Wednesday, March 30, 2011

thinking in the rain

If not exactly singing in the rain, I'm hoping this week-long deluge drowns out the threat of a summer drought as it busily washes away the layer of neon green pollen on the car, replenishes backyard bird baths and fills the duck pond at Freedom Park. Who knew Mother Nature was such a multi-tasker! On a deeper level, I'd like the rain to wash away my worries and cares, fill the wells of gratitude and creativity, quench my inner thirst with a refreshing drink from the fountain of life. The brightly lit office is a haven today and a lot of work is actually getting done to the comforting sound of Diane Rehm chatting with William Faulkner's niece on NPR. Outside the window, somebody just walked by beneath a big yellow umbrella.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

make room for hope

This is something like the 12th year that Arkon and I have created the annual report for a non-profit organization devoted to expanding affordable housing opportunities in our area. My work week ended on a conversation with Pastor Casey Kimbrough of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church where we discussed the 'Not In My Backyard' arguments against affordable housing. Over the weekend it has occurred to me that our deepest societal struggles are, at heart, faith issues: poverty, hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, racism, loneliness. The answers can only be excavated person by person, heart by heart, attitude by attitude, action by action. Great, lasting change may not happen in this generation or even this life, but thinking, caring and small acts are a start. And allowing plenty of room for hope.
(van Gogh's Room at Arles by Vincent van Gogh, 1889. Musee d' Orsay, Paris)

Friday, March 25, 2011

a fresh start

Who can resist the lure of beautiful graphics and fabulous scents in the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products? I want to buy them all and then come home and work a spring makeover on the house. While I'm at it, why not new sets of white cotton Shabby Chic sheets for all of the beds, the gorgeous beige linen headboard I saw at West Elm, and a pretty new couch for the living room to replace the frumpy lump that's been there for ages? The kitchen door needs a shiny coat of paint (how about turquoise?) with a topiary in an elegant stone planter next to it. I've been dreaming of new wallpaper for the powder room in a beautiful bird print. And am for sure going to order silhouettes of the kids (and Cocoa!) from a cool resource I found online, something I've wanted for ages. It's all because of you, Mrs. Meyer, this frenzy to fix up. You and spring.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

the people's poet

"And when my heart is beating too
rapidly in the dark, I will go
downstairs in a robe,
open up to a blank page,
and try to settle on the blue lines
whatever it is that seems to be the matter."
- Billy Collins, Journal

It's the birthday of former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins who reminds us of the need to have a place to go to work out the things that weigh on our heart. Maybe yours is a sketchbook, a kitchen counter with measuring spoons laid out, a rectangle of dirt in the backyard where the tomatoes grow, a sewing machine or the pool at the local Y. Doesn't matter, just make sure you have one.
(photo by Marcelo Noah)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the orange shoelaces

My eighth-grader came home from lacrosse practice last week holding a brand new pair of bright orange shoelaces. Since the Bulldog team colors are red and black, I knew they had to signify something special. And, sadly, they do. One of players on the girls' team has gotten very sick and is in for a rough go of medical treatment. The shoelaces are a sign of solidarity. Since there isn't much information forthcoming from boys at this age, I'll have to find out more in order to truly reach out. As I laced the cleats yesterday, my heart was tied up in knots for the family. It's not fair, I wanted to scream! I made myself focus on the smaller picture: another mother ordering and handing out dozens of pairs of neon bright shoe laces - undoubtedly in a certain someone's favorite color. And the little flashes of orange, like sparks in sunlight, up and down the Saturday afternoon field.

Friday, March 18, 2011

today's your lucky day

St. Patrick's Day came and went in subtle, work week fashion here - no parade, no green beer or soda bread, forgetting even the symbolic wearing of the green unless eye color counts. But the road rose to meet us, as it always seems to do. We moved through the day in the usual blur of blessings: good health, beautiful sunshine, a carpet of green, green grass that seems to get thicker by the hour in March. We didn't win the lottery, in a literal sense, but all the bills are paid and there's money left over to donate to the Red Cross for the suffering in Japan. There was sad news of the death of 86-year-old Aunt Eleanor, so frail for so long, but such gratefulness for all she means to and did for us. There was a soft bed to fall into at the end of the day and, I think, even a full moon. Today, with all that it holds, offers yet another chance at life. Lucky us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

close reading

While retrieving my coat at the end of a party the other night, I got waylaid while looking at the host's bookshelves. You can tell a lot about people by the books they read. It occurred to me recently that you can tell a lot about yourself by the books you've loved. For instance, there's a reason that I read The Cricket in Times Square fifteen times when I was a little girl. I just haven't figured it out yet! But there they are, three sets of five marks on the inside cover of my old paperback book, signifying each time I finished it again. I couldn't get enough of the story about Chester, the amazing musical cricket, and Mario, the little boy who makes a home for him in his family's newsstand. I loved Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse, too, and the whole New York City zeitgeist. Serendipitously, I now know that it was named a Newbery Honor book the year I was born. There was a sixteenth reading, spring of Ian's fourth grade year, when we sat on Dr. Mac's steps and read it together while waiting for the school bus in the morning. I'm thinking now that I will go for seventeen, this time reading it very closely, line by line - and between the lines - to more fully understand the story of me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

praise be

© Wayne Thiebaud
Some artists convey in their work a distinct sense that they are lovers of life. And they help us to be one, too. Consider these cakes painted by Wayne Thiebaud. There's simply no way someone could have a shriveled soul and give the world a treat like this. An inspiring article about him appears in the February issue of Smithsonian magazine which bears this out. And today I read a rare interview with Mary Oliver in Oprah magazine in which she refers to herself as a praise poet. "I acknowledge my feeling and gratitude for life by praising the world and whoever made all these things." No wonder her poems are like prayers. A painter and a writer. Guiding lights.

Friday, March 11, 2011

early March

Early March

Soggy fields, muddy cleats, rained out games
one bright pink canopy amid a sea of black umbrellas
Lenten roses, somber churches, wilderness time
blessings, blessings, blessings
there is the ballet of basketball
and the circus is in town -
all of life feels like
a high wire act
full of grace
there are baskets waiting to be filled
with small chocolate rabbits,
marbled candy eggs
and the promise of spring.

Monday, March 7, 2011

marching forth

March is an in-between time. Budding and beautiful outside, yet brrrrr. Ideas that have been winter dormant begin to poke through the ground like the daffodils before they burst into bright yellow blossoms. Just a little more waiting, planning, thinking, dreaming until true spring. Lucky us, it'll be here soon.
(click on collage to enlarge)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

suits me to a tea

Conundrum #317 of motherhood is that if you take a child to the pediatrician for a check-up, you are bound to get sick shortly thereafter. This is day six of a respiratory virus that's included non-stop hacking, a razor raw throat and laryngitis that took me from raspy to radio silent midweek. Head hurting, no appetite, no energy, no fun. I think I've turned a corner, though. The idea of a walk today is appealing. So is going to the Fresh Market and buying this cute orange canister of tea.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

rooting for the underdog

Wednesday was National Read Across America Day. Serendipitously, the Bookendipity Book Club of Rama Road Elementary met this week as well. Two boys and lots of girls attended, some of the dearest 4th and 5th graders you could ever meet. We discussed Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, about a girl their age who befriends a stray dog in the grocery store. To break the ice, Amanda and I brought in a poster with pictures of dogs pasted on it and asked the children to vote for the one they would most want to adopt from the pound: an hilarious pug, a friendly Lab, a fluffy golden poodle, a scruffy mutt, a snooty-looking dachsund, even a chihuahua in a pink outfit! Secret ballots were counted during snack and the results were surprising. Almost every one of the children picked a non-descript puppy that I had included on the poster as an after-thought, even preferring it over the adorable mutt who actually played Winn Dixie in the movie!

"He looks lonely."
"I think he needs a friend."
"His eyes are sad."
"See the way his head is tilted? He's scared."
"I know I could make him happy!"

The funny thing is that the two of us adults didn't see it that way at all, until the kids convinced us. By current calculation, more than 85% of the Rama Road students live in poverty. They're working awfully hard to rise above what statistics say lies ahead for them. Don't count them out. They may not have much at all. But they sure have a lot to give.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

cheap thrills

'What is something that costs less than $5 that makes you happy?' the questionnaire asked. If we're lucky, lots of things: a good cup of coffee, a pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese, a few new iTunes, a Red Box movie rental, neon-colored shoe laces, glitter nail polish, a good chocolate bar, today's New York Times, postage stamps, seed packets for planting a garden in the spring. But how about the wonderful things that don't even cost a cent? A dear friend to drink the coffee with, the bagel guy who always gives a compliment, singing along with the car radio, making it to the finish line of a 5K race, sending a letter that makes someone's day, bibb lettuce plucked from the garden, the promise of spring. Wishing you an infinite number of these. Today, tomorrow and always.