“Look! A walking stick!” Donnie squealed.

I looked into the woods, expecting to see a dancing cartoon stick with top hat and bow tie, but saw only Donnie. He was staring at the side of a tree. I tried to move closer, but my tiny feet rolled on the fat strips of bark and hard round nuts hidden beneath mustard yellow leaves.

I tripped, stood up, took another step, tripped again, as disappointed as my brother was intent. I was about to cry in frustration when a strange smell drew my attention.

At home in Chicago, the crisp autumn air was acidic from coal-burning furnaces. A harsh, outside odor, it nonetheless heralded rich inside aromas of apple pie, corned beef hash, and sauerkraut. But here, in the woods, so many smells were yet unnamed. Damp leaves decayed under dry ones. Algae scudded across the slough. Sticks smoldered in a circle of stones.

There was Daddy, on hands and knees, cupping his hand at his mouth as if to call someone. He blew three times at the sticks before an orange flame jumped out of them. He then added larger ones to the crackling fire.

The sticks should have run away if they could walk. I edged closer. “There's no such things as walking sticks,” I declared loudly enough for Donnie to hear. “Right, Daddy?”

“Yes, there are walking sticks,” he answered. “And walking leaves, too.” Daddy squinted as he looked up. The wind had shifted. “Stand back, honey.” He firmly pushed me away as smoke engulfed us.

Mother called and I ran to help her spread a wool army blanket on the ground. She poured a cup of icy lemonade from the fat red Thermos® jug and handed it to me. My hands were already cold, but I was thirsty. Tilting my head back to gulp every sweet drop, I spied oak trees as big as houses.

Did all of their leaves walk?

Did they take walks with sticks?

Were they watching me?

Could anything else walk?

“How do you like the dining room?” Daddy’s voice intruded. He set a tin plate piled with hotdogs on the blanket.

I stared up at him.

“You have to pretend, for now,” he said. “By the end of next summer we’ll be eating hot dogs in our new house.”

Daddy then tapped his pointed finger on the blanket. “Right here.”


I helped mother set an autumn gold table last evening. Since Daddy passed away, Don has come from St. Paul to do simple repairs and seasonal maintenance. He and his family would sit down with us for dinner.

Mother stopped at the dining room window. “What's that in the back of the yard? Branches blown down by the wind this morning? Oh! Look!” She pointed at a nuthatch pecking suet Don had hung from the shag-bark hickory.

I examined the back yard. A pile of sticks had stumbled into the corner where skewered hotdogs once sizzled above a campfire.

I’m not at all convinced the wind dropped them there.