Sunday, June 29, 2003

heading out

I take the kids to camp early this afternoon. It took a long time to pack them yesterday; just writing names on 10 pairs of socks for each kid is a nontrivial job. And some of the things on the camp list are not easy to put together: 4 beach or bath towels for each kid!

When I get back from the camp we head for Philadelphia; we just want to get a few hours down the road today so that the drive tomorrow won't be so long. I hope to be writing here again Tuesday. I'm mostly shutting down my feelings and coping, but my anxiety level seems to have settled a bit.

Friday, June 27, 2003

The Yellow Bag

When I first started working with a Jungian therapist who loved my artwork, I carried an ordinary canvas bag with my pad. When I started making cloth hearts they outgrew my plain canvas bag, and I made myself a large yellow canvas bag. I’ve used it now for 7 years as my therapy bag. It contains some artwork, though I do art irregularly now, and a collection of symbols that I can pull out if I need them, as well as some miscellaneous paperwork.

A fairly complete list of current contents:
  • a man’s shirt which symbolizes my first father
  • a symbol of my mother: a piece of blue-patterned cloth rolled up and tied with a red shoelace containing branches cut from a rose bush, a cloth fish, and a small human figure made of wire with a red-clay head
  • two cloth frogs
  • a ziplock bag of my hair (I don’t remember why)
  • a bag of sidewalk chalk
  • a red folding umbrella
  • a small box with some pieces of flint
  • a blanket I made, yellow satin on one side and a yellow and orange pattern on the other
  • a lightweight silk rainbow—15 feet long and 3 feet wide
  • a large red silk shawl
  • most of a blue-and-white-patterned sheet, though part of it has been torn off
  • a wooden cross with a cross of nails mounted on it—maybe 5 inches tall
  • a silver spiral pin (still with a $12.95 pricetag on it)
  • a small icon of Mary mounted as a magnet
  • a folder of papers
  • two knives made of paper, one with a blade covered with aluminum foil
  • a small bag of marbles
  • a container of bubble solution (for blowing bubbles)
  • a spool of silver thread

Yesterday when I got to therapy I discovered my yellow bag, which I thought I had left in the car earlier in the week, wasn’t there. I was disturbed not to have it, but I thought I could have taken it into the house and forgotten I had done so, so I called home. My daughter reported that the police had just called to say that my yellow bag had been turned into the police station. The person who called me described it as having a lot of personal items in it (very polite of her) and some documents with my name on them. When I went by afterwards to pick it up they said it had been thrown over the fence at a construction site, so I guess it was stolen out of my car (which I don’t always lock).

Two things were missing from the bag. I had in there a plastic box which contained two Easter eggs—real blown eggs that I decorated as a child and gave as a gift to my grandparents. I was carrying them around thinking someday I would like to ceremonially smash them. The box and the note I wrote to my grandparents is still there, but the eggs are gone. The other thing that is missing is my art pad. I think it had three pages filled of which I remember two. One was a drawing of my hand being held over a candle. The other was a drawing of myself, nude, covered with geometric patterns of red lines. Sort of like a combination of this, this, and this. I’m a little weirded out that the person who took my bag kept my drawings. I hope they give him nightmares.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

here a few more days

I posted yesterday, but hit publish just as Blogger shut down to install the new version, and my post disappeared into the aether. I'm slowly turning my attention towards Philadelphia--working on making some contacts there. It is still hard to imagine being away from the structure and safe place of home for a month. We leave Sunday afternoon. I do expect to be able to write here while I am in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003


Suddenly yesterday I thought of the Passover song Dayenu. I found a traditional version:
How many levels of favors has the Omnipresent One bestowed upon us:

If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their first-born Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had smitten their first-born, and had not given us their wealth Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for forty years Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and had not fed us the manna Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Beit Habechirah (Chosen House; the Beit Hamikdash) Dayenu, it would have sufficed us!

Thus how much more so should we be grateful to the Omnipresent One for the doubled and redoubled goodness that He has bestowed upon us; for He has brought us out of Egypt, and carried out judgments against them, and against their idols, and smote their first-born, and gave us their wealth, and split the sea for us, and took us through it on dry land, and drowned our oppressors in it, and supplied our needs in the desert for forty years, and fed us the manna, and gave us the Shabbat, and brought us before Mount Sinai, and gave us the Torah, and brought us into the land of Israel and built for us the Beit Habechirah to atone for all our sins.
(source--if it comes up in Hebrew click the translation button)

I'm thinking about the idea of Dayenu: "it would have been enough". One article I came across says: "Many feel that redemption requires complete change. The Dayenu reminds us that redemption or self improvement is a process." I easily feel frustrated with myself for not being farther on my journey. My word for the week is now dayenu: what I have accomplished already is enough. I don't doubt God will lead me farther, but I will focus on gratitude for and acceptance of where I have already come.

Monday, June 23, 2003

moving forward

It was hard to slow down all the way to a silent retreat, but I'm awfully glad I had the break from the pressures here and a place to be quiet. Now I need to focus on packing my kids for camp and myself for a month in Philadelphia!

Friday, June 20, 2003


I turn 48 tomorrow, and, tired of my kids' expectations of birthdays, I'm celebrating this one by going to the convent in Augusta for a silent retreat. I don't yet mind getting older, and when I turned 40 I realized that I couldn't complain because I have very much more in my life than I ever thought possible. But I don't want to be celebrated; it only stokes up the negative messages that come up so easily in my head.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

the personal and the professional

Marshmellows and Bile points out a very interesting article about a specialist in bioethics who has had to confront his own heritage. What struck me was less the questions about new genetic choices, though those are very real, but his reaction that "He'd always feared becoming the sort of academic whose career is based solely on his personal obsessions" (p. 2). It strikes me that this is one of the ways in which women are still discredited in academia, for being motivated by personal concerns. There has been so much work critiquing the old notions of objectivity, but to the young scholar in the article disinterestedness is still a sign of valour. I don't deny that there are people who get tripped up in their professional work by personal concerns. But aren't we on average better off if we have scholars who also have emotional as well as rational knowledge of issues they study?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

the struggle

It is so hard to live a new life, and in the midst of the old one. My son turned 13 yesterday, but I am hardly 13 in learning to be myself.

Yesterday I taugh a workshop on alternative ways to use computers in teaching for writing to learn (I covered listservs, discussion boards, chat, and blogs). At one point I found myself talking about being a role model, in the context of using my course blog to be a role model for students in thinking critically about technology and society. I'm struck by how on a personal as well as a professional level I have come more and more to see role models as central to how we learn. I can't tell people much beyond facts, but I can show what I have learned through how I live my life. I'm grateful to Burningbird for being a role model in standing up to and naming the ways women are marginalized in the tech community.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

more thoughts on forgiveness

A friend writes:
I also think you're right about forgiveness being a thing that is covered and rediscovered over and over again. New little pieces of the pain come out like shrapnel in a soldier, years after the war. Each piece has to be integrated into the process and therefore warrants the attention other wounds have gotten. Although thrown back to square one each time, we get faster about processing things as we "practice" the process over and over.
Anger is about being able to defend myself and feeling able to defend my children. I need to know I have that right now. It is also about not blaming myself, something that takes a lot of work.

Monday, June 16, 2003

forgiveness and anger

My art project is here, but be warned that it is a graphic expression of nasty anger. It is on a host that isn't always reliable, so if you get a connection refused message try again another time.

All I know to say at this point is that I don't see forgiveness as a once and for all thing; sometimes I need to go back to anger and that doesn't mean that what I have done to forgive is a failure and wasted effort.

Friday, June 13, 2003

art project

Ok, I have a digital photograph of the gravestones of two of the family members who abused me as a child. What can I do with it? That is my project for this weekend, as a way of doing something with feelings from the trip that I haven't had a chance to work through yet. I'm thinking about printing out multiple copies and using it in some kind of art project more than about manipulating the photograph on the computer. But I might at least print it out in different sizes and colors. It is a simple white gravestone, not something bizarre. Any suggestions? My first thought is some variation of this, but that would be pretty indirect.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

50s science fiction

I reread First Lensmen by E. E. "Doc" Smith because I wanted to know what appealed so much to me when I was a teenager (in the 1970s--it was old already). The plot turns around a device provided by a superior race than can only be used by people who are absolutely incorruptible. I think the idea of a world where you knew who could be completely trusted was tremendously appealing. There is plenty of sexism, but at that time I identified easily with male characters. The device (the lens of the title) also makes possible mental telepathy, and the idea that what was hidden inside me could be known was appealing. Reading the book from my current perspective it is very funny from the perspective of the history of futurism--in the spacefaring world of the future the engineers still whip out their slide rules, and in fact "a computer" still refers to a person who does computations.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

facing pain

I was thinking about why I keep going back even though it is painful, and I realized that connected with the idea that forgiveness is somehow about being willing to absorb the pain so it doesn't keep bouncing between people doing more harm. But there are several dangers in saying that difficult experiences come out for the best. On the one side, it can lead towards chosing unnecessary pain out of a kind of spiritual masochism. On the other side, people can say "it was a blessing" about some painful situation as a way of dismissing or avoiding the pain. The right to get angry needs to come first. And while the situation is not one we would choose, usually there needs to be some choice to accept the pain before it can be redemptive.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

picking battles

I hadn't been following the story, so was impressed to hear that the Episcopal church in New Hampshire has elected an openly-gay bishop. My previous link to an article didn't work, but try the New York Times or Washington Post.

I understand that this is a difficult issue for the well-intentioned leadership of the church because of the views of Anglican leaders in the third world. I don't take the Biblical argument seriously because the biblical condemnations of homosexuality have no more authority than the requirements that women take ritual baths and cover their heads in church. But what strikes me is the effect of the New Hampshire decision on me as a liberal who tends to avoid conflict. Without this example I was tending to feel that it isn't the time to fight these issues. But the New Hampshire decision makes clear that the church can't afford to postpone the issue and rule out leaders that God is raising up right now.

I do want to point out that I am in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, not in the Diocese of South Carolina whose bishop has issued a statement condemning the New Hampshire decision.

Update: a number of good reflections

Monday, June 09, 2003

quick update

Right now my pictures aren't working at all because the server that hosts them is down. But some haven't been working even when the server is up. It seems to be choking on so many pictures on a remote server--I get different ones every time I reload. So here are some links instead:
houseblessing picture
living room picture

I'm safely home but just beginning to catch my breath. The schedule of day camp for my kids here the next three weeks is all messed up. And I'm teaching a workshop tomorrow in which I am giving a demonstration lecture using laptops.

Friday, June 06, 2003

tough time

What hits me as we start to get ready to leave here tomorrow is the unchangingness of the place. The priest remarked on how the living room hasn't been changed significantly since my great-grandmother and great-grandfather lived here (except the art). My parents and my sisters are trying hard not to change anything. Last year I wrote on a stone "change is possible" and left it in my room. When I try to leave this place I feel like it is not.

Thursday, June 05, 2003


We blessed the rooms we use most and rooms of significance from my childhood in all three houses. In the rooms where I have bad childhood memories we said the prayer:

"Let the mighty power of the Holy God be present in this place to banish from it every unclean spirit, to cleanse it from every residue of evil, and to make it a secure habitation for those who dwell in it; in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

The priest seemed to really understand what we were doing and prayed for past, present, and future inhabitants of the house.

My kids were uncertain about the idea beforehand, but when we blessed the rooms they use they joined us. It seemed to mean something to them.

It meant very much to me. The electricity went out sometime while we were doing the houseblessing and I joked it was that powerful (it came on again about half an hour later).

Then the sun came out and we went to the sandbars in Nantucket Sound.
Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Here are the two houses:

The big house was built in 1913 for my great grandfather. It is where I spend summers during my childhood.

The other house is an antique house my parents had moved to the property two years ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

houses and nests

I talked to the local Episcopal priest today about doing a houseblessing, and he seemed very comfortable with what I want to do. So he will come to the house Thursday at 10 am to do it. I told him some of my friends would be praying for me then.

This morning was beautiful and after that meeting we went out in our boat and picnicked on Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.

Herring gulls were nesting right at the edge of the beach, most with three brown speckled eggs. No chicks yet. The weather was changing by the time we headed back and it was cold and wet until we got back into Stage Harbor.

Monday, June 02, 2003


We had a big northeast storm yesterday, rain and high wind. We went out to see the ocean (I'll have to see if I can figure out a way to post pictures before I get home). But the second stop my daughter shut her finger in the car door badly, and we spent the rest of the afternoon at the emergency room. Nothing broken, but they drilled a hole in her nail to let the blood out.

Today is sunny but cool and very windy. We really want the wind to go down so we can go out in the boat. It is very hard to find our own routine here with my parents here (though in a different house) suggesting things. The last few years they haven't been here when we were here. They will go to New York Wednesday and Thursday so that should give an opportunity to do the houseblessing, if all goes well when I meet with the priest tomorrow.