Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Birthday Babies

Abby's 10th Birthday
Joshua's 4th Birthday

As my husband always jokes this time of year, "Forget the holidays, birthing season has arrived."  We have been blessed with three beautiful, healthy, intelligent children who have all been born within six weeks of one another.  My two book-end children, oldest Abby and youngest Josh have birthdays back to back.  Joshua was born on November 29, 2007 and Abby was born November 30, 2001.  My middle child, Jack made his entrance to the world on January 4, 2006.  Guess what major holiday comes in between all these?  Yep, that's right...Christmas!  It is one rocking season of celebration at the Hallbeck homestead. Even with all the ensuing craziness starting at Thanksgiving and not ending until after the New Year, this season is my favorite section of the calendar.  I am happy almost every day because of both the holiday season and the birthdays of my babies.

Abby's Ca
Joshua's Cake
I enjoy making my children happy
and it pleases me to please them. I like to bake their cakes and wrap their presents and show them how much their Daddy and I love them, by making their day as special as possible.  It's not made special solely because of how much money we spend on gifts, or how much the cake cost to make, but it is made special because we show our appreciation for their love, obedience, loyalty, and care.  They are good children.  They listen well, they behave themselves, they extend both to themselves and others respect and compassion.  Their Daddy and I are so lucky to have these children in our lives and I am amazed every day to see what they are going to do next.  I am just happy I get to do special things with and for them.  Their birthdays are days of celebration for themselves, but also for me as well, because they are the miracles that have made my life complete.  I wish nothing but the best for all my babies on their birthdays and when they blow out their candles I hope all their dreams come true.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Nonet of Nonets

Karaoke Goddess
Words hang thirsty on my tongue tonight,
waiting for the music soon played.
Milling crowds of people watch,
embarassed for those who 
sing all the old songs
forgetting the new.
I drink some more
to become

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

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 give
for your

At the End
The children told her to say goodbye.
A word alien on her tongue,
it tasted like such sour milk
and turned her stomach cold.
Choking on thick tears,
she waved farewell
to a life
she once

A Bug's Life
Inhumanity breaks us apart
allowing life to seep from rents
torn into bodies and souls.
Empty shells shrivel dry.
crack into dust,

A hole in history fills slowly
repaired by days of birth and death,
of weeks that wrap like cocoons.
Years spin silk to fill space
with new memories
made from moments
born of this

The Pick-Up Line
"Loneliness has it's 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

The Ducks
All my ducks are in a row, and yet
symmetry is denied to me.
I can't get them evenly spaced
and this one's head turns left.
They ignore my voice
and do their thing.
I don't like 
these ducks

Dance-hall Pleasures
Bodies sway to Cole Porter, the smoke
hugging the dance-hall walls with lust
twines around young, smart couples.
It rubs against hot skin
fragrant with desire
making sin
so much

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music

Dwight Yoakum Performs a Medley of His Hits

The other day, a friend of mine shared this Dwight Yoakum clip with me.  I smiled the entire way through, thinking of how much I enjoyed the early to mid-1990s going dancing and hanging out with friends at the local bar.  Being young and impetuous, we would stay up late, consume mass quantities of beer and tequila, and dance all night long.  I had such a good time then, and listening to Dwight brought all those good times and good feelings back to me.  This method of profound memory retrieval is one reason why I love music as much as I do. 

I listen to some kind of music each and every day, and my taste runs the gamut of  genres. However, one thing remains constant, the ability of music to vividly recapture a moment in time for me.  For as long as I can remember, music has been present in my life, and I associate certain songs very deeply with memories of people, places and events.  Everytime I hear a particular piece of music that remains directly tied to a part of my past, I am transported back to that particular time and place feeling as if I were experiencing it all over again. 

My sister tells people about what she terms my "amazing ability" to recall a musical artist, the title of a song, and the date of its release.  The only reason I am able to have such a vast storehouse of knowledge regarding songs is that I associate them with certain periods in my life.  If I hear a song by Johnny Cash, George Jones, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn or Conway Twitty, I immediately recall being six years old in Tucson, Arizona playing in the scorching sunshine in the backyard with my sister.  My father, usually working around the house completing his list of weekend "honey do's" and my mother in the kitchen making something delicious for supper, would listen to their country music albums.  I remember the stereo well, the record player stacked high with LPs, and one after another they would drop and provide a soundtrack for my early childhood.  The words would either make me feel happy like George Jones' "Winner Loses All" or sad like Johnny Cash's "Sunday Morning Coming Down."  It's truly phenomenal how a melody and lyrics can evoke such intense emotions in a young child, and even more amazing that those feelings remain as intense today over thirty years later.

It is not just country music that sparks my memory either.  The song "Abracadabra" takes me back to 1982 and strolling with my family along the board walk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  We went swimming until we burned crispy red and then played skiball in the arcade.  "Angel is a Centerfold" by J. Geils Band puts me in my fourth grade classroom at our Christmas party, and looking back, I think it is hilarious that our teacher, Mrs. Small never said a word about the somewhat raunchy lyrics.  Anytime I hear "Faith" by George Michael, I am dancing in the high school cafeteria my junior year with a cute boy, all the while knowing he danced with me as part of a bet between his friends to see who could get the most girls to dance that night, and still having a good time nonetheless.  "Life is a Highway" by Tom Cochrane transports me to my college dorm my sophomore year, dancing amid the mess and clutter, happy just to have finished my finals and knowing summer was right around the corner.  "Moondance" by Van Morrison places me in the tiny kitchen of the first house my sister and I shared after college, dancing closely with my Swedish boyfriend and falling completely in love with him right in that very  moment.  "Silent Night" and "The Holly and the Ivy" will always remind me of holding my babies, rocking them to sleep while singing to them right after they were born.  I will forever associate The Black Eyed Peas "I Gotta Feeling" with my renewal of creative energy and determination to get back in touch with my inner self last year.

Music informs every part of my life.  It makes me happy, sad, thoughtful, reflective, and hopeful.  Most importantly, it just makes me feel.  It is those emotions that hold onto the memories and those feelings will allow me to visit the memories in the future when I need to get back in touch with my past. I am grateful for music each and every day.  It touches a part of me, an inexplicably deep aspect of my heart and soul, and allows me to catalogue a lifetime with clarity and precision.  Right now I am listening to One Republic's "Good Life"  which I currently adore, and I do believe that I am inking yet another indelible memory which I can look back upon and smile.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Blessings, Lessons and Change

Joshua, Jack, and Abby on Thanksgiving  Day 2011

Thanksgiving came and went rather uneventfully this year.  We dressed up, watched the parade and ate all the traditional foods. The dinner took place at my sister's house and my family, my sister and her two boys, our father, and a family friend attended.  Normally much more hustle and bustle surrounds this particular holiday.  The kids run around like crazy people, making as much noise as possible, dogs and cats wander about getting underfoot, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and then football games blare from the television.  In sum, noisy and fun family chaos reigns. This year's event, however, consisted of such an odd quietness that it gave me pause for thought.  Looking back at 2011, none of our shared family holidays have been like previous years.  Just underneath the surface of every one has been this sense of tension, a lack of some undefined thing, and a very definite sense of impending change.

Our holiday and everyday routines have been disrupted due to certain extended family issues. With me being someone who likes tradition and familiarity, the lack of these things being present bothers me more than I care to admit.  I feel frustrated and resentful occasionally because of the differences, and I don't want to feel that way because it affects my mood regarding everything.  I didn't realize until a few days ago, just how much this particular issue has weighed on me for past several months.  I think I have actually been depressed, and at the very least, seriously stressed out for quite some time now. On one hand, I see all the necessary reasons for change taking place, and I believe that these changes will eventually be for the good and benefit of everyone  involved.  Nonetheless, I miss what we had, dysfunctional as it was. 

My own nuclear unit remains fine and dandy.  My children can feel the changes, they even articulate that we aren't doing things the way they used to be done, but like all kids, their flexibility keeps them rolling along smoothly and easily.  Change just comes and they go with it.  I am a different creature altogether...a creature of habit and routine, and change makes me uncomfortable, especially when it involves family interaction.  My sister, my parents and I have always been exceptionally close and while I believe that to be a good thing, it can also be viewed as having an inhibiting effect on truly understanding who I am in relation only to myself and not to them.  It is a scary, yet exhilarating thought.

On the bright side, I see these changes as an opportunity to discover new things about myself and about how to live my life.  I will be forty next year and the idea of being truly independent from my family and their expectations of me, intrigues and excites me.  I mean, I will still have all of my roles, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt...but some of those roles will be less immediate and that lack of immediacy will give me room to grow.  So, as odd as this Thanksgiving was, I will always remember it.  Not necessarily for how great it was, but for the fact that it marks a turning point in all of our lives.  It might not have been the best year for holidays and traditions, but it will definitely go down as a memorable one.  And, it is always a good holiday when you take time to be mindful and thoughtful and especially grateful for all the people in your life, as well as all the blessings and lessons life bestows on you.  I am grateful and thankful for each one, even the hard ones like unwanted change.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Incomplete Thought and Others

Understandably, many people believe that good poetry rhymes.  It is something we hear from the time we begin listening to stories and reading them for ourselves.  A cadence, a rhythm, a beat that speaks to the very center of us.  I like rhyming poetry, and it can be very difficult to do well.  Robert Frost, a master poet of rhyme and rhyme scheme commented to the effect that poets who had true talent had the ability to create meaningful, profound rhyming poetry.  Free form poetry can be about almost anything and almost any word will suit.  To rhyme well, and to capture the cadence properly in a poem, comprises a truly difficult task.  I like to stay fresh by using rhyme schemes as well as internal rhyme.  Poems such as this challenge me to think and use my vocabulary to the very best of my ablity.  Here are a few of my rhyming poems.  I hope you like them.

incomplete thought

my life is an incomplete thought
a half-finished sentence with one-half forgot
a question mark in the middle way
stuck at noon on a rainy day
my words half-said, half-done, half-meant
destiny's straight line crooked and bent
fortune's left hanging still in the air
and I am too tire to even care
about this half-finished, half-completed me
who chooses not to decide, to let it all be
where is the end? in sight? not yet...
I can't figure out which way to get
all that I need to finish this thought
I can't make my mind work, oh damn! I cannot
it's as if it is on the tip of my tongue
hope climbing a ladder, rung by rung
only to dangle halfway there
part up, part down but mostly

Dimestore Indian

He stares from reflected glass
watching all the white men pass.
They do not see him standing there
remembering every blade of grass.

He sees the street of houses bare,
envisions teepees made with care.
The wives and children are forlorn,
not knowing how the years will wear.

If only his wooden mouth could warn
and shout to outrun what can't be borne.
If only his oaken heart didn't ache
for all the memories broken and torn.

All the land they came to take
soaked in the bloodlust they had to slake.
They murdered till his world did shake.
They murdered till his world did shake.

Edge of a Season

The shadows are long, so I must run.
Be quick like the traffic,
melting, moving, blending
into shimmery non-existence
in the late summer city sun.

Grooving to the heartbeat of the concrete walls,
I'm lost in a place
at the edge of a season.
Losing all reason, I run.
Crossing shadows, not looking back
not chilled by an attack of potent shade.

I must hurry all around
for on the ground, fallen leaves
grant me no reprieves for
such wasted time.

Blackberry Summer

The dirt road
hitched a ride in my flip flops
scarred by thorns and rocks
and I kicked at kudzu and trumpet vines
clinging to the sides of trees.

Dancing cicadias and bees
bathed in humid sunlight
scattered to my left and right
as I picked, then kissed the blackberries
dripping purple in my palms.

Moving though live oak stands
Spanish moss hung lank and long
swaying to my South Carolina song
and I lived so in the moment
that my youthful summer glowed.

Plastic Faith

If Christ had died on plastic,
a cross man-made and strong,
we could prilgrimage to Golgotha
to stare all day long.

There would be a shrine like Graceland,
picture-perfect, without decay.
I'd buy postcards at the gift shop
of our Saviour's final day.

Next door would be a theme park
with Christian-inspired rides,
and an artificial beach with waves
Galilee's Magic Tides.

We'd eat cotton candy and ice cream
and play until it closed,
never thinking of religion
or commandments God imposed.

But the cross was made of wood
the earth's first building tool
and like God's finest handiwork,
back to dust is the rule.

Nature's cycles keep us pure
creating pathways, framing goals
but plastic dreams have taken our spirit
and given us plastic souls.

It's a Plan

It's a plan, man.
Can't you understand?
Or are your shaking knees
saying, "Please....
don't make me do this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindness of Strangers

Sometimes the daily grind of living can wear a person thin emotionally and mentally.  This spiritual fatigue can cause people to become jaded and cynical, to believe the worst about humanity rather than the best.  I have experienced moments such as this, where I see the world with an eye turned towards the negative and expect people to indulge their basest, ugliest instincts rather than their higher ones. I loathe feeling that way because it really goes against what I deeply believe to be true about all people--I think they are innately good.  It is at those times when I feel that the world is inhabited by rude, selfish, thoughtless people, that a random act of kindness or generosity reveals to me the skewed nature of my current perspective. 

The gratitude I feel for those instances when people surprise me by being nice, polite, generous, and thoughtful restore my faith in humanity.  I recall several incidents where people have, for no good reason other than to be kind, have done something to help me or my loved ones. I also vividly recall the feelings I associate with those particular memories--feelings of appreciation, warmth, and connectedness.  And those feelings then strengthen my determination to live a life of service, kindness and generosity.

I remember one time when I was fourteen years old, my family traveled from Louisiana to New Mexico to visit my maternal grandfather.  My mother had taken her travel case with her.  This case was an old-fashioned affair, a large hard-sided box with a handle...a throwback from the 1950s.  Its bulk caused it to be  in the way as we traveled, so my father strapped it to the top of the car with the rest of our luggage.  Unfortunately for my mother, it blew off the top of the car in the middle of the night.  Not only had it held her jewelry and toiletries, but it also contained credit cards and a variety of other items meaningful to her, most importantly her mother's wedding band and engagement ring. We went back fifty miles along the interstate looking for the box, but could not find it.  My mother cried the rest of the way to New Mexico and refused to speak to my father for several days after we arrived. 

About four days later, my mother received a phone call from a man she had never met.  He spotted my mother's travel case on the side of the road and thought that it would make a good tackle box for fishing, so he pulled over to pick up.  After examining the contents he found in the case, he realized that it must be very special to someone, and he spent an hour combing the shoulder along the interstate gathering up her items.  He found the credit cards, and used them to get contact information for my mother, finally tracking her down several days later.  He went to tremendous effort to return this case to my mother, and did it just because he realized that it was the right thing to do.  On our way home, we stopped in Nachadoches, Texas and picked it up from this kind gentleman, and I will always remember being awed by his act of generosity in returning her valued belongings.  It made a deep impression on me about the kindness of strangers.

Several other times people have stopped to help us out when we've had car trouble or run out of gas. One woman gave my sister twenty dollars and a card telling her to go buy some dinner and some coffee when my nephew had been in the hospital for a few weeks and my sister had reached the bottom of exhaustion.  This woman's son had been in the hospital for two months after a severe car accident, and she had the kindness in her heart to want to make my sister feel better.  When my father had his stroke and my sister and I were four hundred miles from home and living out of a motel room during the early stages of his recovery people we barely knew helped pay for our hotel and food, knowing we had limited funds at the time.  I saw one man overhear a conversation in line at a pharmacy between an elderly woman and the pharmacist, and the woman had to make a decision about which medication she could pay for that month because she couldn't pay for them both. He ended up buying both prescriptions for her, well over $200.00 worth of medicine.

These stories keep me faithful to the idea that people truly care about one another.  They feel a fundamental connection to each other, even if they can't properly articulate it on a daily basis.  I know at the very core of me that if given the opportunity, people will do good, engage in acts of kindness and charity, and love each other.  They just will because we all want to feel that satisfaction of knowing we make a difference in this world.  Our impact on others proves our existence.  It is a tangible means of acknowledging our connection with all people and a marking of our place in this world.  People who behave cruelly usually consist of persons alienated and estranged from their connection to others.  They either choose to deny their humanity and their link to all people, or they just have no ability to feel it.  I am profoundly sorry for those people because they will never realize the true joy and meaning behind being kind and thoughtful and useful to others.  Most people believe those who treat others badly will spend eternity in hell, but I argue that they already live in hell on earth because they remain devoid of human connection with their fellow man.

Some people might say I have a pollyanna attitude about humankind.  They may assert that I have my head buried in the sand and do not accurately see people.  I would argue that I see them more clearly than most. I am grateful that I focus on the good aspects of humanity and that I truly believe that this world and it's inhabitants are good and want to do good.  It really is the only way I can live my life, and I am really happy to live it in such a manner.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Four Score and Seven Years Ago....

Gettysburg Address
November 19, 1863
Abraham Lincoln

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tomorrow marks the 148th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, perhaps one of the most famous speeches in American history.  Given by President Abraham Lincoln to commemorate the consecration of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, this particular address shaped the direction of the remaining years of the American Civil as well as recognizing the sacrifice of the American people during such difficult times.  It amazes me that in ten sentences and two short minutes President Lincoln managed to elevate the purpose of the war to not just saving the "Union" but to the promotion of equality among all citizens and to the ultimate preservation of representational democracy itself.  Although he believed that the "the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here," the world does remember because in it's simplicity, this speech speaks to the hearts of all people who cherish equality, personal freedom, and democracy as well as those people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the survival of those ideals.

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred for three hot, horrendous days between July 1-3, 1863 around and in the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Over 53,000 casualties occurred during the days of fighting. Most historians mark this particular battle as the turning point of the American Civil War, in which the Confederacy became so weakened that they no longer had a chance of succeeding at secession from the Union. I had the good fortune to visit the battlesite in the summer of 1995. Settled in southern Pennsylvania, the green, verdant fields where so many men and boys fought and died belie the gravity and sacredness of the place. It could be a nature park or a farmer's fields, but it feels very much like hallowed ground.

A visitor senses the importance of the place, innately understands that what happened there changed the course of history.  That the "ultimate sacrifice" of thousands created the America in which we live today. If the South had won that battle, our modern America could have been a very different place.  Think of what American life would be like in which social equality did not exist and representational democracy failed.  Even with the difficulty of current times, the knowledge that minorities exist who do not feel the full impact of social justice, and the lack of participation in our democracy, it is a far better world today than it could have been.  I appreciate that President Lincoln, obviously touched by the "better angels of our nature" had the wisdom and the grace to make this speech as concise, profound, and memorable as he did.  It keeps the very important ideas of social equality and democracy present for all Americans today and gives us an opportunity to reflect on our rich history of perseverence, dedication, hardship and struggle, and devotion to freedom.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting What You Need

"You can't always get what you want....
You can't always get what you want....
You can't always get what you want....
But if you try sometimes, you just might find...
You get what you need."   -Rolling Stones

Yesterday proved to be an interesting day for me although on the surface everything seemed to be average and mundane.  Nothing much out of the ordinary occurred. As a matter of fact, Monday remained normal for the majority of the day.  I cleaned house, visited with my father, did some baking, took care of the children....the same stuff I do every day.  However, last night an unusual thing happened, actually two unusual things.  I am still thinking about them today, thus explains this particular blog entry.

The first extraordinary thing came in the form of a kitten who waltzed into our house as if she owned the joint.  My daughter opened the door to the garage and this gorgeous three month old kitty of obviously mixed parentage, daintily stepped across our doorway, gazed at us with a serious expression and proceeded to make herself at home.  She checked out the food dish, had a tasty sip of water, swished her tail authoritatively and curled up on the rocker like she had been there her entire life.  The five of us just looked at eachother...a bit in awe of this spunky, fearless cat and all equally unsure of what to do with her. 

The kids of course immediately fell in love with this adorable creature and began begging their father and I to be allowed to keep her.  I knew I would say yes, and looked at my husband, a total non-pet person, to discover his opinion on the subject.  He amazed me by saying yes without the remotest hesitation.  Seriously???  Jorgen said yes?  Flabbergasted doesn't even begin to explain how I felt.  I mean, really, this is the man who threatened divorce if I brought another animal into the house, and I actually think he consulted a lawyer when I brought Gus (our ill-mannered lout of a dog) home.  I honestly couldn't believe how easy it turned out to be.  I took my husband's acquiesence as a sign that this cat, for some reason, chose us and we were meant to be together.  When later that night, she slept on my lap, purring and humming that sweet cat sound, it made me feel special to have been chosen by Genevieve (the name the children bestowed upon her).  I didn't necessarily want another cat, but maybe I needed one and maybe she needed me too.

Unusual thing number two that happened yesterday turned out to be a phonecall from someone I had thought about all day long.  I had been thinking of this person for no good reason, but every time I had a quiet moment, the thought of him would appear in my head.  We had had a falling out of sorts earlier, but that wasn't the reason I had him on my mind.  I didn't know if he would ever contact me again , and I wasn't even sure if I wanted to be contacted.  Nonetheless, yesterday my thoughts regarding this person were purely concerned with his well-being and with hope that life currently treated him kindly.  Then, out of the blue that night, I got a phone call.  He had had an incredibly bad day for a variety of reasons and just needed to talk to someone who would listen.  Almost three hours later, our friendship mended and his mood somewhat improved, I realized that what had just occurred signified something amazing too.  I am not a believer in coincidences and I don't think he thought to call on his own.  I think circumstances led to it, and although I didn't necessarily want to talk to him right then, maybe I needed to and he needed to as well.

Anyway, both those incidents made me think that a great deal of life consists of not getting what you want, but moreso getting what you need.  Half the time, us humans are so oblivious to what's really important in our lives that we don't see what we need.  We only focus on what we want.  We desire things, we crave to fill our lives with people and material goods, we think we know what would make us happy and we try everything to get it.  But then, when we least expect it, serendipity, fate, the universe...whatever you call it, grants us exactly the the thing we need the most.  We may choose not to recognize this when it happens, but trust me, it occurs all the time.  And thank goodness it does, because in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might get what you need."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thank You Mr. Emerson: Laugh Often and Much

"To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!"-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Damn if Ralph didn't get the secret to success just right!  Seriously, this quote says it all and so very eloquently too.  I came across this statement a while back and I really felt as if Mr. Emerson spoke directly to me. All of these things make for a successful, productive, and meaningful life.  Each aspect of the saying provides invaluable advice, but I love the part, "To laugh often and much," the most.  I sincerely believe laughter provides the very best stress relief in which a person can engage.  It makes your entire body and soul joyful, and when you laugh, you do not have room for sadness, strife, or misery.  Laughter squeezes out those feelings entirely, leaving no room for anything but pure, unadulterated bliss.

My favorite way in which to either tickle myself or someone else remains making an unexpectedly shocking remark.  People usually view me as someone reticent, quiet, even prudish.  I give the impression in many instances that I do not enjoy ribald humor, blue jokes, or innuendo of the less-than-wholesome kind.  Therefore, when I pop off with a quip that remarks on anything remotely scatalogical or sexual or inappropriate, my friends and acquaintances literally turn red wtih laughter.  The shock, moreso than anything else, makes them guffaw and chortle.  I always appreciate this response because in turn, it makes me laugh until my sides hurt, until I cannot catch my breath, and tears stream down my face.  Afterwards, no matter how badly I may  have been feeling prior to the hilarity, I am upbeat and overwhelmingly happy.  This feeling may not last terribly long, or even long enough to banish the bad feelings I hold but for mere moments, but it certainly goes a long way in making me feel better overall, and definitely creates a hopefulness that I will be happy again.

Recently my life, as little, quiet and peaceful as it may seem to others, has been filled with overwhelming amounts of stress.  Crankiness, edginess, and occasional hopelessness have dominated my moods lately.  Laughter, my saving grace, has helped me through these stressful times.  I rely on it.  I depend on its ability to make me more present in my own life, to remind me of the beauty that resides in everything around me if I just choose to see it. I think I will watch a comedy, or read a humorous article, or even just think of things that have made me laugh in the past.  I could use a pick-me-up today because I feel a bit bummed, and as the cliched saying goes, "Laughter is the best medicine."  I think I'll take two and call you in the morning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's All Relative: Power of Perspective

I've been thinking of the phrase, "It's all relative."  People toss out this colloquialism all the time in reference to a variety of situations and circumstances to help them understand and appreciate others.  Every person in this world maintains their own uinuqe perspective on their lives, the world around them, the people who share it with them and the events that happen to them.  In essence, all people only see the world as it relates to themselves.  This individual understanding cannot operate any other way, because our brains don't work in that fashion.  Of course, people make attempts at trying to see situations from another person's viewpoint, and those of us who have a strong sense of empathy, generally do well this.  However, most people really don't truly understand how someone else feels at any given moment.  Occasionally, this lack of understanding can cause tension, negative feelings, and resentment. That's where the helpful term, "It's all relative" comes in to save the day.

My pondering of this statement and it's particular power at smoothing relations between people stems from a gathering of friends I hosted at my house Sunday afternoon.  The four of us remain close and connected, although the busyness of our lives prevents us from seeing each other frequently. Months pass sometimes without us hearing from one another, except through the old-fashioned grapevine of gossip or more recently, facebook.  Nonetheless, when we do make time to get together, we reconnect as if we had only visited the day before.  The ease with which we talk and laugh and share amazes me each time we meet.  I am lucky to have friends like these.

Usually our gatherings consist of light-hearted banter, a discussion of what's been happening in our respective lives, and if we are lucky, some salacious gossip.  We drink gallons of coffee, eat deliciously bad-for-you snacks, and talk, talk, talk.  Sunday's coffee klatch began in much the same manner, but then quickly devolved into a venting session for all of our respective stresses and problems.  One of my friends currently maintains a job, 18 credit hours in college, and a host of extracurricular activities.  Another friend works full time, takes care of her pets, and deals with her family.  And my third friend is in the midst of a divorce, raising two children, and working full time as well.  They all have their own set of stressors, but somehow it managed to turn into a competition of sorts as to whose life was the most difficult at that given moment.  I mean, we all listen to one another, we make all the right empathetic murmurs, we even give advice, but I can hear the subtext in everyone's head.  It goes something like this, "Ughh...why are they making a mountain out of a molehill?  That's not so bad.  They should trade with me for just one day and see what stress really feels like."

I am sure anyone reading this has had one or two of those thoughts in their head at some point when listening to a friend vent about frustration and stress.  Be honest...we all entertain these ungenerous thoughts on occasion.  We all think sometimes that our own personal struggles can be viewed objectively by any sentient person as being the worst, the hardest, the most difficult circumstances to ever exist.  We become offended if they remotely think otherwise.  At this point, remembering that " It's all relative," helps a person to step back and realize that though people stress over different situations and events, the effects of stress and the accompanying feelings and emotions are the same as his or her own.  

This phrase, for me, allows for a greater appreciation of another's hardships and brings out my empathetic and supportive side.  I use this phrase a lot because it is important to always remember that what might be true for oneself isn't necessarily the same truth for another.  This realization helps foster peace between people, friendship, appreciation, and contentment.  It's a great set of words, but an even better mindset and  we should all remember to use these words regularly.  I like my own personal theory of relativity very much because it makes my friendships stronger and my outlook more encompassing and understanding of all people.  It also helps keep me in check too, and realize that sometimes what I consider to be overwhelming isn't really as tremendous as I feel it to be.  I hope this entry gives a bit of clarity on why I appreciate this statement so much and why I value its use as much as I do, but if you don't, I understand because....."It's all relative."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Moo Goo Gai Pan Means Love

Moo Goo Gai Pan Means Love
He brought me Chinese food that night.
Slighty ashamed that anesthesia and grief hadn't stolen my appetite
I ate it.
He held my hand and whispered,
"We can try again."
He loved me with worried eyes,
when I couldn't stop the tears.
I slept, and
he watched me.
Knowing his permanent presence,
I relaxed into unconsciousness,
lessing my pain.
He kissed me in the morning
when he left for work.
He found me crying on the couch
when he returned.
Holding his flowers and a tear-stained card,
overcome by being his best girl.
Scared of trying again and failing once more,
his arms became a safe harbor,
and he comforted me until dark.
My selfish sadness unaware
of his unshed tears.
He had lost a child too,
one we never knew.
His pain was just as real as mine.
I brought him Chinese food that night.

Disappearing Act
Years disappeared into growing bone,
rounded flesh--pinking lips and fuller hips,
eyes of knowing.

Currents coursed through limbs,
stretched at night--inches stolen from innocence
added to height and weight.

Trust settled down in her belly,
banked by confidence--hibernating adolescence
waiting for spring.

Clay hardened to permanence,
evoled to gilded luster--pure charm
removed itself from the repertoire.

Child, where have you gone?

The Joke
You and I have such lovely, cutting tongues.
We sharpen our wit on each other's hopes,
slicing away with precision strokes.

This relationship is a joke, you know.
One in which my love for you becomes
the penultimate punchline.

We laugh though it burns each time we do.
The one who laughs the hardest hurts the most.
Your laughter is a mess, so just confess.

Why hide your tears on trickling giggles?
No wait...stop...I think....
I've heard this one before.

Syntax Unique
Dancing is speaking
without words, a silent language
with a syntax unique.

Artful infusions of music
command the body to roll and glide
on waves of transparent sound.

Such emotion in motion
is expressed with a wrist turned just so,
fingers splayed and rippling.

Magnetized flesh sways,
bending, doubling upon itself in rhythmic time
and moments slide effortlessly into one another.

Supple movements accompanied
by hot, searing breath
render words mute.

Sensuous, trickling beads of sweat
speak volumes in their stead,
whispering down graceful arms and legs.

Hospital Corners
I'll be better tomorrow.
All right angles and hospital corners.
Everything will have its place,
and every place will have its thing.
I'll smile and even laugh.
I'll pull the daggers from my eyes and back.
I'll close my ears to the whispers
and my eyes to eyes that see.
I'll laugh and even smile.
Every place will have its thing
and everything will have its place.
All right angles and hospital corners.
I'll be better tomorrow.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Taking a Backseat: Raise Your Children Well

Recent events in my life and in the lives of those whom I love have made me contemplate the nature of parenting and motherhood, specifically.  For me, becoming a mother constitutes both the most significant blessing of my life as well as the most important obligation of my life.  When I decided to have children, I knew that I would no longer occupy the top spot on my list of priorities.  My wants and needs would automatically take a backseat to the wants and needs of my children.  I entered into this arrangement with my eyes wide open to that particular fact, and I have never once regretted my decision to be last on my list.  My miracles, Abigail, Jack and Joshua fulfill me in a way that nothing else ever could.  They complete me. In return for this fulfillment I experience because of them, I have the most sincere, deep, and sacred obligation to raise them well.

As any parent knows, raising children can be stressful, difficult, tiring, and even monotonous.  Parenting on occasion sucks up your energy, your creativity, your sexuality, even your personality. Some overwhelming days make you long for escape, to have a few moments of time to just breathe, think, and be alone.  Nonetheless, children fill your life with a special kind of joy that makes all the hard work, stress, and self-sacrifice worthwhile.  It only takes one instance where your child does something new, says something sweet or remarkable, or thoroughly experiences his or her own joy, and every difficult moment, every stressful circumstance morphs into something better.  Seeing the world through the eyes of my children creates a refuge inside myself where I can deal with feeling unappreciated, overworked and overwhelmed.  It allows me to refocus on them and ensures that I am always doing my best in raising them to be secure, happy and productive people.

I get so frustrated when I see parents failing their children by being self-absorbed and indifferent.  Children need routine, structure, boundaries, unconditional love, discipline and most importantly attention.  Kids need to know that no matter how they behave, regardless of the goodness or mischief they make, that their parents see them, know them, and acknowledge them.  Without this foundation of constant parental concern and interest in their lives, children may become aimless, easily influenced and develop feelings of worthlessness.  Parental indifference and inattentiveness damages a child so deeply that it can take a lifetime to recover from the effects.  I just want to smack those parents who can't be bothered with placing their children as their top priorty in their lives.  They don't deserve to have kids.  If a person refuses to honor the blessings they've been given, they shouldn't have those blessings in the first place.  That may sound harsh, and it probably is, but I just can't countenance hurting a child needlessly.  I loathe it.  Children didn't ask to be born.  They don't ask for anything other than to be loved and taken care of.  So when a person neglects that obligation, that responsibility of raising their children well, I get so damned angry.

Far be it from me to say that I am the best mother in the world.  I know good and well that I am not.  I get angry, I yell on occasion, I have days where I am not the most present person in my children's lives.  I am a work in progress and room for improvement as a parent always exists with me.  Nonetheless, I wake up every morning and the first thoughts in my mind turn towards my children.  Every day I am mindful that they require my attention, my concern, my love, and my energy.  I owe them this because I chose to bring them into this world.  I owe them these things because their mere presence in my life makes it so much better.  It is my hope and my dream that all parents realize their good fortune and luck in being able to have children bless their lives and to treat those blessings with the respect, love, and attention they deserve.  I sincerely  hope my dream comes true one day, and that all children realize what miracles they truly are.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tears for St. Ursula

Tears for St. Ursula (Patron Saint of Brides)
Broken by indifference,
she begs St. Ursula's ear.

Please return the feelings of June
to this house, to this kitchen, to this bed.
Infuse the moments after five
with summer sensations,
when evening doors open and close
and we forget to be in love.

Rekindle his heat, the kind of knowing
found only in early days
when hours apart ached like bruises
and minutes together filled slowly like blisters
to burst in exquisite satisfaction.

Have him remember me, wedding white and pure.
Open his eyes to me, full of love and child.
Let him kiss me out of desire,
untethered from obligation.

Please, St. Ursula, return to us
the blessings of June.

One Kiss
I want to be held, to be hugged to be kissed.
I want to be told I'm needed, I'm missed.
I want to be whole, to be fine, to be well.
I want to be taken out of my shell.
I want to feel love in all it's sweet riot.
I want to remember my moment's of quiet.
I want to be lucid, and thoughtful, and right.
I want my good morning and my good night.
I may sound so greedy in wanting all this,
and to think that it started with one little kiss.

Love My Lies

kiss my lips
touch my eyes
stroke my hair
love my lies

lay with me
a breath apart
let me break
your undone heart

like a stone
in love you'll fall
sinking deep
I own you all

Angels Whispered
On the day you were born,
angels placed your name in my ear--
whispered of the things to be and
I waited with held breath
quiet inside myself
deep into the unknown knowledge of you.

On the day we met
angels placed your hand in mine--
whispered of the things to be and
I waited with desire
burning inside myself
deep into the new world of your eyes.

One the day we marry
angels will place my life with yours--
whisper of the things to be and
I wait full of love
content inside myself
deep into this adventure we embrace.

Virgin Eyes
My virgin eyes made innocent love
starting with those toes
peeking from worn sandals
moving languorously up muscled legs, resting on
each golden hair caught in Indian Summer sun.

I immersed myself in this moment, breathless
as I skimmed over trim hips.
The wind took my hands, wrapped them around
your waiting waist and pulled you into me.
And I am certain you felt it too.

Felt my fingers that burned into your back,
taut and stretched, defined in motion.
Such a revelry so complete,
replete with sensation.
I felt womanly and wanted
in wanting you.

Rapture and Desire

Rapture and devastation
dance an invisible
line of desire.

Primal and untamed
the drive to extinction
cannot be extinguished.

Consumed by the terrible need,
recognition will love remorse
for all the years ahead.

swims through wires
and I hear your voice,
disembodied on waves
that stream through my ears
creating nervious rivulets of desire.

I am a gully, an arroyo that fills
with the thought of you.
Lilke rushing stormwater
breaking the banks
my head spins dizzy
when your words
travel to me.