Sunday, December 30, 2007

Chris Teeter's new site is up!

Chris Teeter has recently become known around these parts for his fabulous doors at Orr St. but he's done a whole lot more than that. Check out the art on his site (which Wayne recently designed AND programmed).
PS: I've decided I'm going to retire and make Wayne my designer. Lunch anyone?

It was merry, it was very

Our Christmas holidays officially started on December 21, our anniversary, which we celebrated in style as tourists in our own downtown Rocheport. After a romantic dinner at Abigails, my hubby surprised me with a rose decked night in the Onyx Room (the two-way fireplace warmed the bedroom AND the bath, need I say more?) at the Amber House. It was a charmed kick-off to the holidays which included hosting my parents as well as a Christmas Eve visit with my cousin and his wife (recently moved to St. Louis from Maryland) and my uncle (who was up to visit them from Florida). I've never lived closer than a 5 hour drive to any family member since I left high school so having family two hours down the road is a real treat.

Another treat is having someone present you with art they created just for you. Wayne made this gorgeous boxed piece for me for Christmas (though the shot, due to the reflections, does not do it justice.) His work is completely stunning and what he comes up with never ceases to amaze me.
Here, too, is the debut of another artist's work: Karen Miedrich Luo! Whodda thunkit?! I gasped when I unwrapped this gift, amazed at how far Karen's recent dabbling with paper collage has progressed. This piece is built around on hearing Pergolesi, a Friday concerto , a favorite poem of mine written by Margo Berdeshevsky. The text of the poem appears on the back of the panels, handwritten in layered text. Guess a little dabblin'll do ya. Well done, amiga!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Weight of Addition

Yesterday I received my contributor's copy of The Weight of Addition, an anthology of Texas Poetry, edited by Randall Watson and published by Mutabilis Press. The anthology includes the work of 118 poets with Texas connections including Adam Zagajewski, Susan Wood, Ed Hirsch, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tony Hoagland, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Phillips and Cynthia Macdonald. Two of my poems are included.

This from the website:
Randy writes in his introduction, "It is my intention, then that the title, The Weight of Addition, should suggest the depth and range of the work that appears here." He goes on to conclude, " . . . --we have the poems themselves: each a sign and a revelation of our uncommon lives . . . each an artifact of the spirit, of the inner life with its mass and fluidity, . . . each an addition and a weight--humane and troubled and hopeful and necessary--a mirror in which we might discover not just those things that distinguish us, but those that identify us, that connect us, individually, in what might be called our mutuality, our belonging."

The cover photo was taken by Frank White, who shot the fabulous photos ars graphica used in the cities stores campaigns we produced for a few years before cities was no more.

I'm looking forward to making my way through the volume, recalling again what I took with me and what I left behind.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

but conducive to sledding so after the girls came in and thawed we put together our annual gingerbread house. The water was still off so when my fingers got so sticky I could no longer manipulate the bag of frosting, Samantha liked them clean. I don't think she minded the job. The water came back on at bedtime. Hurrah!
Later we watched a gorgeous film called Water, set in India in the 40's and exposing the plight of Indian widows, some as young as 9. Once widowed, a woman was either to join her husband on the funeral pyre, marry his younger brother or go to live a life a self denial at a widow's ashram, forbidden to ever marry again. The story centers around a nine year old widow who doesn't even remember having been married before she was whisked away from her parents and deposited in the ashram and another young widow who is lent out as a prostitute to wealthy Brahmins. She falls in love with a high caste young man who has been questioning these traditions under the influence of Ghandi. I won't give away any more but the story has a Romeo and Juliet twist to it. So alongside my renewed appreciation for running water was profound gratitude that my daughters and I were not born to the fates of so many other women in the world who, even today, have no recourse from the religious and government sanctioned oppression and brutality they are subjected to.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

At least we can melt snow...

Not an hour after the last post I was at the sink filling my pot of cut vegetables with water for soup. We're iced in, no church today, no Christmas shopping. A sweet excuse to cozy in and enjoy a laid back day, perhaps finally getting to the gingerbread house that has sat unadorned on our kitchen table for a couple of weeks now. The water came out strong then lost pressure then stopped completely. We checked all the faucets in the house. No water anywhere. I was still two inches short of the water I needed for the soup pot so I sent Hayley down to drain the last sinks. Just made it. I'd chopped onions and reached to rinse my hands. Oops, yeah, no water. We thought perhaps a pipe had broken but there was no water on the floor. Turns out our surrounding area is without water as well so no trucking to the neighbors with jugs for drinking water or showering. I don't know how many times I automatically went to the sink today and turned on the faucet for this or that and each time was reminded of what we so take for granted: clean water at our fingertips, whenever we want it. The water is still off, the soup still simmering and I'm still thinking about that video...

Addendum to last post

Just ran across this from Chris Seay, pastor of ecclesia, my much loved church in Houston. A thoughtful addendum to the last post.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Constructive Consumption

Who doesn't like to give gifts to those they love? And who doesn't, at Christmas time, feel guilty about buying things for people who don't really need the gifts we give them? I deal with this dilemma every year but this time around I feel less conflicted about the gifts I'll be giving since I've decided to buy as much as I can (full discloser: this does not include Webkinz) from Fair Trade organizations which insure fair wages and working conditions for those producing the goods. At the site I've shopped, you can read about who is making your product and where, and if your purchase is going to provide health care, put food on the table or grant access to education. Hopefully, this Christmas, my giving will bless in two directions. Three, actually, as it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Another idea: buy from your favorite local artist or artisan, musician or writer, usually toiling for the joy of it in some life affirming way and typically underpaid!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Let us eat cake!

Last week while grocery shopping with my mother, my 9 year old daughter spent some of her allowance to buy a celebrity mag at the checkout. When she arrived home with it I felt as God must have as he watched Adam and Eve exit the garden. So far she has no detectable insecurities about herself--she's a happy, healthy, and confidant being. Then comes the magazine, highlighting and glamorizing every superficial, narcissistic, vapid and self indulgent impulse of humankind. It's then a slippery slope to comparison, self doubt, envy, greed, self loathing and all their accompanying lifesuck emotions. Name one good reason a young girl should waste an hour of her life on such. I used to "read" those magazines and they're as irresistible as junk food. I still find myself reaching for them on occasion at the doctor's office or in waiting rooms and inevitably afterward feel like I've eaten a dozen twinkies. Sickly. Defiled. And always inferior. That cultural battle lasts a lifetime and I'm not quite ready to see her have to take it on. I want her to learn what creates real beauty and for her to aspire, not to designer fashions, riches and empty lifestyles, but to a life of substance and meaning--one that will enhance and affirm not only her life but the larger world around her. God save us from US.

Wayne celebrated a birthday this weekend and after blowing out the candles, our daughter did what we all do on our first birthdays: a faceplant in the cake. At age one, we acknowledge the fact we have taken our spot in the human parade and begun what we hope will be a long journey, witnessed and aided by the very ones who have gathered around the cake to celebrate. The child does not then eat the cake as much as plunge herself into it. Cake! Yes! The whole big cake is for me! So, why don't we plant our faces at age 9? or 43? or 102? It's still our cake. The theme of the current issue of Sojourners magazine is aging which, although our culture has conditioned us to fear and dread it, should be cause for joy. Aging is life lived, wisdom earned, cake eaten, cake worn: aging is creating the story that is you. The cake baked just for you.

And you are part of a bigger story, one that is playing out for eternity. Richard Rohr asks in Sojourners, "Is my life passing by without me? Am I so caught up in my life dramas and daily situations, that I miss the Big Life, the One Life, the Shared Life that is floating and immense underneath it all? Once we contact The Life, which is consciousness itself, Being itself, God, then we are not so afraid of aging. In fact, old age almost seems like a misnomer. Then we have tapped into the Stream that only grows deeper, stronger, and ever more living (John 4:10) because it is infinite." Not something you'll glean from a celebrity mag. In fact, they're designed to throw your cake out in the rain.

Yesterday morning as I knelt to take communion, thankful for my life and the years I have been granted, and for the world without end, I was certain I detected, in the wafer melting on my tongue, a lingering sweetness, tasting something like cake.

Monday, November 26, 2007

post Thanksgiving post

This Thanksgiving I again have much to give thanks for:

A new house growing into a home and the friends who have graced it
Basil and tomatoes grown from seeds
A sunny porch, blooming flowers and hummingbirds
The laughter of my daughters
Pleasant work with great clients which affords a steady supply of good coffee, hot showers, gas for road trips, great books, dinners with friends, guitar lessons, DSL, the occasional weekend excursion, pair of boots, gifts for loved ones and sometimes strangers, music, potlucks, picnics and thrift store surprises.
My parents, siblings and in-laws, nieces, nephews, and Grandad, not near but never far
Our new cat Libbles
The neighbors our kids will grow up with as extended family
The creative energy and inspiration of friends old and new
The school bus
Time off
Bonfires, bikerides and hiking trails
The Rocheport General Store
The handsome, funny, creative and loving guy who ensures my life is never dull
The One from whom all things are given

We had the luxury of spending an entire week with family and friends at my parents home in Dallas. Hayley informed her teacher that she would be "flunking" Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. On the trip down, we spent a night at the Raphael, our favorite hotel in Kansas City, shopped, ate sushi, caught the opening of a friend from Columbia's photography at a gallery and toured the new wing of the Nelson-Atkins. While in the DFW area we shopped, ate more sushi and visited the Kimball Art Museum in Ft. Worth and their exhibit The Earliest Christian Art which included works never before moved from their origins, works from the Vatican and rare works dating to the 5th century. After that we walked over to the Modern Art Museum and saw the exhibit Defining Spaces which included works by Rothko and Yves Klein among others. But the best time was hanging out with family around the kitchen table, a simple and profound pleasure too few and far between as we're scattered over several states. Also, a day spent with old friends from Houston which included lunch with my friend Karen over a bottomless mug, delicious for much more than my grilled sandwich and the conversation which outlasted the coffee. A long ride back, hitting the Flint Hills of Kansas as sun set, arriving in Rocheport in the light of a full moon, walking into the house that is, finally, thankfully, home.

This from the current issue of Sun:
Enter each day with the expectation that the happenings of the day may contain a clandestine message addressed to you personally. Expect omens, epiphanies, casual blessings, and teachers who unknowingly speak to your condition.-Sam Keen

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The word of the day is

These luxuriously languid days of autumn, later than usual, still burnished with sun and fair breezes, are slowly receeding, evening chill arriving a little sooner and staying a little longer, the calendar beginning to evince the demands of the gauntlet that lurks between Thanksgiving and New Year's. I've cut back my dead plants, ceramic pots sit on the deck empty and forlorn, the porch stripped of its lush greenery. The bulbs I collected from my potted tulips last spring are in the ground. Tasks are mounting on the to-do list and the situation will only intensify until the cresendo of Christmas Day. I'm relishing these last moments of (relative) calm, anticipating the celebration of Thanksgiving with family and close friends before the madness really kicks into high gear. Each year I determine to pace things so as to be able to carry out these seasonal tasks with a higher ratio of enjoyment to stress. Which means I should have begun Christmas shopping a month ago. Oh well.
If you haven't checked, the word of the day is "flaneur:" one who strolls about aimlessly; a lounger; a loafer. I'd say that word has shown up about 4 months too soon, but I'm saving a place for it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Last weekend a small group of art junkies from Columbia boarded a train an hour and a half north of here at the tiny La Plata Station and got off in downtown Chicago for three days of SOFA. The train ride was enjoyable enough but when we emerged from the station I practically yelped with joy at being again in a big city. A BIG city. As we hauled our suitcases the four or five blocks down Adams to our hotel I thrilled to the pace, the noise, the vibe, the verticle architecture looming on all sides. It was my first time to Chicago, a great city, something I'd been told by everyone who'd ever visited there but now I can say it myself.

This trip revolved around the SOFA exhibit and extended explorations of the Art Institute (we were there for the opening of the Jasper Johns Gray Showand Museum of Contemporary Art. I had no idea Chicago was so art rich. We could see most of a Calder sculpture from our hotel window, a couple of blocks from that, a tile mural by Chagall lined the bottom of an office building. Frank Gehry's Pavilion/sculpture at Millenium Park, "Cloud Gate", Anish Kapoor's public sculpture known locally as the "bean," the Crown Fountain's 50 foot illuminated glass block towers by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa were among the highlights of our walk from the Art Institute toward the "Magnificent Mile" which, in my mind, was notable not for it's array of endless shops but it's crowds--throngs of people jostling for real estate on the sidewalk and inside every store.

Making our way down Michigan Ave to Chicago Ave, where we crammed our way inside the American Girl and Hershey stores, was a gauntlet, relieved on one block with a performance by the silver man. Between museum visits, we tried Chicago deep dish pizza at Giordano's, had British fare at the Elephant and Castle and shopped at the MCA store where I was happy to discover (and purchase) a Camilla Engman wallet.
I must say though, after three days of banging elbows everywhere we went, it was nice to return to our happy, quiet "little" city and take a big breath of fresh air no one else was in line for.

Monday, October 29, 2007

spiritual journeys, inc.

Saturday night Wayne and I had the pleasure (thank God for sleepovers!) to plunk ourselves down on our favorite lumpy, stained, neck straining couch on the second row of Ragtag Cinema and view "The Darjeeling Express," the tale of three estranged brothers off to India in quest of reuniting on a heavily itineraried "spiritual journey." The film was enthralling in the glimpses of the setting alone and though I'm a sucker for these types of tales (I've recently read Eat, Love, Pray, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes; Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality, and A Short Trip to the Edge, among others) where the writer sets off on a rigorous journey seeking an intense spiritual encounter, precipitated either by personal crisis or merely a consuming hunger for the love of God, not all of us have the luxury (time, finances, health, etc) to drop out of society for large chunks of time, especially mothers with kids, to connect with our "spiritual side." Which is why I suppose all those famous disciples, monks and gurus are typically male.

Achieving a "spiritual" jolt while contemplating the sheer rock face of a mountain or a vast desert expanse is not particularly difficult, nor surprising. And what is amusing is the idea that we must "go" on a spiritual journey, as if we for even one moment are not already on one, as if we occasionally retrieve our souls from the mothballs and schedule time to hang out with them. God is no more available on the peaks of mountains than at the sink of dishes or the crush of 5:00 traffic. We don't GO on a spiritual journey, we ARE on one. Whether we are aware of it, acknowledge it or adamantly deny it. Whether we feel our corpuscles vibrating with divine energy or feel like a block of wood. No act is necessarily any more spiritual than another though our attention to the spiritual may be awakened, focused or heightened by willful gestures such as worship, prayer, a surge of gratitude or the contemplation of natural beauty.

All that to say I love journeys. Of any kind. So by all means, GO! Just don't forget your "spiritual journey" is not waiting somewhere for you to show up and discover; that journey began way back--when you did.

the new and improved

We've just redesigned the website of our writer friend Stacy Barton. Wayne programmed it in record time. Click the link above to check it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bump Shop now open

The first couple of items are now available from Click the link above to visit my new online store.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Small Town Perks

I attended novelist Bret Lott's reading with Wayne and the girls last Thursday night at Mizzou in hopes of a) hearing him read and b) thanking him personally for having published my work in the spring issue of the Southern Review, both of which items I did accomplish. But that simple desire led to a series of unexpected and delightful events which include, among other things, meeting Aliki Barnstone, a new poet on faculty at Mizzou, her daughter Zoe (who quickly became fast friends with our girls), and later her father Willis, in for a reading Monday night in KC. If you want to witness an insanely talented and prolific family, visit Barnstone and just imagine what conversation around their Thanksgiving table might sound like.

At the reception after Bret's reading I also got to chat with Speer Morgan, longtime editor of the Missouri Review (one of my favorite journals), and with our by now good friend Scott Cairns. The same group was in attendance at a party Aliki threw Saturday night in honor of her father and which Wayne and I found ourselves the last to leave (are we ever not?) after a long post party conversation with Aliki and Willis which included a tour of the artwork on the walls, mostly created by Aliki's mother and the other insanely talented Barnstones. What kind of vitamins did they eat?!! And though it was way past one when we finally dragged our kids home, Aliki and co. came by the next day as we returned the art-on-the-walls house tour favor and before we all set off for Rocheport and the General Store and Katy Trail.

The Leal part of the Sunday bikeride was cut short as I had to head back for a dinner party Wayne and I were set to attend. The dinner was held at the home of two retired Mizzou archeologists so over a potluck dinner of chicken tarragon and potato pancakes I got to ask, firsthand, about the dig in Peru in which Bob Benfer has unearthed " the oldest known celestial observatory in the Americas," dated to 4200 B.C. Talk about interesting dinner conversation. Meanwhile, that morning, Wayne appeared in yet another newspaper article.

I think there is a lot to be said for little ponds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Morning glory

This morning when I stumbled out of bed to get the girls ready for school, I thought something outside was on fire. I opened the bathroom door which faces east and the room was blazing in tangerine light. As I ran to open the front door for a look, Hayley called from the back. A perfect orb spanned our backyard, an expanded St. Louis arch in luminous technicolor. The four of us stood and traced its vivid rim, hues waxing and waning before suddenly dissolving back to infinite blue, as if it had been a mirage of our own making.

I recalled the lines I'd just read from Robert Cording's poem "Last Things", appearing in the fall Georgia Review:

But just as often I have been distracted

by dust on the windowsill dimpling with rain
or the yellow shine of afternoon sun

on the grass, by the rush and babble
of voices talking in the next room,

or even a dog's barking--as Augustine
may have been, looking up now and again

from his prayer, arrested by an ordinary cloud
passing across the face of the sun

and the new shadows pooling on the floor,
the next thing still happening, still arriving

and being replaced, still restless, all of it
part of a world so hard to finish loving.