Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Time at Mescalero

When people ask me what kind of job I have, I usually tell them that currently I am a stay-at-home mother who used to be a teacher.  That then leads to follow up questions regarding the grade levels I taught, which school district employed me, and my feelings towards my students.  When I inform them that I taught high school history and government for eleven years, they tend to crack jokes about how difficult teenagers can be and how I must be a glutton for punishment.  At that point, I am compelled to set them straight about my feelings toward education, teenagers and my place of employment.  The eleven years I spent as a teacher at Mescalero Apache High School proved to be some of the most fulfilling in my entire life.  I met so many wonderful people, had the opportunity to observe and share in an amazing culture, and make lifelong friendships that continue to enrich my life today.

After completing my master's degree in history, I absolutely had to find a job.  I was broke, in debt, and desperately needing to get my mother off my back. I applied at almost every school in the state of New Mexico and several in Colorado as well.  Unfortunately social studies and history comprise a subject area primarily dominated by coaches and since I had no coaching ability, I went a long time without a job offer.  Fortunately for me,  a week before the start of school, Mescalero Apache Schools took a chance on hiring a brand new teacher who didn't coach, and I managed to stay there for over a decade, as happy as I could be with any job. 

I had never taught a day in my life, and that proved to be a good thing because the school at which I taught had been open for two years, had some serious growth to accomplish, and did many things in a distinctly unique fashion.  My newness, my flexibility, and my open mind made a perfect match with this brand new educational endeavor the Mescaleros had embarked upon.  From the first day, I realized that while I would be immersed in an entirely new culture and set of values, I would also be working with people who were just like everyone else...especially the teens.  The first year flew by because I loved what I did. Even though I had to work incredibly hard at reaching a lot of the students in a way that would be relevant to them, I had a fantastic time.

The Mescalero, Chiricahua, and Lipan Apaches make up some of the most warm hearted, caring, quiet, loyal, and interesting people I have ever had the good fortune to know.  They keep their own counsel, they are reserved until they get to know you, they love to laugh, they love their children, and they make awesome friends.  The students also enamored me of the Apache culture and people.  The kids I taught over the eleven years I worked there made such an impression on me.  Overcoming tremendous obstacles, these students worked diligently at creating a foundation for themselves from which to build productive, adult lives.  I am in contact with so many of them stilll...and I know I am getting old because some of my first students have already turned 30.  I refuse to believe that me they are all still 18.

Some of the most fascinating and fun aspects of my job included the feasts that the school held on an annual basis, the Gahe or Crown Dancers who would bless the feasts, the blessings the teachers and students would receive from the medicine men and women,  and the cultural activities such erecting tipis, skinning elk, and making native arts and crafts.  I also loved to make frybread, a tradtional Native American food, and actually became quite accomplished at it by the end of my tenure.  The best part, however, of the entire experience, are the friendships that I still have today with coworkers and students and families on the reservation.  I treasure those as well as my memories of the time I taught there.  When my youngest gets old enough, I sincerely hope that I can go back again and continue to try to make a difference in the lives of the young people of Mescalero.


Woodsmoke from the blessed fire
burns my tired, inquisitive eyes.
Underneath the evergreen arbor,
meat stew boils and the scented heat
makes our tummies grumble.

Broad, brown faces watch my pink hands
manipulate the dough.
I am such a novice with the motions,
and I pattycake the smooth dough
into delicious disfigurement.

Fingertips dance over the ball
so silky soft inside my palms.
I enviously eye the apache women
who spin their frybread
like natural magic.

The liquid lard crackles at the bread's touch
when off the yucca pole
my amateur attempt rolls.
Puffing, popping, transforming into gold
I turn it once, then twice.

Spearing it with my stick,
I drop it into the paper-lined box
to drain while translucent spots appear
and the cardboard lazily
soaks up the flavor.

Burning my hands to hold it,
the crisp, crunchy surface gives way
to chewiness and warmth.
My mouth and mind are startled,
and I know I am in love.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Physician Heal Thyself:Taking Your Own Good Advice

Have you ever noticed that the hardest person to convince to take good advice and apply it to his/her situation is yourself?  Trust me, I have.  I unfortunately struggle with this on what seems to be a daily basis.  My keen ability to assess a person's problem and provide strategies to overcome it doesn't appear to work on me.  I think the majority of people in the world suffer with the same problem.  We are much more inattentive and ineffective with ourselves than with others because for most people, you just can't see yourself clearly.  The necessary detachment that helps us view the world and its inhabitants objectively does not exist on an intrapersonal level.  Suffice to say, we are too close to ourselves and when we take a look, it's all blurry and out of focus. Besides, introspection at its best makes for a difficult endeavor, and at its worst an impossible task.  In addition, because we are complex and complicated creatures with psychological and biological motivations, we often ignore what we know to be best and continue behaving in the same unproductive or negative ways.

Last night, my mood crashed hard...ran smack into a wall at one hundred miles an hour and basically shattered.  Much like the onset of a migraine, I could feel this mini-depression at the edges of my day, creeping forward and then moving back.  I tried to ignore it, but I knew on a fundamental level that at some point it would come out of hiding and fully show itself, which it did around 11pm.  Whereupon, a crying jag ensued over insignicant things.  Likewise, I knew the cause of this trainwreck.   I have been cheating myself from serious, healthy sleep for a long time now, and my exhaustion caught up with me.  In addition, I also knew the things I could have done to improve my mood and mindset during the day, but I chose not to do them. That's the entire point of this blog...a person can know everything about herself and still do the wrong things.  A person can become completely self-aware and will continue to engage in behaviors that will ultimately be detrimental to health and well-being. 

This episode yesterday made me think of the proverb, "Physician, heal thyself."  This quote references a doctor's ability to effectively help others, but not him/herself. Another similar saying, "The cobbler always wears the worst shoes," goes along nicely with the proverb.  It suggests that some people are too busy to pay attention to their own needs.  I think both accurately apply to me.  I really wish I could take my own good advice and put it into action.  I wish I could see myself objectively and actually value my own opinion enough to say, "Yeah...that sound's like a great idea.  I am going to do just the very thing you suggest."  I also wish I didn't feel so damned guilty about being selfish and taking the time I need for me.  The sad thing remains that in knowing myself, I also understand that these wishes will never materialize.

Anyway, I forced myself to go to bed early last night and sleep off some of my bad mood.  I woke this morning not nearly as energetic and optimistic as normal, but I think, I will eventually get there today.  Somehow or another, most likely unconsciously, I do in the end take my own good advice on occasion, and I never stay down for long.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tolerance: A Mother's Gift

My parents raised my sister and I to be very open and tolerant of all different types of people, and I primarily credit my mother for the fostering of this attitude in us.  My mother, from small, rural communities in Oklahoma and Kansas, always exhibited a level of understanding and tolerance that most people found surprising.  She came from an era of segregation and insularity and for some reason, remained unaffected by that throughout her entire lifetime.  She definitely owned her own mind and refused to be swayed by what others thought she should believe and practice.  I am so eternally grateful to her for giving me the gift of loving all of humanity, regardless of religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, cultural background, and socio-economic status.  Other than knowing how to love well and to be well-loved, this is by far, the greatest gift a parent can give a child.

When you teach your children that all people should be respected and valued, you give them the ability to move fluidly through the world and to experience all that life has to offer.  Being open to people, feeling confident around others who are different from you, and valuing the contributions of everyone creates a solid foundation from which to build a fulfilling life.  When you raise your children to believe that those who are different are somehow suspect, less-than, or even wrong, then you cheat your child out of knowing the fullness and beauty all humanity entails.  It decreases the amount of love they could experience, share, and create.  To me, this intentional curtailing of love comprises the most depressing thing I know.  Unfortunately, people raise their children every day with intolerance, negativity, and even hate for others.  It is unbearably sad to see young children being inculcated from an early age to be racist, homophobic, anti-semitic, and generally narrow-minded.

I consider myself to be blessed with an upbringing that allowed me to love whomever I wanted to love, to befriend whomever I wanted to befriend, and to even hate whomever I wanted to hate, without regard to anything but individual qualities and personality.  The ability to choose for myself who I want to share my life with is a true, eternal gift that I appreciate every single day.  Without this deep appreciation for all people given to me by my mother, I would not have all of the wonderful friends I currently enjoy.  I have Black friends, Hispanic friends, Native American friends, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu friends, lesbian and gay friends, atheist friends, and pretty much everything in between.  Seriously, even Republicans. I am all the better for that variety of friendship. I have learned something from everyone who has come into my life.

I want my children to have that same outlook.  Already, even at their young ages, they know that their uncle is gay and what gay means and that gay is absolutely okay.  They also know that all religions are good and valid, skin color and cultural differences are unimportant, and people should be judged solely on their behavior towards others.  My children have friends of all colors, religions, and ethnic backgrounds, and they don't notice the differences because on a human, fundamental level no differences exist. 

I have been missing my mother a lot lately.  She died over six years ago, and every day I think about her.  I see her in everything around me, especially in my children, and I am so grateful for that.  I know that when I look them and see how they treat people, how they move smoothly with others, that she is responsible for that gift.  And, I know firmly in my heart and soul, that it is a gift that will keep on giving generation after generation.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Batting My Eyelashes: Wanna Flirt?

I pulled up into my driveway today, after dropping my nephew off at his youth group, and just sat there enjoying the sunshine.  My day had gone well, but I was tired and wanted to take a few minutes of golden silence before I went into the house where four wild, noisy children awaited me. As I sat there, I heard a voice coming from across the street, and in the tone of that voice, I heard several different things which piqued my interest.  Not so much focusing on the words, I listened to the inflection of the voice, the breathless pauses, the laughter.  This conversation seemed very familiar in nature.  At that moment, I realized I was overhearing a flirtatious exchange between my single, young, male neighbor and obviously a girl he didn't know well, but wanted to know better.  I smiled, thinking about how fun getting to know someone new can be, and it got me to thinking about how people meet, why they connect, and what wiles they use to catch a partner.

People go through their entire lives wanting to make connections with others. It is an instinctual drive that we all harbor.   Little babies provide an excellent example of this.  You see them catching the attention of people when they are out and about.  They stare over their Dads' shoulders at the person in line behind them, smiling...making eyes...doing all the innate unconscious things we humans do to attract another person to us.  This desire for connection lasts a lifetime.  At the opposite end of the age spectrum resides my father, a 72 year old widower, who likes to spend time with lady friends.  He regales my sister and I with tales of the hookups occurring at the senior center he attends daily.  The romantic drama there rivals high school and a tremendous amount of flirtation happens regularly.

The common denominator throughout all age levels, however, remains the flirting, both the conscious and unconscious variety.  As a people-watcher, I love to observe one person flirting with another.  It's fascinating.  Whether its men and women, men and men, women and women, the flirting all looks the same. It has the same qualities, characteristics, and even flow.  Body language plays into it, of course.  The casual touch of arm, the tilt of a head just so, licking the lips, a smile with eye contact and the eyes suddenly looking downward.  People will engage in these behaviors, even when no one can see them, such as in online chatting or talking on the phone, as my neighbor did.

Body position fascinates me in flirting as well.  People interested in one another stand close, hands on hips, open posture, often rocking on their heels a bit or leaning into the other person's space. My favorite thing to see, which is also indicative of a serious liking of someone, consists of standing with one foot flat on the floor, the other leg slightly  bent at the knee and the foot behind the straight leg, resting on point.  Usually a hip will be thrust outward towards the person of interest and hands will be on the hips.  It always reminds me of the time I caught my sister flirting with someone she just met at a football game when we were in college.  In fact, I think it's the first time I really analyzed what flirting looked like.  Believe me when I state that my sister has mastered the art of flirtation.  She is skilled beyond words, and naturally inherited this from my mother who could entice and charm anyone.  I, on the other hand, am woefully bad at flirting.  I rarely pick up on signals from others and I don't let myself relax enough to just unconsciously roll with flirtation.  Sometimes being analytical totally sucks.

People meet and connect through a plethora of ways. They randomly bump into each other throughout the day and sometimes actively seek each other out. In this day and age, finding someone to be interested in takes only a few clicks of a mouse and voila, instant flirtation and attraction. Opportunities abound for making connections.  But what is it that draws someone to another specifically?  I can't begin to even speculate on this because each person is unique and requires different things for chemistry to occur.  All I know is that sometimes, if you are lucky your heart will speak to someone else's and a match is made. Those matches can last a lifetime or not, but it generally boils down to one person wanting the other to be in their life, even if just for a short period of time.

People will always flirt, whether consciously doing so or not, and it is not always just to make connections, but also because flirting feels so damn good!  I know you understand what I am saying.  It's that zinging of the blood, the electric sensation when someone says something fantastic to you, the spreading warmth of knowing someone likes you and wants you and is totally attracted to you.  Chasing those feelings can be as addictive as any other kind of high you can achieve.  Feeling great makes you want to feel great more often.  That's why flirty people continue to flirt throughout their lives and why some people, like me, actually begin to learn how to do it properly.  They either want to hold onto or create that zip, zing, ka-chow kind of feeling. 

Anyway, I am hoping that my neighbor gets to know that girl on the phone, or at the very least gets to continue trying to chase her.  The chase, the flirtation, the game-playing, the enticement....all of that can be more fun than actually making a match.  He sounded happy, excited, and determined, so I think he will ultimately succeed in his endeavor, and if not, well then....I am sure he had an amazing time trying.

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Think I'm Falling for Fall

Autumn, for as long as I can remember, constitutes my very favorite part of the year.  Something special exists about the natural world during this particular season, and the romance of a soft and subtle ending of the riot of spring and summer entrances my imagination.  I adore the the golden color of the sunshine, the turning of the leaves, the crispness of the air in the mornings and evenings, and the balancing of daytime and darkness.  This is the cozy season, a settling of sorts that still contains vibrant energy and life.  And did I mention the colors?  Amazing....they speak to my heart like music.  Here are some poems inspired by fall weather, colors, and feelings.

New Mexico Autumn

The subtle change in light,
to goldenrod from summer white
colors a New Mexico autumn.

Amber like the chamizal
that hugs the road,
the sun hangs lazy, low
and I am made cozy with time.

Aged Black-eyed Susans
welcome the warmth's kisses
before a  violet twilight's embrace
which brings the Hunter's moon.

High mountain desert nights
with the stars a finger's touch away
love the smell of juniper smoke
singing in a midnight breeze.


God rubbed the sky raw
leaving vermillion scars
to weep crimson drops onto the trees.

He burnt the edges of time to umber.
The ink of eons purpled then pinked
as golden stars began to wink
and sleep blindly on the horizon.

We walked upon silvered glass,
dipping our toes into water, mercury slick.
As kinetic bundles in our youth,
we seemed an affront to autumn's nature.

The Boats

Low, gray skies
pressure the darkened lake,
but abandon it to the fog
which grows legs
and creeps about wildly.

Boats sleep upon the shore
like summer ghosts, chilled and waiting--
hibernating against winter's imminent descent.

Like the boats, we rest apart
never touching any of the other.
Holding ourselves flat against the earth,
tightly to the tangible,
we hope to be swallowed,
to be welcomed beneath
the rocks and dirt.

Something so sad and forlorn about us,
pathetic and too proud
in both our disdain and our dependence.
We wait,
we rot,
and the fog dances
endlessly, frenetically on.

October Song

Purple skies darken into blue-black nights.
Chilled winds creep to blow away the sun.
Fall leaves glide down
scattering into scritch-scratch dancers
decorating faded, gray sidewalks.

Hustling to the beat of a stormy autumn breeze
they move frenetically until time exhausts them
and then they crumble into dust
like an October song.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Contact High: Working Toward "Oneness"

Have you ever met someone who exudes such a sense of inner peacefulness that you get a contact high just being in their presence? They emanate waves of calm and serentity and those waves seem to vibrate right through you.  Fortune smiled on me twice in my life and allowed me to meet two extraordinary people who had this quality. Both instances left me feeling almost euphoric in a very centered, mellow way.  It felt like a low volume hum for hours afterwards consisting of pure conentment and joy for the world around me.  I so totally want to be that way, but I don't know if I'll ever achieve that level of what I called "oneness".  I think it is a rare state in which to live one's life.

One of the people that I met with this "oneness" happened to be a teacher from Santa Fe.  An ordinary middle-aged woman who from the moment I met her at a workshop, made me feel tremendously inspired, comfortable, and energized.  The elements of the workshop are lost to me now, but the memory of that terrific feeling still lingers today in an incredibly potent manner.  I can still feel peacefulness when I think of's a powerful memory.  The one thing I remember she told me when I commented on her aura of peace, struck me as a profound truth.  She said she lived in the moment each day and went forward in life with a deep gratitude for everything life allowed her to experience.  That advice stays with me and I reflect on it frequently.

The other person I met that shared this same quality of "oneness" happened to be a Tibetan Lama named Bhaka Tulku Rinpoche who visited my world history classes. His mere presence felt extraordinary, as if he were not just sitting on a chair in front of us, but actually touching us in such a calm yet joyful way.  Transmitting those feelings to us without ever saying a word, the usually inattentive class quieted immediately and gave him their full attention.  He shared information on Buddhism and the ideas behind this particular religion with thirty-five students and me.  He also shared some meditation practices and encouraged the students to meditate and clear their minds so that they may be better able to cope with the world. Almost to a child, everyone left the class feeling renewed, energized, and peaceful.  To see my students, many of whom come from intensely troubled situations and who battle depression, angst, and anxiety, leave the room with smiles, hope, and a sense of wonder made an enormous impact upon me.  This one man, in the span of less than sixty minutes, did for these young people what I had been trying for a decade to achieve. He gave them a sense of connectedness to the world, to its inhabitants, and to their own inner-selves.  Again, reflecting upon that occasion, I still feel overwhelming joy and an abiding sense of peace.  His presence had an amazing aspect to it that affected me deeply, so much so, that I identify this singular point in my life as where my beliefs about how the world works began to change.

It's been an interesting journey since then, and I don't pretend to even come close to owning that quality of "oneness" these two individuals exude.  I do try though, every day, to reach for it, to contemplate it, to live my life with a sense of deep wonderment, gratitude, and joy.  I am getting there...I can feel myself changing, I can feel the peacefulness building, and someday, I can truly claim it as my own.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Boomerang! Extraordinary Smacks Me Upside the Head!

Today I had an interesting conversation with a friend regarding what makes someone extraordinary as opposed to just average.  I've been thinking about that all day.  What comprises that one indefineable thing that causes someone to be special, outstanding, amazing?  Each of us are unique in our own way, we have our individual talents and abilities, personalities, and points of view, but the majority of us do not fall within the category of extraordinary.  We are who we are...nothing more, nothing less.  At least, that used to be what I believed.  My thoughts have now changed on this subject.

My friend argued that the extraordinary factor, the thing which pushes one person above the crowd, remains a very simple fact.  It is so simple that when he asked me what I thought it might be, I waxed eloquent for a good five minutes before he couldn't contain his giggling.  He gave me just enough rope on that one...
Anyway the big shocker is that the extraordinary facet is just the extra...the little something extra in effort that one puts forth in daily living.  He state that it was the act of giving that bit extra of oneself to others--the sharing with others, the supporting of others, the efforts to help others when needed, that made a person extraordinary.

I liked that idea.  Making other people feel happy, supported, positive, comfortable, and whatnot can be an extraordinary thing to do.  It spreads joy, it creates a lightness of being, it multiplies the love one has for life and mankind in general.  I never understand why it is so hard for so many people to realize that you get back what you give in this life.  If you share your extra with someone else, your extraordinary comes right back to you. It's a wonderful concept that I think everyone should embrace.  Let's all be extraordinary, shall we?  Sounds like a plan to me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fine Art of Sucking it Up!

I have never been a person who tolerates whining very well, and recently my patience has been stretched thin with an inundation of bitching and moaning.  No one can say that I am not empathetic to other people's problems.  I listen to my friends and family members when they undergo trying times, I offer my assistance in any way that will be helpful to them, and when asked, I give advice about how to solve problems.  I even have a knack at discovering the root causes of their respective issues.  Nonetheless, I loathe when a person refuses to do anything about his or her difficulties except gripe.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy of "fish or cut bait."  Make a decision and then move forward pragmatically to achieve the results you want.  Don't constantly complain about your misery and expect me not to get irritated when you do nothing to fix it.  I think everyone should learn the fine art of sucking it up.  Go ahead and have a pity party, and then move the hell on.  Do something proactive, make changes, or whatever you have to do to make things better.  Whining will not move a person anywhere except deeper into a cycle of disatisfaction with one's life.

Don't sit there and tell me, "I've done that and it didn't work," or "Things will never change and it doesn't matter what I do," or "It's just so hard."  Please!  Anything worth having in this life is worth working hard for, and if you are unhappy then you are the only person who can change that state.  The only thing whining accomplishes is pissing me off, as well as reinforcing a person's negative state of mind. 

Be introspective with some perspective on yourself and you will be able to see what needs to be done in order to craft a plan to emerge from your problems.  Many times it will be a difficult, emotional, and even painful endeavor to move beyond what causes a person grief, but achieving a state of satisfaction and contentment will be well worth it, and this cannot be done if you bitch and moan about your problems.  I am not advocating stuffing your emotions away and not feeling them and facing them.  I am not asking you to stifle the expression of your pain or anger.  I am just asking you to acknowledge the problem, understand the problem and fix the problem.

So, please, for the love of sweet Jesus Christ and all things holy, put on your big girl/big boy underpants and suck it up!

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Love and Lust

Today I am still pondering the concept of love.  My last entry touched on the subject of it's importance to a good marriage, but it didn't delve heartily into the idea of love itself.  This thinking of what constitutes love and how a person expresses love got me to thinking about lust--a close relative of love, but an entirely different creature altogether.  Some simple differences between the two states remain obvious to anyone who has ever felt either of these emotions.  Love can be classified as deep, pure affection for someone on an emotional level. The completely physical and biological nature of desiring someone sexually characterizes lust.  That's just a basic differentiation of the is so much more than that.  It inspired me to write some poetry because I am still contemplating the facets of both love and lust and have not come to a concrete idea on which to write a full entry.  Anyway...I hope you enjoy these.  They were actually quite fun to write.

Addicted To Love

Like Marlboros to a smoker,
I desire to take you inside myself,
inhaling your essence.

Like scotch to an alcoholic,
I crave your bewitching smoothness
coursing through my veins.

Like heroin to a junkie,
I long with a desperation
that makes me physically ill.

Is there a twelve-step program for you?

The Phone

Your voice
entrances my imagination.
Jazz-mellow and melodious
creating symphonies with words.
Smooth, sticky-sweet like honey
dripping from your lips.
Held tightly
by the phonemes
dancing on your breath.
So charmed by your inflection,
mesmerized by the softness
of its touch upon my ear.

Even Though

Even though
I only shave my legs once a week,
and his five o'clock shadow comes in at two,
we still kiss like teenagers.

Even though
he hates my cat
and I despise his dog
we still hold hands in public.

Even though
my housekeeping skills leave a little to be desired
and his favorite recipe calls for a drive through window
we still smile when we see each other walk into a room.

Even though
I haven't slept well in five years
and he snores all night long
we still wake up in the morning thankful to be together.

Lay Down, I Think I Love You

Lay down...
I think I love you
tonight under Van Gogh starry skies.
I am certain that I do
in this insular moment
cherish your body
and some of your soul.

Lay down...
melt with me
on these burning vinyl seats
sticky with humidity and adolescent desire.
Ignore the mosquitos
and let the night's heat
create a slickness
in which we slide against each other
into one another.

Lay down...
I am certain that I adore you
right here, right now
forever on this night
when crickets and disembodied
movie voices create an electric
background score for lust.

Lay down...
I am lost in the need for you.
I whisper in your ear
"Give in to me now...please
let me love you tonight."
Passion scents mingle then
with buttered popcorn,
summer pine, and your
shoulders smelling of

I Am

I am in the shadows
with a sunshine kiss
and in a breeze that strokes your cheek
on a summer's eve.

You can find me in a birdsong
or the sound of swaying trees
each swish and creak
my whisper in your ears.

I am floating with the clouds.
Innocence on air,
sliding on a beam of sun
to reach the verdant earth.

I am never far away,
just a beat within your heart,
a name upon your lips,
a love everlasting
immortal within you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It?

A recent spate of marital problems among friends and family members caused me to start thinking the other day about what constitutes a good marriage.  I think most people don't really know right off hand what neccessary ingredients go into making a life-long commitment with someone else that remains stable, happy, and fulfilling. With one out of two marriages failing these days, it seems to me that a majority of people don't really know what makes a marriage work. After quite a bit of contemplation on this, I decided to create a recipe for marriage that provides the basic ingredients for staying together for the long haul.

Not to sound smug, but I consider myself to be one of the luckiest women that I know when it comes to having a marriage that is secure, happy, and very satisfying. (knock on wood)  I have been married almost fourteen years to a man I love deeply and who deeply loves me.  We not only feel passionately about one another, but we are good friends with similar mindsets and outlooks on life.  His personality complements mine.  We are a good pair.  As evidence, we have only ever had one fight with raised voices in our entire marriage. (Even I think that's weird....nice, but odd.)

Therefore, I believe I have some idea of what it takes to be happily married and to remain married for a very long time.  First and foremost it takes these three things: RESPECT, TRUST, and FRIENDSHIP.  I tried to prioritize those, but to me they all intertwine with each other and are equally essential to a good relationship.  I always advised my students that when they eventually marry, they should marry a friend.  If you marry someone who enjoys your company just for company's sake, who shares similar interests and hobbies, and who likes you just the way you are then you will be lucky in love.  Lust and sexual passion will fade over just happens.  Friendship is the foundation of a marriage that lasts a lifetime. Trust and respect follow in the wake of a good friendship.  You have to respect your partner and show that respect daily by using manners, showing gratitude, and giving him or her space and independence.  Trust ties in as well because you must trust your spouse implicity and honor that trust by not being jealous of your mate's time, friends, and personal space.  I have seen on numerous occasions that when one spouse begins acting out of jealousy and suspicion, then the other spouse will rebel against that suspicion by engaging in the behavior of which they are being accused.  In other words, if you think your spouse is cheating on you and through your words or actions let him or her know that, in many cases they will go ahead and cheat.  The thinking goes like this: "If you already think I am slut, I  may as well be one."

Beyond those three esssential ingredients, it's important to also set mutual goals as a couple and as a family.  Well-married couples will have shared views on how to spend money, how to raise children, how much time to spend with each other as well as alone, and what level/type of communication works best for them.  They are committed to the idea that even through difficult times, which every marriage has--even mine--and through the good times, they will be there for each other.  If people marry with the right intentions and the right motivation to work at making it work, then they will stay married for a very long time.

The title of this entry is "What's Love Got To Do With It?" and I think that it is apt.  Love is definitely one of the important ingredients for a good marriage, but it's not the sole reason a person should marry.  It's not even at the top of the list. Marriage takes a lot more than love.  It takes friendship, respect, trust, hard work, dedication, self-sacrifice, time and love.  And, for the record, love isn't just saying "I love you" but is the daily business of being there for your spouse, showing affection, working with and for your spouse, giving of yourself, being vulnerable, being nice, gracious, and grateful.  So, what's love got to do with it?  I think in a nutshell...nothing...and everything. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking Boundaries

Breaking Boundaries: A Nonet
Breaking boundaries can be quite hard
implied force smacks of violence
but it is not always so.
Sometimes it is the soft
persuasive and cool
voices that move
your undone
heart and

Moving beyond the normal for your life can be quite difficult.  It hurts.  It causes consternation, cognitive dissonance, feelings of uncertainty and angst.  Most of the time, the actual pushing beyond personal boundaries proves to be an unpleasant experience on the whole.  That being said, however, once you are on the other side...damn if you don't feel like you accomplished something grand!  Sometimes it can be life that determines whether or not we will stay in stasis, whether or not we move or we remain stagnant.  Sometimes it can be people who push us to move somewhere we don't feel necessarily comfortable going.  And still, other times it can be the desire or motivation within ourselves that constitutes the impetus for change. 

Regardless of whatever prompts us to go that extra distance, to move outside the box, to become something more or greater than we are at this moment, we should gather our courage and embrace the process of change as well as the changes that ultimately occur.  Humans are dynamic creatures, meant to be growing constantly...thinking, learning, experiencing, and above all adapting and changing.  We are not meant to be creatures of habit and contentment.  The destination for all people should be a realization at the end of one's life that he or she did all that he or she could to live fully, completely, and dynamically.

Recently I had a friend persuade me to do something I normally wouldn't do.  I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, and ultimately found myself on the otherside of the circumstance, feeling great! Everytime I do someting I don't usually do, or that makes me uncomfortable because of its unfamiliarity, I grow a bit more as a person, add to my storehouse of experience, and become more truly the me that I envision.  It makes me want to say thank you to all the people within my life that have for one reason or another put me in a position where I had to gather my forces and make a move beyond my boundaries. I am a better person for having known each and every one of you, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Refuse to Fracture--Recent Poems

Getting in touch with my creativity has been great over the past few weeks.  I don't care if people don't like my poems, if they don't understand them, or if they even read them.  To me, the represent the reemergence of  me.  Enjoy.

Refuse to Fracture

I held it together for so long
that I''ve forgotten how to break.
A million tiny pieces
held by grit and hardness
cemented into
stone, refuse to yield
or fracture
for your

Year of Sundays

Slight boredom and
vague unease at this, my birthday.
Thirty-nine, such a year of Sundays.
A feeling of everything being half-over
and only half-done
permeates all I do.

The scent of almost, not yet
sticks to me and I wake
with it in my nose,
the taste upon my lips,
rubbing my eyes to be rid of this

I wonder if I should throw a party.
All the incarnations of me could attend
and we would compare notes.
Would middle age repel youth,
while adolescence mocks us all?

Instead, let's have some cake,
and take this sleepy Sunday feeling
feed it confetti and charms
until full to bursting and
I explode into
a whole new
August Evening

When twilight purples the sky,
the sound of playing children slips away.
The buzz of fluorescent lights
from phone booths and corner markets
permeates the summer-stifled city blocks.

She sits on a front porch stoop--
denim cutoffs and a red halter testify to the heat.
The blonde toddler rests, snuggled between damp knees
and dozes to cadences of stories told.

Leaning back on a step, her husband
balances his weight on one elbow
and sips iced tea. With a smile,
he offers her the beaded, dripping glass.

Smoke from their cigarettes drifts upward
past potted petunias and open windows
to hang in the yellowed beam of sidewalk lamps.

Softly, party music rides the air
and somewhere down the street, laughter
carouses on a humid breeze.

The Pick-up Line

"Loneliness has its magic," he said.
Words drew me in, a moth to flame.
Dancing brightly ''round my head
buzzing bees, hard to tame.
Invite me to love
a soul like yours.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Year of Sundays

As a child, I remember thinking that being thirty-nine years old must feel not only like a month of Sundays, but an entire year of Sundays.  You know that Sunday feeling...kind of bored, wanting to do something fun, but knowing you have school the next day.  Therefore, you don't bother with much of anything because the unpleasantness of school routine is mere hours away. Sundays without motivation and a vague sense of dread lasted forever. Now,  imagine an entire year of still being in your thirties, but knowing forty is looming just around the corner...middle age and all the drama, or lack thereof that comes with it.  I knew the same kind of anxious feeling must ensue.  I am happy to say, however, that I had it completely wrong as a kid.  It doesn't feel that way at all.

love this age. I am feeling really energized as I head into the last year of my thirties.  I feel much more connected to my own life than I ever have before and really capable of achieving the things I have always wanted to do.  My creativity has returned to me after several years' absence and I am in better physical shape than I have been in a very long time.  One of the things I appreciate most about this very moment, is the fact that my world view and my understanding of  life has solidified over the past year and I am happy with what I know to be my truth about things.  I have grown in so many ways over the last decade that when evaluating who I was at 29 and who I am at 39 requires serious thought because of the immense differences in how I view myself and the world around me.

Anyway, my 39th year will not be a year of Sundays.  I am going to think of it as a year of Friday nights or Saturdays.  You know that beginning of the weekend feeling when anything is possible and a good time can always be had.  The hours of freedom stretch out before you and life is really, really good.  Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Place of Yes

When opportunity knocks, you should open the damn door.  That was my status update for facebook this evening after having a pretty serious discussion with my husband regarding his business.  It's kind of scary to contemplate change; moving from what's known to the unknown frightens most people.  People harbor valid fears about whether the change will be positive or negative, whether it will result in failure, or even end too much success.  Humans are habitual creatures. We thrive on routine and sameness, so the thought of changing something drastic in our lives provokes an unsettled feeling if not downright fear.

Sometimes, however, a person has to push beyond his or her comfort zone and just go for whatever change is necessary and good.  Even if the move proves to be risky, a person can't gain anything good from being stagnant and fearing change. No one ever regrets going for something at the end of his or her life just because she or he failed at it.  Life is all about the experiences, not about the endgame.  If a person refuses to experience life, all the good and the bad, then he or she will never learn a thing about him/herself or the world in which he/she lives. 

I am trying to make my life one in which I move from a place of yes.  Where, when the world presents change to me, I take it and embrace it and live it fully. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Played Like A Fiddle

Do you ever have those moments when you think all is well in a personal relationship--be it friendship, family, or romance-- and then out of nowhere, you get played by the person who supposedly loves and respects you? I think this happens to everyone now and again, but it never feels very good when it does occur.  I recently felt something akin to being duped, but then I began to think about it and started to feel somewhat differently.  Does a person who has the foresight to see all the possible consequences of a situation actually get played?  If a person is complicit in how a relationship works, can they ever really be duped?  If you know someone is taking advantage of you, or if you are aware of the inequality within a relationship, but you continue with it knowingly, have you really been played like fiddle? And, if  you know all these things are true, what kind of person are you to allow that to happen?

I am a pretty good judge of character and personality when it comes to involving myself with people.  I admit that I have an intuitive sense regarding people that I rely upon and my intuition generally proves correct.  Therefore, when I commit to a relationship or a friendship with someone, I have a pretty good idea how that person will behave and react.  I imagine different scenarios in my mind and follow them to their logical conclusions and thus, I am aware of how things will go for the most part.  I don't get fooled often, but when I do, I certainly feel like an ass, especially because I have analyzed every angle and still messed up.  Occasionally emotion overrides reason, occasionally guards come down and true connections without internal distance are made.  It's at those times people become the most vulnerable and the most open to being used.  It's a shame too because that's when people show their genuine, true, authentic selves, and its the time when they get hurt the most.

It is exactly that hurt I fear most of all, that hot, white embarassment of giving of yourself and having less than nothing in return.   Even though I like to think the best of humanity and  I believe that the majority of the world's population consist of innately good-hearted people who spend the majority of their time behaving well, I worry about their motivations.  Underlying my positive beliefs about humanity, I am well aware that man often resorts to his baser tendencies and will try to gain an edge over someone else.  This latter belief keeps me from truly ever trusting anyone, truly ever caring too damn much, and truly ever becoming close.  It's kind of sad, actually.  I love people in general, but I don't hold them as closely as I should to my heart.  The only exception for pure, authentic, unadulterated love that I give is to my children and my husband. They get one hundred percent of the real me one hundred percent of the time.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

I don't think I've been played like a fiddle lately.  Unfortunately, I never let myself go enough to do that in a real fashion.  Maybe having someone take advantage of my good nature is exactly what I need.  Letting go of a fear of getting hurt and just living each moment as connected to life as possible would be the best thing to do.  Maybe recognizing this just provides one more step on my journey of getting to know myself fully and becoming the best version of me. 

Besides, I've always enjoyed bluegrass music and the fiddles are my favorites.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Cherry on my Sundae

I quit my job three years ago--my very well-paying job--to stay home to raise my children.  Being a mother who got to stay home with her children when they were small had always been a dream of mine and one shared by my husband.  I credit the fact that my sister and I turned out so well to my mother being there when we were little, instilling us with values, fostering critical thinking skills, building bonds that continue to last even beyond her death six years ago.  She influenced and still does influence almost everything I do, and I am profoundly grateful to her for it.

Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself to stay home after the birth of my third child, after much long and hard thinking, I availed myself of it.  I have loved being able to stay with my children and be there for them, guiding them and teaching them on a daily basis.  They are well-rounded, stable, good-natured children who like to read, paint, draw, and do sports.  They know how to share, appreciate differences in others, value what they are given, and in general are just great kids.  I like to think that I have had some small part in that, and I cherish the relationships I have with my children above all else in this life.  Nonetheless, there are times when I wish I had made a different decision, and today happens to be one of those times.

Unfortunately, when I quit my job, the housing bubble burst, the economy tanked and a deep-seated recession settled in for a long stay.  The growth that my husband and I were expecting in his business just didn't happen, and we had to drastically reduce our expenses and change the way in which we lived.  I have coped with giving up almost all luxuries and even a few amenities.  We don't go out to eat or to the movies, the kids don't get new toys except for birthdays and Christmas, I haven't bought new clothes in years, and almost everything I do has my eye turned towards saving money.  It has been difficult and it has been hard and it has especially, as of late, been wearing.

However, that being said, I have always maintained a deep sense of optimism and hope.  One day our ship will come in.  We will have enough money to pay all the bills and live comfortably.  I know this will happen.  I remind myself when I am feeling badly about not being able to do something or purchase an item we need.  I have told myself that yes, someday soon, we will be able to make all the repairs on our house that we need and at some point, we will be able to maybe even go on vacation.  I talk to myself all the time to keep my hopes up and my attitude bright. I share my optimism with my husband too and together we keep going with hope in our heart and positive thoughts lodged firmly in our minds.

Today, though, I just can't do it.  I've lost my hope for awhile and I am not sure where I will be able to find it.  A few months back, the transmission on our truck went out, and of course as usual, we didn't have enough to get it fixed.  Oh well, though...we had the van, and as long as we had one vehicle we could change a few things here and there and make do, get by.  Yesterday the van lost its transmission as well, and it brought everything that I've been stuffing down for the last year, especially, to the surface.  I, the one who keeps her shit together all the time, who bolsters other's moods, whom  people come to when they are feeling low, can't even talk herself out of this one.  All I want to do is cry.  I want to indulge in some serious self-pity, curl up on my bed, and just weep.  I am just so tired of it all right now.

Fortunately, I can't do that.  I have a house to manage, kids to rear, a husband to support.  Nevertheless, I am going to give myself maybe an hour to throw a self-indulgent pity party alone in the laundry room.  It is the least I can do for self-preservation. I will cry.  I am going to feel so thoroughly depressed and down that my bones will ache with it and my heart will tighten in my chest.  I plan to indulge in every negative, depressive, ugly thought that comes into my head.  And then, I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and poke around in my psyche until I find that hope again. 

I will turn my pragmatism and optimism into an answer for us, and I will get on with the business of getting on.  Somedays, life just manages to kick you when you are down.  It places the cherry right on top of your shit sundae and laughs.  The trick to a good life, however, is to take that sundae, eat it if necessary, and then get back on track with what's important.  Remember your blessings, be grateful for what you have, and know that you are doing the right thing, regardless of how hard it can be. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Soundtrack for Life

One of the major problems with being an introspective person is that one has very little respite from constant self-judgement and evaluation.  On one hand, it can be a good thing because viewing your actions, attitudes and behavior help continually to refine them.  On the other hand, a person can think entirely too much and become bogged down in self-criticism.  I hate making myelf feel stupid about something I've said or done or even not done, especially when it is innocent and inoccuous.  Suffice to say, it bums me out.

In order to provide down time from thinking too much, I resort to two very useful and reading.  I have been an avid reader from the moment I could pick up a book and decipher the language.  Books provide an ever-ready escape into another life, another time, an entirely different world.  I can not only shut off my brain, but I can shut out all the stressors in my life as well.  My poor husband has to repeat every third word he says because I concentrate so intensely when reading that I don't hear him.  It drives him crazy, but I merely contend he should be used to it by now and just repeat every third word from the start of any conversation. 

I like to read historical novels, thrillers, non-fiction, poetry, some fantasy and some science fiction.  If it is entertaining or educational, I will read it.  I have even been known to resort to instruction manuals when I've read everything in the house.  I will actually go through book withdrawal. Once, my husband went to the bookstore right before it closed when I was pregnant with our third child, just because I was craving a good book.  No tacos at midnight for me...just literature.  I sometimes wonder, though, if reading so much is a good thing to do, though because it is a solitary activity for me. It quite possibly could be entirely too much escapism.

The other respite from stress and over-thinking things is music...a love I recently rediscovered.  Much like my taste in books, my musical tastes span the spectrum.  I enjoy classical, country, rock, pop, rap, and punk.  Nothing compares to a good song to banish bad feelings or mild depression.  Music truly does sooth the savage beast for me.  It has a calming, salutary effect and I appreciate it more and more with each passing day.  I've enjoyed music all my life, but until recently I never noticed quite how much it helps elevate my mood.  If I am listening to something upbeat, beautiful, or profound, it makes me feel those ways.  Music is more powerful, in my mind, than reading. The mere utterance of that statement constitutes, for me at least, a shocking thing to say.  The reason I say this primarily stems from the fact that music makes for action and an active participation in its enjoyment.  I need more active participation in my life.

So, I think then, that I will go turn on the radio and actively participate in my own day.  No more passivity from me.  No more waiting around for something to happen and no more escapes to somewhere things do happen. I am going to go and make things happen myself--with my own personal soundtrack to my life.  You should do the same.