Thankful Thursday: I Am But A Dustpan

I haven't written in a while because I don't want to talk about my aching feet and how too many people have told me it's my fault because I wear high heels but they don't know that shoes are the only thing that always fit (until your bunion takes over) and I don't want to be the kind of person who chooses sensible over stylish.

So I'm sorry, I don't want to bring you down or talk about the things I can't stop thinking about: the hard work and low pay of the (mostly) women who feed, wipe, bathe, dress and care for people so late in their lives and so ill that there are few people left that can care for them. 

I can't stop thinking about the craggy chasm between these (mostly) young women scraping by and the (mostly) old men at the wheel of our lives, making laws and revoking essentials, leaving dignity like a broken down car at the edge of the cliff. I don't want to talk about justice and compassion, those Boy Scout words that now seem as antiquated as landlines and paper maps.

There are calls for our greater selves to surface, to act. Am I obligated to resist, resist, resist

Empathy is a verb. But so is resignation. 

I don't want to bother you with the way my body is leaden with these thoughts and how I've turned inward and slow, how I've read three self-help books in one week and feel none the better.

Everything is a project, and I've run out of gas, will, wine. 

My neighbor, a kind older man who keeps a meticulous lawn, comes looking for me. He hasn't seen me lately, he says. "Are you okay?" 

And just like that I want to tell you that big sweeps are for grand rooms, and I am but a dustpan able to clean a small space. I am cared for and cared about. I love and am loved, and doesn't that erase, or ease, or relax for just a minute this fist I am shaking at the world? 

At the nursing home one of my favorite Bettys (a popular name among the geriatric generation) asks me again and again, "Where am I supposed to be?" 

"Right here," I say, reaching for her hand. "You're right where you're supposed to be."

Her face softens, fear subsides. "Oh good," she sighs. 

We sit together in the quiet.

"You're a pretty girl," she says. 

I'm not a girl. I have bunions and jowls and I know it's not beauty she sees but a small pause of kindness, and I want to do everything I can to live up to her words. 

This evening as the sun slips and the heat softens, I read a poem of just two lines. I can do that. Read, read, write. One line, a start. Let's not save the world, or even ourselves. Right now, in this warm glow, let's just be here, right where we belong. 



It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things & more. Our joy contracts and expands in relation to our gratitude. Big or small, puny or profound, what are you thankful for today? 


* With gratitude to Rebecca Lindenberg, who wrote the poem pictured at top. It appears in The Logan Notebooks. 



Sunday Morning

And when I wake up in the morning feeling love

And when I wake up in the morning with love

And when I wake up in the morning and feel love

And when I wake up in the morning already loving

How the body works to help us feel it


Emmy Perez
from Rio Grande~Bravo 



Summer, Weight & Shame

Summer — my favorite time of the year!

And with it, the dreaded revealing of the BODY. All that winter weight crammed into jeans and hidden by sweaters is now bare, big, and fleshy. My body, a machine operating apart from my mind, is pale and loose, and there's too much of it.

Again. Still.

This is not new. This is my everyday routine — yours too? — in which I fight my body in an exhausting battle of wish and shame. It doesn't matter my size, the desire is the same:  slim, slender, thin, all the words that mean not me.

Those golden seasons, of the slimmer me, were short-lived and in retrospect I never felt as good as I now see I looked. That's the way, isn't it? We look back at photos and sigh, "Oh, I wasn't fat." 

But isn't this normal? Does every woman have an eating disorder? Not anorexia or bulimia, necessarily, but dis-order, dis-ease, unease, about food and body, value and worth?

Sure, there are days I feel active and strong, smart and creative, but isn't there some mind-body acceptance that lasts longer than the time it takes to get showered and dressed? An enduring sense of peace with this thing I carry day after day?

I've got no answers, but I like this poem:

Today I asked my body what she needed,

Which is a big deal

Considering my journey of

Not Really Asking That Much.


I thought she might need more water.

Or protein.

Or greens.

Or yoga.

Or supplements.

Or movement.


But as I stood in the shower

Reflecting on her stretch marks,

Her roundness where I would like flatness,

Her softness where I would like firmness,

All those conditioned wishes

That form a bundle of


She whispered very gently:


Could you just love me like this?

—  Hollie Holden


And I like these words:

We can only really be known, and we can only really know, when we show our scars . . .

And everything that happens to us, everything that happens to us in our life, happens to our bodies. Every act of love, every insult, every moment of pleasure, every interaction with other humans, every hateful thing we have said, or which has been said to us, happens to our bodies. Every kindness, every sorrow, every ounce of laughter. We carry all of this, with us, in some form or another. We are walking embodiments of our entire story and the scars from that aren’t optional, but the shame from that is."

— Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, House for All Saints and Sinners, from Scarred and Resurrected: A Sermon on Our Human Bodies 


And lastly, this may be my summer anthem: 


Your turn. Let's talk:  How are you? Tell me about your body, your mind, your heart.



At Last

Eileen McKenna photo


The long wait


In that long slow

stretch between


late winter and

true spring


the sky stands static

and gray until



the dogwood opens,


forming a choir

of blooms


every petal lifted

like hands in praise


and we are witness

to a miracle we


can finally



- Drew Myron



Friends Give Me Books

It doesn't take much to make me happy: sunshine, a good book, and people who give me books. (Is there a better gift than a book? I can only think of one: a letter, a letter tucked inside a good book). 

I'm happily immersed in books — books I would have never known had good people not shared their good books with me. The world really does turn on the exchange of words. 


by Robert Macfarlane

Published in 2016, this book is lush, dense, poetic. Robert Macfarlane is a British academic, nature writer, and word lover who is working to restore the “literacy of the land.”  Landmarks, says The New York Times, "is part outdoor adventure story, part literary criticism, part philosophical disquisition, part linguistic excavation project, part mash note — a celebration of nature, of reading, of writing, of language and of people who love those things. . . "  That's me! 

The Five Minute Journal

by Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas

I wasn't immediately thrilled with this gem. It's billed as "the simplest, most effective thing you can do every day to be happier." While given to me with love, I saw it as a unending homework assignment. Uggh. But I do like structure and lists, so I stepped up and gave it a try. And I'm "happy" to say this is a five-minute focus exercise that works! I don't do it everyday (there's only so many shoulds I can do and remain a pleasant person) but when I start my day with this journal I always feels better than when I don't. 


Princess Pamela's Soul Food Cookbook
by Pamela Strobel

I'm not a foodie or a fancy cook, still I love the spirit of this book. Long out-of-print, after 45 years this treasure has been re-introduced as history lesson, poetry, and cookbook in one. Written in 1969, this is a collection of recipes from Pamela Strobel’s tiny soul food restaurant that thrived in New York's East Village in the 1960s. Orphaned at 10 years old, Strobel was just a teenager when she traveled north from South Carolina to New York to make a life for herself with her one skill: cooking. She pairs nearly every recipe with a poem, serving up a wonderful mix of food, love, religion, and race. With a recipe for tripe, for example, she offers this: 

Practically every kind of people

eat somethin' that somebody

else make a godawful face

at. If that don’ tellya what

this race-hatin’ is

all about, nuthin’ will.

In this life, we gotta give

ourselves a chance to digest a

lotta things we don’

understand right off. 


The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
by Edward R. Tufte 

I am perplexed by this gift. It's more textbook dull than visual cool. Given to me by a designer friend, I know I'm holding an important work of another world but it's a world I don't fully understand. Still, I recognize a classic, so I plug along, puzzling over detailed graphs, elaborate tables, and engineer-ish illustrations. That's how it is with books that arrive as gifts, both giver and receiver are seen and revealed — and, really, that's a gift in itself.


Your turn. What are you reading? What books have you gifted, and what have you received?