Thursday, January 15, 2015

God, via Anne Lamott

She wrote this. She posted it on Facebook. I mean no copyright infringement by posting it here, which I am doing mostly so I don't lose it and can read it often:

Let's settle this God thing once and for all.
God, or no God?
Who on earth knows?
Any proof, either way?
None, except for Bach, foxes, forgiveness, elephants, bulbs and my dog Lily, may she rest in peace. Also, the fact that someone like me could have 28 years without alcohol or the non-habit-forming marijuana I smoked on a daily basis for 15 years. Also, ripe peaches, books, and Mr. Rogers.
There is Infinite good and beauty and heroism and artistic genius everywhere we look. Is this proof of God?
No, because there is also infinite evil and madness. I am not going to name names.
What do we even mean when we use the word "God?"
For the sake of argument, let's say we mean a Higher Power--a power greater than our thinky thoughts, good ideas, grudges, positions and opinions: a divine Mind, a benevolent intelligence of some sort, some kind of bankable Love energy. Something that hears us and cares, when we cry out in our pain and mortification. I also like the Deteriorata's definition of God as the Cosmic Muffin.
But what if the most illustrious atheists and agnostics hear that we actually believe this?
It's none of your business what they think. To plagiarize from my book, it is like worrying about some guy wandering around the Mojave in a wet suit, reciting the poetry of Edgar A. Guest. People get to think and believe what they think and believe. You will never change them, or they us. Surrender: lay your weapons down. Let me make you a nice cup of tea.
What if they say you are ignorant, and a danger, in public?
It would have nothing to do with you. Maybe they are having trouble at work, or a spastic colon.
So do you actually believe that the soul is eternal? That death is just the end of dying, not of life?
Yes. Also, that there is a dessert section in heaven, and that it in fact makes up most of heaven, except for the ponds, and gift shop.
But we still die, correct?
Of course, and the question we ask ourselves, is, How do we live in the face of that? How alive are we willing to be? Why do we keep hitting the snooze button? What will it take for us to stop squandering our time?
Well? What's the answer? What does it take to get serious about this life we've been given, even if we don't know if God gave it to us, or chance?
Usually either a terminal illness or a DUI.
Is it legal to believe in evolution and all aspects of modern physics, yet also believe in a personal god, a Beloved, a sacred dimension to our lives?
Yes, in some states.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Questions for lovers

"To Fall in Love With Anyone, do This" is a fascinating article from the January 9 NYT.  Apparently the psychologist who developed these questions got two people to fall in love as they shared their responses in a lab. I think many of these would be good tools for self-knowledge as well.

Questions developed as a task for generating closeness.

Task Slips for Closeness-Generating Procedure
Set I
1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would
you want as a dinner guest?
2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse
what you are going to say? Why?
4. What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6. If you were able to live to the age of90 and retain either
the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years
of your life, which would you want?
7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have
in common.
9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10. If you could change anything about the way you were
raised, what would it be?
11. Take 4 minutes and tell your partner your life story in
as much detail as possible.
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained anyone
quality or ability, what would it be?
Set II
13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself,
your life, the future, or anything else, what would you
want to know?
14. Is there something that you've dreamed of doing for a
long time? Why haven't you done it?
15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16. What do you value most in a friendship?
17. What is your most treasured memory?
18. What is your most terrible memory?
19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly,
would you change anything about the way you are now
living? Why?
20. What does friendship mean to you?
21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive
characteristic of your partner. Share a total of 5 items.
23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your
childhood was happier than most other people's?
24. How do you feel about your relationship with your
25. Make 3 true "we" statements each. For instance 'We are
both in this room feeling ... "
26. Complete this sentence: "I wish I had someone with
whom I could share ... "
27. If you were going to become a close friend with your
partner, please share what would be important for him
or her to know.
28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very
honest this time saying things that you might not say to
someone you've just met.
29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in
your life.
30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By
31. Tell your partner something that you like about them
32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to
communicate with anyone, what would you most regret
not having told someone? Why haven't you told them
34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches
fire. Mter saving your loved ones and pets, you have
time to safely make a final dash to save anyone item.
What would it be? Why? Downloaded from at Oxford University Libraries on April 26, 2010
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you
find most disturbing? Why?
36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner's advice
on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner
to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about
the problem you have chosen.
Task Slips for Small-Talk Condition in Study 1
Set I
1. When was the last time you walked for more than an
hour? Describe where you went and what you saw.
2. What was the best gift you ever received and why?
3. If you had to move from California where would you go,
and what would you miss the most about California?
4. How did you celebrate last Halloween?
5. Do you read a newspaper often and which do you
prefer? Why?
6. What is a good number of people to have in a student
household and why?
7. If you could invent a new flavor ofice cream, what would
it be?
8. What is the best restaurant you've been to in the last
month that your partner hasn't been to? Tell your
partner about it.
9. Describe the last pet you owned.
10. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
11. Tell your partner the funniest thing that ever happened
to you when you were with a small child.
12. What gifts did you receive on your last birthday?
13. Describe the last time you went to the zoo.
14. Tell the names and ages of your family members, include
grandparents, aunts and uncles, and where they
were born (to the extent you know this information).
15. One of you say a word, the next say a word that starts
with the last letter of the word just said. Do this until
you have said 50 words. Any words will do-you aren't
making a sentence.
16. Do you like to get up early or stay up late? Is there
anything funny that has resulted from this?
17. Where are you from? Name all of the places you've lived.
18. What is your favorite class at UCSC so far? Why?
19. What did you do this summer?
20. What gifts did you receive last Christmas/Hanukkah?
21. Who is your favorite actor of your own gender? Describe
a favorite scene in which this person has acted.
22. What was your impression of UCSC the first time you
ever came here?
23. What is the best TV show you've seen in the last month
that your partner hasn't seen? Tell your partner about
24. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
25. Where did you go to high school? What was your high
school like?
26. What is the best book you've read in the last three
months that your partner hasn't read? Tell your partner
about it.
27. What foreign country would you most like to visit? What
attracts you to this place?
28. Do you prefer digital watches and clocks or the kind
with hands? Why?
29. Describe your mother's best friend.
30. What are the advantages and disadvantages of artificial
Christmas trees?
31. How often do you get your hair cut? Where do you go?
Have you ever had a really bad haircut experience?
32. Did you have a class pet when you were in elementary
school? Do you remember the pet's name?
33. Do you think left-handed people are more creative than
right-handed people?
34. What is the last concert you saw? How many of that
band's albums do you own? Had you seen them before?
35. Do you subscribe to any magazines? Which ones? What
have you subscribed to in the past?
36. Were you ever in a school play? What was your role?
What was the plot of the play? Did anything funny ever
happen when you were on stage?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Food and Love, and Warmth

Well, the wind chill is predicted to reach 24 below zero later today so the geese are staying in our bathroom. I just had a good cuddle with both of them. The chickens are closed in to the chicken house with nice dry hay and food and water. Probably the water is frozen by now; I'll need to take out more soon. What a day! It's going to be this way until Friday, by all accounts.

There was an article on Dan Mercer, his signature recipe and his 13 sons in the Press Herald today! I was so proud to read it and to know him as a dear friend. I also am eager to make the Champagne Chicken!

The French Meat Pie turned out really pretty, and I've sampled the filling and think it's good. Next time I'm going to try this version or this one for the more complex spices. The one I made today relied solely on allspice, salt, and pepper but it's still tasty and fragrant.

Rest in Peace, Beautiful One

Aunt Jerry died yesterday afternoon. She'd been suffering terribly for awhile and we're all relieved she's at peace now but such a great loss to the world. Or perhaps I should say, she was such a great gift to the world. Each of us in our family hold precious pieces of her in her wisdom, memories, and legacy of love. She was a great-hearted woman filled with love and gratitude for life and thoughts of others. She had a gift for making her surroundings beautiful, was a wonderful cook and hostess, a great reader, a faithful volunteer, a great and true friend, and simply the best aunt. I love this photograph of her young with Uncle Joe:

Her granddaughter Lizzie wrote this beautiful tribute: "My Grandma.... I loved you more than I could ever show you or say. You cared for me when my parents couldn't. You handled everything with such class and grace. I think of you every day, and im reminded of you in the smallest things. You inspire me so much and I can only hope to be half the woman you were. I just wish I had more time... Rest in peace... I am so happy you are finally home with your husband again and free."

I'll be flying down Friday for the Saturday funeral, staying with my brother and sister-in-law. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

French Meat Pie!

When I was in Green Bay, my mother in law, Lorraine, took me out to a charming European bakery for lunch. I could not resist the French Meat Pie--and I'm glad I gave in to temptation. The aroma alone transported me to a blissful place of comfort--warmth in a refuge from winter's bitter bite. I got the ingredients to make it today, and I'm going to make a pie for Noah's visit on Wednesday.

Your daily dose of cockatiel cuteness--now we have three babies!

More food for thought about the value of contemporary poetry--and its lack of popular appeal. The insularity bred by the MFA program-sponsored journals is famously decried by populist poets, and has been for awhile. As a poet without an MFA, this essay feels grindingly familiar; yet I'm writing a bit again and am determined not to be too easily discouraged.

Smooth moves with NIA

Had my first NIA class today. I think I've finally found and exercise class I can enjoy and stick to. There were only two of us for the introductory class; the other participant was a cheerful woman named Jill, around my own age, and similar fitness level and issues (lost a lot of weight a couple of years ago, and gained it all back, and just trying to lift herself from discouragement and start over. Just where I'm at.)  The instructor, Susan, is a gentle, welcoming woman and a very good teacher. She repeats instructions often and slowly enough so I don't feel lost in a blur of movement. The music is peaceful and rhythmic and easy to move to. As an added bonus, the rec center adjoins our wonderful public library. That's going to make getting moving at 9 Monday morning a lot more pleasant to look forward to.

NIA actually looks pretty and graceful when the class is in sync and a little experienced. I look forward to getting to this point. Maybe if I watch some of the videos the technique will come a bit easier.

On a sad note, my beloved aunt is passing away. She's been put into hospice care at the hospital and does not have much more time with us. A loving, strong, and wise woman. I'm so blessed to have had a wonderful visit with her just a few weeks ago. This is a hard blow to the family, even though she is of advanced age and has been failing in health her mind and humor have remained as strong as ever and she has been the heart of the family. I fear my mother, who has also recently begun hospice care, will not be far behind. My aunt has been so faithful to visit Mom, even as her own health has been failing. They are both over 90 and will be the last in our family of their amazing generation. It's mind-blowing the developments and changes they have witnessed in their lives and the things they have learned and accomplished. When an old person dies, as they say, a library burns. That is so true in this instance.