Raining Gratitude

It is plain old yucky out today. I can feel winter coming. And yet, today I am consumed with gratitude, hope and joy. I have two incredible children. Our family is going through a very difficult time. My boys are not only compassionate and honest, they are willing to be vulnerable and share intimate relationships. Their generation gets a lot of negative publicity. They are evidence that not all of what we hear and see is valid.

It is hard to talk with adolescent boys about difficult things. My kids don’t prefer to talk with their mother about addiction, mental illness, sex, or abuse any more than yours do. But they are willing and able to. They know how to listen, share, be open, and love. These are characteristics way more important to me than scholarship, athletic performance, and political opinion. In the language of their school, they are “men for others.” I feel deeply thankful that they have evolved into such people.

I would like to be able to take some credit for this but deeply acknowledge the effects that their friends, teachers, coaches, and others have had on them. They are able to be true friends and, in turn, have earned true friends. When life is hard, they have resources to call upon besides good old mom and the surface world of social media. Underlying all of this is their faith in a merciful, loving God and their acceptance that much in life is out of their control. Neverthe less, they have the wisdom and courage to say and do the things that affect change. They are able to look at themselves and recognize their weaknesses and defects and work to improve them. They derive happiness from the joy and comfort they bring to others.
They vote and bear witness with their hands and their feet. How fortunate I am.

I will admit that, in the past, I have shallowly prayed that they grow tall enough to be satisfied with their height and that they would achieve certain swim results; I care about what they have cared about over the years. But my deepest, most intimate prayer has been that they become the kind of young men they are. God doesn’t often do what I advise, but (S)He sure does listen to my suggestions. Together, we bleed, feel, change, and heal. I am so grateful for this and for the fact that they have found and chosen to befriend others like them. I won’t always be here to guide and nurture them, but they will always have the faith and the friends that will fill that hole.

The Titanic

I keep hearing the oldsummer camp song “The Titanic” in my head this morning.

O, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue
And the people said that the water’d never come through
So they had a big surprise when the water rushed inside
It was sad when the great ship went down.
(Hit the bottom)
It was sad. (So sad.)
It was sad. (Too bad.)
It was sad when the great ship went downto the bottom of the
sea/Husbands and wives, little children lost their lives
It was sad when the great ship went down.

My family of origin is that ship. Mom and Dad did it all so right. They worked hard, loved hard, did the next right things, and parented well. For decades. It was a beautiful ship. And yet, here I am watching the family ship sink.

My only brother is an addict of the worst variety and has been since 1999, at least. His body is imploding, medically speaking. And his mind? Remember the old TV commercial- “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. See the difference?” He has now gone completely crazy, clinically speaking.

But only my parents, three family members, and I know. They are “being strong” and doing the best they can. He is a physical danger to them and himself. He lives with them and holds them physically and mentally hostage. In trying to care for and love their sick son (addiction is a disease aftre all), they have enabled his mental deterioration and now live all day, every day, in fear and shame. They are exhausted. Their bodies and minds are failing them. They love their son and are trying to keep him safe, at their own risk.

The iceberg? Alcohol, then drugs, then mental illness. Just like the giant floating chunks of ice in cartoons, it seemed treatable enough, at first. But there was so much hidden beneath the roiling waves. It got bigger and bigger and badder and badderr. Fathoms beneath the surface is the insanity of what was a beautiful little boy. And here we are with a sinking ship and not enough life boats.

I, and my little family, are safe enough on one of those rescue crafts. But it sucks watching the ship go down, with your parents on deck crying and waving good bye. And it sucks even more to know your brother drove that boat straight into that iceberg, in spite of all the warnings and assistance he was offered. It even sucks to be the one who survived- so far.

The more I write this, the more apt the metaphor feels. I don’t honestly know if my little life boat with my husband and children on board will make it safely to shore. While witness and prayer instruct our navigation to safety, there is just no guarantee we’ll all make it back in one piece. What happened to those carefree days of singing by the campfire that cautionary tale of hubris and terror? So blithely I belted out those lyrics, hardly suspecting that very story would be replayed in my own life.

I am sad. I am angry. Despair washes over me again and again like the tumultuous crests of the North Atlantic. I am scared. But fear, I’ve heard, is the very thing we feel as we summon the courage to accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and learn the difference between them.

I am trying to be brave.

The Imaginary Boyfriend

Dear Jake from Connecticut,

I doubt you’ll remember me. I never actually met you at Hampton Beach during the summer of ’85. I just pretended I did. You were probably the boy throwing a football around with your friends while I lay all lotioned up as seductively as I could the year I turned thirteen. I prayed that you would notice me and make an excuse to introduce yourself and fall madly in love with me so we could write to each other all year and reconnect each summer at the beach until you were old enough to marry me, when we would live happily ever after. That’s what I believed at that tender young age would be the very thing that would make me “normal” and afford me the security I’d needed to live out the rest of my adolescence . But it was just my imagination, fueled by a few too many afternoons watching “Days of Our Lives” and “Santa Barbara” and wishing my nights away by moonlight. Thank God I learned about feminism!

I remember sitting at my desk in my room, the very heart shaped stationary I used, to write you love notes, telling you my deepest secrets. And I remember the plain old lined paper I used with my very best left-handed penmanship to craft your sweet, cool, tender but hunky responses. The letters I’d leave sitting on my nightstand or peeking out of my school bag so some curious, jealous friend could snoop and see what a lucky tween I had become. Oh how entirely embarrassing and somewhat normal!

Now I hear stories of my girlfriends’ children writing soft porn in middle school and inventing their very own “Mr. Wonderfuls”. Perhaps it is naturaldevelopmentally ? I’ve reassured them that their daughters aren’t whores, that it is probably a temporary hormone-driven transition from imaginary friends, and that, yes, I did it too. Fantasy and imagination are powerful God- given gifts and will, in time, evolve and transform into beauty and wisdom. At least I think mine have!

So, Jake, wherever you are in an alternate universe, please know that I am grateful to you for letting my hormonal imagination run wild and for never telling anyone what a fake I really was! Besides, I eventually did find the person I wanted you to be and he was definitely worth the wait!

Yours forever (in my adolescent daydreams),

Our Magic School Bus

September 9, 2019

Dear Byron, Joe, and Jose (in that order),

With the arrival of a new school year, I listen to the squeak and rev of the yellow busses as they rumble down my street this morning. I reminisce at the days and years gone by since you sheparded my boys to and from Seton Catholic School on Bus 944. How I miss those days and the reliability and competence of your work!

I just wanted to take a minute to tell you how much we really a ppreciated all that you did. As I cannot drive and my husband was often out of town, we entirely relied on our bus service to get our children to and from school each day. I never had a doubt that you would arrive- on time and smiling. I loved your little horn toots and genuine”good afternoon!” shout outs! I knew that the boys were safe with you and that you ran a strict ship.

My boys LOVED riding the bus. It was a punishment for them to have to be driven to school in the mornings, which, unfortunately, did happen from time to time! They might have missed out on some hijinks or your review of the previous night’s Yankees game. Your job was tremendous: scheduler, navigator, driver, disciplinarianEMT, , and memory-tickler. The responsibility is enormous and I’m afraid you were very underappreciated. I just don’t know how you did it and with such aplomb!

And somehow, over the years of daily minimal contact, I learned that your hart is weak, you love Dogtown and the driving range, send money back to your family in Puerto Rico, and that you take your chihuahuas to Cornell for medical care, among other things. It broke our hearts when you decided to retire to somewhere warmer after decades of service to our children and our community. You were the first and the best bus driver we ever had. And so on this Hallmark occasion when I doubt many people have taken the time to tell you or their own bus drivers what you doing your job meant to us, I want to thank you so very much from each of us on Bus 944!

Have a great week, wherever you are!

Love, Kirstyn, the blind lady who tried to throw water balloons at her kids when they got home each day

Reflection on Your Anniversary

Dear Peter and Wendy,

Twenty years is an awfully long time- a score, in fact! Today, on this beach, as you celebrate your score and renew your wedding vows, my prayers and heart are with you. The infinite grains of sand beneath your feet were once heavy rocks burdening the land and sea. Over time and with God’s direction, they have fractured ad infinitum to the powder that now caresses your toes and cushions your heels.

There are rocks of every imaginable shape and composition in a marriage. Some feel like immovable boulders. But with the intentional language of love, the persistence of commitment, and the continual touch of desire and affection, those rocks turn to stones turn to gravel and to the velvety carpet of sand you now stand upon. This process takes time, courage, negotiation, and most of all, love.

For a quarter century, I have had the privilege of witnessing the development of your relationship. It has instructed much of my own marital experience, inspiring forgiveness and providing hope. There has been ugly and beauty and mystery and fear along the path. But your incredible dedication to partnership and trust have sustained you and healed you from the scraped knees, stubbed toes, and blistered heels of the journey.

The honor of standing witness at your nuptuals 20 years ago was one of the most cherished gifts I possess. I gained a second best friend that day and am filled with gratitude for the thousands of times and ways I have watched you struggle, grow, and celebrate together. You have worked so very diligently to feed your marriage with love, kindness, generosity, and patience. Today your children, the tangible gifts of your love, stand with you to witness the fruit of your labors. You have taught them that marriage is not a Disney film; that it has textures and layers and trials. But with faith and devotion to the process and the long-term, it is not only attainable but joyful.

Bend down and scoop up a handful of the fine silt your work has wrought. Let the grains slip between your fingers and breathe deeply in the assurance that your labor has been worth it. Rest in the knowledge that you have created the material from which concrete foundation is built. Thank you for sharing your journey with us and for continuing to inspire us with your example. May God continue to bless you today and for the next four score of your journey!


A Walk in the Woods

Forest bathing in hemlock pheromones
Phytoncides and lichen
Stick like soap suds to human flesh
Tickling the somulent sinuses


Crunching, snapping roots, branches and sticks
Natures percussion section
Staccato but predictable,
Signaling the imminent threat of us
to the careful camouflaged creatures
Decorating the flora
Minding their own businesses
While we attempt to reverse our urban bankruptcy


Wind wildcatting through the naked trees
and tossing crispy foliage from last fall
through the underbrushlike a decaying salad
dehydrating and dressed with spores and invisible insects

starving and parched

Rubber on rocks,
slipping and squeaking from the creek’s spring elevation
Reishi burls swelling from a old dead hemlock
just a squirrel’s lunge
from the dinner plates and shelving of last year,
along the spine of a pregnant striped maple
Thousands of delicate chartreuse stars twinkling against the drawn stage curtain
of soft sprawling hemlock

applause and ovation

A lonely chainsaw crying in the distance
Her Sobs diffusing into the hiccupping of woodpecker work
And the thunder water of White Mountain run off
hitch hiking through the wilderness From the continental divide
Circling the divine drain