pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Category: blogging

five. really?!?

the little guy was polishing off his morning plate of eggnog french toast this snow-dusted day, when i went and struck a match. lit up that burning five, the one you see above, and plunked it in a plate of merry-sprinkled cookies.

burning plates in early morn apparently get his attention.

“why five?” he asked, not beating round the bush.

“the chair is five,” i said.

“today?” he asked.

“actually, it will be monday. but it’s five years of fridays,” i said with a number girl’s precision.

“that’s big,” he said.

i agree. quite heartfully.

i think back to december 12, 2006. i was the mother of a 13-year-old who had recently broken his neck, and a 5-year-old in kindergarten. i typed from home, not yet called back to the mothership of the newspaper where i’ve told stories for 29 years now.

i’d discovered somewhere along the way that i secretly hummed when it came to the homefront.

i knew i loved the heart and soul that upholsters every richly built dwelling place, be it cottage in the woods, or an old gray-shingled house with a birds’ nook built into the eaves. the garden, for me, had always been holy ground. the kitchen, a place that drew me. and being a mother absorbed me, in the truest ways. of these things, i thought deep and often. though none of them out loud. not much anyway.

but then came a starry december’s night.

i’d been prompted by my firstborn, who could wield a mouse, a keyboard and its contents with head-turning amazements.

“you should do a blog,” he said, shoving me into the deep end from the tentative edge of the pool.

“here, i’ll make your website,” he offered, putting off some 8th-grade algebra to make his mama purr.

it’s not every night your kid turns his imaginative powers your direction, and when he does, you haul over a chair and play along.

and that’s pretty much how i got here. i found a site, with a name that spoke to me, and down in the wee corner, it was copyrighted to me.

i had little choice but to begin to type.

every week day for a year, then every friday for the next four. which brings us to today. the three-day-early birthday. but when you get to five, who is counting minutes? who’s keeping track in such compulsive ways?

for all of you who’ve been here for all five years, i have a special row of chairs for you. right here, in the deepest chamber of my heart.

some of you are among my dearest, on the screen and off. some of you, though, became my dear beloved friends simply through the act of clicking, which in blog terms amounts to listening.

and listening is the thing.

because, really, all we want, most of us, is to be heard. whether our words come out in whispers or full-throttle proclamations, we are looking to find a few inches on the world stage where what we wonder, what we believe, matters.

world stage, of course, does not mean we seek a microphone and podium. sometimes the choicest stage is the one where someone sits across from us, and nods in rapt attention. is that not what’s at the heart of most every child’s prayer? someone, listen, please.

and so i whisper here.

not all of you whisper back, but for those of you who do, who’ve put down your own stories, who’ve wiped away a tear and let me know, who’ve joined the conversation, raised a question, turned a story upside down to discover something altogether new, i’ve another row of chairs for you, and those have padded seats.

i never asked to be a writer. i just discovered, early on, that making words and paragraphs was the closest thing to humming my heart knew how to do.

all my life i’ve written. all my life my words have flowed from deep within my heart. i can’t seem to help it.

it’s not that i’m not compelled to get my story out, but to unearth all the touchpoints, where yours and mine are intertwined, where we discover more about who we are, and this path we try to navigate, by putting words to inklings, by giving form to prayers that have not made a sound until we typed them out.

in the five years that this table has been set, so much has changed: the blogosphere, now, is a very crowded place, and i know how rare, how hard it is for anyone to carve out time to visit. my hope that this might have opened some unmarked door, the pages of a book, it did not take flight.

instead, the steady pounding of my fingers on the keys brought me a circle of voices who i know–without fanfare or applause–see the world in ways that are not unlike mine.

and most of all, and best of all, i have left a record for my boys of how deeply, purely, vastly they’ve been loved. and i’ve captured priceless snapshots from the pages of their lives, how one grew up, went off to college, and how the other melted us like butter.

i’ve discovered, deep and true, a voice that comes from miles within. and i’ve learned not to be afraid, to speak it as i live it.

it’s not an easy thing to write from your heart. not an easy thing to have your heart be questioned, tested, singed.

five years is a solid sum. and i think it satisfies my urge to complete what i’d begun. writing every friday is surely in my rhythms. but maybe now i’ll change it up. perhaps i’ll post some of what i write for the newspaper, for now they let me write there in ways i write here too.

perhaps i’ll be silent on a friday. because silence is a skill, a prayer form all its own.

what matters most is for all of you who get to here, to these holy sacred words, thank you. bless you. in ways you and i might never know. i am casting out my sparks of light, and trusting that in some form they’ll land upon your heart, and burn an everlasting flame.

know that yours forever burn in mine.

amen. and bless you.

chair unplugged

brave new world here. scary world. trembly-fingered world.

so, the old computer goes kerpluey, all but sends up sparks, sends me scrambling for the nearest 9-1-1. only, i find out, the firetrucks don’t come when it’s megabytes that smolder.

you are left to fend for your sorry self. you pack up what’s left of the old white box. you haul it off to the resuscitation station– a.k.a., the mall.

once there, you are convinced, by general consensus and the nice man at the apple store, that it’s time to drop the leash, venture forth.

or, in my particular case, time to leave behind the little room and the old pine desk where i’ve typed long as there’s been a chair. and long before, truth be told.

why, there were cobwebs tied up with all the cords that tangled at my feet.

pull the plug, the un-plugged pleaded.

be bold and seize the world, as defined by the flat rectangle that is the laptop. the digital universe no bigger than a magazine, and not a page-y one, either.

now, mind you, i’m not big on shaking up my world. i picture a giant 20-liter bottle, shaken, top unscrewed, and fizzies fizz all over creation. splatter the walls, splot the ceiling. you’re left to spend the day mopping up sugar-fizzing beads.

just now, egad, i discovered that the comments from last week are gone, ka-poof! how dare they. and all the little boxes of the entire history of the chair have turned, like litmus paper, or home pregnancy tests, from blue to red. does that mean that i am just about to erase the entire record of the chair? will this be but memory, and fuzzy one at that?

of course i’ve no technical support team here at chair headquarters. that particular committee up and grew. has left me to fend, again, for myself. he’s off rowing down a river, and here i am, on the banks, waving white flag, red flag, any old hankie i can find bunched up in the backpack that is always dangling from my back.

ah well, back to business: if all goes up in smoke, we’ll bow our heads and whisper words for the departed dream.

i get to be existential about the cybersphere. does it exist, at all, if it can be wiped out with the wrong stroke of a key? does it matter? and if it goes, it was all just words, right? and much much heart.


so much for the wobbly part of this equation. the not-so-wobbly part is that here i sit, at the kitchen table in the kitchen i so love. the heartbeat of my make-believe farmhouse. i look out and see the birds–only thing is, today it’s squawky starlings who’ve moved in, taken over the limbs of every bush and tree in sight. i’m thinking alfred hitchcock might be out there somewhere, panning with his lens, remaking his scary horror flick, “the birds.”

for years now, writer friends and not-so-writerly friends have expressed pure shock that i, a would-be writer, was tethered to a plug-in writing pad. you don’t have a laptop, they’d practically gasp.

well, no, i didn’t. not till now.

i have long longed to feel the eastern sunlight streaming in, to be closer to the tick and tock of the old clocks that syncopate this room, to keep watch of the flutterings of the birds as i think and type.

question is, is this the start of a bigger unplugging in my life, as i look at paths ahead, decide which one i might take. i know the spot in the woods i want to get to. but getting there is not without bumps, not without wobbly steps.

maybe this is but the first, maybe it’s practice, dress rehearsal for the play called life.

surely, the day-to-day is smoother when we don’t shake things up. but is it better? is it wise to keep the course as is, when all around we sense it might be time to stir things up, to take the one big giant step? to hold our breath and leap?

as i ponder that, i might just take a deep breath in, push the publish button and see what happens. we’ll all know soon enough. if you see this, the great leap worked. if not…..

time to get out the pen and paper and start all over once again.

what big bold scary steps have you taken lately? and fear not, i will get that comment string back on last week’s meander…….oh dear. wish us luck….

the other blog in this ol’ house

maybe it’s because we shared a glass. maybe it has something to do with sleeping on the same sheets for the past 18 months. (oh, i mean i changed the sheets and all, but even when i did our arms and legs were still stretched out on common threads). egad, we might have even touched. our toes, i mean our toes.

what’s happened, though, is most peculiar. i once resided with a fellow who harumphed at the notion of a blog. i still recall him–quite vividly, in fact–with his gray hooded sweatshirt pulled up and past his ears, sitting at the banged-up kitchen table one dreary weekday morn, spooning little Os into his mouth, while i pranced by with camera.

“i will not be blogged,” he bellowed. and i of course demurred. i’ve only once or twice trespassed across that line–and that was to make nice. and he, of course, responded with a mighty grin.

but now, it seems the anti-blogger has come around, crossed over to the dark side. why, even as i type, he is on a train tap-tapping at his keys.

stranger than fiction, truer than truth, we are now a two-blog household.

he of course is blogging boldly, about that thing he loves, the size and shapes of towers, and how we build our cities. i too write of that i love, the little things that unfold around us, our hearts, our souls, our wings, our stumbles.

seems he’s taken rather quickly to this whole new world of laying it on the line (he seems to lay it nearly every hour, on the hour). and seems the world is taking rather quickly, too, to every word he writes.

there is irony aplenty here, so much in fact, i need to scrape it off the walls. but i’ll leave all of that to your imagination.

i’ll offer these few points:

you’ll get a chuckle, yes indeed, at the fact that weeks ago he was moaning–over mashed potatoes, if i recall–that there might come a day when he’d get merely 10,000 to 20,000 hits.

i choked, i really did, nearly spit my spuds across the table. thought of all the mornings i arose before the rooster even crowed. i realized, i did, that in 18 months of all this finger exercise i’d only just barely scraped the 20,000 mark (and half of those i fear, were me simply clicking past the chair, on the way to other places).

in fact, just the other day, his first official day, he clocked a stunning 6,000-something clicks. i did a little checking, flipped through the pages of my calendar, where i confess i scribble all my clicks on the days that i hit “publish.” took me, for example, from aug. 24 to dec. 10–a full 14 weeks, or 76 meanders–to get that many clicks. and his were on the single day he launched, for cryin’ out loud.

oh, not that i’m comparing. not that i’m feeling one bit, um, overshadowed.

just that well, after all of this, i am now the other blog in this ol’ house.

mostly, i sit in pure amazement at the power of the internet, when it knows where to find you. i scratch my head, trying to figure out just why it is you and me might be the only ones who visit here today.

just a week or so ago, i was getting up at my most delicious hour–that would be five bells from the noisy clock downstairs–and the stretched-out someone right beside me, groggily inquired as i rose, “getting up to blog?”

“no, merely writing in obscurity,” i shot back, quite proud of my early morning sense of humor.

it’s not every woman who can a.) take the dismal comparison, and b.) find something still to laugh about.

so there you have it.

fact is, i more than many on the planet understand the yins and yangs of feeding this here blogging beast. i know what it is to worry all the time, to wake up in a sweat, to wonder who might think that you’re a fool, and, worst of worst, what in the world will you do if, at any hour, the computer won’t turn on.

fact is, as always, he is doing a mighty job. i would not be lying if i said that long ago i fell in love, in part, with just how much he cares, and how triumphantly he makes it matter.

i worry of course that once again he works too hard. and frets too much.

of course, i understand the bumps and bruises, and the exhaustion to the point of flopping to the floor.

what i don’t get is how in the world can it be a bad day when you only get 10,000 hits?

dearly beloved loyal readers, bless you–all three of you–who continue to come back for more. ‘twas too tempting a morsel to pass up this chance to poke a little tease at me and my beloved blogger. here’s hoping it is tossed and caught in the same shared jovial spirit. truth is, in these fretful newsprint times, i stand up and applaud anything that draws a reader. and so i wish the hooded one smooth soaring to the highest heights. i’ll be here, holdin’ down the fort. a job i attempt to manage…..
p.s. the photo up above is the smiling picture of the author of
the skyline, the latest blog wholly endorsed by the chicago tribune. they ran a lovely post about it earlier this week. seems they recognize a good thing when it’s in their grasp.

weekend update

i know. i know. i’m not supposed to be here. supposed to be off spooning lucky charms into my lazy little saturday morning mouth. well, rules, as they say, are to be broken.

so here i am. in my jammies. and my big fluffy slippers. seemed like it was time to not meander in the monday through friday way, but rather get us all here at the table, chat about just a few little things.

first off, chair people, i cannot tell you deeply enough how much i love that you are pulling up chairs. wish i could prance around in my big whites (aka slippers of many yarns), tap on your window panes, leave big pucker marks on the glass. yes, it’s true. i would kiss each one of you who is out there regularly pulling up a chair. or even just once in a while.

and i must tell you that when you step out of the shadows, boldly hit that “add a comment” button, well, then you make this the very place that i dream of it to be. it is soooooooo fine if you just like to drop in, read, scamper away. but when you add your fine thoughts, your perspective, your queries, your ponders, well, then this broth gets really rich here.

it almost gives me goosebumps the notion that chairs from maine to california are pulling up here. that dots are being connected. like souls are sniffing each other out. when that happens i just stand back, like the proudest mama that ever there was, and watch magic unfold.

now about that “add a comment” button. do not be afraid. just add. someone asked me just this week, a couple someones i think, if there were rules. heck no! i am not a rule girl, despite my many years of good catholic nuns. (my nuns, by the way, were behind the convent, smoking cigarettes, wearing shorts, stripping off their veils. so that tells you something about my formative catholic years.)

back to rules: no, there are no commenting rules. well, yes, there is one. be polite. please. but that’s not something i need to tell chair people. sing your heart out, like blessed brilliant wm ulysses (wow, can that man write). charm us with tales from your front (see just about any jcv or pv-az post). take us to a new height (all of the above, plus jan the moon lady). delight us with your word play (check out thelonius; and, by the way, how’s that for a name?) unspool your wisdom (mbw on children’s books comes droolingly to mind, but there are so many others). drop in like the old friend you once were and are once again (kd-nj, hullo). pop up here and there, melting us every time (susan, nancy, becc, blessed becc. or even vpk). you might even insert a question, a question to think of all day (carol z, aka bread-delivery queen).

write like you are writing to friends, which i hope we will all become, if we aren’t already. say whatever strikes your fancy. and please please, talk among yourselves. you don’t have to talk to me. i just get the yarn rolling each morn. i am only the beginning.

oh, and one more thing: if there is a spool of conversation that you still want to meander, don’t feel compelled to stick only to the meander of the latest day. (we’re still thinking about what’s called a forum page, so you can easily talk among yourselves, following a particular thread ‘til the spool runs dry.)

but, truly, if you care to sit in silence, you are just as welcome as us wordy ones.

one other thing before me and my slippers shuffle away: seems not all of you are seeing this the way i do, and i don’t mean in a metaphysical or philosophical sense. i mean graphics. plain, old, what you see with your eyeballs.

i see the words that i type in a font that looks, well, just like an old typewriter. some of you do not. i am learning these things. occasionally, i’m told, that mucks things up. words slide behind pictures. pictures eclipse thoughts. not a good thing.

so the committee on graphic construction is considering a little reconstruction (though it pains me to give up the typewriter, although not so much if you can’t see it anyway). so, let’s all pull in our chairs, and give me your vote.

i could start writing in this, which is called georgia, and which my technical wizards think is cool, think is different, think is the closest approximation to typewriter that almost all computers can read.

or i could go for my old stand-by, times new roman, the type i have used for years and years, the type that i first loved. now that i see them cheek-to-cheek, i think i can see why the wizards want door no. 1. but that doesn’t mean i could ditch my first love….

anyway, it’s out on the table. i’ll sure hate to let go of this baby, american typewriter. it’s the font that birthed pull up a chair.

so that’s about it, people. back to your cheerios. back to your froot loops. i’m off to rustle up bagels, lox, the works, for my boy who did not get the part of his dreams, but who is weathering it well. we invited over the boy who did get the big part. and my boy, the fiddler’s butcher, the man who wants to marry daughter no. 1, is taking in wisdom that will last his life long.

see you monday. when i’ll be back to meander. in the meantime, i’ll put some fresh morsels onto the lazy susan. not now, but by the time the weekend is done.

here’s the big kiss i’m smearing on your windowpane. mwah. and here’s me, shuffling away….

cleaning, housekeeping, the recipe

sometimes i feel i need to apologize for being such a cleaner. not now, not at the new year. which for me begins today. this is my jan. 2, by the way. i’m on a two-day delay thanks to the accident of my birth.

but here we are. all of us on the relative same page here. all leaping in anew. perhaps you too are cleaning. it seems to be a widespread affliction. right up there with new date books, new diet plans. i, believe it or not, forgo both of those. get my date book in july, just to be a trend-bucker, i suppose. don’t diet; hard to do when popcorn and broccoli are your main food groups.

ahem, back to the subject at hand here, back to the cleaning. the older i get the more i give in to my quirks and my personal square pegs. and the quirk of the day is i love to clean. down on my hands and knees in the corner. vacuuming can send me to the moon. (which by the way, that wolf moon has me howling.)

there is something about wiping away dirt, sweeping off crumbs, returning to order that simply sings to my heart. i cannot go to bed with dishes in the sink. oh, okay, maybe the single occasional popcorn bowl waits ’til the morn. but i am a girl who likes to pretend my life is in order by banning the crumbs to the dustbin.

i am not naturally neat. naturally, i am a piler. piles are not mess, i tell myself. piles are order, vertically. but i married a guy who likes neat. and i am a once-nurse who likes clean. so, once children were born, and my life turned upside down, inside out, suddenly found myself cleaning for joy.

and, oh the joy. i breathe easier when i walk out of or into a room that is sparkling, especially when the sparkle comes from my own sweat and muscle. there must be little tiny specks of my germanic genes washing around in the great irish stew, for the hard work of cleaning is balm to my soul.

the tree is not yet down. i should say trees, for we indulged little T and planted a sweet baby balsam up in the hall on the landing, so he could fall asleep to the lights, wake up to the rumble of the train tumbling off the tracks down below.

so the big cleaning, the clearing of trees, still lies ahead. but for days now, i have been clearing my desk, sifting through files, wiping the slate for the start of a new year of piles.

and speaking of cleaning, how ’bout time for some…

housekeeping: with the holidays tucked behind us, it seems there’s a new percolation of chairs being pulled to the table. i couldn’t be more delighted. it is a gift in ways you will never know. my heart only keeps whispering, carry on, carry on. a most important critical point is that at a table we all take turns talking. please please add your thoughts. and if you’re new here, or took some time off, feel free to meander around. there are some magnificent thoughts being added to meanderings, some way back in the days.

please see a delightful, wonderful passage, tacked onto “extending the table” (12.27.06), by a marvelous thinker and writer, who tags herself jcv, and who trembled at her first-ever blog moment. she is a treasure i know you too will come to treasure.

delight yourself further, and not so far back, by reading along with jan and her moon story, on “bring on the birds” (01.02.07).

marvel, as i do, at anything posted by the mysterious, marvelous wm ulysses, who goes back nearly to the beginning and makes my jaw drop every time.

and finally, drum roll……

the recipe, the one we’ve been waiting for….here’s where i will get teary. if you haven’t, please please read, “eggs, cheese, an ungodly hour” (12.22.06). it was a magical, heart-filling tale of a miracle of a woman named nina who for years made a christmas gift for a soup kitchen. she made a strata, which is an egg-cheese-and-bread layered-y thing. (forgive me, i love making up the occasional word.) well, sweet blessed nina died nearly two years ago but her strata lives on. in a pure christmas twist, her beautiful husband, her father, and her sweet little girls carry on. they make strata by the carload, and we (the ones who get up at an ungodly hour) dish it up in the dark of christmas eve morn. i had thought that we could truly lift nina up if we all got the recipe, and beginning now, made nina’s strata into a most blessed christmas tradition. what if, i wrote, we all made nina’s strata, and, in true nina spirit, we gave it away, gave it away to someone whose eyes needed glistening.

well, michael, god bless him, came through with a marvelous rendition of the recipe. and it seems those who loved nina most have added their heart to the mix. please please, i beg you, go take a look. it’s right there in the archives. and i will re-post the recipe on the lazy susan page, for easy plucking. fear not, next christmastime i will haul it out of the recipe box, remind everyone. and we shall all of us, perhaps, take to our kitchens, tearing up bread by the bits, to lift nina to heights she only could have imagined, as we all brighten the world nina-style, through our great oozy pans of eggs and cheese served at an ungodly hour.

bless you each and everyone. ’til tomorrow…

nina’s strata, coming out of the oven christmas eve morn….


a way of being is born

tuesday’s child is full of grace. and so it is tuesday. and so i begin. labor makes you cranky, birthing labor that is. so maybe that’s why i’ve been so cranky these past few days. i was birthing an idea, a virtual universe, and only now, when the baby is making its way out of me, gestating for months, many many months, will the fog lift, the crankiness melt, the darkness give way to light. like all births, i have no idea what’s coming. no idea how all this might unfold. only i have hope and an idea. i hope that this place becomes a touchstone for a whole circle of us, that we will drop in, pull up a chair, share some thinks, as my beloved friend and dula of this site, sandra sweetpea, so perfectly always puts it. as every conversation worth diving into is one that wends and winds, turning this way and that, this too will be a stew. we might marvel at a new children’s book. we might have to swap recipes for that pumpkin bread on my table. i might share a prayer, or a snippet of poetry. i might tell you the very cool thing i just read about pouring a good stiff drink for your paperwhite bulbs so they won’t grow so floppy, and bang against the glass, up there on the sill. if i stumble into a magical shop where handmade or one-of-a-kind things will delight you, you can bet i’ll let you know where and how to get there. the mighty mississippi of all these tributaries, the force flowing ever onward, will be this: we are looking for everyday grace. i believe that in quietly choosing a way of being, a way of consciously stitching grace and Beauty into the whole cloth of our days, we can sew love where before there was only one moment passing into another. making the moment count, that’s what it’s about here. inhaling, and filling your lungs and your soul with possibility. learning to breathe again. learning to listen to the quiet, blessed tick and the tock of your heart. filling your soul with great light so that, together, we can shoosh away the darkness that tries always to seep in through the cracks, wherever they might be. please, pull up a chair….