Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Standing Still

There is a wonderful story about 2 grandmothers who stood in a park for peace. They stood for so long that the town began to talk. They made jokes. They gossiped. But slowly, more people joined them. And more... day... after day. The newspaper did a story. They mayor got upset and asked the police to break them up. But, the police couldn't. For after all, they were just individuals standing still in a park. Soon the mayor's wife joined them. Then the police chief's wife. Towards the end, they had over 2,000 people standing still in the park for peace.

There was a book written about their experience called The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering. I haven't read the book but I understand that this event has started a huge movement of standing still for peace. There is a website called StandingWomen.org. They invited groups to register and stand still on May 13 at 1 pm - Mother's Day. Over 3,000 groups registered... groups in Thailand, Australia, Netherlands, Israel, Sweden, Canada and hundreds of places throughout the United States.

We had a group in Raleigh, too. A woman from our church organized it. A small group of us stood in a park beneath an oak tree across from the church. A soft breeze was blowing and even though cars were passing by on the busy streets and we could hear the sounds of a homeless rally in the distance, there was peace. She rang a meditation bell to signify the moment. We settled into silence for 5 minutes. The leaves of the oaks rustled above us. While my eyes were closed, I saw a flash of bright light out of the corner of my eye. I realized that it was the sun filtering through the leaves of the trees above. But in my mind the flash was much brighter. It made me think of all the people all around the world standing still at that exact moment. I felt an overwhelming sense of unity with these people. Like we were all holding hands to form a gigantic circle of hope that embraced the globe.

The StandingWomen.org website says this:

We are standing for the world's children and grandchildren, and for the seven generations beyond them.
We dream of a world where all of our children have clean drinking water, clean air to breathe and enough food to eat.
A world where they have access to a basic education to develop their minds and healthcare to nurture their growing bodies.
A world where they have a warm, safe and loving place to call home. A world where they don't live in fear of violence - in their home, in their neighborhood, in their school or i
n their world.
This is the world of which we dream.
This is the cause for which we stand.

There are lots of people that think this is a ridiculous concept, standing still for peace. But there are a couple of things that come to my mind about this idea. Non-violent protest, for instance. The idea of universal substance, everything is connected - how you act, how you think, what you say, all makes an impact in this world. And finally, meditation - you become centered and peaceful, and by no action of your own, you influence everyone you meet, everything you touch.

So, I'll continue to stand still for peace. I hope that more will join me. Just think, if everyone in the world stood still for peace, there would be no one left fighting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

High School Musical

There is a new Disney show that all the kids are crazy about (at least, the kids around here...) called High School Musical. The story line is similar to Grease - a boy and a girl from opposite sides of the school cliques meet while on vacation and end up attending the same school. The story ends with the cliques "un-cliqued" and the whole school coming together in harmony.

They made the movie into a theater production that came to Raleigh recently. We knew months ago that it was on the way but kept forgetting to get tickets. Well, a few days before opening night, I started looking for them. Get this - it was here for about 10 days, maybe 3 shows a day? And I think our theater holds about 2,000 people. All of them, every single show, every single seat was SOLD OUT! So I started asking around and searching on the web..., nothing!

Now, many moons ago, my husband and I went to Las Vegas. We decided on the spur of the moment to see a show and the only thing showing that moment was Louis Anderson. We went the the box office just after the show had just started. As it turns out, they save VIP seats until the last minute and if the VIP's don't show, they're up for grabs. We ended up sitting at a white linen table right by the front of the stage. I was literally resting my elbow on it!

I figured as a last resort, I'd try this same strategy with High School Musical. At least, I thought, someone would certainly be out front hawking their spare tickets. So, my daughter and I headed downtown and waited in front of the theater.

As it turns out, there were no hawkers. We went to the box office. The reception area was jam-packed with girls in their High School Musical duds, my daughter saw a girl she goes to school with, tables were lines with T-shirts and backpacks, the noise was deafening. Donna, the box office attendant, informed us that the show was completely sold out. However, there were occasionally cancellations but she's already started a waiting list. Well, I said, it couldn't hurt to add us to the list. She scrawled my name and cell number on a tiny spot of a sticky note. Not the most reassuring feeling, I can tell you.

Back outside we went. More girls arrived, a limo pulled up (I'm not kidding), more girls and moms piled out of it. We waited and waited. The crowd outside was getting sparse. My daughter holds my hand and sadly watches these girls file into the theater. "Mommy", she says, "I really want to see this show!" Geez, I think, what I'm I doing out here! This is torture for my child, how can I do this to her!?!

Just as I'm about ready to call the whole thing off, the phone rings. "Hi, this is Donna from the box office, come on in, I might have something that will work for you..." Hallelujah, Donna! We race inside. She has 2 seats by the sound booth, it's an obstructed view, only $32.00 total, $16 each. I say, "Well, I think that will work, right, Maddy? If we can't see the stage, we'll just listen to the music!" By this time she's hopping up and down, "Oh, yeah, that will be just fine!"

We race upstairs and enter the theater. Before us is the grand High School Musical banner on the stage, surrounded in lights. The theater is packed, the excitement is palpable. I hand our slip to the usher. He says "I just sent two people away looking for seats in this same place! The row is full - there are already ticket holders in them. Go back downstairs, tell the girl that these seats are taken!"

Have you ever felt crushed, really crushed? My daughter says "But mommy, I really, really want to see this show." I take her hand. My heart is being ripped out of my chest, I can feel the disappointment rising into my throat. I'm a terrible mother, I should have bought these tickets ages ago!!

We head downstairs and the curtain must have risen just then because all we can hear are the screams of 2,000 girls going crazy. I kneel down and look my daughter in the eye, my sweet, wide-eyed child and say "Remember, sweetie, I said that it was very, very unlikely that we'd get tickets to this show. We'll come back again and try the 7 pm show, maybe that will work..." (What am I saying!?! Can I go through this agony again?)

We reach the box office and dear sweet Donna says, "Hold on - I'm doing the best I can." Doing the best she can?? What happened to the refund and the pat on the head?

She thrusts another sheet of paper at me. "Here you go, try this! Straight down the hallway." Would you believe we got seats directly behind dress circle, the ones lined up on the walkway, the ones used for the media and other VIP's! We had a perfect view of the stage and were so close, you could make out the detail of every costume, every facial expression! It was absolutely unbelievable! Divine intervention, I'm telling you! An absolute miracle!

So, there are two lessons here - one, always get your tickets in advance, especially for the kids shows. Two, if you are completely scatterbrained like yours truly, try showing up at the box office right before showtime. You might get lucky after all!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

12 Far-From-Angry Jurors

It finally came one day... the Jury Duty letter. It's been quite awhile since I've been summoned for Jury Duty. At least 8 years. The last time I was a resident of San Francisco. I sat in a crowded waiting room for about an hour and was dismissed.

This time, though, was a quite different and very unusual. I actually completely forgot about it the day of my summons. I was on my way out the door found a receipt from our vehicle tax bill. For some reason it reminded me of government issues and my jury service. Panicked, I called the number at the courthouse to see if I needed to serve. Oh, yes. My time was up.

I dropped my daughter off at the bus stop, rushed downtown, found the Wake County government parking lot and bolted in the door. Once there, I could relax in the jury lounge. I read my book, called my mom, ordered a coffee. It's really a lovely view from the 6th floor, the sunlight beaming in through the windows. I was recording the events in my journal when my name was called.

Me and 23 other potential jurors boarded the elevators in shifts to the 10th floor. Civil trials. We filed into the courtroom like a conveyor belt, taking our seats. In front of us were the plaintiffs, lawyers in pastel suits reminding me of a Matlock episode. On the defense, two dark-suited seasoned lawyers, more like L.A. Law.

They called 12 of us to the stand and in a bizarre moment, I was chosen as juror # 1. My heart pounded in my chest as the everyone watched me take my seat in the Jury Box. The questions started. Questions from the judge, from the plaintiff, from the defendant. Jurors were dismissed, new ones called. More questions, more dismissals. Hours passed. We broke for lunch. Came back. More questions, more dismissals. This continued for 2 more days.

Most of the time, we were asked to sit in the jury room adjacent the courtroom. By this time, we've all gotten to know each other. We can't remember names so we use our juror numbers. Number 2 jokingly complains about being number 2. I think we were referring to the bathrooms at just about that time. Number 3 has the boldness to ask the questions we all wonder about. She develops a relationship with our bailiff, a very tan, very weathered war veteran. We call him Buffalo Bill. He gives us a crackly laugh and reports our questions to the judge in all seriousness, like, can we have beer and pizza at lunch? Number 10 reminds me of one of my uncles, making hilarious comments while reading the paper. Number 7 reminds me of someone at my church. It occurs to me that this entire jury reminds me of people that I know or have known. I start to feel like I've known them all of my life, even though it's only been 3 days. I wonder if the older you get, the more you have this feeling. The feeling of familiarity with people you meet.

Finally on day number 4, the trial begins. We hear from the officer on the scene, the medical examiner, the coronor, the daughter's teary testimony. It was a heavy morning. We come back from lunch and hear from the doctor being sued for medical malpractice. The questioning gets intense. We all feel anxious. Suddenly, there is a pause. The doctor shudders, his head limply falls to his shoulder, his eyes stare blankly into the distance. We look at each other, we look at the lawyers, we look at the judge. The lawyers rise from their seats, calling his name. We're dismissed to the jury room.

Juror 11 sees the ambulance pull up in front of the courthouse. Juror 6 listens at the door. We wait in anticipation, wondering what's going on.
We chat, we joke, we laugh. Nervous energy. We wonder if the lawyers can hear us. Time crawls. We're finally called back.

The judge apologizes and tells us that he feels we cannot be a fair and impartial jury due to this event. He calls a mistrial.

And that's the end.

We file out of the courtroom in a daze. The lawyers ask us about our feelings of how things went. We talk openly now, feeling relieved. We talk with each other about the bizarreness of it all. We go to the 6th floor together for our parking validations. We walk to the parking garage together. It's like we don't want it to end, this strange experience. Should we exchange numbers? Emails?

But, no, it's only been 4 days. Just enough time to become comfortable together but not enough time to keep in touch. We get into our cars and drive home. Back to our real lives, our work, our family, our friends.

In a strange way, though, I'm sure I'll meet these people again, sometime down the road. There was just too much in common to not cross paths ever again. As sure as I am of the sunrise and my daughter's smile. These are 4 days that I will never forget, 12 far-from-angry jurors that will be a part of my life forever.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ode to my dog

What is it about this dog?
Soft kisses with a wet nose,
Gentle licks with a soft tongue.
What is it about his silky warm fur?
Him curled up at the bottom of the bed,
Sweet brown eyes watching me pass by.
I snuggle my face behind his ears
and scratch his head, dear heart.

What is it about his devotion?
This dog that howls in excitement,
When I walk in the house;
Back end wagging so hard,
about to split in half with joy.
What is it about his energy?
This dog that flies so fast after balls,
frisbees, sticks and pinecones.
So smart he rings a bell to go outside,
and closes the door on command.

How can a dog be so cute?
When he cocks his head
on hearing the word "walk",
eyeing me with expectation,
an anticipated pause.
Like holding breath.
How can we not be in love with this dog?

So loyal, so good, this dog
that will follow my daughter
into her bedroom when she's
scared of dark corners.
This dog that brings our family together.
This dog, our beautiful dog, our Dasher.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


Last month, we took a long weekend trip to Asheville, NC. This is a fabulous little city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and home to the Biltmore Estates, the breathtaking castle built by George Vanderbuilt in 1895.

What I love about the town of Asheville is all of the amazing art galleries and shopping. The best, in my opinion, is the refurbished Woolworth's building that is filled with mini-art studios and retains the old soda fountain. We stopped to have ice cream and coffee while taking in the local art creations. My daughter's favorite was the Mast General Store and the section filled with barrels of candy. I was surprised to see some old favorites, candy dots, root beer barrels, slo-pokes and mary janes.

What I love about the Blue Ridge Mountains are the spectacular views, especially while on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We entered at the Pisgah National Forest and stopped at Looking Glass Falls. How relaxing it was to sit by the cool waterfall, letting our feet soak in the passing stream.

What my husband and I loved about the whole trip was sitting in the rocker on the porch watching the sun drop behind the mountains with a glass of wine enjoying a salami and cheese tray. What my daughter loved about the whole trip was fishing and roasting marshmallows over the fire!

We stayed in a little place nestled in the mountains called Lady Bug Cabin. Our daughter found some friends and they played in the mud in the nearby stream. It just so happened that the puddles were filled with growing tadpoles... thousands of them. She became attached to the little guys so we brought 4 home with us. She told me she was sure they were going to die, so I made it my mission to keep those babies alive!

I researched tadpole care, used bottled water for their home, boiled the sand and organic lettuce, went to the pet store for high-protein fish food, replaced the water weekly. They nibbled on the lettuce and flipped around happily in their bowl... a minor miracle. Three of them grew steadily, one lagged behind and wouldn't eat, so we lost him, poor thing.

Eventually they grew their back legs and soon developed their front. We decided it was time to move them to a bigger space but our boiled water (bottled water was getting expensive!) was a little too hot and they started to go belly up during the transfer to the aquarium. We pulled them out quickly and dropped them back in the bowl. Two survived. We buried the other in the backyard with the cat.

They acclimated to their new surroundings in no time and soon enough, their tails began to shrink. They started sticking to the glass and climbing on the rocks. We realized that we successfully nurtured these little guys into real live frogs and headed to the pet store for tree frog supplies: coconut husk, moss, crickets, warming pads and vines.

How amazing the transformation has been over the past several weeks! We watched these squiggly little beings grow into happy, hoppy frogs - incredible!

I subscribe to a little inspirational magazine called The Daily Word. There was one day they were talking about transformation and referred to a tadpole. It said "I observe the simple shape of a tadpole in a pond. I am aware that the tadpole has within it the potential to grow and change to express life in new and greater ways."

Everything and everyone has the potential to grow and change and experience life in new ways. Everyday gives the opportunity to do so. I think if we just observe long enough, we'll find amazing transformation around us and in us at all times!