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

Race Based Terrorism Has a Long History in the United States

The truth will set you free, if you act on it.


Fifty two years ago today, James Chaney, a black man, Michael Schwerner, a Jew, and Andrew Goodman, a white man, were murdered by terrorists in Mississippi, USA. These men were part of “Freedom Summer”, a voter registration and education campaign organized by the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) to educate Black people about the political process and register them to vote.

The long-standing white terrorist organization, the KuKluxKlan, recently associated with the current GOP presumptive presidential nominee, was implicated in their deaths. The bodies of the three men were found in an earthen dam after they were stopped by local police, let go, and then followed out of town.

The Mississippi Attorney General announced yesterday that the investigation into the deaths of the three civil rights workers has been closed. One person was convicted for manslaughter in the case. The Attorney General cited difficulties in the investigation including “enduring reluctance…

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Race Based Terrorism Has a Long History in the United States

Haiku as Paradigm


Revised 21 vi 2016

On the Kigo as an Image of Desire

Haiku is a hinged form. The single line — Japanese kigo– is often spoken of as a cultural given, a seasonal word everybody in the language community understands,  a sort of fixed point.  That is perhaps too univocal (see below) and suggests some otherworldly independence of the term. I’d rather say it is an index of the DESIRE for transcendence, a need that cannot die (as William Desmond puts it).

On the Ethos of Haiku

One reason — perhaps the most “rational” among many — I love the art of haiku is that it “models” ethical thinking in general. That is, the two-part asymmetrical structure of haiku brings into relation the concept of community –the self’s  basic desire for transcendence– and the concept of moving between the self and the other, which informs narrative, story, allegory. The narrative, usually…

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Haiku as Paradigm