Sunday, August 31, 2008


What was very watery today was me, saying good-bye to my dad. I have a new video of him to post, but for tonight I am going to distract myself with other wateries. Thanks, Carmi!

(This week's theme was a cinch for me. If, however, the theme next week should be "Dirt-y" I would have to take my Nikon for a walk!)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm back

After a few days back home, I'm at my dad's again. He seems to be getting along okay. I was talking to a doctor the other day about chemo and whether at eight-six my dad should enter into five years of it. The doctor asked what his quality of life was like. I answered, "This man is the gold standard for quality of life for an eighty-six year old." He should go for it, the doctor said.

I've been thinking a lot about people who don't have the support system my dad has. There are five of us kids, four spouses, and eight granddaughters. That's quite a few caretakers. Then, since my dad is still so active (he does double rounds of Mobile Meals on occasion!), he has a good network of people who call and bring food in times of illness. Add this to the fact that he is very rarely ill.

On the other hand, there is my friend the schoolteacher who has two parents in a retirement community. When she isn't grocery shopping for them, she's trying to talk them out of driving across town to their favorite specialty grocery store. She has all the doctors' appointments for each of them, and this is after either listening to them talk about what is wrong or trying to pry out of them what is wrong. Many afternoons, after teaching and meetings, she drives over to visit. Now I know from visiting my mother-in-law in her retirement community that an hour visit takes way more than an hour. She goes home and fixes dinner and grades papers. I have a new-found appreciation for how exhausting her life is.

I can't even imagine what life is like for someone who has nobody to take care of them. When I visit my daughter in the big city, I've seen elderly women on the sidewalks with their walkers full of groceries and their life seems impossible to me. I saw old people in the hospital that never had a visitor. One woman haunts me: when I walked by her door she pulled deeper into the comfort of her covers, a look on her face that seemed to say, "Don't make me leave. I'm so safe here."

Today, I'm thankful for our situation. And much more aware of how fortunate it is that there are so many of us to take care of each other.

Here are a couple more photos for this week's photographic theme of Watery:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


If you have spent any time at Can I Do It? you know that I love photographing water. Carmy's photo illustrating this week's theme is incredible.

Here are mine:

Learning Curve

Bold: fearless before danger, showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit

Bold synonyms: intrepid, assured, confident, adventureous

Rash: Marked by or proceeding from undue haste or lack of deliberation or caution

Rash synonyms: brash, hasty, headlong, ill-considered, impetuous, improvident, impulsive

I need to learn the difference.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Democratic National Convention

Last night I listened to the convention on NPR. My dad (a life-long Republican) watched it on television and today in the hospital said how pitiful it was. I assumed it was more of his Barack Barrage, part of his ongoing disdain for my Democratic voting record.

Tonight I am seeing it on television. So far, it is like a very poorly produced high school assembly. A few minutes ago, the announcer tried twice to say "commemorative" and finally gave up.

Come on.

Hillary better rise to the occasion. I hate it when my dad is right.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fun and games at the hospital

My dad had to have some additional surgery tonight. He had eaten sparingly yesterday and was feeling low, then this morning at 7 the doctor informed him that he could have nothing to eat or drink to prep for a late afternoon surgery. These videos were taken moments before they wheeled him out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Two of my favorite people

A wonderful article on two of my favorite people, Nancy Olson (owner of Quail Ridge Books) and Angela Davis-Gardner (writer and teacher extraordinaire). Please note the last line--a very important point made by Nancy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Where I wish I were right now:

Alas, I am still at the hospital. I'm beginning to think the doctor decided to keep my dad "through the weekend" so he wouldn't be bothered with the necessities of a discharge.

But I found something to do with the five hours of sheer boredom which have followed my mad rush to the shopping center (as soon as my brother walks through the door of the hospital room) to spend money as a way of fighting the sheer boredom of the hospital: I labelled all my posts. Since I'm too tired to figure out how to show the list on the layout, I will list the top self-imposed labels.

1. Things that make you go hmmm
2. Family matters
3. Me Me Me
4. Through my camera lens
5. writing (yep, when I set that label up I used a small "w")
6. Spirituality

Some commentary about the list:

1. I'm glad that most of them are things I would like for people to think about.
2. It seems natural that I would write about my family and me so I'm not going to worry that I'm narcissistic.
3. Nos. 4, 5, and 6 are the things I'm most interested in, so I'm glad I'm addressing them when I post.

The image of me flying out the door when my brother comes reminds me of one night when my children were all very little. The babysitter was there, and in my rush to get the hell out of Dodge I neglected to notice that she had parked behind me in the driveway. I backed right into her going backwards at about 20 mph (or that's how fast it felt!)

Drivel...that's all I can come up with tonight. But I'm writing, yes?

Writer's Block

Billie over at Mystic Lit asks if there is such a thing as writer's block. I'm beginning to be a believer in it. I have spent all but about five hours of the past three days at the hospital with my dad. I've had lots and lots of time to write volumes, on my blog, on others' blogs, stories, poetry, letters, whatever. But every time I turn on the computer, I find myself at a loss as to what to write about.

I think this is similar to when you write in a journal every day and face the blank page with a blank mind every now and then. So you start by saying, "I don't know what to write," and you write about not knowing what to write!

Maybe I'm tired from grabbing sleep two hours at a time. Maybe my writing muse has vanished in the noise of machines, and people in pain, and nurses and doctors asking questions, and the television, and beep beep beep click click click rubber soles on squeaky clean tile twenty-four hours a day. Maybe my mind is trying to absorb all the instructions of doctors and nurses and techs and, of course, family.

But the bottom line is I don't know what to write.
(published at my most magical time: 11:11)

Friday, August 22, 2008


Sitting with someone in the hospital gives one many day and night hours to think. About color. About colorful. Here are some more colorful pix:

This one is color-full:

These are colorful:

I have a digital Nikon camera now, but one of the things I loved the most about my film camera was the surprises, like the green shoe in this colorful photo:

And now, since I went fitfully to sleep around 3 this morning to be awoken at 5 by a nurse coming to check my dad's catheter, I am going to take a nap in the not-so-comfortable recliner. And yes, I know - it's their job to wake the patient every two hours. They have to, or insurance won't pay for it, hmmm?

(This post put my counter at 4444. I like that.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The theme at WrittenInc is right down my photographic alley - I love color!

I also love the combination of color and colorful....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bad habits

I have indulged in (and fortunately mostly overcome) a lifetime of bad habits. Most all of my bad habits can be attributed to the fact that my mother didn't nurse me (you have to blame somebody) and have involved smoking, eating, drinking, sucking my thumb (until I was thirteen when I replaced my thumb with a cigarette) - oral things. When I was young, one of my bad habits was eating paper. For those of you who have never had this predilection, let me give you a run-down of paper flavors:

Notebook paper is very bitter - the ink, I guess.

Tissue paper is very bland, but balls up nicely in your mouth.

The paper in old books actually tastes musty.

Sucker sticks can give hours of pleasure as you unwind them. They don't have much taste.

Napkins make nice after dinner treats. Especially if you've wiped chocolate ice cream on them.

Construction paper is salty.

And speaking of construction paper, this is the event that caused me to stop eating paper:

In kindergarten, I was on the swings, contentedly swinging and chewing on a piece of black construction paper that I had surreptitiously torn off the corner of my art project. I saw my teacher glance over at me and then she yelled, MARY ANNE LEWIS (for this was my name in kindergarten) WHAT ARE YOU EATING? And she proceeded to grab me from the swing, fish her fingers around in my mouth and retrieve the offending piece of paper. Then she rushed me to the building and had me wash my mouth out with lots and lots of milk. What was all the fuss about?? Humiliating!

After my mother came and got me and gave me a stern talking-to about the chemicals in paper, I finally cried. And I only ate sucker sticks after that.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Since posting photographs for last week's theme of poignancy, and visiting other people's blogs to see their interpretations, I realize that poignancy is very subjective.

My photographs were chosen because they touched me emotionally, but each had a story around them that only I (or the subject) knew. What makes up a picture that has universal emotional appeal? Or is there such a thing? Even Mojo's photograph of the married couple kissing could have negative connotations for a person who has just gotten out of a bad marriage or hates displays of emotion. And my photograph of the African woman might not be anything without my story of her coming to America and trying to make a living, her joy at having me photograph her, her disappointment in some of the people she trusted when she arrived in this country.

I use the word "poignant" quite often in conversation and writing, and have in mind something with positive connations that goes deep and tugs at our (for lack of a better word) heartstrings. How would you define it?

(Mojo, hope you don't mind my mentioning your blog two days in a row....)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sneaking cigarettes

Okay, so maybe the seven-word story wasn't such a hit. But I had fun doing it, and maybe some of you will recognize yourselves in them!

This week my dad is having some surgery for a recurrence of bladder cancer. The last time he dealt with it, I was a closet smoker and I spent a lot of time beforehand worrying about how I was going to take care of him and not keel over myself from a nicotine fit.

So, of course, I dreamed last night that I was smoking again. I knew how I smelled, knew he could smell it, knew that the smell was probably not doing much to make him feel better (mentally because he of course hated my smoking and physically because it is a nauseating smell).

Guilt is a mighty pervasive emotion. It gets inside and sits there like an ugly scar, and eventually it just becomes part of your personal landscape and you don't think about it as much. And long after you have atoned, and or stopped the guilty behavior, the feeling will still crop up.

This morning there was a residual panic from the dream, but it's gone now. I'm thankful that I don't smoke, but I'm also thankful that I don't have to feel guilty about it anymore.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seven Word Stories

Post Secret has some seven word stories today. Here are a few attempts by moi:

The music. God, yes. It was everything.

She enlarged the photo: he was insane.

First one hair, then a clump. Cancer.

They had met. They had laughed. Okay.

Sunday jitters. They have gotten so old.

Who else wants to try?

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The Written Inc photographic theme this week is "Poignant" and I'm using the definition "affecting or moving the emotions." I think we usually see poignancy as something sad, but these photos get to some tenderness inside of me.

Comeuppance, I think

I met with my writing teacher yesterday to get a signature so I could take her class this semester. During our brief conversation, she said that after reading my stories from last year, and from hearing good things about my writing from a mutual friend, (I quote) "I think you could be a writer."

Um. Well. Okay. I thought that however raw my attempts at making up stories, I was already a writer. I thought that by sitting at my computer night after night, taking the advice of my teachers and friends, tightening up my stories, learning the craft as fast as I can, I was a writer. I even thought back to the years I wrote a newsletter for my friends, reviews for the church, articles for this or that, and darnit, even then I thought I was a writer. Her statement was a shock.

After some time to think about what she meant, I've decided that she meant a Writer. With a capital W. A person whose work might one day be read by lots of people. And so, I'm taking it as a compliment and moving on.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Define this

Sometimes when you enter a site's word verifications, you get a real word. Sometimes you get some letters that go together to sound like a word. Today, I introduce to you my new game: Define the Verification Word.

Today's word is from a word verification I typed in order to comment on my friend Jessica's blog: BUNFO

I define it as "euphoric" - "I get all bunfo when I hear good gospel music."

Jessica defines it as "a hair extension that when it is attached to the back of your head looks like you have put your hair in a bun (a.k.a. faux bun)" - "Her bunfo was just the right touch, enhancing the elegance of her debutante attire."

Anyone else care to tackle this word?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a
sort of spirit, and never dies.
~Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

A fellow musician of my husband's died a few weeks ago. Thursday there will be a memorial service to honor this man. An APB has gone out to those who knew him to come join what will be basically a grand jam session.

The thought of people joining together to play from their hearts in honor of a friend touches me. He has played with some of the best over the past decades--he was one of the best himself--and it will be a stellar gathering. (The definitions of "stellar" include: of or relating to the stars; composed of stars; outstanding. Interesting that that word should occur to me here.)

It feels strange to say that I feel excited about going to this memorial service. But this promises to be one of those times when sad and glad mingle to make a phantom harmonic, of music and of people.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Attn Writer Friends

Please rush right over to Mystic Lit and read the newest entry (by Kim Church). It is great!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Being Truthful

From Spirituality and Health magazine:

"It might be frightening to totally come out of hiding, because who knows what's going to happen now? Am I going to keep my relationship? Am I going to keep my job? Are my friends going to like me? There will be certain areas where it feels very risky, like there's a quite a lot at stake. But there must be an absolute willingness to be totally truthful with yourself and with everybody." --Adyashanti

This quote can be examined in light of the John Edwards affair, and I certainly think there is room for him to ask these questions of himself. But the answers are his burdens to bear, not mine.

However, in light of my decision to become a sober member of society, I had to ask myself these very difficult questions. Now, looking back, I realize that I was in hiding, I was not only hiding things from other people, like my smoking and how much I was drinking on a Wednesday night, but hiding parts of myself too. I was afraid that if people knew that I was insecure or couldn't dance, or that I wasn't all that funny really, or that I wasn't the grand conversationalist, that they might not want to be around me. And I was hiding things from myself too, like the fact that I have real feelings that are sad, angry, disgusted (with myself), disappointed (in myself). Alcoholism is a cave in which you can hide what you really are and what you really feel.

When I read the words of Adyshanti, I knew exactly what he meant. It was scary to get upset about something and have to really feel the emotion of sadness or anger. It was scary to be around my friends just as I am. It was hard to get on the dance floor in all my gawkiness when my husband's band played. IT WAS VERY, VERY SCARY.

But now I (and maybe John Edwards today too) can look at my face in the mirror and not look away. I may not be the best dancer or the funniest person or the most confident person in the world, but at least I've come out of the cave.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Laughter Yoga

You all know that my tear ducts sit very close to my funny bone. Does this explain why this video made me feel like crying??

I'm very intrigued, and of course, I ordered a copy of the CDs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thematic photography

While jogging through Blogdom, I ran across Writteninc. The blogger picks a theme each Wednesday and others post their photographs which best reflect the chosen theme. This week I wasn't quite sure what constituted "Patterns" but here are my interpretations.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dumb and dumber

My friend Elizabeth sent me this article by Nicholas Carr. He blames the internet for changing the way we process information to the extent that it is getting harder for us to concentrate for long periods of time when we read. This is not really new information, I guess, but the way he described his transformation was very similar to what has happened to me.

I used to read at least forty books a year. Sometimes in a weekend I would read two or three books. Now I find myself struggling to read a book every few weeks. I'll pick it up, read a page and think, "What did I just read?" I have never been a magazine reader, yet I'm buying more and more of them, leaving them open with articles half read. And my daily routine consists of reading email, blogs, and short articles from the internet.

Here is what Carr says:

"My mind isn't going--so far as I can tell--but it's changing. I'm not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I'm reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle."

He goes on to quote Bruce Friedman, a blogger who writes on the subject of the use of computers in medicine:

"I can't read War and Peace anymore. I've lost the ability to do that. Even a blog with more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it."

Carr says towards the end of the article:

"If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with 'content,' we will sacrifice something important not only to ourselves but in our culture."

I even found myself skimming his article (it was five pages long) and made myself go back to read it all, realizing the import of what he was saying. And when I blog, I'm torn between covering everything I want to say and saying it quickly and concisely so that I hold my readers' attention.

Take some time to read the article. Take some time to read a book, for that matter. It sounds like we may need the practice.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Andrew Harvey

When I first read an interview by Andrew Harvey in The Sun Magazine, I was very taken by what he had to say. I went on Youtube and found a lecture that he had done. He seemed very calm, very St. Francis-ish, and I again loved what he said. So as you know, my minister, our education director, and I drove to Fairfax, Virginia on Friday to go to a workshop he was doing at Unity of Fairfax. We are interested in having him come to our church in the fall as part of a spiritual gifts study we are doing.

Friday night we got a glimpse of the true Andrew Harvey. He is definitely NOT St. Francis-ish. He is bold, scolding, challenging, dramatic, funny, and above all passionate about making changes in the world. He is a student of Rumi, and read many poems by him that night. I liked his beautiful British accent as he read the poems, but felt he might be a bit much for us, not exactly a fit. My minister urged me to withhold judgment until after Saturday.

Without going into much detail, by mid-morning on Saturday, my head and heart was sounding a joyful, ecstatic YES to Andrew Harvey. And when he comes, I want to urge all of you to put on your most comfortable clothes, bring an open mind and heart, and prepare to become a passionate person.

Here are a few lines from a poem he read for us the first night:

Look for Passion, Passion, Passion, Passion

Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion;
Passion's the Supreme Elixir and renews all things;
No one can grow exhausted when passion is born!
Don't sigh heavily, your brow bleak with boredom;
Look for passion, passion, passion, passion!

That first line, "Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion," reminds me of the nights I come home tired from work, and plug in my computer and start to write. There is no sense of time or tiredness. I find that I can always find the energy to do the things that I feel excited about.

Harvey urges us to think about what we are reluctant to look at in the news, the articles that we rapidly flip by in the paper. Here is the cause, he says, that breaks your heart, and the cause that you can feel the most passionate about addressing. His are cats and the environment, a good spread of the large and small things that we feel strongly about.

He then urges us to perform certain sacred practices (I'll save something for him to tell you about!), and to pray the "dangerous prayer" where we ask for a direction or an opportunity to come to us so that we can act on our passion. Be prepared, he says, because it may not be an easy task.

I get on fire alot about causes and people--passionate, you might say--but he's on to something that can make us more effective and more alive. I'm going for it.