Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Crying Cup

This beautiful cup is known as the "crying cup" in my family. It was given to me many years ago as a gift from my sister. I kept it in its original box, wrapped away in delicate pink tissue paper. It stayed there for a number of years until Jordan came home from school one day with a flurry of hurt feelings and tears. She may have been in the first or second grade. I was making tea so I pulled out the beautiful bone china cup and served Jordan from it. She was so very careful and felt so important sipping from this special cup. Jordan and then Linea anointed it with their tears over the next twenty years. Slowly the cup was awarded the distinction as the crying cup. It was used to soothe hurt feelings, broken hearts, missed opportunities and lost pets. Yet is mostly remembered for the closeness of mother and daughters, the eventual smiles, laughs and giggles, and the ceremony of bringing out the crying cup.

Monday, April 20, 2009


It has been almost three years since my youngest daughter was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It may have been stealthily moving closer over the previous few years but none of us recognized it as bipolar, that crazy-making illness with phases of depression and mania and symptoms of which I was not yet aware. The mind boggling severity of the depression was a major piece of the puzzle in the diagnosis. The mania took a little more time before it became
something mean enough to also cause hospitalizations. As Linea and I have shared her story and mine, we have been moved to tears by the people that have told us that they, too, have similar struggles and fears, tragedies and hopefulness. I am particularly touched by the mothers. We are a club of sisters that know the bone-shaking, middle of the night terror, constant alertness and worry of having a child on the edge of an unknown precipice. As my mom says, "Sometimes all you can do is make it through one more minute, not just one more hour or one more day."

Sometimes the movement forward is a single minute at a time. Three years past the terror of an unknown illness taking over my daughter's life and changing all that we thought we is better. Life is stable as Linea stays within the parameters of a healthy life, sometimes up, sometimes down and sometimes bobbing on the edges but she is managing and in control of her own life. It would be easier to try and forget those years of anguish and worry and pain. But I think it is important to never forget. Never forget the closeness and the love of family as we held on to each other, we five (Linea, Linea's mom, dad, sister and brother-in-law), her grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. Things were clearly in perspective from most important to least important when life was falling apart. Little things mattered. A sunny day on the lawn of Harborview Medical Center. The quiet sanctuary at St. James Cathedral. The song Blackbird played to me in a psych unit on Mother's Day. And finally, a day on the beach in Mazatlan. I don't want to forget. I am thankful.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

As part of my trip to Nicaragua we were asked to write a reflection paper. I will confess to my grad students that I put it off until the day before it was due. Bad idea but like many of my students, I managed to get it done. Here is a snippet of what I wrote.....

Thank you for providing the opportunity to participate in a trip and an experience far beyond what I ever expected when I arrived at this university. It was a life-changing occasion and one that I strongly believe will continue to reverberate in my soul for years to come. I was humbled by all that I saw, heard, tasted, touched and smelled. I write this with Carlos Mejia Godoy’s folk mass, Misa Campesina Nicaraguense, blasting throughout my house. I ate rice and beans for breakfast this morning with a cup of coffee purchased from CECOCFEN, a coffee co-op of peasant farmers. This with the hope of bringing back memories of time in Nicaragua and turn my feelings and thoughts into words. Yet it is extremely difficult to write a “reflection” … me, of many words, both spoken and written.

I hold joy and pain for the people of Nicaragua simultaneously in my heart. I see the face of the tiny child playing with a plastic hanger in the center of Managua with no adults nearby to care for him but I also hear his laughter as he and his brother chase each other around the center courtyard. I remember the young girl sipping coffee at the farm while her mother and her friends talked to us about their union work. She looks wise beyond her age. She, too, will lead.
What can I do to assist in the efforts of the Nicaraguan people? For each person I pray for health, family to love and support, food to sustain, education, and meaningful work. How can I help? I do not know but I have learned a little something about aid to other countries and provided to people at the local level. I heard a woman say, “When aid comes with strings it takes away some of our soul.” How can I help? I am percolating. I do know that my life has been vastly changed by this experience. It has affected my teaching, my relationship with my colleagues and with my family and friends. Yet I still cannot talk about the “trip” with any sense of clarity.

I ramble. My mind rambles. I waited too long to write this because I did not know what to say, likely for the first time in my life. Words are my business. My faith in man and woman-kind has deepened. As I wrote previously, I am humbled.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lucky charms, amulets, and talisman

Given this blog has "meandering" in the title, I guess I will.
Meander from my thoughts of Nicaragua for a day or two and discuss lucky charms.

Do you have a ritual to bring you luck or keep you safe? Here are a few to try courtesy of my children and my own childhood.

While going through tunnels: Make a wish while holding your breath and keeping your feet off the floor of the car.

Whisper, "Parking goddess lift your face and find me a close parking space."

Burn green candles for money.

When the digital clock reads 11:11... Make a silent wish.

When you see a small pony, yell, "Eee-oooo-hypogus" (WHAT?).

Worry about what can go wrong hard enough and maybe it won't....oh-oh, that one is serious. It was brought to my attention via my daughter's psychologist that I may use this technique as my own personal amulet. Hmm, not very productive, do you think? Will it keep my children safe? My family? Illness and accidents can strike without any warning or we can keep guard and worry. Illnesses that strike the brain can be sneaky. But I am trying something new. Trusting my daughters to stay as well and healthy as possible and to ask me for help if they need me. That is the talisman I am currently trying on for size. If there happens to be any readers out you have a lucky charm?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nicaragua: Fenced In

Managua is fenced in. Guards are posted. Gates are closed and locked. Children play behind fences topped with barbed wire. The poor cobble together metal siding; the middle erects bars and wire; the rich hire workers to build tall concrete, brick and artistic walls with lethal spikes placed carefully on high. I felt confined.
Life went on for the people that lived there. I witnessed a
spirit that would not stay behind walls and fences and wire.