Category Archives: Community

The Incident on the Bus

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Reflections of Long Ago

I am not a fan of public transportation. In most places I have lived, it is an inefficient means of getting around. For instance, if I had to commute from my home to Mountain View (25 miles away), a one-way trip would take two and a half hours via light rail and bus. Public transportation also poses other challenges. One memory came up today.

One winter evening when I was 21 and my brother was 13, I took him to a play at a local theater. I lived downtown without a car. I probably cooked him dinner beforehand. After 5 p.m., the buses ran only once every hour; they lined up along a major intersection downtown. We boarded our bus and moved toward a seat in the back. I selected a seat that faced toward the front of the bus and sat by the window; my brother was next to me.

Behind me, perpendicular to my seat, sat a bunch of young men. Directly behind me, a man sat with his elbow jutting over the edge of my seat, preventing me from sitting back. I tried a nonverbal approach at first by simply pushing myself back, hoping he would get the hint and move his arm. He resisted; his arm didn’t budge. I pushed slightly again, and the elbow shoved back. The guys were talking among themselves. I turned around and politely said, “Would you move your arm, please, so I can sit?”

He replied, “NO. And if you ask me again, bitch, I’ll hit you.” I turned around, fuming. I could have decided to move us to a different seat. I decided instead to assert myself. What followed occurred so quickly.

I pushed back, and he didn’t move. I turned back and said, “Really, please –” BAM! He backhanded me in the face and my glasses flew off. I gasped and grabbed my glasses from my lap. I was stunned, and reality felt like slow-motion. I told my brother to get up and move. The other men taunted him, asking if he was going to protect his girlfriend. The buses were about to depart.

My heart pounded, my arms and legs shook. I strode to the front of the bus and told the driver what happened. Behind me, I heard murmurs of discontent and complaint. I was holding up the bus. The driver said, “I can’t do anything about that.” He called the dispatcher, who arrived a moment later and said, “I can call the police if you want. Nothing else to do.” I could feel the annoyance from other passengers on the bus. I declined to pursue that option.

T and I sat right behind the driver, perpendicular to him. I was very scared, shocked, and outraged. I felt helpless and alone. I fought tears, not wanting to weep in public. I was flooded with shame. I stared at nothing, shaking, my mind reeling. A couple blocks onward I glanced toward the back of the bus. The man who’d hit me saw, rose, and walked to the front. He stood in front of me and said, “You want to start something, bitch? Huh?” At this point I was frozen in terror. I stared straight ahead and didn’t respond. He turned around and went back to his seat. We got off at the next stop, several stops early, and trudged the rest of the way through snow and slush to the theater.

All this time, my brother hadn’t spoken. Neither had I. We arrived at the theater, I put on the happy big sister persona (or tried to) and said, “Let’s forget that and enjoy the play.” I spent the rest of the evening feeling removed from the experience. I have no memory of the play, or of how we got home.

Do demographics matter? It was 1984. I was an angry 20-something white woman who identified as lesbian. My attacker was an angry late teen/early 20s black man probably part of a gang. Of course he hit and threatened me. I was only a woman, an uppity white woman. I wasn’t even a woman; I was a bitch. I felt completely unsupported in the situation. Lonely. I had asserted myself, was attacked for it, and NOBODY helped me. I appealed to authority; they didn’t care. Not only did no one help, people complained about being delayed. I was responsible for my brother’s safety. I felt utterly powerless. I felt waves of shame, fear, anger, and sorrow.

For years after that, I never sat further back than the middle of the bus. I avoided eye contact with black men. And to this day, my brother and I have never discussed it.

The Risk of Assumption

Last year in first grade, Claire adored her teacher. Her teacher was wonderful, warm, funny, and had high expectations. She loves kids.

At the end of the year, though, Claire began saying that her teacher hated her. This total 180 in her perception startled me. She also said she didn’t love her teacher anymore. Claire even told strangers — while being sworn in as a Junior Ranger, for example, when the ranger asked her if she liked school — “Yeah, but my teacher hated me.”

I met with her former teacher today for coffee, because we also became friends over the past year. This teacher was assigned to teach second grade next year, so there was a possibility that Claire would have her again. I told Mrs. G about Claire’s story, and she was surprised, puzzled, and concerned. Now, my girl can hold a super glue grip on a grudge, and I was puzzled too but had made a shoulder-shrug peace with it.

This afternoon I told Claire, “Hey, I saw Mrs. G today for coffee!”

Claire: “Why?”

Me: “Because we’re friends. I mentioned to her that you think she hates you. She was sad about that, and surprised. She said, ‘I love Claire!’ What could have I done?'”

Claire: “Well… I’ll tell you what happened. [pause] I told Mrs. G, ‘Next year I really hope I get a different teacher.’ And she said in a stern voice — but maybe it was just her accent — ‘Well, then I’ll make sure you’re not in my class next year.’ And so I thought she hated me.”

Ohhhhhhh! Wow! So I had the opportunity to clarify, and say that Mrs. G was actually giving Claire what she wanted. Claire said yes, she understood, but it was the stern voice. And I pointed out that sometimes people have a serious tone of voice but that it doesn’t mean they are mad. Claire is very sensitive to sternness — it makes her anxious and then she becomes defensive, or even goes on the offense, to protect her feelings. (Her assumption is similar to the phenomenon of bitchy resting face. Sometimes women are assumed to be angry, unfriendly, or bitchy because they aren’t smiling and sparkling. Here is something women with BRF would like you to know.)

After this, Claire said, “Tell Mrs. G I must have misunderstood. And that I think she understands that sometimes you have to move on.” I asked if she thought Mrs. G still hates her. “No,” she replied, “I think she feels loving to me. When can we have a play date with her daughter?”

claire presentation

The Face of a Miserable Student

Enlightenment Through a Cat

God has come into my life. Now, don’t click away. Don’t let that word shut you down. I might not mean what you think I mean. It’s not a word I’ve used in my life for years. Stay with me while I meander through my story.

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This is Smokey. He’s been around a long time. He was in the neighborhood when we moved into the house five years ago. He belongs to no one and everyone. For years, I would scratch behind his ears and say hello, and then I’d go on with my life. Someone fed him. Someone gave him shelter in bad weather. But he was just around, and I did not seek him, nor did he seek me. (Of course, my Stella cat was still with us until January 2014.)

In January, Smokey began hanging out in our back yard. He would sleep in our garden. He liked to pop bubbles with Claire. He starting sitting on my lap. He allows me to trim his nails. Even though we didn’t feed him, he stuck around. Last month, I began feeding him. I did this after he brought me a live bird he’d caught and delivered to my feet. So now he gets two meals a day.

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I made him a little shelter when rainstorms came. But mostly, he likes to sleep on me or the mulch.

He was injured in early April, so I took him to a vet. He didn’t want to go, but once there he chilled in the exam room waiting for the doctor. I’ve never seen a cat so mellow at a vet’s office.

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My husband is not open to having another pet, so for now, Smokey is not permitted in the house. He strides right in the front door some mornings, though, clearly telling us he wants to be ours. I usher him out.

The other day as I sat on my patio with Smokey on my lap, this thought arose: “Every afternoon, God takes a nap on my lap.”

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Where did that come from? I don’t know, but it felt true and real. Last Saturday morning after I fed him, I reflected on the morning. And one sentence that came was, “I fed God breakfast, and now he has gone to stroll the neighborhood, looking after all the world.”

Oh my goodness. Yes. God sought me out. God has chosen me. God loves me, and I love God. This word — God — is loaded with so much history for me. It evokes vastly different meanings for people, and so I avoid using it. But this is what IS in my life. This cat. His arrival, his presence, is a call to sit and be quiet. An invitation to intimacy. I recognize God in my life. THIS is what it means to have a relationship with God!

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Extending that metaphor, I experience God everywhere. In every person, animal, plant, and rock. God is everything and everywhere. God is found in acts of care, and God is found in simple being. My goodness! Now I get what namaste means! Yeah, yeah, I’d always known what it meant, but now I experience it in my being.

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I have used many words to suggest what is divine in my life: Presence, the Mystery, Buddhamind, Spirit, Being, Ground of Being, Life, Chi, Love. They allude to what I mean; they can only suggest. Just as the a photo of the moon is not the moon, a word is not the thing it references. Something as multi-faceted as the Universe can be explored through science, math, literature, and art, but it cannot be totally integrated by the human mind. So we need shorthand, a word or a number, like X, to represent the holy mystery of All That Exists and our relationship with it. Lately, that “something” is the word God. So, God it is.

Advent Ideas Focused on Kindness

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

–Edith Wharton

advent candle

Advent is approaching! (Yes, I know I’m thinking way ahead.) Every year I put special activities (written on slips of paper) in our calendar pockets for us to do each day. This year, we’re going to do something new: random acts of kindness. Below is a list I found online (although I can’t remember where). We’ll pick 24 of these for Advent. And maybe we’ll keep doing it after!

  1. Leave a bouquet at the hospital; the nurses will know who needs it the most.
  2. Make a struggling family’s summer by buying them a season pass to the municipal pool.
  3. Help a friend see today in a wondrous new light: Hand him or her a kaleidoscope.
  4. If you are in a long line, invite the person behind you to go first.
  5. Shower the pediatric wing of a hospital with $1 coloring books and $2 boxes of new crayons.
  6. Hang a sign on a bulletin board that says “Take What You Need” — with tear-off tabs at the bottom for Love, Hope, Faith, and Courage.
  7. Bring courtesy back in an instant: Hold the door open with a flourish.
  8. Drop off combs, toothbrushes, and toothpaste at a shelter or a soup kitchen.
  9. Curb road rage: Let other cars merge onto the highway.
  10. Leave your neighbors a note that tells them how much joy you find in admiring their garden.
  11. Put sticky notes with positive messages (e.g., “You look gorgeous!”) on a restroom mirror.
  12. In low-income families, a baby can spend a day or longer in the same diaper, and laundromats often don’t allow cloth diapers to be washed in machines. Help out a mom and a baby by donating diapers (find a directory of diaper banks at diaperbanknetwork.org).
  13. Send a thank-you note to the brave officers at your local police station. (Given how we carry on about parking tickets, it’s important to acknowledge the daily risks taken by the men and women on the force.)
  14. Share the wealth: Ask the grocery clerk to apply your unused coupons to another customer’s items.
  15. Arrange to pay anonymously for a soldier’s breakfast when you see him or her dining alone.
  16. Slip a $20 gas card or public-transportation pass into someone’s shopping bag.
  17. Rekindle your Girl Scout spirit: Pick up trash at a park or a playground.
  18. Donate your old professional clothes to an organization, like Dress for Success (dressforsuccess.org), that helps women jump-start their careers — and up their confidence.
  19. Carry someone’s groceries.
  20. It’s hot out! Offer your mail carrier a glass of iced tea or a $5 Starbucks gift card.
  21. Bake bread or cookies and deliver the food to a nearby fire station or group home.
  22. Be the bigger person: Cede the parking space.
  23. Check “yes” when asked if you wish to become an organ donor — and tell your family.
  24. Lay your neighbors’ newspaper at their front door along with a plate of blueberry muffins.
  25. Donate old cell phones to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org), which will use the proceeds for programs that protect families from abuse.
  26. Sing an employee’s praises to a manager or on a comment card — a little recognition goes a long way.
  27. Share happy memories. Stick an old photo in the mail to a friend and write a note about the day it was taken on the back.
  28. Send an ooey-gooey dessert over to another table at a restaurant.
  29. Leave a copy of a book you love, with a note for the next reader, on the train or the bus.
  30. Send valentines in August.
  31. Load extra change into the vending machine to buy the next person a Coke.
  32. Send somebody an e-card, just because. The funnier, the better.
  33. Name a star after someone (starregistry.com).
  34. Forgive someone. Repeat as necessary.
  35. Resolve to refrain from negative self-talk (you deserve your kindness, too!).
  36. On trash day, wheel your neighbor’s can out to the curb.
  37. Relay an overheard compliment.
  38. You don’t have to send every disadvantaged child to college, but you can buy one of them a life-changing book: Try booksforkids.org.
  39. To melt away her blues, send a friend a funny video from YouTube.
  40. Volunteer to read to kids at an after-school program.
  41. Give your mom a shout-out on your birthday — after all, she deserves some credit for your life.
  42. Pause and give people the benefit of the doubt. E-mail, especially, can cause unintentional feather-ruffling.
  43. Bring your spouse coffee in bed.
  44. Treat an elderly neighbor, with a gift certificate, to a $30 pedicure. Bonus points if you can do so anonymously.
  45. Dedicate a song on the radio to someone you know is listening during his or her long commute.
  46. Take kindness on the road: Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  47. Slow way down when you drive past a pedestrian — 35 mph can seem like the Indy 500 to a woman walking her dog.
  48. Rescue a wallflower! Strike up a conversation with someone who’s standing alone at a party.
  49. Leave extra umbrellas in vestibules with notes that say “Use this to stay dry!”
  50. Deliver fresh-baked cookies to city workers.
  51. Bring flowers to work and share them with coworkers.
  52. Simply listen to someone in need.
  53. Donate a percentage of receipts for the week to a special cause.
  54. Bring coworkers a special treat.
  55. Sing at a nursing home.
  56. Offer a couple of hours of baby-sitting to parents.
  57. Serve refreshments to customers.
  58. Treat someone to fresh fruit.
  59. Pay a compliment at least once a day.
  60. Hand out balloons to passersby.
  61. Give free sodas to motorists.
  62. Transport someone who can’t drive.
  63. Mow a neighbor’s grass.
  64. Say something nice to everyone you meet today.
  65. Send a treat to a school or day-care center.
  66. Volunteer at an agency that needs help.
  67. Give the gift of your smile.
  68. Organize a scouts or service clubs to help people with packages at grocery store.
  69. Offer to answer the phone for the school secretary for ten minutes.
  70. Volunteer to read to students in the classroom.
  71. Give a hug to a friend.
  72. Tell your children why you love them.
  73. Write a note to your mother/father and tell them why they are special.
  74. Pat someone on the back.
  75. Give coffee to people on their way to work in the morning.
  76. Give blood.
  77. Plant flowers in your neighbor’s flower box.
  78. Give another driver your parking spot.
  79. Leave a treat or handmade note of thanks for a delivery person or mail carrier.
  80. Tell your boss that you think he/she does a good job.
  81. Tell your employees how much you appreciate their work.
  82. Let your staff leave work an hour early.
  83. Tell a bus or taxi driver how much you appreciate their driving.
  84. Give a pair of tickets to a baseball game or concert to a stranger.
  85. Leave an extra big tip for the waitperson.
  86. Drop off a plant, cookies, or donuts to the police or fire department.
  87. Open the door for another person.
  88. Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-through.
  89. Be a friend to a new student or coworker.
  90. Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.
  91. Buy a roll of colorful stickers and give them to children you meet during the day.
  92. Write a card of thanks and leave it with your tip.
  93. Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.
  94. When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in with a wave and a smile.
  95. Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game.
  96. Distribute kindness bookmarks that you have made.
  97. Plant a tree.
  98. As you go about your day, pick up trash.
  99. Laugh out loud often and be generous with your smile.
  100. Pay for the order of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.
  101. Rake leaves or shovel snow for a neighbor.
  102. Send friends and relatives notes or letters of encouragement on the back of your kids’ artwork.
  103. Leave love notes for your spouse or kids in places like a briefcase or clothing drawer.
  104. Bring water, coffee, or hot chocolate to outdoor workers (police officers or crossing guards, for example).
  105. Put your neighbor’s trashcans away for them after pick-up.
  106. Buy a soda or candy bar for the cashier when you’re checking out.
  107. Give a restaurant or coffee gift card to someone (bank cashier, postal worker, homeless person, or random stranger).
  108. Send a silly card to brighten someone’s day.
  109. Call or email someone you haven’t talked to in awhile, just to ask how they are.
  110. Send your spouse a text just to tell him something that you appreciate about him.
  111. Hide a kind note in a library book.
  112. Leave your trade credit inside a book or video game at the used book store. (This happened to my son last week. It was just enough to get an inexpensive game and it made his day.)
  113. Bring your spouse his favorite drink while he’s getting ready for work. (This happened to me last week and it made my day…except, I wasn’t getting ready for work.)
  114. Cut someone’s grass.
  115. Bake cookies for someone. (Postal carrier, neighbor, elderly friend, Sunday school teacher, etc.).
  116. Leave coins on a parking meter or the machines at a laundry mat.
  117. Pay the toll for the car behind you.
  118. Help someone load their groceries.
  119. Offer to return someone’s shopping cart to the store.
  120. Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line.
  121. Let someone pull out or turn in front of you in traffic, if it’s safe to do so.
  122. Keep unopened kids’ meal toys in your purse to give to kids you encounter (with their parent’s permission).
  123. Pay for someone’s meal at a restaurant.
  124. Make extra meals to share with a sick or busy neighbor.
  125. Offer to keep a friend’s kids so she and her husband can have some time alone.
  126. Take a friend’s child(ren) shopping for an upcoming holiday so they can buy their parents a surpise gift.
  127. Make hats for kids with cancer.
  128. Make cards for nursing home residents…and deliver them with your kids.
  129. Pick up trash at the park.
  130. Thank a soldier.
  131. Make care bags for the homeless – toiletry items, bottled water, food store gift cards, non-perishable/ready-to-eat foods.
  132. Buy car wash coupons and give them away.
  133. Leave copy of the Sunday newspaper on your neighbor’s doorstep.
  134. Clean house for a friend or family member while she’s on vacation.
  135. Leave extra coupons on the store shelf next to the item they’re good for.
  136. Pack a bag for someone undergoing chemo – include snacks, bottled water, magazines, word-find games, a mechanical pencil, and a good book.
  137. Tape envelopes with quarters to vending machines.
  138. Take care packages to patients with new babies at the hospital.
  139. Take homemade cookies or cupcakes to the police or fire station.
  140. Invite a homeschool mom friend’s kids over for the day so she can run errands or do lesson plans alone – or just take a nap!
  141. Save change throughout the year and bless another family with some extra cash during the holidays.
  142. Pack a date-night box (movie rental card, popcorn, soft drinks, movie candy) and leave it on someone’s doorstep. Ring the bell and run!
  143. Take lunch to the ICU waiting room.
  144. Take magazines, word-find games, or Sudoku puzzles and mechanical pencils to a waiting room.
  145. Take flowers to a nurses’ station – for the nurses.
  146. Get a group together to make a meal for your local Ronald McDonald House.
  147. Give your unwanted newspaper coupons to the lady behind you who’s buying three papers. Chances are, she clips coupons.
  148. Fix a make-ahead breakfast for a working/school-not-at-home family to make their morning a little smoother.
  149. Purchase a store gift card or a gas card and send it to a friend in need.

Be Mighty, Be Daring

I enjoy creating in so many ways. My friend L (mom of one of Claire’s friends) and I are developing an informal girl group. After spending many years driving to see friends (which we’ll continue doing) we want to create friendships and develop deeper connections in the neighborhood.

After careful consideration, we decided to forgo Girl Scouts for a number of reasons:

  • They require parents having contact with girls to take training (online and in-person) and get fingerprinted. Our intention is to create an informal group of people we know and trust and make it easier for mothers to be involved.
  • Secondly, GS is divided by age, and we believe there are benefits to girls interacting across multiple age and grade levels. We hope the girls will be involved as they grow up and develop good friendships.
  • Lastly, we want to avoid the pressure of selling things to raise funds. We prefer to focus on developing activities and sharing the cost rather than have our activities defined by how much money the girls earn.

We plan to meet monthly. We have ideas of home-based activities to do; we also want to incorporate outings. For outings, each parent pays for her children and herself (if there are fees). To cover supplies for at-home activities, we suggest a nominal annual amount per child. We are researching the supplies and calculating costs.

While we want to have fun, we’re reaching beyond play dates. Our goal is to help our daughters become vibrant, confident, and engaged with the world. We want to nurture the development of their minds, souls, and bodies (and mother earth), and foster qualities such as integrity, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity. We are using several resources for ideas (adjusting for age with some activities):

A Mighty Girl
The Daring Book for Girls & The Double-Daring Book for Girls
What Do You Stand For? A Kids Guide to Building Character

So the girls and moms have a unifying element and develop a sense of belonging, we’re looking for inexpensive yellow t-shirts (a color that is sunny and gender-neutral). The quote we’re using is from Shakespeare: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” That will be on the front, and on the back will be our group name: Mighty Daring Girls.

Our first meeting is March 2, and we have 8-9 girls interested!

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Exploring Outdoors – One of our Planned Activities

Look Inside

One of my daughter’s favorite performers are Peter, Paul, & Mary, and one of her favorite songs by them is called Inside.

Tonight I was scanning Facebook and came across a link from A Mighty Girl. A Mighty Girl is an excellent resource of zillions of ideas, toys, book titles, articles and more to help girls to grow up confidently. They shared a link from the Huffington Post of a letter from a father to his daughter about society’s hyper-focus on physical appearance.

In the article, Words From a Father to a Daughter (In the Makeup Aisle), Flanagan wrote:

When you have a daughter, you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house — a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

He concludes by asking, “Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside.” The article is worth reading, bookmarking, printing to share. A Mighty Girl also posted links to resources on their Facebook page; I’m sharing them here:

To help girls understand more about the impact of the media messages they encounter related to beauty and body image, check out “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty” for ages 10 to 14 and “Body Drama” for ages 15 and up.

For a diverse selection of body image-related books for Mighty Girls of all ages focused on fostering a positive self-image, visit our “Body Image” section.

For books for parents that address body image issues, including the helpful guide “101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body,” visit our “Body Image / Self-Esteem” parenting section.

And, to learn about a few of our favorite books that celebrate the special father-daughter bond, visit our post “A Father’s Love: A Mighty Girl Celebrates Fathers”.

And to reinforce the message (and because it’s a fun song), I’m sharing Inside here.


The link to the video is here.

Interconnectedness of All Beings

This video was shown in church yesterday, and it left me in tears of awe, joy, and gratitude. It is set in the Sea of Cortez. A group of people encountered a Humpback whale that appeared to be dead but was instead deeply entangled with a fishing net. They labored to free her, and it’s all on film. Dive into a marvelous encounter.



Click this link if the embed doesn’t work: Amazing Whale Rescue

Michael Fishbach and Gershon Cohen established The Great Whale Conservancy to protect them and their habitat.

Compassionate Choices

Stella’s last days were hard. People told me, “You’ll know when it’s time.” I wondered. But in the end, I did know. On January 13 I noticed blood in her urine. We took her to the vet and they did blood tests and urine culture. She’d lost two pounds in four months. A few days later we had a diagnosis of urinary tract infection. So we began antibiotic treatment. After a week, there was no improvement, and instead, I noticed Stella starting just to lick the gravy off her stinky wet food rather than eat it.

By Friday the 24th, she couldn’t keep much down. She’d eat — she was hungry — only later to vomit. She felt more frail than usual. On Saturday, when she puked at least five times and even if it was just water, I knew it was bad. A visit at 4:00 p.m. to the vet showed she’d lost seven ounces since the 13th. We had an x-ray done; evaluation showed a lump on her lung. (Later examination by a radiologist also revealed tumors in her bladder, hence the blood.)

The vet gave options. We could send Stella to emergency care for fluids and stabilization and then have her transported back to them on Monday for biopsies. Or we could give her subcutaneous fluid and an anti-nausea shot and take her home to say good-bye. Without a biopsy there was no absolute answer, but her guess was that it was probably “Cancer, cancer, or cancer.” The choice was obvious. Stella was 17. She was tired. I wouldn’t put her through hell just to satisfy my curiosity or to chase a fantasy of a cure.

So we brought her home. We snuggled. She stopped eating. She stopped acting hungry. The only thing she wanted to eat were treats, but they didn’t stay down. All day Sunday we hung out on the couch, and she slept on me both nights. Sunday night she kept vomiting, but there was nothing in her.

On Monday I took her outside. She toured the back yard, sniffing corners, chewing grass, lying down and listening to birds. After an hour she was done and went inside. I lay on the couch with my face next to hers and looked into her eyes. She purred constantly. At one point she cleaned my hand, which was one of her many ways of expressing fondness. She was tired, uncomfortable. If I let her die a natural death, it would likely be by starvation. I wouldn’t do that to her. At 4:00, the veterinarian and his tech came to our house. Hub and Claire were also at home. They inserted a catheter, gave an injection to make her sleep, and then another injection to stop her heart. So fast. Irreversible. I cried.

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Claire and I waited in line for school to start. The mother of a classmate approached and held out a ceramic cat statue to Claire, saying, “Z made this for you because you’re sad about your cat dying.” Claire said thank you. She’s six, and she hasn’t cried much about Stella. She’s got more questions instead, and her grief is coming out behaviorally — intense anger, low flashpoint, general contrariness. And the occasional comment, such as, “I don’t like this house anymore. It doesn’t have any pets,” and “I miss Stella. Why did she have to have a shot that made her die?”

But this gift, and the kindness that prompted it, brought tears to my eyes. This little boy was at Color Me Mine and decided that he wanted to make a gift to console a friend. Bless his huge empathetic, compassionate heart. Claire will cherish this statue. It sits prominently in our dining room.

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I miss the thump-a thump-a thump-a of Stella going down the stairs. I miss the click click click of her toenails on the floor. I miss stroking her as I walk by her sleeping body on the sofa. I miss the yowling when she was hungry, or lonely. I reflexively look for her to bring her up to her room at night and then realize she’s gone. I feel the absence of her energy in the house. I miss talking to her.

So this gift from a little boy to my daughter? It’s priceless — and cradled deeply in my heart.

kitty gift

Just Doing It

I don’t know what else to title this post. Back in the early days of blogging, people started blogs as social interaction. If the blog had a steady readership, the author would feel a need to explain any gap in posting.

Then, other writers started to mock the self-importance of those posts. Who cares why you aren’t posting? Either do it or don’t.

So I tried to avoid that habit. And while this post may sound a bit like an explanation of why I haven’t posted (and maybe get picked up by Sorry I Haven’t Posted, which, um, hasn’t posted in three years), I’m also simply trying to break the mental tomb I seemed to have sealed myself into. Well, that suggests action. It’s more like mental rigor mortis.

When I first began blogging in 2002, I updated often and at length. I was engaged this way for many years. I also posted photos of my artwork and crafts, and my poetry. When my daughter was born, I wrote about my experiences with her.

And then Facebook came on the scene. Most of my social group (online and off) migrated to using that, and I started to as well. And when Claire turned four, I decided it was time to back off on writing publicly about her in detail, and that gutted my motivation to write. I’d still post about crafts we did, and other activities, but eventually I moved it all to Facebook.

In the past year, when I sit down to write here, I fumble. I grope for something to say. I might have a wisp of inspiration, yet some part of me whispers that it’s nothing new, it’s just more noise in the world. Why bother?

And yet. Writing is how I sort myself out. How have I become so disinterested in what’s going on? One voice in me says, “It’s all ego driven.” My practice is to engage fully in the moment, with the world I inhabit and the tasks I complete. I have made a judgment that to be Buddhist requires forsaking the mind. I’ve projected that judgment onto my teacher (not that I’ve told her). In my head, Maezen says this, even though she’s never uttered those words.

Another voice in me calls out, reminding me of other reasons to write. In childhood I felt a deep yearning to know more about my parents, about their childhood experiences, about what they thought of life and current events. Now, as a parent, I understand the difficulty of dredging up memories with specifics to make a good story. Claire often asks me, “Tell me a story about your childhood,” and I simply don’t have access to the memories. Writing is a pathway into them.

I’ve also a strong desire to be known, seen, heard since childhood. I want my child to know about me, if she is interested when she is older. So there is some value in writing. I’ve approached my blog as a kind of commonplace book, where one might read and see what piqued my interest. But as I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I am tantalized by the idea of a Codex Vitae. What is that, you ask? In the novel…

The Codex Vitae is something that special members of this fellowship “earn” the right to create, after rising up in the ranks. When written, it’s submitted to the fellowship, approved, and encrypted. 3 copies are made of the book, 1 goes to the central library, and 2 others go to branch libraries in other parts of the world. The key to the encryption is only given to 1 person, and it remains a secret until the writer’s death.

–Buster Benson, The Way of the Duck

He thought this was a great idea, and so do I. What if I created my own book of knowledge? A blog is a living book. And perhaps no one will read it, or only a few. My daughter might have no interest. After all, it’s a pretty large resource already, having existed for 12 years. In the end, I’ll die and this blog will go someday, but isn’t there some value in scribing my journey?

The truth is, I miss myself. For now, I will close with a poem that captures my hope:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

–Derek Walcott

I want to give a nod to two long-term bloggers who in the past week have given me encouragement to try again (even if they don’t know it): Whiskey River and Euan Semple.

And a link to an article from a blog titled Thought Catalog about how and why to keep a commonplace book.

journey

Journey / 2011

Loneliness

The first few listens, it was the beat and opening notes that hooked me. I kept listening. More than two dozen times. I’m still listening. Each time the experience becomes richer.

There is a curve to the sound; the woman’s voice feels like caresses. The man’s voice is a gentle embrace. The duet of harmony, two voices connecting, the empathy: You’ve been lonely, too long. Let me keep you company. I see you. You are me.

And then the minor chords in the middle of the song. Feels like a palate expander opening in my throat, the ache is so deep. I think of the loneliness I wore for so, so many years, a sweater of desolation. I remember how it felt. I am not lonely that way anymore. But I know people who are. I let myself connect with that anguish, allow the tears to rise and flow.

I think of my father and my mother. Of their fear and frailty. I think of children, especially those born into circumstances where there is anger, abuse, fear, and pain. My own little girl self, tucked deeply away, holding that loneliness.

The loneliness of poverty, of struggling to get the next meal, a safe bed. The loneliness of being bullied, mocked, cast out. The loneliness of war. The loneliness arising when we believe that those who reject us speak the truth, when we accept those stories as tru. The loneliness we attempt to hide by doing better, earning more, buying more, “succeeding.” The loneliness arising from rigid beliefs about the way the world “should” work.

The loneliness of not being seen and met.

I feel the existential loneliness of being in this world where the sense of separation pervades; where division, difference, individuation, and distinction are coveted. How that coveting and striving cements the loneliness.

How many times do we interact without truly meeting each other?

Come, sit with me. Turn up the sound and give a listen.

If the embed doesn’t work… here.

Dust to Dust – The Civil Wars

It’s not your eyes
It’s not what you say
It’s not your laughter
That gives you away
You’re just lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long

Oh, you’re acting your thin disguise
All your perfectly delivered lines
They don’t fool me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the wall
You’ve built around
We can light a match
And burn it down
Let me hold your hand
And dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’ve held your head up
You’ve fought the fight
You bear the scars
You’ve done your time
Listen to me
You’ve been lonely, too long

Let me in the walls
You’ve built around
We can light a match
And burn them down
Let me hold your hand
And dance ’round and ’round the flames
In front of us
Dust to dust

You’re like a mirror, reflecting me
Takes one to know one, so take it from me
You’ve been lonely
You’ve been lonely, too long
We’ve been lonely
We’ve been lonely, too long