All gift.

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2015 sort of snuck up on me when I was busy doing other things.

I had intended to write a moving and inspirational blog post about the hopefulness of a new year, about the passing of time and the growing feet of my three boys, about my daughter’s applications to college, about the gray hairs I find poking through at my temples and sometimes in my eyebrows so I guess I’ll get right on that.

Those wiry gray hairs are a weird comfort to me and I think it’s because I so often forget my age. I have to do the math, “let’s see…born in 1967 and now it’s what, 2015…”

It’s not a bad thing to forget my age, especially when I realize I’m a whole lot older than I had remembered, which sounds backward, I know. I forget that I’m on the backside of my 40’s sliding headfirst toward 50. I forget that and I get very impatient with my body, with my brain, with my energy level. It’s those gray hairs poking through that remind me of my age and I use those gray hairs as a sort of “keep calm” instruction when I get impatient.

I’m never going to have the body or the brain or the energy level I had when I was 17 or 25 or even 33. I am here now, living here now, having this body, this brain, this energy level and that’s okay. Really, it is.

So as I sit and reflect on the quiet, night-time passing of 2014, when I was busy doing other things I watch the slowly falling snow from the comfort of my favorite writing chair.  I hear the clicking of fingers on the keyboard issuing from my husband’s home office as he works on placing text in his graphic novel. I listen to my boys and their ever-growing feet as they run around downstairs, milking this last vestige of winter break. I think about my sweet girl sitting quietly in her room pondering great and powerful things that lie ahead for her in 2015. And I take comfort in the passing of time, the unfolding of the now and the not yet, the gray hairs poking through to mark the time, reminding me that this is all gift, all gift.

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The problem with poetry…

Last week I was fortunate to have an essay I’d written picked up and published at Art House America’s blog. This week I had the opportunity to do a Q & A with poet, Scott Cairns for Image Journal’s Good Letters blog. This morning as I drove through the alley that takes me to and from the safety of my garage I saw the broken glass that littered the sidewalk just where that alley meets the road. There was another shooting last week here. It was at around 3am and it involved known gang members, as is usual for shootings in Logan Square.

It was after another such shooting a few months ago that I wrote the essay that was picked up by Art House America. This one was a few blocks away. The scattered safety glass glimmered on the blacktop and spilled onto the sidewalk. After the driver was shot the car must have hit a bordering tree. Police tape flapped in the wind and I thought, does poetry matter here?

I went home a little shaken, not because of the shooting but because of the idea that perhaps my love of poetry was frivolous, extraneous and maybe even elitist. I have the luxury of reading poetry. I have had the privilege of studying it, of writing it, of discussing it with smart people in many beautiful places. But here, in the broken glass and police line tape, does poetry matter here?

The essay for Art House served to assure me that poetry was more than frivolous for me, it has been life blood in all of the difficult times in my life. My family, though smart folks, were not intellectuals. We did not sit around reading for fun. We did not discuss or debate literature or poetry. We were as ordinary and maybe a little more troubled than most of our neighbors but my parents valued higher education and pushed for it. They instilled the idea in my siblings and myself that going to college was an honor and a necessity in a time when going to college was not a certainty for most kids of my generation. I had to work hard to make it to college. I had to work hard to pay for it. I had to work hard to keep my grades up and keep my meager scholarship and aid money.

But unlike the kids in my neighborhood, I did not have to worry whether I’d live long enough to do any of those things.

Sometimes I think about being able to have a short talk with the gangbanger boys I see in my neighborhood. I don’t see them as dangerous or degenerate. They are all someone’s son. Many of them are the ages of my own children. I consider asking if poetry matters to them. I want to ask about their hopes and dreams, about their family lives. I want to ask them to write a poem, to imagine this poem would be read someday far in the future by anthropologists and literature professors and young people who want to know about life in this time, in this place. What would they say, I wonder.

And I just want to understand, not so that I can fix it, because when my white savior instincts kick in (and they do) I try hard to remember that these kids are not a problem to be fixed. They are someone’s son. I don’t have the solve them so that I feel safer in my neighborhood or so that I feel better about my own worth. I want to understand so that I can avoid being part of the problem.

While I will profess my undying love of poetry to all who will listen (obviously) in moments like this, the day after another shooting, another loss of life, it is sometimes difficult to know that poetry matters here, where the alley meets the road.

Your vote…

It’s always an election year.

Sometimes I forget this but it’s true. Elections of some kind or another are being held all the time. Special elections, local elections, School board elections…we’re in the process of appointing people to help us manage the governing of our people at some level all the time. We fall into a dangerous lull in between the “big elections” when we don’t sweat the small stuff but as we all know, it’s all small stuff.

It’s always an election year.

I ran across these posts from 2012 today and was reminded of my responsibility as it pertains to government, all government no matter how much television coverage it gets.

Advice for politicians

You could say this is a kind of “open letter” for politicians although I doubt many would read and take to heart this unsolicited advice. They pay big money for advice, generally. They have gas-powered multi task machines, as it were, they have little need of my vegetable peelers and melon ballers I wager. Nevertheless, here is my advice to politicians…

Advice for voters

Turns out, I do have some unsolicited advice for voters for what it’s worth. Most of these things you already know so this is simply a reminder. It’s a reminder for you and for me, for your neighbor, your Aunt, your grocery store clerk. These are bi-partisan bits of  well-worn road seen through the lens of the digital age. So, without further introduction, Advice for Voters.

We can grouse about do-nothing Congresses or high level leaders we don’t care for but we build these people from the ground up. If we want adequate leadership in big arenas of our future then we better start paying attention to the small stuff and going local. Take some time, read my advice and then find out what’s being decided in your neighborhood, in your ward, in your city and state. Pay attention and participate. That’s how change happens.

Got advice for voters on “going local?” Add it here in the comments!

We really are in this together.

Your congressional leaders are found here

State Reps are found here

On digital engagement

Leaning…

I’m pleased to have a piece up on the Ruminate Magazine blog today to help support the theme of this quarter’s issue, “Not Forgotten.” The struggle to be in relationship with a family member with Alzheimer’s is hard to articulate. No matter how prepared any of us might think we are for whatever lies ahead, life is quick to show us how little control we have. We felt as though we were always playing catch up with Chester. We were always one step behind the progress of the disease. This essay shows a brief moment of light, a glimmer of something eternal.

I hope you’ll take a moment today to check out the piece and if it hits you someplace, share it, comment, join in the conversation:
Leaning

 

I wish I had and I hope I do…

I’d love to say that I typically spend the last day of the year looking back and reflecting upon the many blessings, trials and occurences of the previous 12 months. I think this would be an excellent habit. I do have friends who have this habit. They are very together people and I like them a whole lot. I find I am way too scattered for this. And then I think, well maybe if I developed a habit of reflection on the last day of the year I would not be so scattered. It sounds good, in theory and certainly I can’t recommend my current method of scrambling and then feeling bad about it later.

This often leaves me with a number of “I wish I hads.”  I wish I had kept my temper better. I wish I had eaten well. I wish I had remembered to pay the gas bill. I wish I had taken the Tupperware off the stove before turning it on.

“I wish I had” is a nearly useless statement. Regret has its place, certainly but sitting here, on the edge of 2012, feet dangling and looking into the abyss before me I know that carrying a list of regrets from the wide expanse of land behind me isn’t going to make my flight off the edge into a new year any less dangerous or any more enjoyable.

Making resolutions seems to be the natural response to “I wish I had” but being “resolved” feels like a lot of weight too. Resolution is a pair of big heavy iron shoes stomping all over the landscape. I don’t think that the edge of the unknown needs me stomping into its crevices, feet first.  Instead, I’ll begin 2012 with “I hope I do…”

I hope I do more to love people

I hope I keep my temper

I hope I remember how loved I am

I hope I am always aware of the beauty around me

“I hope I do” is a great winged suit, ready to fly. It is not without danger. Hope is its own reward, always present tense, always in the moment. For 2012, let’s be here and do this, shall we?

guns and ammunition

I missed Poetry Tuesday this week…so sorry about that! I will toss out there, in light of my politics-ish post this week, this little poem I wrote and inserted into a Facebook discussion a few months ago. I’m weird like that.

Here ’tis…

i wont resort 
to guns and ammunition
to politics, name calling, brow beating
to man against man against woman against friend and lover
on this line I cannot sign.
what i offer-
hands to hold
heart hurt
level head filled
with hope
it may yet
be enough

we interrupt this moment of silence…

today you will be asked probably many times to pause for a moment
a moment of silence
what I would ask of you
rather
than a moment of mere silence
is a moment of remembrance
because it’s due

take a moment today
at the very least
perhaps
several moments
as it were
to remember
and pray
and feel
and hope
and breathe

breathe it in
and pass it on