Thursday, August 30, 2012

Poem 14 - Under One Small Star

This is another poem that I’ve loved for an awful long time. I love poems like this, poems written out for the universe—and for whoever else is listening. Poems about limitations and finding your small place in the largeness of things.

Wislawa Szymborska won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She passed on in February at age 88.

Under One Small Star
Wislawa Szymborska

My apologies to chance for calling it necessity.
My apologies to necessity if I’m mistaken, after all.
Please, don’t be angry, happiness, that I take you as my due.
May my dead be patient with the way my memories fade.
My apologies to time for all the world I overlook each second.
My apologies to past loves for thinking that the latest is the first.
Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.
Forgive me, open wounds, for pricking my finger.
I apologize for my record of minuets to those who cry from the depths.
I apologize to those who wait in railway stations for being asleep today at five a.m.
Pardon me, hounded hope, for laughing from time to time.
Pardon me, deserts, that I don’t rush to you bearing a spoonful of water.
And you, falcon, unchanging year after year, always in the same cage,
your gaze always fixed on the same point in space,
forgive me, even if it turns out you were stuffed.
My apologies to the felled tree for the table’s four legs.
My apologies to great questions for small answers.
Truth, please don’t pay me much attention.
Dignity, please be magnanimous.
Bear with me, O mystery of existence, as I pluck the occasional thread from your train.
Soul, don’t take offense that I’ve only got you now and then.
My apologies to everything that I can’t be everywhere at once.
My apologies to everyone that I can’t be each woman and each man.
I know I won’t be justified as long as I live,
since I myself stand in my own way.
Don’t bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words,
then labor heavily so that they may seem light.

from Poems New and Collected 1957-1997
(Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Not still asleep, not quite awake, the dream played like a movie across the white screen of my consciousness: my husband wanted a divorce and I was powerless to stop him. I was awake enough a few minutes later to know that this powerlessness was something I’d always felt in my marriage and needed to address in my heart. My husband is a very strong individual. He speaks with certainty and authority. I, on the other hand, have always taken more time to be certain. He thinks I’m afraid of making decisions because I’m afraid of being wrong. I feel like he doesn’t hear me out. It’s a classic Mars-Venus thing, I’d bet, but when it shows up in your dreams, you know you have to work on it.

At any rate, I woke up just 13 minutes before me alarm, so I decided to wait for it to go off until I rolled over and asked him to hold me and tell me he loved me, so I was sure it was all a dream. When the alarm went off, I rolled over, and…he wasn’t there.

I dissolved into a sobbing mess.

Was the dream true or wasn’t it? Was I really alone? This is certainly exactly what it would feel like.

I have a couple friends who are in the before and after stages of divorce. Unable to fathom the heartbreak and pain and betrayal of dreams, I’ve always kind of kept my distance from thoughts of divorce. My husband (and his kids), after all, is all I have. Even thinking about losing him was just too much.

But when I woke up alone, I thought, “So this is what it’s like. This is the other side of losing someone you love.” I couldn’t stop crying. I padded into the living room to find my husband asleep on the couch. My voice stuck in my throat twice before I could give him my customary morning greeting, “Wakey-wakey.” I stood over him a crying snotting mess, and he didn’t notice for a long time. Then he smiled a sweet smile and asked, “What’s wrong?” He’s the only person I’ve ever met who can come out of a deep sleep and smile and say something kind. Every. Morning. Of. His. Life. It is reason enough to stay married to him.

I put my head on his chest, and he folded his arms around me. I choked out, “I had a nightmare. And then I woke up and you were gone.”

“Nightmares aren’t real,” he said. Whenever he says something true, he sounds like a father. A teacher. And then, “I love you, and I’ll always be here.”

After more holding and sobbing and snotting, I made me way to the bathroom to take a shower. My stomach was still heaving trying to catch my breath. He followed me, held me to him, looked into my eyes and said, “You are so beautiful.”

Only a man truly and deeply in love could say that to a woman with a fresh haircut, swollen eyes, and a river of mucus flowing down her face. Only my husband could say it and mean it.

“You never say that to me anymore,” I squeaked. It had nothing to do with the nightmare, but I’ve been meaning to complain about it for awhile now.

“Maybe I don’t say it as much as I used to, but I do say it,” he corrected. Father. Teacher.

And then, “It’s okay. You’ve been doing a lot of prayer work on drought lately. This is just like that. Know that nothing you need can be taken away from you.”

He is my rain. He is my river, my irrigation when my heart is especially dry and my crops are failing and I feel like I’m going to lose the farm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Girls' Night

Every other Wednesday I get a "girls' night." I'm not sure why it's plural, because I stay home alone, but it's a nice time to fill myself up, to renew. I watch recorded episodes of "19 Kids and Counting," "The United Bates of America," "The Little Couple," and "Sister Wives." I screen calls. I make BLTs and french fries. Or, I occasionally order in Chinese food (Chicken and Mixed Vegetables, Wonton Soup, and Crab Rangoons). I read, I sing, I make a mess if I want to. I wear something fun and don't leave the house. It's a day I look forward to for two weeks.
Here are some photos from last Wednesday's Girls' Night.

My fortune cookie. I was too full to do more than nibble it.

My current music of choice to sing along with. (Everyone sings better when no one is listening.)

After watching my shows and eating supper, I did a little book organizing in my study. I found these fun Jane Austen books recently at a garage sale.

And finally, the note I left for hubby when it was all over.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What I'm Praying About...

 Human footsteps

Until he has fully transcended the human form, man cannot ignore the material world and his material obligations. Still, I find I often focus so much on my spiritual identity that I totally ignore my human one. Lately, I’ve realized the need for taking human footsteps in setting limits in my life. I look to the Bible and Science and Health for spiritual advice, but applying that to the situation is up to me. The trouble is in knowing which—and sometimes, how many—human footsteps to take. I’m realizing more and more how thin the line between love and selfishness really is. Same with patience and inertia.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poem 13 - Ode to Tomatoes

If you’re gardening this summer, you’re likely overrun with tomatoes at this point. Here’s an ode to tomatoes—one of my favorite foods—by Pablo Neruda, known for his poetic odes.

Ode To Tomatoes
Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it’s time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poem 12 - Welcome

Here is a wonderful poem about growing, changing, and belonging. I’m feeling this poem right now. And Dunn should have won some kind of an award for the line “the clear goddamn of thunder.” Simply brilliant.

Stephen Dunn

if you believe nothing is always what’s left
after a while, as I did,
If you believe you have this collection
of ungiven gifts, as I do (right here
behind the silence and the averted eyes)
If you believe an afternoon can collapse
into strange privacies—
how in your backyard, for example,
the shyness of flowers can be suddenly
overwhelming, and in the distance
the clear goddamn of thunder
personal, like a voice,
If you believe there’s no correct response
to death, as I do; that even in grief
(where I’ve sat making plans)
there are small corners of joy
If your body sometimes is a light switch
in a house of insomniacs
If you can feel yourself straining
to be yourself every waking minute
If, as I am, you are almost smiling…

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Importance of Modeling to Children

If you want him to be happy, choose to be happy.
If you want him to appreciate, be thankful. 
If you want him to have good friends, examine your own.
If you want him to value time, don’t waste yours.
If you want him to stay out of debt, honor yours.
If you want him to be humble, teach him to apologize.
If you want him to be ethical, do the right thing—even when he’s not looking.
If you want him to be courageous, do hard things in front of him.
If you want him to be selfless, make sacrifices for him.
If you want him to be forgiving, don’t judge him.
If you want him to learn right from wrong, you can’t always say “yes.”
If you want him to be a good person, be a good parent.

Friends, please do not use or reproduce my words without my knowledge and consent.

Monday, August 13, 2012

You Bring Out...(poems)

As promised, two of my own "You Bring Out..." poems.

You Bring Out the 1950s
Housewife in Me

You bring out the June Cleaver
and Donna Reed in me. The yes dear

in me. You bring out the rolling pin
in me. The perfect piecrust and icebox

cookies in me. You bring out the dime
store in me, the pink poodle knickknack

in me. You bring out the proper hemline,
embroidered handkerchief, petticoat

and white gloves in me. The dotted swiss
and crossed at the ankle in me. You bring

out the pink and black kitchen in me,
the tea towels and gingham aprons in me.

You bring out the cucumber sandwiches
in me, the pot roast and boiled potatoes

in me, the Jell-O salad and deviled ham
in me. You bring out the Lilt home

permanent in me. The Norman Rockwell
illustrations in me. The Frank Sinatra in me,

April in Paris and World on a String in me.
You bring out the Laura Petrie in me,

the separate twin beds in me. You bring out
the stockings and garters in me, backdoor

milkman and cocktails in the den in me.
You bring out the supper at six, ribbon

in my hair, pre-revolution in me.

Carrie Butler Becker
21 July 2003

Friends, please do not use or reproduce my words without my knowledge and consent.


You Bring Out the Boy in Me

You bring out the World Series in me,
crack of the bat, bases are loaded, bottom
of the ninth, winning run, crowd goes wild
in me. The swordfight, climbing trees,

spitting over the balcony, daring to jump
in me. The backyard, bugs in a mayonnaise
jar, magnifying glass on ants in me. The spit
wads, bunk beds, clubhouse, dirty jokes
in me. The Boy Scout, superhero, popping

wheelies, don’t be a sissy in me. The cap on
backwards, shirts vs. skins, armpit farts,
flexing in front of a mirror, slap on the back
in me. The roughhouser, BB gun, last one
in’s a rotten egg in me. The war in me,

the fistfight, black eye, lunch money bully
in me. The cockiness, the my dad can beat
your dad in me. The bring it on, tough guy
in me. The Old Yeller, football injury, letter
jacket, underdog in me. The garage band,

hard rock electric bass, “Wipe Out” drum solo
in me. The air guitar in me. The you’re just like
your father, and someday I’ll be somebody in me.

Carrie Butler Becker
21 July 2003

Friends, please do not use or reproduce my words without my knowledge and consent.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Poem 11 - you bring out the boring white guy in me

Okay, it’s time for a tongue and cheek fun poem. Here’s one of my favorites from that category. This inspired me, years ago, to write a couple of similar poems which I’ll post soon.

you bring out the boring white guy in me
Jim Daniels

                for Christina Acosta

the Ward Cleaver in me. The Pat Boone

in me. The K-Mart in me. The Slurpee

in me. The boiled hotdog in me. The mac

and cheese in me. The Tang in me.

You bring out the Hamburger Helper

in me. You bring out the Twinkie

in me. The Cheez Whiz in me.

You bring out the bowling trophy

in me. The student council in me.

The parliamentary procedure in me.

The missionary position in me.

You bring out the canned vegetables

in me. The Jell-o in me. The training

wheels in me. You bring out

the lawn edger in me. The fast-food

drive-thru window in me. The Valu

Meal in me. You bring out the white

briefs in me. You bring out

the cheap beer and weak coffee

in me. You bring out the 15%

tip chart in me. The sad overweight

weekend golfer in me. You bring out

the ex-smoker in me. The jumper

cables in the trunk with flares

and the red flag to tie to the window

in me. You bring out the Tony Orlando

in me. The canned situation comedy

laughter in me. The elevator music

in me. You bring out the medley

of TV commercial jingles in me.

The Up with People in me.

I’ve come to a complete stop

at the stop sign. I’ve got my

emergency flashers on. My doors

are locked, baby,

I’m waiting for you.

from Indiana Review
Volume 25, Number 1, Summer 2003

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Garden Update

I haven't forgotten to post a garden update, I've just been too busy out watering to write it! I water every night, and these days it looks like it could use a morning watering, too. Here are some pictures from a week or so ago. I guess the fence has been working because we've seen no signs of intruders since it went up.

I've already harvested three large tomatoes and a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes as well as four cucumbers. Tomatoes and cucumbers are my favorite foods on earth. (But if I could grow bacon in my garden, I would!)

The glads haven't produced any stems yet. They are an August flower (at least in Wisconsin they are), so I guess they have a few weeks. I can't wait to see them. The Farmer's Market is already full of them, and they remind me of my great-grandmother, Gladyswho grew them partly because of her name. :)

Friday, August 3, 2012


Yesterday when I walked back to my office from my afternoon break, the desperate thought came to me, “God, if I don’t make a connection in my life soon, I don’t know if I can go on.” It sounds ridiculous now, reading those words, but at the time, and for the rest of the day, that night, and even the next morning, they were very, very real. This emptiness is hard. It’s visceral. It’s bone and muscle and blood pain. You want to give what you have, you want to give it ALL, you are ready without reservation, and again and again, the hand never giveth, and maybe even taketh away.

Recently, a very promising friendship faded away without blossom. It made me sad, and tired, and I dwell on it in the middle of the night when my heart rehearses its “Things I Don’t Know How to Get Over” list. My soul-sister of a daughter, who is, incidentally nothing like me at all, hasn’t been in contact with me for well over a year. My heart aches for her. I’ve heard things, and I worry about her. This blog, started in order to build a community of likeminded women, sharing their joys and suffering, doesn’t seem to be making connections yet. I feel like I’m sending out arrows, and they keep landing on parched barren land.

“What am I doing wrong?” I keep asking God, “Don’t I deserve friendship?” I’m pretty sure I do too much asking when I pray and not enough listening. I think it might be God’s nature to not hear questions because, after all, he knows he’s given the answers already.

I dwell on what a prominent fundamentalist Christian family tells other Christian families who feel lonely while living their convictions, “Jesus never promised you friends.”

Is that really how some folks see God? The Father who’d rather see us lonely than connected? Rather we suffer than draw together? I simply cannot believe that. He puts the solitary in families, doesn’t he? I have to believe that or there’d be no point. If he only wanted us to fellowship with the likeminded, how would we ever reach the ones who are ready to change their minds? I don’t think God’s heart has different rooms. I don’t think he runs a list each morning of summa cum laude Christians and cum laude Christians and fifth-year Christians and Christians on probation. 

And yet, I must be misunderstanding something about God’s nature to think of my own as friendless.

God alone is alone, I wrote once. I believe that God is All. There is only One. And if there is only One and that One is All, I cannot possibly be alone. I know this. I also know that I lack the confidence to declare this every time loneliness rides up on its big black steed.

So where does that leave me? I don’t believe in a God who withholds in order to teach. He’s not up there holding back the chocolate pudding until we eat our peas. He’s also not telling me I can’t go out with my friends until my work is done. He’s just not that kind of parent. But maybe he’s saying I’m looking for something where that thing can’t be had. Maybe I’m looking for friendship to fill a part of me that can’t be filled that way. People speak of a God-shaped hole. Maybe I’m trying to fit an F-shaped friend into a G-shaped God hole, and he’s trying to tell me even while I’m cramming it for all it’s worth that that’s not the way we do things. “We” being spiritual beings; “things” being spiritual things.

This is to say, we all take up our crosses. We all bear some load we think we can’t possible bear, and we do it because we think there’s only one way up the mountain. We kind of fail to realize, though, that the point of the mountain wasn’t lugging our cross up it. The point of the mountain was the view from the top. And sometimes the only way to fully enjoy that view is to go it alone.

So, really, the healing I seek isn’t one for Loneliness. The healing I seek is for a better understanding of Oneness.

And then there will be no crosses.

And there will be no mountains. Because I’ll be able to see the view without one.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Poem 10 - Little Things

Sharon Olds is one of my very favorite poets. I hardly read a single poem of hers that doesn’t knock my head back. She writes of everyday things with clear insight, making small things big things (because that is, after all, the proper place for most small things). My favorites of her poems capture moments in time. This one captures a moment beautifully and connects us to other moments in her life. I love that it speaks of the love for her child and the very different, but equally compelling, love for her father.

For all you parents with kids going off to summer camp, this one is for you.

Little Things
Sharon Olds

After she’s gone to camp, in the early
evening I clear our girl’s breakfast dishes
from the rosewood table, and find a small
crystallized pool of maple syrup, the
grains standing there, round, in the night, I
rub it with my fingertip
as if I could read it, this raised dot of
amber sugar, and this time
when I think of my father, I wonder why
I think of my father, of the beautiful blood-red
glass in his hand, or his black hair gleaming like a
broken-open coal. I think I learned to
love the little things about him
because of all the big things
I could not love, no one could, it would be wrong to.
So when I fix on this tiny image of resin
or sweep together with the heel of my hand a
pile of my son’s sunburn peels like
insect wings, where I peeled his back the night before camp,
I am doing something I learned early to do, I am
paying attention to small beauties,
whatever I have—as if it were our duty to
find things to love, to bind ourselves to this world.