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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives

What did George Fox say? or, the Quakers vs. the Puritans

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, trying to make sense out of the craziness rampant in too many American city police departments. The newest idiocy is the story of a St. Paul, Minnesota man who was, basically, tased for sitting […]

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FaceBook memes and gratitude

Right now on FB, my youngest sister has tagged the three of us other sisters to do the ‘gratitude challenge.’ In which for five days, you have to come up w/ three things a day for which you’re grateful. Just […]

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what we do for love

We did it! Those of us who signed up for the half-marathon (and those who were insane enough to go 24 hours w/out sleep for the whole nine yards!) did it! As one of the participants noted, what kind of […]

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marathons, half-marathons and the enemy of good

I’m doing a half-marathon tomorrow. Working HARD for hours. And now that I have you thinking what a sleek athlete I must be, I’ll confess: it’s a poetry half-marathon. The Poetry Marathon 2014 (24 poem/ 24 hours) also has a […]

our own best friends

Here’s the thing, folks: who is your best friend? Who do you trust? Who has your back? And who — within broad limits — will you forgive almost anything? If you yourself aren’t on that list, welcome to adulthood. And […]

my mother’s heart and #Ferguson

This is my wonderful family. These are my infinitely fallible and perfect sons, my perfect daughter-in-law (known in my writings as DIL), my beloved. And this is a story about empathy. Both of my sons look — to anyone outside […]

turning hatred into love, or, the importance of Unabashed Smiles

Teeth. You need them for so many things, obviously. Eating, of course. But also speaking. And singing. And to present a certain … image, to the world around you. Imagine all your teeth suddenly gone. Compound that w/ no insurance […]

heartsick reprised

I use this image alot in my blog. I wish I knew who first created it — they deserve my undying admiration & gratitude. Because to me, this is beginner’s heart. It’s what I think of these days, especially, as […]

heartsickness, the ’60s, and Ferguson MO

I write daily. Often it’s a note to family, or a response to a friend or colleague. Sometimes revising creative work, and usually this blog. Lately, the blog has probably saved my blood pressure (normally quite low). I write to […]

turning people in to trees

Many years ago, when I was a fledgling hippie, I read Ram Dass. I thought he was interesting, a word used for things I knew I should like, but didn’t really understand. But this? I love it. Either he’s gotten […]

taxes, rural students, and my grandma

In Oklahoma (like most red states) we believe taxes are an unnecessary evil. That we can — and should — get rid of them. Especially on corporate interests. I understand not liking to pay taxes. Too large a portion of […]

coherence of the heart

I love folks who question. To interrogate our beliefs is so very difficult. Believe me, I do it daily. Where’s the line on this? Do this and this cancel each other out? If I think this, how can I feel […]

crowd-sourcing and ‘no’ as a learning tool

I’ve been working on a book manuscript for ages. Recently, however, it’s taken on immediacy, as I want to get it in the mail today. There’s one rather large problem: no title. Yep, I haven’t a clue what to call […]

FB, letters, and other little things

I’m huge on writing, as you know if you’ve read almost any blog post of mine. What you might realise, however, is that I’m huge on letter-writing, as well. In fact, I actually bought a life-time membership to the Letter […]

old friends

  Old friends….what a time it was, it was A time of innocence, a time of confidences Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph… I spent today w/ old friends, one of them the closest I come to […]

what dreams can tell us

In my dream last night, my mother was– once again — as she was when she was ‘herself.’ For those of us who suffer the horrors of Alzheimer’s, this is no small feat. It was years after my  mother’s death […]

chores and a plug for whining

I think there should be a National Day of Whining. And yes, I know there’s a National Whiners Day (Boxing Day — December 26th — what’s up w/ that??). But it’s not the same. I don’t want to be a […]

time and healing

I was reminded today healing happens, but it takes time. More than a week ago, I cut my finger pretty badly. I think the verb I used was ‘clove,’ since I whacked it w/ my brand-new cleaver. As you can […]

peace, love, and teaching our children

I often think that old hippies — those of us who were in it for the peace & love, not the sex, drugs, rock&roll — became teachers. Because that’s what the teachers I know believe in: peace & love. Peace […]

ritual and being our own best friends

So yes, I am the person who will make Việtnamese coffee w/ a stainless steel straw, bought specifically for the occasion. Because ritual rocks. Seriously: it offers us structure and space, time to sip a cold drink and pamper ourselves, […]

friendship, memory, and love

My mother-in-law has a friend! This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but those of us w/ family in elder care KNOW it’s bigger than it may sound. Nursing homes — even good ones — […]

time travel

Today over lunch, my husband & I went back in time. We don’t do that very often — it’s boring for other folks, and it’s just not really us. At least, not most of the time… But today for some […]

where memories live

This is the tag on my father’s blanket. The blanket he had long before I was born, probably bought before my mother reunited with him in the Phillipines, 13 months after they married. It’s a softly worn (once scratchy) wool, […]

wildflowers, watermelon, and summer negligence

This is part of what I did today. Certainly the better part. After an early morning — spent w/ a lawyer, not every my favourite thing to do — my sister called and needed help. She’d been left holding the […]

we are NOT failures

  A dear friend, in a recent conversation, told me that a mixup at her job was all her fault. It wasn’t (just FYI), but she’s been trained — as both a female and a good person — to accept […]

right livelihood

Recently someone asked me why I hate capitalism. I don’t. I do hate greed (and I wish I could — with accuracy — use a less violent verb). There’s nothing wrong with an honest living. We all deserve a home […]

the fragrance of lilies

These are two of the lilies growing against a rather derelict fence at my son’s & DIL’s. Beautiful, pale yellow, with only a light lily fragrance. Not the heaviness that always seems to suffuse funerals. I love them, of course. […]

dreaming of houses

We visited a realtor today. Just looking for information, nothing formal. But it set me to dreaming of houses, a thread that connects me with all three of my sisters. We dream of houses the way other people dream of […]

what you do comes back to you

Right after we married — literally a couple of days later — my husband & I left for his new job. In Algiers. Or Alger, as the French call it. My mother-in-law bore this with the fortitude of prairie pioneers, […]

when hot sweaty work is NOT a royal pain

This was my morning. My elder son & I wrangled over each individual magnolia branch, pretty much. See, I’m a tree person, and Nathan is a landscape person. He wants a useful and beautiful landscape for his home. I want […]

just add water: swimming with little fishes

I took my grandson swimming today. To a tiny inflatable pool off the side of the deck at the ‘kids’ house. We sat in the 85 degree air, in tepid water, liberally coated w/ SPF 50, and splashed. And splashed. […]

road trip

We’re on a three-day road trip to Virginia, from Oklahoma (burglars beware: my sister and her two attack hounds are house-sitting!). Which means crossing both Arkansas, and Tennessee. Which means…crossing the Mississippi River! I adore the Mississippi River — the […]

mistakes that aren’t bad

Making reservations for hotels while we’re on vacation, I couldn’t get the online form to ‘submit.’ Literally. Try after try, it said I wasn’t finished.  Yes I am! I thought. Dumb computer But you know what? I’d messed up, and […]

packing, getting ready, and what counts as fun

I hate packing. I always forget something, although these days it’s less critical, since I’ll still be in the land of consumer items. When I lived overseas, anything I forgot meant I did without it for months… And packing reminds me […]

a single squirrel

When I took this picture, I was thrilled. Here was a hawk, on our corner, w/ its kill! And a second later, I noticed another hawk — a mature one, sitting atop the fence behind its offspring, watching as the […]

teaching for change

Warning: the following material may confuse you, or even make your head hurt. Because who knew it was sooo hard to effect change?? Teachers, that’s who. Especially teachers of young adults. Because when you’re little, learning is still FUN. There […]

when blue is not the best colour

My sister was in a car accident. A BIG truck ran a light, and T-boned her. Driver’s side. She had to crawl from her crushed seat over the console to the passenger door. That alone would leave you sore. I […]

a day with teachers

   I spent much of yesterday w/ my favourite people: teachers who write. I confess to a relatively indiscriminate adoration of most teachers, but teachers who write are at the top of any list. Yesterday, I was back at Writing […]

poetry, and waiting for a new passport

I won’t need a passport for years. Unfortunately. Because finally, I’m thinking I can do what I’ve always wanted: list ‘poet’ as my occupation! Although I’ve been publishing poetry for years (and teaching it, as well), there’s always been a […]

speaking poetry

I’m reading an old friend’s poetry manuscript. Something I adore — reading a manuscript as a writer, trying to see what the poems want to say, what the music is telling me. It’s the language of poetry, and I don’t […]

Happy Father’s Day

Fathers are odd creatures. At least the ones I know are — not any single mold, no real unifying characteristics. Some are very loving — nurturing, even — others are sometimes cranky. While yet others are newly fledged, and learning […]

lesson #531 in beginner’s heart

I’m not good at being loved. It makes me uncomfortable when people sing my praises, for whatever reason. And I’ve never learned how to gracefully accept compliments (I have a bad habit of turning them in to jokes, but I […]

goodbye Kali

Even a year ago she still ate. Not so much lately. Her fur — once sleek as a seal’s — is dull. I haven’t seen her groom herself in years. My petting does that, bringing up clouds of silvery fur. […]

bliss, or, writers and writing retreats…oh my!

From the moment we turn off onto the rural roads outside of St. Joseph’s, I’m ready. I’ve been anticipating today for days, weeks even. It’s almost writing retreat time! I’m soooo ready. A full weekend of writing. Talking about writing. […]

grammar, and other things that have taken their proper (less important) place

I’m finishing up the editing details on a short essay. So of course I did grammar check. Now note: I teach writing. So I’m well aware of grammar. But, as a poet, I’m also aware of style. And style trumps […]

stardust and tirade exhaustion

 Some days, it helps to remember that we’re all stardust. Really — what we’re made from is cosmic. And that counts for something, surely. So when it’s 96 degrees the first days in June, and the air conditioner is busted […]

the children are still hungry

In a country where we throw away edible food to the tune of 133 BILLION pounds annually, we still have 1 in 6 Americans hungry. And 1 in 4 of them are children. Little kids — like my adored (and […]

birth day memories

Today I celebrate two births: my elder son’s and my  mother’s. Bittersweet, remembering how happy Mother was when Nathan was born on her birthday (the REAL Memorial Day, you know!). Family. What really matters. More than almost anything, to those […]

“Teachers touch eternity”

Today for breakfast, I had a large helping of hope. Given the political climate in Oklahoma these days, I needed it. I had the pleasure of listening to the keynote address for the 2014 John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation’s […]

swords into plowshares, gas bombs into gardens

This is total Buddhism, folks. Despite the hijab covering her head, and her Palestinian djellabah, this Muslim woman is practicing the most Buddhist of actions: living in the moment, making it into peace and beauty. She has taken tear gas […]

#yesallwomen

If you haven’t read the Twitter site #yesallwomen, eat breakfast first. I didn’t, and won’t be able to eat for a while. Because it’s true, America: ALL women. N.B.: do men suffer violence? Of course. But today is not the […]

the hardest kind of kindness

I write frequently about being kind to our own flawed and fallible selves. Because I see so many people talking to and about themselves in ways they wouldn’t address horrible strangers. I hear dear friends talk about themselves as failures, […]

beginnings, birthdays, and teachers

Today my amazing, beautiful, beloved and perfect grandson has been here for a year. And I’ve been able to see him several times during that year. Each time, I’ve learned from him. HUGELY important lessons, like attention. Listening. Focus. Laughter. […]

tea and pencil sharpeners, or, seeing the real person

For Mother’s Day this year, I received the following: a promise of tea with my younger son — as well as a lovely note — and the world’s greatest manual pencil sharpener from my elder son. You may think those […]

an ode to a nerd’s magazine, and chewing on silver bracelets

If you’re one of the sad Americans who think the New Yorker is a liberal rag, or that it’s too highbrow for you, bear with me. The real answer to both of these ersatz questions is c) neither of the above. […]

contemporary Pharisees

pharisaical: (adjective) characterized by hypocritical self-righteousness; putting emphasis on strict observance of rituals unrelated to the spirit or meaning of the ceremony. Somehow this word feels appropriate in today’s  political arena. I’m always so horrified when a religious leader finds […]

why good manners matter even online

I’m often apalled by what people say to each other on Facebook.  And the comments to online articles? Wow. My Aunt Bonnie would have washed my mouth out with soap! So I ask myself: what’s up w/ folks who are […]

planting for the future

We began working with this island at least five years ago (time blurs when you’re having a good time). First we had to dig up the sod, then plant the crape myrtles. Then we had to figure out the ground […]

mothers by any other name

By now, I’m sure most of America has heard of the two daddy penguins, Roy & Silo, who loved each other and raised little Tango. Who was, just FYI, no blood kin. And that’s today’s post: mothering beyond biology. Because […]

bronze fennel, swallowtail butterflies, and perspective

Today at the Farmer’s Market I picked up some bronze fennel. I used to have swathes of the stuff, but over the past couple of weird winters it’s died out. Which is sad, because not only is it very pretty, […]

my mother-in-law’s tablecloth

My whole family is nuts over housewares. Not just the women, either: my sons both asked for cast iron skillets. They also received teapots/ kettles/ and/or tea sets when they moved into apartments. When I went to my elder son’s […]

the Buddha was a teacher

One of the many small epiphanies I think of as ‘baby’ enlightenments was when I realised that first & foremost — before anything else — the Buddha was a teacher. As was Jesus. I know Christians think of Jesus first […]

making room

I’m giving away my books. A LOT of my books. Even the ones I did my graduate work on. Even the ones that saved my life. I’m also giving away what scrapbookers call ephemera: my mother’s passport, someone’s international driver’s […]

our basic goodness, metta, and the Golden Rule

At some point, we need to stop identifying with our weaknesses and shift our allegiance to our basic goodness. ~ Pema Chodron I love this directive. And I especially like that it comes from a Buddhist thinker I so admire […]

daylilies, stomach aches, and tonglen

Today, I’m breathing for those of you with stomach aches. Somehow, that helps. Really. Tonglen is, perhaps, the best manifestation of compassion I know. Stomach hurts? Offer it up for all those folks who have REALLY bad problems w/ their […]

anger and feeding the hungry and what the…?

Would someone explain to me what is wrong with feeding the hungry? I can’t think of ANY faith or wisdom tradition that doesn’t ask its adherents to feed the hungry. And to take care of (not libel and humiliate) those […]

grapevine, blue zones, and everyday practice

This is my unruly garden. To be fair, it’s mostly unruly because I forget it. I get caught up writing/ cooking/ drinking tea/ just vegging (and not the garden kind), and the day is gone. And I actually quite like […]

tonight’s dinner is brought to you by

Tonight was supposed to be leftover roast chicken w/ salad. But I found cherry tomatoes at the market, and it seemed like a good day (grey, damp, gloomy) to pretend it was summer. Especially since it’s supposed to get down […]

writing, beginner’s heart

Writing is my practice. It took me a long time to recognise this, and even longer to accept it. It didn’t fit my (preconceived!) notions of what ‘practice’ looks like. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that writing […]

spring springing

Spring done sprung. At least at my house — witness dogwoods, Japanese maple, my mother’s azaleas. I am sooo ready. The azaleas, as noted, came from my mother’s home, before she moved in with my sister. They weren’t the colour […]

rain, rain

It’s raining. The gardener in me is happy, but the sun-loving reptile? Not so much. Most things are like this, I suspect — good news/bad news. And not even ‘bad’ news. Just inconvenient, or gloomy, or … dampening. Lately, whenever […]

reflections on mortality

Nothing like a nervous day at the doc’s to make you realise your life is very good. Not that I needed reminding… But it still serves as a bit of a wake-up call. You know: what the heck are you […]

you don’t always get what you want…

I’m raising bees! Today I went outside to check on them, and the brilliant blue/ green/ yellow & black of their bodies glittered as the females laid multiple eggs in the tubes of my mason bee house. The newer one […]

when Buddhism and Christianity were THIS close

Most of the time, I confess, I think of Christianity as a violent religion. Beginning w/ the Crusades, various holy wars, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, Nazi Germany… It doesn’t appear to have read the New Testament, and […]

form, poetry, and the empty cup

I spent the day researching obscure poetic forms.  And it was enormous fun — thinking about what to pour into those elegant white cups of structure. Along the way, I wrote this poem for my sisters (the least structured of […]

poetry, structure, and creative beginner’s heart

Last night, discussing structure and writing with my elder son, I said I couldn’t write w/ too much structure. That writing is — for me — a discovery process. Structure, I told him, can actually kill my ideas. Later, as  I lay […]

what a difference a day makes (and other ways I wish I was like my grandson)

My grandson burnt his hands Sunday. Not horribly, but badly enough that he cried inconsolably for hours. Today? He’s his usual sunny self: slapping the Cheerios on the highchair tray, pulling my hair, and laughing at nothing at all. Why […]

the poetry of every day

It’s easy to forget that every day holds poetry. Especially if you’re hectic: packing, moving, cleaning a new house, unpacking… Soothing a disolocated dog, holding a curious baby. Eating out of cartons while you locate the dishes and pans. All […]

what poetry gives us

Today’s poem is actually a three-fer. I’ve been writing to prompts from NaPoWriMo, one of the national sites for National Poetry Writing Month. The poem today is written from yesterday’s prompt, which asked writers to do a riff on a […]

in praise of short poems

I grew up on haiku. It’s popular in school classrooms now — fast, and relatively easy to teach — but I don’t remember there being a lot of my friends who learned it as children. My familiarity with it — […]

beginner’s heart haiku

Haiku is the archetypal Buddhist poetry, at least to most Americans. And certainly the compressed form, the emphasis on experience and now, are very much in keeping with Buddhism. As are many of the early practitioners: Buson, Issa, Bashō. So […]

quilt pieces and a poem for beginner’s heart

It wasn’t that long ago that I realised how many of the poets I love best are Buddhist. They don’t make a big deal about it (most Buddhists don’t — I’m kind of an anomaly, blogging from a Buddhist/ Unitarian/ […]

poetry, seeing, and connection

I adore poetry, as anyone who knows me knows. Actually, you don’t even have to know me — you can just be sitting next to me on a plane (I’m often reading poetry), or standing by me in a bookstore […]

the impact of ‘thoughtlessness’ (and the importance of teachers)

Today, following yesterday’s post about research, I was reading the National Endowment for the Humanities bi-monthly magazine, Humanities. In it is an article about NEH-funded research on political theorist Hannah Arendt. And it underlines the importance of the critical thinking […]

teaching research, or, why some folks hate universities

For several years, I taught research to college students. At a research university, no less. I taught ag majors, English majors, business majors, music majors, phys ed majors, design majors, art majors, history and econ and chemistry and engineering and […]

random and more random

Today is one of those days when I don’t think. Really (and don’t tell me you don’t have those days). It was all I could do figure out breakfast (cappuccino and left-over chicken; don’t judge me). So today’s post is […]

time and distance

I’m working (hard) on a chapbook manuscript. Which is to say, I’m going over work I did — some of it a while ago — line by line, word by word, space by line break by punctuation mark. I hate […]

daffodils and drowsy spring

I love the first daffodils. In our front garden, they’re multiplying like spring rabbits — pheasant’s eye, narcissus, tiny jonquils, large trumpeted King Alfred, double Winston Churchill, and many more. They bloom between the canes of last summer’s Joe Pye […]

mourning a mentor and friend

It feels like my world is losing important pieces, lately. A death here, a death there, a third one just behind them. A lot of friends, colleagues, and the family of both have taken wing. Elsewhere. Wherever the dead go. […]

friends with tea (pots) and books and music and…

My friendship with my dear friend M is the product of technology, for which I’m very grateful. M started a book group several years ago, and we all talked books online. I’d met only one of the group f2f, as […]

International Poetry Day!

Poetry — the breath of love, life, grief, terror, justice. And more… We woo with it, grieve with it, celebrate and commemorate and just plain live with it. All around the world today, poets and readers and appreciators are joining […]

for love of a book

I’ve loved books since before I could read them. I vaguely remember chewing on a cloth book my mother or aunt gave me, but it may only be a family story. I do know I read early, and with gusto. […]

cutting boards, character, and throw-away culture

This cutting board cost me $15. On sale, sure, but all it needed was some TLC and it rivals my other cutting board/ chopping block, which cost more than 5x that much. Because this cutting board, when I bought it, […]

making your own spring

Today, a long line of my old ladies would tell you, is a dreary day. Nevermind that we need the inch of slow cold rain. And yes there are a few bent-necked daffodils in the front garden. But the birds […]

seeing what might be there

I saw this on FB the other day, and was mesmerised. Not simply this photo — I’ve taken several similar ones myself. But by what happened next. Jarbas Agnelli saw music, notes on a staff. I do too, and have […]

time runs away from us

An old and dear friend lost her husband yesterday. Walking together to his work, she must have watched as he fell to the ground with a heart attack, his second in two years. He was dead by the time they […]

the crime of poverty

It shouldn’t still be happening, but it is: modern day debtor’s prisons. At least in Alabama, where writer Jacob Denney’s story for the Southern Poverty Law Center takes place. A young man, first victimised by a shooting, then hit with […]

the mortality of cats

At her best, my 14-year-old cat Kali is doing great. She can still jump (most of the time) onto my desk to eat the snack I fixed (NOT for her). She usually maneuvers the leap from the coffee table to […]

a miracle of starlings

Actually, it’s called a murmuration of starlings. Possibly, as Dylan Winter, the narrator of this amazing clip notes, because of the murmuring of wings. Whatever the source of the name, the actual sight — even reduced to the size of […]

belated thank-yous

I love writing letters. REAL letters, on stationery, with a pen or rollerball, and the (futile) art of keeping my handwriting legible. Thank-you notes are my favourite. Unfortunately, sometimes I’m forgetful (well, actually I’m often forgetful!). And formal thank-yous — […]

blue days and runaways

Do you ever want to run away from your life? Your ‘precious, human life,’ as the Dalai Lama reminds us…? Leave the whiney dogs that will NOT go outside when it rains, the cats that throw up in front of […]

working back in

The problem with living in the moment is when the moment kind of…well, let’s just say some moments are better neighbourhoods than others. Right now, mine is pestilent. As in, still flu-y. So in the spirit of beginner’s heart, I’ve […]

on flu break

This message is brought to you by the miracle of modern medicine, and the unfortunate strain of flu NOT covered in the flu shot. And yes, I’ll still get the flu shot. The doc swears it would be lots worse […]

modern medicine and everyday miracles

So remember the scratchy throat I was fighting? The beautiful grandson who was spewing germs as he laughed and climbed me like a mountain? Flu. Yup, flu. Thank the universe (and modern medicine) for Tamiflu. Not only do I have […]

viral moments and metaphors

Those oddly shaped, colourful objects are teethers. My grandson is teething. And (gross-out alert) he’s also blowing mucous in large quantities. Some is the result of teething — we had hoped it all was. But my aching bones, need for […]

sons, and daughters, and grandsons, and love

I’m one of those weird people who is happiest when giddy with loving folks. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, since I get considerable flak over it from family (are you high on happy pills??). But it’s true, if […]

Humanities, and what makes life worth living

I spent two days this past week w/ humanitarians. Now, they wouldn’t call themselves that. They would say they’re worker bees, if they said anything at all. Not folks to tout their own horns, humanities board members. And especially not in […]

writing, travel, and trains: a hopeful love letter

This meme is sooo me that my niece posted it to my FB page. And just in case you’re wondering, it’s NOT too much to ask! But it does seem to be a lot to get. However, I’m applying for […]

why it seems like open season on my cousin’s grandsons

My cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race — their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be […]

friendship and the art of loving

As one of four sisters, I’m used to the envy that twins with love. At least when it comes to sisters. So it’s okay w/ me that I’m not the sister each of the other three loves the best. Because […]

leftovers and ‘after’ days

 Yesterday we had a lovely evening — friends came over to celebrate African American History month with a sharing of various African American artists & authors. I cleaned and cooked before it all began. I made this beautiful lemon icebox […]

30 Days of Love: take a deep breath

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is about the sacred pause. The breath, in other words. Breathing in <> breathing out. Buddhist & yogi Teo Drake reminds us that mindfulness needn’t be limited to sitting and following the breath. Just […]

30 Days of Love: faith and social justice

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is to look at the social justice programs of another faith. Initially I thought I’d write about engaged Buddhism again, as many Americans are unfamiliar with it. But when I went to look for […]

30 Days of Love: standing shoulder to shoulder

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is one very close and dear to me. It asks that we find out more about the Muslim communities living in our towns and cities, the Muslim Americans who work in offices with us, […]

30 Days of Love: prisons and opportunity gone missing

America loves prisons. “Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit […]

30 Days of Love: Inclusion

Inclusion is a big deal to me (I know — so many things are!). Perhaps because I grew up on the outside, often looking in. Maybe because my family is pretty polyvalent. And maybe because it IS important. Every voice […]

30 Days of Love: a military tradition of service, and what we owe

This is my father, who served in three wars: WWII, the Korean War — from when this was taken — and the Việt Nam Conflict. He served in multiple theatres (China, Korea, Việt Nam, the Battle of the Bulge, Germany, […]

30 Days of Love: radical love…?

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is to embrace radical love: the idea of trying to love the people with whom you disagree. This is, as I’ve noted elsewhere, hard for me. It’s hard for me (darn near impossible… sigh) […]

30 Days of Love: in praise of a mother-in-law

Today’s prompt from 30 Days of Love is to think of someone courageous, someone who deserves recognition for his or her  actions, even his or her life. Not simply because it’s her birthday, but because she has been like a […]

30 Days of Love: flotsam, jetsam, tanka, and learning the story

Today’s prompt for 30 Days of Love is to write a haiku, a 140-character tweet, or a six-word story. In it, we’re to reflect on our own story.This, I’m thinking, I’m ready for. I’ve been practicing. Digression: I’ve been thinking […]

30 Days of Love: cleaning out drawers and lightening the load

I love to cook. And I love tools. Ergo, I have a LOT of cooking stuff. Cram-jammed drawers full. The same goes for coffee paraphenalia, tea accessories, and various things I no longer even recognise. Not good. I have to […]

30 Days of Love: RIP, Pete Seeger

I have always loved, admired, and respected Pete Seeger. As a musician, as a social activist, as an influence on American folk music, he’s one of my heroes. He died last night, and the world will be the poorer for […]

freedom of (and from) religion

As I’ve mentioned recently, freedom of religion is a big deal to me. And that freedom doesn’t mean you get to worship your mainstream religion in public and I don’t. Or that you can discriminate against me — even harass […]

30 Days of Love: ‘love’s austere and lonely offices’

Today’s post is short but sweet, and courtesy of one of the best poets I’ve ever loved: Robert Hayden.  At times in my life I have been without words: desperately lonely, or bitterly angry, or lost in one of those […]

30 Days of Love: drawing birds, getting it wrong, and compassion vs. love

This is not a great goldfinch sketch. BUT…. it’s measurably better than last year’s birds (see below). Because I’ve spent a YEAR drawing crappy birds. And they’ve grown slightly less wretched each month. Here’s the kicker: you have to be […]

30 Days of Love: blending faiths

In keeping with the 30 Days of Love project, I’m thinking about how it works with my own beliefs, with Buddhism, specifically. As many faith traditions do, they intersect in many productive ways. Engaged Buddhism fits well with the theme […]

30 days of love: hot curlers, love, and doing for others

As a reptile lover, this picture seems the perfect example of giving a hand. Or a foot, or a sucker. Whatever. Sometimes help isn’t this noticeable. You don’t have to save a friend from a life-threatening situation to be helpful. […]

30 Days of Love: family, race, and what we can do

As part of the 30 Days of Love project, I’m using many of the prompts offered on the  blog site for the posts here. This week focuses on family, among other things. Family and race and community, in general. I […]

30 Days of Love: or, why would we want to be multicultural?

As a little girl growing up in Việt Nam, I was the odd one out. Blonde in a sea of glossy black hair, dead white dot in a warm brown tapestry. But even before, living in Tulsa & then San […]

ponytail memories and silver linings

As a young child, I had very long hair. I wore it either in braids, or in a ponytail; it did look quite a bit like the tail of a Shetland pony. Long, blond, and constantly in motion. I wasn’t […]

horoscopes, adversaries, ball chairs

True confessions: I read my horoscope. Almost every day. And weekly, too. I check out what’s in the paper, and then on Wednesdays I read Free Will Astrology to see what it says. This week, it says I might want […]

memory, elephants, friendship

You may already have seen the PBS video on Shirley & Jenny, two elephants who never forgot each other. It’s not recent — at least 10 years old. But it was new to me. Elephants have totemic significance in my […]

a message from a fellow First Amendment follower

A friend sent me a blog post from a blogger I don’t follow. And what Mr. Lake had to say (he’s the blogger) had to say resonated deeply. I’m the kind of person who donated money for free speech during […]

goldfinches, titmice, and wrens: what’s your pleasure?

The goldfinches have (finally!) arrived. They’re going through about a feeder of thistle seed every couple of days. My sister, looking out the breakfast room window onto the 1-2-3-4-5-6+ feeding and water stations, wondered aloud what this costs us monthly. […]

Quakers, foxes, Buddhism, and beginner’s heart

Even before I did a graduate paper on the Quaker preacher Elizabeth Ashbridge, I’ve been fascinated by Quakerism. The idea that the Divine is knowable to each individual, w/out the mediation of text or preacher or church, is a deeply […]

Say what? West Virginia isn’t as important as Chris Christie’s shenanigans?

Okay — so it’s politics and soapbox time (you can tune out now, if engaged Buddhism doesn’t fit your needs today — I really get it). Sunday, NO ONE spent time on the disastrous West Virginia chemical spill. 300,000 American […]

small breakthroughs

After whining so piteously yesterday about New Year’s resolutions, and laying new habits in place, I had one of those days when the bad habits were sooo much easier to forget. I know the sneaky devils will be back, but […]

resolutions, and good habits

So: why is it soooo hard to form good habits, and so EASY to lapse into bad ones?? Doesn’t it seem that good intention ought to count for something?? Sheesh. I’ve been back on the recumbent bike since New Year’s. […]

more drink metaphors

When’s the last time you gave yourself a present? Not something you ‘need,’ or even something you lust for (like a new pair of shoes, or a fountain pen, or…). Just a small treat. Not even edible, necesarily. This holiday, […]

coffee and chocolate and cream and…multiculturalism?

I’m drinking what America should BE right now (bear with me: it’s metaphor time). Coffee from Africa, rich & fragrant. Chocolate from South America. Cinnamon from Saigon, cayenne pepper from who knows where, and milk from an organic farm coop […]

axe handles, poetry, aging…beginner’s heart…

I’m reading an old issue of American Poet. They tend to pile up, kind of like my New Yorker issues. Things that come frequently, or have intellectual density, often get lost under doing dishes, exercise, feeding birds. The necessary acts of […]

talking about faith, hate, and civil discourse

On a FB thread a friend began, there’s a discussion of homosexuality, race, and gender. My friend is not tolerant: he lives his beliefs. An aside: I don’t really like the word ‘tolerance.’ It always reminds me of the stuff […]

poetry, politics, and beginner’s heart

If changing the world is your fight, it will exhaust you. But if it’s just your way of being, it will be effortless! So promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. ~ Buddhist Boot Camp This is […]

farewells, and a goodbye belief

I’m not good at goodbye. Nor farewell, nor see ya later. Nor any kind of leave-taking. HATE them. Too many moves as a kid. Too many folks I’ll never see again. Buddhism is the ultimate goodbye belief. You know: the […]

remembering the Christmas Truce

Tonight, I wish you magic. I wish you peace, love, & joy. I wish you the kind of unexpected miracles that happened a century ago, in the middle of a war. When men reached out across the line of fire, […]

Warning: Grinch alert

 So — you’ve been notified: I just hit my Grinch wall. I am heartily SICK of cooking, cleaning, wrapping presents, and the whole shebang. I want to be on a beach SOMEWHERE WARM, w/out ice bending my beloved trees to […]

giving really IS more fun (well, most of the time…)

This is our Christmas tree. And so far, I’ve wrapped all but maybe three of the gifts beneath it. By hand. With love & thoughts of each recipient. Because that’s how Aunt Bonnie taught me to do it. Along with […]

peppermint bark and merriment

Hi, my  name is Britton, and I L♥VE food. Well, I love good food. I’m not interested in crappy calories; only the best! And over the holidays? I’m in (as my Aunt Bonnie would say) hog heaven! Although they’d have […]

permission

In a FB thread discussing art, anarchy, and writing, a friend & colleague reminded me that many people he works with want to know ‘the rules.’ They won’t write — he’s a teacher of teachers — unless they have a […]

So, what colour is Santa? Or Jesus, for that matter? And why the HECK should this be on the news??

I tend to go off, as we all know. And a newscaster from Fox News (I won’t name her, but you can find the article here; she doesn’t deserve more publicity) just lit my fuse. Santa, she says, is white. […]

tea with Grandmother (and others)

Tea is a friendly drink. It doesn’t jazz you like coffee. I can have it in the afternoon, for instance, and still sleep that night. And if — like me — you’ve collected/ inherited/ been given tea wares for many […]

meatloaf and dishes and errands and family…

This kind of holiday doesn’t just happen… Nor does a big-ass tree, replete with crystal icicles, the last remnants of childhood ornaments, and a couple of true heirlooms. And the gifts beneath, wrapped in foil and French ribbon, sprinkled w/ […]

Happy Bodhi Day!

Today is Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu ~ the celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, the transformation of the man into the  spiritual teacher we know as the Buddha.  I’ve written elsewhere about Bodhi Day, here and here. But it bears repeating. […]

Remembering Nelson Mandela, and his shifting place in American history

The world will miss Nelson  Mandela. A man who saw that forgiveness was as large a part of revolution as upheaveal. A man who brought good to a nation riven by wrong. A man who was not afraid to love […]

just who are you calling average…?

A friend & former colleague recently posted a blog entry where he wrestled with his (mild) obsession w/ being ‘the best.’ He’s very good at anything he turns his hand to: technology, teaching, parenting, music, running. And those are just […]

cancelled flights, family nights, and (eventually!) Thanksgiving

It all starts w/check-in. That’s the beginning of any air travel, right? But wait! For us, it began with ice all over the car. A LOT of ice. And an AWOL ice scraper. We should have known it was a […]

bad choices & (broken) beginner’s heart

There is a slice of meringue pie in the fridge. Calling to me. It may well speak some formerly unknown language that sounds now a bit like mother tongue. I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s not such a big deal. […]

family, socialism, and Thanksgiving conversations

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK! And we’ll be having a LOT of family over for the big celebratory feast. As I’m sure many of you will. And if you’re like our family, not everyone is … well, in accord on lots […]

tranquility terrorists

I adore The Onion. Especially in pieces like this, framed and coloured in absurdity. To ‘target all Western suffering…’ How cool would that be? So here’s my post for today — a bit of humour, a LOT of wishful thinking. […]

listening

I am learning to listen from my grandson. (And if my son his father tells you it’s ‘indulging him,’ disregard.) I am learning to pay attention to cues — both verbal and non-verbal. And remember: at a scant six months, […]

tea with plastic spoons…

Today I made my tea in a mug, on a cutting board, with a plastic spoon. Big deal, huh? Unless you know me, and know that almost every day I make tea in a pot, on a tray spread w/ one […]

meditation and sons and technology

I’m not very good at meditating. I get started, then something ‘comes up’ — life, usually — and I fall off the cushion. Soon months have gone by, and I’m not meditating. Sigh… But the point in meditation process is […]

day 13 of Thanksgiving (in praise of laundry)

I HATE doing laundry. I once told a friend that I would remember my child-bearing years as piles of dirty laundry. Really dirty laundry: hockey socks & pads, football jerseys, cutoffs from camp, towels that ended up mildewing under the bed… […]

the month of Thanksgiving

During November — which I think of as the month of Thanksgiving — I give thanks each day for one of my many blessings. Today it’s my grandson, with whom I am (of course!) besotted. I’m sure this is true […]

remembering the HUMANS in the HUMANitieS

I spent this past weekend in the company of humanists. It’s a word that’s come to have a negative meaning, and I’m not sure why. The word itself simply means to have a deep concern for human beings, for their […]

sharing stories

When you go to a national humanities conferences, you hear a lot of stories. Stories of the past (especially in Birmingham, 50 years later…), stories of what-if, stories of maybe and possibly and even stories about stories. And when you’re […]

the proper study of human beings…

I’m going to Birmingham tomorrow! And my posts — if I break free to make them — will be from there for the next few days. I have the IMMENSE good fortune to be part of the Oklahoma delegation to […]

no one loves a complex story, or, what no one is telling you about the Affordable Care Act

This is by way of good news. It’s also a counter-narrative to all the horror stories about the Affordable Care Act.Because once a journalist, always a journalist, I guess. And someone needs to put some honest facts into the conversation, […]

saving wasps, and other unloved creatures

I rescue wasps.  Even the big ones. Even yellow jackets. Even though a nest got in to my hair when I was a child & stung me sick. I also brake for squirrels, mice, and anything running across the road. […]

rape culture, reprised: how can we undo it?

Since my earlier post on the Daisy Coleman case, I’ve received many emails from women (& men) who wander — as I do — how to undo rape culture. How do we fight it? And I confess: I don’t know. […]

the candle and the mirror

When I was young, and my dreams as new-bright as clean copper, I believed I would set the world on fire. Somehow I would change what was wrong — poverty, ignorance, social injustice. There were, after all, so many of […]

All Hallows’ E’en

This is my dog, Pascal, wearing the devil horns my niece Sandra bought him. It’s appropriate — Pascal is rascal of the first order. But it’s a far cry from what I grew up thinking Hallowe’en meant. Sure it meant […]

everyday glitches and first-world problems

It’s not a big deal, really. Just email. Not my life. And yet…. I HATE it when my email screws up! Allll my hard-won calm goes right out the window. And it doesn’t help that today is the day I’m […]

on Facebook and civil conversations

I love the idea that there’s a civil conversations project. Officially, I mean. Because it’s what I’ve been trying to foster — despite my lapses into ranting about racism & social injustice — on my own FB page. Today, I […]

cloudy days and keeping busy

Sometimes, when it’s grey and what my grandma would call ‘dreary,’ it’s hard to get motivated. While I don’t mind rain at all — especially when it’s been a bit dry — I make sure that we buy the ‘daylight’ […]

appearances (seriously)

If I was a cat, this would be how I appear to most folks. Seriously. The thing about being an aging blonde, w/a strange sense of humour, is that no one TAKES you seriously. Of course, that was true when […]

(just??) breathing

Today’s meditation focus was why do I do this? Really.  Why sit? Why watch my breath? Why let noises come & go, feelings rise and fall, in rhythm (if I’m lucky!) with my breath? Why on earth would anyone take […]

Nimrod Saturday!

This is the weekend of the Nimrod conference for writers. AND it’s the ‘prequel’ to National Day on Writing. What serendipity, huh? The NDW’s theme is ‘write2connect,’ as I mentioned yesterday. And all day today, that’s what I did: connect. […]

writers’ weekend

This is a picture of an issue of my beloved Nimrod. It’s also (warning! self-advertising!) an issue I especially love, and not simply because I’m included within the pages. It’s one of my favourites because even when I was very […]

waiting (impatiently!) for the National Day on Writing

Sunday is one of my favourite days at any time — it’s the day when, if you’re working as a teacher, you’re (ideally!) caught up with your grading. Your household chores are sorta/kinda done. You can relax. Maybe. But this […]

armadillo interlude

There is absolutely no serious reason for me to post this goofy clip of dueling armadillos. Except that I’m sick of the sequester, the shutdown, politics, and mean hateful people. Sometimes, you just need a break. Plus, armadillos are one […]

Yes, America, there IS a rape culture

When I first read the story of Daisy Coleman’s rape, I was so horrified and angry I didn’t notice where she came from. It was only after I read it a 2nd — or perhaps a 3rd time — that […]

hawk!

I wish I could say I took this picture. But I will say that the hawk sitting on my deck rail looked at me just like this before it flew off. I heard it call while writing at my desk […]

happiness and our marvelous brain

I usually say the aim of life is to be happy. Our existence is based on hope. Our life is rooted in the opportunity to be happy, not necessarily wealthy, but happy within our own minds. If we only indulge […]

mammograms, gratitude, and ordinary life

Today was a good day. Even though — in part because of? — I had a mammogram. An aside: no woman in her right MIND enjoys a mammogram. But as the sister of a 13-year breast cancer survivor, I’m so […]

the 2nd best and most important job ever

Two of my favourite things — actually four, if you include the ‘zen’ and ‘pencils’ as material objects… :). Teachers & poetry. And if you include social activism on behalf of teachers? You have knocked that homer out of the […]

tea and sympathy

This has NOT been a good week. It’s gone steadily downhill since Monday… But it’s taken a turn for the better, and it’s all because I did a shamefully easy good deed: I lent 1/4 jar of molasses to my […]

the blame game, compromise, and windows

Yesterday I overdosed on politics. I read blog after article after news piece after FB post. Ugh. I was left more than slightly nauseous, and wondering how American politics came to such an ugly place. Of course I have my […]

accents, stereotypes, and get over it

At my niece’s wedding this past weekend, we all lapsed into Okie-speak: y’all, huh?, yep, et al. We were all family, and no one was judging us. Which isn’t the case lots of times. Saying just y’all in a meeting […]

Oklahoma breaking bad

I have no idea what to put as an image for this post. It’s a subject very difficult to ‘picture,’ as the search for images only reveals the profound decay of users — ‘before’ & ‘after’ pictures that somehow seem […]

someone else’s road

I need to remember this. It’s easy to forget, as we move from middle age into elder-ing. That’s my term for what seems to be happening these past couple of years: nieces, nephews, former students, younger colleagues & friends — […]

theories: empirical and not-so

Total science nerd here. I  adore science. Really — every year I buy the Best Science Writing 20-whatever. Or else my husband gets it for me as a present. If I had my life to redo, I’d probably be a […]

Buddha dogs and learning about love

We have two dogs — both goofy-looking French bulldogs. The elder, Pascal, is sick. Turns out that despite being ‘guaranteed,’ AND xrayed, he has dysplasia. As well as a pinched nerve in his lower spine. He’s in a lot of […]

mouthy middle-aged white chicks…

I freely admit I’m a loudmouth. AND political, to boot. Not to mention an engaged Buddhist, and a wannabe Unitarian. Which is to say, a total bleeding heart liberal with a big vocabulary. (As distinguished from a knee-jerk liberal — […]

hungry children and politicians

I have never understood letting children go hungry. Children are our most precious, irreplaceable resource. NOTHING trumps feeding children, and certainly not politics. The American government — in the guise of the Republican house — just voted to let children […]

sorry doesn’t fix things …

 A former student reminded me of an exercise I used to do in class. It involved wadding up paper — a guaranteed student pleaser. Each student would wad up a piece of paper. No other directions than that. Some would […]

Dear Education Reformers:

I’ve spent much of this month  listening to teachers. Their stories break my heart. Because these are teachers who are voluntarily seeking to improve. And they are exhausted, folks. Bone-deep, brain fugue, blank-eyed exhausted. It’s all they can do to […]

no, love is NOT enough

 “In this world where everything will not turn out okay, where the anything that is possible is not in our hands, the real deal is to, nonetheless, look deep into who we really are, and then from that place, reach […]

what helps…

Remember the old Beatles song? The one that begins When I find myself in times of trouble…? It’s Let It Be, from the white album. And while Mother Mary isn’t my default for times of sorrow and trouble, poetry is. […]

suffering, and letting go…

Buddhism assures me there will be suffering in life. That pain will come (and go). That change will as often be for the worse as for the better. But as a generally optimistic person, I usually ignore this.  (I know […]

Previous Posts

cultural burdens, with homage to Carol Emarthle-Douglas
This may be the most moving piece of art I've seen in many many months. When it came across my FB ...

posted 5:48:11pm Aug. 26, 2015 | read full post »

silver linings
For those d'un certain âge, the Rolling Stones said it best: You can't always get what you want/But if you try sometimes you just might find/You get what ...

posted 6:20:17pm Aug. 24, 2015 | read full post »

the impulse to art
This, my friends, is art. And better than anything else I can think of, it demonstrates our deep-set need to create beauty. The Dalai Lama ...

posted 9:41:23pm Aug. 20, 2015 | read full post »

cleaning house, reprised
As we come closer to moving -- even though we no longer have a house under contract, nor do we know when we'll find one! -- I'm getting ever more serious ...

posted 5:10:21pm Aug. 17, 2015 | read full post »

laundry and blackberry pie
This is my reward for a gruelling two weeks spent with the family my mother-in-law into a new, more secure  Alzheimer's facility. It's the break from the ...

posted 4:38:45pm Aug. 15, 2015 | read full post »

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