Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Something precious wanders lost
In the shrouded interior castle
Or distant foggy landscapes.
It’s me.

On the way back from Dante’s lair
I drifted away, missed the drawbridge.
Now I am both seeker and sought,
It and not-it, not fully who.

I beseech the castle Lord,
Accept my white martyrdom,
Restore our connection, infuse me
With a drip line of your passion.

Make it a flood, find my veins
And hook me up. Without you
I need life support, if I can locate
Myself to save.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Don't Wanna Be a Hero

"Let me go
I don't wanna be your hero
I don't wanna be a big man
Just wanna fight with everyone else

Your masquerade
I don't wanna be a part of your parade
Everyone deserves a chance to
Walk with everyone else"
 - Lyrics to "Hero" by Family of the Year

We all carry the weight of expectations. They were either placed on our shoulders by family, friends and society or swallowed whole and internalized. Sometimes the expectations are small and sometimes they are great. In Dickens' novel about Great Expectations, Pip's hopes and dreams, plans for himself ironically crumble into dust. I have been struggling with this same dilemma. Expectations that I have had of myself for decades are running full force into the reality of who I am now, ie recovering from a serious illness, unsure of where to aim my drive and energy, predominantly a wife and mother.

I am trying to throw off the not insubstantial weight of long-ago endorsements of "Most likely to Succeed" and current notes and emails that encourage and yet subtly add to the internal pressure with words like "you will do something great" or "you will emerge better than before." My response to this has been crystallizing in the lyrics to "Hero" by Family of the Year. I wake up many mornings with the words in my head "Let me go, I don't wanna be your hero, just wanna fight with everyone else."

In the second half of life I hear that we all struggle with the idea that we are not who we planned to be twenty years ago, freshly minted, scrubbed and degreed from an institute of higher learning. I am not even who I planned to be as a bossy big sister, leading my siblings around in games of "puppies", kick the can and Ghost in the Graveyard. Now my siblings have more abilities and social capital than I, and could probably kick my butt in any game that I suggested. 

But I still love them, they still love me, and I am still blessed with the greatest family, friends and community that exists on planet Earth. So let me go, I don't wanna be a hero, but I am privileged to fight alongside everyone else.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Girl Rising

Just saw a great film with four close girlfriends. Entitled "Girl Rising" it is a documentary sharing powerful stories of young girls from developing countries around the world who overcome great odds and often serious trauma to pursue their dream of an education. Avoiding early marriage and bonded servitude are common themes, as half of all females married in a given year are under the age of 18. Others are victims of sex crimes and violence, and all are entrapped by their gender, which most always brings the stigma of second-best.  In one memorable scene, an 11-year-old girl from Afghanistan is given in marriage to a cousin many times her age for the price of $5000 USD. The money is then used to purchase a second-hand car for her brother.

Despite the trauma and poverty, all the girls in the film are determined to overcome their circumstances and pursue an education. Sometimes they are supported by parents or other family members and sometimes not. Money for school fees is a constant difficulty. In one instance, a family in Kollkotta lives on the street for lack of income for housing but still manages to scrape together enough money for school fees for their three daughters.

One of the best things we can do for developing countries - for everyone on the planet - is to educate girls. The film is inspirational and motivating, and friends and I are going to try to bring it to a local theater to show everyone on our email lists. Check it out:   Gathr Films: Girl Rising.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cosmic Reunion

In the beginning
We were one
Tiny indivisible point.
All that mattered
Seen and unseen
Heavy as a grieving heart.

What power exploded
Our union, sent all
Racing outward,
Beseeching arms of fiery gas
Clouds reaching back for
Long goodbyes.

We gaze toward
Far-flung kin,
Their indifference
But un-difference once removed.
Our lives not ellipses
Like our orbit, but

Friday, April 12, 2013


I met two powerful women yesterday - funny, warmhearted, passionate and strong. Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya comes from a Maasai village in Kenya and was engaged to be married at age 5. To quote from the brochure for Kakenya's Center for Excellence ( "She was expected to marry upon completion of primary school at age 13, effectively ending her education," Kakenya had a vision of being a teacher and not a child bride, so she convinced her father to postpone the marriage until she could finish grade school. Later, she had to negotiate with all of the village elders to attend college in the US and enlist the villagers to collect money and help pay for her journey. She awas the first girl from her village to attend college in the US and now she holds  a PhD in education from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr, Ntaiya started a school for girls in her home village shortly after receiving her doctorate. The families agree to let the girls finish their education in place of marriage and they also agree that the girls will not undergo female genital cutting, which is part of their culture. The girls and their mothers raise money for school uniforms, books, and school fees by making bracelets and other jewelry in the traditional Maasai style, as well as cloth gift bags. Amazing that one woman with a vision has completely transformed her village.

The other woman I met, Ellen Ito, began the Seeds to Sew non profit here in the US in order to sell the bracelets and gift bags made by Kakenya's students. In only three years this organization ( has become a force in two villages in Kenya, enabling girls and women to get an education, build self-esteem, and earn an income. Two people with a vision, merged to lift young girls up to achieve their dreams of education (enkisoma, in the Maasai tongue). Isn't this what life is all about?

Sunday, April 7, 2013


I teeter, totter on lip of monstrous wave
Wary of foam below
Swirling in yin-yang confection
Of sandy rock and spume.

Legs quiver, requesting strength, try to
Avoid free-fall into life's backwash
Gravity suspends, begging the question,
Which way to the light?

Balance lost, I tumble into washing machine rumble,
Potential energy converts to chaos.
Spewing seawater from mouth and eyes,
Attempt to ground in ocean floor.

Either to root or to stumble once more,
Wondering how to rise again.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is Your Desire?

"So when your hope's on fire
But you know your desire
Don't hold a glass over the flame
Don't let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road."
- Mumford & Sons, Hopeless Wanderer, Marcus Mumford, lyrics

Another quote from a Mumford & Sons song - I know, I'm getting trite. But I am the ever-so-lucky possessor of a ticket to their show in Taos, New Mexico, and tickled to my toes about it. A few weeks before I knew they would be in Taos, I saw a flurry of New Mexico license plates on the road and had New Mexico come up in several conversations. The mentions were overwhelming enough that I wrote NEW MEXICO?? on the scratch pad in my car. Guess my subconscious knew my friend would get tickets (Thank you, Heather!) and a road trip would be born.

But back to these lyrics. This song really grips me by the gut, though my daughter doesn't like it and insists on singing "Hopeful Wanderer" instead of 'Hopeless" every time the phrase rings out. Much as she sings "Your DRESS takes me to paradise" in her favorite Bruno Mars song, instead of the actual factual, "Your sex takes me to paradise."  I digress . . . my hope has certainly been on fire (and burned out to ashes and embers) many times in the last year. I like the idea of blowing it back into a leaping flame, and not putting a glass over it, but there is one problem; I don't know my desire. I do have some pretty major clues that marathons and triathlons are not the way to go, but that only rules out one of many possible paths.

The depth of my not-knowing is profound. I requested an interview with a medical intuitive, signed up for a skills seminar at church, even begged my husband to let me know if he thought of a desire that I should act on.  I love to teach, take social action, write (short pieces - my patience may never develop to the extent of writing a book), do yoga, hike, be with my kids, and do anything with music.  But you see how the disparate pieces do not come together to form a whole. I feel like a kaleidescope.  And though Mumford may not have meant any religious subtext in these lyrics, I am putting God right in there. If s/he could just call me by name and let me know what to do, I would be most grateful. I would happily share the road, no matter the direction, if I only knew which road to take.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Matthew 25

I went to a vigil at the GEO / ICE Detention Center in Aurora last night. The US government pays GEO Corp. $130/day/detainee out of our tax dollars to hold immigrants without papers while they wait, often for many months, for their case to be resolved.  Crossing the border without documentation is not a criminal offense, it is a civil offense, so it makes no sense that undocumented persons are made to serve prison time. Currently there are over 500 persons in the detention center, and they exist in painful separation from their families while they wait for a sentence or deportation. Many are not assigned a defense lawyer and due to this lack of representation and a language barrier they are at the whims of a broken immigration system.

Matthew 25:35-36 tells us that Jesus spoke of the stranger and the imprisoned: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." When the crowd asked when they had seen him in such states he answered them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." I feel the imperative in this story just as I felt the energy of the 60 people gathered. at the vigil last night - all ages, many different races, languages, and faith traditions.

As I come out of this long period of illness and uncertainty, I often wonder what to do next. As I wrestle with demons like the need to achieve, the need to make a mark, to compete, I feel more and more a pull to this verse in Matthew. What if my mission is to follow this guide? To find Jesus in the stranger, the hungry and thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned? We are promised eternal life, and while I cannot begin to understand what is meant by this, I understand it to be superior to eternal punishment. We are all members of the same family, and the hurt and inhumane treatment of some members requires action on the part of others.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Disappointment, Surprise, Renewal

Happy Belated Easter to all. I've been busy entertaining my lovely parents, who made the long drive down from Polson to celebrate my birthday and the Easter holiday with our family. It was wonderful to play guitar with my dad and to cook and knit with my mom. They are dealing with their own struggles in the way of illness but the love flows untouched by our earthly disappointments.

Our pastor spoke yesterday on the disappointments of life, the lovely surprises that can uplift us in darkest times, and periods of renewal.  My whole family is dealing with disappointments regarding illness, and yet we can be surprised by amazing moments of shared music, like guitar duets with my dad or dancing competitions with my son, Daniel.  I can be surprised by good days with my head pain, or by loving words of support spoken by friends or caregivers.

Easter is set in springtime on purpose, of course, as we celebrate new life and longer daylight hours. I pray unceasingly for renewal in my body, mind and soul, and I pray for renewal of purpose and delight for all of us. Jesus is really the perfect Messiah in that he suffered torments and disappointment in his short earthly life, followed by the amazing surprise and renewal of the resurrection. I'm glad he is in the business of resurrection, for it's what we all need.