Ham and hallelujahs

My mom knew how to make holidays special. Though she tired of being the holiday magician, it was a way to hold her family together and pass on the traditions she had internalized.

These traditions, even the ones that didn’t matter to me, often seemed to revolve around food I didn’t particularly enjoy. Ham and (gag!) aspic at Easter. Potato salad and corn on the cob at the 4th of July (not a fan of either). Clam chowder and Oyster stew on Christmas Eve (allergic to tomatoes and oysters). Of course I was supportive of the desserts..easter meal

But food really was a part of what created an event. So even though I didn’t like some of the foods, I expected them, waited for them, anticipated them. And like a drooling sharpe dog, I would sit at the table – waiting. And then after a bite or two remember “Oh yeah. I didn’t really like ham.” And mayonnaise is only good in very small doses. (Of course I remembered that aspic made me puke.) But it was important to mom – and so it was important to me. I remember asking her one Easter when I came of age if we could have a vegetarian option to which she responded, “Well, there will be a green salad.” Go farm mom!

I always think of my mom around holidays. Every Easter morning, whether she felt like it or not, she would burst into “Christ the Lord is risen today, Allelujah”, prancing around half-dressed in “nylons” with slippers and bathrobe; coffee pot and cigarette smoke swirling through the kitchen with her. She knew how to engage her kids in the things that mattered to her.

These are great memories that weave in between the more painful ones, and help soothe the loss of her. She wasn’t perfect. She grew to be a really bad alcoholic and so wasn’t particularly predictable. She had a hard time admitting her deepest feelings – at least to me – except when she was under the influence. You can imagine that, as a child, that made me a bit unsure. When I became an adult and confronted this, she and dad told me I was too sensitive. Well yes, that is true. I was the only one of my sibs who knew by high school that there was a problem. So, I suppose that means I am high on the sensitive scale. But there were plenty of people with drinking problems in my parent’s circle of friends – so it was easy for her to deflect the issue onto them. But they were fantastic friends.

Christ is risen cornflowerTomorrow is Easter. As for me, I will not be joining the throngs of church goers. For Lent this year, I gave up Lent. No maudlin reflections on self sacrifice (heaven knows I have done enough of that in my life). No glorification of misery, which Jesus certainly went through. No ashes. No holy week. Not even any Easter. Part of it is that my family has shifted significantly in the past years and it simply does not feel good to be in a space where everyone is with their families. I would like to be with mine – but this is not possible.

It is not that anything has changed inside really. I am still the same doubter/believer I have always been. It will be a regular day off for me. No ham. No marshmallow peeps. No family dinner. However, I will fire up the coffee pot, dance around the kitchen belting out a rousing verse of “Christ the Lord is risen today” and be thankful for the amazing woman who birthed me. Christ the Lord is risen today


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Unadorned moments

Tell me something that matters to you

… about your dog, and how he is particularly talented at balancing a sandwich on his head

… and your baby who sleeps with her bum in the air and how you almost didn’t live to meet her

… or about the piano delivered to your house last night that somehow made it a home

Tell me … about those who have mended your life – and how you’re just now learning to be free

Tell me something that matters to you. I tire of skimming the surface when there is so much living beauty underneath


I sat by the ocean last week, the sun softening the winter in my skin, while fingers of waves chased to the shore, and then were sucked out again

A Madrona tree, sinuous and silky, felt like a body in my hand … and I forgot about everything else

I was just a creature among creatures, disarmed and vulnerable

my hair blowing like branches, unadorned like the moment I was part of

madrona bark






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we cannot fit a big dream into a small life

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The house with many rooms


“Grief is like living in a house with many rooms, each with a different name: sadness, anger, fear, celebration, remembering, joy, gratitude.  A friend suggested that the key to abiding in this house is to leave the door to each room unlocked and even opened. I frequently visit these rooms and will occasionally get stuck in one of them. I’ve learned that I must keep the door open so that I can get out. This has been helpful when a room overwhelms me and I am tempted to lock the door from the outside and never enter or lock the door from the inside and never leave. I will always live in this house as it is God’s place for me. But the house itself isn’t named Grief. It is named Life.  There will be new rooms in time. Gratefully, I don’t live there alone. God is always there, ready to meet me and walk with me into each room. Many of you are there with me as well.”

Sharol Hayner

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To be wise

To be wise

one has to see

and listen

and cradle the bitter season

like the colicky child it is




Fireplace man 18s

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I choose the dark

“Somewhere in the shadows we find faith that is bold enough to chase away our fears, that is bold enough to chase away our tears.” Joe Jencks

CandlelightDuring this “sun-less” season in the northern hemisphere, and in the season of Advent which Christians like me observe, we often focus on light and dark imagery as a metaphor for life. “Those who sit in darkness have seen a great light” we are reminded, beautifully tying in the physical and spiritual elements we experience in this part of the world. The drab days leading to and away from the winter equinox have a powerful effect on our mood, our energy. So we imagine breaking forth out of the “bleak midwinter” into light and joy and birth.

The dark is often associated with fear, even with evil.  But chaos has a sort of spark and brilliance of it’s own that is not necessarily welcomed. Christmas sales, flashy trees and the persistent demands of work, especially if you labor in a Christmas industry, holiday parties, family events, pageants, hoards of people at shopping malls, traffic jams, unpredictable travel, and our precious children who need extra support as well. You know I could go on and on.Apocalypse Christmas

Perhaps what we really need is night, not light. What if the passage read, “Those who have walked in the light have seen a great darkness! And they sat down, drank a bourbon and found a little peace.” Can I hear an amen?

Perhaps that is why Christmas Eve is the best part of the holiday for me (and maybe for you). We gaze at the tree laden with childhood ornaments; gifts are wrapped and family surrounding; treats are on the table and holiday music is soothing. For a moment, there is peace in our personal world. That is, if we let ourselves let go of whatever awaits us the following day. We sit for a moment with candles lit and hold the sacred in our hearts and bones. It calls to us, this beautiful darkness.

Contrary to most of the connotations we have imposed on “dark”, whether it be night, cold, black, race, skin color, evil, under-handed, glum, gruesome… you get my point….

… It is this dark peace that grounds us … the inky black joy that drips over that bright light like a balm. The enemy is not in nor of the dark.

So this Christmas Eve, I will welcome the peaceful dark, allowing a little time for my soul to catch up with me. Darkness. Bring it on. I choose the dark.

Merry Christmas!



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Kentucky Sunday

Feeling this poem today for some reason, so thought I would repost. It is NOT summer. There are 10 inches of snow. But the longing in me to be known and honored are sinking in my belly. So here. This.

Prose, Poetry and Ponderings

a wild bouquet of 3-year-olds
fling themselves into water jets
and sit down
before dissolving into
a crowd of guardians and water play
oh the racket!
of 5-year-old boys
who are deliriously
being doused by buckets of water
almost as gleeful
as their dad
who has a couple of them
over his shoulder
sopping wet
and squealing
it is into this calescent
Kentucky Sunday
the kind that could stifle
and divert every kind intent
that we call for
bloody marys
maybe 2
no celery stalk
but olives
which shipwreck and sink
to the bottom
of the glass
bloody mary 2
we sit in this summer field
you tell truth
which spills out
like the sweat on your brow
uncaged stories
as redolent and wounding as
I’ve heard
and this heartsong
only a patch in the acres of
your tender and

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