Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Standing Naked

Today is my birthday. I thought about all of the things that I could write about to commemorate this occasion and then I thought again. I'm not really in the mood for one of those sappy romps through the past nor am I in the mood for a prophetic foray into the future. My solution, which may or may not be a good one, is to share a poem that I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

I don't often share my own poems here but, for whatever reason, this is how I am acknowledging my birthday.


I sat clothed in a wardrobe of the past.
Layers of tightly woven fabric keeping the cold in
and the warmth out.
Hiding a body and spirit that had dared to live
nearly half a century.

You pleaded with me to shed my hat,
unbutton my coat, kick off my shoes.
To let you remove gently these makeshift bandages
allowing the wounds beneath
the healing breath of fresh air.
You bid me to stand naked,
to hide nothing from you and nothing from myself.

As my last garment fell to the floor,
I saw, as if magnified tenfold, the scars of life given
and life lost.
I felt fresh pain, inside and out, from punches
taken by hand and by word.

As I reached desperately for the security of my old clothes,
My flesh and soul instead were enveloped by the cloak of your words –
“You’re beautiful.”


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

t is December 26th and I have emerged from beneath the Christmas rubble into the after-Christmas haze. The empty boxes, shreds of wrapping paper and abandoned bows have all made their way to the trash, most of the gifts are resting comfortably in their new homes, and the holiday leftovers have been tucked away in the refrigerator. We tried to keep things simple and low-key, but that is not the way things looked around here yesterday. When you have seven people each giving one another just one gift you end up with 49 gifts. That’s a lot of stuff!

Those of us that did not already have iPads got them for Christmas. I wasn’t sure that I really wanted one, but it sure is a lot of fun. It may even prove to be useful and make me more productive – or at least make me appear to be doing something useful and productive. The iPads themselves were a gateway gift to many other gifts – speakers, headphones, cases, and even a few iTunes gift cards. One of the funniest iPad accessory gifts that I saw, though none of us actually received this, was the book The iPad for Dummies – The Kindle Edition. We have all managed to download Apps, books, and music just fine. I am thinking that first of all if you actually need this book and secondly if you are reading it on your Kindle, perhaps the iPad is not for you.

Though no one received The iPad for Dummies book, there were many other books, real paper ones with actual pages, that emerged from under the tree – cookbooks covering everything from good old southern cooking to vegan Italian, The Cat in the Hat in Russian, graphic novels, daily mediations, and tales of an American naturalist in Italy. Despite that fact that we all have access to ebooks, none of us has been able to give up real books.completely.

Handmade gifts were also in abundance. Erin is our queen of scrapbooking and master of Photoshop. She put her talents to use making each of us something to preserve memories from 2010. Brooke created a recipe collection especially for her sister. These two have taste buds that reside on opposite ends of the culinary spectrum so this was truly a gift of love. The recipes included ingredients such as cheese, eggs, bacon, and butter – things that Brooke does not herself cook with or eat. She did manage to sneak in one recipe that called for swiss chard or some other leafy green vegetable such as spinach – ingredients that Erin does not cook with or eat.

I did get some knitting done for this Christmas, not as much as I had hoped but more than I have managed in a long while. I made Erin an afghan for her dorm room and a pair of socks for Jason. Ok, I started the socks last year with the intention that they would be a gift for Christmas 2009. Now I realize that I had really just gotten a head start on my knitting for 2010. Despite this head start, I did fall short with what I hoped to accomplish for this year.
My goal was to knit hats for Erin, Brooke, Mike and Weber. I fell about 33% short of this. I finished the hats for Mike and Erin in plenty of time to actually wrap them and put them under the tree.

Brooke’s was under the tree; it just happened to be in the form of two unknit balls of yarn and an IOU. Weber’s was about half done and I didn’t even bother with trying to make it look gift-like. I humbly admitted that it was not done and promised that I would finish it as soon as I could. Unfortunately, the temperature is in the 20’s in Dallas right now. He could be wearing the hat if I had finished it. I figure I will have it done in a few days – when it is supposed to be 70 degrees here. This should come as no surprise to him since I finished his last pair of (wool) socks for his birthday – in June!

All in all, Weber is a good sport with regard to my poor timing with knitting projects though he did point out that he thought it was a little ironic that the bald guy got a hair (and beard) trimmer for Christmas but the hat to keep the bald head warm had no crown.
What can I say . . .

Don't tell him that using his reading glasses as a magnifying glass (like we used to do as kids to burn a whole in paper) probably won't work to keep his head warm.

Though we all had a great time giving and receiving gifts, by far the best part of Christmas was all being together laughing, doing crossword puzzles, playing with Squirmles, and eating Brooke’s homemade cinnamon rolls.

I wish you and your loved ones a blessed twelve days of Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Top Secret Mission

So why was I at the mall again this weekend? I was on a top secret mission. No, I was not looking for a Christmas gift. And no, I have not finished Christmas shopping, but yesterday was not the day for that. Despite what you may be thinking, I was not checking up on Santa to make sure he was doing what he is supposed to be doing at this time of year. My assignment was to be in the shoe department of Nordstrom Department Store at 2:15 pm. Look around. See the latest styles in boots, heels, and flats. Bask in the Christmas cheer – the lights, the decorations, and the flurry of shoppers. But remember, I’m not shopping; it just looks like I am. I’m just waiting for my cue to spring into action.

At about 2:28, the store pianist ended his rendition of “Jingle Bells” with a coda that rivaled that of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. That was my cue, and the cue for 460 others who had been perusing the various departments of Nordstrom, to stand ready. Our mission was about to begin. We all abandoned our interest in the lovely shoes, clothing and jewelry that we had been admiring intently for the last ten minutes and readied ourselves. Then came our official call to action – the opening bars of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” leaped from the piano. After four measures of introduction, the entire store was filled with the sounds of 460 people singing this wonderful piece of music. Hallelujiahs high and low and everything in between resounded around two floors of the store and I suspect the enormous sound of our combined effort even reached beyond that. The faces of the singers lit up with joy as we sang together – never having rehearsed together or met one another, in many cases, before. The faces of the unsuspecting shoppers in the store did not evidence that same look of joy. Some look stunned. Others amazed. And some looked a little pissed off that our top secret mission of the day was impeding their progress with regard to their top mission of the day - serious, really serious, shopping. Oh well . . .as they say, life is what happens while you are making plans.

What I have just described to you is a Flash Mob. And, it was the best five minutes that I have spent in a long time.

Here is a link to some rough video (taken with someone’s phone) that has been posted to YouTube. Sadly, the quality of the audio leaves a lot to be desired, but you can get the gist of what was going on.


The Dallas Morning News also carried an article this morning.


“Beware of large crowds of like-minded people!”


That's Better, Santa!

For reason I will explain in my next post, I found myself yesterday afternoon at the same mall where I spent last Saturday afternoon. What are the chances? I have lived in Dallas for twenty-seven years. In the past eight days, I have doubled the number of times I have set foot in this particular mall.

I was glad to see that with only a week until Christmas, Santa is beginning to get serious about his job. He is no longer putting off the inevitable by moonlighting as an exterior lighting designer.

(For further explanation, see the previous post.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sights and Sounds of Christmas

The semester is over! At exactly 4:14 Thursday afternoon I turned in my grades. What have I been doing since then? I’m not really sure. All I know is that we have made three trips to the airport in the last twenty four hours; everyone is coming home for the Christmas break and I have done very little, well actually, I have done nothing to get ready for the holidays.

In an effort to remedy that sad situation, we went to one of the big malls in Dallas yesterday. It was full of people, mostly happy people. There were a few kids who, by their wailing, made it clear that they had had enough shopping, but for the most part everyone was enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday hustle and bustle. The entire mall was beautifully decorated. Greenery, lights, bows, and shiny Christmas balls were everywhere. On every wing a different group sang familiar Christmas carols, instrumentalists gave their own renditions of these same tunes, and ballerinas twirled to the sounds of The Nutcracker. Despite the fact that I am in a mild state of panic due to my lack of preparation for Christmas, I could not help but to be happy too. I was even happier when I left the mall because we actually bought a few gifts.

Amidst all of this, we did see a couple of puzzling Christmas sights.

1. As we approached the busy intersection where the mall is situated, there stood Santa on the corner – wearing sunglasses and holding a placard advertising that he installed home Christmas decorations. Does he really have time to do that right now? Shouldn’t he be making his list and checking it twice? Shouldn’t he be making sure that the elves aren’t spending their working hours on Facebook, Twitter, or Match.com? Shouldn’t he be negotiating a bulk discount with Apple for all of the iTouches, iPhones, and iPads that are on everyone’s Christmas lists? Surely he should not be trimming the columns on people’s porches to look like peppermint sticks or draping strings of lights around animated reindeer. What is he thinking?

2. Then there was the U-Haul truck parked in two parking spaces. Except for the fact that we couldn’t find one parking space, I don’t have a problem with taking two parking spaces, I have a problem with driving a U-Haul truck to the mall. Who has that much shopping to do? I want to meet the person who buys that many gifts. Maybe they were planning to shoplift the $14,000 model train that is on display.

3. There was also a school bus parked out front. I’m sure it was an economics class from a local high school working on an end of the semester project - If you max out mom and dad’s credit card, and pay them back by making the minimum monthly payment, can you pay off the debt before you reach social security age? Or maybe it was a statistics class trying to determine what percentage of the stuff in all of those stores is actually needed by any of us. Or perhaps a physical fitness class was building endurance by walking round and round the mall until they found the exact thing they were looking for for just the right price. Score!!

After our day at the mall, I have purchased a few gifts. I have not put up the tree or cleaned where the tree will eventually go. I have not figured out exactly what I am giving some people on my list. I have not finished my Christmas cards. But, I am in the Christmas spirit. My feelings of holiday cheer do stem from my adventure at the mall and the fact that I don’t have to go to school tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Wonder

I wonder if we are born knowing to wonder or wanting to wonder,
If wonder is a gift or a curse.

I wonder why I am different or if I am different,
Why I care or why you do.

I wonder if we all see the same colors,
Is my blue also your blue, my red your red?

I wonder if we see the same good and the same evil,
Know the same despair and the same hope.

I wonder why some of us crave chocolate
And others alcohol, pills, or sex.

I wonder how words mean one thing to me and another to you,
And how the obvious escapes so many.

I wonder why anyone would choose raisins over chocolate chips in their cookies,
Why corn dogs taste so good.

I wonder why I like the mountains better than the ocean
And cold rather than heat.

I wonder why Bach moves me at the depths of my soul and Wagner doesn't,
And why I would rather read poetry than fiction.

I wonder why God is always close whether I want Him to be or not,
And why the most gentle messages are delivered in the midst of chaos.

I wonder who discovered that bread needs yeast to rise and biscuits need baking soda,
Why our body temperature should be 98.6 rather than 98.5 or 98.7.

I wonder how people fall in love and how they fall out of love,
How the same emotion can be the most beautiful and the ugliest life force.

I wonder why I don't like peas or mushrooms or olives,
But love brussel sprouts, squash and cucumbers.

I wonder who decided that teachers should be better at answers than questions,
That knowing the right answer is better than knowing the right question.

I wonder why so many people have such a narrow definition of family,
Why we even need the word "normal" in our vocabulary.

I wonder if life is over when I run out of questions,
I wonder . . . .