Sunday, August 31, 2008

When I Dare To Be Powerful

I’ve been floundering.
Desperately trying to figure out what it is that I am supposed to be doing.
Actually, to be precise, I’ve been desperately trying to figure out what it is I am supposed to be being.

I thought, perhaps, prayer would help.
So I’ve been praying.

And the Universe has listened.

And answered.

This quote has been placed in front of me no less than three times in the past two weeks.

“When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision – then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Audre Lourde

Three times…in three completely unrelated places…in three totally different circumstances.


Can anyone decipher Universe?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Kindness Chronicles IV

There is a woman at work who is pregnant. Very pregnant. And very beautiful!

One day, she came to work in a soft, white eyelet dress. She floated in the door, a breath on a day that was heavy with heat. She was hope, and light and new beginnings personified.
She was a gift.

I’m glad I noticed.
I’m glad I told her.

Once again, I was reminded that it is the moments that matter.
And this moment made all the difference for this woman.

Apparently, she had been receiving all of the rude, insensitive, size related comments that a woman must endure during the course of a pregnancy – all of the inappropriate hands-on-the-belly touching of complete strangers and all of the I’m-so-done-with-this-pregnancy feelings of a woman in the last trimester of a second pregnancy.

It’s easy to be too busy.
It’s easy to think it doesn’t matter.

It’s easy to miss the moments.

But the moments matter.
The moments make all the difference.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Feeding My Baby

I spent my morning digging for worms.
Digging for worms.

Pushing the tip of my shovel deep into the unforgiving soil of my unplanted beds.
Breaking up the packed clay.
Searching for the exposed tip of an earthworm squirming towards the darkness.
Deftly grabbing hold of the quickly disappearing speck and dragging the stretchy sliminess into the light.
Placing it gently into my cupped hand.
Ignoring the shiver that runs through my body as the worm writhes and twists on my palm.
Lifting the dirt-covered pinkness and holding it between my thumb and forefinger.

Dangling it in front of my baby.
Tempting her.
Coaxing her.

She cocks her heads and watches as the worm dances intricate figure eights and slow ripples.
And then…in less than an instant…the dance is over.
The worm is gone.
My baby smiles.

I pick up my shovel and push the tip deep into the unforgiving soil of my unplanted beds.
Feeding my baby.

This is my baby.

Her name is Mo’olelelani – Heavenly Dancing Dragon.
We call her Mo.

I am not a reptile person.
I like my animals cuddly and furry.
And yet…I love Mo. I cannot imagine life without her.

I met Mo in June, when her name was “Sparks”.
My children were with their father for the weekend and I was out garage sale-ing.
A group of three woman friends had banded together and they were peddling their treasures. They were laughing and bartering and having raucous good time. Their enthusiasm was infectious.
I stopped at their sale at 2pm.
I stayed.
I perused the piles.

I tried on a pair of brand new, closed toe, sandals with an $8 tag tied on to one of the straps.
“Those are cute!” exclaimed one of the women. “Seeing them on your feet makes me remember why I bought them. If you don’t get them, they’re going back in my closet.”
My feet stayed firmly inside the sandals.

A funky black goddess lamp captured my attention, but she didn’t speak to me. Besides, what would I do with a funky black goddess lamp?
“I can’t believe that lamp is still here!” marveled the woman who coveted my new sandals. “I think you need it,” she nodded to me.
“Welll,” I drawled, “I’m not sure where she would go.”
“Anywhere!” came the quick reply.
I passed.

An empty reptile aquarium, complete with florescent light, heat lamp and basking rock lay in a pile on the slope of the front lawn. A little white sticker affixed to the side of the tank read $99.
“Hmm. That’s a lot,” I thought to myself as I walked past it without stopping.

I opened a little red lacquered box with a small white owl painted on the top. Six coasters were nestled inside. “Mine,” I murmured, after flipping it over to reveal the $2 sticker stuck on the bottom. One of the women nodded her agreement.

Each time I stopped in front of an item, one of the women would make a comment.
They were fun.
They were fuh-nee.

When I had finished meandering through their wares, I plopped myself down on the lawn, in the midst of the women, and joined their happy banter.

At 3, a passerby inquired as to what sort of creature would live in the aquarium set-up.
“A bearded dragon,” replied the apparent hostess of the afore mentioned garage sale festival. “Would you like to see her? She’s for sale.”
The gentleman declined, but I was intrigued.
“What is a bearded dragon?” I asked.
“She’s up on the front porch,” she said nodding toward the house. “You can go see her if you want.”
“What the heck!” I thought, peeling myself off the grass.

As I neared the front porch, I saw a large black iron birdcage sitting in an oven of sunshine. The inside of the cage was decorated with a jungle gym of sticks. On top of the highest stick sat a lizard, mouth agape, panting heavily, sides heaving.
“Um…she’s in the direct sun,” I hollered, turning to look at the women on the lawn. “Is that okay?”
“Yeah, it’s fine…unless her mouth is open.”
“It’s open,” I confirmed.

The woman, whose name, I discovered, was Susan, clattered out of her lawn chair and dashed toward the porch.
She grabbed the lizard out of the cage and it clung to her shirt. Susan dipped her fingers in a bowl of water and rubbed them down the lizard’s back, gently soothing her.

I watched her fingers slide slowly over the lizard. My fingers ached to do the same.

“Do you want to hold Sparks?” Susan asked.
The “yes” leapt quickly from my soul before I had a chance to consider the reptilian furlessness of the creature she was holding.

Susan handed her to me and I knew exactly what to do.
I – who had never enjoyed the Reptile Show at the zoo, who avoided furless creatures with a vengeance – knew exactly what to do.
The dragon rested on my chest and she was home.

Susan came back to the porch an hour later and shook her head in wonder, “I’ve never seen Sparks do that,” she blurted.
The name jarred me and I could feel the soul of the dragon bristle at the sound of it. Both of us knew that that was not her name.
Susan didn’t. “Sparks does not sit still when she’s out of her cage,” she continued. “Ever! She always needs to move and chase bugs and find hiding places. You have to take her home with you!”

I knew she was right, and yet, logic took over and I heard myself saying, “A bearded dragon is not an impulse buy. You do not go to a garage sale looking for nothing in particular and come home with a bearded dragon.”

“Okay,” Susan conceded. “Go home and sleep on it. Come back to get her tomorrow, then it won’t be an impulse buy.”

The women began putting the sale away. I sat with the dragon until the shadows grew long -- until the women began making dinner rumblings and I knew I had to leave.


I spent the evening on the computer, reading everything I could find about bearded dragons.
In the morning, I tired to forget her.
I distracted myself by picking raspberries in the backyard.

At noon, I was back at Susan’s, clutching a small bowl of raspberries.
Susan saw me and smiled “the question”.
“I don’t know,” I said, even as my soul knew that I did, “but I thought I would come by and visit…”
“I brought her some raspberries,” I added, waving the bowl and trying not to race to my dragon.

And when I got to her cage, she was waiting for me.

I opened the door and she stepped lightly onto my hand. I held out a raspberry. She licked it off my hand and swallowed with satisfaction.
I fed her the remainder of the raspberries, one by one. When the bowl was empty, she looked up at me with a raspberry juice, red lipstick smile and said, “Thank you.” And she sealed the deal.

I gave Susan $99 and I loaded the aquarium, the birdcage and all the paraphernalia into my car.
“Who knew?!” I smiled to myself as my dragon and I climbed into my car, heading for home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

He Listens

I work with survivors of domestic violence. Studies show that our culture perpetuates the image of the macho man and that anger is often the only emotion that a man feels comfortable expressing.

I like to think that our generation is working to change that. That we are raising, and have raised, our sons to be more than angry men.

I do not kid myself that we will wipe out domestic violence, but this story gives me hope that we are making headway.

A young girl breaks up with her boyfriend. She goes home and screams her anguish to the walls. She is inconsolable.

She thinks that she is alone, but her teen-aged brother is there. He is fixing himself some lunch in the kitchen. When he hears her, he immediately stops what he is doing and he goes upstairs to check on his sister.

The door to her bedroom is open wide. He knocks tentatively on the doorframe.
The girl sees him and she begins to cry to him all of her sadness and frustration.
He listens, though he can barely understand her words through her tears.
He listens, though he cannot even imagine the kind of heartache his sister is experiencing.
He listens, though her hurt makes him uncomfortable and he feels awkward and inadequate.

He listens because he loves her.

He listens, and he tells her, “I don’t know what to say, but I am here and I can listen for as long as you need.”
And he leans his lanky body against the doorjamb and she sobs him her story.

And he offers no advice.
And he doesn't try to fix it.

He just listens.

And that is more than enough.
It is everything.

And she is consoled.

I could not be more proud of OS.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

This Perfect Life

I used to think everything in my life had to be perfect in order for me to have a perfect life.

Not so.

It’s the moments.

If this moment is perfect, then life is perfect.

I had a perfect moment last night.

“Mummy,” YS stood in the middle of the kitchen, his big hazel eyes wide with anticipation, his mouth struggling to subdue the smile of excitement burbling behind his question. “Mummy, can we sleep in the backyard tonight?”

“Sure,” I nodded, even as I turned toward the computer to finish typing my blog. It was 10:30 and I wanted to post before I went to bed.

“You’ll sleep out there with me?”


“Do you want to use my camping pad?”

“Love to.”

“How ‘bout a sleeping bag? Do you want a sleeping bag or a blanket?”

“A blanket.”

YS began to gather the necessary backyard camping equipment. He dragged his sleeping bag and two pillows around the table, through the kitchen and out the back door. Next came the pad.

“Wanna sleep under the stars or should we use a tent?”

“Stars,” I replied, still distracted. I had not posted for months and it was somehow vitally important to me that I get that post done. There was no f’n way that the world could survive another moment without this post!

Nothing daunted, YS continued his preparations.
The pop up Play Hut cubes bumped down the stairs behind YS and slapped behind me on the kitchen floor. I heard him flip open the largest one, a 3’x3’ cube. It is made out of red parachute material. The top is solid, the sides each have one big circle cut into them, and the bottom is completely open.

YS squeezed it through the back door and the sides threatened to rip as he dragged it past the lip of the door latch.

Next, he scurried past me with the 13” TV/DVD combo. Even this was not enough to grab my attention away from my computer.

Got. To. Post.

YS thumped down the basement stairs.
Soon I heard him skip back up.

“OK. We’re ready, Mummy.” YS grinned and I could actually see the quiver of excitement flow through his body.

I hit post.
“OK. Let me go brush and floss,” I said. I disappeared up the stairs without even stopping to give him a hug or a smile.

Too long later, I headed out the back door.

YS had made the Play Hut cube into a little gazebo for the TV. The sleeping bag and camping pad were laid out in the middle of the yard and were as close together as they could be without being stacked on top of each other. A pillow rested on the pad and a blanket was laid across the top with the left hand corner gently turned down. All I could see of YS is his tousled brown hair sticking out of the top of his sleeping bag.

When he heard me, he turned and smiled his funny, crooked, gap-toothed grin.

“I was waiting for you for the movie,” he explained with pride.

"This is love," I thought as I slid under the blanket. For a moment, we were both lying on our backs looking up at the sky.

“Look at the moon,” I whispered. It was full and round and encircled by a golden halo.

“Uh-huh. Night light,” he said, flipping over onto his tummy and reaching for the “play” button.

He had chosen “Homeward Bound”. He knows that it is one of my favorite stories.

I turned over. YS reached for my hand.
I fall asleep to the sound of Chance attacking a porcupine.
When I woke up, the movie was over though the TV still glowed blue. YS snored gently beside me and his fingers tightened around my hand.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

At the Port

It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and my two youngest children and I have been enjoying the Port of Portland’s Seaport Celebration. It’s an annual event that we discovered last year – on a MUCH cooler day.

This is the one day each year that the Port opens its doors to the public for music, food and informational activities so that we can all learn the hows and whys, the whats and wheres of how the Port operates. They give out re-useable bags and water bottles and stickers and pens and have a drawing for special prizes.

It’s fun.

Which is why we decided to brave the weather and return this year.
This day.

This 102° day.

This102° day, in the middle of a black, asphalt, parking lot with no shade save for a few canopy tents sprinkled about to shade employees who are manning the information tables.

This102° day, in the middle of a black, asphalt, parking lot with no shade save for a few canopy tents sprinkled about to shade employees who are manning the information tables with barely a hint of a breeze blowing against the heat waves that rise off the scorched earth.

We’ve been here for over two hours and we’ve finished our fun. We’re waiting, along with a small crowd of other hot, sweaty, tired people, for the shuttle bus to pick us up and return us to our car.

The bus arrives and we all pile on.

We pile on to an old yellow school bus that looks as though it has recently been refurbished with seats that seem to have new-ish brown vinyl. The windows are all open, but the only air you can feel moving are the currents of heat that swarm past our bodies as we travel toward the back of the bus. We slide our sweaty selves across a seat, and the back of my right thigh grabs onto the vinyl and my skin screeches across the remainder of the bench. None of the other hot, sweaty, tired people notice because they are all doing their own versions of the sweaty squack. The hot, sweaty, children who bounced in in the morning have melted into puddles of petulance.

This is when my daughter decides to strike.

“Hey,” she smiles to her brother, “what happens when you take the “s” out of safe and the “f” out of way?"
“Huh?” he replies, face scrunched into an irritated grimace, a tiny drop of sweat forming in front of his left ear and hesitating before it starts to roll slowly toward his chin.
My daughter sighs and repeats herself. “Take the “s” out of safe and the “f” out of way."
My son looks annoyed and says, “A-way?”
“No”, YD breaths, “ take the “s” out of SAFE and the “f” out of WAY.”
“I DID!” my son snaps, irritation erupting and oozing down his sweaty face.
“No”, she says in the condescending way that a teenaged girl reserves for a younger sibling, “you took the “s” AND the “f” out of SAFE. Take the “S” out of safe and the “F” out of way!
By now, YS is totally exasperated. He glares at his sister and, at the TOP of his voice he yells, “THERE'S NO "F" IN WAY!!!!”

YD dissolves into tears of laughter.

“What?!” snaps YS, and, raising his voice a few decibels he repeats, “THERE'S NO F'N WAY!!!”
The dimmer switch over his head slowly illuminates the light bulb. He begins to chuckle and then starts laughing so hard he almost falls off the seat into the aisle.
I join my children and my stomach starts to hurt from laughing so much.
Barely able to speak through his laughter and still at the top of his lungs YS leans against me and yells, “Mummy, Mummy -- THERE'S NO F'N WAY!!!”

The rest of the people on the bus...
Blank stares -- totally clueless!

Half of them get off at the first stop, even though the bus driver announces that he will be making three stops so as to get people closer to their cars.

We wait until the second stop before we climb off. As we begin to back out of our space, hot, sweaty, grumpy fellow passengers trudge past us.
We watch them as the make a dusty path through the loose gravel parking lot toward their cars, which are parked just past the third stop.
Apparently they are of the opinion that it is better to brave the evils that you know than face the crazies that you don’t.

My children and I turn up the air conditioner to full blast, flip on the oldies and laugh all the way home.