New Fridge Day

Yesterday, I watched as two dudes from Best Buy hauled our old 14.2 cubic feet Hotpoint away and replaced it with a shiny new 18 cubic feet Insignia.

The decision to replace our fridge didn’t come easy. My husband and I do not subscribe to the consumeristic driven philosophy of “get a new one even if the old one ain’t broken.” We tend to run a thing until it’s last sputtering breath and even then we hesitate to make new purchases.

Our Hotpoint wasn’t broken down. Sure it was gross from age and could only be cleaned to a certain extent. Sure the door shelves were held on by duct tape. But it worked swimmingly. The thing of it was, the oldness of it meant that it was a menace to society, by which I mean: it was not a good earth-caring citizen. I remember reading years ago that if a household was going to replace a certain large appliance in an effort to make a more eco-minded upgrade, old refrigerators were highest on the list in terms of having advanced in technology to the extent of it being wise to get a new one. So we finally pulled the trigger, after literally years of talking about it.

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Big Limbs A’Gonna Fall

Some time on Wednesday during the day or early evening – or perhaps it was around 10pm and it was the sound I heard that prodded me to get up from my almost sleep to investigate – a widow-maker fell from one of our two slowly dying elm trees in the backyard.

As massive tangle-wall of green bramble, spindly branches, and 100-year-old heavy trunk has taken up residency in the middle of the yard, where I mow and sometimes, when the spirit calls for it, frolic.

In some respect, we saw it coming. It was only a matter of time – just like everything else. Nothing ever happens without circumstance. Nothing has ever happened for “no reason” or “out of nowhere.” Had we been wildly surprised and/or shaken up at the sight of it, it would’ve said much more about our own sad state of affairs than it would’ve the tree’s.

Still, when suddenly confronted face-to-face with such a large object that once forever held steady up above, it can make a person ponder such things as constancy, and how very many ways there are to die.

Grief and Loss

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I share the news of our sweet cat Goncobe passing away this morning. We knew this was coming, and in fact scheduled a house visit to put him down tomorrow morning from the same vet who put down his brother Juba this same time last year, but nature took its course and he passed away on his own accord.

Just the other day, as I was reading through a book of poetry by Mary Oliver, I came across this lovely line, which says it all:

To live in this world,
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.
 
Mary Oliver
 

What a blessing that Mike and I and Jaden were all able to be with him in his active dying phase this morning, just as we were all together when we picked him and his brother Juba up from the Humane Society as kittens in 2004, when Jaden was just 4-years-old. The two brother litter-mate kittens looked so much alike that only Jaden could tell them apart. Until we got to know them, Mike and I would constantly ask 4-year-old Jaden which one was which!

Grief has a way of slowing the bones of time. Such is the way today.

I wrote this earlier today while at Goncobe’s side, as his last breaths came in fits and spurts:

I cradle my sorrow like fragile eggs,
 hatching slowly in the nest of my heart.
Transfixed by the soft approach of light 
into an otherwise darkened place, 
through hairline fractures in the veil
 separating two worlds which serve as one, 
I reach out,
 crack myself open,
 and let my grief
 sing its rightful song.

Tender holding
 is what life asks for, 
in the moments before death.
 Tender holding,
 that is all. It is enough.

Please hold us in your heart during this time of mourning.

Nicole, Mike, and Jaden

On Sexual Energy

True Love

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.

True Love is the third of the five mindfulness trainings as part of the Plum Village tradition led by our root teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been hearing – both directly and indirectly – from more and more sangha members, an increasing inquiry centered around how to date. And more appropriately: how to date well and skillfully, as a mindfulness practitioner.

When I first started hearing these ponderings from folks, I thought to myself: I have no freakin idea. And furthermore: I’m not sure I can ever offer anything on this particular topic, given that I’ve been married since I was 20-years-old. Isn’t is rather like the old adage to never get a haircut from a bald barber? Who wants dating advice from a seasoned married woman who’s dating history consists solely of being really poor at it from age 15-19?

But as is often the case for me, things have been percolating. I’m a s..l..o..w percolator. I often need time to digest and absorb things, in order to figure out how best to approach situations.

Oftentimes I’ll rotate a particular matter back and forth between the front burner and the back burner of my conscious thought process – and then at times I move the matter onto a whole other backup stove I have located in some other room, where it’s still simmering but more removed from my mental sight. Depending on the matter at hand, this might happen for weeks or months at a time before I feel as though I’ve landed on some insight or clarity into the subject.

Last week, on my way home from the market, some ideas starting taking shape as to what I might have to offer on the topic of dating. An insight arose: in between the lines of people wondering how to date well, is an underground inquiry about how to properly work with sexual energy. What people are really wondering about is how to engage in having sexual relations, especially outside of a long-term committed relationship and/or when true love is not part of the deal.

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Good People

Clarence Jordan, 1912-1969

As part of the class I’m currently taking on white awareness and developing racial literacy, we were asked to put together a short presentation highlighting a white ally (a white person who supported racial equality or worked on behalf of black people in some way). It could be someone alive and active in this area today or someone from the past. In doing an online search, I chose Clarence Jordan.

In the spirit of shining light on the simple and profound truth of how good people abound in the world (past & present), I thought I’d share the report I put together, which I’ll be offering to my class tomorrow. The way I see it: we can all use some good-people-medicine and stand to be reminded about the power of heartfelt and authentic determination to do well by others.

_______

Clarence Jordan was a white Baptist preacher who was described as a man with the zeal of a missionary. He was born in 1912 in Talbotton GA, and died of a heart attack at age 57, in 1969.

He graduated from Ag-college and then went on to seminary, where he earned a PhD in the Greek New Testament (and if I remember right, he only read the bible in Greek).

While at seminary, he met Florence Kroeger and they soon married and went on to have 4 children.

Clarence was a man of many interests and talents. I watched an interview where someone said that you didn’t want to mess with him – not because of his stature or powers of intimidation but because he was a man who bore the truth and lived diligently with his moral code in a way that few others did.

In 1942, Clarence founded Koinonia Farm (KF) in southwest GA, which was situated on 440-acres. Koinonia means: communion or fellowship, which in the 5th book of the New Testament is applied to the earliest Christian community.

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Passing Away

My grandmother Mary, who passed away on October 27th, 2018

 

Yesterday, my paternal grandmother passed away. After a long life spent singing in the church choir, attending mass, and being the hub for tending to her 8 children and 12 grandchildren, she went the way all of us inevitably will, sifting from form to memory.

She was my last surviving grandparent.

Last night, I lit a fire out back in her honor. And it just so happened that a bundle of my maternal grandmother’s ashes sat beside me. They followed me home from a recent trip I took to see my mom. I never said a proper good-bye to her, when she passed away last December – not in a way that acknowledged that the breath of a life had been transferred back to its source. Her ashes then became symbolic of both of my grandmothers departures.

They became that of Mike’s grandmothers, too.

We added a small handful to the fire, and watched as the ashes both settled into the crackling embers and rose up amid the smoke, which caused the drying elm leaves above to rattle and dance.

We then set out in the darkness of 8pm in the autumnal mountains, to scatter the rest of the ashes. We set some adrift on the Bitterroot River and laid the remainder to rest in a grassy field surrounded by ponderosas.

Aho grandmothers.

A blessing to you all.

You gave us life.

You carried us on the same backs of all those who came before us.

We as your grandchildren are your continuation.

Now, we carry you forward,

on the same backs of all those who still remain,

and will soon follow in our footsteps.

My grandmother & grandfather’s continuation of grandchildren

We Are What We Read (to our kids)

Titles published from the Little Golden Book are a common staple to find among the shelves of most households sportin’ young children. Having started in the early 1940’s – and an instant hit on the market – people of all ages (in the U.S anyway) likely recall having read at least a few books in the Little Golden Book series, in their day. The one I’m holding in the pic above, was loaned to me by the 5-year-old I nanny for. He wanted me to borrow it for a few days, which I immediately saw as a great act of generosity, as not only is this book new to him but he LOVES Star Wars. So wanting me to borrow this book was on par with a kid – any kid – offering to share their candy. Wanting to support his kindness, I gratefully agreed to take it home.

I made sure to read it, of course. I mean, I have to be prepared should he ask me what my favorite part was. It’s also simply not kosher to borrow a book a 5-year-old insists on you taking and then not read the darn thing. That’s just not cool.

So…the thing is, this so-called “kids” book, is chockablock with violence and drama. There is a weapon, bad guy, and/or an explosion on every single page. Here are the trigger words peppered in:

Page 1/2: war, evil, captured, gangster
Page 3/4: capturing, captures, dungeon, attacks, crushes
Page 5/6: punish, sand monster, fight, henchmen, KA-BOOM!, explodes
Page 7/8: evil, battle, destroy, Dark Side, X-wing fighter
Page 9/10: destroy, Death Star, attack, strike team
Page 11/12: (has bad guys, weapons, and explosive action picture but no trigger words)
Page 13/14: strike team, captured, fight
Page 15/16: attack, Death Star, destroy, enemies, traps, destroy, Death Star
Page 17/18: Death Star, rage, dark side, fight, duel
Page 19/20: battle, destroyed, evil, Zzzaap!, Death Star, destroyed
Page 21/22: battle, TIE fighters, Death Star, BOOM!, collapse, Death Star, explodes
Page 23: evil, roars

And here are the sentences that especially stood out to me:

“To punish Luke and his friends, Jabba will feed them to the Sarlacc, a sand monster. It will digest them for a thousand years!”
“He shocks Luke with evil Force lightning from his fingers. Zzzaap!”
“With the last of his strength, he rises up and heaves the Emperor into a deep reactor shaft!”

What the heck Little Golden Book?! Did you guys actually write: heaves the Emperor into a deep reactor shaft?

Is it just me that finds the above trigger words and associating violence and drama on every page alarming? Did I mention Little Golden Books aim to target kids ages 5 and under?

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