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How I learned Russian and wrote a novel while sheltering at home!!!

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OK, no I didn't! But I think you knew that.
I hope you are all having a wondrously creative time in lockdown. Knitting up a storm, learning the piano, finally learning how to make a roux, n'est-ce pas?  I had all sorts of plans too, now that my favorite activities -- hanging out with friends, volunteering as a chaplain, church, choir, tai chi classes, and eating out -- have all gone down the tubes.

I was going to redesign my front garden.  I did spread mulch and plant a few new things, but the result is much the same as last year.
I was going to add a spiritual direction page to this blog, hoping to drum up clients from the spiritually fluid and/or the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd.
I was going to weed my library in order to assemble a donation for the local public library (which is, of course, closed right now). 
I thought I might learn an easy instrument, since using the vocal cords for singing seems to be way, way off in the distance. 
I have certain areas of my house …

The Easter Grinch

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Above is a picture of my pisanki, highly-decorated Easter eggs given me by a dear friend. They appear in my dining room at the beginning of Lent every year, and never fail to grace my Easter table. I dyed some hard-boiled eggs as well, but it would not be Easter without the pisanki, those reminders of spring and resurrection. 
Aside from the pisanki, nothing about Easter was normal, and I feel I turned into an Easter Grinch. Church, of course, was online. I’m getting adjusted to that, but my laptop kept notifying me that my internet connection was unstable. We had many attendees, which may have been a factor. In any case, audio and video kept freezing for me, especially during the sermon, which was unfortunate. I needed a few words of hope and glory! Grinch grumbling on my end occurred. 
At dinner, there were only three of us this year. Our son’s girlfriend had been invited, but she is quarantined up in Bergen County, one of our New Jersey hotspots. Our daughter, her fiancĂ©, and his kid…

Noon Meditations

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Last week, I joined a small meditation group hosted every weekday at noon by a friend with whom I went to seminary.  Meditation is always a good thing, but it seemed to me that I needed discipline and accountability with my meditation practice right now (since it tends to be spotty under normal circumstances). 
The first week, the sessions were devoted to tonglen, a type of
meditation involving breathing in the suffering of others, then breathing out compassion. It's more complicated than that, probably, but that is how we boiled it down for our own purposes. It can lead to a feeling of heaviness and sadness, but also to a sense of having added, even if by a tiny fraction, to the amount of compassionate, healing energy in the world. Since I'm not an essential worker, it gave me something purposeful to do right now, besides cowering in my house.  If you're interested, a resource is listed below.


Yesterday, we tried something different: chanting with Amma.  If you don't …

This feeling of grief

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So here we are, locked down and shut in, waiting and praying for the first wave of coronavirus to pass. As a kid swimming in the Atlantic, I learned early how to dive under the breaking wave, to avoid feeling its force, emerging beyond it safe and sound. That’s the point of sheltering in place, too: avoiding the virus, letting it pass by like the angel of death on Passover.

I mind this enclosure much less than I expected to. As an introvert, I should not have been surprised. My husband and son are working from home, but I still have ample time on my own. There are so many things I could be doing around the house. I’ve done none of them. I can't seem to move.
As a hospice chaplain and vigil volunteer, I think I’m grieving for people I don’t know. Working with dying people and their families, I know how important the gathering of loved ones can be to a patient’s peaceful transition. Family members telling funny stories, praying together, watching those last breaths: these are the e…

Finding my balance...

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I've been retired for a bit over two years now. I love not having to get up and go into Philly every day. It's a special treat not to have to ride SEPTA, which was always the weak link in my commute. I miss the people I worked with, but most of them have now retired, too -- and we are all in touch.

None of us is ready for the rocking chair, at right.

But I have to admit, I haven't yet hit my stride. My schedule is minimal: every Tuesday, and every other Wednesday, I  serve as a volunteer chaplain in hospice inpatient units. I love this work! Yet I have no temptation to look for a paid position.

My problem is that, barring a sudden disaster or diagnosis, most of what I would like to do can always be done tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or ... whenever.

And so not much gets done. My garden is like me -- colorful but weedy. My house is not the cleanest. I have read my way through several mystery series this summer, but the serious reading I had planned to do has not been to…

The Trump Effect

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Well, it’s been a year since I last posted here. Maybe my three constant readers thought I’d died. But no!

Call it the Trump Effect. All I’ve done during the past year is watch the growing horror in the Oval Office clawing nearer to disaster with his tiny hands. I rode that wave of delight we all felt when the Democrats took the House. And I’m waiting desperately for Robert Mueller’s report (assuming we get to see it) and its nice, fat indictment for Trump. 
But neither of those things may happen. Meanwhile, as I obsessed about the state of the union, the blog remained unblogged, the garden grew weedy, and I totally failed to do any work on myself (aside from tai chi, which I’ve done faithfully). No meditation, no hiking, no yoga, no Great Courses (I think I left off in the middle of a course on the Gnostics).  I’ve become a dry leaf, rattling in a gale. 
So maybe it’s time to take myself in hand. Trump is not going away today, tomorrow, or the next day. Spring starts this week I’m tr…

What will we call this time?

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One side of my family is from the south, from coastal North Carolina. Among other endeavors, they grew peanuts, and every autumn of my childhood we received a huge bag of raw peanuts, to be roasted and enjoyed. On visits to see these relatives, I also recall being driven at night through the Dismal Swamp, which impressed me as eminently worthy of its name.

Like many of my other family members, those on the North Carolina side could be a bit eccentric. The one who sticks in my mind is Cousin Pearl, who at eighty had glasses like Coke bottles and rode a bike everywhere. In her house there was also a fascinating little room with walls lined from floor to ceiling by little apothecary drawers, in which she claimed to store “this and that. “ To this day, I have never learned their contents. 
Cousin Pearl was a wonderful conversation partner for a young teenager. One topic, though, was off limits: the Civil War. Cousin Pearl mentioned this painful period only once, referring to it as the “Lat…