aloha dog rental?

So we're headed to Hawaii to serve a mission in Kona from December to May. We met in Hawaii 13 years ago, and we are overjoyed at the idea of going back in an Orthodox context, to serve a community that we've heard wonderful things about. We're ready for a new challenge and adventure and we rejoice in this opportunity.

Each time I'm out among strangers, at the Gap or the hair salon or on the train, I have to resist the temptation to share our news with innocent bystanders. And sometimes after I've casually mentioned that I really do need these t-shirts because I'm headed to Hawaii in December, I have to take myself aside and ask myself if it was really necessary for me to volunteer that information.

Anna can't wait to snuggle up with the geckos, and she's elated about wearing flip-flops all winter long. But there is one problem. The other night, as she was settling down to sleep and Freda was curled at her feet she asked me if we could get a puppy.

"Not before Hawaii, because we would have to leave the puppy here," I said. " Even Freda will have to stay here."

"But are there pets stores there?" she asked.

"I don't know--we could look around," I said.

"Can we rent a dog?" she asked.

to moodle or not to moodle?

I don't know if knitting really counts as moodling, but the image is restful just the same. Photo by Amber.

So you see the imagination needs moodling--long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering. These people who are always briskly doing something and as busy as waltzing mice, they have little, sharp, stacatto ideas, such as: "I see where I can make an annual cut of $3.47 in my meat budget." But they have no slow, big ideas. And the fewer consoling, noble, shining, free, jovial, magnanimous ideas that come, the more nervously and desperately they rush and run from office to office and up and downstairs, thinking by action at last to make life have some warmth and meaning.

--If You Want to Write by Brenda Uelan


a prayer for those whose work is invisible

Photo by Amber, who teaches me to live with eyes open wide.

For those who paint the undersides of boats, makers of ornamental drains on roofs too high to be seen; for cobblers who labor over inner soles; for seamstresses who stitch the wrong sides of linings; for scholars whose research leads to no obvious discovery; for dentists who polish each gold surface of the fillings of upper molars; for sewer engineers and those who repair water mains; for electricians; for artists who suppress what does injustice to their visions; for surgeons whose sutures are things of beauty. For all those whose work is for Your eye only, who labor for Your entertainment or their own, who sleep in peace or do not sleep in peace, knowing that their efforts are unknown.

Protect them from downheartedness and from diseases of the eye.
Grant them perseverance, for the sake of Your love which is humble and heedless of reward.

-By Mary Gordon, from The Paris Review


an endless listening

I recently read an astonishing article called "In the Presence of Death" by Christopher Bamford about the process of caring for his wife as she died. I loved the article so much that I wanted to run out to Kinkos and make copies for friends far and near. I can't find a copy online, or I would link to it from here.

I wanted to start a book group (or would that be an article group?) just so I could talk it through, in the same way that Ser and I have chewed over every issue of Brain, Child (Ser, did you read "Holding Baby Birds" yet?), and Amber and Bethany and I have explored poetry and self-help books together.

But truth be told, I haven't even managed to shower for the last few days--we're all sick with colds--so the best I can do is share a few choice quotes. As always I'd LOVE to hear what you think and which quotes resonate with you. And if you are a silent lurker on this blog--you read it, but never comment, come forward--out yourself!

So without further ado, here's Christopher Bamford:

"I have come to understand that life is praise and lamentation, and that the two are very close, perhaps one--and that they are transformative. Despite the almost constant sadness, confusion, setbacks, self-pity, and other burdens of ordinary egotism, I feel the wound, the opening, and sometimes the joy, the certainty of knowing that meaning exists even if I am not yet able to cognize it fully."

"But the liturgy continued, life continued, on both planes. Her body, though it was only her her body, had served nobly in the service of her life and was a sacred, numinous thing, to be handled and regarded with awe and reverence. The children bathed, oiled and washed her with tenderness and love. The house was filled with people. There was an enormous sense of stasis, of in-betweenness, liminality. It was as if, like her, the space we occupied lay between worlds, not yet here, no longer completely there."

"All this meant that not only was heaven a human place but that life, her story, was endless; that all our stories are endless. And that to understand the meaning of an endless story--mine, hers or yours--would require a new way of being in the world. And a new way of listening, an endless listening. For we are not used to stories that have no end. We neither know how to live them nor how to tell them nor how to listen to them."


first steps

Natalie is walking with her walker!


bells in winter

Photo by Amber

Ring the Bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
that's how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen


little (and big) leavings

Anna with her buddy Skylar waiting to go into school.

Today is Anna's first day of kindergarten. I was a little teary (actually a lot teary) as I dropped her off. I had to hide in the hallway and brush the tears away so she wouldn't see me. My friend Sasha saw me out there and she said, "Jenny, I know, I know--she's beyond your control now."

I've generally rejoiced as Anna has become increasingly independent--and the way this also liberates me, but there was a certain sobriety about this morning. I'm starting to grasp how fast our children actually grow and how sweet and fleeting our time with them is, despite the sometimes eternal afternoons and relentless nights. But they do grow--Anna has grown--and is growing--quickly.

This morning and last night I wanted to weep and ask her forgiveness for all the ways in which I failed her when she was smaller, when she needed me most. I wanted to sing Willie Nelson's "You Were Always on My Mind" as I headed out the door of her classroom. But that's not, of course, what she needed.

She didn't need my remorse, my tears or my fears. She needed me to convey confidence--to act as if this leaving, like the hundreds of larger and smaller ones to come are just part of the process, a process I (mean to) trust.

Frederick Buechner captures this bittersweet mixture well in a quote about getting his girls off to school:

Creation is underway, breakfast is underway, steam from the tea kettle is fogging up the windows . . . Somebody is crying while somebody else says it is her own fault that she is crying. We break fast together, we break bread together fast. The clock on the wall over my wife's head is ticktocking our time away, time away. Soon it will be time to leave for school, soon it will be time to leave.