Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thursday Lyric: Backwards With Time, The Avett Brothers

Folk always told me that my heart would grow 
The older the man, yeah, the stronger the stone 
Am I losing my mind? 
Am I growing backwards with time? 

Some say with age that a purpose comes clear 
I see the opposite happening here 
Are we losing the fight? 
Are we growing backwards with time? 
[ Lyrics from: ]
I was young and love was fun 
Now it's so serious 
Now all the fun has equal pain 
There's something wrong with this 
For all I know there's more I don't 
Oh the little I have learned 
For every year of knowledge gained 
Is a negative year I've earned 

Folk always told me that my heart would grow 
The older the man, yeah, the stronger the stone 
Am I losing my mind?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Battling Sweetmint

I just got back in from the backyard, and my hands smell like sweetmint. Gardening caught me by surprise this year. I have not started any sweetpea or tomato seeds as usual, and I miss my small green growing things but haven't time for them this year. I thought I would have to cut them out altogether, but I think cutting that lifeline would ruin me. I need to spend a few minutes outside early on summer mornings before getting to the office, watering, covering, trimming and just touching the leaves, flowers, and fruit and feeling their life and drive to grow and reach for the sun. 

The neighboring apartment's yard service started up yesterday, and my lawn looked like a bearskin rug by comparison, so I reluctantly towed  my electric mower out of the shed and cut the stubborn wet grass as best as I could. I moved to the backyard, sighed, and decided I might as well do that section too, so it would be easier next time. After that, I naturally inspected the 5 garden beds. One is overgrown with strawberry runners and I'll have to divide the plants and give them away. My lavender plants are now 3 years established and well into becoming bushes. They bring the bees in like nothing else.

The herb bed is my especial joy, because I love cooking with all the unique flavors I can grow. I spent some time there. Two kinds of sage and two thyme plants survived the winter, and lo and behold, a rosemary sprig lasted, too, a feat I've never accomplished before here in the wet northwest. The oregano was coming back, and the chives, too, although something has been nibbling their bright green oniony shoots. 

I came to the lavender plant at the end of the herb garden and pulled off some dead growth to encourage its blooming. Looking closer at the roots, I saw a number of dark green and purple rosettes coming up near the roots, and followed their ranks to the spot where I planted a mint plant 2 springs ago. with dismay, I realized its runners had invaded almost the whole bed. the little minty rosettes were lined up in ranks along runners,long, ropey white runners, some 2, 3 or 4 feet in length with little leaf starts popping up along their length. 

Mint is a wonderful plant. I make my own simple syrups with it for Mojitos and flavored lemonade, I make mint herbal tea and sun tea all spring, summer, and fall, throw shredded mint leaves into as many recipes as can stand it. It is delicious, refreshing, and has lots of health benefits. It's a good thing, a wonderful thing, and I love having a fresh supply of it.

But this good and beneficial plant has officially taken over my herb garden; it is threatening the survival of my other excellent and beneficial herbs. Mint is great; but it is no replacement for lavender, or chive, or thyme. 

To pull out mint runners is tricky. You need pressure, but a gentle, sustained pressure. You need to follow a leaf sprig down to the white strong artery of runner, and then pull slowly and carefully, in the direction of the mother plant, uprooting each node of leaves as you go. If you break off the runner, or leave one of the tiny plants behind, a new plant grow. The arms of these long runners were all tangled in the roots of the other plants, but mostly they were running like levels of freeways all along the walls of both sides of the planter. They had been growing, tunneling, undermining the garden, all winter, as the rest of the ground slowed and waited for spring, and my rosemary, lavender, thyme and sage held on for dear life. If I left it, this sweet-tasting plant with all of its wonderful health benefits would choke out the other savory, sweet, and life-giving plants.

It came to me that some of my own desires are like that sweetmint plant. These desires and wants are not bad in themselves, in fact they have wonderful flavor and even health benefits. But when they go virulent, and take over or undermine, or tangle in the roots of other strong and good desires, they can need uprooting, which sometimes requires a hard battle. Of course, the ultimate solution for sweetmint is to plant it in it's own container so it cannot choke other plants, but not so with the desires of my heart; those must exist in the same ecosystem, and be balanced like plants by both tenderness and discipline.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wise Words

...despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope. Well, let folly be our cloak, a veil before the eyes of our Enemy! For he is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice. But the only measure he knows is desire, desire for power, and so he judges all hearts.

-Gandalf at the Council of Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkein

Friday, March 23, 2012


I can bend the fingertip at the joint now, but let me tell you, this scar tissue thing is bizarre. Moving normally means feeling like a rubber band is wrapped several times too tightly around my fingertip. I'm now alternating out vitamin E oil and Neosporin under the bandages. Still can't type with it, but I think I've sped up the WPMs, and it is getting slowly less prone to pain.

The fingertip is still very numb and trying to train myself to type with it again is proving difficult for 2 reasons: 1, I 've adapted to typing without it. I only occasionally am slowed down by the need for successive use of T and R. 2, typing with a numb finger is weird. It's like walking on stilts or something. It doesn't hurt, but, I have no sense of if I have or have not hit the right key; I can't feel the gaps between keys or where the fingertip is located on the key itself. Weird, weird, weird. Also strange is using a touch screen. 

The skin is completely sealed now, but is patchy and pink as the new skin breaks in. The scar tissue is lumpy, uneven, and some bits are incredibly sensitive. Not painful, just super-sensing, as if the nerve ends all relocated to one spot. My massage therapist gave me some advice. 

She said to work on the sensitive spots more than the numb ones. To get them used to touch and sensing, reorient them to to the necessary level of sensitivity by gentle massage, an occasional hot-salt-water soak. It's almost like the nerves need to be comforted, reassured that the danger is past, that injury is not always imminent.

Exercising the tendons and muscles, too, is necessary. They all need to be reminded again that normal function is possible, that small successes are ok, and, over time, will lead to healing.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday Lyric: When my Time Comes, by Dawes

There were moments of dreams I was offered to save 
I lived less like a workhorse, more like a slave 
I thought that one quick moment that was noble or brave 
Would be worth the most of my life. 

So I pointed my fingers, shouted a few quotes I knew 
As if something that's written should be taken as true 
But every path I have taken and conclusion I drew 
Would put truth back under the knife. 
And now the only piece of advice that continues to help:
Is anyone that's making anything new 
only breaks something else. 

 When my time comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh. 
When my times comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh. 

So I took what I wanted and put it out of my reach 
I wanted to pay for my successes with all my defeats, 
And if heaven was all that was promised to me 
Why don't I pray for death? 

And now it seems like the unraveling has started too soon, 
Now I'm sleeping in hallways and I'm drinking perfume 
And I'm speaking to mirrors and I'm howling at moons 
While the worst and the worse that it gets. 
Oh you can judge all the world on the sparkle that you think it lacks. 
Yes you can stare into the abyss, but it's staring right back. 

 When my time comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh. 
When my time comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh. 

 Oh you can judge all the world on the sparkle that you think it lacks. 
Yes you can stare into the abyss, but it's staring right back. 

 When my time comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh. 
When my time comes, 
Ohhhhh, oh oh oh.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chocolate and Limes

You name me. 
Chocolate and limes, 
bitter and bitter, 
two kinds and two rhymes. 

I need to know: how is the bitter made sweet? 
Is it dancing along a Venetian street? 
Floating on cushions just at water level? 
Roses and oceans of wine and unwind a little? 

Barren as desert compared to these hills 
Childless and broken, 
nameless and homeless, 
and waiting on crucible change. 

 chocolate and limes and me
...a poisoned well? 

 Only true when I fail to remember, 
Remember barren is also 
P2155601to be free to love, 
challenging the bitter in me to transform, 
turning sweet; ice to water. 

I find my children in faces around me. 
Rock in river, 
step for tentative foot, 
Brief hold, 
refuge for the half-drowned. 

Each contact strengthens me, too. 
Remember, remember, 
to be an island is not the same as to be a desert. 
O my soul, 
An island, not always a desert.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I’m living to be invisible, 
waking to disappear. 
Hoping to be a cloud 
 a blade of grass 
wanting to be lost 
or anything but noticed. 
Attention means only pain or pity. 
What invisible really is
 —a kind of suicide— 
No one ever says it out loud. 
They’re happy to tolerate. 
Just as long as I keep quiet 
and vacuum my footprints from the carpet.
I was never here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lenten Love

Unrestrained giving
even got to Jesus--
Blood sweat and tears.

The sleeping friends who loved,
did not comfort, were not
present in his moment of deep loss.

If one had stayed half-awake, 
hand on shoulder, weary, eschewing 
a need to understand, but sharing
Could love be told greater 
without their failure?

With all my Lenten loving
inconsistent, spare, the wonder is
That Love is not lessened, not disrupted 
by my sleeping failures.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thursday Lyric: Change of Time, Josh Ritter

I had a dream last night 
I dreamt that I was swimming 
And the stars up above 
Directionless and drifting 
Somewhere in the dark 
Were the sirens and the thunder 
And around me as I swam 
 The drifters who'd gone under 

Time, Love 
Time, Love 
Time, Love 
It's only a change of time 

I had a dream last night 
And rusting far below me 
Battered hulls and broken hardships 
Leviathan and lonely 
I was thirsty so I drank 
And though it was salt water 
There was something about the way 
It tasted so familiar 

The black clouds I'm hanging 
This anchor I'm dragging 
The sails of memory rip open in silence 
We cut through the lowlands 
All hands through the saltlands 
The white caps of memory 
Confusing and violent 

 I had a dream last night 
And when I opened my eyes 
Your shoulder blade, your spine 
Were shorelines in the moonlight 
New worlds for the weary 
New lands for the living 

I could make it if I tried
I closed my eyes 
I kept on swimming

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Share With Your Sister."

My dad sent me this photo a while ago. We were about 5 and 3, I think.
"Share with your sister." 

 As an oldest sibling, I've heard this phrase ad nauseum for the past 30 years. And, hammered into me as it was, I did learn to share, not always graciously or particularly well (most two-year-olds think sharing with their newborn sibling is akin to smothering them with a toy or blanket, after all), but though we had rocky points, Jessi and I did carve out a relationship that involved a lot of sharing. 

At a Spaghetti-Western Night Jessi planned. We watched Westerns,
ate spaghetti, and shot dollar-store cap guns during the shooting scenes.
(Photo credit: Mark French)
 We shared toys, although each of us had especial ones that were our own (Jessi had Buh-buh-Bear and Racky Raccoon. I had an unnamed teddy bear and a doll named Baby Dear. So, we were not creative with names back then, unlike my friend Sarah and her famously-named doll, Fred Jesus.). 

 We shared a room until I was 18 and she was 16. This was probably good for us, although not always harmonious, and likely the place where I cut my teeth on passive-aggressive tendencies ("are you going to leave your laundry/shoes/books THERE?" "Are you wearing that hat AGAIN?"), and Jessi cultivated boundaries (and sarcastic responses.). At the same time, we had special moments together, like when our little brother pranked us by setting the alarm clock to go off at 2:00am at top volume, a prank compounded by the fact that we had lain listening to an audio book by spiritual-thriller author Frank Peretti until 1:00am, dozed off into uneasy sleep and then were memorably woken into the certain reality of an alarm clock possessed by a demon of notably evil intent. 

Once, our parents went out of town and took our younger two siblings with them, leaving Jessi and I to the busline and our own devices. We watched a Monkees marathon on TVLAND, and took the bus to get a giant pizza that fed us for three days. We giggled that whole bus ride home, as the other bus riders sniffed inquisitively at the pizza-scented air. 
 We shared college. We both went to Trinity Western University, and for two years studied there at the same time. We took Creative Writing together, and went to improv events, and she studied on the ratty couch in the art studio while I painted sometimes. She was my refuge when I was an RA for a hellish year while she was in Junior Housing complete with a kitchen. 

About a year ago. We were supposed to be cleaning our rooms,
but we turned the stereo on, put on old hats we found,
and had an impromptu dance party.
We shared road trips. We both worked for Worldview Academy summer camps in the summers between college years, road tripping across the US from University to University with a band of fellow itinerant college students, and Jessi drove with me out to California twice after I moved there post-college to teach. Those were the far-apart years. We talked on phone lines between Washington and California, and then Texas to California. She visited my Bay-Area condo and explored San Francisco; I slept on the floor of her room in New Braunfels, Texas the year she lived there and worked for the WVA administrative offices. 

We shared 3 years of living back at home, saving up money to buy cars and homes and a trip to Italy with a couple of friends, after which we have shared 3 years of owning a house together.  

Signing the Mortgage paperwork for our cottage.
We have shared movies, music, concerts, inside jokes, offbeat TV shows, books, favorite writers, favorite foods, and jaunts to Portland, San Francisco, Grand Rapids, Philadelphia, and San Antonio. We sometimes read Robert Burns poetry out loud to each other just for fun. We spent two months watching 5 seasons of LOST, and then watched the final season together. 

We cried over Friday Night Lights, UP, laughed through seasons of 30 Rock and 3rd Rock together while exchanging shoulder rubs after long days at work, and, just before she left for London for 6 weeks, we went to see Toy Story 3 and held hands and cried like we were 7 and 5 again. 

At Victoria's Bakery--required stop (followed by House of Nanking) in San Francisco
And over the past months, she has acquired a new person in her life to share things with. 

It's not the first time (she's a catch)...but it's the longest, and realest. 

 Now I have to share her, and no one really told me how that would feel when it happened. 

I catch myself saving up things to tell her when she gets home, recapping TV shows (engaging in one of my most peevish personal pet peeves) she'll never have time to watch, but since we would have laughed together over it, I tell her all about it (hating myself a little bit all the while.), pouncing on her as soon as she walks in the door. 

Last year's Madcap Concert-venture to the Railroad Revival Tour in Oakland, CA
The trouble is, she's already shared her shares. She's already laughed at the shows they like to watch together, already finished discussing her day at work, already made dinner with someone, already talked about the new book she got, or the article she read. My shares are superfluous, and and even my eyes glaze over as I explain why that Once Upon a Time episode was so horrible, really awful.... 

The latest travel-venture to Asia and Australia did not include me, and the last few concert-ventures included him. 

It's not bad. It's just different. It requires deep breaths, the occasional meltdown, prayer, other friends, and maybe a lot of chocolate.

I've never NOT had a sharing buddy, in a way. Every time a friend got absorbed in a relationship, Jessi and I withstood the gap together. And of course, it shows up the glaring lack of "sharer" in my life. I play third wheel a lot these days, and although both Jessi and her fella are both gracious and loving (and I really genuinely like and enjoy hanging out with him), there are simply many more opportunities to feel third-wheel-ish. 

So I find myself, despite 30 years of practice, learning to share again and in that, learning who I am (again), and who Jessi is in so many new ways.

On top of a medieval bridge in Italy. In the pouring rain.
After our first day of road-tripping narrow
italian freeways and navigating an unforseen mountain pass
complete with snow in our tiny rental car.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On the Run in Hawaii

Several years ago, a friend came to visit from Texas and told us a story of how she had escaped the advances of a strange guy in a tavern somewhere on a recent trip to Europe. There with a group of friends, they drank and danced until one guy seemed to single her out, complimenting her hair, her dancing, etc., clearly trying to cozy up to the cute Texan. She, a little fuzzy on word choice but not far gone enough not to notice what was happening, said clearly, if a little loudly, "I'm ON THE RUN!" And left him, stunned, in her wake.

Ever since, this has been a joke when I take trips with my girlfriends, and thanks to my darling friend Anne who started working at the local airport this year and kindly offered one of her stand-by guest passes, this time the destination was Hawaii for a brief adventure.

P2155619 February. In latitudes north at this time of year, particularly in the Pacific Northwest where the average weather is 40 degrees and raining, a warm sun seems like a distant imagined dream.

P2145518 P2145473

Only about 48 hours on the ground in Oahu, but it was enough to sit on golden-sand beaches, swim a bit in turquoise waters, road trip through pineapple and sugarcane fields to the North Shore, and let the warm waves bury our feet in sand above the ankle while watching surfers ride the blue crush.


And in a simple twist of added joy, we got to fly in first class on the way to Honolulu. Richness!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Recovery has only begun, and it still involves pain. The first knuckle still doesn't flex both because of the swelling and bruising. The wound is still highly visible, very sensitive and highly subject to fiery-painful reinjury. The skin has turned purple, registering contusion damage late in the game. But I've graduated from bandage to Band-aid, and I can even buckle my own bra strap now. (Just like anything, I suppose, being injured makes being alone seem more complicated, but it would also complicate things for anyone who doesn't have a full-time entourage taking care of their every need already. Still there were a few moments and tasks that stunned me with their difficulty and my own fears mocking me behind the obstacle: "you should have someone to help you with this. See? You're alone. You'll never have someone to take care of you if you get sick or injured again. All those people who expressed sympathy on facebook wouldn't put their time or effort on the line, either.") The ugliness of these lies sometimes overwhelms. Hope is a choice.

I have more mobility navigating simple tasks that seemed so impossible and painful initially. I have almost full use of the rest of the left hand back, where it was initially hampered by babying the injured finger.

It's still the oddest, lightest tasks that bring an occasional gasp of pain. Stretching, grasping, reaching for something. At work, I'm actually coping quite well with my left middle finger working overtime on the keyboard. I dropped a good 30 WPM in typing speed. 

In fact, I'm quite sure I could have lost the fingertip entirely and carried on relatively normally. Except for when those infrared hand-scanners from Back to the Future come around, i'll be too easily identifiable.

My sister's boyfriend, an RN, removed three stitches on Wednesday last week, after the prescribed 10 days. The other four I removed myself on Friday, per the second doctor's advice. Strange, electric sensations still buzz along occasionally, but you can see the skin reforming, mercifully covering the damage, protecting the vulnerable flesh, rewrapping it in its delicate armor. Most of the fingertip is still numb, including the cuticle, which is fine by me because now painful hangnails are one thing I don't have to worry about for a while.

Soon it will be presentable enough to be photographed without causing you, dear blog readers, excessive sympathy pain and wincing.

Friday, March 2, 2012


8 days of painful daily cleaning and rebandaging, and the fingertip looked moderately better. But the deepest--the cut that hit the bone and sliced halfway through the fingernail, wrapping halfway around the finger and held by four long stitches, including one through the nail itself--did not look like it was making progress.

I made an appointment with my regular doctor's office. The PA looked at it and told me that it looked like it was healing up all right and that I could take the stitches out in 10 days. Confused, I said, "but we're at day 8 now?" She looked at me, looked at the chart, and burst out, "OH! I thought this was from last night, not last week!" She called for a consult, and the doc told me to wait a few more days for those stitches to come out. The final consensus was that that cut was not only a cut, but that a strip of skin had been entirely pulled away and needed to regrow there.

For the record, a fingertip sensitive enough to tell the difference between suede and microfiber is also an incredibly annoying place to have stitches. 

They pull. They restrict movement. They hit funny nerve spots and feel hot or cold, even! Some days I get 'electric shock' sensations.

Anyone who has broken a bone knows the strange ache that persists while the bone reknits. (Especially Harry Potter)

Every time I went through the ritual cleaning/bandaging, I looked at the torn-up finger and couldn't believe it would ever look normal again. It's still difficult to believe, even though some of the cuts are half-healed and the swelling has gone down a bit. 

Only after 10 days was I at all convinced it would ever look like a normal finger again.

In some ways the body takes over at this point, regenerating skin, nerve, and bone tissue as if that were its usual business, accepting the assisting presence of the stitches, but also slightly resentful at their invasion.

Pain is still present even as healing overtakes brokenness. Sometimes you're more aware of the pain than the healing process happening beneath it.

And I almost forgot about the numbness. You know the numbness of a's something like that. The loss of sensitivity in the broken skin is probably a blessing, but at the same time it is wrong...and scary. Something sleeping that should be awake and alive, hibernating, but by the same token isolated from the connecting force of touch. Where pain illuminates, this blankness is more frightening in sense of loss.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thursday's Song: Something, Somewhere, Sometime, by Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore

Sometimes I feel like an arrow 
fired at something, somewhere long ago 
Whether it moved or I missed where I'm bound, 
I don't yet know. 

If you see me coming, 
I'll probably pass you by 
on my way to something, somewhere, sometime.

Sometimes I find myself reeling,
listing and rolling in a plastic sea. 
There's signs and signals 
bidding for attention from me. 

So turn on your sittin'
I will turn on mine 
and we'll hum and glow 
like something, somewhere, sometime. 

And if I've wounded you, I'm sorry. 
I had good intentions 
If I've wounded you, I'm sorry 
it happens all the time. 

You remind me of a reason 
had by someone so many years ago 
to send words through wires 
build highways from coast to coast 

but those words fell short 
your roads have worn with time 
on our way to something somewhere sometime 

And if I've wounded you, I'm sorry 
I had good intentions 
If I wounded you 
I'm sorry it happens all the time. 

Sometimes I feel like an arrow, 
fired at something, somewhere long ago