Satan Picked the Wrong Saint

It was early in my second tour of graduate school. I’d applied and been accepted because as a dear friend suggested, when life gets complicated, don’t simplify. At the time it made a kind of sense since everything in the recent past had officially fallen apart and where else does one go when you can’t go home if not to school. Money had been in short supply and this particular month I had enough money to either pay for the low-budget hotel room or eat during the weekend-long class. I’d borrowed enough money to purchase the air shuttle ticket so I could attend class if nothing else.

At the time I was a member of a faith community that fasted every Wednesday and so I thought two days without food back to back wouldn’t be a stretch. A classmate had offered to pick me up at the airport and drop me to the hotel each month and the hotel was within walking distance of campus so I didn’t need cab fare. The only trouble was that this time, since I would be paying for the hotel in cash, a deposit was required and that meant I wouldn’t have enough money for the second night. As I considered the limited options, tears threatened. Seeing the sense of defeat spread from my face to my shoulders, the desk attendant suggested that perhaps I knew someone who could use their credit card for the security deposit. I responded that my parents were out of the country and that my sister with a credit card was traveling for an interview. But I would try.

I paid for the night, leaving the cash deposit, and took the elevator up to my room. As it was early afternoon, the curtains were drawn against the afternoon sun. Opening the door, a shaft of light divided the room. The effect was startling and it must’ve jogged something in my cell memory because I felt a kind of electricity run the length of my spine and I straightened the way, ’round the way’ girls do as they take of their hoops, spoiling for a fight. 

Into the darkness I spoke with authority over my situation, Satan picked the wrong Saint. And to this day, I remember hearing what sounded like a wounded dog retreat along the balcony. Tears swallowed, I wheeled my carry-on to the closet, turned on the light over the vanity, and looked through my wallet once again. This time, a gift card for Marie Callendar’s revealed itself. It had been given to me as a housewarming gift the month prior when I’d sent out a few invitations that included BYOC – the C standing for chair. Jehovah Jireh had made a way for me to rent a condominium I couldn’t qualify for and in which I’d spent the first week sleeping on the floor. But that’s another testimony. As far as this one is concerned, let’s just say Marie Callendar’s was the one restaurant on property, and I graduated, on schedule, despite countless other attacks of the enemy. 

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death…” 

Revelation 12:10-11

Satan Picked the Wrong Saint

Amanda Bell’s Bumblebee

This analysis opens so many doors we cannot run through at once! How comes “the journey” to be an organizing tool? How long philosopher’s have been burrowing yet harvesting little truth from their centuries of conversation! And yet we, like ideas through the art of writing, are somehow distilled, as we make the journey from signifying to sanctifying.

the poetry companion

The art of poetry coheres around a common field that supplies us with our common humanity. At a time of “the breaking of nations” poetry is an often overlooked resource. It comes in large and small packages. To make sense of Dante’s “comedy” requires a feeling for that core of common experience.

Critics may disagree about the “exact” nature of that “experience” — if only because it is impossible to put into determinate, “critical” language. Images, however, can telescope the various dimensions, the criss-crossing relativities and proportions that inform a good poem large or small. Much of the labor of writing poetry is in successive attempts to getting all these angles focussed for the reader. As the Lu Chi”s third-century “art of writing” emphasizes, only after much rewriting will “passions come into perspective” (Sam Hamill’s translation). The art of poetry consumes a lifetime; one is never quite sure one can…

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Amanda Bell’s Bumblebee

Why Blame O’Henry?

Though blaming dead white guys is trending and, it should be noted that many of them have earned it, this is not an attempt to jump on that bandwagon. It is merely my attempt to connect the dots of a circuitous life in linear fashion in an effort to explain the inexplicable and feel better about myself at the expense of someone who cannot defend himself. And mind you, I am fully aware that there is plenty of blame to go around. In fact, the English teacher who introduced me to short stories including that penned by the offending and titular O’Henry, and the boarding school where I attended and he taught have their share in this all too familiar tale of woe and should by rights pay their share of restitution and apology. Onward.

Life is full of suffering, sorrow and missed opportunity. Take for instance the serial comma missing after the word sorrow in the preceding sentence. I left it out intentionally. I feel commas before conjunctions are superfluous and the language, at least punctuation, too fluid for my tastes and those who inserted it after I left school are too idle for their own good or ours. But a further example from my “one wild and precious life“, Mary Oliver, would be the fact that just when I am on the precipice of accepting the toddler in my foster care “for better or worse, till death do us part”, I am quite cognizant that the remote (and therefore likely) possibility exists that at next month’s hearing, two weeks shy of a year of white nights and dark days, (actually, by comparison, I won the lottery, she was easy lifting except for her exceptional size) she could be remanded to the custody of one or the other of her parents.

How do I know this? For starters, and knowing is entirely separate and apart from the chorus sung during ten weeks’ foster licensing class of don’t count your chickens before they hatch – aka don’t delude yourself into thinking the first child you foster will be the one you adopt. I recall distinctly that just before they (not my daughter’s parents) broke up, I had a dream in which I found my former boyfriend’s then-current girlfriend beautiful. She had been introduced to me as a model at which time I had sneered and given her the disapproving once-over internally. In any case, he reached me in the final month of grad school with the news, came to drive me and my cats back across the country and we were married shortly thereafter despite the evidence, near-literal writing on the wall, that surfaced during a meditation class I took as the wedding date approached in which I, in my windswept, seaside bungalow stood barefoot, wearing salmon capris and a coral colored tee-shirt, tying a bowtie on my fiancé who was wearing a tuxedo. Hint: I was preparing him for a wedding – not joining him at ours.

lastleafAltruism, though a field of interest, is not my hobby. It is the result of my religious and academic conditioning, and perhaps one way to explain teaching at community colleges for more than two decades. Enter, O’Henry.

I submit to you that, were it not for that impassioned reading of the tragic tale of self-sacrifice I was subjected to at the susceptible age of a seventh or eighth-grader – so far away from home at boarding school, I too, would have been free to ignore the overwhelming need of the 400,000 children in care nationwide (30,00 in Nevada alone) to become the long-lived artist curmudgeon I was destined by genetic predisposition and sensitive introvert‘s temperament to become. I mean ten years ago when I was volunteering as a cuddler at the UMC NICU fostering to adopt might have made sense. In fact, in hindsight, it still seems like it was a good idea for someone just leaning in to middle age. But now?

Why Blame O’Henry?

Parenting on Pause?

Do I stop being a mother because I sit down to write? No. Do I cease being a writer because I parent even when she’s sleeping? No. How do I, a boomer of the Pause-then-Play generation manage mindfulness and parenting simultaneously? These are but a few of the criticisms that compete in my waking mind each day. As devotees of Morning Pages, my students and I know the benefits one receives from such daily practices of surrender. What follows is an unedited excerpt (294 of 601 words) from today’s freewriting session.

One thing I did mean to write down was the fact that I am being the kind of student I abhor – one who expects to glean the benefit of the subject through the instructor’s effort alone. It’s unintentional or rather a byproduct of the all-consuming vacuum that is parenting but I don’t devote the time in silence to reflect and arrive at a real haiku or mindful moment to warrant any progress or development of my inner world at all. Somehow, I want to shriek and call Audrey (imagining she is the only one who will understand) but I left my phone in the kitchen. Perhaps I will go to Canvas and begin grading. I said I wanted an hour and have eaten six minutes thereof to produce these fewer than 500 words. She has weaseled her way between the couch and the glass topped lamp side table and is reaching for the ceramic dish holding the photos. She grunts for me to help her. I shake my head, “no”, and attempt a grimace in the direction of a smile. Not calling attention to it or placing higher value on her interests over mine seems to release her from her quest – one that ended unsatisfactorily for both of us last night – and she comes from out of the silk plant and lampstand to return attention to the cellphone that never left her hand. She stands beside me working on a diaper package now. Should I have given her miralax in apple juice in lieu of milk upon waking? How is one to use parenting as the practice of mindfulness while teaching while black? Such an embarrassment of riches! That, my dear Watson, is how one arrives at a true question. Amen.

While it is true each generation leaves a legacy fraught with compromise, boomers continue to harvest lessons from inheriting the cassette recorder. I may not be as adept at multitasking as a Millennial but learning how to press play-and-record continues to inform my glass half-full, abundance mentality even when pitted against a toddler. This knowledge serves well as the pause that refreshes.

via Daily Prompt: Pause

Parenting on Pause?

Stephen D’Evelyn on the Imperative of Welcome

Perhaps amid the storm around and within us a new practice is born – **welcoming**.

Avon's Edge -- Stephen D'Evelyn's Blog

Candlemas is approaching (2 Feb). This is the festival in the Church’s calendar when we commemorate the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple and so Jesus’ first entry into the temple. We also commemorate the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ceremony by which Mary, like all Hebrew women, was re-admitted to the religious community after a period of exclusion following childbirth. Of course this is sexist and objectionable on a number of different levels.

But this year Candlemas may make us think harder and perhaps act more kindly. (‘Kindness’ after all etymologically points to ‘kindred’, to what unites, and however arbitrary words may be, their relationships can tell us a lot about culture.) Mary is an outcast– an unmarried teenage mother in a society where pregnancy before marriage was legitimate grounds for expulsion from society and even stoning–and a homeless refugee on the run from the…

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Stephen D’Evelyn on the Imperative of Welcome

Listening With The Eyes

As subtly as the doughy round flesh of infancy gave way to angles that would become a toddler’s shoulder blades and joints came the conviction that all was and would indeed be well. Perhaps the miracle was noticing amid the daily rounds of feeding and nap time, exacerbated by end-of-semester grading and the holiday spin-cycle. Somehow I noticed her flesh loosening, growing slack even as her limbs lengthened and glances slowed to the gaze of genuine connection – both expected and yet a surprise. In celebration, I planted a virtual willow, Nature’s reminder to exhale, next to the place on the map marked, “here yet be dragons”, and exhaled, and will continue to do so in the spirit of what Alice Parker has called the silence of completion.

Listening With The Eyes