Monday, December 31, 2007

Mother Superior Says...

I’ve been looking for a job. Clearly, the one that I have is not working out very well. To add insult to injury, not only am I not making any money, this job is actually costing me money.
Time for a brief self-analysis.

I started this job because a friend needed help, and, coincidentally, I needed a job.
It seemed like the perfect fit.
I would be able to continue to work with books and education. My schedule could be flexible, which would allow me to continue to volunteer. I would only work during the school year, meaning that I would have the same days off as my children.
Unfortunately, it’s not working quite as perfectly as I had hoped. The major drawback is the lack of a steady paycheck. Actually, right now, it’s the lack of ANY paycheck.
In addition, I am finding that, when done right, sales can be a rather soul sucking enterprise. I want my customers to have the best product for their needs, not the best product that I have available. The best product, period.
And up selling…? Not so much. It just rubs me the wrong way. I can make as convincing an argument as the next guy as to why you should buy the book and the video and the CD, but what I’m having a problem with is why I should make that argument.

And then last night I was watching The Sound of Music with my two youngest children. We watched while multi-tasking. We sang along, drank vanilla-banana milkshakes, played a rousing game of Cranium and channel surfed during the commercials. Still, we were able to track with the movie. We’d all seen it so many times that it was like visiting with an old friend. We all know every single word of every single song. We know how the Reverend Mother will “solve a problem like Maria”. We know that Maria will use the material from the draperies in her bedroom to make play clothes for the children because they cannot play “in straight jackets”. We know the “notes to sing” and we completely buy into the idea that we “can sing most anything!”.
And yet, last night, my old friend surprised me. It happened when Maria and the Captain have just declared their love for each other and are dancing around the gazebo. Maria presses her cheek up against the Captain’s chest and mummers demurely, “Mother Superior says, you have to go looking for the life you want.”

Tonight, this stupid little milk toast line, jumped out and thumped me right in between the eyeballs. Hard.
I hate it when the obvious is so…obvious.

There are many things in my life that make my life the life that I want, AND, there are some things that could stand changing.
Thing #1 is my job.
I know exactly what kind of a job I want.
I volunteer at exactly the kind of a job that I want.
I have applied for exactly the kind of job that I want.

It’s been two weeks, and I have heard nothing.

So today, I fired off an email to the person who is in charge of hiring for exactly the kind of job that I want and I told her…”THIS is exactly the kind of a job that I want!” As a matter of fact, I sent it twice! Once on purpose, once as a result of a double clinking faux pas.
Twice was probably overkill, but I’m hoping that the fact of sending it at all has not crossed the line of proper job seeking etiquette.
And the thing is, if it did, I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with it because I stepped up.
I stopped waiting for my life to happen to me.
I made a decision that will allow me to happen to my life. That makes me a winner either way.

Friday, December 28, 2007


I know all about the Law Of Attraction – energy flows where attention goes. Concentrate on the positive and attract more of it. Dwell on the negative and get more of it.

Yada, yada, yada.

Hard to do when you’ve been busting your butt working for a year and have not one dime, not one thin dime, to show for it. Hard to do when the majority of jobs that you see advertised pay less than what your 16 year-old son earned at his first summer job! Hard to do when you watch money flying out of your bank account and know that the situation is not going to change any time soon and you start to wonder how much longer you can manage.

And then…

I’m sitting in the dentist’s office, waiting for my son, and I pick up a People magazine. (I confess. I pick our medical providers by the number of fluff, completely mindless magazines that they have in their waiting rooms – the more fluff they have, the more points they earn.) I read all about the latest celebrities to get married/divorced/pregnant. I see the lovely red carpet attire and learn about celebrities who have flown off to the far corners of the world to help children living in poverty.

But dig a little deeper, and I come across an article about “Heroes Among Us”. People who give away at least half of their incomes! Regular people. People like you and me. People exactly like you and me, except for the fact that they give away at least half of their incomes!


These are people who truly live a life of abundance. They have completely rejected the attitude of scarcity. They know.

They KNOW!

Right down to the depths of their beings, they know that there is more than enough. They know that having is empty if it is not paired with giving.

And I read about these people.
And I see what is real.
And I know that I will be okay. The universe is abundant and I will be okay.

It feels good to let that one go. And to think…I have People magazine to thank. Go figure.

Check our your giving potential.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, you just need to get away. Not far away, just far enough away. A space of your own.

I have four children. Two girls and two boys.
I have a house with four bedrooms. A grown-ups’ bedroom, a boys' bedroom, a girls' bedroom and a guest room.

Rooms, in our house, have always been shared.
Until last year.
Last year, my husband and I divorced.

The master bedroom became my room. I moved furniture and painted the walls tea green. I hung my favorite pictures, the ones that remind me of Hawai’i and of my children. I put an antique red and white Hawaiian quilt on my bed and bought lovely side tables made of sustainable hardwood by Javanese craftsmen. I made myself a space. My own space.

My oldest daughter chose to live with her father. The things she wanted to leave here were moved into the guest room. Much of what she left behind represented her childhood -- her blankie, her stuffed animals, her fairy picture – things she felt she needed to escape in order to grow up.
But I wanted her to know that she could always come back. So we made the guest room into her room. The namby pamby pale pink walls were not a color that said, “Come back and stay a while.” Together we selected Divine Gold and I repainted the walls the rich, warm color of a sunny beach. The color plays off the yellows and greens of her quilt, making the room sing, “Welcome Home!” We moved the desk out of my room and into hers and hung a beveled mirror over it so that she would have someplace to sit and put on makeup. We no longer have a guest room, but we do have a room for my oldest. Her very own room.

The girls’ room became my youngest daughter’s room. To make it her own, she picked a lovely color called China Silk for the walls. It’s a deep blue that looks purple in some lights. It’s a royal color that exactly fits my little princess. She has a lilac vanity, a tangerine yellow desk, hot pink curtains, a soft, slouchy pale pink chair and ottoman and a bed that is overflowing with her babies and pillows. Her room is an explosion of life and color that reflects her secret soul.

The boys’ room, remained the boys’ room, shared by my 16-year-old son and my 9-year-old son. Neither of them complained, but when I asked my oldest son if he would like his own room, his face lit up like the first spring sunrise following a drippy, grey Portland winter. I told him he could move down to the basement, carefully pointing out that I would not be putting in a bathroom down there anytime soon. “We have two and a half other bathrooms,” he pointed out. “I’m okay with no bathroom in the basement.”
So we began remodeling the basement.
We worked all summer and fall to fix up a room for my oldest son. We sheet rocked and put up molding. We painted evergreen walls and laid hazelnut carpet. We found a marvelous chest of drawers at Goodwill and uncovered a comfy, but stylish chair at a neighborhood garage sale. Fabric Depot had the perfect fabric and, as soon as I get the sewing machine fixed, he will have a perfect set of curtains hanging over his windows. He moved in just before Christmas. He loves his new Manland.

Today, my youngest son and I started working on his room. It was knee deep in the clutter and mayhem that his older brother left behind. We began in the closet, sorting clothes. We filled three shopping bags with clothes that no longer fit or are otherwise unsatisfactory. Toys were next. Three Tupperware under-the-bed boxes filled with toys have become four shoeboxes on the shelves of his closet. The metal bunk bed has turned into a loft and separate twin bed and the space under the loft is now a “tight” fort, complete with soft, squishy pillows and a blue rope light. His Lego trunk makes the perfect bedside table. He still likes the pine green color that he and his brother originally picked for the room, so no painting will be required. Tomorrow, he will test out his newly decorated digs by having a sleepover with a couple of his neighborhood friends.

It’s been fun watching my children create their own space. Each room is a completely unique reflection of the child who dreamed it. We have spaces to come together and spaces to be apart.
My house has finally become our home.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Wins

I went to bed at 4:15 this morning.
At 7:15 a warm, happy 9-year-old boy launches himself onto my bed.
“Merry Christmas, Mummy,” he smiles from his heart. His voice is full of excitement, wrapped softly in deep contentment. I don’t know where he got it, this inner calm, but he brought it with him into this world, and sometimes, it dances around the edges of his words filling everything with peace. I peel my eyes open and he presses his nose against mine and smiles.
And then, in the blink of a moment, he is all little boy again.

“Can we open stockings now?” he bubbles.
“If you can wake anybody else up,” I yawn, “we can open stockings.”
He bounds off on his mission. I roll over and blink, trying to wake up and wishing that the sandpaper covering the insides of my eyelids would just please, go away.

Christmas with three teenagers and a nine-year-old is a balancing act. My youngest is still filled with the all the eager anticipation of Christmas that defies the body’s internal clock, rerouting the circuitry to provide that extra burst of holiday energy. His siblings, on the other hand, are ruled by the rhythms of the teenaged body that demands to sleep until at least 10 am.

I hear my son banging on doors and turning on lights, ho-ho-ho-ing and Merry Christmas-ing like a miniature Santa-in-training. He's working a tough crowd, though, and his are the only feet I hear pitter-pattering.
And I hear them pitter-pattering back into my bedroom.
I lift my eyebrows, silently asking him if he has had any success.
He shakes his head. “I tried to wake them up,” he admits, “but nobody is getting up.”

“Well, why don’t we check on Bubba and Joey and wish them a Merry Christmas?” I offer. Bubba and Joey are his virtual pets on Club Penguin. The pets that will actually die unless they are feed and played with and cared for every day.
He agrees with a smile and I buy a few more minutes of dreamless oblivion for my teenagers. For once, Bubba and Joey help me. I silently promise not to complain about taking care of them the next time my son is with his father.

Caring for Bubba and Joey turns into a quick reconnaissance of the world of Club Penguin, whittling away another half an hour. But ultimately, the reprieve is over.
“When is everyone else going to get up?” he asks, the whine threatening to bubble up through his patience.
“I don’t know,” I answer bluntly. “Why don’t you try again?”

He thumps down the stairs, calling for his brother.
He thumps back up the stairs, solo.
Down the hall and then back in to my room.
Head down. Alone.
I open my mouth to stammer out some sort of stocking alternative but I am interrupted by the jingle of the bells that adorn my youngest daughter’s bedroom door. A smile breaks across my son’s face, and I can almost hear the cherubim and seraphim singing his joy.

“I’ll go get the stockings!” he shouts as he turns from the room and dances down the stairs.
Our upstairs hall is only about fifteen feet long, but my little one is back up the stairs and into my room before his sister’s shadow even hits the door. He is clutching two stockings in his left arm and balancing three shiny red boxes in his right. He dumps them on my bed with a satisfied sigh.

My daughter is dripping sleepiness, but bleary eyed or not, she is aware enough to notice, and young enough to care, that neither of the stockings belongs to her.
“Why didn’t you bring mine?” my daughter yawns, slumping onto my shoulder. Her blond hair falls against my cheek and I can smell the kiwi conditioner.
“I didn’t see it,” my son explains. “These were the only two on the couch.”
“Did you check the chairs?” I offer.

The beat of his feet as he runs back down the stairs is the only reply I get.
One breath later, he is back carrying four more Santa gifts and two more stockings. Again, neither belongs to my daughter, but before she can ask, my son is gone. He returns triumphant, holding the final stocking high over his head, the winning trophy.

We hear my oldest daughter stumble into the hall. She squints into my bedroom. “Where’s Bub?” she asks, inquiring after her other brother.
“Still asleep,” my youngest succinctly replies.
“Well, I’m with him,” she mumbles, and she is gone with a bang of her bedroom door.

Even though we are not all present and accounted for, the stockings scream, “Open us!” My baby cannot wait a moment longer. My youngest daughter starts to protest, but a bounce on the bed slides one of the Santa presents into her lap.
She picks it up and waves it at me. “I bet this is a DVD,” she says with a knowing teenaged smile.
“I’ll bet you’re right,” I nod back. “And if you open stockings now with your little brother, I bet you can watch it while we wait for everyone else to get up.”
And that’s enough.
That’s all it takes for the wrapping paper to start flying and the magic of Christmas to trump the ennui of a teenager.

Monday, December 24, 2007


He sped down the street. The rap music pounding out of his car windows assaulted each house as he passed. The sound was all anyone could see.

He parked in front of my daughter’s house and got out. The neighborhood fell suddenly silent, except for the sound of his sneakers as he crossed the grass, heading for her front door.

He wore baggy jeans. Saggy jeans, the crotch hanging down to his knees. His black t-shirt was too big too. His shortly cropped brown hair was all but invisible under his baseball cap, which, of course, he wore backwards.
Peeking through the curtains, all my daughter’s father could see was trouble.

Uh, uh,” he told her, wagging his finger. “The neighbors will not accept this.”

This was months ago.
I wish I could say it was hundreds of conversations ago. But it isn’t. I’ve met him once. Her father has seen him several times, but has rarely spoken with him.
We barely know this baggy boy.
And yesterday, we bought him a Christmas present. We bought him a Christmas present because we know one thing about this boy.
One important thing.
We know that this boy loves our daughter.

He loves her for exactly who she. He tells her that, even if he doesn’t know why, exactly who she is, is exactly what makes him smile.
We bought this boy a Christmas present because all you need to do is look in my daughter’s eyes to see that this boy makes a difference. He makes all the difference in the world.

Some people might say that he and my daughter are too young to know what love is. But right now, for this boy and this girl, this is love.


Friday, December 21, 2007


When I was in grade school, I raised mice. We kept them on the back lanai in 10-gallon aquariums that my father expertly fitted with chicken wire lids. I tried valiantly to keep up with their rampant reproduction, but it was hopeless. No matter how many trips I made to the pet store with my latest batch of babies, it seemed as though by the time I had returned, I needed to add another aquarium to my rapidly expanding mouse city.
My favorite mouse was Blackie Gumbo. He was black, beautiful, and velvet smooth. Blackie Gumbo NEVER made the trip to the pet store. I suspect that perhaps he is one of the reasons I kept on having to add aquariums.

Now, almost forty years later and thousands of miles away, I am in the mouse business again.
This time, it is not voluntary.
This time, I have no aquariums and I definitely have no lovely chicken wire lids. These mice are of the wild variety, and they moved in without asking.
I have mixed emotions about these mice.

They took up residence in my attic and, and, while I must admit that they are the most adorable, soft little brown field mice that it has ever been my pleasure to meet, I rather resent their assumption that I would be okay with this arrangement.

The Emily Post in me simply cannot endure the fact that these mice display an appalling lack of manners. My children thoughtfully leave their lunch bags on their bedroom floors, giving our mice a lovely smorgasbord of leftovers from which to feast. And the piles of clothes that artfully decorate my children’s rooms provide an endless supply of easy to reach nesting materials for our mice. Yet my children have never received so much as a “thank you” for their efforts.
The sleep-deprived, over-stressed single mother in me wants to scream. It is patently obvious that our mice have never heard the phrase “quiet as a mouse”! They delight in running around in the middle of the night, waking up those of us who have finally managed to fall asleep! Their favorite game is tag. They play with our cat. Usually in my bedroom. The cat is always “it”. Our more out of shape mice prefer playing hide-and-seek, but again, the cat is still “it”. Occasionally, they will host a dance party in the attic. They do some sort of wild and crazy River Dance/haka/Stomp!/do-si-do combo that echoes in our bedrooms below keeping us awake until the wee hours of the morning.
The Buddhist in me is more compassionate. The Buddhist in me knows that every being has been my mother. The Buddhist in me says that I have created artificial boundaries and that these mice are sentient beings who have a right to live wherever they choose as long as they are not hurting anyone.

So with my best Buddhist intentions, I set out to convince our mice that they would be much happier living elsewhere. I joined the game of tag. I replaced the cat as “it” and chased one silly mouse at a time through my bedroom, down the hall, into the children’s bathroom, back out into the hall, down the stairs, through the living room, finally tagging them, one by one, under the couch. Gently, I would scoop up the mouse and carry it tenderly out of the house and down the street before releasing it in a cozy bush three blocks away.

My early years as a mouse breeder should have taught me that this would not be a very effective way to rid my house of mice. Clearly there is at least one Blackie Gumbo type mouse still living in, and repopulating, my house.

Plan B involved an ionizer. Rumor has it that rodents cannot stand the sound that is emitted by ionizers. Apparently, our mice missed that memo.

Then one day, while driving my youngest son to guitar lessons, I saw a van advertising Green Pest Eradication. Ignoring the fact that I was driving 60 miles an hour down the freeway I grabbed my cell phone and dialed. I rationalized my rash behavior by telling myself that dialing only took one hand while writing the number down would take two.
Three rings later, I was talking to a very pleasant man with a radio announcer voice. His name was Mike.
“I have mice,” I blurted into the phone.
“We can help,” Mike answered.
“Do you kill them?” I asked.
“Oh,” I paused. Somehow I had convinced myself that “green pest eradication” would not involve the death of our mice. I didn’t want our mice dead. I just wanted them to find a home of their own. I explained all of this to Mike. He laughed at my joke. When I didn’t laugh back, he swallowed his chuckle and explained that “green” referred to the fact that no harm would be done to the environment as a result of their pest eradication. The bait traps would be completely environmentally friendly and totally safe to humans and other animals.
I edged around the Buddhist in me. “It won’t hurt the mice, will it?” I pleaded.
“Oh no,” Mike assured me. “They eat the bait and get really thirsty so they go outside to find some water and then they’re gone.”
I wavered.
Mike explained that mice carry disease and they can wreak havoc in the structure of one’s home.
The Emily Post, sleep-deprived, over-stressed single mother in me trumped the Buddhist in me. I have four children that need, expect and have a right to, a safe, clean, quiet home. They are my first priority. Besides, according to Mike, our mice are causing harm.
I signed up for green pest eradacation.
Technically, I suppose I am causing the death of our mice. But, I’m choosing to look at it as speeding fellow sentient beings along the path to enlightenment. I mean, it’s hard to reach enlightenment as a mouse, and at least by helping them to leave their little mouse bodies I am giving them a fighting chance. Right?!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Dreamed I Was Home

I dreamed I was home
Warm air fragrant with rain
The too sweet scent of white ginger
Lifts with dew drops
To the sun

I dreamed I was home
The bamboo forest sways
In the wind
A reluctant partner in the daily dance

I dreamed I was home
Deep mountains of green
Steadfast soldiers stand sentry
Raked by time
And still strong

I dreamed I was home
Salt licks at my lips
Mangoes slippery and smooth
Tease my tongue with their taste

I dreamed I was home
My grandfather calls
Washed clean by the sea
Wet sand holding me

Monday, December 17, 2007

Things That Matter

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

I don’t know when he said this, but, given what this man did and what he stood for, I’m sure he must have said it during some speech or talk about equal rights or peace or some other equally important issue that is, or should be, of global concern to all humanity. At least, that’s how I’ve always interpreted it.

Until Thursday.
Thursday, I had lunch with Carrie, a dear friend whom I had not seen for way too long.

I call her a “dear friend” today. I’m not sure if I would have done so before our Thursday lunch. Our friendship had been more of an accident, than an intentional act. We met through a mutual friend and, in less time than it takes to blink, the three of us were attached at the hip. We were a band of sisters.

We did everything together.
We laughed together.
We cried together.
We raged together.
We prayed together.
We escaped together.
We stayed together.

Until we didn’t.
Until our mutual friend decided we wouldn’t.
So we didn’t.

Without a word, without a nod, without a wave good-bye, Carrie and I accepted our fate.
We went our separate ways.
Deleted from each other’s lives.

But, Carrie did not delete me from her mailing lists. And when she sent out a group mailing inviting people to a workshop she is sponsoring, I received an invitation.
I thought perhaps she had sent it in error. In my darker moments, I was sure it was some sort of twisted plot to trap me uncomfortably in a corner and watch me pretend not to squirm. I ignored it for a while. Finally, I responded, politely declining her invitation.

Carrie wrote back. She had not invited our mutual friend.
The attached at the hip triplets that had turned into the attached at the hip twins had all returned to their former unattached selves.

Carrie and I met for lunch.
Thursday was crisp and dry, an unusual winter day in usually soggy Portland. We met at a local restaurant on Hawthorne Blvd. I got there first, but we had spotted each other as we were circling the neighborhood looking for parking.

Although I had only seen her head and shoulders through the car window, I knew she was impeccably dressed. Carrie is always impeccably dressed. Even when she is wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt and no make-up, Carrie looks impeccable.
Thursday, she was wearing lovely gray-ish, tweed-ish trousers, a black shirt and a fitted black jacket that whispered just above her hips. Impeccable. From her perfectly painted Carrie pink lips to her perfectly pointed black shoes peeking from beneath the cuffed hems of her trousers.

When she entered the restaurant and saw me, she smiled. Not just a polite, nice-to-see-you smile. Carrie smiled a smile that seemed to start all the way down at her toes. A smile that gathered strength as it traveled through her body until it finally exploded in a brilliant display of joy that lit the entire room.

We hugged hello.
It was 12:30. The tag end of what must have been a very hectic lunch rush. A waiter led us to our table. All the booths were full, so he sat us at a table that was situated smack dab in the middle of the small, very busy restaurant. There were only two other tables open. The rest of the tables were either occupied by diners or by the debris and dirty dishes that diners leave behind.

The waiter handed us our menus and disappeared.

Carrie and I ignored the menus. We leaned in closer toward the table and began to talk. We started with easy stuff. Non-threatening stuff. Stuff that could make us laugh. Stuff like silly things our children had done and learning how to bake using neither wheat nor sugar and how getting older sucks because, without glasses, the crisp, clear focus of youth is but a memory.

The waiter came back. Carrie squinted briefly at the specials board and ordered the quiche that topped the list. I pointed to the salad described at the bottom of the list of salads. The waiter jotted these down quickly and went away.

It’s funny. I know it must have been noisy in that restaurant, but Carrie was all I could hear. I don’t know if there was a child having a tantrum, or a person celebrating a birthday, or a couple busily discussing what gifts to buy for Christmas.

All I know was that our silence had been lifted and we talked.
We talked about our families. We talked about our work. We talked about our lives. And finally, we talked about our friend.

We talked about things that matter and that has made all the difference.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A New Thanksgiving

I’m 46 years old and this is the first time in my entire life that I have ever prepared a Thanksgiving dinner. This is also the first holiday dinner that all of my children will be home with me.

Last year, their father and I divorced after twenty-three years together. It was ugly.

Thanksgiving was our first holiday apart and the children were with him. They would celebrate with their father and his family in the exact same way they always had since their very first Thanksgivings. I spent the day alone, at the Coast. In my hotel room, I opened the window wide. It was forty degrees and rainy outside, and the smell of the sea wrapped me in her warmth.

This year, it’s my turn.

This year, I will help my children create new traditions. Our traditions.

The first thing to go is the turkey. My children don’t particularly like turkey. They like pork roast. Stuffing? Not so much. Corn? Can’t get enough of it. Mashed potatoes and gravy are not to be missed and green beans keep the plate from looking unappetizingly monochromatic.

Pork roast crackling in the oven, the smell of garlic and olive oil seeping through the cracks in the door, I move into the dining room. As I putter about setting the table with the “good” silver and my mother’s Autumn china and the forest green cloth napkins, I realize I have no candles!

No candles?

It’s 4:00 on Thanksgiving Day and I have no candles?!

I fly over to Safeway. As I tip tap across the sidewalk in my smart black, low-heeled shoes, I pass a young boy. He is sitting facing the entrance to the store, his back to the street. He is bundled in too many holey sweaters. I bustle past him as he shivers his fingers down into his sleeves and holds up a cardboard sign asking for money. I’m in a hurry.

I need candles!

Safeway does not have what I need. They have apple-cinnamon scented candle gift packages and tea lights and orange candles-in-a-jar. They have nothing that will fit in my candlesticks. No tapers.

I turn to dash back out to the car, desperate to get to another grocery store before it closes. As I head for the exit, I see the boy through the glass doors. He is still sitting in the same place. His nose is dripping from the cold and the wind blows his blond hair out of his eyes. They are blue. They are not angry. They are not sad. They just are. And they lift me out of my candle-induced haze.

I start madly digging through my purse, scooping out all the change that jingles at the bottom. I hand my little offering to the boy and he smiles. He mounds the coins in to a small pile on the sidewalk in front of him. The cardboard sign gets wedged between his crossed legs and the tiny silver hill and his fingers retreat back into his sleeves.

I continue down the sidewalk but when I reach my car I can’t get in. I can feel the boy’s mother.

She is not with him.

I don’t know their story. I don’t know why they are not together. But they are not together and it is Thanksgiving and the boy is alone wearing too many holey sweaters sitting on a cold sidewalk with a pathetic pile of change for company.

I turn and go back to the boy.

“Hey,” I say when I get close enough for him to hear me. “What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

He looks up. Confused. “Uh…I think they’re serving dinner downtown somewhere.”

I nod and lean down closer to him. “My children and I are having dinner at six. You’re welcome to join us if you like.”

He looks a though he’s not quite sure what he’s supposed to do, so I fill the empty space between us by telling him where I live. His lips turn up in a half smile as he nods and repeats my directions.

“Six o’clock,” I say over my shoulder as I turn to walk to my car.

“Blue house,” he replies to my back.

In the car I am shocked at myself. I NEVER would have done this when I was married. My husband said that homeless people could not be trusted. “You never know about them,” he would say with his deep, important voice.

I smile. I’m glad I’m not married anymore.

I go to the next store and find my candles.

At home, I set a place at the table for the boy. Six o’clock comes and goes. I light the candles and wait a little longer.

Six-oh-five. No boy. I ask my oldest son to open the sparkling cider and take it to the table.

Six-ten. I carve the roast pork and fill the gravy boat.

Six-fourteen. A tentative tap on the front door. My nine-year-old son dashes to the living room, his little boy feet thumping loudly across the floor.

“Muh-mee,” he yells. “There’s a boy at the door.”

My heart jumps as I wipe my hands and follow my son’s voice into the living room. The outside light shines a circle around the figure standing on my front porch. Shines a circle around “the boy”.

When he sees me, he smiles, a look of relief on his face. “I was afraid I would be too late,” he apologizes before rushing on with his explanation. “It’s hard to tell what color a house is in the dark but I peeked in your window before I knocked and I saw your table all set for dinner so I thought I’d see.”

“I’m so glad you found us,” I smile back, extending my hand for his and pulling him inside. “My name is Puanani.”

“Hi,” he says, shuffling his tired, used to be red Converse over the threshold. “I’m David.”