Friday
Mar272015

Meditation on Brokenness before Holy Week

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In the spring sun this morning, I got to walk my dog and listen to a podcast that (surprise) had me crying. By the time I got home, I had composed this in my head to share with you. 

Krista Tippett interviewed Bruce Kramer in an interview titled "Forgiving the Body: Life with ALS." Bruce Kramer died this week, while the podcast was in production, after living with ALS for five years and writing about it. Until this morning, I hadn't heard of him, read his blog, or read his book, but I feel sad that he's left the world. 

Easter's coming up. I stopped having what Christians call an "atonement theology" a long time ago. I don't believe Jesus died because God sent him to earth to die. I believe Jesus was executed because we couldn't handle the love he brought to the world. Just like MLK, Oscar Romero, Gandhi, and other Crusaders for Love. So what's left for me at Easter is not about sin. It's about suffering and about how Jesus suffered simply because to suffer is to be human. He didn't take the spiritual bypass, try to wriggle out of having a body, being connected to his mother, his brothers, his friends, feeling the pain of rejection, hunger, loss, or injustice. He was with it all.

So when I hear Bruce Kramer talk about his suffering, I connect it to this time of year and all the truth and longing there is for us if we open ourselves to it. These aren't all his words, but here's what I'm taking away from Bruce's experience:

Gratitude and Sadness go together. And sadness isn't desperation or depression, but simply being with the reality of what is. When we're most deeply grounded, we often feel, at the same time, overwhelming gratitude and deep sadness. Those are the moments when we know we're really alive. This is what the "flight into light" folks miss. It's not about the power of positive thinking, which won't get us closer to what we crave and need. It's about being with what is, even if it's shadowy.

Our personhood has nothing to do with what or how much we produce. I can't imagine completely losing the use of my arms, my legs, and my ability to breathe on my own. But Bruce can, and he and his wife said they would never go back because of what ALS has taught them about the beauty of life. Read that again--they wouldn't go back! 

Those of us without physical disabilities have no idea what we take for granted and how blindly we stride through the world. Bruce talked about "the look," the look that he used to give disabled people and that he often got in the last 5 years of his life, a look that conveyed, "All I see is your disability, and I need to look away from it." We miss so much! The whole person, the complexity, the profound "hidden wholeness," as Parker Palmer would say, that can be found in brokenness.

Fighting disease and brokenness won't get us anywhere. Accepting them will. This couldn't be more coutercultural. We are addicted to fixing things. We don't know how to ask the questions or live with the uncertainty that will bring us closer to love, to one another, to the most essential things about life. And disease, disability, and catastrophe show this up in us. Only cultivating a receptive interior life will shore us up when we need it.

I feel really humbled even trying to say anything about this. I haven't known these things the way Bruce or some of you have. But still, I want to try. And I want to send great love and tenderness to Bruce's family as they mourn his death, and love and tenderness to anyone, anywhere in the world, who's living with suffering in all its forms. 

I leave you with a favorite poem, maybe one I've shared here before. Christian Wiman wrote this while living with cancer. Yet another soul that knows what it's talking about. 

Small Prayer in a Hard Wind

As through a long-abandoned half-standing house
only someone lost could find,

which, with its paneless windows and sagging crossbeams,
it's hundred crevices in which a hundred creatures hoard and nest,

seems both ghost of the life that happened there
and living spirit of this wasted place,

wind seeks and sings every wound in the wood
that is open enough to receive it,

shatter me God into my thousand sounds.... 

P.S. That's Wyatt and Loretta up there after doing some basketball drills together on a recent evening. Whenever I say goodbye to them in the morning, I am in awe of their presence in my life and how that is both my greatest joy and might be my greatest undoing. The gratitude and the sadness.

Sunday
Mar152015

Twice-Baked Yams with Feta and Hemp Seeds

Twice-baked yams

We just got home from our annual Relax-a-thon with my in-laws in Palm Springs. We had a precious time with them, enjoying being WARM, email-free, and having 3 generations alive and healthy at the same time. I ate mostly cheese and crackers with some Bloody Marys and margaritas thrown in. 

When we got home and opened the front door, the cold house had that uninhabited smell, and of course, the fridge was empty. Grocery shopping today, all the superfoods looked the best--yams, kale, yogurt, nuts. my body and appetite kicking into post-vacation mode. In a classic Sarah move, I made these yams while the kids cooked up their default Top Ramen. Jade, My best friend in high school, used to make fun of me for this tendency even then--coming home starving and delaying my meal for an hour so I could make what I was craving. No handful of potato chips for me. It's an illness.

I've felt like a sponge this past month, noticing things, being quiet, feeling less of an need to spread my opinions (don't worry--they're still there!) and more of a need to honor who or what is in front of me. I've been reading a lot about the effect of technology on our relationships.  I'm becoming convinced that if we risk in relationship by calling (instead of texting) or dropping by (instead of emailing to schedule something 12 weeks in advance), we'll be a lot happier, we'll live longer, and we'll live into the mystery of mutual dependence. It's crazy how our ancestors spent so many years trying to acquire the miracle of hearing one another's voices across the distance and how we're forgetting how to use our voices. Forgetting how to gently ramp-in to a conversation (How are you? How's your sprained ankle? I'm calling to ask for a favor) and then to exit (Nice hearing your voice, I have to get going now). All of that is a pain, yes, but it's in the messiness that the good stuff grows. I'm a big fan of texting and emailing to schedule things, but if I happen to call you instead, it's not an emergency. I just don't want to lose my voice.

And it's that in-the-moment-ness that brings me back to the kitchen again and again. I can't phone it in. It's about putting my apron on, emptying that damn dishwasher AGAIN, wiping off the cutting board, and taking those minutes just to do one thing--prepare a meal. Three cheers for uni-tasking.

Twice-Baked Yams with Feta and Hemp Seeds
I've joined the hemp seed frenzy. I find them a delicious, nutty addition to lots of things. These yams are subject to so much variation! And so much more interesting than the sweet things we tend to do to yams. They don't need more sweetness.

3 large yams
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
small handful fresh thyme, finely chopped 
1/2 c. sour cream or Greek yogurt
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. crumbled feta
lots of salt and pepper 
Hemp seeds and more fresh herbs for sprinkling

Poke yams with a fork all over, rub with olive oil, and roast at 350 until just done. 40-60 minutes, depending on how big they are. Let cool.

Slice in half, spooning out flesh into a bowl, taking care to keep the skins intact. Add all other ingredients except for hemp seeds and extra herbs, mashing with a fork or potato masher until combined and creamy. I like to keep some chunks in mine, but you can mash a lot or a little. Taste, adding more of anything to your liking.

Spoon mixture back into skins, top with a little more feta, and bake until warmed through, about 20 minutes. Broil at the last minute. Take out, top with hemp seeds and herbs. 

Sunday
Feb082015

In and Down

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I wonder if a food photo will appear here anytime soon.

If I were to be snapping photos, they'd be something like:

Pint of IPA/Triscuits with cheese
Chocolate chip cookies for clients
Pint of IPA/Triscuits with cheese
Brownies for kids' lunches
Pint of IPA/Triscuits with cheese
Chocolate chip cookies for teachers
Pint of IPA/Triscuits with cheese

I'm not apologizing. Just laughing a little. It's one of those seasons when the question, "What's easiest?" has been the loudest.

And one of those seasons when the compulsion to record everything (on iPhone, Facebook, Instagram) has quieted. I've been enjoying just being WITH whatever is going on, just being WITH whoever is in front of me. I've instituted an Internet Sabbath on weekends, and I can't reccomend it enough. To give myself a break from the nudge to SHARE everything has been divine. To rest in my own self, to go "in and down," as Helen Palmer says, instead of being caught in reactivity and externalizing. To trust that everything I need is already present. There's no need to go out and get, to go out and share.

And here I am sharing. I listened to Krista Tippett interview Mary Oliver yesterday. From the first 60 seconds, I had tears running down my cheeks. I've been reading Mary Oliver since high school, but this was the only the second time I've heard her voice. And it was pretty clear she didn't want to talk about her poems. She wanted them to speak for themselves, to stay whole and a little bit reticent. 

The last thing I am is reticent, but, without explanation, here's a poem. I hope you find a quiet place inside yourself this week.

Beginning Meditation

I’m trying. Lord, am I trying.
To be still, to sit in this chair
without books, without music,
without agenda.
To ignore the tree outside my window
and the wind that shoves it
against the house.
Trying not to think about
the tangled wind chime
and how it needs to be taken down
for repair.

I’m trying. Lord, am I trying.
To not pick up the new poems
at my elbow and eat them
like candy.
To look away from the phone’s glow,
the piles on my desk,
the dust slowly settling
on this scrappy self
that fights so hard, every second,
to know, share, produce, achieve,
to not write this poem.

Wednesday
Jan282015

Birthday Lasagne

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Today is Loretta's eighth birthday.

Why does that sound so much older than seven? Looking through photos tonight, I'm struck again by what a happy baby and toddler she was and what a happy second grader she is now. Recently, I watched this amazing Ted Talk where Jennifer Senior (author of the parenting book All Joy and No Fun) gave a rousing rebuttal to this idea that parents are responsible for their children's happiness. She says that's too high a bar to set and pokes a little fun at all the ridiculous parenting books out there that serve as "monuments to our collective panic." If I relax, my experience is that parenting itself is the antidote to all the "shoulds" that dominate us. Loretta wants me to get on the floor and play with her and the dog. If I say yes, I get a lot more fun in my day. If I say no, I still get to watch her do it! And that's fun, too.

More than anything else--vacations, basketball games, priceless photo moments--we get to be in each other's orbit. We get to brush our teeth together (especially since our upstairs bathroom is being remodeled!), argue over whether or not she stole my hairbrush again, do chores on Saturdays, share our imperfect lives together. Parenting is about relationship, not about performance. And for me, it's a relationship that gets me to take myself a lot less seriously. 

Happy Birthday, Big Girl. 

P.S. She requested lasagne for dinner. I've pointed you to my standby recipe.

P.S.S. I wrote this a few weeks ago after bedtime.

Daughter Sleeping

Walking past her room
after bedtime,
covers are tangled,
her hair is fanned
across the pillow,
and she’s finally stopped
asking questions,
doing cartwheels.
In this quiet minute,
the pressure is off
to be a good parent,
be wise, present, or funny.
She’s here,
I’m here,
that is enough.

Grandma's Lasagne
This is the recipe I've been using for at least ten years. Ripped out of a Food and Wine magazine, and everything you want lasagne to be. I swear by the no-boil noodles and never buy the curly kind.

 recipe 

Saturday
Jan242015

End-of-the-Week Thank You's

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I read somewhere recently that sometimes our focus on gratitude can just be another way of being privileged. "Hashtag blessed" for fame, fortune, and ease. 

At the end of this week, though, I do feel truly blessed. I got out of bed on two strong(ish) legs every morning. I had enough food to make my children breakfast, prepare their lunches, and eat together around our table at night. I got to help my friend Rita by taking care of her sweet, sweet dog, and I miss him now that he's gone. I got to help my friend Meril plan her 50th birthday celebration, coach clients, and have an almost two hour yoga class with Ingela at Yoga Northwest. (Thank you, Jesus, she is NOT your typical zenned-out yoga instructor.) I got to read poetry, write some, and do some PTA tasks. I got to to meet with a dear, dynamic group of friends in my house this morning, and we talked about the things we want to water and grow in 2015.

Right now, Wyatt is at a friend's birthday party, Loretta is holing up in her bedroom, and Yancey is picking out the Star Spangled Banner on the electric guitar we got WYATT for Christmas. (I knew this would happen. How do we get the boy himself interested?!) And, maybe best of all in our little world, both kids won their basketball games this week and I've got some sweaty uniforms to wash. 

Here's one of the poems I wrote this week. May each of you be truly blessed in the coming week--not the annoying Facebook kind of blessed, but the kind that comes from living in reality. xoxo

Coming Home

It just comes down to this--
our stories, so different,
are the same.
We want to be seen
and loved anyway,
or maybe especially.
We want to be moved
by touch, poetry, tall pines,
or the perfect formation of geese
in the winter sky.
We want to come home
at the end of the day,
take off our shoes,
and find that everywhere we step
is sacred ground.