Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dear Terrorist

I woke up this morning thinking of you, so I thought I would drop you a line.  I write to you not knowing who you are or where you are so how to reach you is unclear.

I imagine you are young.  I am a grandmother.  I hope this is not a deterrent to you hearing me out.  I will try to keep it brief.  Maybe you are busy, or hiding.

I know you were small once and that you have parents.  Maybe you have siblings and a grandmother like me.  It is not easy growing up and I know this because I had to grow up like you.  In a lot of ways I am still growing up.

If you are thinking that we have nothing in common, I would have to disagree.  We have everything in common that really matters.  We both have hearts that beat, we breath in and out, we seek joy, feel love, live life, desire much, experience pain, endure loneliness, and cling to hope to name just a few.  We are only human, you and I.

Which is why I am writing to you, wherever you are.  Before you take the next step into whatever terrorist thing you are planning, could you think, really think, about our common humanity?

If we sat down together in my house with whoever your youngest family member might be, my grandkids, your mom and maybe some family photos, a pot of tea or some good coffee, we could talk, about everything.  We could take turns listening.  We might be surprised to find we have a few things we could laugh about together.  Maybe you would change your mind about the suicide vest. 

We are all only human you know.  And really, what is left behind after so many die?  If you die we will be forced to go on without you.  Your dreams and hopes and ability to become great here on earth will be forgotten.  I wonder if that is what you really want?

The Common Denominator

Sunday, November 15, 2015


Startling and unconscionable.  When I think about all that has occurred in the past two days, the uncertainty of day-to-day existence is flagrantly empty of any hint of guarantees.  Which is why my dear friends, the moments we live are so very, very precious.

Wherever I am at this moment, is what unfolds for me to live.  What I want, above all else, more than long life, fame or wealth is to arrive at the end of my life with the certainty that I had in fact lived it.  And how not to come to think that years have been wasted, that I should have done better, that I was a failure, is to begin at this very instant to live with an open heart.  

There are no guarantees of anything except the inevitabilities of the human life span.  Entitlement is perhaps just a myth.  What is certain is the way I chose to live out the moments at hand.  That’s it.  That is enough.  All of the suffering in the world can be quenched.  If it is possible for one of us, I believe it is possible for all.  

Always I am looking forward
Where is my hope?
What choice do I have?

Asking questions about the past
Why was I so blind?
Where was my protector?

Anxiously waking to the sunrise
How will I survive another day?
What if all is lost?

Guarantees are written regardless of the pain
Can I rejoice amongst the deep and silent?
Is there a place free of suffering?

Love must flourish 
Here is our hope
Here is our vision
Here is our joy
Here we must be

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Smiley Light!!

Dear Diary:

I live in a smile-and-wave community.

I just love it. People say hello (it seems to me) a lot. Total strangers smile-and-wave, smile-and-wave. It happens often. Sometimes it can be a little annoying. I don’t know these people. I’m either not very threatening or I look like I need a friend. Maybe I have unconsciously taken on the characteristics of my Labrador retriever and everyone just assumes I’m friendly. Alright, to be honest I start a lot of this stuff – it makes me feel good.

I remember playing a game with my peers once when I was in high school, only they didn’t know we were playing a game.

The optimal time to play this game was when I was walking down the hallway alone and I would encounter a fellow student. I did not play the game with teachers or school administrators. They were generally hard-wired and auto-response driven and were not a reliable indicator of a decisive win.

Also, I wouldn't play the game in a crowd as it did not work in this bastion of puberty, due to the extremely high levels of hormonal static and the risk of fatal stigma shock. This meant early morning or after school hours. In order to play my game, a student would have to have 1) just come from some mandatory penance or make up exam, 2) a rigid scowl plastered across his or her face, and 3) at least two frown lines ingrained across their forehead.  The name of the game was, “I can make you smile.” This is how I played it.

Spotting the unsuspecting player I always made the first move and shifted my path slightly so as to deliberately invade their personal space which for a high school student is about a 5 to 8 foot radius in every possible direction. At a juncture that synchronized their full body scan of me, my full body scan of them, and my pace with their pace, I locked onto my target and our eyes would meet.

At that instant, in that fleeting micro second between eye blinks and not a moment too soon or too late the eyes must smile. Not the mouth so much, but the eyes must emit The Smiley Light!! 

This, my friend is ultimate power and something you must experience to believe! This force has been known to disarm every cranky pants in its path! This is what Pinky and the Brain never figured out in their quest to take over the world. This is what the Angry Beavers failed to conceive of.  This is what Ren and Stempy used to have before Ren stopped taking his medication.

Anyway, across the board game continuum that were my high school years and even beyond into the early days of career building I played The Smiley Light game until I forgot how and the busy, dawn to dark years had their way with me.

Fortunately, in my neighborhood, everybody plays and sometimes I even get to be the cranky pants.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious. 
Hokusai says says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old. 
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are. 
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat 
yourself as long as it is interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child, 
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened. 
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive -- 
shells, buildings, people, fish, 
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn't matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn't matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn't matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

- Roger Keyes

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Living like a shadow shifting, eyes closed in the passing of another's light.
Pushing off the notion before it breathes, that what you are is excellent.
Caving to a swagger you think is better.
Heading towards the exit before the show begins is somehow better than an aisle seat.
Convincing to the world underneath.
When is the light that you are enough my friend?
Waking up, instead of tossing restlessly amid all that sacrificial spin.
Bowing in humble gusty servitude or absorbed in maniacal gesticulation.
Shadows waver and then slowly vanish.
Where are they once night falls?
Let your heart open, afraid as it is.
Rush in, beneath the windy spacious sky.
Are you waving at me?  Are we shadows of each other?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Who do you think you are?

Self righteous thoughts give me a lot to grasp and lead to a good deal of suffering.  The whole notion of, I am right, they are wrong, is like a massive rock that I am attached to.  It pulls me down into a murky, miserable place where I feel alone and sad and angry.

To be free of this crushing weight I first have to see it.  The tiny boat of morality and judgment I am floating in bumps into the right and wrong within my perceptions.  But how accurate are my ideas of things?  And, even if they are correct, what really matters most here, my response or what I think another being should be doing?

Discernment is wisdom.  Grasping is everywhere and everyone does it.  Daily I have opportunity to empty the boat that I perceive as confronting my own and let go of the urge to shout at those other boats I inevitably bump into.  I can be angry with someone or I can try to listen, watch, and respond without a mind caught up in the wrongness of that other boat.  I can be still.  Quiet.  Speak late and less.  Answer when asked.  

Not with disdain or malice then I can ask myself, "Just who do you think you are?"  The answer will be without judgment and swaddled in compassion and loving kindness.  I can put down my rock.  I can rest on this path.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


The little girl never knew how small and vulnerable she was.  She lived in a world that seemed to her both vast and uncomplicated, immense in scale and minute in detail.  And all this within herself, coexisting in perfect balance.  For a long time she never saw a problem with this arrangement.  The boldness of innocence swept her along past the mirrors of social  acceptability.  

Small things were just as weighty as those considered large.  A grain of sand was a mountain waiting throughout eternity to meet her on a sunny summer day.  A small smooth stone had patiently existed through countless sunsets for a moment of marvel in the palm of her hand.

And so, without being a partner in the scheme, she seemed to be okay.  No need for raucous hilarity, pious solemnity or cataclysmic despair.  There was air to breathe and poetry to write and birds that sang every morning.  And then one unremarkable day the whispers came.

The gut level inkling that the previous rhythm had lost its place became a constant companion.  Was it when the mean girl pulled her hair and followed her after school to taunt and tease?  This mirror was, she thought, a fearful nuisance and if ignored it would surely go away.  Which it did.  The content of its incidence was so beside the point that it was hastily forgotten and never mentioned to anyone at home, shifting naturally out of the moment while in the same instant quietly present with her tormentors.  

The mystery of transition is that it is always happening.  At times rapidly, always an eternal event and sometimes difficult to perceive.

Tormentors abound obvious.  Woe to those who pause to acknowledge and collapse exhausted and sad from the din of those who pester and annoy.  Woe to those who ignore their attackers, waiting out the onslaught, all the while expecting to be jumped and beaten to the ground.  The only question really, is, “Will I, should I fight back?”  The answer will arrive when it is needed.  Meanwhile, transition happens, continues unceasing and needing no help from anyone.

Little girls transition to bigger, older little girls.  The world is still vast and minuscule, simple and complex, simultaneously filling up each living being.  Continuance requires change.  The transitory is always with us.  Ignore it and it will not go away.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Doorways and Anchors

Another experience of separation came to teach me this week disguised in the sudden death of a beloved pet.  What I took for granted, expected to exist and cared for every day, was gone in a matter of seconds.  How do we, how do I bring the truth of life's frailty into a shared space with the pain of separation?  Acceptance and helplessness seem joined at the hip in some circumstances.
The Buddha taught that impermanence will cause separation from everything and everyone I care for.  Pain will occur in some shape or form, in every living being.  Suffering, however, arises from grasping for what cannot be, and also for what can be.  We do not have to suffer.
These teachings are beautiful, simple truths.  As I live out my days in these latter years of my existence my feelings seem more intense than ever.  And as I make a space for my experiences to dwell, I am learning to hold them and regard them with loving compassion.
Without judgement, I look at them all; the anxious thought, worry, sadness, peacefulness, joy and acceptance as they appear.  No longer do I entertain negative self-talk as I did for so many years.  Shaming, chastising internal dialogue has been exposed and abandoned.
Where there is love, kindness and self-acceptance alive in me, all these can then be available to others, genuinely.  Life in this moment is our agent for joy, peace and hope.
Another loved one passes through the door of earthly time, and what I feel is what it takes to anchor them within my heart forever.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Waiting for something real, better, more fulfilling or true can occupy a lot of emotional real estate.  Looking forward to the future is fine if the looking does not evolve into living for the future or in the past.  Neither exists really, so where does that leave you?
While you wait for, oh, the sun to rise or the fog to clear, your one true love to appear, examine what is now.  Open your eyes and look intently at what is sitting here beside you, beneath and around you.  Do it again, and this time without the help of emotional intoxicants.  Watch what happens as each thought is set free.  
If you will, forget about the time for now, since now is the only time that is.  Now is where everything happens, while you wait.  Just sit down, right here.  Breathe.  Be.  Watch what happens.  
Mind states keep us all busy with one speculation after another.  Memories run roughshod over the heart in rampant profusion dragging psychic energy behind them.  Are the fortunate ones those who can forget most of their lives?

In a moment this moment will be over and behind you and perhaps this life will glow again with hope and happy times.  It is never too late to begin again.  

Sunday, July 5, 2015


July 4th is Independence day in the U.S.  We celebrate the victory of the early founders of our nation in their struggle for liberty, peace and freedom.  It is a noble and honorable commemoration of their valor and courage.  Plus, the fireworks are spectacular.

If one is to believe that independence is a worthy state of being, I wonder if interdependence could be recommended as another very valuable concept.

If you believe that humanity originated from simple, singular beginnings then ultimately human beings everywhere are essentially one species, regardless of physical differences.  However you define good people, people of poor means, the noble, the unkind, those who are cruel and those who are saintly, all would be of the same genesis.  

But here is the amazing thing about this concept.  Interdependence as I understand it means I am not alone in my experience of the world, nor am I insignificant.  My personal goals and desires are part of the greater whole and my life-time-share is a component of what balance exists.  We are all connected.  

Peace, love and understanding do not flourish everywhere obviously.  Compassion is not a guarantee in any situation.  So then, I have asked myself, “How do I reconcile my heart and mind to the vast disparities of the human condition?”  Is there an approach to the people around me that I can rely on to help me comprehend the world, no matter what the circumstances? 

The best answer I have come to so far is based in compassion.  What I can give to loved ones, friends and community grows out of a place of balance and joy that self compassion germinates that then blossoms outward.  Is it easy?  Sometimes.  

I suppose it is called work by some, but I would rather think of it as a way to bring a sense of playful sincerity and creativity into my life, so that my actions are wise and right.  Bright, and uplifting, fresh and new, genuine and heartfelt.  How I align myself and respond to the energy that surrounds me makes a difference in outcome I can celebrate.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Flag

On my way home from work my commute takes me past a hill upon which the American flag has flown since shortly after 9/11.

The first time I saw the flag there, I felt it spoke to deep and heartfelt commitment to freedom, liberty, courage and justice.  Our nation was reeling in shock, anger and grief over the devastation of 9/11.  Life in the United States would from that day forward, be reframed by those horrific images of terrorism.  Safety within our borders would never again be taken for granted.

This week as I drove by I was again struck by the quiet presence and inspiration of the flag.  The flag had been flying there all day in the hot summer sun.

Who protects it from harsh elements and shields it from harm?  What must be done to enable it to withstand foul weather?  What is it made of that gives it such resilience?  The noble values that our flag stands for must endure hardship too.  Humanity can produce abject failure in its efforts to survive.  Gross missteps sometimes linger on for generations.  Fear and ignorance often produce disturbing and painful history.

There are rules that govern the proper display of the flag.  There is such a thing as “Flag Etiquette.”  Displaying what the flag represents is also a kind of etiquette that can become a part of who we are as a country.

Honor.  Respect.  Duty to community and service to country.  Justice.  Liberty,  Peace and compassion.  And, dare I add, Love.  The symbols we hold dear are best displayed in the actions that we exhibit towards those around us. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Dad

My dad was born in Kentucky and was 25 years old in 1945 when he was hired on at the then called, David Taylor Model Basin.  He took me there once before kid-to-work-day was fashionable, and showed me the huge tank used to test model ships for the Navy.  I thought it was spectacular.

Dad taught me to look broadly at the world and he made it a point to spend time with me on a regular basis.  On frequent trips to the museums in Washington, D.C. he would say to me as we entered, “Go wherever you want,” and he would follow me around, letting my curiosity guide us. 

He took me fishing.  Once.  That story ended with me giving away our bountiful catch to the people fishing next to us.  

I owe my love of photography to my dad.  He bought everything needed to develop pictures at home and I monopolized our only bathroom developing my black and white photos.

I watched as he struggled to care for my mom as she suffered the agonies of mental illness.  Such a confusing, conflicted time when it must have been tempting to cut and run.  But he didn’t.  He was a reliable presence in my life.  After I left home and his children no longer required anything from him he stayed with mom, as difficult as she was to live with.  He sheltered and supported her until she died in the home they shared.

Of course he wasn’t perfect.  Mistakes were made and apologies for them came as his own death confronted him.  But I will always be deeply grateful for the balance, stability and assurance that adulthood would be attainable when I was ready to get off the teeter-toter of childhood.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Moms Do

Several weeks ago I noticed a couple of robins defending a nest in the scrub oak behind my house.  They were being tormented by two scrub jays who seemed intent on ruining the domestic ambitions of the robins.  I surmised that the jays had helped themselves to the robin’s eggs.  Part of the whole “mother nature” thing.  I’m not sure how I feel about the term “mother nature”, considering...well, the stuff that mother nature is capable of.  

But anyway, back to my warm fuzzy mother story.

One day after work, earlier this week, I noticed a female robin perched on the edge of the same nest and ensconced snugly inside it were three baby robins.  They were juveniles really, spotted as robin teenagers are and tumbling around awkwardly, barely contained within their once adequate home.  How did I miss seeing them for so long?

Mama robin was doing the right thing of course, flitting back and forth with morsels for the youngsters and making sure they were tucked in for bed.  One of the settings on my camera generated a flash and it made mama sit up straight and look around in my direction.  I apologized immediately.

The next morning we had a lovely thunderstorm complete with lightning and an hour or so of showers.  When I came downstairs and looked out at the nest, mom was there with wings spread, keeping the kids dry.  I grabbed the camera and took a few pictures.  

I left for work hoping that I would get to see the babies take their first flight in a day or so but when I returned home later that day the nest was empty.  That soon.  All the busy, sleepless hours spent nesting and feeding, all the days of sheltering and protecting were over.  Just like that.  Or so it seemed.  The days just do what they do and so do Moms.  The kids grow up and everyone can fly.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


I have not had much success over the years, at growing plants that need a lot of attention.  I could blame busy days filled with a full time job, meals to prepare and household chores for the neglected and withering foliage gasping for relief.  Then there were a few that refused to thrive even when doted upon.  I've no green thumb for the finicky and fragile.

My feline roommates are also a threat to indoor horticulture as they deem it their inalienable right to nibble flowers and prune leaves until the plant is gradually relieved of its growth and future potential.  I eventually stopped buying new plants as it seemed I was unfit for the responsibility and my household too hazardous.

Not a complete failure, I have managed to sustain two plants that are are hardy and independent of regular human intervention.  An aloe and a jade plant are my true survivors.

The jade is thick-stalked, sturdy and balanced.  Its leaves are plump and dark green. Although a victim of frost two winters ago, the cut back damaged places have revived.  The base of the jade is dense with new growth and short of being tossed into the burn pile nothing seems to diminish its penchant for life.  It is one of my favorite plants for this reason.  This spring it decided upon tiny flowers at the tips of several stalks.

The aloe plant is long limbed and lanky.  I have actually used the gel of it's leaves for burns.  Great stuff!  And never really asking for much, left on its own in the dead of winter, it seems to draw in on itself just slightly.  When the air surrounding it becomes chill and lifeless, the aloe pales softly and as most plants do in winter, ceases to grow.

Pulled indoors in winter, both plants cheer quietly and accept offerings of water and the artificial warmth of my entryway.  Staring into the glow of the sidelight they sit waiting for some future rendezvous with the open sky.  They seem happy enough as things unfold around them and the season peaks and wanes.

Both plants sit on the front doorstep.  The sight of their pleasant vigilance often brings a smile to my spirit at the end of my work day.  Returned to the outdoors when the sunshine of spring beckons, both plants urge little replicas of themselves to emerge.  Given freedom once again they thrive unencumbered.

Plants and people.  Growing with the elements that surround them.  Damaged by extremes and prolific when well fed and nurtured.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eyes Wide Open

It is annoying to find yourself awake at odd hours when you know you have a full day waiting, which by the way, comes with the expectation that you show up with an ability to think and participate with others.  There should be no mystery involved when it comes to getting to sleep and staying asleep.  Babies are so good at it.
They might fuss and howl first, but inevitably babies will close their little eyes and just sleep.  And while they are deeply asleep, an infant in the same room that has succumbed to slumber will be oblivious to you, your voice or the dog barking outside.
At some point in the game this affinity for sleep no longer happens.  For some people, sleep deprivation and unwanted wakefulness is a chronic issue that has its own name.  We call it "Insomnia," and although there are many, many causes of insomnia, for your reading pleasure here today, I blame parenthood.
I recall years of my young adulthood spent sleeping in on the weekends, my eyes closed, my mind totally offline until the sun had been up for at least 3 hours.  With no where to go in any hurry and no one waiting for me to provide them with their first meal of the day I was queen of my own castle, captain of my own ship, ruler of the roost, sleeping when I chose to.
Then I got all misty eyed and maternally inclined and decided to satisfy my longing for motherhood.  Along with the pure joy of welcoming a child into the world to nurture, love and care for I found a depth of feeling I had never before experienced.  The tradeoff however, was the ability, inclination and opportunity to sleep through the night and sleep in on weekends.
Who knew there were so many sounds in the dark of night that would mimic the stirring of a tiny human being?  And I was not aware that my tiny miracle was capable of screaming so persistently at 2:00 AM.  No one told me these things.  We worked it out, but a heads up might have been nice.
So now, these many years and 5 children later (no I am not Catholic or a Mormon I just love kids), I have either broken my sleep "On" button or I have just never re-learned sleeping like a baby.  Oh, I confess to stretches of time when, with good sleep hygiene I have managed a succession of nights with 6 or 7 hour stretches of sleep.  But truth is, after parenthood I have not recovered either my cherished late adolescence sleep-coma, or my wild and crazy 2o-something up until 2:00 at work the next day at 8:00 then sleep for 10 hours recovery.
The sleep cycles of my maturity are a charming pattern of sleep and wakefulness followed by sleep and wakefulness.  Early to bed, early to rise has new meaning and is often combined with the question, "Have I slept since 3:00 AM?"