Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, October 31, 2011


Aden's fish, John, floats on life support in front of me. He endured an aquarium cleaning yesterday, with its accompanying cold water rinse and chlorine flux, and did not emerge the better for it. I have a feeling that the kids and I will drift in similar floppy unresponsiveness tomorrow. After going back to school today for Halloween parades and parties, and then tricking and treating tonight, the children will certainly have a sugar hangover. I enjoyed snapping photos of all three this morning at the parade, though; our school district usually has Fall Break during Halloween so this is only the second parade I have been to in six years at the elementary school. Kids of all ages dressed up, though the kindergartners won 'most enthusiastic' and one of the fifth grade classes chose not to even participate. Ah, the disenchantment of age.

The house lies ready for groups of children in disguise; our pumpkins leer on the front steps, candy waits on the refrigerator, periodically (and mysteriously) making an early exit out of the bag into someone's waiting mouth. Only last week our backyard snowman masqueraded as a summer baseball player, but today the weather recalls summer, and the kids can go trick or treating without the voluminous layers that always seemed to ruin our costumes as kids in Michigan. Laura from Little House was hard to pull off with winter coat and ski hat ballooning out from under my calico dress.

Halloween is really fun if you don't have to live with (or teach) the children after they consume large amounts of sugar. I ran into one of my favorite teachers at school this morning and she confessed that she had been up since 3:00am trying not to dread the day. She said that she and the kids were just going to "revel in it" because really, do we have any choice? I admit I plan to take large handfuls of the kids' candy to the dentist tomorrow - because I actually and crazily scheduled a cleaning for the day after Halloween - and will probably throw most of the rest away by Friday, but otherwise I plan to enjoy the festivities. Happy Halloween to all!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fall Break

Up late last night processing the most recent class in Spiritual Direction, up early this morning to run on the treadmill. The girlfriends and I were planning to run outside and take advantage of the later start offered by the children's being on Fall Break, but we were waylaid by an early snowstorm which has dropped four inches so far. The kids were rock stars this morning; they tackled homework, dioramas and crayon drawings as I struggled through the final pages of my latest project, translating the "Learning Physics with Toys" curriculum into Spanish for the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Spiritual direction and physics in Spanish has left me fairly brain-dead, but the kids are watching Pink Panther now so thought I had better update the blog.

I really want to write something light and humorous but find that my brain sticks on the subject of last night's class: Sexuality and Spirituality. My friend and I pulled into the parking lot prepared to squirm in our seats, fight our giggles, and learn to go deeper on the subject (be more 'reverential', as Sister urged us). I've spent many years unwinding the psychological strait jacket prepared by the Catholic Church: don't talk about sex, don't have sex (until you are married, in which case have lots of it, but only for children), don't take pleasure in it, etc. In doing the readings to prepare for class I was pleased to see that the religious writers / leaders have changed their tune to some degree, insisting that all sexuality is a God-given gift and provided to us as a meaningful tool to develop relationships with other people and with God.

Using sexuality as a tool to get closer to God: what an interesting concept. We all had to prepare our sexual histories - to share or not as we desired - but I won't go into that here. Class loomed like a party which you half desired and half dreaded. Unfortunately for me, last night's instructor chose to focus the first two-thirds of the class on childhood heartbreak and trauma, I guess because those situations set the stage for adult intimacy. Her pretext was that we have to really go deep and explore these dark places before we can understand our attitudes about intimacy.

Well, I'm not a fan of the deep dark places, and certainly not in a room full of twenty-three lovely people who are more or less acquaintances. (Some are a lot closer after last night). My heart is a bit out of rhythm today, and I am sure I grew last night, judging by the heartache. The frustrating item for me is that I had a great childhood and great parents. I don't recall any reason for heartbreak, any reason for shame or longing or rejection, yet I felt those emotions when our instructor showed us a series of slides of stick figures getting their hearts broken, thrown down, rejected. The experts assure us that every child sustains trauma, regardless of their upbringing, but that does not really make me feel better. My mind just flashes on to my own children and wonders what childhood traumas affect them. As my dear friend says, "I'll be a successful mother when my kids grow up, get a job, and can pay for their own therapy." At least they're laughing out loud right now; the Pink Panther solves many problems. Think I'll go watch, too.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October Surprise


Amidst the golden and orange of autumn, my transplanted Easter lily blooms pure white in the backyard. A sign of spring and rebirth amidst the dying leaves; a lovely, subtle surprise.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The crowds lined our curbs and medians, hung over balconies and bridges. In places the cheering, music, and drums were deafening. City sounds blocked the slap of our feet on the pavement and drowned the rhythm of our breathing. For five miles Carol and I were locked in step with the hundreds of runners alongside us, boxed in to an artificially slow rhythm but afraid to deviate from our straight path as we had already seen one man fall hard, stepping just the wrong way on a manhole cover or on someone else’s shoe.

Smells of Chicago’s innards wafted up through the vents, a hot musty smell that curled our stomachs, rapidly followed by the scents of bacon and eggs in a North Side restaurant that would have been enticing at any other time. Sunlight blazed off the tall buildings and caught the mustard yellow and red highlights of the fall foliage along tree-lined streets. As the heat started to mount the cheering became even more important. I had written LAURA in black sharpie marker along my white tank top and the crowd responded: “Go, Laura!” on repeated corners and at water stops. One man with a bullhorn yelled, “I SEE you Laura! Let’s GO!” I smiled, waved, and gave thumbs up.

We saw ourselves on big TV screens and waved, and laughed at some of the clever or inspirational signs. “GO total stranger!” “Do Epic Sh**” “It’s long and it’s hard, and that’s why I’m standing here.” As we passed through Carol and John’s old neighborhoods she pointed out the location of their first date, their first apartment and church. We dodged blue sponges and walkers and passed our first pace group, on track to recover from our slow start and finish near 4:30 . . .until my knees inexorably tightened and my stomach gave ominous warnings near mile 21. The toilet signs at that aid station were a small miracle, and I waved Carol on, sad to lose her but solid in the knowledge that I could not keep our pace.

The last five miles humbled me. I shuffled, walked, tried to run. The heat mounted and we lost the crowds for a few miles in the ‘less nice’ part of town. I tried to pray, visualize, rationalize, but for a while nothing worked. Then the crowds built back up, I drank a lot of water, and I heard the booming voice of a large man running with his struggling friend, shouting to motivate him and everyone else: “It’s a BEAUTIFUL DAY in Chicago! Just out for a LITTLE jog! You WILL NOT BE DENIED today!” So I followed him as best I could through the emotional last two miles, hanging on his exhortations and willing my burning feet and legs to move. When we hit the straightaway on Michigan Avenue and saw the gorgeous skyline again, I started to cry. I saw my Mom outside Old St. Mary’ school – more emotion – then struggled through the last 1.2 miles, barely dragging my feet over the slight uphill on the bridge to the finish line. The Finish line was red-white-blue: gorgeous, amazing, wonderful. Copying the runners around me, I raised my arms to cross. Humbled, slow, sore, but gloriously happy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thoughts on Pink Tape

I have bright pink racing stripes on my ass.

When I dropped trou a cautious few inches to show the kids, their eyes widened impressively. “Wow, Mom, will that help you win?” asked my youngest.

When it comes to a marathon, I won’t be winning anything except a victory over my mental barriers and gut-level fears, but the racing stripes do look cool, I admit. I have to take them off today, as the KT tape unravels at the ends, leaving a sticky, unattractive residue which tends to pull on my jeans. When I told the physical therapist I might have a hard time reapplying the tape on Saturday she asked if I had a friend or relative who might help. The thought of Abby or Carol volunteering to “stripe” me made me choke on my Emergen C, but perhaps my mother might help out. She’s a veteran of taping tushies.

The pink racing stripes serve as a much more entertaining memento from Tuesday’s trip to the PT office than do the bruises and aches where the dry needles prodded and provoked my knotted muscles. The dry needles have helped me a great deal but they are not comfortable. In fact, they put the exclamation point on the masochistic element of my training, which has been a blend of self-indulgent hedonism and crazy self-punishment.

The discipline of the journey did provide rewards, though, far beyond my skinny jeans’ fitting so well. I’ve met talented, knowledgeable people, received wonderful support and this week the assurance of lots of prayers for Sunday’s race. I plan to spend a lot of time praying during the 4 + hours I am treading Chicago’s asphalt; offering prayers not only for finishing safe and whole but for friends, family members, world situations, and thanks for such cool opportunities.

I wish I had permanent pink racing stripes for my contemplative self; they could kick me in the metaphorical ass and bring the same discipline to my spiritual practices that I had in the marathon training. (So weird to have the words “ass” and “spiritual” in the same sentence). But for this weekend, the tape will provide some muscle stimulus for my body and the marathon itself – an emotional climax to this six-month journey – will provide a lengthy and welcome opportunity to ask for help and to give thanks. No matter how I finish, I have definitely won.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Steamboat Springs

Sunrays swim down
Through layers of branches,
Ripple from leaf to leaf.
Woody scents rise
Like mist from the Yampa
In a dawntime chill.

Berries stare, ruddy-eyed,
At latest fall design of
Aspen’s lemony lace,
Invite blue birds who
Shy from our footsteps on
Loamy Fish Creek Trail.

Children’s chipmunk chatter
Drowns in water sound.
Falls hurry over rocky outcrops
To meet boys, half-naked,
Daring and splashing below.
Goosebumps rise in icy snowmelt.

Minerals evanesce in
Harnessed hot springs.
As bubbles sprout on skin,
Salmon-like swimmers
Climb walls, shoot slides.
Water exhales steam into autumn air.