31 December 2011

Grace #77: Wild Bells

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind, For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to humankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause, And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life, With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin, The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes, But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood, The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right, Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease, Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old, Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant soul and free, The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land, Ring in the Life that is to be.

~Alfred Lord Tennyson, adapted

Happy New Year! Peace...

26 December 2011

Grace #71: Jumping for Joy

What you get when you take a middle-aged mama, a passle of kids, and a trampoline.

What fun!


24 December 2011

Grace #69: Family

Today I give thanks for spending Christmas Eve with my husband, children, mother, sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces. It is the first time we have all been together Christmas Eve in 11 years. I miss my father but felt him smiling as we opened gifts.


23 December 2011

Grace #68: Almost There

Today was spent traveling from Baltimore to Raleigh. Of course, while en route we focus on getting there sooner than later. And this particular trip we did make in record time.

But the real gift is making it to our destination safely.


22 December 2011

Grace #67: Perfect Day

Day 2 of vacation = perfect day.

90 minutes of gentle yin-yang yoga that loosened my back and hips. Gourmet lunch with my husband at the open kitchen bar. A half-hour nap. A long walk. A haircut before meeting a friend for tea and a cookie exchange. Perfect burgers for dinner. Unwrapping of the family presents and a taste of chocolate before bed. Peace...

21 December 2011

Grace #66: Nothing

Today is my first day of a more than two-week vacation and I did nothing.

And it felt delicious.


20 December 2011

Grace #65: Pomp and Circumstance

Today my graduate student defended her dissertation. She made me proud, and reminded me why I love to teach and mentor.

She has worked beside me for over 3 years, and while I will miss her as a student, I welcome working with her as a colleague. Peace...

19 December 2011

Grace #64: Cards

I recently came into owning a grocery bag filled with unwanted boxed cards and stationary: homemade papers with pressed flowers, lace-edged invitations, notecards filled with water-colored landscapes, birds in snow-filled forests.

From these I chose my Christmas cards, such luxurious abundance. Peace...

18 December 2011

Grace #63: Seven Days

Only 7 days before Christmas. Anticipation fills me with giddy wonder and makes me relive being a child again. Peace...

17 December 2011

Grace #62: It Could Be Worse

Ever have one of those days when everything that could go wrong, did?

Just remember--it could be worse.


16 December 2011

Grace #61: It Pays to Look at the Ground

Today I found a ten dollar bill in Target. Three people stepped over it but didn't see it -- one woman was yacking on her cell phone, another walked quickly with a frown on her face, the third, a young man, was lost in his world of earbudded music.

I have found many things looking at the ground: $67 in a drugstore twenty years ago; another $10 lying in front of a postbox on a frosty Boston New Year's eve and, as a poor graduate student getting ready to take my comprehensive exams, I had no money and no plans, but the found money at least bought me a nice French pastry and a cheap bottle of wine; a diamond tennis bracelet; a diamond ring; several wallets, all returned (one from a recent Russian emigre, an older woman so grateful she baked twelve layer cakes and gave me bags of bright-foiled Russian chocolates, all for $2 and her Medicaid card); a monthly subway pass.

What do you find when you pay attention? Peace...

15 December 2011

Grace #60: Nip and Tuck

The cool blast of artic air. Sweater weather, tuck-in-your-shirt-tail weather. Brrrr....


14 December 2011

Grace #59: Grief and Love

"Grief is the tax we pay for loving people."

~An anonymous funeral director.

I think this is beautiful.


13 December 2011

Grace #58: Last Class

Tonight marked the end of my first class in my writing program. I am pleased it is over--Tuesdays are my hard day at work and extending them until 9 made me a tired puppy. But what a brain-stretcher, and what an opportunity to read and dissect stories and poems I might not otherwise have read.

Now a break, more than a month. Time to... write.


11 December 2011

Grace #56: Busyness

This time of year it seems the week bleeds into the weekend and the weekend bleeds into the week. I am as equally exhausted on Monday as Friday. It makes me cranky, but then I drive to the grocery store and see someone on the corner with a sign and a cup, begging.

My life is good.


10 December 2011

Grace #55: Christmas Shopping

Today I took the kids to a large, independent book store, gave them each $40, and told them to find gifts for grandmothers, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was fascinating to see what they bought for their relatives; in each purchase, I saw a little of my children, how their desires reflected in their selections.

And isn't that the way it should be, a little bit of ourselves in our gifts to others? Peace...

09 December 2011

Grace #54: A Single Glass

Of red wine at the end of the day. The children playing music, dinner cooking in the oven, the evening settling in. A fine way to end the work week. Peace...

08 December 2011

Grace #53: Sound of Music

The music teachers at my children's schools provide so much direction, instill so much passion. My son plays guitar, piano, trumpet, drums; my daughter piano, viola, and sings. I sit at my desk writing this, surrounded by keyboards, guitars, flutes, rattles, rainsticks, remembering the middle school jazz band serenading us earlier this evening with Route 66.

Here's Natalie Cole doing her Daddy's song...

Enjoy, and peace...

07 December 2011

Grace #52: Little Ant

A little ant am I, churning out my research papers, reading dissertations, giving lectures, readying exams, making jambalaya and apple sauce to get us through the week.

And now it is time to rest. Peace...

06 December 2011

Grace #51: Watermelons

Green Buddhas
On the fruit stand.
We eat the smile
And spit out the teeth.

~Charles Simic

How can this simple poem not make you happy?


05 December 2011

Grace #50: So much

to be grateful for. I've found 50 things over 50 days to be happy about. You?


04 December 2011

Grace #49: Father

Today marks two years since my father died. I am grateful he was my father--he was loving, firm and usually right. He also was an excellent grandfather to my children. I miss him, and celebrate his life today.


Grace #48: Hip-hip-Hooray

For Hugo Cabret! The movie is splendiforous, and the book THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick even better.

Read it, see it, and smile. Peace...

01 December 2011

Grace #46: Cold

Sometimes what we really need is a small case of the sniffles, just enough to slow us down for a day.

Today was just this--a chicken soup day.


30 November 2011

Grace #45: Penultimate

November ends, a fickle month, a short month before the rest of the year slides to its end.

I like those things that come in next to last: the second to last line of a story, the second to last in line for food, the second to last to pass the finish line.

Seeing the end come makes its completion so much sweeter.


29 November 2011

Grace #44: A Good Day Is...

When traffic flows away from you.

When you see no body bags or feral dogs on the way to work.

When you teach and it all makes sense to you.

When it only rains while you are inside.

When your student shows her fortitude and powers through what needs to be done--with grace.

When you have enough soup to share.

When class ennervates you so much you can't fall asleep, your head is so full of ideas.

All these happened to me this day--what good happened to you?


28 November 2011

Grace #43: Surprise

Don't you just love it when people come through for you when you least expect it?

Reminds me there is more good powering the world than bad.


27 November 2011

Grace #42: The Most Beautiful

Rendition of "Over the Rainbow."

Makes me weep...

My son is playing the uke, we've been youtubing so many performances, but this... this reigns.

Rest in peace, Iz -- and thank you for this gift. Peace...

26 November 2011

Grace #41: Safe and Sound

We arrived home safe and sound, a mere 6.5 hours of driving, mostly easy. The children. Were. Perfect.


25 November 2011

Grace #40: Using my ponies...

One of the best things to do in Mansfield is to walk. My husband and I walked to the park, the school fields, the railroad station, down main street, through neighborhoods, to Fulton's Pond to see the water gushing over the damn and hear the geese squawk. Miles and miles and miles...


24 November 2011

Grace #39: Living Thanks

As I get older, every morning I wake feels like a gift. It is difficult, in the hustle and bustle of the day, to forget what each day brings: a chance to live. It is difficult to put aside the petty desires, the hurts, the annoyances, and just enjoy the instant. To Be.

Which is why I started this daily gratitude journal: bluetruedream. To keep me honest.

I am thankful for so much: my husband, my son and daughter, my parents and sister, nieces, nephews,other family, my friends. I give thanks for being raised by caring parents, for growing up knowing I was loved even if the words were rarely spoken.

I give thanks for having a job, for being able to ride the subway most days, for having the privilege of being a student again.

I am thankful for living in the United States, where I can live free, write free, speak free.

I give thanks for my gifts. And my flaws, for they make me strive to better myself.

And I give thanks to my students: I learn so much from them, about research and health and life, and courage.

Most of all, I give thanks for now. Not then, not tomorrow, but now.

What are you grateful for?


23 November 2011

Grace #38: Traffic

The say the day before Thanksgiving is the most traveled day. This morning, I woke to rain and expected a clogged highway to the airport, long lines through security, delayed flights. Instead, I arrived with enough time for coffee while I wrote on my novel, and the jet arrived thirty minutes early.


22 November 2011

Grace #37: Rain

Today I am thankful I have a roof to keep me dry, a car with good tires, and no place to get to in a hurry.

And my IKEA umbrella.


21 November 2011

Grace #36: When Night Falls

Sometimes nothing beats a king size bed, a good book, your mother's handmade quilt to keep you warm -- all for yourself.


20 November 2011

Grace #35: Absence makes the heart...

My husband, children, and cat left this morning in the thick dark of pre-dawn, headed to New England to visit his family. I will join them Wednesday -- too much work to leave early and join them on their adventure. Watching them drive away, I wanted to draw them back, give each another, deeper hug. Always, I worry -- suppose something happens? Suppose we never see each other again?

The necessity of separation, of not being with the ones you love in case, fills me, the mother, with a low-frequency anxiety. It makes me aware that living cradles the same cusp as dying, of 'bad things happening', and how important it is to grasp the now with hands and heart.


19 November 2011

Grace #34: Rest

I am grateful for Saturday mornings when my family sleeps a little longer, and I do, too.


18 November 2011

Grace #33: Bliss

My lower back aches much of the time. Part of this is due to age, the slow compression of my spine, but a part of my pain is due to lousy posture. At the recent church auction I purchased a zaful meditation pillow filled with buckwheat. My back sings its gratitude.

Take care of your physical shell as you get older.


17 November 2011

Grace #32: Body Electric

I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not me off until I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge
of the soul.

Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies
conceal themselves?

~Walt Whitman

16 November 2011

Grace #31: Wowza!

A month of graces. Not too shabby given my hectic life. But my hectic life has a lot to be grateful for. I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to post a gratitude a day.

969 more graces to go. Peace...

15 November 2011

Grace #30: Whew!

I didn't hit the black Labrador that ran in front of my car this morning.

Good enough gratitude for today. Peace...

14 November 2011

Grace #29: The Silicone Chip

I don't like Mondays. My college roomie and I used to belt out that Boomtown Rats classic every Monday on the steps of Lenoir Hall before making our way to organic chemistry.

The first day of the work week often takes some getting used to after a pleasant weekend. But this day all went well: the commute, the children back to school, a paper finished, a fiction accepted, warm chicken and orzo soup waiting for me on my return.

I hope today serves as a harbinger for the week. Peace...

13 November 2011

Grace #28: Friends

A couple of hours spent with friends at an Irish wine pub -- what could be more delicious? Not much. A sweet ending to a sweet week. Peace...

12 November 2011

Grace #27: Yoga Nidra

Today I experienced a tremendous gift -- yoga nidra, or conscious deep sleep. To float on the cusp of wakefulness while body, mind, heart are all at deep rest is an amazing sensation. After the session, I had more energy than I'd had all day.

The body's ability to restore and energize puts me in awe.


11 November 2011

Grace #26: Nine Lives

Our cat climbed a fence and we almost lost him. Dark fell too quickly, but all the shouting in the world would not help -- our cat is deaf. A heart-thumping hour later my daughter found him by the road, using a young maple as a scratching post. It was the best moment of the week.

Our pets become family. Peace...

10 November 2011

Grace #25: Poeming

My son wrote a slam poem, interweaving his love of music with positive feelings of joy and empowerment. A great poem, great meter and alliteration, very rhythmic, just like a pounding rock song. Best of all was his satisfaction of his creation, the quiet (and not so quiet) expression of being proud about the words he had wrought.

This is how self-esteem is made.


09 November 2011

Grace #24: Fog

Driving through backroads to Bethesda, fog lifted off the still reservoir, a massive ghost, rolled back to reveal forest tinged in ochre and gold, a mystery.


08 November 2011

Grace #23: What I Take for Granted

My home, safe, quiet, sturdy, clean. Driving through West Baltimore today, papers tumbled across desolate intersections, boards covered businesses, shattered panes filled window casements.


07 November 2011

Grace #22: Small Thing Number 1

The smallest things provide the greatest pleasures. Like: a perfectly drawn latte served in a ceramic cup, sipped while sitting by a window, sun streaming in. No newspaper, no laptop, no cell-phone, just me, the window, the coffee.

When is the last time you simply sat?


06 November 2011

Grace #21: Books

Nothing soothes my savage soul more than a great bookstore, and there is not many greater than Kramer's in DuPont Circle. Wanted to buy so many books, but restrained myself to one, a collection of shorts by Chuck Baxter. But oh, the possibilities...


05 November 2011

Grace #20: Space

Sometimes the best gift of all is an extra hour. It's a bit like finding a twenty dollar bill in last year's jacket pocket.


04 November 2011

Grace #19: TGIF

By the time Friday rolls around, my ears are sagging by my ankles. The weekend brings another kind of 'work' -- grocery shopping, cooking, catching up on bills, sewing up moth hols in my sweaters -- but it's the kind of work that recharges me for Monday.

And vice versa.


03 November 2011

Grace #18: YOU

"The things you want are always possible; it is just that the way to get them is not always apparent. The only real obstacle in your path to a fulfilling life is you, and that can be a considerable obstacle because you carry the baggage of insecurities and past experience."

~Les Brown

02 November 2011

Grace #17: Words Matter

Words matter. How we use them, how we deliver them, the tone behind them, or not. Word choice matters -- the difference between 'and' and 'but' can radically alter a conversation, a decision. With emails and cell phones and testing, words can come carelessly, casually. Words are potent and should be used with care, not as thoughtless weapons.

It is not the quantity but the quality of words spoken/written/read that count.


01 November 2011

Grace #16: Basho Poem

Barn's burnt down --
I can see the moon.

Mizuta Masahide, 17th c. poet

31 October 2011

Grace #15: Pumpkins

'tis pumpkin season. Time to ride the hay wagon to the fields, to find the perfect speciman. Time to gather these vegetables, cleave them, scoop out the seeds and roast them with oil and salt to crack later between teeth. Time to cook the flesh and make creamy pumpkin soup and spicy bread, perfect with a pat of butter. Time to carve ghoulish faces and light a candle, watch the flame flicker in the dark.

Happy Halloween.

(Art by Lea, age 9).


30 October 2011

Grace #14: Neighbors

We have good neighbors. We look out for one another. We may not always agree on things, but we can come together as families and share snow days, Halloween, walks in our street. I am grateful for these people.


28 October 2011

Grace #12: The Grape

Today I am grateful for the grapes sliced on my salad and the red ones crushed, fermented, and now crimson in my glass. Happy Friday.


27 October 2011

Grace #11: Filling Us Up

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

Perfect grace. Perfect last stanza.
FILLING STATION by Elizabeth Bishop


26 October 2011

Grace #10: Why We Write

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopefless, and brutal. ~Flannery O'Connor

Why do we write? I have been thinking of what moves me to write, and I think this quote comes quite close.

Why do you create?


25 October 2011

Grace #9: We are always in school

There is nothing so stimulating as learning something new. Today I learned how to really read the first paragraph of a story as a map to its end. What did you learn today?


24 October 2011

Grace #8: Dinner Is Late

But that's okay. Sometimes time is best spent playing soccer in fallen leaves, talking with neighbors on the street, gazing at the sliver of moon when October grants us a summer day.


23 October 2011

22 October 2011

Grace #6: Triple Play

1) Applesauce from local Ida Reds and Staymans.

2) Free books at a yard sale (Walt Whitman and Garcia Marquez).

3) The view from my front yard at dusk.


21 October 2011

Grace #5: Walton's Mountain

We watched an episode from The Waltons, that television show from the 1970s about living life in the rural mountains of Virginia during the Great Depression and later, WWII. It gratifies to watch a family bicker and disagree, yet pull together when times are tough. There's a universality here about being a family, an ideal of a family that is actually possible to achieve, even in this age of gimme-gimme and divorce and children's 'sitcoms' where parents are not present and, if they do make an appearance, are stupid and unable to, well, parent. In the Walton family, everyone has respect, even little Jim Bob and Elizabeth.

Good night, everyone...

20 October 2011

Grace #4: Beautiful Bluster

The view from my front door at 7 am. (The photo does not do this image justice).

Scudding clouds = fall = turning inward.


19 October 2011

Grace #3: She loves me yeah yeah yeah

My daughter told me this evening I am an "awesome mom." This while massaging my hands.


18 October 2011

Grace #2: Baltimore Food Trucks

Today my work felt unrelenting. My head began to ache from close reading of two manuscripts and a student's thesis. I bolted from the 12th floor to the cool outside. The food trucks lined up along the hospital plaza. I ordered California fish tacos, intending to eat at my desk, but the sun warmed my back so I sat on the brick wall to eat, along with a dozen others, and arrived late for my meeting. Peace...

17 October 2011

Grace #1: i thank You God for most this amazing

Welcome to bluetruedream, a place of grace. Every day I will post an observation, a picture, a poem or inspiration, that provided me an instant of beauty. As a writer, I seek to find meaning in the space between instants, the pause, what musicians call the golden moment. Consider this space a sanctuary of sorts, a place to breathe for a minute before heading into our over-full, over-busy lives. Consider this space an altar -- leave your blessings and graces in the comments.

I hope to post 1000 graces. Why 1000? I think of 1000 origami cranes, 1000 candles flickering in cathedrals, 1000 pennies dropped into fountains. I hope by the time I write my 1000th grace I will, perhaps, have found my own.

The first grace, the poem that inspired it all...

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

e.e. cummings