Thursday, July 31, 2008

Changing the oil

I changed the oil in my van today. I changed it. Me, myself, personally. I got under my car and pulled the oil pan plug and the oil filter, drained the oil, replaced the filter and the plug, and put new oil in. It felt like a big job going into it, but in hindsight, it really wasn't a big deal. What WAS a big deal was remembering that I am fully capable of such things, and need not wait until my husband gets home to do them. An aspect of my own personal brand of feminism that I'm sure he doesn't mind one bit.

I once installed a new garbage disposal, which involved uninstalling the old one, and realizing when it was all done that the old one wasn't broken after all. So I uninstalled the new one, reinstalled the old one, and never had a problem with it after that. So attention to detail is not my forte, but darn it, I'm pretty handy around the house.

Oil Change
31 July 2008, 3:52 PM

That stubborn old bolt wouldn't budge.
For a moment I considered waiting
until my husband got home,
but I'm married because I want to be,
not because I have to be, so I dig deep
to find that part of me who can't abide
certain men holding the door for me,
beat my hell out of the wrench, and laugh
when it budges the slightest bit, because I know
compromise is a slippery slope,
and I have won this argument.

A Larger Mosaic
31 July 2008, 4:03 PM

There's a savorable quality to existence
lying on your back under a mini-van
with black, worn out sludge draining
from the oil-pan. The air is cooler and sweeter
knowing I can do this, and my love is coming
home at five because he wants to,
not because he must. These moments of toil,
interspersed with revelations of freedom
and cool caresses of a late-summer breeze
in the merciful shade of an oil change
are bits and pieces of a life lived as part
of a larger mosaic of trust and willingness
to work together toward our common desire,
to keep the wheels turning, the fires burning
until day's end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


29 July 2008, 9:25 AM

The cicadas are chirruping
outside. Their chorus waxes
and wanes. The clock ticks
as it does whether or not I am sober,
whether or not I prefer
my circumstance. So many things--
most of them, if I'm honest--
continue as they would,
regardless of my impending crises.
The ceiling fan silently goes about
its business, and I am indignant,
if not relieved,
to find how well this all works,
despite the lengths to which I go
to convince myself that my wanting
holds it all together.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Our Own

27 July 2008, 9:31 PM

I go a little blinder everyday
staring into the sun
of realities snatched up too soon.
I wonder if we'd have relented back then
if we'd known the pieces of
Paradise we parted with
as we salivated for the crumbs
falling from a far less worthy table
than our own.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Beyond the Gates

The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. -Elie Wiesel

On Tuesday, my husband and I borrowed Beyond the Gates from the public library. I had identified it as a movie I wanted to watch because Hotel Rwanda, another, more widely known film on the subject of the genocide in Rwanda, had been described to me as an extremely brutal experience. For some reason I assumed Beyond the Gates would be an easier watch. After all the talk about Hotel Rwanda, Beyond the Gates couldn't possibly be worse.

I couldn't possibly have been more wrong.

I came to the conclusion that the folks who made this movie had an agenda in mind. They wanted us, the viewers, to see what the people of Rwanda experienced, and they didn't want to mince any words. We started watching the movie on Tuesday night, but turned it off after about 30 minutes because I realized how much it was upsetting my husband, who grew up in Kenya for 16 years, and for whom this movie and others on the subject are so very personal.

Wednesday while my husband was at work, I decided to finish the movie. It was a dreadful experience, but one I think I needed. When the Rwandan genocide was happening, I was in South Korea with my military family, graduating from highschool and preparing to move back to the US. I remember hearing about it, but before yesterday, I couldn't really have told you what happened or why, or why I now know so many people, both foreign and US citizens, who are disillusioned with US foreign policy and the United Nations.

I weep for Rwanda, for Somalia, for Sudan and Zimbabwe and Kenya, and I find quite suddenly that I am ashamed of my ignorance, of the ethnocentricism of my country, and the tendency of white westerners to forget the KKK in the south, the Holocaust, Stalin's Soviet Union, and so many other examples of the depravity we share with the rest of humanity, and sit back and say that this is just what happens in Africa.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Charming Gardeners

My husband and I had the privilege of breakfasting the other day with five complete strangers- the couple who ran the bed and breakfast where we stayed while celebrating our anniversary, and three other guests--siblings on a road trip together-- who were also staying there on Friday.

As we all sat there together, I began to wonder for the first time in a long time what it is that makes a person stand out as a Christian. It's sort of a summer camp or Sunday school kind of question, but I find it to be very relevant to my life these days. I spend so much time being angry with this ex or that ex-- my husband and I are both divorced, each with a child from our respective failed marriages, and there doesn't have to be any particular drama happening for this reality to cause frustration. I wonder if there's any of my spheres of influence in which people think of me and wonder what makes me different, what gives me such joy, why and how it is that I am so peaceful.

On a seemingly unrelated note, I powered down my laptop today *gasp* and pulled off the stickers that I and my children had strewn across the face of the keyboard and the screen border. They were getting pretty nasty. I cleaned the computer as best I could, though the surface will never really be white again. Of course being the right brained person that I am, I immediately went through the house to find something to replace those stickers.

To be honest, I wasn't looking for *something*. I was looking for a very *specific* something. A Marcel Proust quote from a friend I used to work with, which runs thus:

"Be grateful to those people that make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls bloom."

Oh, and another piece of paper, upon which is scribbled, "I am not a chicken." I found both, and the finding reminded me of my last full-time, real-world job (not counting bus driving), and of the man--I'll call him M-- who had left those slips of paper on my desk more than 2 years ago.

I hated that job. It would have been a very meaningful workplace if it had not been for the constant, morale-killing politics in my department. But M was always kind, and he rarely had a negative thing to say about anyone. He was constantly reading during his breaks, and having learned that I was both an avid reader and a writer of poetry, he would come and share wonderful passages from whatever it was that he was reading on any given day. He introduced me to Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy (a FABULOUS read), and to a book titled Mother of Pearl, which he gave to me on the condition that I let him know what I thought of it when I had finished it, which I haven't yet (sorry M). M made that job bearable, and even, at times, enjoyable.

Back to the idea that found its root in the conversation with my fellow bed and breakfasters-- what makes a person stand out these days, in this time, in this culture? What makes a person different? I'm still not quite sure, but I know that I was only in contact with M for a few minutes per day during the week for about 9 months, but when I think of him, I realize I miss him. I enjoyed his company. He made me feel heard and honored and human. His peace and gentility were contagious. In spite of the brevity of our friendship, and the time that now separates me from my experience of him, he remains firmly established among my charming gardeners, and I am so very grateful to him.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Happy Anniversary

8 July 2008, 8:39 AM

There are a great many
should-have-beens we've missed
by clean-slating so late in the game.
But I'll take every shard of just-in-time
we can find. We've found such a wealth
already this side of safety and sanity,
this side of knowing and being known.

Happy anniversary. Sorry I was late.

Fourteen Years

8 July 2008, 8:31 AM
Mike "Mike-u" Jones

I thought I knew him
fourteen years ago. I said goodbye
and stepped away from a final
embrace. I stepped again,
and again, taking each step
for granted until the steps became miles,
the miles became years. Between us
there had been little of hurt,
less of romance, and friendship to spare.
The present became the past
nonetheless, and quite inexorably.
I never thought about it

until the moment he called, said
the person I was then was 18
minutes away on I65, taking exit 113
toward my house. I said he was lucky
I'd answered the phone,
because few people of consequence call
the house instead of my cell.

I wondered if I knew
what a cell phone was, if I knew
a great many things now taken for granted,
when last I saw him. I wonder if I knew
anything, if I really knew him or anyone
I knew for only a moment before we moved on,
took those first steps which led us
to who we are now, who we'll be
in another fourteen years.

Monday, July 07, 2008

A Sign

7 July 2008, 10:02 AM
In response to DrBacchus's poem for today.

But it IS a sign.
You don’t have to see
the geese flying southward
in summertime, the star that falls
just so in the empty darkness
of the sky-sea, the aberrant fourth leaf
on an otherwise common clover
right there in the backyard
beneath the sycamore. Where I sit,
even that is a sign.

Hell is overthrown,
the captives are freed, and we
have made our way on anguished,
war-torn feet to Victoria.

Check out the Weekend Wordsmith.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Too Much

My husband teases me that I *always* say my poems aren't finished yet. It's like my disclaimer. "If you don't like it, wait. It'll get better. I promise..."

Well, guess what? This one's finished. *neener neener*.

Forgive me, but I know "We are too much in this world" is a quote, and I cannot for the life of me remember from whom. So will hope someone more educated than myself will tell me from whom I have snatched this bit of poetry. I think it might be Wendell Berry, but I'm not at all sure.

Too Much
5 July 2008, 11:40 AM

“We are too much in the world,
too desirous of things,” I say
on my way to the mechanic
to learn how much I will pay
to keep my jeep running-- I just finished
a work of art on the hood,
so I can’t bear to see it go.

I write with a pen
I’d replace for $30 if necessary--
I know from experience.
My daughter gave me
another that I keep with me
always. Sentimentality
is my justification
for so many dearly held
things that don’t draw me
any closer to my dear givers.

We are too much in this world,
and I change my clothes
one more time because
I can’t find myself outside of things
I’ve chosen to define me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Soundtrack of my life

My blog is swiftly becoming something other than poetry and art. Ruth posted the soundtrack of her life on her web page, and then asked if anyone else was interested. Here's how it works:

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc.)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...

Opening Credits- Hard to Be Humble, Mac Davis-- well, ya know, I AM pretty fabulous. Actually, this is the only song I've ever karaoked by myself, and I got a standing ovation. ;-)

Waking Up- Not Enough, Caedmon's Call

First Day at School- Secret Touch, Rush-- I don't know this song very well, but it's catchy.

Falling in Love- Can She Excuse My Wrongs?, Sting & Edin Karamazov-- hehehe. L'amore รจ cieco.

Fight Song- Take Control, Code of Ethics

Breaking Up- The Rhythm Method, Rush-- hm.

Prom- I Will Listen, Twila Paris-- I did go to Prom, and unfortunately, at that point in my life, I really don't know if I was listening to anyone's voice but my own. Oh well.

Life is Good- Wonderful, Everclear-- Wow. So I guess this isn't a feel-good movie.

Mental Breakdown- I've Got to Stop Thinkin' Bout That, James Taylor-- HA- that's appropriate.

Driving- Head Over Feet, Alanis Morissette-- Not a bad driving song.

Flashback- I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2-- I can NEVER find what I'm looking for. And I have lots and LOTS of moments in teh past to which I can flashback when I couldn't find something or other.

Getting Back Together- Find Yourself-- I really like this song.

Wedding- Peace, Rich Mullins-- very apropos.

Paying the Dues- Take to the World, Derek Webb-- not crazy about this song, but it has some good ideas in it, like "like the Three in One, you know you must become what you want to save, because that's the Way He takes to the world." I guess that's appropriate.

The Night Before the War- Nothing Really Changes, Code of Ethics

Final Battle- Doth I Protest Too Much, Alanis Morissette-- I've fought most of my battles on a psychological field, so I guess this is appropriate.

Moment of Triumph- Stroller Town, Jonathan Coulton-- now that's just silly. But a very funny and fun song.

Death Scene- Coming Home, Caedmon's Call

Funeral Song- Arms of the Angel, Sarah McLachlin-- Again, I guess this isn't a feel-good flick.

End Credits- Sacred Love, Sting-- Ooo.. I can live with that. THAT is a great song, and a great last thought, to have found sacred love. Niiiiiice.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Everything is Wonderful

Having divorced several years ago and remarried last July, I've thought a lot about what kids go through when their parents split. I didn't go through it as a child, but I have two sisters who are divorced, and between the three of us, we have eight kids...eight?... yeah, eight, who are all now living in broken homes. It makes me sad to think of it, and I wonder what they'll have to say to us someday when they get older. I wonder if our divorces make it necessarily more likely that they will someday experience a divorce of their own. I pray that's not the case. And I hope every day that my kids will one day be able freely to express to us their anger, their sadness, their indignation, their shame-- anything that has come as a result of the decisions we've made as their parents, the choices that have affected them so profoundly, the choices over which they had absolutely no power.

I came across this song a while ago. I think it's pretty well known, and it may have been overplayed when it first came out, but I find it's still every bit as meaningful to me as it was the first time I heard it. It reminds me that while I have found my piece of Paradise with my Beloved, it may not be so simple for our little ones, who have no choice but to spend their formative years alternately away from one or the other of their birth-parents.

George MacDonald

"Home is ever so far away in the palm of your hand, and how to get there it is of no use to tell you. But you will get there; you must get there; you have to get there. Everybody who is not at home, has to go home."

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