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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Read My Lips


One-sided conversation

Is the result...

Of the lack of...




Back in the day, once upon a time in a classroom, I taught the profoundly deaf. And the profoundly deaf students taught me. 

Give and take. 

Take and give. 

I learned my lessons early on in my training, when I was agitated, to put it mildly, with one of my students. For emphasis, I raised my voice. That's  what we hearing folks do for a little extra attention. The student, however, responded with a dismissive wave of his hand as he signed to me in ASL, 
"I'm deaf. Yelling doesn't help."

Later, in a different scenario, one of my younger students came up to my desk, leaned in, cupped her hands around my ear and yelled into it. Startled, I rubbed my sore ear and asked, "What was that?"
She looked surprised and signed to me,

"I was telling you a secret.

I was whispering."

Whispering and yelling. Conversation gone awry. 

I taught my students how to identify sarcasm, irony and humor in the patterns of written language. The puns, the idioms, the juxtaposition of words in a phrase, the connection of a caption to a photo. 
My students taught me to read a face. The subtleties of body language. The fury in a stride. The face that belied what was true, when words were not. It was hard work. All that watching. Looking for signs. 

Them.   And me. 

When my students tired of it and of me, they simply lowered their gaze.

Refused to make eye contact with me.

Rested their heads on their arms. Closed their eyes.

I disappeared. 

When I grew tired of their silliness, or lack of attention, I dropped my hands to my sides and turned my face away.

A face off. 

What we could both do, rather well, was lipread

A bit of a sneaky skill, I still use it today. In a coffee shop or across a room, to guess the gist of a conversation and eavesdrop. 

The point is this.

Conversation is a process of give and take. 

A speaker and a listener. 

Taking turns. 

To be successful, there must always be a PAUSE.

An opening. A moment. Raising your hand or an eyebrow, some cue to let each other know that both sides of the conversation matter. 

And like my students with their heads on their desks,

giving me the silent treatment,

sometimes it is best to be still.

To give it a rest.

To give yourself enough quiet, so that when the time comes and you really need to be heard, when you just have to be seen, when you are desperate to move from HERE to THERE...

You can...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Memorial Day Service In the Garden






Surveying the littered ground of the remnants of Moore, Oklahoma, in the aftermath of Mother Nature's might and fury, the magnitude of the devastation lies in the details of loss. The pieces of wreckage and debris cast aside with no regard to wealth or social standing, age or ethnicity. The equal opportunity destruction of such width and breadth, a force so far beyond anyone's control, that to be spared is equally inexplicable. How difficult to feel blessed when across a street a home so similar to your own is now a pile of sticks and stone.

Like so many others a safe distance away, I watch the survivors return to sift through the debris for what can be saved, knowing full well that the hands they hold as they tiptoe through the ruins are their true treasure. How many of them longing only for the family photos, the familial souvenirs of love over time.

How many times do we see this in the remembrance of loss. Flowers surely. Bouquets wrapped in plastic gently placed, perhaps with a card or a note of farewell. A photo of a loved one. A candle. Tiny treasures selected with love to get right to the heart of the matter.

I remember you. 

Your life mattered.

I miss you though I may not have know you well. 

Years ago, on a drive between Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico, we stumbled upon a tiny church set back from the road. A deeply weathered adobe structure, humbly hidden in a dusty grove. Inside, a dirt floor with a foot worn path leading to a dark corner lit only by candlelight.

Every wall, virtually each inch of space decorated. Notes, pictures, ribbons, tokens. plastic flowers, dried bouquets, pots of herbs, here, there and everywhere. Decorations and declarations of faith and love and hope.  There was a deep sadness and an uneasy pall over those of us standing in the damp quiet of the hidden cove. A desire to get away, to leave the loss. To shrug off the sadness. What were these visitors expecting? What were they offering? Why do they come day after day?

Why do we remember?

Who do we remember?

What is a Memorial for?

When a friend lost her son, I remember her telling me that what she missed dearly was hearing her child's name. The stories of his life. The memory of his smile. His way with words. His love of life and the joy and mischief in the twinkle of his eyes.

To not say his name was to lose him forever.

On this Memorial Day, decorations dot the cemetery lawns of the soldiers who died in service to this their country. For some, their names etched in tombstones or engraved on a granite wall. Others remain nameless, their resting place in the garden, marked by a small white cross. Some lie here beneath the soil of home. Others entombed on the shores across the sea or resting amid the shifting sands of the ocean floor.

It is but a simple gesture to take the time to remember.

You do not need a name or a family photo, because you are related.  The service men and women who died, regardless of your point of view, kept us all safe, made us all think, to believe, to hope and to rebuild.

Take a moment to be humble. 

To be grateful. 

To say thank you. 

To remember. 

To keep them forever alive... 

in the hearts of the families who grieve...

and in the heart of a grateful national family...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hot Under The Collar






...Women are to blame. 


...It is inherent in their nature. 

...No joke. 

Ask the Greeks. Back several thousand years ago, when coining a new word for "womb", a name for "uterus"...they picked...


Okay, so maybe I can forgive a few old Greek philosophers and a group of meddling medicine men for stumbling around with a need for a more descriptive word than "nag"...but it didn't end there. Women needed treatment. Medicines and herbs and tugging and pulling and pushing to help women in their world, to stay in line. To get a grip. To settle down. 

It didn't end there. 

Moving on into the next few hundred years or so, "hysteria" transformed from a medical condition to a wide ranging diagnosis of rather "curious" mental disturbances. Behavioral misdeeds. Unfettered and unchecked ravings. Frenzied women.

Okay ladies. Fasten your seat belts. This is where history goes into a tailspin. A tall tale tailspin. A head banging what were they thinking, tale, spinning down into the abyss. Hysteria morphed from a medical condition to a mental disorder to....



Bewitched. Possessed. Demonic. Devilish. 

The cure? Potions and elixirs...exorcists...and if all else failed....

A quick dunk in a well or perhaps something slightly more serious involving fire and brimstone. 

Witchy witchy women. 

And then...

Oh come know what happens next...psychiatric ponderings.

Just in time. For a quick study.

Of women and their tics. 

Their twitches. Their nervousness. 

Yeah, well you'd be nervous too if anytime you hiccuped,
somebody lit up a torch

The evolution of the hysterical women is complete. From medically challenged, to mentally disturbed, to overly anxious, easily upset, out of control, raving, ranting lunatics, due to repressed traumatic memories. 

Well, gee, if you had all that hysterical history in your past, a little repression might be a bit soothing. 

I was thinking more along the lines of a little shock therapy. Or a strong cocktail. 

And then. 

Then I did the math. One and one did not add up to two. 

Cover your eyes. This is the sexy part. 

The history of "hysteria" was written by...


Men studying women. 

Trying to figure out what makes women tick. 

Trying to figure out what makes women tough. 

Trying to figure out what turns women on. 

Trying to figure out a way to turn women off,

shut them up and keep them out. 

Not a chance guys. 

There is some talk in the scientific community,

that one day men will bear babies. 

A word of caution, gentlemen. 

Historically, hysterical women around the globe are waiting for that day, smiling and serene...waiting for a signal from ....

"Mother Nature"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rock A Bye Baby

...While We Wait...

...We Sing...




For You...

We Sing ... A Lullaby

We whisper, our voices soft and low. 

Leaning down, tenderly crooning your name.

We imagine, place a hand to feel your heartbeat,

and picture you sleeping.

We pace back and forth, rocking together in a slow dance,

following the rhythm of life. 

We practice being grown ups,

while walking down the aisles at toy stores,

remembering with fondness our own youth.

We worry about everything we know,

and all the things we don't.

Mostly, when all else fails, we sing. 



don't you cry

love songs.

To You.

Before we meet.

Now here, in our arms,

after counting all your fingers and kissing all your toes,

we are full of such an abiding love,

that to embrace this awkward first meeting, 

we simply rock,

back and forth,

and smile...

Singing lullabies. 

Somehow, we know, 

we just do,

that this is exactly what should be done

and what we will do



each and every day to come. 

Sing With Us. 

The waiting is over...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Little Monkey Business







Driving home from running errands and idling at a stoplight. Out of the corner of my eye, a shock of pink. Pink fur. A fuzzy pink furry creature dancing on the corner holding up a sign advertising a local business. A fuzzy pink creature dressed head to toe in fur and wearing a monkey mask. 

I smile. 

I swivel my head from left to right noticing all the other drivers, captivated as well, and...


I glance in my rearview mirror as I pull away and the creature in the shocking pink suit is dancing, in front of an audience that has left the building. 

The cartoon balloon over my head as I drive away, reads...

Where do I go to interview for THAT job?

Think of it. 

I did. 

All the way home. 

Outside all the time without wearing my usual SPF345 sun screen. 

Anonymous. Not easily identified. 

Always warm. Dressed in fluffy comfy footie pajamas. 

Shocking. Pink. Shockingly stopping traffic!

Best of all. 


To whichever music I choose. Dance and dance and dance. Rock and roll and boogie down, bob and weave to the oldies, hip and hop to rap. Shake my hips and clap clap clap. 

Show off my smooth moves. Slam dance my style. Shimmy and shake while making them smile. Those passers by, who see me cutting loose...

Tired commuters headed home, or weary workers on their way to the late night shift. Stuck in rush hour traffic, underwhelmed or overanxious from the news of the day. Simple people, folks like me, seriously considering the road ahead, or the text on the phone in their lap, adjusting the radio dial, or leaning over the backseat hollering for quiet. 

Blink. I see pink. 

I want to meet the creative. 

The creative who imagined a fuzzy pink suit and a monkey mask. 

The cleverness of this stunt is the mark of a creative mind. 

A monkey mind. 

How about a little monkey business...mind.

The creator of this concept likes to play with color markers. Likes to pull staff into a white walled room littered with boxes of Legos, colored paper, molding clay, finger paints, easels and brushes, Polaroid cameras, push pins and post it notes in bright tropical colors. 

Everyone is welcome, from clerical staff to engineers. No one has seniority in the monkey mind department. No one has to toe the line in personal deportment. Everything is ON the table. Including bowls of chocolate pudding and wet watercolor paper. 

The challenge: Make a mess of things. 

The result: A Shocking Pink Monkey Suit and A Smile

I'm still smiling NOW. 

And as for the mess. 

There are mops and pails, erasers and wastebaskets aplenty. 

But an original thought, an inspiration, a new idea rising from the freedom of expression, is always seen in the Wild

Much like the Yard Yeti Women Of Lore

Bright pink Gerbera Daisies, dressed in yellow wellies and garden gloves. 

Standing on the corner, waiting for you to idle, long enough to be seen...

Meet Gladys Gerbera...

...she's right THERE

...a flash of pink the blink of an eye...

Adirondack Chairs