Sunday, February 9, 2020



“In-the-Weeds” my family called me. Till I was well beyond forty….and still, occasionally. 

This had absolutely nothing to do with weeds (though I loved playing in wild backyards), or my rather messy appearance.  Sitting still didn’t come easily and my mother’s refrain of “I couldn’t do a thing with her hair - it had a mind of its own” still echoes through my fond memories of her. 

Funny how this moniker that stuck for who-knows-what reasons came to be mine BEFORE I grew hair, and while I was still swaddled and suckled and kept away from any weeds. 

It was my sister’s invention.  Two and a half when I arrived home from the hospital, she struggled with the consonant and vowel blends of my given name - Margaret Louise is a mouthful for a toddler . 
 My family found my sister’s “In-the-Weeds” endearing and fun … which it is.... and so repeated and shared it often. And perhaps, over time, as that bald, swaddled baby grew into me, and after my sister was fully able to pronounce my name, “In-the-Weeds” stuck because it fit.  

I am kind of unmanicured and all over the place.  I still struggle to sit still and my hair continues to have a mind of its own. And though, I would love to think “In-the-Weeds” stuck because I was endearing and fun, I think my family thought it fit for lots of other reasons.  
And I’m OK with that, because though I'll always remember the nick-name, what stays with me the most and the deepest, is the love and smile in their eyes when they called me “In-the-Weeds.”

Today I am uneasy with the nick names being given right and left to others, often opponents,  by fully grown adults acting far less mature than most toddlers.  These nicknames are given to belittle and demean.  There is NO desire that they be endearing ....funny perhaps, but always  at the expense of another (and to me,  there is NOTHING funny in that).   The nicknamer's intent is Not to endear.... there is no smile or warmth.  They are meant to hurt and put-down.  

 I am wondering what our children and youth are thinking as they observe this. 

I wonder too what they think about their own nick-names. Do they sense love and warmth and endearment when they hear them?   I sure hope so. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Heart is an Off-Road Vehicle

We drive that stunner of a North Cascades Highway headed for our annual family reunion and the curious four year old grandson in the back seat peers through his car window while he volleys forward his usual plethora of questions.  

What made the fire start that burned all the trees?

How did the fire get across the river to the other side?

Where does the water come from in that waterfall?

What animals live in this forest?

Which ones live way up on the top of that top mountain?

What makes the water so green?

And when there are still miles to cover, and he is DONE with the car,  and he wants to BE there…..

Bapa, is this an off-road vehicle?

When the answer isn’t affirmative, his imagination describes the last of our journey if it were….

“We’d jump the river, zoom through the forest, rev straight up to the top of the mountain, then bump all the way down…. and we’d BE THERE!”


Now, three days later at the close of this family reunion…..I sit at the lake’s shore - the tea in my mug and the sweet birdsong bringing me and the day awake…..And suddenly, I am crying …. not simply from the beauty I sit in, but the realization that my heart is that off-road vehicle.

It feels giant-sized, super strong, unsurpassable!

Pumped by the relentless squirt gun battles, whiffleball games, soccer matches and gut-busting laughter. .....Revved from the catch up conversations with each beloved..... Set into a steady rhythm by the “signal-less” surroundings free of texts, emails, and troublesome news.... bumped into steadiness by the magic that is our history and years-long legacy, it is filled up and broken open.  

It could jump a river!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A "God" in our Palm

I see us waiting…..for the bus, the boat, our coffee, our turn with the doctor…. 
head down, palm up - in an almost prayer-like posture.…  
to a persistent God. 
This Diety sucks us in. Glues us to itself.  Holds our souls.  
Connects us…. to what?  
more news?
 friends' and family’s needs?
 work demands? 
 time chunks?
 music to soothe us? 
movies to entertain us? 
podcast info?
  Certainly not, it would seem, to those waiting alongside us, 
 to ourselves.

Is this the new public hiding place?  The replacement for  books, magazines or newspapers….but with endless articles, titles, and features …. so you never ever need even look up? (Unless….oh my…. the battery goes dead….and the coveted spots in the coffee shop or airport where outlets live, are taken).   
I suppose it might seem a bit predatory these days to simply sit and look…or people watch. 

Is this our new safe space?  A place where we can be alone?   Where nothing is asked of us?  No one awaits our response or our smile or our opinion or our action….
unless we choose to engage?

Perhaps this Diety… this Force with whom we are spending so much of our day is benevolent….. protecting the shy teen from the angst of not being included in the circle of conversation next to them.  Lovingly providing needed relief to the introvert who has had enough of the party…or assurance to the socialite who needs to hear frequent pings.
  Perhaps ….

And while we wait with our head bowed down to this "God" in our palm,  does another Force wait for us
 to leave the competition in our coat pocket or purse…and spend time…
 in silence,
 in emptiness,
 in noticing, 
in breathing, 
in conversation, 
in wonder,
and yes, in rants, feuds, laughter and tears….

 In simple Connection… 
with others…

 and with ourselves?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Gratitude for the YES.

It has long been a part of me.  It fills me.  Centers me. Rights my soul.  Yet now, a couple years from 70, I don’t do it much anymore.  Except at the occasional wedding reception or with my granddaughter when she visits.  

So, when a friend called two months ago asking me  to choreograph and perform a solo in a production she was putting together, I hesitated on my way to NO.   She seized my moment of pause  …. "How about if I just send the song so you can listen to it?".  
Wise woman. 
The haunting words and soothing melody reached in and touched my heart ….and I said Yes.  

A week after that YES, I departed on a three week vacation to Greece and Crete and quickly forgot all about it….exactly what vacations are designed to do. 

Upon returning, after the jet lag abated,  and some sort of normal returned,  a reminder email popped into view ...the production is two weeks away - hope you have been practicing - here is the rehearsal schedule.  
Wait - what?  Did I really say yes to this?  To dancing in this production ?   What was I thinking?  My body is older and thicker and weaker ... AND .... I just spent three weeks eating baklava and moussaka! 

All of that, followed by …. I gotta get OUT of this.
Then, as I can be prone to do when faced with hard stuff (and the potential of disappointing someone), I got busy with minutia and  avoided even thinking about it ....for days.
When more emails arrived about shifting rehearsal times, an unexpected surgery requiring that a cast member step away ….  my angst built... and did battle with my inner compass....READ ..... “when you commit to something, follow through”.  

It was poop or get off the pot time.    

Unenthusiastically, I scrolled through old emails to find the music....all the while plotting a well-crafted exit. 

I've heard science folk say that music speaks to our body's molecules. I believe them now. I listened to this beautiful song again …. and my molecules started to move. 

IF this were a Disney blog, the most beautiful and flowing movements would have lifted my aging body along with the words of this song right on up into the starry heavens.  But this isn't Disney .....and while I felt joy in the movement,  I hit  wall after wall when my creativity got stuck or my body wobbled .  At one point,  I even wished to suddenly require surgery myself.

 But each time I thought, "BAIL. Get out now!"...... "TAKE THIS RISK" was a little louder.  It out-shouted you’re older and thicker and weaker, and this choreography looks older and thicker and weaker too.

And then the best thing of all happened …. I asked my eleven year old grand-daughter - who studies dance three times each week -for guidance and help. 

Her suggestions were gentle ... with clear explanations behind them.  She  was encouraging and kind. And, I think perhaps, she was even a wee bit proud of me.

I am a wee bit proud of me too. I danced to that beautiful music - written by a beautiful woman and sung by her lovely daughter.  No starry heavens were reached.  Wobbles happened.  But the YES gave me gifts I didn't know I was seeking.

And for that I am grateful.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Give. Grow. Receive.

A wise friend wrote me last month about a minister who told her that the mission statement for his church is Give.  Grow.  Receive.  Spot on,  I thought.  So complete.

 I want to adopt that mission statement as my own.  Give.  Grow.  Receive.  What more is there really?

He also told her that his church finds that last one ....  the Receive part ....  the hardest.

And when I lay those words beside my life ....I think it's that third one that is out of balance for me too.  Possibly, many of us could say the same.

This past month, when a Monday commitment I had made to another got cancelled, I tucked myself into the big cozy chair beside the window with an afghan and a charming novel.... ALL morning long.  It was deliciously indulgent.  Not undeserved.  And I loved every minute of it.
BUT .... that is rare.

Now that I am retired, I do have entire days where I can give myself those delightful breaks....but other than trips away,  I rarely schedule them into my calendar like I do the lessons or the volunteering or, or, or!  Even when I know how important that is to do.

As excuses, I have a litany of blather....
             I still want to contribute... to make a difference .....
             The needs are so huge, after all ....  
             It's important to keep learning and growing and not stagnate...
Blah dee blah.  But I venture there is something unsaid here.

I simply think it is dang hard to receive. I struggle mightily to give myself permission to receive... even from myself.  Growing up, when I'd wrestle with a decision, my Mother would weigh options with me, but often say, "Well, you don't want to be Selfish!"

And then there's that whole other level ....  ASKING to receive from others.

Talk about being vulnerable. To say.....I am really struggling, could we go to coffee and could you simply listen to me?  Or.... I have a rotten cold,  could you make a meal and deliver it this week,  or pick up the kids, or the groceries, or walk the dog?  My head says,  How presumptuous of me!

Am I saving the ASK for when I truly have a need ..... am hospitalized with a terminal illness or lose a loved one?  And while I wait for that day, do I miss out on the authenticity and community that comes when we ask and receive on a more regular basis?   Do I lose out on the fullness... the wholeness perhaps, of my relationships ... am I limiting their depth and richness when I make this choice?

It's a good thing it's the dead of winter.  I have lots of time to wonder about this.  I am putting myself on Time-Out.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

"One Nation....Indivisible"

Today is Election Day.  2016.

I awoke early ... my head and heart troubled and angst-filled.
I sit with it.  And know I need to get out for a walk.  But I must wait for the light to reach the sky so I sit with it some more.

 I grab Parker Palmer's book, Healing the Heart of Democracy, from the shelf and scan the pages.   I want hope.  I want wisdom.  I want answers.

The words on the page ..."One Nation, Indivisible" feel long forgotten .....  far from me ....  far from our country .... almost unreachable.

I read on.

               "If we aim to be "one nation, indivisible," he writes, the capacity to imagine ourselves as members of one another, despite all that separates us, is essential."

He reminds us that we belong to one another..... so we cannot be as "self-centered as we please" but must understand the necessity of differences and respect.  Respect, he reminds us,  takes imagination ..... that ability to really see one another ..... across our inevitable differences.

I look up from the page to find that the sky is now pink .... there is a sharp wind blowing .... but the walk will do me good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Soul Place

We'd been hearing about this place of hers in South Dakota ever since we met her ....back in the 80's.

This place.... two small cabins, one large shed, one double-holer outhouse....her father's former hunting camp .... on a piece of land near the itty bitty town where she grew up.... deep in the ruralness of the Black Hills.

As a married couple, they spent each summer here in this place...with their children, then their grandsons....connecting and reconnecting with relations, friends, swimming holes, hiking trails, and quiet.  It was a long trek each year, both geographically and otherwise, from their involved lives as university professor and public school teacher in a sizable town up in northwest Washington.

We knew, from the stories, this place held rich memories laced with history. For years we wanted to take her up on the invitation to visit.

Finally. This was the year.....this was the summer.

She told us to watch for the county line sign, then a big tin shed on our right... their driveway would bend off that narrow winding road just past the shed.

And there she was on the red porch, waving through the dust our tires kicked up .... smiling her love and hellos from every bit of her small but sturdy, almost 82 year old frame.

Three days ...with her... in this place.  Wildly wonderful, but not enough.  Not nearly enough.

                    On our first night there, as we lay back into the dark of the lower cabin amidst the hooty hoot of the owls outside, while half of me remained on alert recalling her comment, 'I hope you're OK with rodents!" my husband said across the quilt, "Well, this certainly is her soul place!"

Yup.  True.  We both knew it and felt its embrace.

For those three wonderful days ... (and still, actually),  I wondered about what defines a Soul Place .... what bullet-pointed items fall under that heading ....  what descriptions get the blur out.... what words articulate the experience....that palpable yet intangible experience that shouts Soul Place.

Was it that we were snugged in amongst family photos, memorabilia, tale after rich tale, furniture and artifacts from times past, abundant quiet, new faces that understood and shared our love for her, longings for a dear husband and father now gone from this earthly place, bird song, pine smell and breath-catching beauty?

Certainly it was present in that visit to the six building town where her Mom and Dad had run both the only store and the only gas station while she grew up with a beloved Grandmother some distance away.....and at the visit to the ranch that was home for her earliest years where we couldn't distinguish which weather-weary-but-still-beautiful building had been the house and which the barn... and at the visit to that peaceful ponderosa pine-smelling cemetery high on a hill where she and her husband will rest alongside one another some day....

Was it present here,  I wondered,  because internet, cell phone service and television reception were not?

Was it present here, I wondered,  because this strong wise woman has, it seems, done her own version of the Australian Aboriginal Walkabout... alone on this wild land much of each summer since her husband passed away?

I started a new book the night before we left ... one I had picked up on the trip.  In A Singular Notion, Renee Carrier describes her ranch outside the small town of Hulett, Wyoming as "not a ranch, not a farm per se, it is a place."  
"I love,"  she continues, "the Muiresque definition of a place as being a part of the environment claimed by feeling."

I dog-eared that page.

Certainly, my friend has deep and strong feelings for this place. It seems to breathe the very values she holds dear.
Or could it be the other way around?  Did her values come from this place?
Sort of a chicken and egg kind of question.

Either way ....what a joy to have and know a place that sings the very song your heart sings ....a place that calls you to remember what it is that brings you closer to your sacred self.

I treasure the gift of those three days with her in that place. They reminded me to live more fully into Rumi's words ....

Wherever you stand
Be the soul of that place.