Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Body Language

Mikhail Baryshnikov said, “When a body moves, it’s the most revealing thing. Dance for me a minute and I’ll tell you who you are.”

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Beyond the surfboard painted with brown sea turtles, beyond the Starbucks mermaid, beyond round sea grape leaves and pointy palm leaves bobbing in the ocean breeze, pelicans sun.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Miracle Cure for Valentine's Day Blues

Greeting card aisles of Walgreens … Walmart … Hallmark can be fun a week before Valentine’s Day. Or they can be heart-piercingly painful.
·         “Happy Valentine’s Day to the best mother a girl could ever ask for,” purrs a sweet tabby cat extending a pawful of daisies. Trouble is, your mother hasn’t had time for you, really, your whole life. You reach in your purse for a tissue to dab at your eyes.
·         “A mother couldn’t ask for a sweeter, more devoted daughter” says lovely script on a lace ribbon flowing round a bouquet of pink roses. Yeah, right. Your lungs tighten as you picture your daughter’s beautiful face contorting as she snarls cynical opinions at you.
·         “Happy Valentine’s Day to my soul mate.” These words form a heart shape around silhouettes of a couple embracing. By now you’re sobbing so much, you can barely see through the tears, but why bother looking for a different card for your husband? They’ll all be gushy in ways your husband doesn’t live up to.

Over the decades, that woman crying in the card aisles has been me on many occasions. Who doesn’t have relational disappointments? My goodness, who hasn’t been disappointed in me? I know this is part of life. I process disappointments, usually in a healthy manner, as they surface. And I can give grace to loved ones who have distanced themselves from me. But choosing greeting cards still seems especially painful sometimes. Maybe holidays happen before I’ve worked through my latest disappointment, I don’t know.

I’d like to share a secret for choosing loving cards when you’re in the throes of heartache; it is nothing short of a miracle. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a new Christian and still had so many broken relationships, I shed many tears in greeting card aisles. So many loving, admiring words on those cards, and I just didn’t feel them. It seemed wrong to let Hallmark lie for me. One time though, God prompted me to buy a card that expressed my deepest prayer for the recipient. I did, and when the person read the card, I saw her face soften and her heart blossom right before my eyes. For weeks afterward, she thanked me for the lovely card. I couldn't believe it. Before the next card-giving occasion, I chose a card that said even more loving things to her, based on my hopes presented to the Lord. It, too, became a healing balm.

I have followed that divine prompting ever since, always with the same results. This leading from the Lord has helped me accept and love “difficult” people as they are, give my wishes for the person to the Lord where they belong, and even articulate my prayers for the person. Most importantly, God helped me bless these people with words that express how He sees them. In so doing, we drew closer to each other.

Try this miracle cure for Valentine’s Day blues!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ya Gotta Laugh

So it’s been a stressful week. I mean, really stressful. Mom in ICU, four days later blood counts too low to release her, no solution in sight. My days are dizzying: Visit Mom, try to remember what three nurses and two doctors said and all their names, decipher nursespeak like FFP and POA, determine which cellphone in the room is ringing, pick up sister from train, pick up Mom’s mail, visit Dad at nursing home, e-mail updates to family … you get the picture.

People use the word zoo to describe weeks like this, though every zoo I’ve ever been to is a sea of tranquility compared with this. An elephant languidly swinging its trunk and emitting the occasional bellow? Yes, much calmer than nurses, aides, orderlies, and doctors madly sprinting past each other, then sliding to Mom’s bedside for an earnest heart-to-heart. Mid-sentence, they fumble in their vibrating pocket to grab the cellphone whose ring has been programmed to ironically mellow Yanni-like keyboard riffs. Then they dash off, phone plastered to ear. I can’t help but think of scenes from the Jim Carrey movie Mr. Popper’s Penguins: Flippers flapping, penguins speedily slip-sliding on wet hallway floors.

Which brings me to Dad’s Alzheimer’s unit. Believe me, I mean no offense to dear folks with Alzheimer’s, but my visit to Dad right after the ICU zoo, struck me as funny. Their bubbly activities director had lined up some folks in wheelchairs in the sunroom to watch the Doris Day movie Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.  While Doris Day’s four mischievous boys dropped water balloons out a second-story window onto pedestrians below and tangled her phone cord and asked a million questions, a lady two wheelchairs down from Dad’s constantly repeated, “Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary …” Maybe she was praying for Doris Day, who knows? In the middle of on-screen chaos, Doris Day’s doorbell rang. At the nursing home, bubbly activities director’s pocket rang, so she grabbed her phone and began to yell into it, which I suppose she had to do since the TV volume had to be loud enough for residents to hear the movie. Just then, the one lady in Dad’s hall who still walks hobbled to the sunroom’s aviary and began pounding flat-palmed on the glass to get the birds to fly around. Ten colorful little birds flitted and swooped but as soon as they lit on a branch, the lady pounded on the glass again. I laughed and thought, “Oh, this is perfect.”

But I was wrong.  On my drive back to the hospital to check in again on Mom, I passed a man riding a bicycle. On top of his parka hood was a beanie with a propeller whirring. He was too bundled up for me to see his face, but I’m pretty sure it would have looked like Alfred E. Newman’s of MAD magazine. A propeller beanie? Okay, now it's perfect.