Tuesday, December 3, 2013

family gatherings can be ripe venues for poems

Family time and experiences of suppression are often ripe venues for poems. With tweeks (shown in red) this poem may finally have come to a close with decades to ripen its potential to provoke: For example,  "Tea" becomes "Rooibosch" to invoke the Dutch etymology for South African Rooibos which is said to have anti-anxiety properties. 
In remembrance of the family matriarch, those in attendance were asked to share a reflection. What surfaced within me was gathering for meals. My reflections would most certainly not be welcomed at her funeral but maybe the discomforts within this poem can be welcomed in the world. Some ways of thinking go to the grave.
There was discomfort in these shallows for many years. I prefer now to be present wherever I am. I choose not to be in places mystified "as family" when it does not hold that meaning for me. From a complexity of emotion once lacking in emotional grist my character and those of poems are built: perspiring experience, salted wounds sans colored glasses.

GOOD and black 

Four generations 
stretching a good table. Fine china well smeared with gravy 
and blood 
of cranberries, as the dapper 4-year old topples 
dessert in conversation: "That’s bull-shit!"

What follows? 
The murmur of mimic, watershed tales of pre-school teacher 
complaints; a rambled ‘What can be done?’ retort 
to what was heard, spoken, repeated: "That’s bull-shit!"

Small talk brews aromatic. ‘What can be done?’
topics twist to most seen TV, turns to telling stories 
of road-rage. Son and daughters tasting how possible - a chiffon identification with fear. The shooter’s fear emerges 
like apples from the cut wedge of 
the other pie. 

“It must have been one ...” 
“No, Grandma. Both were women. Both were white.” 
pours past Diet Coke, Asti; Rooibosch running at the mouth “Well, most times its men. Most times it is Blacks. Shooting even 
each other.” 'No Grandma.' steams above black coffee. 

'Every time it is 
a person with a gun made only to shoot people - a handgun 
in an angry hand! More pie with your drink of choice?' Every holiday there is too much. 'Anyone-else, tea?' consumptive shallows drip
into talk of Internet shopping. "What children get, every
thing they do not need." "Did you hear?" current events get swallowed like the offer of a second dessert, discomfort 
to return later.

She is 75. She repeats 
what she believes above sugar powdered angel’s wings. She fears 
the real thing.

The child hears fear and repeats. The child gets everything
"That’s bull-shit!" is mimic in the world, good

and black for Christmas.

This post was prompted by a publicly shared comic's Aziz Ansari expression of similar sentiment. 11.8.2013 Racist grandmas are dying, and that is a good thing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


This week I participated in a local public dialogue on guns. It was a civil conversation. Because  it continues, talk of guns, I am sharing again.

traffic inching, mind rushing
anxious tempos that traffic does not halt
then doe in a heap -- as carcass comes into view.
already, traffic news warns
deerkill is slowing traffic to a standstill on a daily commute paved through wild life, far to the south,
same route
others are slowed by 12 hundred pound alligator
slowed by innocent
over white line
into white tail
waking stomach, mind, recall --
the men in Vermont had a deer camp
and bright orange vests that kept them
from shooting each other.  This I remember
as the topic turned
to guns
declared over beer
Using guns
against deer is shamefully unfair.  A deer
will feed my family for a winter, maybe more
It is a sport.  It is an industry.  It is food.  It is
an excuse to own a gun.
Opinions emerge.  Positions unify.  Energy clarifies.  Stark disconnects
speak through a congested atmosphere.  The private
school down the road has a rifle range - good
marksmen get credit toward graduation.  A boy
I knew got credit, he said he would never
kill deer
It does not take expertise to kill.
Passion, fear, retaliation are killers.
When paths cross, bullets, roads, knives,arrows
cut to the quick .  The archer
had killed deer many times
with a bow and arrow.  Said this was more fair for the doe
then guns...he trained his aim for hours, days, weeks, seasons
of deerkilling,
this hunter without a gun.  He could not buy a
gun, he knew accidents happen.
He knew.
I saw a deer by the highway shoulder
out of range of guns, arrows, and for the moment
I looked back as traffic slowed over concrete, the super trail filled with rushing hearts
by one dead doe.  Accidents
happen. Can't buy a gun. Can't practice for credit.
Fear stops me. Like the alligator, my blood runs to warm
in the sun.
Originally posted in a thread 12.24.12 because of Newtown Shootings. ` -- claiming innocence and rattling our sense of humanity.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Glitter, Gluttony and Gut

Glitter, a chaotic bedazzling metaphor, invokes for me this sentiment:  In order to make life nice, one merely has to brighten it up with sparkle.  Bursts of color in fireworks or a glitter splash, do dazzle; but what can be said of a preoccupation with glitter which is often affiliated with showy superficial attractiveness. This particle often reflective material infers glamour and disengagement with reality and its complexity. Used for absence of restraint in the moment, if habitual can become gluttonous. So what is the role of our gut (habitat of courage, slang for an audacious fortitudein response to bedazzle. Enchantment can become blinding?   

My mind is thinking of next year's Red Ribbon Week based on this year's Reflections & Connections. 
Since Drugs do what they are intended to do --- maybe the posters showing 93 neighbors lost to drugs need to be covered next year in Glitter. The focus could be on what we need to understand about the bedazzle. I know a Glitter supplier.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Unable to respond due to long running script....

The title of this blog was the LinkedIn error message I got this morning. The script revealed itself as the media mavens trying to backdoor connect my social media together. This connecting of connections is something I am not sure I want.  But if you are interested here is the message it pre-made for FB and Twitter.

Check out my professional profile and connect with me on LinkedIn. http://lnkd.in/PaaKBX

My FB participation is actually a necessity of work.  It was also a sanity valve as I had access to my spouse's to carry on the functions of my sabbatical project (which may become encore work if nothing pops soon.) Anyway, his constant contact with a part of what was to be our lives - depressed me.  Truth is: I felt much more sane and civil after a few weeks of disconnection from the narcissism and shallows.  But I found it in the balance of FB where it is less personal and mostly makes me (censored by self).

My social media: LinkedIn is truly a professional network.  Here I am connected with people that I have had solid work relations or with whom my seredipitious connections may be of value.  Some family is connected here too,  but not all; just those whose work I respect and value.

Twitter has been a means for me to keep abreast of media & news commentary.  My connections here initially started as about the work as I did not intend to ever join FB; and G+ is just not getting any real traction. I do not accept all invitations on any of the media.  For example I will not allow my FB to be infiltrated by those whose presense was removed by the spousal disconnect. 

Ironic words ... because so far that too has been far too real.

It is going to rain today.  Will I have the courage to breathe the cleansed air?

Monday, September 30, 2013

The last cover letter I will write...

The experts and counselors tell you to tailor a letter for every job.  So when a job looked interesting, I did.  I have applied for hundreds of jobs, all of which I could have done and a few that might actually have been a good fit. The vastness of the applications processed was due to the conditions of unemployment compensation.  I believe for all those in which I got processed beyond acknowledging resume receipt (and there were a dozen) the better candidate was chosen. I actually enjoyed learning about each prospective job and getting most of my interviewers to smile, laugh or get a good take-away. It showed me that while on sabbatical I got back some of the self I lost in the intensity of my last decade of work. 

I actually did get what I thought was my dream job...but within 3 weeks severely broke my ankle and could not do the requisite 1.3 mile walk to client meetings. Ironically, I did this same type of work thousands of miles away from clients previously; but, culture does matter. And this experience provided lots of insight into this fact and helped be clarify my own expectations of a work environment that is conducive to success.

Each serious pursuit provided me with a take-away; be it a new connection or interesting new resources found while preparing for the interview. Many enabled me to improve the results of my Sabbatical Project. For example: Applying for an HRIS position prepared me for writing job descriptions.  A Congregational Admin process jump started improvements in the Social Media Campaign I needed to manage. A BIA job interview reminded me of the true nature of my breadth of experience. Etc. Etc.  I also got to see some people I remember fondly creating work results with, in their new work locations. 

Correct, Sabbatical Project means I never stopped working I just stopped being compensated monetarily for work. I did modify my hours (maybe not enough for good health outcomes) and I did have more satisfying people & content outcomes much of the time; but not always.

I am once again seriously seeking a day job that comes with pay & benefits. What I am looking for as the interviewee is the opportunity for an authentic experience, in which I am accountable, can push some of my personal boundaries and make a difference with an idea, conversation or infectious sense of commitment.

And today I took inventory of the process I have been engaged in for two years and discovered how I want to present myself for the next job regardless of what it is that I am applying for. So today I wrote my final cover letter. It will be used for all future job applications. If it resonates with those on the other side of the prospective table; then it signifies a good start for a potentially successful work relationship. I am deleting all other versions from my files today.  This is the letter that will get me a job if that is what is suppose to happen next.

To Talent Acquisition Team:
Within my substantive career as an analyst at WellPoint I was often sought out for new product initiatives. I provided business and system solution support for operations; and within large scale mergers and cross-functional projects supported data integrity, cost containment, user training and vendor integration outcomes.  I often found solutions by becoming familiar with the data, its uses and connections. My breadth of knowledge enabled me to support enrollment, provider services, web, and print as a Subject Matter Expert. I have experience in all aspects of SDLC. 

With early assignments I could easily assess the bottom-line return on my solutions. As the nature of the work changed with the complexity of the organization I was a key contributor in the delivery of reliable compliant results on-time and within budget.  Most recent accomplishments are best reflected in how my teams have valued my contributions.
Serving side by side with many stakeholders from patients to doctors, cable customers to legislators, ex-offenders to police, enrollees to data administrators, operations experts to system developers with peers either sitting in the next cubicle, working the night shift or off-shore and more recently a telephone call or interactive chat away in a telecommute position spanning four plus years; new and improved processes have succeeded in meeting the primary mission – serving the end user.

Most recently I have explored new technology platforms including video storytelling which compliments my interests in developing satisfying end user engagement. Understanding content, both qualitative and quantitative, is at the core of what I do ~ achieve solutions with teams committed to sustainable, engaging and responsive outcomes.
My business analysis acumen is uniquely augmented by my community experience. From the beginning there has been an underlying passion for evoking solutions for data, or with data, within a team environment that fosters collaboration and is driven by creating reliable, sustainable and responsive outcomes.  I look forward to assessing with you how I can contribute to teams with opening for someone with my experience, skills and expectations.

Kind Regards ...

Friday, September 27, 2013

titles of words yet to be...among them reflect.connect.recover

The last time I thought to post, I was bubbling over with ideas yet to be evolved. I set aside a list of blog post titles of word things to come out of me someday. Today's energy is different, more complacent.  

As I await news other than "Unfortunately, we will not be able to consider you for this position at this time. Although your skills and qualifications are impressive, we have identified other candidates whose experience more closely fit the specifications of the position." from my best fit applications and all the hundreds, quite literally, of not quite so good prospects I do get other news that has impact.  

A community acquaintance with lots of shoulder-to-shoulder time shared; looses his wife unexpectedly. She was not old nor sick nor anything that would foreshadow. My mother-in-law has drawn her last breath. Relationships within the family have faltered and the symbols of same still loom with uncanny unease for week upon week. Resolution is now clearly seen as not the end; merely a step. Typically a big one.  Other family members are in pursuit of relocation but destinies remain unknown. Is house 25 the charm? All in all lots of waiting for the next shoe to drop with some bias wishes in the anticipated results and some pure: it will be what it will be. Very little of what I had years of experience with, influencing or designing for outcomes. 

Community stuff is percolating with a participant observer role morphing into lynch-pin contributor based on the request that "I do what I do".  The theme becomes reflect.connect.recover.  It is advise. It is method. It is bedrock for transformation.  It is a blip on my life's radar in which I try to infuse images with meaning or wrangle meaning out of words.

I am reminded today that we must learn how to persuade or evoke emotion because nearly everyone is creating.  Only a few are engaging others or changing what may need fixing.

Today I am asked if this work can join with others in a book of response writings. It will likely be under my legal name but it came from adele.  http://adelehouston.blogspot.com/2013/06/prompt-story-of-core-family-and.html

I have tasks calling out to me... so all for now.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Serendipity Effect

We're wired to want to share information with other people.  From Science News  How the Brain Creates the 'Buzz' That Helps Ideas Spread

At the first encounter with content I begin thinking about how this can be interesting to other people. The consideration of connections, whom else might find something helpful, amusing or interesting; may always be there but it seems that I had a hyper sensitivity to connecting during each of my 1st semesters at college and my current re-wirement time.  I thought for sure I had already posted about my fascination with the 1978 BBC TV Documentary Series narrated by James Burke Connections which is what I consider my 1st true non-linear experience. Google enables a connection in seconds to what once took years, consideration and serendipity.  Turning connections into value is still the human dilemma and calling. It is the glue of learning, great artistry, and innovation.

Social media is intended to be a connection enabler. Today I experimented. I shared a photo that I thought would elicit responses: civic, sarcastic, or noble in anticipation of a solution that would have some permanence. An initial response from a group of approximately 2,500 was in 8 seconds and a direct response to the question posed with the photo. A few more direct answers.  Then a detail comment on the existing civic process that should already be in play. Then with 30 minutes an individual with Google in her toolkit took action and posted a status photo. Kudos abounded.  She (not me) was serving the community. I continued to engage in the conversation Liking some comments and the action itself but still questioning what the community solution could/should be.

So what is the lessons learned.  Members of the community with the inclination and financial bandwidth can become graffiti-grime fighters. Public Services may not even be aware of the cost effective cleaning alternative unless a person in the know sees the thread.  The life of a post is short. Virility is required. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sometimes I feel like the new puppy...

you know the ones that wag their tails and pee all over the floor in a joyful chaos that may even involve face licking. Unfortunately, unlike the puppy I get to replay the outcomes over and over in my head and in my humanness I remember the pee more than the tail wags and sloppy kisses. 

I need to let go better of the after thoughts; allowing 'the pee' to be 'okay'. 

Recently I have had good fortune to be anonymous in the production of inspiring stories, told in conversation, by women in my community. In each show the host asks: What would you tell your 25 year old self, your 40 year old self?  Her guests are women in midLIFE. It is remarkable how these diversely different women seem to have similar messages for their earlier selves a.k.a any younger women watching. There is an intention to recap the segments of letters to a younger self, as life allows. So, what would my letters say?

I probably need to read those letters to self now so I need to write them. My self-talk of late seems to be rooted in the 25 year old psyche with some wisdom of experience but still too much awareness of the downsides of exuberant anxiety. This makes sense as now is a time of change and envisioning of the next phase of life. Unfortunately; the default voice reinforces worry too often with words that do not inspire "When the right things align and you do not need to fill your life with compliance tasks ... " is the default voice pattern worried about 'security' and deferring choices. The reflective voice says 'The right things will align; be open to new. Enjoy the moments. Be Here Now. Tap into that self that can focus, can connect, create. And if you are going to listen to voices listen to all of them." 

My life experiences are sources of good life lessons and uniquely me stories. The stories reveal that confidence, courage and generosity win over fear. Stories of a fast bicycle, a hyphenated name, a telephone book as a road to reading, being Patty Hearst for a day, saving 5 times my salary on the job and repeating this often in my career, a natural out-of-hospital childbirth, riding the bus with the non-exempt, the Edgerton Park shooting, serving up words with a diverse team of poets, decades wearing the title of president or chairman, home sharing, lynch-pin community building and eventually designing the system that replaced me ... getting me to my current state of reWIREment and the promise of a return of a sort (with some economic bells and whistles). 

The wires connected to my spirit have been singed some; however, they remain and can be restored with acceptance of sloppy kisses as an old dog.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Prompt: Story of core family and acceptance

My mother is a Poem, I will Never be able to Write, through everything I write, is a poem to my mother.   Sharon Dubiago

I have poems but none about my mother and me. It seems to be elusive as a subject; maybe because poems are not seen as having value by her. That should not be the measure but it is likely the impasse.

Gertrude is her given name. I know she dislikes it.  My uncles and extended family call her Gertie. I always felt relieved to have no need to call Mom by her 1st name. It was not until I helped with various social welfare forms that her name now nearing eighty years owned was once again on my brow of awareness. Her hand shakes. I get to print her full name inclusive of the middle, Irene, and my father’s name that she did not give up after giving up on her 37 years of marriage with him.

I fill out descriptive forms with lists of ailments and meds and realize that my knowledge about my Mom is awkward and very incomplete; yet I have no questions.

We are not close. I do try to attend to RESPONSIBILITIES in the manner of my father. Maybe I am too much like him. My relationship is within the shadows of my brothers who are nearby and nearer to her heart.  She has told me “Your brothers need me more than you do.” I accept this without any out loud question.
When I was a teen I think she tried to live vicariously through my adolescent adventures. She remembers boys and names and dates much better than I. She had her favorites; they were not the same as mine.

While living with her as an adult and tending to the day to day of both of our overhead needs; I discovered Gertrude was a Saint – I attended a Church by that name wondering if it would bring me closer to my Mom.  It was an awkward stretch into an attempt for meaning; which did fail but I did find a Gertrude that connected with souls and words and that was a blessed thing.

A mother of many children will have many relationships and I am ok with mine. Maybe it is an oldest child thing. Upon reflection my core relations are similar to that with my Mom: important but distant. If there is a need I will be there. If there is an event I will attend. When it comes to family I do not find the locus of control within. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Productivity Day, Solstice, long on light

Just being casual seems an anathema today but I just do not have it in me to 'produce'. 'nough said.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

So there could be decades more to do..

A question I ask today is, is this day a cross road or just a new day?  It has rained hard; forcefully at times.   The water pumped off the yet to be opened pool has been replaced with this rain water.  The dog still awaits his walk. The pills scheduled for 4 PM just gets popped into my system 4 hours late.  I have been picking at to do’s refining language and pictures.  I have taken steps to engage in a new endeavor.  It could be transforming.  In the background there is a story playing on the TV that I edited.  It is one in which I take some pride. 

I have connected to some 30 years back a few times today… I had imaged being in so different place now, back then.  For an extended time I have deluded myself with thoughts that I did not have expectations and plans; but I did. I never intended to leave the city.  I expected to have lots of kids and long term relations; to remain physically vibrant and creative. I expected to run for a government office at the state level like Joan H under the mentorship of Irv S.  I was a deacon in my church, a community leader, a foster mom. I was a solid performer in the work place.  But I made one choice both preclusive and precursory about an expected lifetime partnership – that was poor.  I still fail to trust my choices because of this one; however, the best in life thus far is a product of that choice.

I occasionally search to see if he is dead yet. If I find evidence how will I feel?  There were rumors a few years back that it was imminent but I find no evidence of his demise.  It is like closure will not come until he is truly gone. In 2008 his mother passed.  I did comment on the public registry: When memory fails to be a constant reminder of small joys,...  Few others posted comments. They could be counted on one hand. Yet she had been a community matriarch of sorts. I found this fact of so few condolences and stories disturbing.  Did the secrets in her life obliterate much of the essence of her life? Her obituary was an obfuscation stating what would be best in a public statement of a women who was the Nursery School matron of a quaint CT town Above all, she was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. Contributions were to go to Alzheimer's Association. I remember wondering then and again now if losing touch with the secrets was indeed a release from a purgatory on earth. Am I like her dabbling in words & pictures of distraction.  She created worlds of wonder for 3 and 4 year olds day after day for decades. She did it long into her years but I can not give a breadth of time to the absence of this distraction in her life. It must have been numbing. I do not want this. 

In 110 days I will be 60. Is that old? At one time it was ancient. It might not even be.
Tomorrow I will drive always a risk to my life and others.  I will try to stay open to possibility and create more distance from the secrets that collapsed my confidence and early dreams of having some good effect on the world.  There was a book to write as well. It had a name. Kindle. It had a premise of pass it on. It is now a common technology object and the pseudonym I was to write under is now a popular singer's name.  Nothing is as it seemed possible to be then; so I avoid imagining so as not to be disappointed.  This seems wrong; but inertia wins most often.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

As Blue plays; today's random connections to faith

All I really want to do is bring out the best....the road travelled in the pursuit of faith or social networks ... starts with a white New England church on the river.  Here I put poems in the collection basket because it was what I valued and the best I had to give. I imagined that counting of money might be more enchanting with notes of promise. I do not have copies of these offerings. Fitting as they would not be gifts if I kept them.  I wanted the words to be like Joni's ... simple in their universality. I scribbled about the powers of water, the mysteries of gravestones and the wonder of light coming through colored glass, bespeaking more of distraction than talent. Once a month I got to reflect on the blood of the lamb; or the marketing of Welches.

A decade later I was the counter of monies and I wistfully wished for a note of promises but the congregation was thin on youthfulness and numbers in general.  The mysteries were more around the out-of-the box use of the building for non-traditional worshipers: the LBG Community of New Haven and Koreans. 

I do have a great fondness for my time in this community. When I was a new mom; they rallied helping my 1st 10 days to be full of comfort and friendship.  I was the biggest fan of this gathering of strangers that shared pot luck and some need for heaven.  The organ player, a lonely gay man, was like a hero on Sunday mornings taking all our spirits to a place of communion with his music. It was a piece of heaven ... this loose but remarkable connection to human kind.

Today was Same Day Sunday .... the preparation of local Sunday Services for digital sharing for those house bound or not willing to submit to the suffocating heat. Sometimes I want to share the blood; sometimes illusions comfort but on the River, I choose to skate away.  Like Holiday music the air fills sweetly for a season and promises to return again about the same time next year.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

... a concept that is on my heart

Creation was written in 1993 (20 years ago). My life was in a tornado then: destruction yet to be in full view. My personal journal into which this was scribbled was an exploration of Mercy. Others encouraged me to look to God for transformation of self. Ironically I was not able to take communion where I kneeled with them to worship. I later became uncomfortable with the use of "He" in this poem but I saw it comforted others and I could not otherwise label the source of creation in a way that was satisfying to me.  It remains a testimony to the wonders of our universe and my most treasured gift: Motherhood. I visit it here in times of need to be open to the unknown.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Jupiter, Venus and Mercury after buckets of rain

We create our own mythology...of this I have no doubt. Mine is imbued with rain...just missed or mist, gentle, hard or driving, devastating or cleansing. The mud is still tracking from the most recent buckets. No final assessment on its impact as either good, or not so. In the mix Joni, Gatsby, veterans, rainbow colors in glass and confetti a.k.a. myth, hope, sacrifice and fads & fakes: my own Chelsea Morning remix with a curtain opening on the question of the day: Will he stay?

Last night as I looked up in the sky I did see a pleasing arrays of light or dots against darkness but nothing more informs my gaze up at the alignment of Jupiter, Venus and Mercury. They will not have this dance again until 2040. It is my only dance with such a moment. I wonder if it has consequences beyond my understanding?   We are connected to much over which we have no control but does this stuff have any control over us? Why does our species look to the heavens?  On this night a young friends dog jumped to his death from an urban rooftop.  Did it have some knowing that propelled it?  Is there value in questions? Do answers ever satisfy?

I am not inspired to write at the moment but I did not want to miss sharing the richness of receiving and reading Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell, by Postmedia journalist Katherine Monk. Similarly going to the movies with knowing companions to re-experience God's Eyes in the film version of The Great Gatsby. All this is imbued with a sense that somehow crossroads have been set in motion. Ironically I looked for Clouds in the Goodwill Record bin to no avail but amidst the vinyl there were things that I can say "I know that I miss you, but I don't know where ...." moments connecting like clouds across time.

We can only look behind from where we came and go round and round in the circle game....

Thursday, May 9, 2013

at that place called “Begin Again”.

Birth Days can be days to run from or toward our Self.  In many ways the anniversary yesterday is much more significant than my date of Birth because it is the date of giving birth - for me - only one.

I just deleted an employment cover letter written on the eve of turning 59.  My ankle broken and my journey with employment rebooted.

The above was in draft for more than 6 months... the ankle still is not happy with going down stairs and long walks and the reboot needs to get more real.

it did not rain as much as expected and vacations

It does not take much rain to infuse much change but the pollen still seems to be winning in the outdoor air; so the change that comes may not be the change desired.

Tuesday was a lovely day as weather goes. I decided on Monday to make it a vacation day as I had no commitments to others calendared and it seemed like my partner was free as well.  But the day trip I had in mind was not an option so it became just a saturday-like day getting chores done.  I was okay with this as these have often been our best times together but it still fell short of a get-a-way day. It was nice but truly a concession to the expectation of vacation.  

I am getting a bit obsessive about this idea of vacation. What is a vacation for me? What is it that I should set aside or be released from and aspire to do? Are the hours/days recently spent on reading other than work-related topics - vacations, or should the set-aside time for reading be balance. Do people in dire poverty get vacations?  Is it luxury, or is it a need?  Cultures treat vacations differently: last year I was reminded of this when special programming gotten at the TV station was suspended for 11 weeks.  It comes from Germany.  It was suspended because vacations are the norm.

In some ways many of the tasks I do related to my community service job are things I did on vacations from my prior daily bread job.  On these days I suspend my connection to maintenance tasks and explore ideas and images and connections --- but of late all this is entangled in technology snags so it is not to get-awayish. And now much of this exploration is linked to maintenance of the community Service projects. Irony maybe.

Museums, even libraries, are vacations places for me. A bonus would be a stop for food that I do not make and maybe could not make because of rare ingredients or skills to prepare. But food is best shared over conversation.  What do I talk about? Would it be different on a vacation?

Yes I could enjoy a day at a lake or even a trip to another place but there is not enough bandwidth in my checkbook or relations. And then I can limit any plan with the question; Who would take care of Jake and the cats? It is not like I could rely on nearby family or associates for this.  

The next time it rains I hope I can suspend what I am doing and just walk in it as I did as a child. Next vacation is now planned but it is very likely I will be sharing this time with Jake and he does not like to get wet so it will be a short walk.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Me, Middle and Madness

It is rare that I ascribed my to things. If used, it would be with lesser known people to clarify a relationship that needs to be understood. So excessive use of MY in social media where relationships are known suggests that something-else is going on --- my dog, my girls, my husband, my house, or my friend.  All my life I have used the word my in affiliation with ideas and feelings.

I can share ideas and feelings and in the process experience something new. I like this part of life very much.  It seems to be very central to what life is about in fact.  But things and people have been described as ours: Our Home, Our Children, Our Community Service, Our future plans. Our has been family. Suddenly I am challenged to say Our in any context.  I must admit that it is very disorienting to have the paradigm of daily life change. 

I watch the Big C on Showtime and see the characters try to assimilate the idea of death. In this story there is real change. I wonder if I should try to treat my awareness that trust is not a viable option as a disease. In doing so Do I need to relax or release my ideas and feelings about trust? Without a clear answer, I linger in the middle of a vast numbness - inert. The advertisement "Depression Hurts" echoes in my head. Last night I dreamt of the one thing that would have made my current paradigm dilemma impossible (a child that belongs to our family); there no similar solution now.

So the voices in my head once again entreat me to focus, be productive, do things that you can declare as mine -- and in reality my day is planned to be anonymous and that plan starts now.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Grace Prompt

The sublime also happens, if we are lucky, at various points in our life. We find ourselves at the outer edge of our knowing, awake and joyous. For a fleeting second, perhaps, or for a longer period, we feel like we have a touch with grace. Share your moment of transcendence.

I have viewed some of life through a video camera – a different kind of presence. This is not video in hand for family moments of social media rather it is video with intent to reveal stories. These opportunities to see up close-up or distant things I would not otherwise see in nature: a bee’s attraction to a flower, a butterfly among pumpkins, the sun setting through a nose printed window and dandelions dispersing into flight; common things through a less common lens. These moments can claim sublime in their pure joy and can now be ordinary for many with phone cameras in hand.

Then there is me and technology and a journey of re-seeing trapping my focus for hours and days in order to eventually share seconds or minutes of the gathered and remixed conversations, timeline images and an occasional glimpse of life I've captured in video: A head falling to restful sleep, a smirk of understanding, an energetic child declaring “I know” with hand vigorously waving. I smile, I recut, I cry, I fade, I decide, I overlay, I find the exposure, saturation, light of knowing with a more concise truth. This experience holds meaning for me as I do it to create accessible meaning for others about our shared existence and within this process meaning for existence.  Others pray, I contemplate the edit. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Prompt Tell a story of when a fictional narrative - changed you

Today's Sevenstages story writing session reminds that fiction stories can create realities that could have been-with truths more clarifying than real events. The book Mr. God this is Anna – may or may not be fiction and represents this sentiment quite uniquely in the elusiveness of its implied truth of Anna’s existence. And for me it is yet another story shared under a pseudonym; Fynn.

Based on public reviews and personal sharing Anna’s authentic voice is not elusive with words that widen any reader’s personal journey of belief. In this webbed world there are related stories of readers compelled to seek out the story behind the anonymity of its author; Fynn. Some print editions of Mr. God this is Anna do have a preface by religious broadcaster and theologian  Vernon Sproxton who remarks that he has seen Anna's drawings and notes and that he believes her to be real.

Many years ago I gifted Mr. God this is Anna to my precocious young son. Nearly decades later his social media ‘About Me’ information presents it has his favorite book; quite a declaration given his multitude of over stacked cases of well fingered books. It may be my favorite as well; because when prompted to write my own story about a fictional narrative that changed me I connect immediately with the audacity of its questions, the open charm of its characters and mostly the uncertainty of its truth and a phrase about connectedness and hope that I owned more than I realized before today.

The inquisitive Anna dies at age eight. She lived a poetic life as a friend and helper of Mister God whose revelations through her voice ‘roll around the mind’ of her accidental caretaker, Fynn and any reader of his anonymous sharing of their four years together. Anna had an astonishing ability to ask--and answer--life's largest questions, and to feel the purpose of being. At her gravesite Fynn says "Anna is in my middle".  This exclamation has been described as Fynn’s release of his angst against God as he prophetically connects with one of Anna's big answers "God is part of everybody and everybody is part of God"; more simply it is finding hope. 

My son and I express the depth of our connectedness with the phrase "you are my middle". It can be a standalone text, the close to a follow-up message or a murmur shared during a deep in person hug which I am still learning to lean into. I too have a psuedonym: it is my middle name and his.  When our lives had to keep many secrets I reached deeply into the middle of everything and found poems.

the most beautiful lessons are plain to see
by Adele Houston
listen up, the most
beYOUtiful thing in this here world
is you
being yourself.
My pappy taught me this truth.
Pappy knows many things about
fixing and making things do what they
are meant for, but
like he says, fixing what was
broke in him was the key.
I'm here to tell you
that man was ugly to look at
but he was beYOUtiful.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Perfection is rare; so when is settling right?

It is so easy and quick to slip back into habits that stress rings the bell for. I have regained the 5 pounds I successfully lost and truly stabilized to as off after 6 months. And then there is the sharing of food or sharing over food that presents itself when you want to get out of a funk and you say, "Sure." which is not a whole hearted "Yes".  Losing my daily walks to a broken ankle did not help the cause but that is a crutch excuse and new Yogurt shops in town provide plausibly healthy sharing opportunities.

I know I am not at the place I expected to be but I am challenged to define what I expect. The words that do surface to describe the intangible are comfort and flexibility. But the reality is too much comfort food and paralyzing sense of unproductivity within the flexible hours.

But the biggest challenge is the loneliness. I think I imagined a collective of artists and thinkers and innovators to do out of the box, artsy projects that make a difference with.  I have had hints of this life along the way -- but the collectives are broken stories of people and time, the thinkers outpace my memory and talent and the innovators need day jobs, as do I.

I got some deciding to do.  But in my immediacy I have technology to untangle.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

High School English - Eliot and words for Tripathi

It is never too late to be who you might have beenGeorge Eliot
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. T.S. Eliot

I finished reading A Sense of Direction by Gideon Lewis-Kraus today; but I have not finished digesting it.  It is due back at the library on the 29th.

Serial memoirists. When I allow myself luxury reading, reading that is other than technical or news, that is what I read. I conclude that it is a love hate relationship with the might have been. Conclusions foil me. I assume they are needed for a story and they are; but they do not need to be as conclusive as I imagine. 

I have yet to get fully lost in Wasteland 
APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

but have scanned searchable by Internet Quotes and a few poems by T.S. that elude my conclusively elusive memory. I know that it was taking on of a man's name that got me to read MiddleMarch and other works (Silas Marner, Adam Bede) of Novelist Mary Anne Evans. Ironically the indefatigable reading of Middlemarch peppers  Gideon's pilgrimage story - finishing it via iPhone while in a taco line in New York (p.332 ) and citing the enduring Dorothea Brooke. Perhaps another irony is that Virginia Wolfe's examination of George Eliot decries her life to be a pilgrimage and that is how my younger self saw her "daring and achieving" as she endured aspiring in a man's world. And I still wonder how choosing this writer to explore for my Senior English Paper in 1971 could not be seen as laudable  So in 2009 when I was newly enthralled with a writer from CT Gina Barreca whose books I bought, laughed over, loaned to extended family and never got back wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education: "Would You Trade T.S. Eliot for George Eliot?  - I felt redeemed. 

There is so much unexplored in this distraction of writing that once I had imagined to be my real life's work including the fact that as I wandered through the new downtown campus of a local community college I saw among the granite interior wall inscriptions from both Eliots. It made me ruminate and smile full bodied and think about writing, but I did not write.

On such days as this I would put pencil to paper and attempt a poem.  This week I realize that this poem is the news made new in Boston. This poem needs a reprise - for  Tripathi.  I would be proud to find those words.

Powder Puffs
followed the red hot dots
stone to stone, poof & play escapes
roll, pull, caps, pop, roll

Popular culled
taking out vinyl, TV, movies, microchips. Afghanistan smolders,
imbued. Land mines, queerly puffed spheres, maim
riddled children as life goes on. Taliban ban
implodes. No one saw the danger.
Hollow powder poofs over a land-scape
a genuine Islamic Militia - 1996

Toy gun powder
took out the janitor and 2 or 3, 9 to 5 guys
for life.  Gone the anonymous presence, opinions
held by one who disinfects bathrooms.  A cap gun factory
explodes.  No one saw the danger.
Cap powder poofs over a life-scape
a genuine news story - California 1997

indulgence denied
shrieks prevail which parent-child, stress cleaves
the dark. “Kill the TV! Wipe-out video game! Wrestle this
Get a LIFE!”.   Fingered.  Suckling technology
erodes. No one saw the danger.
Baby powder poofs over our net-scape
a genuine break with sanity - 1998

Sharia looms
unpopular, an emergent evolution veiled of darkness
women, children - like wet men, not afraid of rain
numb to terror. Pakistan knows what can be hidden
in stone.  No one saw the danger.
Talc powder poofs over a judeo-scape
a genuine threat concealed -1999

stone upon stone, poof into sinister dust
a genuine terror changes a city-scape

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

ROI on steps: FLAT

The price of anything is the amount of life that is exchanged for it.” Henry David Thoreau

All choices exact time, energy and produce memory artifacts.
It has been said that I have projects not people in my life. That view is held mostly by people who themselves find distance a comfort or depth a risk or options plentiful. All of these conditions apply to my stepmom relations.  All the children are now adults, thus the day-to-day dependency is gone. It is time to assess the ROI and the moving forward investment.

A step relationship is a consequence of marriage. I the case of my three stepchildren the decision to marry was hastened to meet their needs as defined by their legally responsible parent - health insurance, housing and access to an affordable education that would match their dreams of becoming.

I ask myself “Would this marriage have happened without the children factor?” It is impossible to disconnect.  This leads me to deduce that it would have been less likely.  This was number three for me and I wanted a family which is more than a husband.  Truth be told; I wanted a daughter.
From past alliances, I was keenly aware of how the extended family would contribute to, or rob, the health of the family.  I tried to assess the long-term potential of interpersonal dynamics and there did not appear to be any smoking guns as was literally the case in alliance one. I knew blended would be challenging but I thought the outcome could be ‘near normal’ by most standards and that was in large part what I wanted for both me and my son. This choice of partner was more like my blue collar roots. And there was irony in the fact that we shared some extended family making the prospects of vacations in Vermont – my most favored childhood memories – possible.

So I found an intelligent, handy blue collar guy who was comfortable down to the smell and feel of his skin with kids and  Vermont connections and’ what I had’ could stabilize his family so BINGO.   My 10 year old child within had ‘the potential’ for the idealized whole family and I would be back on course with my life. Success! And like I said me & he “we” felt good together. I had comparative life experience here and the difference was often magical – so I assumed this was Love.

“People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
It has been said that I have hurt the feelings of others with my actions, tone and look.  Got to love how ‘my look’ has been so devastating. There is some irony in that these hurts have never been disclosed to me nor can I recall anything that could be devastating – again my life experience has within it perversion, murder and madness so my barometer may be skewed.

Adding to the illusion of ‘project, not people’ my focus was on keeping things paid for and available and to enable the father of these children to have lots of face time which means I was behind the scenes. I was not all work. Community Service was a cornerstone of my life which I re-established with my new family and community.  I needed to both walk-the-talk and to support the evolution of the talents and interests of all the children.  We were in the community as a family working on projects and their talents concurrently.  
Anonymous-like seemed best along the way as it gave the dad credit for the providing for their needs as each arose or extras as they were decided upon. He got a constant and immediate return on ‘Our’ investment.  We are now in ‘YaYa’ mode - his family name for ‘grandfather’ and guess ‘who’ is still is getting the ROI and who is anonymous.

So it has been fifteen years and a very different span of life than the prior fifteen, and the fifteen before that. In this span I recall raising my voice about a dozen times in frustrated anger – and maybe thrice blurting out-loud that this “marriage” was a mistake that needs to come to an end. In this new and loud family getting to the same decibel level was of itself a challenge that I was rarely inclined to meet. They chatter loudly. It is not arguments or fervent discussion – merely exuberant chatter.  
The rare arguments were very values based which was a ‘me| them’ dichotomy. I can without reserve say that all discord has been over the children and one child in particular.  My concerns have been (still are) about self-interest to the exclusion or harm of others or themselves and if there was an appropriate ‘parent’ intervention to take.  I wanted transparency which required conversation with all parties at the table – but outnumbered I sometimes eventually responded from a place of hurt which typically creates more hurt and thus the mutual cycle of justification and distancing. I did not wish to support behaviors that I did not condone.  Discovering secrets, or lies, could become major in my eyes.

So as the ‘other’ I had choices. I choose my values every time because they were real and the relationships were too suspect. Resent disclosures seem to suggest that what I have said and done pales in comparison to a few ‘made them feel’ seeds ironically nourished by the lacked of light and context, in other words absent conversation.

Love the questions themselves.”  Rainer Maria Rilke
Uncertainty is a permanent state that is more fragile if more conditions are subject to change. The advice of Rilke is to learn to love the mysteries of life which is much easier to contemplate; than to live.
So back to the question “How would I assess the ROI on being a stepmom? Outcomes are assessed based on some expectation of results. For me results are values based adding to the complexity of this question whose answer has three domains:  First, what is the status of the relationship that created the ‘step’ condition. Second, by societal standards in addition to my own values, where did the children land?  And, do I feel the marriage|parent choice was worth the time and life energy expended?

I believe that strong values provide for stability even if they become what teenagers rail against. They help us make choices and understand the choices made. In a blended family they help level the playing field and guide resource constrained life choices.
My most bedrock principle is that within my means I invest in each child to the extent that they invested themselves. This is in reaction to, and a build upon, a striving for fairness that was the underpinning of my father’s parental worldview and “fail, better” lesson from my own experiences. And from my grandfather, I was instilled with a ‘world’ view which he exemplified through is love of the land and service to his community. Distilled his life lesson was “Try to do no harm (avoid harm by intent), and be a good neighbor”.

Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. C.S. Lewis  To be either young or old enough to have a relationship of wonder and awe in the world. 
All of the steps are 21 years old or older now; so as projects (not relations) it is time for Lessons Learned and a Results Summation.
I am supposed to be in a place where I can start reading fairy tales again. But even as a child I was more of a non-fiction reader. Wonder and awe are illusive. I have the ball & chain of responsibility still within my DNA and a lack of clarity on my wants befuddled by the actual ROI on my most recent life investment in family.

Assessment: Faulty Benchmark. Flat return.
As regards where they have gotten to, “They are consumer-centric and not one is concerned about their impact on the earth. The observable measures of their world are stuff, glitter, costumes, and games.  Each was educated to the extent they chose to be and all are living comfortable by American standards.  So the results ‘as projects go’ are within a high range; but as a mother I am not brought to a smile. I believe there is significant bio-mom influence here so there was not much I really could expect as an outcome.

With my world view as a lens the results of blended family life are less than satisfying. I do not find my steps to be very interesting or even nice people -- but I reiterate the world view is mine. Others coo and giving kudos to each of them over their babbles, baby extensions of self and entrepreneurial adventures. When I ask "Why am I wrong to  respond based on information and values, the answer is "to ‘preserve’ the relationship." I wonder what relationship means in this context. I thought real relations were based on truth and trust and adults can exchange meaningful ideas and feelings.
The child most prone to self-destruction and addiction has not changed.  She is not at her lowest word slurring, drug consuming ‘all about me’ state but she still “all about me”. What has changed is the all about me now includes her three children. I call her the other wife. She has lists of to-dos for her father and expectations that the check will still always be picked up. She does not say thank you because she is entitled to all that is given her.

Exemplifying stories on current status: Oldest child and reason for nearly every argument. (I no longer have a name just a moniker "the wife"). When she is interfering (usually getting her father to do a list of chores or pay for things) I refer to her as "the 1st wife".  This is a simple way to establish that what is going on is not setting well with me --- but it never inhibits the process she gets the chores done and stuff paid for and I need to fit into their schedule.
My advice to a pregnant step-daughter in relationship number three is “Do not get a dog now”. As always I am dismissed with condescension.  A frisky Chocolate Lab, Reilly, becomes a member of her newest family. Then the baby comes and within less than a year the strain of responsibility is too much. Reilly must go. I offer to care for Reilly until she can be re-united with her family (a.k.a. estimated 6 months when step daughter gets her shit together enough to manage being a stay at home mom with one child). Four years later, Reilly is reunited with the family by “Ya Ya”. He sees it as a way to meet the needs of the second baby, now 2. I am merely told the dog will be visiting VT. I have inferred enough to know that the dog and grandchild will be good for each other and this was the reason Reilly was with us, so of course. I hope it is decided that Reilly can stay. But initially it is too inconvenient for Reilly to stay because the family is going to Aruba (all expenses paid by the in-laws). Reilly goes back the following month. Not much is shared with me, so I probe. I get told that they want Reilly but she can visit every year when they go to Aruba that is if “I am not going to be a bitch and keep her”.
Both the dog and grandchild are now displayed on FB and called dumb, or fat or stupid by the Mom to the LIKES of others, other than me. And No I am not going to dog sit for Aruba.
Assessment: I see a picture of her and her oldest daughter getting matching haircuts and my gut fills with worry that she may become like her and I think it is scary. I do not keep this secret.  Negative return.

Exemplifying stories on current status: The talented son
He is in a fairy-tale of his own making and is consciously delaying the creation of his own family.  He is creative and capable but after short very infrequent visits my ears ring from the all the nesses: loud-ness, judgmental-ness or shallow-ness. This child was the most socially out of step in the world. As he did with all relations with girls, he abandons his family and embraces hers. He is now living with his in-laws when an equally affordable, more independent and spacious option is available to him based on the investments I made with Ya Ya. Slap.
Again no conversation just lots of inference that I am too evil to be around. Me who paid off 2 years of car payments as wedding gift, subsidized the last minute air conditioning for the wedding,  gave them a gift of local food weekly as an engagement gift instead of stuff, forwarded job announcements and other resources as I come across them.  I am not told to stop sending job opportunities but I catch wind of a life change on Twitter. We, his Dad & I are not invited to a meal. He lives 2 miles away. Even strangers are compelled to behave differently with food sharing.

My Holiday: Let me preface that we are not practicing Christians but this Holiday is pretty ubiquitous.   I buy a few things that I think they each may need (like kool ties for the new teachers) and ask for 5, maybe 10, minute time together to exchange gifts in our home. It gets postponed and then it is not important enough for his wife to participate.  This was to be my only time with family to exchange gifts. This fact does not seem to have import. I am upset and show it – I do not want to pretend.
Assessment: He has achieved his potential as a talent and has some redeeming qualities. I am in zero wedding pictures. Flat return. 

Exemplifying stories on current status: Now 21
The youngest child was hidden away in a computer or TV isolated from others when I met her at age eight so is it not a surprise that she chooses online college and is an entrepreneur creating ‘fan art’.
She is observant and smart and snide and comfortably married to what appears to be a good match for her. As a teen she had a live in boyfriend, no expectations of contribution to family life and a constant relationship with bio mom. She navigated the “I wants and gets” well from the start. In our home she still has a room with heaps of stuff not needed for more than 2 years. Most likely all in there was never needed.

Her dad chooses to chat with her on Sunday Morning instead of having quality time with me on a weekend we had dedicated to “us”, or so I thought. He is not willing to even share with her that his choice, and hers, upset me. He was ‘in the dog house”.  She now knows of how this 30 minute conversation about nothing urgent was felt and the outcome is morning text messages with snideness: An I interrupting something. What  am I to take away from these events and responses?  

I decide that all my blended family  “relationships are too fragile for truth”. Depression follows and this blog post.   
Assessment: She is the most independent and maybe the brightest of the children. Conversations can be held with her about other than stuff. She is still navigating. Flat return with blip of optimism but maybe that is misguided because I see some hint of truth in her snideness.  

All three are back to the place of their childhood where they have a birth mother that lavishes ‘stuff’ upon them and participates in their adult creation and acquisition of more stuff. They do not seem to be conflicted by their sidebar conversations of derision, judgment and comments about her alcoholism.  Does she know? If she did, would it hurt her? Would she still be compelled to buy her relationship? Is she getting more from being their mother than me in this illusory relationship?  Each is willing to visit and connect with Bio-Mom based on the ‘stuff’ exchanged. Visits at our home are totally based on convenience and need. 
I assumed I did not even merit side-bar conversation but recently discovered that the oldest regularly and fervently suggests to her father to leave me.  

So it is a lack of transparency that informs my place and considerations of relationships going forward.

On Saturday I was told that I have written off the children. That I can pretend and participate and make nice but I choose not to. 
I think "What will pretend give me: more things to pay for and an illusion of family. That sucks" I know this excommunicated living makes the marriage unsustainable.  What I do not know is how to invest in the future because I truly was not expecting this last investment to yield just unsatisfying results.