Looking back and thinking forward

Month: November, 2010


Thanksgiving rolling in tomorrow, and this one will be a quiet day for us. Just life partner and me sharing our turkey and pumpkin pie.

I am looking forward to unpacking the Christmas decorations this weekend and seeing how they look in our new house.


The family arrived yesterday from UNICEF. I must say, the African wooden figurines fit perfectly with our mission style house and decor.


The cactuses on my window sill are starting to bloom …


some …


… more than others …


Ada is always right here …


… and Son … in my thoughts …

Gratitude is in abundance this year. My thankful for … list seems endless … including life partner, our new home, family and friends, and a wonderful place to work, with smart, compassionate, and intriguing students, as well as collegial and supportive faculty and administration …

… but I must say that the list begins with my therapist.

No doubt about it! 

For, this whole year he has slowly, gently, consistently – helped me understand how to acknowledge and, more importantly, experience my emotions – feel my feelings – to the core of my being. Ah yes, it is uncomfortable – even excruciating at times. I cannot deny that. For I thought my defenses and old patterns had kept me safe for sixty years. Indeed, I am getting to know my Self like never before. I seem to be constantly relearning, and realizing realities that are new and different – and there is no turning back.

There are moments when I feel like I am seeing clearly for the first time … coming into the light …

… 'Tis the season, all right – from darkness to the light.

And Hanukah begins next week too.

Hm … so I think I will go down and unpack the Hanukia - clean it up in readiness … 

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Quotes of the day & Lists

Exercising my writes

I should be …

grading papers

cleaning cat litter


doing yoga

but all I want to do … is write …

about …

… Autumn's wild winds blowing leaves, swirling them up in the air and back down again in piles and rusted colored configurations.

… Ada at the top of the stairs meowing with a loud yowl beckoning me back up to play with her toy mouse – and me meowing back echoing her exact tone, calling her back down to where I am changing the water in her bowls or preparing her food. 

… Dawning light creeping over the christmas cactus on my window sill, whose many white buds are full and bursting to explode open at any moment while I am not looking.


… The necklace sweet Cathie gave me last weekend, which she had made by hand, using beads of olive green-colored howlite, and tiny delicate yellow jade, because before traveling to Philadelphia from Washington, she had read my blog and knew I favor those colors. Dangling in the middle of the precious autumn-colored beads, she had threaded a little Guanyin charm – a Buddha – Goddess of Mercy, whom Cathie told me, "listens to the cries  of the world." Her thoughtfulness could not have come at a more appropriate and poignant time for me. Just on a day when I was feeling weighed down with regret about past mistakes, and overwhelmed with guilt about my worth as a mother. Cathie smiled gently as she handed me my gift she had so tenderly created, telling me that I was like the Guanyin – "listening to the cries of the world." I thought I might break out in deep sobs but, instead, held back the tears and smiled thankfully – stoically. And yet … I have worn the necklace every day since, and from time to time holding the little Buddha, stroking her and healing from the feelings of failure and worthlessness as I do so.

I have a dear friend back in Buffalo who believes that our cries sent out to the Universe, are answered if only we allow ourselves to acknowledge the responses when they arrive.

I have been thinking … I might have to add Cathie and her necklace to my list of Angels … 

Coffee and tea


[Thanks to JB for the quote]

California Nov 2010 033

I confess. I do love receiving my first morning coffee in bed. I think gratefully of Mira back at the conference last week, who not only went downstairs to the lobby to bring me my first cup of coffee for the morning, but also – then – took a photograph of me in bed with it. Now, that's what I call friendship!

When I was young growing up in Africa, I was served a cup of piping hot sweet tea in bed before getting ready for school every single day. What a privileged, spoiled child I was! Curled up in a ball, fast asleep, I would suddenly feel a poke on my arm to wake me up. Opening my eyes I saw our servant woman quietly and carefully placing the tea next to my bed. "Good morning, madam," she would say softly. Did I even reply? I cannot remember. More like grunted some kind of greeting, I imagine. It would be years – decades later, that I realized she would have to wake up very early every morning so that she could prepare our tea in time (Confronting Our Discomfort, 2003 page 10). Always at our beck and call, receiving a pittance of a salary, she had left her own children behind in some rural area to find work in town. It is no wonder I refuse to hire anyone to clean my house nowadays. For how could I ever make it up to all those servant women slaving away early in the morning, sacrificing their own children, so they could provide us white folks with our early morning cup of tea each day? The mind boggles. 

There is shame in being white and privileged on the backs of others with no choice. It is something I never want to forget. Today, I give thanks for all those wonderful black African women who took care of me so warmly, graciously, and kindly.

Photo 14

I walk over to my little coffee pot gurgling and brewing in the corner of my study. A new day has begun. Heating has not quite reached the third floor of the house yet, so I don a long woolen cardigan that my son gave me for Christmas many years ago. I wear it as if I enfold myself with him. The cardigan warms the dull ache of longing, for I miss him so much these days. Wrapped warmly around my neck and atop my head is the scarf and hat my sister Sue knitted for me this year. She took care to use my favorite colors: green, brown and yellow. I pour myself a cup of coffee, and warming my hands on it return to my desk to gaze into the computer screen.

Gratitude reflections

According to the new "search" box at the top left hand side of my blog (which I only recently discovered) it appears that I have written quite a few count downs over the years.

Counting down to Thanksgiving has always been a good one for me because I have been thankful so many times in my life. I rather enjoy a special day when we can all sit together and express gratitude about things. And yet, it seems to me that some of our holidays are born out of, or even represent pain. For example, for some Native American people, Thanksgiving is a time of mourning, a remembrance of the massacre of nations; and Passover tells a story about coming out of the bondage of slavery to freedom.

Pain accompanies us the more years that we have lived. In "Old Friend from Far Away," a book about writing memoir, Natalie Goldberg asks us to think and write about all the different goodbyes we have lived – "casual leavings or eternal departures" (Page 239). This is an exercise I am looking forward to writing. For I, like everyone else, have had my share of farewells. The older I am becoming, the more the largest one looms (or rises?) ahead. Not that it is the first time I have thought about death and dying. Not at all. I confronted it thirty years ago, when: 

  • Shimon and I held my father's hand as he gasped his last breath;
  • I studied grief counseling with Tom Frantz twenty years ago; and
  • Through Charlie's illness and death, only nine short years ago.

Reflecting on death and dying makes it easier for me to feel gratitude about life and living in the here and now. Cliche – of course – but, nevertheless true.

So, for now, seize the day I must! 

Oy, even though as I look into the face of it – this Monday is going to be a really busy one.

A year ago at Mining Nuggets: Gratitude counting; & Friends and counting

A season begins

Leaving Anaheim, rolling through Phoenix on my way home to Philadelphia. It has been an eventful week. “Keisha” accompanied me, and I was surely glad for her company. I think she appealed to the participants who came out to meet her yesterday. Holding her on my arm I comforted my speaker anxiety, and together we gave a good show! Indeed my work was well received this week.

Gratitude is growing … rising up in waves. For ’tis the season. It started for me being surrounded by good friends reconnecting, long, meaningful conversations, shared aspirations, and similar life stages.

New friends made and new projects born …

We are all on the path … alone, and yet, so together … come to find out or have reinforced … It only gets better with age …

A season begins