Wednesday, August 31, 2011


The internship experience continues interesting and frustrating and clarifying.  Two-thirds through I name my goals.  Two-thirds through I find out that being available MWTh 1-9:30 PM doesn*t mean exactly that I need to be there MWTh 1-9:30 PM.  I was reminded by another intern: Remember you*re an intern.  You*re not being paid for this.  I, of course, have not been paid for a lot of what I do, and was treating intern time like I do any commitment I have made, paid or not.  Now, two-thirds through, I find that it means: Let them know when I won*t be there.  So now I have Monday evenings with my daughter.  A gift.

Two-thirds through the internship
I compile goals.
They have bullet points to match
All the pieces I have already done
With one or two yet to do.
I would not have known
The particular ways of the halfway house
Before I began.
At the beginning, I was asked
Do you have anything in particular
You would like to do?
I said
I*d like to learn whatever I can
About how this place works.
When you don*t know the particulars
It*s hard to know which particular things
Are there.
I did not expect I would eat dinner
Three nights a week
With the guys.
I did not expect ten minutes
Of gratefulness every Wednesday.

I did not expect
Two-thirds through
That I would be so clear
About next steps.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bubble wrap

Yesterday I received a gift.  It came layered with reasons I did not agree with... at all.   Thankfully I was able to unwrap the reasons more rapidly than usual (there are a lot of ways to measure growth!), and receive the gift for what it was: Monday evenings with my daughter.   Jeff began his fall term yesterday, and he teaches Monday nights.  So it*s me and Sawyer.  I*m glad.  Oh, and I love popping bubble wrap.

Gifts can arrive in unusual packages.
Sometimes we only see them as gifts
When we unwrap them.
Sometimes the gift itself
Is the bubble wrap.

Yesterday I received Monday evenings
With my daughter.

First I had to separate the layers
Of packing,
The reasons given
Why I might want to take things
More slowly,
Which really had very little to do
With me.
Then I had to remove the bubble wrap.

I am reminded of the little girl
Who found the backyard
Full of dung,
And simply knew
There was a pony someplace.

Yesterday, under the bubble wrap,
I received Monday evenings
With my daughter.
Better than any pony.

We will eat dinner together,
Do homework,
Watch the sun set,
Play with the cat,
Go to bed.
That*s about it,
until ballet classes start.

Monday evenings
With my daughter.
Better than bubble wrap.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Week expected to begin in pleasant fashion

It feels a bit like fall.  Yesterday, driving to church, we noticed the light has begun its re-angling toward fall.  Lake Street looked, well, fall-ish.  I understand that new journalists cut their eyeteeth on headlines, obituaries and weather and the like, hidden in the back of the newspaper.  This headline cuts its losses (expected, pleasant fashion) but it is hopeful nonetheless.  And this morning is indeed proving it true.

The forecast for Monday
In the Midwest.
This is the headline news
On the last page of Nation and World
In the Sunday paper.
I open the front and back doors
This morning
To let the pleasantness
blow through.
I imagine the new person
At the newspaper
Gets to write
The weather headlines.
Or maybe it*s a reward
For being at the paper so long
The chance to offer hope
For the beginning
Of the week.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


This morning, sitting at the welcome table outside the front doors of St. Mark*s, Glen Ellyn,  Ken and I waited with brochures and water bottles and yearly schedules to hand out to new people.  St. Mark*s is bigger than most churches I have belonged to or served as a priest.  On occasion I have an ache for smallness, and the community smallness brings.  Everyone knowing everyone else.  I have served two communities with prayer boards and erasable markers available for everyone to use, to name their own prayer concerns.  Sometimes outside groups, like AA or Al-Anon, added people or concerns to the list, and we*d include them in the bulletin.  Sometimes the prayer shawl knitters who met in the narthex would knit the prayers into the shawls they were making, the prayer board being right behind their chairs, and the nametag board on the other side.  We even prayed for pets who had died.  I am reminded we always welcome people, and pray for people, just as God sees people: one at a time.

This morning I sat at the welcome table
In the cool morning breeze.
I read the lessons before coming
To church.
This morning
In the cool morning breeze
I knew again
That I miss smallness.
I miss the prayer boards
Of at least two congregations.
Members wrote their prayer concerns,
The date,
Their initials.
When even a pet died,
Fluffy was added to the prayer board.
People gathered around,
Talked about what a shame
To lose Fluffy.
It was not the time or place
To wonder whether God embraced
Dead pets.
We simply knew any loss
On the prayer board
Was a loss.
God cared about it
And so did we.

Today in the cool breeze
I talked with my welcome table partner,
Realized I missed smallness:
Everyone knowing everyone else
Remembering all the grandparents and parents
The small and large griefs,
Fluffy on the prayer board
And most people knowing
Who Fluffy was.

God waited

Today we hear about the burning bush.  Another of God*s miracles in the desert, like rocks flowing water, like manna and quail.  I think the real miracle was that Moses gave his full undivided attention, and that God waited to speak.

When God got Moses* attention
With the flame in the bush,
He waited for his curiosity
To kick in:
Why is that bush not disintegrating
Into an ash heap?
God told Moses to prepare,
To take off his shoes,
To ground himself.
This was something big.

God waited to deliver the message
Until he had Moses*
Full undivided

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I write to remember

I am increasingly intrigued by memoirs.  
I just re-read Ian Cron*s achingly beautiful awful God-filled memoir (Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: a memoir... of sorts)  Earlier this month I read Jennifer Grant*s new book Love You More, which honors herself and her family with grace and truth.  
Both of these memoirs carry redemption between their covers.  I am awed.
I write to remember what I see, so I won*t  forget. I write to piece things together hopefully with room to breathe in between the lines.

I write to remember
What I see
What I saw.
I write to hold some of it
in words
So I don*t forget,
Don*t lose myself in pretending
It never happened,
God never spoke in words
Or even the still small voice
That echoes.
I write not to forget.
Today is different somehow
And the same;
Today, as yesterday,
 God still speaks.
I write to remember this,
Catalogue the still small voice
Me at the mouth of the cave
Still afraid,
But watching
Still writing.

Friday, August 26, 2011


All in all this is a reasonable start to the day.  Unplanned, yes, a little complicated, yes, but I find myself glad the busdriver (Bob) was a minute late today.  Today*s serendipity got an early start.  I*ve had my oatmeal and am halfway through the venti nonfat latte.  The weather is lovely.  Today I can choose what to do.  There will probably be no earthquakes or hurricanes or tidal waves to contend with.  I say probably.  The East Coast was not expecting that earthquake.  They have warning about the hurricane.  

Everything is complicated.
At least this
Is what we tell ourselves,
When the school bus is a minute early
After being two minutes late
I am the designated morning parent.
Jeff does late night.
Everything is complicated
I handle morning complications;
Jeff handles
The complications
In the dark.
It*s a matter of choosing
Which complications
To live with
Which ones to divvy out
Which ones to pretend
We never even saw.
This morning
The bus one minute late,
I rolled out of bed
Realized early the lovely coolness of today,
Drove the girl to school
Came home the back way
Through Starbucks
Oatmeal with everything
A latte from the same smiling woman
At the drive-thru window.
Complications with added routine,
Noticed the lovely coolness
Earlier than I would have
If the bus had been on time.
It*s a matter
Of choosing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The education continues (always).  I guess I understand the need for prognosis, but really, even with a good sense of discernment and observation, I am wrong often enough in my predictions to give me pause.  After all, my own prognosis changes from day to day.

Monday I wrote a treatment plan
For someone who left treatment
Later that day.
I wrote the discharge summary,
Including the prognosis.
At dinner one of the counselors said
He wished we could discharge
In three sentences:
He left.
He did (well/ not so well/poorly)
In treatment.
We expect (good/not so good/disastrous) things
In the future.
He said
That should be enough.
That should be enough.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Homeland Security

My last class (I think) at College of DuPage is in the new Homeland Security Building.  Oddly, the forensics lab has a wall of windows.  That and plastic hoods at every lab station.  I wonder what they will do in there.  We get the room with the CPR dummies.

Every Tuesday at 5
The substance abuse internship class meets
In the new Homeland Security Building
Next to the Forensics lab
On the second floor.
There are special spots
In the parking lot
For fuel-efficient cars,
Next to handicapped parking.
I guess it*s a reward
Of sorts.
We meet in the room lined on the edge
With CPR dummies
Just in case we need
To practice.
Maybe this
Is a reward of sorts
As well.
There are no windows in this room
No glass to break
No distraction of the outside
Except the line-up
Of CPR dummies
In case we have to practice.

Social worker

Growing up I used to ride the city bus in Minneapolis and try to figure out peoples* stories. I had read Louise Fitzhugh*s Harriet the Spy, and was thoroughly enamored.  Harriet was my hero.   Back then there weren*t cell phones and overheard conversations to give me clues.  I rode the bus with absolutely fascinating people with whom I never talked.   Yesterday I ate lunch with two sisters who looked about ten years older than me.  After lunch and this conversation I kept looking at what I was wearing to see what said social worker.  I never did figure it out.

I had never seen her before.
She invited me to sit at her table
In the crowded sandwich shop.
Book in hand
I had figured to go back to the office
And eat.
Joined by her sister,
They planned a fundraising event
For an animal shelter
In South Elgin.
When asked, I said I had an office
In Glen Ellyn.
In a few more sentences
The question came
What do you do?
Oh I*m a therapist
I said.
The woman nodded
I figured a social worker
She said.
Really?  I look like a social worker?
Oh, she said
I*m a retired VA nurse,
You look like a lot of the social workers
I used to work with.
I realized,
In the middle of Panera,
Just how much I prize
The slide under the radar
In public places.
With this woman
I may as well have worn a sign
On my head.
I*m an Episcopal priest, as well,
I said.
Now that I never would have guessed,
That I never would have guessed.
All three of us

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why work with people? At all?

One of the other interns I work with said yesterday that he wanted to be an addictions counselor because of the light that goes on when someone understands why they can*t go back to using.  It was a hard day yesterday.  Two group members left the program, both a surprise to me.  Sometimes I think I can tell who will make it this time, and who won*t.  I can*t.  It is humbling.  Still I am hopeful.  More humble, still hopeful.  It*s not just alcoholics and addicts or the mentally ill that fit in this category.  I know it*s me and everyone I know.   I know we can do things to nurture things along, but it*s up to the individual grabbing on that*s important.  Until then, we throw seeds willy nilly, and God holds the sparkle until we*re ready, each of us, to grab on.

It*s when you catch that look in their eyes
And you know they get it
He says.
I think of seeds planted,
Which ones grow
The exact right spot for germination
Which can never be determined
By us,
So we cast seeds willy nilly,
On rock and loam,
In the veritable desert.
We look to see the particular sparkle:
It says
A little more water here,
A windbreak there,
Put this one
Under a growlight.
This one is best nurtured
In the light of the moon and stars.

We can only wait to catch
That look in their eyes,
Even knowing
This time may only begin
The sparkle
God holds the rest of it safe
Until the eyes and heart
Are ready.

Monday, August 22, 2011

They come and go and go again

It seems to be the time of moving, late summer, early fall.   Erik and Naomi stopped on their way from Baltimore to Minneapolis.  Naomi starts grad school in a couple weeks.  Erik will find a job.  They stopped  long enough to eat dinner, talk a little, sleep and go again.  We left the dishes, staked the cactus, watched them go, waved them on.  We will wave them back anytime.

I am reminded:
They come and go
And go again.
Arrive for dinner,
Leave before breakfast.

Dishes left in the sink
Sheets now folded
In the living room.

They come and go
And go again.

Rescued from the back of the truck:
The cactus,
Staked with pencils and string,
Will travel in front.

They come and go
And go again.
Of course they do.

The cactus is now
In the front seat
Staked and stringed
Safer there.

They come and go
And go again.
Of course.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Who do you say that I am?

We are given a  lot of places to recognize Jesus.  The opportunities are endless.  I used to preach every Sunday in a variety of pulpits.  Now I have a daily discipline of writing what I notice on a blog.  I recognize this discipline may change over time.  Today, as it happens, I am home from church with a cold.  My husband and daughter are ushering, then assisting in the nursery.  My son is coming through with a U-Haul tonight, moving from Maryland to Minnesota.  It will be good to have him closer.  We are given a lot of places and times to recognize Jesus.  Like this morning, sitting in the blue chair, reading what everyone else is hearing this morning in church.  The opportunities are endless.

Who do you say that I am?
It*s the question of the day.
Today Peter gets it right
For once.

Jeff and I saw Cowboys and Aliens last night.
On the sidewalk outside the theater
A group of young men gathered.
The aliens were simply not believable
One said.
To linger would have been obvious,
So we didn*t.
Over ice cream we wondered
About believable aliens.
We decided aliens were usually slimy
Or scaly,
On occasion, robotic.

You are the Messiah, the Son of God.
This time Peter gets it right.
Peter, encouraged to walk on water
Tried it
And sank.
Of course he is the one who denies Jesus
Three times.
Even then Jesus knew
It would take Peter three denials
Finally to realize the Truth again.
You are the Messiah, the Son of God.

I saw Jesus in the parking lot yesterday.
He looked like anyone and everyone.
He sleeps at a different church
Every night.
He sat at a picnic table in the shade,
Parked his bike out of the sun.
Yesterday, to me,
He was believable.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Picnic table

When I left the church this afternoon, there was a man on a bike in the parking lot.  He had his possessions strapped to the back of the bike, a well-worn Bible on top.  We talked.  And talked.  And talked.  Could he sit at the picnic table?  The picnic table always seems to be in a different place.  After we moved it into the shade, I pictured it being moved time and again into the shade, Jesus sitting there regularly.

I met Jesus this afternoon
Just outside the church.
He rode his bike in the parking lot
Said he was spending tonight
At Wheaton Bible.
He went through detox three times
Years ago
Before he found Jesus.
His scripture verses all lined up
King James.
It stopped him from drinking
I met Jesus
Homeless this afternoon.
We moved the picnic table,
He and I,
Into the shade
So he had room
Out of the sun.
Tonight he will be Wheaton Bible.
Tomorrow the Congregational Church.
The picnic table
Outside the church
In the shade.

I always find the picnic table moved
To a different place.
Now I know
Jesus sits there
In the shade.
At the picnic table
There is room.


I awoke this morning to take my daughter to cross country practice.  I am, after all, more of a morning person than my husband.  I*ll pick her up in few minutes.  With a head still cold-muddled, I will only make decisions which have no far-reaching consequences.  Of course, how I decide which decisions those are is up for grabs.  Corn and 7 AM and spot-cleaning seem safe enough.

It is the better part of sense
To make big decisions
When my head is clear
And things piece together
In a semblance of order.
Today is a day
For small decisions:
Where to buy sweet corn,
Who gets to drive the young woman
To cross country practice
At 7 AM,
 Divvying up the house for spot cleaning
Because our son stops through for the night
Small decisions.
Corn and 7 AM and spot cleaning,
An appointment at 2.
Definitely a nap
Before dinner.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Silver Queen

How do you tell when you*ve had a good nap?  I figure waking up with sweet corn on my mind is a sign.

I woke up from the nap,
Realized I have not had sweet corn
At all
This summer.
I figure I must have needed
The sleep
To wake up with sweet corn
On my mind.
Tomorrow begins the search
For Silver Queen
In the western suburbs.
The old stand closed a year ago
When the field grew monster houses.
Tomorrow we search for
Silver Queen
Even though I understand
There are new varieties
To take its place.
With less romantic names.

Finally an end to the week

It*s finally the end of the week.  This week has been longer than others.  Some weeks, it seems, expand.  Add a cold and decongestants and switching roles and scenarios multiple times, and even knowing how and what to count becomes a challenge.  I declare this to be The End.  Tomorrow?  Something new.  Now I am finished with my first milkshake in weeks, and a nap beckons..

Finally it is the end of the week.
Of course it depends
On where I start counting
And what counts
As an end.
All week I reflected things back
To clients
Saw myself in their eyes
All week we reflected each other
Until we couldn’t name
Where it started.
It seems this is empathy.
Finally it is Friday
Breakfast with a friend
Noon in the rowboat,
Safely docked by one o*clock, sharp.
Finally an end to the week
Only a glimmer to what next week
Will bring.
But now
An end,
A milkshake (vanilla),
And a nap.
That exact order

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Poet or no poet

There is change at the halfway house.  Guys come and guys go.  Sometimes they move into the recovery home, sometimes they move out on their own, sometimes they make it a week, sometimes it*s simply not time for them to be at the halfway house... a variety of reasons... really.  Friday the poet moves on.  He has always made sure I did not stack my own chair, or put it up on the table after community meeting.  Last night someone else from group grabbed my chair.  The poet laughed.  The other guy from group said Someone needs to do it.  It know it is not a small thing.  Not small at all.  Still, I only know a little of what it means.

This morning I wake grateful
With the cat at my feet,
No appointments to keep
Until this afternoon.

Only somewhat awake
There are no appointments.
I won*t need to speak
Until 1:00.

I spoke with the poet yesterday.
He wrote in prison,
Letters and poems for the guys
Who couldn*t write
Letters and poems for girlfriends.
He says he did not write
In the halfway house,
Because there he has a cell phone.

The poet always flanked me
In group.
Now I think maybe
I flanked him.

Last night another group member
Made sure to take care
Of my chair after the community meeting.
The poet smiled and laughed.
I will see who flanks me
Next week in group
After the poet has moved on.
I will see who has been designated
For me to flank
Next week.
Now that I have a morning
Without speaking,
I can see the possibility
It has all been determined
Poet or no poet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hand (for Rich)

It*s amazing to me how certain things come back.  Yesterday I found myself sitting with a client and holding up my hand to demonstrate how to give sandwich feedback, a la Rich Butman, my psychopathology professor at Wheaton (thank you, Rich!).  It*s been almost two years now since I took that class.  I will always remember The Hand.  Now I use it myself.

Yesterday I held up my hand
Fingers spread
Demonstrated to a client
How to give feedback
That might conceivably be heard.
I showed how to sandwich the edges of concern
With the strength that surrounds them.
I held up my hand.
The client
Sometimes easily distracted
Commented on my strong life line:
The lines on your hand
Look like a tree.

Yesterday I held up my right hand
With the tree on the palm.
I showed the thumb, middle finger and pinkie
As strength,
The pointer and ring finger
In need of help,
But still held up on all sides
With strength.

Yesterday I demonstrated
The Hand
The metaphor which is most always

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More crumbs

Even the dogs eat the crumbs from under their master*s table.  The Canaanite woman has decided to move in with me this week.  In my office, at the halfway house.  She demands healing.

The Canaanite woman has decided
To inhabit my office.
Whenever I think I know
Who is mine to serve,
She shows up
Live and in person.
She lives and breathes,
Demands new possibilities.
She stands, sits, kneels before me.
She asks a lot of questions.
She smashes any neat order I have found.

At my internship site another intern says
Remember you are not being paid for this.
My husband has determined
He loves this other intern.

Even though it is a halfway house for men
Even though I am not being paid,
The Canaanite woman lives there too
She demands new possibilities.
She knows there is healing there.
She demands
That the Truth be spoken.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Enough crunchies

What causes the cat*s brain to worry about where his next meal is coming from... especially the brain of an indoor cat? Sure, we*re not so good at cleaning his cat box, but he is not worried about that.  No, it*s when the bowl of dry crunchies gets low.  He stares... like it will miraculously fill.  Of course, his thought/worry waves radiate through the house, and his humans respond.  

When there are two mouthfuls of crunchies
Left In his dish
The cat gets worried.
He paces, then stares
At his dish
Like it will miraculously fill
To the brim.
He gazes beseechingly
At the bowl.
The cat food bag is full in the pantry.
We try to help him
Cut down on his intake.
He is, after all, a very large and gray tabby.
It seems he has memories
Of not enough
Never enough.
It*s not even that he eats it all
When it*s there.
We adopted him years ago now.
He runs to his dish every time someone
Walks to the kitchen.
It seems he thinks someone
Will forget to feed him
This time.

Even though I didn*t live through the Depression
Even though we had no balls of extra string,
All the bits tied together;
Even though we all sat down to dinner every night,
then played Kick the Can until dark,
Or Ghosts at Midnight;
Even though my bed was there waiting,
Food lined up in the fridge for snacks,
Homemade popsicles in the freezer.
Sometimes I think,
Watching the cat,
This time there won*t be enough
Of whatever it is,
Food?  Love?  Sleep?
Sometimes I remember,
Watching the cat,
How hard it is to remember:
There is.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dogs and crumbs

Sometimes Scripture does not paint Jesus in the best light.  Today was one of those days in church.  Today Jesus showed himself in need of healing, I think.  The Canaanite woman showed him the way.

Today Jesus behaved abominably.
He called the Canaanite woman
A cur.
She held on for the ride,
Spoke his metaphor back to him,
Dogs and crumbs.
She knelt and found what she looked for
Her daughter healed.
And Jesus was healed,
With his very own metaphor
Tossed at his feet.

May our streets be lined
With Canaanite women.
May they pour from the alleyways,
Beg for healing for their daughters and sons.
May they use the language we speak
The very metaphors we use
To set ourselves apart.
So we too
May be healed.

Morning crickets

Sitting in my writing chair this morning it seemed the crickets would be asleep by now.  I think of them singing at night.  They seem to think this morning needs accompaniment.  Of course maybe they do this most mornings and I simply haven*t noticed.  One of the many things I didn*t notice before.  I*ve heard people comment on how loud the cicadas were this year.  I wonder if we only think they*re louder because somehow other years we weren*t paying attention.  Maybe crickets always sing on August summer mornings, but I only listen to them, really, at night, as I lie in bed, windows open..  There*s usually more to do during the day than listen to crickets, or grasshoppers.  Cicadas, of course, demand attention.

Full morning light and the crickets
Still sing.
I thought they only sang
In the dark,
When no one could see,
In private
To the stars.
Seven lines into this,
They stop.
At 8:21 AM,
They stop
They must have sensed me
Then 8:22 AM,
They start
They may as well
I won*t stop listening.
Full light and they still sing
No matter who can see
No matter who is awake
No matter that the stars
Have completely disappeared
And the sun is already
In full morning shine.