Gabriel turns Two: Happy Birthday Sweet Boy

Friday, January 26, 2007

My Week in Gratitude

1. An afternoon of the house to myself, the sound of peace. Good writing. Creating a fairy tale of Mother God's love for my daughters.

2. Being silly in bed. Laughing. Making love.

3. Eating pizza in the car with Nika; her first time eating pizza up front with me in the car.

4. Gabe giving me a big, unexpected hug.

5. Realizing I have more power than I thought, including the power to let go, and the support to make that really work.

6. Hot chocolate.

7. So many good books on my shelves to snack on when hungry

8. The growing sense of community at Emerging Women

9. Two special sisters given to me by God

10. The ability to think and love

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Princess Ariana and the Magic Cupcakes

Princess Ariana and the Magic Cupcakes

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Ariana, who happened to be a princess. In truth, Princess Ariana was just like every other girl. She loved ice cream and stories and staying up late.

She loved dancing, twirling in fancy shoes and jumping the couch. Ariana took pride in building huge, intricate castles out of blocks.

Ariana loved fire engines and doctor stuff and taking her dolls for walks outside on sunny days. She loved tick tack toe and running fast and getting tucked in at night with lots of stuffed animals and a song.

She hated putting on her pajamas, brushing her teeth and doing anything she was told if it wasn't exactly what she felt like doing.

Ariana also didn't like it when her little brother followed her around all the time, or when he tried to eat her toys. Or knock down her castles. Or when he took Mommy's attention away. Ariana also didn’t like annoying little kids who acted like little brothers. For example, she felt really annoyed every time she saw Philip Mugoo, because he always copied.

And of course Ariana really didn't like it when something wasn't fair. Like when her older sister got to stay up later. Or she saw Daddy get a bigger scoop of ice cream or the thicker half of a magic bagel.

As you can you see, Princess Ariana was just like every other girl.

Princess Ariana went to the Royal School in the neighborhood where she lived. The Royal School was housed in a beautiful building made out of gold and silver, with windows made from diamonds, and door knobs made from rubies, emeralds and topaz.

Before school every morning Ariana went into the castle kitchen and packed her own lunch, because, her mother had told her recently that she was a big girl, which meant she as ready to do some things on her own.

Sometimes Ariana tried to sneak three cookies instead of two, but Eric the bald cook always caught her just as she reached her little hand into the box. Then Eric would sympathetically look at Ariana, smooth his bald spot, and put the cookies too high up, in the highest gold-plated cupbard. That of course, meant no cookies. And no cookies at all meant Ariana's lunch usually consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a purple apple, an ounce of pink caviar, some cashews and a pomogranite juice box.

Sometimes Ariana's mom or dad dropped her off at the Royal School, but when they were extremely busy talking with boring dignitaries, Sue Ellis brought Ariana to school. And on the days when Sue Ellis started sneezing, which happened a lot during the googoo weed season, Frank took Ariana to school.

Ariana liked Frank, because he always gave her a soft-but- firm handshake and a silly wink before turning to go, his long legs carrying him quickly and gracefully to his next assignment.

Ariana usually felt excited to go to school. She loved painting with bright, wild colors on Mr. Cranberry's easle and giggling over who could make the silliest mily face out of cashews during lunch.

But sometimes she just wanted to scream and run and hit, or hide like a bear hybernating in the wintertime. Ariana felt angry like this when Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe made her play the evil fairy when they acted out Sleeping Beauty. Because they always made her play the evil fairy when the played Sleeping Beauty.

Ariana started to think she must be a horrible, miserable little girl. She felt like a tiny hair ball being spit out of a mean cat's slimy mouth. And sometimes she started acting like a slimy hairball because she felt so bad inside.

Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe were Princesses in the kingdom next door and they always acted like they were better than everybody else. Their mom and dad gave them everything they wanted, and they acted like all the children at the Royal School should do just as they pleased too.

Most kids at the Royal School thought Izzy and Joni were kind of mean, but somehow everyone was convinced that Izzy and Joni really were better than everyone else. So of course all the little girls wanted to be just like Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe. If Izzy and Joni were their hair in green pigtails, then everyone else did too.

And since Izzy and Joni said that Samara was not a real princess, and therefore couldn't play, all the children agreed with Izzy and Joni and ignored her or teased Samara in an unkind way.

Of course acting mean made them feel like hairballs. But, they reasoned, Izzy and Joni were right: Samara wasn't a real princess; she was just a commoner who was smart enough to get a scholarship at the Royal School.

This was the excuse the other girls used to exclude Samara.

Truthfully, almost all the children were afraid that if they stood up to Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe, Izzy and Joni would tell the rest of the girls that they were stupid princesses. In fact, there was only one girl in class who didn’t care about what Izzy and Jonie thought or did. Can you guess who?

Now that you understand a little better why Ariana always agreed to play the evil fairy, even when it made her feel like a hairball, let me tell you about Samara.

Samara did not wear green pigtails just because Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe did. In fact, unless she was having an very frizzy day, Samara did not wear pigtails at all. She loved the feeling of her hair blowing free when she ran through the green hills behind her cottage or down the lane on the way to her mom's bake shop. Samara lived in her own world of books and butterflies. She loved watching bees nibble flowers in the field and squirrels gathering nuts into their chubby cheeks.

Most of the older village children didn't like Samara because she could read and write like a princess, only with words that spoke like the truthful song of a wolf or a bird just before dawn. But the younger ones loved Samara and Samara loved them too. She looked at the children, both big and small with the same kind, wise eyes as her mother. It saddened her that only the young ones returned her eyes of love.

After school, Samara played tick tack toe in the sand with the little children and tossed them in the air until their giggles were louder than the bickering of tired grownups. And then she hugged them and told them stories about far away lands and a Great Fairy who could turn even the worst evil spell into a love song capable of making rocks dance and and dead creatures shout out-loud for the joy of coming back to life.

Rumor had it that Samara's dad was a prince who ran away with a silly elf before he ever had a chance to become king. No one knew for sure, because he just disappeared, and occasionally sent Samara silver and red pinecones from distant lands, but he never gave his address. And no one could verify that he’d actually been seen. Once, a farmer claimed to have seen him rolling around in the mud with a goose in a Lalalala Land, but these were just rumors.

What we know for sure is that Samara lived with her mother in a small white cottage with blue windows, not far from the castle gates. Samara's mom was a woman named Nadia who ran the village bake shop and took care of Samara. Nadia had wise eyes, and always a kind word for strangers and sad folk, and especially children. If someone was too poor to buy the bread from her shop, she gave them bread for free, saying, "share this with someone who needs it just as much as you do."

If a child came by Nadia's shop on her birthday, Nadia always made sure to hide something special in the bread bag: A soft vanilla cupcake frosted with an elegant crimson rose, and etched with the birthday child's name. And crowning each cupcake would be a special power stone, made from a precious gem.

Children always asked Nadia, "What is my special power?" And Nadia would answer, "Only the Great Fairy can tell you that, and She speaks in a whisper to tender hearts. I can only tell you that your special power will give you the ability to help others and bring joy.”

Each child, princess and commoner alike looked forward all year long to coming to Nadia's shop on her birthday.

But one terrible day when silver pines were glistening like ice, Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe made a proclamation. Izzy and Joni had heard their parents make alot of proclamations recently, and on this dismal day, terrible, unspeakably awful day, they decided to make a very mean proclamation of their own: Anyone at the Royal school who went to Nadia's shop would be considered a not-princess for a month. And anyone who dared enter Nadia's shop on her birthday would instantly be demoted to a not-princess...forever!

Izzy and Joni's proclamation was heard all over the Royal Playground exactly one week and three days before Princess Ariana's birthday.

Ariana spent the first two days pretending she didn't care about Nadia's special cupcakes; she didn't care one tiny bit, and anyway, Eric the bald cook could make her birthday cupcakes out of the finest flour and the sweetest sugar in the land.

On the third day, Ariana punched little Philip Mugoo in the face for following her around too much. She looked at him with scorn and hatred, like it was his fault that she wouldn't able to go to Nadia's Bake Shop on her birthday.

On the fourth day, Ariana did her homework in the darkest little corner of the castle staircase; she was not allowed to go to school after punching little Philip Mugoo. In between math problems and reading about kings and queens of old, she imagined sneaking poison into school and drippling it on Izzy and Joni's pizza while they were busy fussing over themselves.

On the fifth day, Ariana decided to be reasonable. She wore her favorite pink dress with gold trim and her newest green pigtail holders. She put on some sensible green shoes and pinched her cheeks to make them a little pinker. She hoisted her backpack on firmly and walked pointedly over to where Izzy and Joni were whispering secrets.

"Hey Izzy, Hey Joni, you two look especially fabulous today."

"Especially?" They scoffed. "We always look completely fabulous; there is no 'especially.'

"Well, duh, of course you always look completely fabulous. I just think you always look especially completely fabulous," Ariana said, trying to recover her casual, confident attitude.

"Okay, fine, whatever. But can you leave us alone now? Can't you see we're trying to tell secrets? That means we don't want anyone else to know what we're saying. Got it?"

Ariana started to turn to go, but she turned right back around, determined to make those snotty-nosed princesses be reasonable.

"I was just thinking, why do you care if people want to grab a cupcake from Nadia's Shop on their birthday? I mean it's no different from getting one from the castle cook. Nadia's just help and she makes really good cupcakes. Princesses deserve really good cupcakes on their birthday, wouldn't you agree?"

"Ariana, you're so pathetic. Everyone knows you don't go to Nadia’s for the cupcakes. You go because you of Nadia. You like commoners. Go ahead, go to Nadia-the-Commoner’s Bake Shop on your birthday. It'll just prove that deep down you're one of them, not a real princess like us. Someday our parents will take over your castle and you'll just be a commoner anyway, so why not get it over with now?"

Izzy and Joni started whispering and giggling again. Their giggles sound like witch's cackles, Ariana thought as her cheeks burned with anger and her eyes threatened to flood the entire playground with tears.

On the sixth and seventh days, Ariana went to school with an empty face. She walked around like a dumb robot and sometimes bumped into the wall. She even bumped into Teacher Alisha, who noticed something was certainly wrong. "Princess Ariana, you seem in a blizzard today, and it's not snowing outside, so it must be a blizzard on the inside. Would you like to tell me what's going on?" "I'm fine, go away," snapped Ariana, as she turned and ran, quickly slapping away a tear falling disobediently down her tired face.

On the eighth day, Ariana sat under dark, shady tree and crossed her arms, staring resolutely straight ahead into space. No one could get Ariana to go to school, even though it was candy muffin day. Her mom and dad tried to cuddle her and coax her, but she shirked them off and told them to back to their pathetic meetings. Sue Ellen tried being firm with her, but Ariana made her body rigid and would not move. Eric the Bald cook offered her three cookies, but Ariana just stared resolutely at Eric’s bald spot. Frank tried making jokes, but Ariana just blazed her eyes at him, as if he were evil. She hated Izzy and Joni. She hated Philip Mugoo. She hated her teachers and parents and helpers. She hated the world. But do you know who she hated mostly?

Ariana hated Herself. She spent the ninth day thinking about what a terrible princess she was and how she didn't really deserve to be a real princess anyway. She hated herself for turning into a mean, angry, pathetic little princess, just to to be like Izz Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe. And she hated that she didn't know how to stop being so hideous.

On the tenth day, which was the day before her birthday, Ariana cried all the way through math class and into reading, but she did her crying so quietly that no one noticed. Or at least she thought no one noticed.

How could she have been so mean to Philip Mugoo? Wasn't it bad enough that his last name was Mugoo? The last thing he needed was an older girl being mean to him.

Ariana thought about all the times she'd been sipping hot chocolate and nippling fresh bread in Nadia's Shop, laughing with the other princesses and listening with wide, wonder-filled eyes to Nadia's beautiful stories, while Samara sat alone in a nook or cranny of the Shop, reading quietly to herself without anyone to keep her company or acknowledge her existence. How could she, Ariana, have ignored Samara like that? And in Nadia's shop, no less? Why hadn't Samara punched her in the face or poisoned her pizza by now?

By the time Ariana arrived home at the castle gate, she had decided she didn't want to be a princess anymore, if being a princess meant being such a mean girl. She sobbed walking up the spiral staircase to her room, coughing a lot, as though coughing would expel the hairball stuck inside her heart. She pictured opening the top drawer of her dresser. Then she pictured removing the special crown her godmother gave her to save for "someday," on the day she was born, and smashing into a million, billion pieces. Ariana was just about the swing open the door to her room when something stopped her suddenly in her tracks.

Right next to her left foot was an exquisitely crafted cupcake, etched in elegant frosting with the most beautiful rose Ariana had ever laid eyes on. Right in the middle of the cupcake was an exquisite power stone that seemed to radiate love. Ariana shuddered, realizing she had very nearly stepped on this most precious gift only a moment earlier. She knelt down to look closer From behind her she heard her mother's voice, softer and more filled with love than its usual hurried tone.

"Someone very special left this for you" She said, handing Ariana a note. It was from Samara. Ariana gasped and a salty tear rolled down her cheek, which she didn't try to wipe. She let it fall gently on the simple piece of white paper.

Ariana, this is for you. It was always meant for you. It will help you be the princess you were created to be. And my mom made this one from her very best batch. Love, your friend, Samara

"Mom, I've got to find Samara, right away."

"She's already here. She's downstairs having a snack with Eric in the kitchen. I think they're eating goldfish and slurping apple juice."

Ariana ran so fast down the spiral staircase that her mother worried she might tumble headfirst, but Ariana did not fall. When she stood in the kitchen, facing Samara, she felt so ashamed, and yet she hoped in a way she had never hoped before, and when Samara looked up from her apple juice and smiled with kind, wise eyes just like her mothers, Ariana knew everything would be okay. She grinned back at Samara; in fact she grinned so widely, you could almost see her tonsils! Samara stood up, still chewing her goldfish, and skipped toward Ariana until they were nose to nose, and Ariana hugged her tight, while Samara held her gently and let her cry.

Ariana was about to tell Samara who sorry she was for being so mean, but somehow she understood that Samara already knew how she felt. Still, she wanted to show Samara.

In a split second, Ariana had an idea. She ran up the spiral staircase as quickly as she had breezed down it minutes earlier, and when she got to her room, she opened the top drawer and with the true respect and love of a princes and lifted the "someday" crown from its soft case and felt a warm joy growing inside her heart as descended the staircase with great care.

Ariana stepped into the kitchen and suddenly, feeling shy, she looked to Eric, who had stopped mashing potatoes and nodded to her with a smile and a very subtle wink.

Ariana walked toward Samara, and placing the crown on Samara's head of somewhat frizzy hair, she knelt down and said, "You are the true princess to whom this crown belongs."

Samara's cheeks turned bright pink, half with embarrassment, and partly with delight. Samara popped a goldfish in Ariana's mouth and then she did an even more surprising thing: with the lightness of a butterfly, she scooped out of her backpack a beautiful gold crown with soft, radiant jewels, and she placed it on Ariana's head and patted it into place.

Ariana was dumstruck. She didn't know what to say. Samara just smiled and announced as if it were the most natural, beautiful thing,

"Today you have become a real princess. The princess you were meant to be."

And deep inside her heart, Ariana knew it was true. She really was a princess now. And now that she was a real princess, she had some very important things to do.

First, she dashed out the door and found Philip Mugoo making vroom vroom noises as he pushed stickes around in the dirt, pretending they were castle-destroying trucks. Ariana knelt down beside Philip and whispered, "I'm sorry." Some of the older kids saw that Princess Ariana was talking tenderly with Philip Mugoo, and they began to spit at both of them. Ariana and Philip just used the spit the make the sand stick together for the castle they began to build together. Then the older kids started calling Ariana, "Mugoo lover," which caused her to stand up, put her hands on her hips and tell quite loudly, "I am a Mugoo lover. And I love you too!" Most of the older kids ran away as fast as they could, but Elias and Lika lingered and watched, and until Samara and Ariana motioned them to come join them building their great big castle.

Next, Ariana went to confront Izzy Clairemont and Joni Shoe Shoe. But on the way to their castle, she passed Nadia's Bake Shop. For a moment, she began to feel shame creeping back int, remembering how she wasn't going to go to Nadia's Shop on her birthday, but peering through the window, she could see Nadia's kind, wise eyes glimmering with a sort of good mischief. And Ariana knew just what to do. She went inside, hugged Nadia and asked if she could buy her two most special birthday cupcakes. Nadia said, "Don't worry, dear, they've already been paid for with love. My most special cupcakes are a free for the princesses I love. Nadia carefully scooped up up two beautiful cupcakes and placed them in a simple bag. Each cupcake was etched with an elegant frosted Rose and the name of a girl. One said, "Izzy," and the other said, "Jonie."

"Thank you Nadia" said Ariana, hugging her with all her might. And as she dashed out the door to bring the cupcakes over Izzy and Joni, she realized she loved them.

And when Ariana woke up on her birthday, she felt like the happiest princess in the world.

The Beginning.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

tangled dead branches mixing with green

Just behind my development is a patch of woods, just stretching enough to convince you for a moment that the natural world is breathing, despite the widespread conquest of stripmalls and condominiums. The natural world is breathing in those woods, letting its finished tree branches fall to the dank, earthy ground to rightfully rot back into creation; comfortable with the cycles of life that incorporate animal crap into the roots of supple young sapplings twining upwards toward raven nests made from dead twigs, new vines interveaving with older generations ready for fire kindling, a sense of ease and acceptance permeates the wise natural world. Things die, stink, give life. Things germinate and come alive to sing and race and return. And death never has the last word, for the natural world. Decaying old things are part of the landscape, the food for life.

I went for a walk today with my family, feeling angsty about some (relatively) minor things. When people want someting of me that I do not want to give, I react. React with aversion and anxiety; words like, "flight," "get out of my inner sanctum" and more visceral feelings difficult to name rise up, and I fight the old crap within me that hinders me from calmly setting boundaries without feeling awry and dismayed, gruilty or angry for having to set them at all. I instinctively push people away when I feel they want something from me that I am not comfortable sharing or giving, when I feel their emotions, desires or needs intrude on my psychological space. Peace is disrupted and I am furious; how could so-and-so dare disrupt my peace with their feelings or perceived needs that conflict with my feelings and perceived needs? I become more angry over the disrupton of peace than whatever substantive issue triggered my internal dissonance in the first place. And then the self-hatred for being so easily thrown off course, for not being enlightened or spiritual enough to be what I intellectually understand.

And then I see that the natural world breathes just fine amid the animal crap, rampant, earthy decay and brittle dead branches leaning and tangling with sapplings and middle-aged pines. Life in the forest accepts that there is no life separate from bothersome things, no nourishment other than the crap of other beings and the decay of old stuff. There is no paradise in the natural world. Just composting. And everyone in the forest is okay with that, as far as I can tell.

I know this lesson is for me. Paradise me be out there somewhere in the Beyond with Jesus, but as an incarnate human being, there is no life separate from bothersome things, no nourishment for growth other than the crap of other beings and the decomposition of old stuff into energy I can use to become someone beautiful for God. No paradise here, ladies and gentlemen. Just composting. And I'm hoping to become a little more okay with that, because there really is no choice. Compost or die; compost and live.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hanging Saddam

Did Saddam face death with dignity or pride? Buried in his subconscious, what did he sense about himself, his life, his impact on humanity and his death? He held his head high until the oxygen entirely vacated his dead brain. He treated his American jailors with class. He asked his Iraqi taunters if they were behaving in a manly way. What a life. What a death. And so much of what we know about Saddam's hanging we see because of an illicit video tape snuck onto someone's modern-mojo cell phone. And there is still a mess in Iraq, so many bloody bodies and families with holes: missing people, broken souls carrying out crazy violence for a plethora of interesting and tragic reasons. How can we heal what is broken in ourselves, our children and the future generations of the human community? How can we forgive the broken sinners who left us with the mess in our souls, our families, in Iraq, in Sudan, and bring healing the our oppressors, that we might all run free in Christ's path of Grace? Grace. What a messy, bloody word. The only way to release from endless cycles of death. And not cheap grace either. Grace accepted comes with the responsibility to change. Repentace means turning around, doing a 180 toward a lifegiving way of being with self and others, including God.

Grace and Truth. What a hysterically complicated duo Christ embodied for us. A table-turner who forgives enemies, loves intimate betrayers and takes on the care of strangers? A Savior who loves the tainted, mocked ones dearly, and asks his father father to forgive the same people he once called, "children of the devil," because, "they know not what they do?" We serve a Lord who called hypocrisy into the light, who was anything but a doormat to oppressors of mercy and justice. He laid down his life out of a profound sense of calling, not out of a ridiculous martyr complex or a lack of self-worth. God stood up and laid down, and rose above, according to God's will. And we are made in her image. In God's image we live and move and have our being. In her image we dance and die and live again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Tagged, I'm it

I've been blog (not blob) tagged by Julie and instead of going to the dragon's dungeon or having to chase other people, I get to share five things others might not know about me. So here goes:

1. I was born in an octagonal log cabin in a Sufi commune, where I lived until I was two when my parents decided to leave on account of numerous hypocrisies among the leadership. Upon announcing that we were leaving, one fiesty guru actually through a chair at my mother!

2. When I was eighteen months old my parents took me to Europe and I tried very hard to hug the Venus De Milo, because I saw that it had only one arm and I imagined it to be hurt. The gaurds of course interfered with my ministrations, and later during the trip, a pidgeon pooped on my head right next to a statue of St. Francis. Ever since I have felt a kinship with St. Francis and I dearly love the classic prayer attributed to him:


Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,

that where there is hatred, I may bring love;

that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;

that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;

that where there is error, I may bring truth;

that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;

that where there is despair, I may bring hope;

that where there are shadows, I may bring light;

that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;

to understand, than to be understood;

to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

I hope to improve at living this prayer, as I have a long way to go.

3. I was a competitive figure skater until I turned 15. For a little while there I got Oksana Baul's morning lessons when she slept in after a hardy-party night. I also skated with Nancy Kerrigan and Paul Wylie. I was in the adjacent skating rink when Tonya Harding's hit man got Nancy's knee. Who needs reality TV?

4. I am petite. Okay, short. My license says five feet, but technically I am only 4' 11 and three quarters. All throughout high school if I wore reasonably flat shoes, I was everyone's shoulder rest or teasing target. So I wore high heels. Constantly, despite warnings not to on account of scolioses and pronating feet. My back pays for it now, but fortunately my husband is an osteopathic physician-in-training, and he does wonders for my back!

5. I almost always have strong opinions about things, it's just that if you were really inside my brain you'd see I often hold more than one strong opinion about the same topic. This can make me appear either overly certain of my position when I only express the present-tense most dominant strong opinion I hold, or it can make me appear quite ambivelant if I give all my thoughts get an equal airing.

People I'm tagging:

  • David

  • Stacy