Saturday, October 30, 2004

Family Ties

I'm giving a birthday party tonight for a member of my family. Not the born-of-the-same-mother or even adopted-into kind of family, but family nonetheless. The kind of family you choose.

I'm blessed with a biological bond to an incredible group of people -- a sister who taught me what it means to be open minded and open armed, a brother, now deceased, who showed me how a good person could be a success even if he chose not to climb a corporate ladder, a twin who is truly my mirror but not in the physical sense . . . he's shown me what life would have been like had I made other choices, a mom who is still considered cool by my friends . . . and many more folks who remind me regularly that they love me.

The family I've chosen is just as precious to me. I've declared to one that we'll probably take care of each other in some old folks' home somewhere. Another makes the pain of losing a brother easier to bear since he fills in quite nicely. Still another makes me laugh . . . the greatest gift she could give me. One reminds me of my faith, even when I feel distant from it. Yet another listens and retells my stories so I won't forget the blessings I've collected. And several are in charge of challenging my sense of adventure.

Tonight we celebrate the contemplative soul among us. Don't assume solemnity here, however. As a southern gentleman he has mastered the fine art of charm drenched in irony. With a smile on his face and a pat on the back, he can either show you how much he cares or exactly where the door is that you'll be exiting from. But stay or leave, you'll be charmed.

I took time to write this prior to the party because as I was cooking and some of the guys were coming in and out of the apartment, I was transported back to the days when I "helped" grandmother in her kitchen for one of the holiday family get togethers. We lived next door to her and so were spared the packed-car-with-kids-and-toys-to-cross-the-state frustrations of Christmas gatherings. The energy of even those weary souls entering into my grandmother's domain was so present with me this afternoon. I couldn't help but compare one family to another.

The energy is similar as I said. The stories are about as long and . . . shall we just say "improved upon" as they were when my uncles were sharing them. Some of the "cares and concerns" are familiar as well . . . "Is she ever going to stop talking and help with these dishes?" from my childhood memories is rivaled with "How late do you think he/she/they'll be this time?" And through it all, there's this spirit that settles somewhere above the candlelight and yet pervades the room . . . and that spirit . . . the one that cuts through the sharp retorts, that soothes the criticized soul, that lengthens the hello hug and the goodbye embrace, that connects eyes and hearts across the crowded room . . . that spirit is what I call family.

There are differences I must acknowledge though. For one thing, there's not one item on my menu that's fried! The bread from Pillsbury's freezer bags is better than any thing I could pull together from scratch (Grandmother might even agree with that one). And my bio-family would have questioned only one vegetable, why any appetizers were needed, what exactly possesses someone to stuff a mushroom, and would have snuck the Jack Daniels into Grandmother's boiled custard rather than just have a glass of wine with the mushrooms!

Yet, I love them both. For all our likenesses and differences, I feel enriched. I can't imagine anything more real than times together as family and any family more real than those who choose to spend time together.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Words that Caught My Fancy Today

"A lot of what can be counted doesn't count, and a lot of what counts can't be counted." -- Albert Einstein

"The test of a first-rate mind is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts at the same time while still retaining the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Like all journalists, I'm a voyeur. I write about what I find fascinating. I used to write about travel. I traveled to escape the known and the ordinary. The longer I did this, the farther afield I had to go. By the time I found myself in Antarctica for the third time, I began to search closer at hand. I began to look for the foreign lands between the cracks. Science is one such land. -- Mary Roach in explaining why she wrote Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

California Trails

A rainy stroll through a redwood forest. An 8-mile hike up and down, up and down with a vista at the top to take your breath away. Six miles -- so the map says but seemed like less -- along the coast with seals barking in the background. And conversation, glorious conversation as the soundtrack for each step.

Add that to a time of connection -- my passion for teaching matched with a group who seemed to really want to hear what I had to say -- and well, this was a week to remember.

My life is good!

Sunday Morning in San Francisco

Sunday morning glory moment: powerwalking along the Great Highway in San Francisco, watching the blue (yes, blue, not chocolate brown ala Galveston) waves break into white mists that rise to meet the gulls that soar with a backdrop of clouds over the sea of purple T-shirt-clad women runners nearing the end of a marathon – everything in multiples . . . waves, sea birds, clouds and the runners in all shapes and sizes and colors and ages.

I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time as the first finishers were cheered across the line. I also felt fortunate to be healthy enough to feel my own lungs expand with the intake of sea air and a certain amount of pride . . . in the women, the accomplishment, the supporters, my own sweat . . . just about everything.

God, it was beautiful.

Later, a tattered man, in his 50s or 60s, with a flesh-colored nose guard and hair that hadn't seen shampoo in a while hanging from beneath a soiled cap stood waiting beside me at the light.

"What is this?" he inquired. "I see it's a race but what for?"

"Nike Marathon," I huffed, trying not to appear too winded. "For leukemia."

"Oh. Is it over?"

"It's the beginning of the end," I said and crossed the street to keep walking up the hill.

He smiled. I'm not sure if it was at the race or the irony of the comment.

A first, a last and a new beginning

My first time
The bar was black
I crossed the line
I never looked back

The bar was black
Only movement could be sensed
I never looked back
I was simply convinced

Only movement could be sensed
Something sexual this way comes
I was simply convinced
Someone sexual this way stuns

Something sexual this way comes
Initially I choose not to see
Someone sexual this way stuns
Head down, remember to breathe

Initially I choose not to see
Images invade my space
Head down, remember to breathe
Friends vie to read my face

Images invade my space
Judgment is simply illusion
Friends vie to read my face
Every turn's an intrusion

Judgment is simply illusion
That’s not why I run
Every turn’s an intrusion
One’s sin is another’s fun

That’s not why I run
My leaving leads to a new start
One’s sin is another’s fun
Pain or pleasure? Trash or art?

My leaving leads to a new start
Blackness exists, but it’s not my home
Pain or pleasure? Trash or art?
Choices made, I’m not alone

Blackness exists but it’s not my home
Forward movement toward new light
Choices made, I’m not alone
Redefining wrong and right

Forward movement toward new light
Energized by the exit sign
Redefining wrong and right
My first time.

*This is a pantoum, a traditional form of poetry with abab rhyme pattern, numerous quatrains, and the first line of the current quatrain repeats the second line in the preceding and the third line repeats the fourth line of the preceding.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Yes, This Really Happens

"Do you have brothers and sisters?"

"I have an older sister and a twin brother and . . . "

Interrupting, "You have a twin? Are you identical?"

"No, he's taller."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

All the World's a Stage

Last night I met an actress I've admired for years. Tonight at another theater I sat by the playwright of the production.

Three years ago both encounters would have been impossible. I would never have approached either person. I would have considered them too important or too busy or too far removed from my world. I would have spent more time agonizing about what to say if I were to approach them than the actual conversations would have ever lasted.

What's changed?

Risk doesn't worry me anymore. Embarassment is rare these days. I've simply come to the conclusion that we're all human and if, by chance, they (strangers, people I would have once wanted to speak to but distanced myself from) are too busy, they'll let me know.

I also know that folks like to talk about themselves. The actress had recently directed readings of erotic women's poetry at a local venue and I was interested in knowing how the event was received. The playwright was simply sitting alone and waiting for his play to begin and I thought he looked slightly uncomfortable. So, while I tore tickets for those entering, he stood by me and we chatted about his writing, his travels, his children. Eventually, I learned he was in an award-winning BBC comedy and that he now writes because he can afford to since he's living off the residuals.

I wonder how many moments I missed because of my internal arguments regarding other people's reception of me? I wonder how many adventures I lost?

No more.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I thought of Bart tonight

I'm not going to use names alot on this blog. I decided early on to go with initials only. But now I'm going to break my rule.

I thought of Bart tonight.

Maybe it was because of a line in the play I saw that spoke of how much love a brother had had for another. Or maybe it was because a friend of mine lost a child through miscarriage this week and so death was on my mind. Or maybe it was because it was just time to think about him again.

Sometimes weeks . . . even months go by and I don't do him that honor. And so tonight, I wanted to remember him and do so "publicly" even if no one is reading this thing. At least tonight, his spirit is alive on this page.

Bart, my older brother by three years, died almost ten years ago. I actually had to think a while to determine if that's correct, but it is. He would be amazed at all that's happened in the last decade. The two that would devastate and delight him most (as far as connections to my world) is that I divorced (he was a very good, very conservative Baptist who was troubled by the women deacons we had in my previous church) and the Houston Oilers went to Tennessee, our home state.

The former would devastate him only because it would seem some how wrong to him and he didn't want bad things to come to me, to anyone. He would have had a hard time understanding it. But, I know, he would have accepted my act and he would never have made me feel less than, or judged.

The latter would have thrilled him only because it would have been more fodder for harrassment. And that man loved to pick at a person. Not just me, actually, he was pretty tame with me. But his children, his brother (my twin), my then-husband, my mom . . . he loved to push their buttons with a smile on his face and a pretend cigarette in his fingers. He had this odd practice of holding his fingers in such a way as to suggest he was smoking and even going so far as to inhale and occasionally stamp it out on the floor. I write this and think, that sounds strange no matter how you phrase it but he did it and it was amusing and I always smile when I think of it.

He was not concerned with fashion. The only thing I wanted when he died was one of the many colorful windbreakers he wore over a while cotton button down with a color coordinated fabric and mesh baseball hat. His "ensemble" was completed by a pair of blue work pants. As a postman in a small town, his "uniform" was informal but standardized.

The funeral for Bart include a "viewing" from about 6 p.m. until well past when it was supposed to have ended. Our hometown only had about 2000 residents and they all came. At least it felt like it.

He was one of those "never met a stranger" guys. He would start off with a grin (and his was a grin, not really a smile) and then ask a few questions, find your vulnerable spot and start the picking. If he liked you. If he didn't, he'd be polite, always the gentleman, but there was little time for picking. He gave of himself freely, but quietly, and we heard many stories we'd never heard from him about his generosity and compassion the night before we buried him.

He was a smart man but he didn't like the college life and left before finishing his degree. He had simple needs -- be a good husband, father, and church member. I think he succeeded at all three.

I vividly remember a Christmas eve where he was determined to make a memory for his then five year old twins. By the time I got to his house, they were watching TV and he was in the kitchen faking righteous indignation that his green icing was sliding down the side of his inverted sugar cone "trees" and the kids had already eaten most of the M&M ornaments that were supposed to have been used as decorations. I don't know that the kids got a Christmas memory out of the experience, but I certainly did as we laughingly cleaned up the mess and lamented that Ward Cleaver he was not.

We never agreed on much politically, spiritually, religiously, or socially. But we did agree that we could love each other as we disagreed. He was a man of peace, often the peacemaker in our little disfunctional family, and even though he was only 13 when our dad died, he never complained that early on mom turned to him as the man of the family.

I think of his kids . . . one loves music, the other is probably heading for a career in medicine, and the third -- the one born after his death -- is so very much like him, even down to the grin . . . and I know that he would be very proud. I have a bit of a pang that he won't get to play out the role he was probably most right to play -- grandfather.

And yet, while I do have the occasionaly pang, I don't fret for him. He would have abhorred that. Ever the pragmatic, he would be good with the fact that his beautiful wife remarried and has a wonderful life and would want that life, indeed, has gone on.

Still, I don't want it to go on at such a pace that I forget. He's too good a memory. So I thought of Bart tonight. And now I feel better.

I love St. Brigid

I* don't know if she was goddess or saint or (like most of us) somewhere slightly south of all that. But I do know that I love the idea of her. She was the saint of the oppressed and the embarrassed of all things! How can you not love that?!!!

One of the things I love most is the view of heaven attributed to her. Here's how B. Kennelly, a poet put it:

St. Brigid’s Ale Soliloquy

I’d like to give a lake of beer to God,
I’d love the Heavenly Host to be tippling there
for all eternity.
I’d love the men of heaven to live with me,
to dance and sing.
If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering,
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make the men happy for their own sakes.
I’d like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather
from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God,
There by the lake of beer.
We’d be drinking good health forever
and every drop would be a prayer.

Now if you read that aloud with a lilt in your voice and -- if you're like me -- an accent derived from part Scotty on Star Trek, part Irish Spring commericials and part the Lucky Charms guy, you'll pretty much know why I smile everytime I read it.

I also smile because Brigid welcomed all. I long to be so welcoming, so free with what I have that it matters not if when offered to you it is then soiled, displaced, or destroyed, but that what matters is that it is offered. I'm not there yet. Maybe someday . . .

If you want to know a bit more about old Brigid, read on. This is from the pages of a book sold in the town of Kildare, where Brigid called home:

Brigid is the woman who, above all others, embodies the spirit of pre-Christian Celtic and Christian Celtic Ireland. Her life inspires unity and reconciliation. In a world of much fragmentation, with many divides, there is a search for unity, a search for connection, a search for a sense of the whole family, human and natural. ‘In her femininity, Brigid inclusively embraces many kinds of cross currents, some of them apparently contradictory – the ancient and the new, the pagan and the Christian, the animal and the human, the rich and the poor, -- and from this it is clear that her ample cloak can accommodate all kinds of apparently irreconcilable differences.’ There is a traditional invocation: Faoi bhrat Bhride sinn – May we be under the cloak of Brigid.

Brigid is associated in Irish folklore and literature with the gifts of poetry, healing and smithcraft, and is also identified with nurture, fertility, and fire. She is known for her faith, her healing powers, her skill with animals, her hospitality, her generosity and, especially, her concern for the poor, the oppressed or the embarrassed.

*Feeling a little "Campbell-esque" today and wanting to share from my heritage.

Built a Cairn Today

Built a cairn today
Partially to remember
And then
To walk away.

Words spoken and un-
Moments to regret
Relationships shunned.

Stones selected, carefully laid
Prayers whispered
Promises made.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

What A Ride

The "late night ride" lived up to its billing. We started at 10 p.m. and I finally put my head on my pillow the next morning at 4 a.m. Encompassed in those hours were a few miles on my trusty bike to downtown, weaving in and out of party-ers on Main, great conversation over coffee, circling downtown parks and parking lots in our own version of an obstacle course, garlic tofu at an all-night Asian restaurant overlowing with those same party-ers, and a couple of stop-and-live-in-the-moment moments.

An adventure? Definitely. Worth it? Definitely. To be repeated? Not exactly.

Wind in the face in the early morning hours is an exquisite experience. I'd take that again any day/night. Stories of great views we've seen, strange foods we've eaten, stimulating people we've met, all the while watching the passing parade of diverse downtown fashion -- that's a conversation over coffee that's worthy of repetition without a doubt.

But I learned something. What you see on a bike in downtown Houston at 1:00 in the morning is pretty much what you are going to see in downtown Houston at 2:00 in the morning and almost exactly what you'll see at 3:00 in the morning -- only the degree changes. If someone is loud at 1:00, they're louder at 2 and 3. If someone is dazed and confused at 1:00 they're probably out of it at 3. If someone is defying gravity with the blouse she's got on at 1:00, the fabric is stretched to its limit by 3. Basically, if you're loaded at 1:00, then you're driving at 3 and asking for directions to the freeway that I'm not all that sure I should be giving you.

In other words, there are a lot of people drinking a lot of alcohol in downtown Houston at 1, 2 and 3 in the morning.

And even if I wear white so you can see me on my very cool red bike . . . and even if my new friend and conversationalist has a light on his even cooler two wheeler. . . and even if my guide to this rather radical experience knows exactly where we are going . . . I can't keep the two voices in my head from arguing with one another.

One says, "That truck is driving way too fast and if you're not paying attention, you're going to get hit." And, "We're going to ride in front of the bus station??? Are you crazy? Look at that guy. He could grab your bike in a second and you'd be down for the count."

While the other admonishes, "You'd never get to see the streets of the city in this light if you weren't here at this moment." And, "Adventures involve risk and are almost always worth it. See? That guy didn't even notice you. He was probably concerned about your sanity."

So I decided to listen to both.

That night I took every moment as it came -- the waterfall in the theater district, the guy who couldn't find the bar or his car and needed more help than we could give (though we tried), the songs playing in and outside the clubs that would get stuck in my head and I'd sing lines from throughout the morning, the cast of characters at the restaurant, the tales of travels past and desired future, the cold -- yes cold -- ride home.

But, if asked to join this merry band once again, I'd agree on one condition -- I'm heading home at midnight.

Shall We Dance?

Quick, quick, slow, step, step.

1-2-3, left, right, 1-2-3.

Backwards on the balls of my feet . . . forward slide.

Whew, there's way more thinking to this dance stuff than I ever imagined! Still, I absolutely love the feeling of a hand in the middle of my back, practically steering me from one twirl to the next. When it's right . . . and with my dear friend B at the wheel the only reason it's not is when I try to "drive", it's an out-of-body experience.

There are few times in life when I want desperately to lose control, to let go and see where the moment takes me. Too much seems to be at stake . . . my reputation, my professionalism, my confidence, my fragile psyche (that was a joke) . . . but on the dance floor, I long for it. Because it's only in the letting go that you find the right-ness of it all.

In Ecuador my salsa teacher only spoke Spanish and while I was going to classes four hours each morning I still needed a translator when he told me to leave my dance partner and friend and join him for the evening. No, he was not amazed at my dancing ability. He told our translator, "Tell her that while it is good to have a strong personality, on the dance floor, the man takes the lead." Ouch!

While I wanted to let my friend lead, he was new to the dance and less than confident. We had chatted about it and I thought that I was following, but obviously our instructor thought otherwise. So I spent the evening in his arms and out as he instructed each couple with details on what they were doing wrong but somehow not so wrong that they needed him to take them on as his new partner. I waited and watched and followed. And finally, at the close of the class when he added several steps, turns, twirls and squeezes that I attentively followed to the max and that he had not given instruction for, he grabbed me even tighter at the waist and said in my ear, "Muy bien!"

Damn right, muy bien!

When I trust that the leader will truly lead, that it's not a matter of lack of knowledge, or confidence, or insecurity or whatever, then I can follow. But I'm sad to say, I rarely sense that.

Except with B. He's got almost 30 years on me and he's filled it with learning square dance, clogging, Texas two steps and line dances, and, I hear most recently, he's added Mexican dance to his repertoire. He's so dear that he counts for me and with a smile on his face every time, reminds me that "you have to keep the count even if you're not moving forward or backward," "you're in no hurry, don't race through it," and "now you just keep going while I do the turning." After about three dances last night, I remembered the hours of bike riding I'd done this weekend and the recent late nights and wondered if I was going to physically keep up with him. After the fourth dance when he twirled me around the dance floor for two full cycles and I swear I thought my soul might be looking down on my body, I didn't care if my legs fell off and my lungs exploded out of my chest, I was staying until he said stop!

I still remember the first time I danced with someone who knew how to lead. It was a dance in my church gym and only a few years ago. (I should probably note here that my era of teenage dancing never included partners actually touching one another.) We went out on the floor and as usual, I went left when he wanted to go right, I stepped when I should have slid, I couldn't count, etc. But for some reason I took a breath and finally felt that hand in my back . . . that strong hand . . . that hand that I somehow knew would guide me in the way that I should go. And I let go.

My God, what a rush. I had no idea what was coming next and it didn't matter. I had no sense of self and it was inconsequential. I had no claim to the minutes passing, and I gave it up willingly. I was gliding. I don't know if it looked that way to anyone watching but as far as I was concerned, I was Cinderella (in the cartoon version where her feet really never move, but she and her dress truly float across the ballroom) and magic was happening. And then I saw something all too real out of the corner of my eye and it was over. Might have been the basketball goal, the table near the dance floor or a friend, I don't know but suddenly reality returned and I was painfully aware of my foot as it stepped on his and then rushed to correct it by overcorrecting it and . . . well, you get the idea. The moment was gone.

But that moment, and moments like this weekend, are enough of a drug to keep me coming back, keep me learning, keep me longing to let go just one more time and . . . truly . . . dance.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Smiley Things

I enjoy smiling. Here are a few things that have put a grin on my face recently:

  • the looks I get while powerwalking on the Bellaire walking trail
  • the wind in my face and good music to powerwalk to
  • the vast array of strange and wonderful creatures who find themselves at the Social Security office at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday morning
  • listening to a clerk who has to deal with crazys pretty regularly take it all in stride and laugh as she helps "the next in line"
  • being asked to dance when there's only the chorus left to the song
  • my friend having the guts to do karaoke
  • my other friend having the guts to do open mic night
  • and yet my other friend giving me "grief" about just about anything she finds amusing
  • the fact that I have so many friends
  • nuts in my salad
  • helping someone look good in front of others simply by encouraging her to be herself
  • great conversation
  • mediocre conversation
  • silence
  • sunlight dancing through leaves
  • getting under the covers and pulling them up to my chin
  • adults talking about silly things like how they sleep under the covers
  • the fact that a cheap Snickers bar sometimes tastes better to me than the most expensive chocolate
  • spontaniety
  • writing down what makes me smile

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Silly Sadness

Silly sadness
Settles silently
Over me.

Feeling frustrated
Foolishly fearful,
I wait.

Confetti complaints
Cancel calm’s covering
And I want.


Something unseen
Something unspoken
Something uncivilized

Silly sadness
Stays clear.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Only View

Last night I sat with seven beautiful men on the patio of a local Tex Mex restaurant. As we chip-ped and salsa-ed our way through overlapping conversations and underlying tensions (brought on by new relationships, old relationship, new-meeting-old relationships, etc.), I enjoyed the view.

I left them to meet E, my singer/songwriter/artista/friend at open mic night at a nearby pub and soon our table was filled with musicians and singers who were each lamenting the lack of opportunities to "just play." As the only non-musician in the conversation, I once again had to smile.

I've become very familiar with the view of the "only." Often I'm the "only" woman at the table . . . the "only" straight at the table . . . the "only" non-musician . . . the "only" Anglo . . . the "only" one who isn't a pastor. And I love this perspective. Can't really say that I'm the proverbial "fly on the wall" because I don't quietly take it all in, with my presence barely noticed. No, you know I'm there. I ask questions, tell my stories, and in so doing connect my "only" worlds.

Offering a perspective outside the norm has become a my pleasure. Frequently, being on the "outside looking in" is seen as a detriment. But not by me. Somehow, I've learned how to be heard and if no one is listening, I've even resorted to sign language!

But the nicest thing about it all is that I've yet to encounter a group where my "only-ness" got in the way. Most folks, it seems, care that you care enough to be there -- not that you look, act, or think like them. Oh yeah . . . and the "only" agenda is that there isn't one.

Monday, October 11, 2004

What letter would you like to write and place here, never to be found again but at least a chance to express? What letter are you sure is here, written to you and yet never received?  Posted by Hello

And now a word from our sponsor . . .

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

Rah! Rah!

Saw the movie about Texas high school football tonight and it reminded me of all those ballgames when I clutched a clip board tightly (as opposed to allowing the coach to hit me with it, which actually happened a time or two) trying to conjure up tears for the emotional last seconds of a crucial win/loss back in my statistician days. I always felt somewhat guilty about not really feeling the moment the way everyone else seem to feel it. Even then, I thought it was just a game but perhaps because my sweat wasn't involved I was missing something. So I drama-ed it up as best I could.

Several times in the film, older guys tell the young players that these are the best years of their lives. And seeing the closing updates on what each of them are doing now, you get the idea that perhaps those guys were right. God, how sad.

Made me think of my best friend in high school who was an outstanding basketball player. She was brilliant too. In college she was an All-American and later pursued a doctorate and her dream coaching job. Five years ago, she killed herself.

Some people wanted to blame sports. I couldn't. Sports gave her an edge, an advantage, a chance to shine. And what happiness she had in life often came on a court.

All I know is that I don't know. And that what little I do know is that I am profoundly grateful for always suspecting there is more. . . more life to be lived, more joys to be had, more challenges to meet. God, how grateful.

Know what I miss?

Just saw a movie moment that reminded me one of the things I miss most about a relationship . . . that point in time when you are so close that you feel each other's breath on your skin and yet you're not touching. The moment is so intimate, a kiss would seem like an intrusion. And the seconds and the silence linger filling the limited space between you.

Yeah . . . that' s what I miss.

Another Form of Yoga

He said things like, "In a parallel universe they might begin with the other foot but here we begin with this one" and "You start with your left; it's arbitrary but that's the way we do it."

I kept wondering if this line of thought was keeping him from smiling as well. Today's yoga instructor was not inspirational. The speed at which he gave instruction made him less than informational as well. Did he somehow think that by offering less of himself it became more about us? I don't know. To know would mean he would have let me/us in a bit, and this guy was way too reserved to do that.

But he had a handle on the idea that it's all about the process rather than the precision. And my process is progressing nicely!

No, I still can't hold my feet straight above my head while clutching my feet and balancing on my "sit" muscles (if that's even what they're saying when the describe them!). And more than once, he said, "This will allow you to develop your form so that you can go lower. What you're doing is ok . . . for now."

But I'm learning. When I meditate on it, I'm learning a LOT. Currently, I'm being trained on weights, taking yoga classes and practicing Spanish once per week. I hadn't thought of the flood of new experiences I'm having until driving home from the place of the ommmm. (Yes, he does the kind of yoga where I'm supposed to know all the Indian phrases.)

Did I mention I'm probably not going back to his class? The ommmmm has little to do with it but perhaps is influencing my decision. I like yoga for exercise, not spiritual enlightenment. I want to laugh out loud at my "fallures," be taught how to be better and smile through the experience. Hearing that doing a pose like this or that is "for crap" isn't exactly going to guarantee my total participation.

But I'm going to keep going to the other class. And I'm going to keep pushing myself physically and mentally. Spiritual push-ups are part of my day to day work world right now so that's not a problem. It's just the emotional side of me that seems to be in kindergarten.

If there were a non-smiling, fast-talking purist to learn from for that one? I'd be a willing disciple!

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I Remember When . . .

I first saw Houston in the 1980s. I was given a tour of the city and distinctly remember the Mary-Tyler-Moore-Show-throwing-her-hat-in-the-air feeling of being a small town girl seeing the really BIG city for the first time. I thought there was an abundance of "downtowns" for instance, and since I lack any sense of direction, had to be told that the Medical Center skyline was distinctive because of the two hypodermic needles puncturing the sky.

But I'd forgotten, until last night, the trip down Westheimer I was offered. My host told me that the moment we were on that street, we were on what was the most highly populated gay hangout in the second most populated gay city in the nation.

At the time, I couldn't have told you the name of one gay person. I might have suspected a few here or there, but with assurance, I couldn't have conjured up one name. And, if I' m honest, I must admit to wondering if I should lock my car door . . . or try and be moderately cool about the open mouth "can-we-feed-the-animals-in-the-zoo" gaping I was doing.

Last night, I rode my bike through Montrose. I saw the sweet little piano bar where I play pool with my guys, the Vietnamese restaurant with the swishy-est waiters I've ever encountered, the path to the hospice where I volunteer, the galleries and shops proudly displaying rainbows outside. And I thought how far I've come from that first journey.

No wonder I'm so grateful for my life! I've been blessed -- flooded even -- with the knowledge that now I not only know some gay men by name, I know them by heart. Sure there are still some odd (for my world) looking characters on the streets, but they are not the people I know. No, the people I know are ministers and parents, priests and teachers, talents and administrators, actors and . . . friends. They tell me their stories and let me read them my poems and we understand each other -- I don't even have to change the pronouns!

So a bike ride reconnects me to the world of gratitude once again. Thank you God for my life . . . Amen, Amen, Amen.

Frown Lines

For the most part, I wake up every day with a prayer of gratitude (except for that strange morning recently when I awoke singing one of E's tunes and not all that well, I might add).

However, "Thank you, God, for my life" is a familiar utterance.

Today, I opened my eyes with a sense of diappointment, distraction, disillusionment. I was disgruntled. Just plain ol' dis-ed!

Why? Because I risked and haven't been rewarded.

I'm not looking for "your-wish-has-been-granted" rewards here. I'm just put out that I did something I rarely do -- make myself vulnerable -- and rather than get even the drama of a big NO as a response to my offer, I've received nada. And in this case, NO is better than nada.

By the way, this has nothing to do with the whole God thing. I just told the part about the morning prayer because it's true and because I wanted to establish that I'm a relatively positive person. Now back to human-to-human relational stuff . . .

Some folks say I'm too negative about myself. I don't think so but then again they don't hear the press conferences I conduct in my head, the applause I silently bow to, the team spirit my body/mind/soul conjure up. What they do hear are occasional (hopefully humorous) putdowns of me, concocted by me and expressed by me. I'm working on that. As well, I'm working on the whole "ask-for-what-you-want" concept. Now, that's not to say I expect to get it but if you don't ask you have no one to blame but yourself.

So I have asked . . . and there's nada . . . and yet I can't figure out who or what to blame because . . . let's see there's nada! So I'm left feeling pissed at being dis-ed.

Friday, October 08, 2004

E & I Agree

Wit happens.

Shhhhhhhhhh . . .

the focus
of someone’s
attention . . .

a moment
as someone’s
deep desire.

but somehow
meeting . . . a need.

Catalyst of my awakening

You sounded the alarm
And I responded.
No delayed reaction.
No snooze.
I bounced out of my life stupor
And discovered a bright new day
Ready to be engaged.

Cold, tile floor couldn't stop me.
Contrary shower spray won't keep me away.
Wiped the crust of idleness from my eyes.
Dressed myself in pure potential
And opened the door to

No motorized limits
No limits at all
I'm driving
But with wings.

I see.

Thanks be to thee
for the freeing of me.

And yet, take note . . .
While you sounded the alarm
I responded.

Vulnerable Spaces

If I walk out on this limb
And give you a saw
Would you use it?

If I walk to the edge
To simply take a peek
Would you push?

If we build a fire
Would the sparks fly?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ouch! and Oh! at the same time. A study in contrasts not unlike a yoga class. Posted by Hello

It's A Long Way to Namaste

I went to a yoga class last night .... Something I hadn't done in a while, so I'm not exactly at my most flexible. But the teacher was good and it went well ...

UNTIL he said, "Put your right foot on your left thigh. . . . Now if this is ok for you, take your right hand and grab you right toe. . . . Now if this is ok for you, straighten your right leg."

Needless to say, it wasn't ok for me. The foot on thigh move was no biggie, but the toe thing took a little work and the straight leg option was not a reality I could even imagine attempting.

And I didn't. And it was ok. Because he had already stressed that this wasn't a competition, that what we could do this day would be different from another day and all that mattered was what we could do in this moment.

Good news for me since I'd already surveyed the room and determined that I was his oldest pupil and one of his chubbiest. But something happened in that class that never happened for me before -- I didn't care. OK, maybe I did but not like I once might have. I didn't bemoan my status; I celebrated it! I was the oldest and I was there. I wasn't as thin as the model/dancer on my left but I was there. I couldn't do all the moves but I was there.

And I'll be back . Sure, I'll keep falling to the right when I'm supposed to be a tree and putting the wrong foot forward when I'm supposed to be a warrior and looking more like the arrow than the bow. But I'll go and I'll try and someday soon there'll be more than desire at work . . . there'll be ability. So with the wisdom and patience that comes with age -- my light within -- I'll wait.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Blessed Assurance Just Ain't Mine

The agent was initially less than helpful.

"This is a code share ticket. You have to go to their counter."

"But I booked it through you."

"Ok, let me see," typing away and looking at the screen with some degree of frustration as she mumbles to her cohort. ". . . flight number . . . can't locate."

"Do you need the flight information?" I ask, having only handed her my frequent flyer card. "I have it here somewhere."

And we find the number simultaneously.

"Ok, I can give you the boarding pass."

A few steps away from the desk, movement on the flight info board catches my eye. My scheduled code share flight is delayed to the point that I will miss my connection. Back to the agent . . .

Smiling knowingly and with what looks like the emergence of some compassion, she says, "Did you see? There's a delay."

"So now what?"

"We could get you on standby for a direct flight through us."

"Great. What are my chances?"

"Can't promise anything but your the first on the list and there's still one unsold ticket."

"Your flight leaves 15 minutes after the one I have a seat on. If I choose you, I lose that opportunity. When would I get out if I don't get this seat?"

"Tomorrow before noon."

"But no guarantee?"

"Can't do it. But you are first on the list."

(Now for all the frequent flyers reading this who know that is pretty much a guarantee, I would ask that you keep your confidence to yourself. I have flown for years but rarely on standby. So there are lots of things I don't know.)

I take what is offered and walk away.

A few feet from the counter, more movement has my attention. This time it's the growing lines at all the counters. Something else has been canceled. There's enough movement to stir up my apprehension, so I return to my agent.

"Ok, last time here, I promise. I know you can't guarantee anything but could you give me a sign, a wink, something that suggests that I don't need to worry? I've got a court appointment tomorrow and I don't want to miss this flight."

Exaggerated wink. "I . . ." Exaggerated wink. "really . . . " Exaggerated wink. "can't promise . . ." Exaggerated wink. "but you . . . " Exaggerated wink. "may have . . . " Exaggerated wink. "a good chance." Exaggerated wink.

I breathe out for the first time since arriving at the airport, thank her and make my way through security to the gate area where I wait for an hour. Then the announcement comes.

"Flight blah, blah, blah is delayed further. All connections will be missed. Please proceed to the counter for reticketing."

This announcement should not have bothered me. I had winking assurance that I was going to make it off the standby list and onto the direct connection. But this delayed flight was my original. Maybe, just maybe, I think, they can "purchase" the empty seat for me. Or what if there's a person in the reticketing line that purchases the last seat?

Anxiety rising, I head toward the counter and my agent.

"What can we do to convince you?" the chorus cries out before I even make it to the counter. There's now a threesome and they are all convinced I'm a neurotic nutcase.

"Wellllllll . . ." And I explain my rather irrational but nonetheless very real feelings.

"I winked!" she laughingly said, repeating the action for emphasis. "What more could I do?"

"You could give me a seat on this plane," I pointed out with much timidity and the look of a woman who was nearing her limit.

"Ok, here. Fill this out," another agent takes control, handing me a comment card.

"What am I supposed to say?"

"How helpful we are."


"Because I'm giving you the seat."

And I praised the team who continued to point out how obvious it should have been to me that I had nothing to worry about.

Later, on the plane, secure in my seat and secure in the knowledge that I would make all my appointments the next day, I began to ponder my issues with hope, trust, and much of the unseen like for instance, GOD.

I could see the agent. I could see the signs she was giving me. I could hear the words she was saying and not saying. And yet, I didn't believe that I was going home until the evidence was in my hand.

No wonder my faithwalk is so shaky.

God isn't in the show and tell business. At least not in my experience. Can't see God. Usually can't see signs. Don't hear voices -- God's or otherwise. And yet . . . I want to believe. So I do and I look for evidence wherever I can.

Like the exhilarating rush of the wind in my face, blocking out all sound and transporting me to a five-year-old's sense of joy as I raced down a Smoky Mountain bike path only hours from boarding the plane . . .

And my friends' messages of concern as they learned of my potential fate and offered to step in and make whatever happened "better" . . .

And the strip of sunset we chased westward when we finally did get on that plane . . .

Hard evidence? Maybe not. But it's something.

Chasing Sunset

6:05 and not even
the apple juice-induced
of previous passengers
can detract
from the
flaming red melting to hottest pink
energy band
glowing and
shrinking into
horizontal thinness
outside my window.

Amidst the gray
and shadowed fluff
it stretches and
seemingly slipping into
and then
peeking through
once again.

"Chasing sunset,"
my seatmate suggests.
I agree.

questions unanswered,
dreams unrealized,
ideas unexpressed,
and random images
play hide & seek
mind games within,
I glance away
and back again.

the day of
fitful, family-forging,
magical muscle-making
with a few final
of air travel anxiety
comes to an end.

6:17 Central Standard Time.