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still here. [merely-a-thought monday]

we woke up in the middle of the night as the alert went off on the phone. “criminal activity” was named but no further details. “criminal activity.”

we woke up in the early morning and sat with coffee and our phone and read that just up the road, merely four miles away, the next mass shooting had taken place. three people were dead, at least two others wounded. the gunman had not yet been apprehended. though there was an active shooter still freely moving about, who clearly had no issue with killing or maiming people, we were advised that there was not a threat to the community as this seemed a targeted shooting. “targeted shooting.” “not a threat to the community.”

there have been 148 mass shootings this year so far, over 45 in the last month. one month. though i was somehow in a semantics match recently over the terminology “weapon of mass destruction”, i would hold to saying that no matter the gun used in any of these events, 45 mass shootings (described as 4 or more victims shot, not including the shooter) constitutes mass destruction in my world. is value placed in the use of words or in actual lives? it was heated. the semantics seem like irrelevant hair-splitting. 148 mass shootings with at least four shot constitutes nearly 600 victims. if the circle of those victims’ lives only reaches out to ten others, that’s 6000 lives affected. if the circle abides by psychologist/anthropologist dunbar’s number (the approximate number of people about whom you are able to “keep track of all the relevant social information”) and is an intimate 150, then that is 22,200 lives affected. others claim the social network circle encompasses 290 – which would be 42,920. and then, there is the acquaintance circle, which holds 500, which would be 74,000. affected lives. since january 1. it’s bracing. it is destroying us. more importantly than any picayune semantics is the question of how to stop this kind of brutal destruction of lives.

and so, sunday morning – again – three mommas, three dads, three sets of family members, loved ones, friends were informed that the person they loved was dead. in a moment. and there is no going back. because in one moment people went from breathing, from living in whatever circumstances they were in, from whatever challenges they faced and whatever adversity had befallen them or whatever joy had emerged for them, to not. this time, in our town. we have joined boulder, atlanta, indianapolis, stockton, chicago, too many towns to list. we are number 47. in the last month.

targeted shooting. not a threat to the community. mass destruction. weapons. lives and lives and lives.

in these times, masked paths crossing at the grocery store count as a visit. especially when you pull your cart over to the side and step out of the line of traffic. we were at one of the local markets a few days ago, efficiently going about our list, when i heard my name – with a question mark at the end. because, as you know, it is a tad bit harder to recognize people when they are wearing masks. maybe fifteen minutes later or so, we felt like we had had a social outing, a surprise visit. we felt fortunate to have been there at that very time.

we talked about the pandemic, recent challenges, difficult times, isolation, family, a little sense-making by the end cap of maybe-it-was-the-coffee-aisle. we posed hard questions and sorted to the support of each other. the statement i remember clearly in this warm-conversation-that-felt-like-a-tiny-visit was sue’s. “to remind us we’re still here,” she wisely commented. “we’re still here.”

in today’s world, even more than before, being “still here” is nothing to take for granted. in today’s world, you don’t know what might happen at the grocery store, the mall, the religious house you attend, the festival, the concert, the bar, the school, the house party, the club, on the street, the spa, the convenience store, the gas station, the park, your workplace. being “still here” is not a given.

i took this photograph of tiny white flowers blooming out of the fallen leaves in the woods off the side of the trail on a partly cloudy day. purity, new growth out of the decay on the forest floor, the phoenix.

it seems that we are tiny flowers, fragile, each and every day rising, each and every day trying, each and every day breathing, reaching for the sun and soaking in the warmth of another day.

we are still here. and we are reminded to make it count.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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chipping away, i suppose. [merely-a-thought monday]

long island has nicer springs than wisconsin. considerably warmer temperatures, more consistent sunshine, earlier flowers, i remember my birthday in late march as sweater-weather, with many birthday pictures taken in front of the yellow forsythia at the front corner of our yard where the grass met the curb of the street. not so much in wisconsin. it’s still cold, still windy, still cloudy, still rainy, even still snowy. as my birthday rolls around i am always hopeful that it will suddenly change and there will be 60 degree days and we will hike with no coats and no 180 earmuffs. invariably disappointed, we layer up and hike anyway. saturday was no exception. no in-like-a-lion-out-like-a-lamb for this state.

birthdays always seem to be a time of reflection. the generosity of wishes texted, emailed, called, zoomed, facetimed, mailed, shipped and wrapped on the doorstep are a heaping portion of goodness and they enveloped me in warmth all day. the lion of march did not reign the day. instead, the only roar i heard was laughter on the trail, on facetime with my niece, on zoom with best friends, reading the glittery-unicorn-poop card from my other niece, the lingering echoes of my girl and her boyfriend singing to me, my son’s voice on the other end of the phone, a dinner invite from him and his boyfriend, singing memojis, exploding confetti on a text from crunch, music and spattered painting in an ecard from my mother-in-law, words in messages penned or typed, thoughtfully chosen. i lit my new candle, named my adorable new gardenia bonsai, and pulled my concentric circles ever tighter to me, hugging them back. there are days i think that every day should absolutely be lived like a birthday.

there was a common denominator in messages. my husband cleverly made a birthday book about life and love from a pa-pad, pads of scrap paper cut and glued by my sweet poppo in his effort to save trees and the environment. a dear friend from elementary school wrote that she hoped all my wishes come true. my oldest friend ever, a cherished friendship that has sustained through the years, wrote that she hoped i was celebrating. in one card that wished me “all things beautiful” i read, “may you always see the beauty in this world and be encouraged to keep pressing on, regardless of the stumbling blocks or hurdles that stand in the way.” in another was simply the word “forever”. another made me laugh aloud, poking fun at growing older. another wished me a better year. and one reminded me that “we are all works in progress.” in that card, my wise friend added “to ever evolving you” to the message “to another good year of chipping away…”

ever evolving.

the spring rains gather on the deck. they clean off the last of the snow and dirt that have been left there through the winter. like periods on sentences, they mark a new time of growth, an end to fallow, warmth on its way. there have been so many periods on sentences this year. too many. it is a time of wondering. clarity is elusive. it is a time of giving over to not-knowing.

i suppose it is possible that this is the lesson after all. not-knowing. ever. i suppose that spring – even in wisconsin – could surprise me. i suppose no time is really a time of stasis. i suppose that is why riverstones are so smooth. i suppose that, no matter what, the promise is to be ever evolving.

*****

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assumptions. [d.r. thursday]

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the sun lights our room early in the morning.  we don’t have room-darkening shades so   if artificial measures haven’t been used (read: obnoxious alarm clocks) we wake with the light.

thoughts stream in with the light in this just-past-the-dark-hour.  our quiet as we sip coffee, like jiffy-pop starting to pop on a hot stovetop, is punctuated by bits of conversation.  the dreams we are climbing out of, the babycat’s snoring through the night, dogdog’s sweet need for early pets, what the weather looks like out our window peering into the backyard, projects we are working on, what is on the docket for the day.  ideas, reminiscences patter through.  we stretch into the day yawning in front of us, putting on, and trying to keep on, caps of making-good-assumptions.  today is a good day to have a good day, as the saying goes.

good assumptions.  apparently, they are a high ticket item.  for we all are, in the world, surrounded by those who do not make good assumptions.  my sweet momma would tell me, “don’t jump to conclusions.”  “ask questions,” she would admonish. a difficult lesson worth oft-repeating.

we would sit on the couch at the end of the day, sipping tea and eating chips ahoy cookies.  we’d talk about the day, bitter jabs by classmates or exclusionary moments i had endured.  “try to find something good,” she’d remind me, while at the same time not underplaying the hurtful behaviors.  “make good assumptions.”  this is the same woman who, on the emergency room table in the wee hours of the night, in great pain and fearing a broken hip, looked up at a cranky and tired nurse and remarked, “you have a beautiful smile.”  it changed the moment; i suspect it changed the rest of the nurse’s day; perhaps it changed all those who she interacted with thereafter and so forth.  those undeniable concentric circles.

in early days with david, clearly in the beaky-beaky school of thought, one of the most-oft-repeated things i remember him saying is “ask questions.”  don’t assume you know.  don’t assume anything.  ask.  listen.

quite some time ago, mike stated, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.”  watch, ask questions and listen, he advised.  don’t make assumptions.  the best way to learn, the best way to collaborate, the best way to approach challenge, the best way to move in the world.

momma would smile and look at me, facing down adversity or standing tall on a personal summit, and say, “wowee!”

i can practically hear her now, her eyes dancing, saying, “see?  if you ARE going to assume anything, assume awe.”

thank you, chicken marsala, for the reminder.

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treading water. watershed. [k.s. friday]

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i don’t feel as much in-a-boat as i feel that i am relentlessly treading water.  but there was no handy treading-water bitmoji and i remember the exact moment that this bitmoji showed up on my snapchat mapping…in the middle of a lot of treading.

treading, treading.  guessing at why what-is-happening is happening – in wide concentric circles around us, tightly close to us.

i can only guess, as i type this with these two now-familiar broken wrists, that this is a watershed time.

watershed pronunciation

definition 2

and today, both valentine’s day and d’s birthday, i want to express gratitude for this man who is standing in the water with me – waves crashing over us, undertow threatening to pull us down, riptide ever present – and holding my fiberglass-cast-encased hand.  the person who is equally as perplexed at this time, who takes turns with me being alternatively flabbergasted, philosophical and soberingly pragmatic.

he continues to zip my jacket, buckle my seatbelt, paste my toothbrush, carry my music, pepper-mill my breakfast and dinner, put the ernie straw in my coffee.  he has learned the fine points of where-on-the-head to place hair conditioner, how best to tie plastic bags on my arms, what stool will work best at the piano, which wine glass i can pick up at the end of a day.  he has watched me learn how to hold mascara with two hands and pull up girl jeans by the belt loops.  he has been treading water with me as we look to the horizon.

maybe this watershed is the thing that elicits change.  at the end of 2019 i could feel it coming.  and i can now, with all authority and certainty, say that the change is not that i will, smack dab in the middle of middle-age, become a professional snowboarder.  nope.  but there may truly be things out there i just didn’t see or consider.  perhaps the things that are vexing us, stunning us, deeply disappointing us, are just the things that will propel us.  ah, if that just didn’t feel so pollyanna-ish.

this life is bigger than anyone can ever live it.  that includes us.  treading water in the watershed might be a time that forces dynamic change.  like everyone, i wish i had some prescient inkling of what’s-out-there, what-will-happen.

my perceived lack of control is maybe a misperception.  maybe that which has taken away control is conversely granting control, granting the creativity that comes with grabbing onto flotsam and jetsam in a sea that seems to be swirling.  maybe the grasping-at-straws is grasping-at-ernie, a touchstone that seems flimsy and unimportant, but which actually is grounding, rooting, and gives voice to more solid footing, less wave-action, more direction-choosing.

the watershed is here.  moment by moment we stare at it.  we roll our eyes, we yell at the angst-y details, we shake our heads in confusion, we stop and stand still and, yet hyperventilating from treading, we wonder.  we try to breathe, to center, to be in the eye of the storm.

holding hand-cast, we look forward and we guess that this ain’t the last watershed on the horizon.

 

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“indecency keeps getting rewarded.” [merely-a-thought monday]

indecency

it’s bewildering.

“indecency keeps getting rewarded.”

recently i heard someone say that she was glad her parents weren’t here to see what is happening.  i would have to agree.  my sweet momma and my poppo would be appalled by today’s incessant and prevailing lack of decency.  it’s embarrassing and mind-numbing to witness.  this is not just a simple lack of kindness for others; these are displays of a complete lack of regard for the sanctity of human life, the privilege of living together on this good earth.

i am relieved that my children are grown so that i don’t have to explain to them the ugliness that is pervasive, accepted, even overtly encouraged.  name-calling, lying, undermining, blatant cruelness aimed at others; egregious acts aimed at those less fortunate, elitist prejudices and judgements loaded into automatic weapons spewing vitriol at others, vindictiveness toward people who have a different opinion, who stand up for something different, who live different lives, who are courageous and whose bravery shows up in truth-telling.

we find that this is not just poisoning the outer limits – the circles we don’t belong to, the social or financial ladder-rung we have not reached, the country we belong to but the government by which we are not employed.

no.  this sinister lack of decency has reached its slimy tentacles into our communities, our work, our friends, our families, our homes.  people, who we would not expect, displaying reactionary anger – jousting their epee of mean-spirited words at the unsuspecting, stepping over the boundaries of democratic principles, over the clearly-now-elusive stopgaps of doing-what’s-right, over the limit of how-i-would-want-you-to-talk-to-me-is-how-i-will-talk-to-you or how-i-would-want-you-to-treat-me-is-how-i-will-treat-you.  there is no conversation.  there is righteous indignation, cavalier disrespect, face-down-i’m-not-listening-to-you body language.  there is anger.  there is hate.

and, instead of being struck down by an army of goodness, a wealth of kindness, even a modicum of fairness, this indecency has become normalized and it seems rewarded.  whether outwardly applauding or quietly complicit, the indecency is forwarded on.  and the tentacles of this corrosive nastiness, unchecked, reach both inward and outward into the concentric circles surrounding each of us; the incivility is a contagion and it wins.

it’s more than bewildering.  it sickens me.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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snowflake possibilities. [d.r. thursday]

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“one minute you’re a snowflake with possibilities and the next you’re wearing a scarf and goofy hat.”  that sounds like a statement of judgement.  a measurement of sorts.  and i suppose it is.  possibilities of profound impact on the world, on science or art, in music or film, medicine or education.  we measure ourselves in this society by our success; our merit based on what we reap financially, what we individually or collaboratively have contributed to the furthering of humankind, this good earth, the animal kingdom, worlds unknown.

but pay attention to the next snowman you see.  does his sweet nose make you smile?  does his crooked grin make you stop?  does his hat make you think of your dad, your brother, your best friend?  does the snowman make you happy – and do you carry that happiness with you after you pass him by?  of what value is that?

never underestimate the power of who you are.  your impact on the world will spread in concentric circles rippling outward.  whether nobel-prize-worthy or under-the-refrigerator-magnet-fame, your scarf-and-goofy-hat-ness counts.  your kindness is contagious. your good intentions affect the one closest and, in turn, and with a sureness of the way things truly do work in this world despite all efforts for the opposite, they will land in the heart of someone you may never meet but who will have been impacted by you, from way back in the middle of the concentric circles.  right in the possibility-filled-snowflake-heart of the snowman.

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act well your part. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

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“act well your part.  there all the honor lies.” (alexander pope)

this feels like a life mantra.  a reminder that no matter what you do, where you find yourself, who you are…to do the best you can, to be the best you can.  no spoke is uncounted.

the moment i heard this line i took out a scrap of paper and a sharpie and wrote it down.  it so resonated with me that i could feel my heart beating in my chest.  i thought of all the times i tried to do the best i could, to be the best i could, in every role….partner, daughter, mother, sister, friend, artist, colleague, sharer-of-the-planet.  and i thought of all the times i didn’t do the best i could, i wasn’t the best i could be, in every role….partner, daughter, mother, sister, friend, artist, colleague, sharer-of-the-planet.

i wish, at every turn, someone had repeated this to me.  good turns.  poor turns.  turns that i can account for, that have intention and educated thoughtfulness.  turns that i shrink away from thinking about, that are spontaneous, ill-conceived moments, that have no grounding. turns that were reactionary, that stole safety, stole time to patiently stand in the fire and think.  turns that i did not make, that felt too scary, too risky, too alone.  and turns that i should have made, that would have tied me to the earth’s gravity and kept me steadfastly feet on dirt.

i wish, often now, as i look back over last week, last month, last year, the last decade, my whole life, that someone had repeated this to all human beings.  as we stand in the turns we make, the decisions we decide on, the actions we choose…were we to judiciously filter them through “act well your part.  there all the honor lies” we would be reminded that it all counts.  the ripples spread.  the pebble we throw will, indeed, touch others.

just as others will count on us to act well our part, regardless of any part’s so-called import, so too, do we count on others to act well their parts.  standing together.  thinking. recognizing.  choosing.  moving with wisdom.  every spoke counts.  there is honor in each one.  for a wheel without spokes…..

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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may you. [d.r. thursday]

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may you prayer.jpgi remember my big brother skipping stones.  always my hero, he was inordinately good at it.  even over waves as they came into the shore.  it wasn’t just the flattest stones, either.  he could skip most anything.  there’s a certain stance, a certain fingerhold of the stone, a certain turn of the wrist, and the stone would defy physics, drawing an invisible ellipsis across the water, touching ever further out.

the concentric circles.  we sit in the middle of our own hearts, our own joy, our own pain, our own little worlds.

this mantra starts closest, a fingerhold on our own-ness.  each repetition is a prayer for one who is a step away, two steps, three steps, a community, a country.  the ellipsis goes on.  the prayer is never-ending.

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peace. earth. peace on earth. [d.r. thursday]

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peace signs.  the word peace.  ornaments of peace.  our home is punctuated with these.  i believe it is possible – peace.  but then, for truly big things, i believe in that which i cannot see.

the days older that i get, the more i see the simplest things are the things that bring me peace:  the moment in the car with my beloved daughter, driving and laughing in the high desert or standing on a red rock precipice overlooking a canyon, tears in my eyes.  the moment my beloved son let me link arms walking through the city or his hugging me -one more time- right before the train, yes…tears in my eyes.  being -anywhere- with my beloved husband. all the stuff of deep soul warmth.  the stuff of good tears.

i have found that peace doesn’t have to be complicated.  it is simply there.  in the very tightest concentric circle around me.  if i can be at peace, perhaps i can do my part, i can ripple that outward.  and maybe, eventually, with all our ripples, peace and earth will truly combine to be PEACE ON EARTH.

peace for me

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click here for PEACE. EARTH. PEACE ON EARTH products and scroll down SOCIETY6 page for a wide variety of gift ideas.

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PEACE. EARTH. PEACE ON EARTH. is a morsel of INSTRUMENT OF PEACE

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be kind. [two artists tuesday]

be kind collage with color font copy

we have a new frog in our pond! two actually.  this feels like perfect timing for us; we needed the good sign of a frog in our midst.  both of these frogs are different than previous pond-frogs we have had in past years; these two are leggier, less body and more frog-legs.  we’ve named the bigger one ripple and the little one pebble.  neither comes when we call their names, but ripple is not as shy as pebble.  we’ve advanced toward the pond and pebble will dive right in before we get close, but ripple sits quietly on one of the rocks and waits.  when he (or she) eventually dives in, it’s with a flourish and we get to see the concentric circles that spread outward, which is where it got its name.

it’s where we sit in our belief – as artists, as people – that the concentric circles spread outward from the center.  the only place from which we can really make a difference.  any difference.  it hearkens back to my sweet momma…her very core believing that all should start (and end) with being kind.  on her website www.beakysbooks.com is quoted mr. fred rogers, “there are three ways to ultimate success.  the first way is to be kind.  the second way is to be kind.  the third way is to be kind.”  it’s how she lived.  she would point to her life and asked what she had accomplished.  greatness.  she accomplished greatness.  because she spread kindness.  out and out and out it went, the ever-widening rings into the world.

it doesn’t seem that complicated.  it doesn’t take wealth or a super pac or any kind of grandeur to accomplish.  it is simple.  basic.  in the words of john wesley, “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  or my sweet momma’s favorite verse, ” i shall pass through this world but once.   any good therefore that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any human being, let me do it now.  let me not defer or neglect it, for i shall not pass this way again.”(stephen grellet)  or from the dalai lama, “be kind whenever possible.  it is always possible.”  right at the center, right where ripple quietly sits before the great hop – right before we move or speak or rebel or undermine or chasten or deflate or insult – is the place where we can choose to be kind.

for BE KIND products – so many things with this basic message – click here OR click on the BE KIND collage box above or below. you will be linked to a t-shirt, but be sure to scroll down on that society6.com page to see the “also available as” products.

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