Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Checking Walmart off my list

For lack of brain juices flowing this morning, I share a random word of thanks, which also doubles as a somewhat embarrassing confession.  

I'm grateful I can check "Black Friday at Walmart" off my list of things I never wanted to do and never need to do again. 

It's early, and I don't think it's necessary to go into the reasons why I don't respect Walmart as a corporation.  Suffice it to say, I'm not a fan.  But I love my sister and I respect her and she lives close to Walmart and finds really good deals for her and the family.  She is not only a huntress of bargains, but she has the patience necessary to wait in line for them, two skills I admire and am lacking in.  

So, out of solidarity on, technically Black Thursday, I ventured out at 10pm with Sis and Mom and Ricardo.  After car-stalking pedestrians in the parking lot, Ricardo claimed a spot in the far reaches of the vicinity, and we followed the masses inside.  I admit, I even felt a surge of energy.  Maybe this won't be so bad, I thought.    

Then we stepped through the wide mouth of the store, into the land of florescent lights and already Disneyland length lines, of sleepy-eyed children dragged along for the ride, of shopping carts that don't fit in the spaces between people, and employees directing traffic with impressive friendliness.   

I tried to be brave, took a deep breath, gave myself a little pep talk: "It's just one night, you can do this, and even if you wanted to back out, you all came in one car.  Suck it up, Amber."

Our mission: $1.96 movies.

We bumped along with the current of people flowing to the back of the store.  In the sea of bodies, I heard a tall guy say as he passed by, "They're going to have to pump some oxygen in here." I snickered, then wrinkled my nose, because the air had indeed already been sucked clean of oxygen, and he at least was getting the best selection.  We arrived at our destination in the back, where movies and electronics and music displayed.  There the  movies sat, stretched at least ten cardboard displays long down a wide aisle, surrounded by swarms of people four bodies deep.  I just stood there, until it dawned on me, I'd have to reach inward and harness some aggression to actually scour the movies for desired titles. 

We split up, perhaps unintentionally, Mom and Sis, Ricardo and me, hunting for movies in the mobs.  At the end of maybe thirty minutes, I felt dizzy and light-headed, my initial energy zapped.  Ricardo and I wandered the back aisles for awhile until we noticed the lines for electronics were much shorter than the snakelike lines at the front of the store.  At least we could find the end of the line and see the cash register, maybe fifteen people ahead of us.  Our optimism faded when we realized the line moved about an inch every five minutes.  I glanced down at a box out of place on the shelf ledge I wanted to sit on.   A 30-piece rubbermaid tupperware set for $6.88.  We picked it up, looked it over, shrugged.  "We're already here, might as well," I said.  Turned out, everyone else wanted this tupperware because it was already out of stock throughout the store.  Our big victory at Walmart.

The four of us escaped with glazed eyes and tired shuffles just before midnight, with a collection of movies and our tupperware.

Monday, November 28, 2011

At the holiday precipice

The trees ceremoniously shed dead leaves of gold, the seasons shift as hands on a clock, and here I stand once more in hesitation at the precipice between November and December.  The holidays.  

Maybe it's just me, but it's not easy being honest about how I really feel about the holidays.  I yearn for those days, many turns of seasons ago, when I felt excitement about the holidays.  That cozy, curl up in front of the fireplace, bake cookies, decorate the tree, shop for gifts, sing carols, sit in the living room in the glow of white lights, Advent calendar, Christmas Even candlelight service, Christmas morning breakfast with the family sort of excitement.  Even though I know the deep treasure of Christmas is not these things in themselves, it's been so long since Christmas felt good.  

But I'm not interested in writing the "Woe is me" stuff.  I know I have a lot to be thankful for.  I am filthy rich by most standards of the world.  I have a warm place to rest.  I eat three or four healthy meals a day.  I can shower every day in hot water and dress in warm, clean clothes.  I drink water that I don't have to boil or buy in a bottle, unless I want to.  I have a job and a regular income and health benefits.  I own a car and I can actually afford the gas to fill it.  I have family and friends and a boyfriend that love me.  I am well educated.  I am healthy.  I live in a country that, far from perfect, is still a land of freedom and opportunity compared to many nations.  I live in a beautiful city, in a beautiful part of the world.

And, while any of these things are subject to change, my most precious possession is not one that can be taken away.  The love of Christ.  His life, in me.  Hope.  

Still, it's a fine line to walk between being real and being thankful.  

I'm thankful for all these things, and more than these.  So much more than I can count.  But that doesn't change the fact that I miss the way things used to be at the holidays, with my family.  I miss my Papa.  This Thursday, he would have been sixty-one.  This Christmas will be our fourth one without him.  Time enough, I had originally thought, to adjust to him "missing" from our family.  Time enough, it seemed, for the table not to feel empty, for our family not to feel like we're walking with an uneven gait.  He balanced us.  And I notice his absence and how our family aches for him like a phantom limb.  

So I think there's room for honesty and gratitude during the holidays.  The holidays are painful for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons, and there's no reason to gloss over this.   

Yet.  I'm thankful for the ways my family is learning to walk in a different stride, learning to run again. 


I'm thankful for hands to hold. 


For the shelter of each other's arms.

It's times like these when we learn to share our hugs, to wrap each other tight.


We cry, we laugh, we pull each other along. 


And we thank God for the beauty of life that blooms white in the seasons of death.    

I may not enjoy the holidays as much as I used to.  But then, I may be more aware of my gifts than ever before.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank-full: Day 15... Ricardo

"You look exceptionally happy these past few months," Doug, a long time regular at our Starbucks, comments today.  "Things must be going well with you and Ricardo?"  

His comment catches me by surprise.  I haven't felt "exceptionally happy" lately - not that I'm unhappy - but then, I can't see my countenance.  Happiness, in my dictionary, is as reliable as the weather reports in Seattle, as stable as the emotions of most pregnant women, its longevity rivaling the latest update of smart phone technology.  So I rarely rely on it in my vocabulary.  I don't argue because, when I think about it, I know that I am, in fact, happy.  And Ricardo plays a huge role in that.  But really, I'm beyond happy.  I'm thankful.

And I tell Doug that.  "I'm blessed," I say.  In the God leaned down, squeezed me in a bear hug, kissed my cheek, and handed me a bouquet of creamy blue and violet hydrangeas for no good reason sort of way.  

For the few times Doug has talked with Ricardo, he's perceptive.  "You've got a quality guy," he says.  "He's got this strong sense of being a man without having to assert himself.  This confidence and maturity.    It's hard to find these kind of guys anymore.  You've got my approval, for whatever it's worth."  He flashes me two thumbs up.    

And again, he's right.  

I'm thankful for Ricardo's strength, confidence and maturity, as much as I'm thankful for his gentleness,  humility and childlikeness.   He's got his pride, but doesn't hold it so tight that he can't dress up as a big plush dog for Halloween and go out to dinner.  He's as comfortable shooting straight with his thoughts and feelings as he is receiving the straight edge of mine.  He knows when to talk, and when to sit back and listen to my verbal processing.  Not only that, he's the kind of guy you want in your corner, because you know he'll champion for you, and he won't back down, but he knows when to walk away from a fight.  

In the beginning of "us," he shared one of the best pieces of advice passed onto him from his grandfather, which he's sought to understand in ever widening breadth: "Don't try to understand women; just love them."  That we're different is no mystery.  We both know I'm, by nature, a more emotional creature than him, full of complexities and layers I don't often know how to articulate.  Ironically, for all his laid-back, affectionate acceptance of my female mystique, he often has me figured out long before I launch into an attempt of an explanation.   Then there are the cultural differences and the language differences and the faith culture differences, and even when those can creep up and rear-end us at times, that we can always come back to this place of common ground, of mutual respect, of valuing each other's differences and not wanting to change the other, fills me with a deep sense of God's presence.  

It's not been easy learning to be loved as I am, to believe that in someone's eyes, I'm always beautiful.  I find myself expecting his love to fluctuate with my performance, my moods, the days when I feel someone else has temporarily commandeered my body, and I wonder, "Why is he still here?"  Surely this is the end of him, I think, like the revolving door of love.  I've grown a lot, healed a lot, but still, work hard at not expecting him to up and walk out on me.  The wounds ran deep when he met me, but with time I see, love runs deeper.  

While the feelings of happiness, giddiness, the I'm-head-over-heels-in-love sort of highs, I'm learning, may pay a visit in the morning and leave after lunch, the love for this man has unpacked its bags and settled into a room of its own.  I'm thankful that ours is not the rose-colored glasses kind of love, the "love that's all pink," as Ricardo says.  I've seen him for him and he's seen me for me, and at the end of the day, I just want to be in the safety of his arms, to see his contagious smile and twinkling eyes, to know that I've come home.  

It's this man I give thanks for today, and every day.  


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thank-full: Day 14... rain boots

Rain falls today from charcoal skies, like a broken pipe spewing water in a room of industrial fans.  And, superficial as it may sound, I'm deeply thankful for my rubber rain boots.  Purple penguin boots, to be exact.  I had to throw my others out - three pairs in three years - due to excessive splitting of the rubber.  It's not worthwhile to wear rain boots if you can't splash in puddles, not unless you're wearing them solely for fashion, which I'm not.  I wear them until they're holey.  There is great pleasure to discover in puddle jumping.  Please try it.  Then you, too, can add it to your list of thanks.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thank-full: Day 13... doxology

In a room crowded with bodies of all ages, voices raise in acapella song, babies lift newborn cries, old men rumble bass, and young women lilt soprano, while guitar and violin, piano and keyboard, djembe and drum set, quiver in the silence of instruments.  Outside, the sun streams on frozen grass, and though my ears hear nothing but this song inside, I imagine the voices outdoors joining the hymn of praise: the trees, half adorned in beauty, half naked; the lakes and rivers and streams; the birds nesting high, the squirrels scavenging below; the dogs and cats and farm animals near and far; the flowers bending low in cold; the sounds of the city in motion.  We share this moment every week, and somehow, it never fails to fill me with longing.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
O praise Him, oh praise Him
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

I long to hear more.  When I hear this song of creation, I feel so small.  I fill with awe.  I sing my little part of this tune every day, most days in varying degrees of off-key, and some days I imagine my voice sounds so very nice, and it's hard to tell where I'm at until I hear all the voices together.  Each voice - young, old, in-between - human, animal, creation, we all sing our part in this eternal song.  

I love this doxology, and I'm thankful, in this holiday week, to join my voice with all creation in a song of the simplest, deepest gratitude.   

Praise God from whom all blessings flow... 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank-full: Day 12... skin

It's a dark, damp, finger-tingling morning, one more day of work.  I'm tired.  I know it's going to be another busy Friday, running miles in circles of concrete.  I know I have to be "on," but I'm not there yet.  

I forget, so easily.  That this practice of recording my blessings is not just to teach me how to live more thankful, but to become the blessing for someone else.  I forget, so quickly.  That it's not about me.

Mother Teresa once wrote, "The work we do is only our love for Jesus in action... if we pray the work... if we do it to Jesus, if we do it for Jesus, if we do it with Jesus... that's what makes us content."

Contentment is not a feeling, or a place of achievement, or a really good day, or appreciation from others for a job well done, or even inner peace.  Ann Voskamp sums this up, saying, "The contented, deep joy is always in the touching of Christ - in whatever skin He comes to us in."

Whatever skin He comes to us in.  No matter how dirty, how prickly, how uptight, how rude, how disrespectful, how ungrateful, how frenzied, how unaware of me.  Real contentment is found in the real work of touching Christ in whatever skin, of thanking him and thanking him so that I become the blessing that reaches out and touches that skin.  

Jesus, help me see you in all the colors and shapes and sizes of skin today, that I can touch you.  That I can be a blessing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thank-full: Day 11...herbal remedies

Chinese herbal shops.  I've wanted to venture in since my days, just after college, of living at the fingertips of Seattle's international district.  It's not that I was afraid; I didn't know a thing about Chinese herbs.

Yesterday, I'm doing a bit of research online about these peculiar red dots in a half-moon beneath each of my eyes.  They've been there for a month now, and like the Occupy Seattle tents pitched in the rain atop Capitol Hill, don't appear to be going away any time soon.  My reason for wanting these dots to disappear is pure vanity.  They don't itch or burn, only accentuate the puffiness of my eyes in the early morning, making me look old.  And I don't enjoy looking old.

So I type "red rash beneath eyes" into my browser and, voila!  More information than I ever want to know appears, most of it not applicable to me, or at least I hope, because it sounds scary.  But I plow through the posts, until I come across a natural remedy that sounds promising.  "Magicream."  It's this herbal cream from the UK, and it's packaged in a little yellow jar for 15 Euro, plus shipping.  I waver, wondering how badly I need this.  But they're out of stock.  

I'm not deterred, however, because a nice person posted on a discussion thread that he wrote down the herbal ingredients of Magicream and, not being in the UK himself, took them to his local Chinese herbal shop.  So I copy them, too, on my scratch of paper:

Chuan Shen 

I drive in the rain to international district and park just down the street from the Pacific Herb and Grocery shop.  I'm wearing my black bunny hat and I walk into the bright shop, with the rows of herbs of all colors and textures and sizes encased in jars like candy, and hand the Chinese woman who greets me the list of herbs.  She calls her husband over, and he greets me, studies my list for about one minute, then walks behind a counter the length of the store to pull down a thick herbal dictionary from the shelf.  

"We don't have that one," he points to the Zaojiaoci, and I shrug and say, "That's fine," like I know what Zaojiacoi is.  

He says they have the other four herbs, and I ask for "two handfuls," per the instructions of the nice person online who posted his recipe.  All together, it looks like a potpourri of dried mushrooms and twigs and woodsy treasures.  At the register, I try the ginseng and licorice tea sample offered to me and pay the exorbitant amount of two dollars.  

At home last night, I boil a handful of my herb concoction in water.  When it cools, I dip a washcloth in the murky liquid and lay it across my eyes like a compress for fifteen minutes.  This morning when I wake up, I look in the mirror and the red dots are still there, but perhaps less prominent than before.  But something about the process of visiting the herb store and boiling the concoction and paying significantly less than I would have for the Magicream makes me think the dots are not so bad.  In fact, I think they're almost gone.  

Thank God for herbal remedies.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thank-full: Day 11... trudging days

I wish I danced through every day like the cha-cha, which, as soon as the beat tickles my ears, lights a smile across my lips, through my arms, around my hips, down my legs and out my feet.   I am the cha-cha.  The music speaks with its crooked finger extended toward me, pulling back, drawing me forward, forward, cha-cha-cha, back, back, cha-cha-cha.  Fast or slow, unhurried or energetic, passionate or playful, I follow the music.  Or the music follows me.  We reach a point, it seems, when neither I nor the music care who is leading and who is following.  We only care to dance.

In all honesty, most days I don't dance through like the cha-cha.  The music plays, but I can't hear it above the soundtrack inside or around me.  On these days, my smile is more tensed than relaxed, my body moving as a stiff, overly serious partner.  I try only to keep up, instead of flowing in extension with the music, but my feet trudge and my heart weighs me down.   To dance with body tensed and heart heavy is not possible.   I know from experience that this is not dancing, but frustrated moving.  

When I want to transition from frustrated moving to dancing, I know of only one way to shift gears.  It's marathon-training-hard, and it's as simple as stepping.  I thrust into the gear of gratitude.  

"Thank you, God, for this job.  Thank you for clean clothes and a pile of blankets and a roof above my head and a mattress to sleep on at night.  Thank you for my hot shower this morning.  Thank you for family and friends and loved ones.  Thank you for my health.  Thank you for breakfast this morning and lentil soup for lunch.  Thank you for the gift of feelings, and thank you that as real as they are, they don't define for me what's true.  Thank you that I don't have to be perfect.  Thank you that I am not alone to navigate this day, that I have this one more day..."

It's not a magical thing.  Gratitude on these trudging days is pure discipline.  Sometimes the transformation is immediate, and sometimes, I keep thanking in faith as I wait to hear the music once more.  And I say thank you, for these trudging days.  For in their own way, they, too, teach me to tune in and enjoy the dance.  


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thank-full: Day 10... stories

         [Today, I'm thankful for opportunities to hear the stories others have to tell, especially the ones not often spoken.  This paper was submitted for an essay/interview assignment in my writing class.  The names have been changed.] 

Beautiful rubbish: evidence of artistry inside the everyday, the tragedies, the epic failures, and the dead-ends in life’s stories.   As a writer, I look for these stories all around, in my own life or in others’, for beautiful rubbish weaves like a tapestry across time, on display in living color within glass galleries of refuse-turned-treasure.  Awareness of beautiful rubbish, therefore, is an exercise in sight, on par with poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s, Did I tell you? I am learning to see.”  The more I train my eyes, the more I listen, the more beautiful rubbish appears in unpresuming glory.  This is true of Heather’s story.

In her mid thirties, the pieces of her life’s puzzle didn’t fit in the picture she expected.  Her career as a seventh and eight grade language arts teacher stretched to fourteen years, when she had hoped to work for only a few before starting a family with her husband.  Her divorce upended that hope.  Her little sister became pregnant, and then, a single mom.  A two and a half year relationship, the first serious one since Heather’s divorce, ended in disappointment.  She felt her “maternal instinct” intensify, stirring questions of fulfillment with no clear answers. In a matter of months, however,  she watched these pieces shift into place.

Sitting in the office with the licensor for foster parents of refugee and immigrant children, the rationale for pairing her with her prospective child caught Heather off guard. “I saw ‘Somali’ and ‘pregnant’ and thought of you,” the licensor explained.  During her interview, Heather had randomly mentioned having a lot of experience with pregnant women, most intimately her sister, and then the majority of her friends who are now married with children.  As for Somalis, her only experience was hosting a newly-arrived family of six refugee women from Somalia the summer of 2004.  While Heather had mentally prepared herself for what she described as “ a teenagery kid,” here another piece of the unexpected joined the puzzle.

Her foster daughter, Maryan, then seventeen, arrived to live with Heather at the end of October 2010, pregnant.  Five weeks later, Maryan gave birth to a healthy little girl, Fatima.  In a matter of months, Heather went from being single to part single mom, part grandma, and part spouse, fully inhabiting roles of both teacher and student.  

“If it had just been Maryan, I might have entertained the idea I could have done it on my own,” Heather admitted.  A pregnant foster daughter, she said, kicked it up a notch beyond her feelings of competency.  “There’s no doubt in my mind I’m getting more out of this than Maryan is.  So much of this is selfish - not altruistic.  I mean, it is, but on many levels, it’s selfish.”  Heather wanted to be a mom.  She craved companionship.  She got all this, and then some. 

“This may sound weird,” Heather stated toward the end of our two hour conversation, “But it’s a little bit like dating.  You hope it will be forever, but you just don’t know.”  Maryan, after all, is not an orphan, but the daughter of parents still living in Somalia, who saved their money to send her away as their country grew more dangerous for young girls.  Heather doesn’t know how long Maryan and Fatima will be part of her life, so she’s learning to live in the tension of one of her adopted mantras: “Live in the moment, plan for the future, but be very realistic.”

My eyes didn’t need to strain to see threads of beautiful rubbish emerging, weaving together in Heather’s story.  She remarked several times how “rich” her life is with Maryan and Fatima, how she believes God has “uniquely gifted” her for this experience.  Her training in life’s school of “the unexpected” - her sister’s experience as a single mom, her divorce, her career teaching teenagers, a seemingly random experience with Somali refugee women - has helped equip her for this season and reinforce her conviction that God wastes nothing. 

“We never know,” I mused.  She sat back and smiled, as though in verbally spreading her puzzle pieces across the table, she had visualized the art assembling for the first time.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thank-full: Day 9... brevity

A brief list for a brief post.  I need to learn brevity, after all, if I'm going to make it as a writer, and this is good practice, cutting my words down to the bare essentials, because that's what I really need to be working on this afternoon and evening, cutting words, that is, for a paper that's due in my writing class tomorrow, and this business of self-editing is so hard.  Evidently.  (I couldn't resist).

Today I'm thankful for:

      new friends - customers and bank tellers and such

"chicken feet" leaves

     a bag of juicy satsumas

windswept leaves dancing above the ground

     dancing the cha-cha with my favorite partner

a steaming bowl of pho on a chilly day

     purple penguin rain boots

doe-eyed girls with sweeping lashes

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank-full: Day 8... the unexpected

I sit among physicians, an IT fellow from Microsoft, a dance instructor, a genetics counselor, a lady pastor, a civic engineer, social workers, who sit crowded among teenagers from Somalia, Mexico, East Asia, Guatemala, The Congo, Ethiopia - refugees.  The kids, with much gentle nudging, just finished rotating between the professionals, interviewing about the various careers represented in their third or fourth language.  The coordinator of this event stands before the group and asks one final question, "Any last piece of advice to youth who are struggling to pick what they want to major in?"

I want to raise my hand, put in my words of advice, but I'm not one of the featured professionals, so I keep quiet.  But the wheels in my head are turning back the clocks of time, back to my days in high school and college and beyond. 

In high school, I considered being a paramedic, a nurse practitioner, a physical therapist, and a counselor. Counselor won out, because I liked my psychology teacher the most, and I felt it simply fit.  My best subjects were English and psychology, but I never gave writing a second thought.

In college, I didn't stray from the path of psychology, though I loved my anatomy and physiology classes.  After college, I worked for a year as a social worker with refugees and loved it, until the often ten to fifteen hour days burned me out.  I wanted to live and work in Africa, more than anything, and this I planned my life around.  I looked into graduate level public health programs, with the desire to continue my work with refugees, but they all seemed a bit too heavy on the medical end of things.  I decided upon grad school for counseling, and had a brief spat in the beginning when I thought seriously of law school.  I wanted to work for International Justice Mission, at least as an option, but they are mostly attorneys.  I stuck with the program, however, and when all was said and done and my degree completed, desired nothing but to write. 

If you would have walked up to me four years ago and told me, "When you're thirty, your favorite things will be writing and photography and dance, and you'll be learning Spanish with the intent of becoming bilingual, and you'll be falling in love with Mexican culture because a Mexican man will have captured your heart, and you'll be learning about the Catholic way of faith and become more open minded than you are right now instead of being intimidated by differences of tradition," I would have balked and said this is not possible.  I want to be in Africa, I would have said.  I want to learn Swahili, this is all I've wanted for the past ten years.  I want an emotionally intense career, I would have said, and those other things are frivolous pursuits.  I would have said I have no interest in setting foot in a Catholic church and I have no desire to learn Spanish or live in Mexico, ever.  I would have said these things in a softer way, not so direct and forceful, but in my heart my protestations would be fierce.

And so I think, what advice would I offer to these refugee kids as they look ahead to a future and dream dreams?

I'd say, dream big, and keep an open heart to the unexpected.  Many little things conspire to make us who we are, and we are never too old to be kids and never too big to imagine new dreams and never fully arrive as grown ups as long as we stay open to growing big hearts.

I'm thankful today for the unexpected, the plans beyond my own.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank-full: Day 7... new mornings

She hides her face
It seems too good
For Your embrace to find her
And say, My dove, show me your form
For your form is lovely

Your mercy rains, your mercy comes
Your mercy falls 
And it rises with the sun

It's new every morning
It's good enough for me

New mornings.  This is what I'm thankful for today, as I sit and write, look through windows at the world outside this coffee shop, wait for all to wake.  This is not just "another day, another dollar."  This is a new morning.

Everything that happened yesterday - good, bad or indifferent - isn't carried over to this day.  The slate is clean, the slate is fresh.  I wake this morning, tired, yes, but here is the wonder I stumble through with eyes scrunched ninety nine percent of all my mornings: I wake.  

An elderly woman with perfectly curled hair walks up to the counter yesterday at work, a bag of coffee beans in hand for me to grind.  "How is your day?" I ask.

She replies, "My day is fantastic, for an old woman," laughter punctuating woman, as if she's enjoying a private joke.  "I'm here, up and about, breathing, after all."  She winks at me, eyes full of mischief.  I'm gonna be ninety years old this month."

"Wow, that's great, I hope you're going to throw a big party."

She is.  Dinner, wine, friends.  Her voice trails at friends, remarking that none of her friends from high school or college are still alive.  We talk about how hard that is, to outlive friends and loved ones.  But the conversation ends with her saying this birthday will not be like a funeral.  It's a celebration.  I tell her ninety is certainly worth celebrating, and admire her gumption as she waves goodbye.  

A nearly ninety-year old woman knows something I take for granted most days.  That having a new morning is not something to take for granted.  It's a gift, a mercy, falling like rain, rising like the sun.

Thank you, God, for new mornings and new mercies.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thank-full: Day 6

I'm thankful for the evening glow of autumn at the UW.
Perhaps I'm enamored more by the campus
than anything else.
I have discovered my favorite tree
en route to class.
The quad sits hushed,
and I tiptoe through with my camera.
As always,
the sight slows my steps.
I am tourist
and student
and patron of this outdoor museum.
The light from old
illumines my lens.
And the light from new.
Everywhere in the Quad,
I peer through arms of trees
to stately buildings.
And in Red Square,
wide open spaces.
The library lights draw me
into wonder.
I am here to write,
but all I want in this moment is to behold.
I turn back
for one more view,
one more click,
and let the camera speak.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thank-full: Day 5... Happy birthday Laura!

We've been friends for all our lives,
or all of six years,
but it might as well be our whole lives.
From day one, our friendship was meant to be.
In each other, we found the another who could relate.
To being "different."
And just crazy enough to go out in public like this,
and repeat this two years in a row.
No wonder we made stellar roommates.
And then, she went and got herself hitched.
And I cried.
But not until after we laughed and celebrated
and I basked in her glow.
Her and her new husband even reserved a special space for me
in their downtown apartment, so I wouldn't get too lonely.
She is sunshine,
a cup brimming joy...
my partner in crime,
who didn't think we were too old to learn to skateboard

near the end of our twenties.
There is no water too icy she won't venture into with me,
no puddle too muddy to jump in.
While we waited for her baby to come,
we kept the comraderie between us.
She's so wonderful,
even scarecrows are cheered up in her presence.
Her hugs are warmth and medicine.
She radiates love.
One of the most beautiful moms I know.
In her love for me,
she's modeling for her son from an early age
an appreciation for goats.

She is full of adventure,
I'm thankful for my bosom friend,
who walks the road less traveled,
who walks beside me on this journey.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thank-full: Day 4

"You are what you decide to notice." 
~ Priest from Blessed Sacrament

1. The first frosted morning walk of the season
2. Farmer's market
3. Little boys out to breakfast with mom
4. Color, color, everywhere, color!
5. Streets lined with maple 
6. Unhurried wandering through shops
7. Getting inspiration for do-it-yourself furniture projects from expensive places
8. Mexican stores with cases of Mexican pastries
9. Mass with Ricardo
10. Learning to play a new song on the guitar