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an independent dog. [merely-a-thought monday]

independent dog

jen pulled the sliding glass door open for the fourth time (within a short visit of potlucking time around the kitchen island) and we all laughed.  sweet henry and chester wanted out.  wanted in.  wanted out.  wanted in.  this is a familiar tune.  dogdog finds it irresistible to demand to go out and then not want to miss anything and want back in.  on repeat.

andrea and scott have two golden retrievers.  impeccably trained, they wait for a sign or a word to do most anything.   they are not the in-and-out-ers that dogga and henry and chester are.  i remember them as calm and happy and i vowed that one day i would have a dog as well-behaved.  this is not that day.

but dogdog is, yes, dogdog-ish.  his sweet face watches our every move, trying to anticipate to which room we might be moving, trying to assess why we are feeling what he knows we are feeling.   he doesn’t like conflict; he doesn’t like the sound of metal touching metal.  it took him a while to warm up to the ukulele (which he now loves and wishes he could play) and the piano draws him into the studio.  he won’t touch food on the counter or the table or really anywhere unless given permission, but his direct eye contact begs for a bite every breakfast.  he destroyed very few things as a puppy (well, the kitchen cabinet door and the table legs count) but de-heads every toy he is given and un-stuffings them.  he bows to all things babycat, yet loves to drag him around and taunts him until babycat asserts his ruling paw.  his aussie-ness makes him intuitively try to keep track of all people and animals in the house, a tiresome and difficult chore when one is peculiarly averse to going upstairs or downstairs.  he is quirky.

on island he was quiet.  here at home he is a barker.  i guess he knew the littlehouse wasn’t his.  he loves errands both places.  he ecstatically runs miles in circles in the backyard and certain names will make his eyes wide and his australian-shepherd-jumping-bean-dog-heart jump with glee. he clocks out of all responsibility late at night, content to quietly languish in whatever room we are in, happy to have pets and go sleepynightnight.  sweet, sweet dogdog emerges from constant-motion dog.

i don’t remember the story we were talking about around jen and brad’s island.  i’m sure it was one of tripper’s many idiosyncratic tales.  we rolled our eyes and laughed.  and brad said, “you should be proud that you raised an independent dog!”

riiiiiight.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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happiness. freedom. courage. [merely-a-thought monday]

choir room calendar

my sweet poppo ended up in solitary confinement.  shot down over the ploesti oil fields in romania, he was a WWII prisoner of war and was being held in a prison camp in bulgaria.  he was courageously condemning the rat-eaten stale bread the prisoners were served, throwing it down, and he was hauled off to solitary confinement.  after months of imprisonment my dad, along with others, was able to escape this POW camp and find his way to freedom.  freedom.

each of us has our own freedom route, courage to summon up.  i look at both of my children as they make their way in this world.  they are courageously carving out their lives.  they are scrappy and they make sacrifices to seek happiness and freedom from fear of any kind.  my sweet poppo is cheering them on, both of them.

this calendar page hangs in the choir room.  the words seemed particularly timely to us, for many reasons, on many levels.  we looked up the person to which they were credited:  thucydides.  a studier of human nature, he:  “also has been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by, and constructed upon, the emotions of fear and self-interest.

we owe the freedom of our country to the veterans, like my sweet dad, who we honor today and to wise, thoughtful, inspired leaders of this country.  we have much to be grateful for.

and yet.  these savvy words of this ancient greek historian…”the emotions of fear and self-interest”.  this is relevant.

my poppo sat in a prison camp cell representing a country fighting against leaders filled with self-interest and the indiscriminate propagation of fear and atrocities upon innocent people.  his courage was buoyed by the courage of his fellow soldiers.  my father was staunchly determined to put others’ needs first.

i fear what is happening in our country today would sadden him; his response would be that our leaders are not acting out of courage, not out of a rallying call for equitable independence of all, but instead, out of bullying and grandiose self-serving.

and i believe my sweet poppo would throw down the rat-eaten stale philosophy of this current government.  with his great courage.  in true freedom.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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by candlelight. [merely-a-thought monday]

dachshunds candleight.jpg

the first snowstorm took us by surprise.  heavy snow fell on southeastern wisconsin at a time when we were just back from being on island and struggling to figure out where we were in what felt like a time warp.  it was, indeed, the end of october, but it just didn’t feel like it.

the snow was beautiful and heavy and, in our neighborhood of old houses and in-the-trees power lines, it bowed branches and pulled down those lines.  we lost power early in the day.

having no power these days doesn’t just mean you can’t warm up your chicken soup for lunch or (perish the thought) make a much-needed afternoon nespresso.  it means no wifi, no technology, no dropbox.  i couldn’t do the laundry for a trip the next day.  it put us on pause.

we wondered how the people of california were functioning with millions of them power-less in a vague effort to avoid more fires.  i wondered how many people were still struggling without power in puerto rico, for what is an interminable amount of time.  i was reminded of the big flat-line-windstorm that happened in our ‘hood back in 2011, hundreds of trees uprooted and no power for days.  pause is acceptable for a few hours, but after that….

as it got darker we pulled out candles and a battery-operated-lantern that my big-ikea-fan-poppo purchased.  we put our chicken soup in a picnic basket and went out seeking a microwave in which to warm it up.

we got a text from john when he got home, “do you guys have power?”  later, we could see an impressive glow of candles in his living room windows.

my favorite moment in a day of challenges that included having no electricity, came when he followed up on the power company update we texted him.  with john oz wit and his you-do-what-you-have-to-do outlook he wrote back, “the dachshunds ate by candlelight.”

it’s good to laugh.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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the thunder of the silence. [merely-a-thought monday]

TPAC empty seats

“…a silence like thunder…”

“no distinction is made between the sacred and the everyday.”

“our attitude toward the world resonates in the objects around us.  they reveal our intention.”

(from plain and simple, sue bender)

the first day i walked into the tiny lobby at TPAC i wondered why the table holding brochures was light blue.  it matched nothing there and was a statement of a kind of thoughtless we-need-a-small-table-does-anyone-have-one thoughtfulness.  all season long i kept thinking that it should be painted black.  the very last day in the theatre, outside in the chill air, surrounded by golden and crimson leaves, i painted it.  it dried fast and we placed it back in the lobby.  still the same little table doing its job, but its new distinction mattered and it fit in the space.  it did my heart good.

with multiple bags of old mayonnaise and mustard, an old container of kale and a moldy loaf of some kind of unidentifiable home-baked bread, i finished cleaning out the fridge, an appliance i had never opened for an entire season.  clearly, others had, and the accumulation of old-ness was ripe.  i scrubbed it out and stood back to look at how neat and tidy it was.  the whole kitchen area looked neat and tidy, a new keurig replacing an old coffeemaker and broken carafe.  shelves cleaned, toothpicks that had poured out swept up, a welcoming backstage entrance for staff and artists.  moving that space up to sacred-everyday from messy-everyday did my heart good.

the last couple weeks have been nesting weeks at TPAC, moments when d and i have had the space to ourselves.   having now passed through the shoulder season, it’s empty and it’s quiet.  the 250 seats wait for the next event, the off-the-shoulders season, the next new high season.  i can feel its curiosity, its expectation.

we sat in various seats around the theatre, talking about the dreams we had when we first saw it.  getting mired in the muck of being the you-aren’t-from-here-newbies had slowed things down.  it had paused our ownership of the actual space.  eh, who am i kidding?  it brought most of that to a screeching halt.  drama, three board presidents and a reticence to consider change from people hired as change agents (us) brought the gate down before we could even start.

we discovered the word ‘glacial’ and applied it generously to the direction we were going.  we didn’t try to change a space that didn’t feel like ours yet.  we didn’t try to change too many processes.  we stopped trying to change mindsets.

instead, we embraced people.  we listened; we learned.  we set out to weave relationships where they had eroded, where tattered feelings were wrung out, where we were told no relationship could work.  we befriended those we were told would never like us.  we struggled to understand allies who weren’t so much allies.  with deep roots of experience, we led with intention, with the questions of what would be best for this space, what would be best for the artistry on this little island, what would be long-lasting and truly make the making of art – whatever the genre – foremost?

and so, it was in the last days, when it was quiet and empty that we were able to take the time to really listen to the thunder of the silence of that really beautiful space.  we strove to honor the sanctity of this art-making place.  and we intended, with every move of cleaning and straightening and re-arranging and planning and yes, dreaming, all the best things we could.  it did my heart good.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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lucky charms. [merely-a-thought monday]

lucky charms.jpg

H is about the sweetest man you could meet.  he is in choir, sings bass and is a heckuva barbershop singer.   he loves music and adventures and birthdays and hugs and butterfinger bars and the letter H.  and we love him.

i was talking about a piece we were going to sing a particular sunday.  i told the infamous back row they would need to eat their wheaties that day; there were some tough notes in this piece.  H looked up, and with that glimmer in his eye, said, “i eat lucky charms!”

what???!!!  this is a grown man – 93 years grown – and you would think that his breakfast would be practical and of great nutritional value.  but nope!  lucky charms it is.  he added, “when my grandchildren come over, they eat all the marshmallows!”  clearly not a disappointment but, instead, the greatest biggest joy.   see?  the sweetest.

i’m thinking that it would be a smart thing to eat lucky charms if it means i am going to live 93 years and have a glimmer in my eye.  and they’re gluten free!

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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you are beautiful. [merely-a-thought monday]

you are beautiful (chicago)

i remember heidi telling me about a conversation she was having on a mother-daughter weekend with her sweet mom, among other mothers and daughters.  they were sipping glasses of wine and started listing some of the things that were disconcerting to them about themselves.

we women (and men) have all done it.  we are sitting smack in the middle of a society that puts great value on appearance and youth, rather than the wrinkles of wisdom, the not-perfect-shape of having children and nurturing families, the heart-showing-on-our-face that has learned great empathy through the years, the grey hair of hard work and compassion.  and so we complain about the obvious changes we are going through.

i have looked in the mirror numerous times and thought,  “wait!  hold on!  that is NOT how i look!”  followed closely by, thinking, “it must be the lighting!  good grief, why do they use these dreadful florescent lights?  where are the soft white light bulbs?  what about indirect lighting?!  haven’t they invented soft focus mirrors yet??  umm,  i prefer my photos over-exposed, thankyouverymuch.”  we are hard on ourselves.  understatement.

instead of recognizing the beauty, the light in our eyes, the smile lines on our faces, the brow of concern, we list to the negative.  we do not look like the photoshopped version in the magazine; we cannot measure up to the three-or-four-decades-younger version of even ourselves.  life changes us.  why is it so easy to minimize ourselves and so difficult not to maximize what those changes have brought?

heidi’s mom interrupted the conversation.  she gently stopped the flowing list of self-deprecating complaints.  and she said, “you will never be more beautiful than you are right now.”

we passed this spray-painted graffiti in chicago.  i grabbed the phone out of my purse and tried to quickly capture it.  my finger blurred part of the image and i ruminated after on how i had ruined the photo.  and then i realized that no, indeed i had not ruined it.  for that blurry flaw in the photo would remind me (much better than were it not to be there) that we were walking fast down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, trying to capture the photo inbetween lots of traffic, laughing and excitedly on our way to see The Boy.  that blurred sixth of the photo – a photo that was not perfect –  would remind me of that day, imprinting in my life right then, the reminder timely and empowering.

you are beautiful.  right now.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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when we all do better. [merely-a-thought monday]

we all do better when

blank.  it’s blank.  this book i carry with me.  it’s a journal, but i’ve never ever written in it.  created by sue bender, the plain and simple journal has photographs of amish quilts and the shortest snippets of writings, many gleaned from time that sue spent in an amish community.  i’m not sure why i haven’t written in it; perhaps it is a very-prolonged beaky rule – to save it.  i do know that its pages have both comforted me and made me think.  perhaps my own writing-on-these-pages would distract me or, once the pages are filled with scribble, it will detract from the printed snippets and fall out of i-carry-it-with-me grace.  either way, it’s blank.  and it’s profoundly wise.

“an amish woman told me, ‘making a batch of vegetable soup, it’s not right for the carrot to say i taste better than the peas, or the pea to say i taste better than the cabbage.  it takes all the vegetables to make a good soup.” (sue bender)

+

“to reconcile our seeming opposites, to see them as both, not one or the other, is our constant challenge.” (sue bender)

=

“we all do better when we all do better.” (paul wellstone)

for where is it that we can not glory in another’s success, mourn with another’s failure, weep with another’s grief, dance with another’s bliss?  we share the space.  in community.  not division.

we share the ride – we are all vegetables in the soup – we are not one or the other – and yes, we all do better when we all do better.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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