Category Archives: Thought Full

Catch Me

IMG_8370A coach once asked, “Describe games you enjoy.” Playing catch topped the list. Why?

It’s the smack in the glove;

The successful clasp of the disc between the fingers;

The rush of the fast push of the playground ball into both hands;

The happy, he chose me to throw to;

The connection of one to another across an arch of gravity;

The smile when your partner leaps and catches the near miss.

“I’m sorry,” you casually mumble when the Frisbee veers up and back in an embarrassingly unintentional curve.

“Oops, he confesses when the thrown ball meant to move one direction and landed in the weeds instead.

But catch is not all fun and games.

I have noticed it takes courage to play. At the beginning the game is orderly. The first throws to the right. Then that receiver tosses to her right and so on around the circle.

Then in one unplanned moment, there comes a curve. The player with the ball, switches the pattern and throws across the circle. Standing seemingly alone in my small group of family or friends, there’s a game change. Perched there, half wanting to make eye contact to say, “Yes, I’m free to catch,” the other eye says, “Don’t seem too eager to receive.” Holding back I look away aloofly so I don’t convey, “I’m waiting,” or “I hope you’ll throw one this way.” or worse to not care too much when left out two times around the circle.

Growing up, every year some in my family made a pilgrimage to the vacation home. Leaving the city house, my dad packed a Frisbee and ball in the car. Once we’d moved into our new place, dad got the toys and we’d play catch in the driveway or street.

I loved the tricks. My dad staring me down while throwing to my sister. Thinking the ball was for me, I’d reach to receive while my sister was thrown for a surprise. Fast balls, quick ones, high tosses, over the head, under the legs to me, to me to me.

In those moments, I am caught and nothing beats being part of the game. Included. Participating. When someone throws a ball or a Frisbee, all is good. And when the ball smacks into your hand or lands firmly in your fist, all is right.

Here’s a few questions: What do you enjoy? If it’s catch, are you throwing or receiving? Chosen? Participating? When in the game, all is good.

 

 

 

 

 

Saving the World

shower-curtain-world-map-4Before throwing away the world last week, I almost saved it. Thinking I could make things from it, I considered cutting up the continents and boxing them for a future project. I contemplated snipping those seven islands into sections and using them right away. How about pasting them onto cardboard for a geography lesson? Heck it almost became a drop cloth for a painting project.

For a second, I considered donating it to Goodwill. Thankfully in light of the battered plastic and missing grommet holes, better sense moved in.

Yup, a shower curtain almost got stored in a crate surrounded by a lot of pressure to make something new from it.

Instead I took that old plastic sheet and, not as my kids might quote from a currently famous YouTube spot, “I took it and I threw it on the ground,” I took it and I threw it in the trash barrel. The should-guilt lasted for a tiny New York City apartment minute. “Keep it, reuse it, recycle it,” my packrat self counseled. But like the bits of food left in my refrigerator that mold, decay, and eventually need to be composted or chucked, the shower curtain left my house the first time.

I still believe I can act each day to help our planet stay clean and clear, but I, unfortunately won’t be able to save this old world by saving and storing my old shower curtain. Thus, I let it go.

Here’s a; question:  Anything you’re saving these days that it’s time to let go of? Is it better to toss it now rather than letting it rot in the fridge or collect dust in a box?

Take Your Seat White America

8850-lOnce, in a city, on the way to an appointment that was “not in my neighborhood,” I boarded a bus when whammo. Immediately I felt it. “What did I feel?” you ask?

“My skin color,” I say, prominent, exposed, obvious, but not unprotected.

Usually I don’t notice my skin. I rarely notice it has color. My skin is just, well, there. I’m just, well, me. But that moment on the bus shined a spotlight. All eyes on me, I was the only white person on the bus.

There was a seat. Was it in the front or at the back? Not sure. No need to think about that. Probably, after a moment, no one was looking at me. But in my mind, my skin color wore neon lights.

Embarrassing to admit, but, when I see an African-American person in, say, a Whole Foods market near me, I have the impulse to smile, as if to say, “I’m one of the nice ones.” And I wonder what planet I think I live on that the person passing me by really gives a hoot whether I’m smiling or not.

I just watched the video of Eric Garner who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer as he struggled to breath. “I can’t breath, I can’t breath,” his voice panicked as he lay on the city cement. Remember how when you were little and you’d wrestle with your siblings  or your dad, and you’d get in a hold and say, “I can’t breath.” And they knew to stop sitting on your stomach. They didn’t hesitate. They got off. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put Mr. Garner in a chokehold did not stop. And now Mr. Garner is dead. I want to panic, hold my head in disbelief, but I must do more.

I struggle about what to teach my children about racism and their place “on the bus,” and “in their neighborhood.” What do my two kids, my two white boys growing into white men need to know so they can be part of a solution to eradicate racism in the United States of America?

They need to know their history, deeply. They must know what we did. I’ll stop for a minute to define we. Who are we? Any white person whether we explicitly did something or not. Just  being white in America makes us responsible for our history. Here are a few subjects:  Slavery — African Americans were enslaved by white people in our country for 400 years. Did your eyes just roll. Did you think, “You’re bringing that up again?” Until tangible reparations are made, we aren’t done dealing with slavery. Further, my kids must know that African Americans fought slavery. There’s more; I want them to know about reconstruction; that for a time after the civil war, many black men were in elected office. I want them know about suppression of voting rights, Jim Crow, the KKK, lynching, mobs, job discrimination, racism on sports teams, among many subjects.

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  History is repeating. Consider the new version of disenfranchisement in Texas where laws require Texans to show identification to vote. I explain to my kids why this is discriminatory. I want them to know this is a new form of the voter suppression that occurred in the 1960’s when African Americans in the south were not able to vote unless they passed a history test. I want them to know.

I want them to know how many African American men are in prisons today. I want them to know that the cost of incarcerating someone is greater than the cost of attending college.

Seated at dinner last night, we discussed the protests against the grand jury’s decision not to indict a Police Officer Pantaleo in the death of Mr. Garner. Peaking their interest, my kids asked questions. They need to know.

We all need to know, and we need to feel uncomfortable. White Americans are not entitled to  live without acknowledging ourselves and our history. When one day one of my kids says, “I felt uncomfortable because I was the only one, “ I will reflect to him, “Yes, I know that feeling.” We all have a lot to talk about. Dear White America, what would you like to discuss today? Let’s start, again, and again, and again.

Just “Us”? Justice and Drought Drops

IMG_1105A poster pasted to a fence near a used-to-be pond on Highway 85 at Almaden Expressway in San Jose, California says,

“You’re looking at the drought. It’s Real. Save Now.”

Judging from the hand turning off a no-longer gushing-faucet, water flowing out of homeowners’ taps are the greatest drought-causing problem.

Recently, I received a Public Notice from the San Jose Water Company.

  1. Don’t wash your car without a shut-off nozzle.
  2. Don’t let “runoff” water run onto roadways, parking lots, etc.
  3. Don’t clean your driveway or sidewalk with drinking water
  4. Don’t use drinking water in an outdoor water fountain.

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“Violations of any of these four prohibited or restricted water use activities may be punishable by a fine of up to five hundred dollars for each day.”

These residential water uses comprise only 5 percent of total water use. Fifty-five percent of the water used in the U.S. is for animal agriculture. See http://cowspiracy.com/fact-check/#.VBThmxR2JbI.facebook

In our family we turn off water between teeth brushing, take short showers, and water the garden in the early morning or late afternoon, among many water-saving measures. Occasionally I even lug pasta refuse water outside to hydrate potted parsley.

According to Cowspiracy, (http://cowspiracy.com) the new documentary dispelling the disconnection between what we think is the greatest water use and what is actually the problem, producing one pound of beef takes 2500 gallons of water. One pound of beef. That water use is, well, hard to swallow. Makes my bucket of pasta water look well, like a drop in the bucket.

Cowspiracy found we could take shorter showers for 2 months before we used the amount of water needed to produce one pound of hamburger.  If my one family stops eating hamburgers once a week for one month, we would save 10,000 gallons of water in one 30-day period.

Curious about how much water one family actually uses in a month, I looked up a bill from our heaviest watering time, July and August. During these 57 days, my family used 262 gallons per day or 14,934 gallons. That water use is equivalent to 6 pounds of hamburger meat.

So, here are a few questions:

Is the faucet the right image for the poster?

Is that Public Notice sent to all water consumers?

Does the water company post on ranch owner’s fences images of cows consuming corn, grass, and soy telling them, “This is what drought looks like,” forcing them to take measures to save water? Does it fine ranchers for not properly or efficiently using our precious natural resource – water? Again, Cowspiracy, “Growing feed crops for livestock consumes 56 percent of water in the U.S.”

While I’m not suggesting every Californian become a vegan, I do think it’s time to rethink the family dinner menu. To that end, I’ve pulled out once again, Forks Over Knives, a documentary and cookbook that makes compelling health arguments for eating plant-based meals. (http://www.amazon.com/Forks-Over-Knives-Cookbook-Plant-Based/dp/1615190619/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1410898733&sr=8-3&keywords=forks+over+knives)

Don’t worry, we won’t start letting the water run wild while we brush our teeth, take showers, and water the garden. And I won’t hound you to stop eating meat. But we can do more.

To start let’s learn the facts about water use. Got words you can share about water? Please tell us. There’s a lot we can do. We just need to do it.

 

 

Untangled

IMG_8221A tangled web of fishing wire, silver chain and black rope sits and stares  from my dresser. Day after day it calls to me, and I energetically ignore it, sort of. Ignoring takes energy.

On Tuesday, when the call shouts, I take the mass of chains to the table and begin to unravel knots. At the first pull of string, a voice weighs. “Why?” I wonder, “am I untangling jewelry?” But the meditative pacing, the slow thoughtful focus, is alluring. Each link I undo, every chain I free calms me like no cup of chamomile ever did. Time creeps to a near stop as my fingers carefully pull apart the links.

Slowly emerges an old blue stone unworn for years, a smooth maroon rock necklace gifted long ago.

The energy used to convince, “No, not today you have no time to untangle that mess today,” shifts to the art of untangling. Soon the strings are separated and hung. Sparkling chains and shiny stones align my wall. The jewelry looks pretty.

I do have time to untangle these webs, these strands, these chains, to find the clear crystal at the end of the fishing line. I breathe easy.

Got a small tangle of a project calling you? It’s worth the effort and time to unravel it. You never know what (thoughts) you might find.

Lemonade Stand

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When I see a kid selling lemonade on the corner, I stop and buy a cup. If they’re like me, when I was 10, it will make their day. When I witness the happiness evident by the swing in their arm pouring my kids and me a glassful, while happily accepting my $1.50 cents, it makes my day too. Let’s adjust the slogan, “Drive like your kids live here,” to “Support your small local business like your kids are selling.”

Maybe you remember your small business ventures as a child? I do. Laughing now, I am shopping at Gristedes Market in New York City. My sisters and I would buy apples along with lemons and quarter them. We set up our market next door to the Guggenheim Museum. If location, location, location rings true, we had it, because the museum was around the corner from our apartment on 4 East 89th Street.

But apples? What were we thinking? How did we keep the sections from turning brown while waiting for customers, which In my mind’s eye, created while standing in line at Gristedes, imagined hoards of crowds lining up for our lemonade and fruit stand.

Alas, I think we may have had one or two customers, likely a mom or office worker buying a cupful because they felt sorry for us. Usually those afternoons turned into roller skating and scraping together some odd cents for the least expensive Good Humor bar. How come he captured all the business? He had a name brand.

In Lawn Boy, by Gary Paulsen, a twelve-year old boy, lands a lawn care business while practically falling off a log. When a neighbor joins his enterprise and encourages him and explains how to expand, he quickly becomes successful. In real life, starting a business usually is not that easy, but supporting and encouraging our kids now may pave the way for a lucrative future. If nothing else, believing in them will give them the confidence to try.

So as you drive around town this spring and summer, support your local lemonade (or plum) stand and consider this:  What other small kid (and adult) businesses can you support? Maybe shopping local at a kid’s small venture will lead to their starting a business as an adult. Have any thoughts or memories about your small businesses? Share a story or two!

Home Shopping Notwork

IMG_7575Recycled gifts – When I was a child, my family gave “recycled gifts”. Recycled gifts are different from the current re-gifting practice of, just before leaving for a holiday party, rewrapping and relabeling a fruitcake, or just received bottle of wine or box of chocolate.

In my family, recycled gift-giving involved two things; searching for things we no longer wanted or needed and matching those to what another member might like or need. The most generous I received, was my parents’ stereo. It had four parts — the speaker cabinets and receiver were contained in real teak and the turntable, yes turntable, had a glass top. I was about 20, and it was the first stereo I’d owned. And so, speaking of turntables, here’s how I rediscovered places and things.

Leaning inside an also teak wooden box in my living room are some 100 records. Rubber Soul, Harvest, Blood on the Tracks, (confession) Laura Brainpan’s Gloria, and measures and melodies from jazz of long ago, Ralph Towner, Herbie Hancock, Jean-Luc Ponty name some. This music is cheap low carbon transportation to a favorite place to visit with family and friends – my living room.

Listening to records requires intention. A spinning disk lasts a scant 20 minutes per side, so, it’s more convenient if you sit — in the living room. For me, living rooms are like backyards, I like the idea of going there, but can’t always find the path.

And so, instead of shopping for new things this holiday season, I rediscovered some old ones, and old places too. Anything new you want to rediscover this year?

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Wondering in the Pancake Aisle (with more parentheses)

IMG_7528Sometimes I wonder, in this supposed season of wonder, if my family would notice if I served them pancakes for dinner every night during the next three weeks. Something tells me my kids would be thrilled, especially if I used white flour.

The reason I wonder is, for nearly six months, meal ideas are unbelievably bereft. The refrigerator is empty too. If you took a peak (now you can) about all you’d find is a jar of pickles, a dozen egg box with only one left, half a bottle of milk, a dehydrated bunch of parsley, one-quarter bowl of left over cranberry sauce, various jars of several-year-old containers of jams, jellies, and mustards, an almost empty tube of wasabi, and an empty butter dish.

In the bread drawer are several empty bags (reminds me of the butter dish) with only the heal remaining.

But the bean drawer is, well, full of beans, and millet, and barley, and a bunch of other grains that, while on a vegan jag in June, and in a bit of inspiration while standing in the bulk food isle, I bought and, for a time soaked and cooked regularly, and now I am sick of beans.

Up until this summer, right around the time of the vegan vacation, for years, I cooked chickens (the indoor kind) two or so times a week and had a regular supply of broth and makings for stews and sauces. We’d eat something different every night. I’d pour over cookbooks (sometimes literally) looking for interesting recipes, and then cook them, enjoying nearly every minute of the creativity.

Of late, (and probably only me cause I don’t think my family notices) I am amazed when I can still put something on the table, cause inside I’m wondering if it will actually happen.

Food is an issue for many people these days. Most of my mom friends share they too live in a desert for ideas. And speaking of that, is it our job to create meal after meal that’s interesting? No! So onward to pancakes, and no I’m not going to puree and then add spinach and kale so the kids will get “their” vegetables. Because then I won’t get the meal prep reprieve I’m craving.

Here are three questions:  Any place in your life where there are no more ideas? Oh and what’s for dinner? Could we join you?

Clogged

animated-pillowsdrawing-a-cartoon-pillow-i3mvekp2Lately writing is a bit clogged (thankfully not like a toilet) more like a sink, and I think it’s because at this time of year I’d rather sink into a pillow than do just about anything else.

This morning the sink stopped so severely, I decided to rise from the pillow and explain. Thinking that perhaps if I did, I could unleash thoughts, ideas, plans, and lists that chatter all day (and often in the night).

Shall I spill the to-do which includes the seemingly mundane like shopping for potato chips and cranberries, and then the more complex, contemplating school choices for next year? And then there’s the seemingly impossible, but I won’t give up task of  crunching through a slew of tasks (wish it was snow) that we hope will make a small dent to reverse climate change.

Maybe spilling the list would help. Here’s a bit. Two birthdays, but that’s not the hard part. It’s the expectations I have about how great I can make them. The holiday shopping which perplexes, infuriates, and pleases me every year. Perplexes because I can’t make decisions, infuriates because I have no control over the consumption of our country, and pleases because, I love creating a perfect day for my family. But then there’s the things I do to avoid the to-do.

Yesterday I made Swedish Meatballs and mashed potatoes, for dinner, then cleaned seeds out of kumquats for homemade cranberry sauce, hung clothes outside, rode my bike to the park, and did not write. I thought about writing —  a thank you note for meeting with a congressional representative. I imagined sprinting up and down the street 10 or so times, photo-copying letters to finish a climate change project, shopping.

A good comrade advised recently, “When you say, ‘yes,’ to one thing, you are saying, ‘no’, to another. To what are you saying yes?” she asked yesterday.

Are you saying yes to avoid something? Are you clogged at this time of year? What unstops you?

Our Time

Original_movie_poster_for_the_film_Our_Town_(1940_film)One part of me thinks, “I must be crazy,” but the other knows I’m perfectly sane. Both the crazy and the sane, I learned at funerals.

The instruction

As a small child, I heard family say the following at funerals, “Wish we could be getting together on a happier occasion.”

The Vow

One funeral my dad said he and his cousins promised to never again miss big birthdays, same city visits, bar mitzvahs, confirmations, weddings, and family reunions.

Fast Forward

Got an email from my mom. She and my dad are performing November 9 in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (shameless plug for the Sandisfield Arts Center, Sandisfield, Massachusetts). Admitted to her when I get family occasion announcements (births, big birthdays, niece and nephew graduations), I scour airline reservations and scheme about impromptu visits. Looked up flights around November 9. Considered my calendar – soccer games, referee commitments, kid’s classes, church obligations. “No, can’t do this,” I decide, but confide to my mom my airline reservation obsession.

Mom’s Offer

“I’d like to fly you here to see the play. You can see your sisters, and meet your niece,” she writes.

 Me

images-1Revisit calendar. Make decision. Can’t do this right now. Write back. “Sorry, too much on my plate.” Her response, “Ok, January we’ll come out.” Tell husband, “My mom offered to bring me home in two weekends.” His response, “You know I’ll help you go if you want to do this.”

Midnight email

Write again, “Came to my senses, and decided to come.” Receive one word response, “Wonderful!”

After all

If it were a funeral, I’d drop everything and go. If something were wrong, I’d push aside all other commitments and make the trip. So why not go when things are right? I learned my lesson too. Get together on  happy occasions. Make it happen. So this weekend, I travel east to Our Town. Seems fitting given I’m heading to a teeny village in Massachusetts to see a play about small town, families, falling in love, marriage, and enjoying all of life’s small moments.

 

new years eveAt this time of year when you are perhaps reuniting with friends and family, how do you prioritize what’s important? Any lesson you can share?