No, I'm not being idealistic - 'The Way Life Should Be' is a slogan that appears on many welcome signs leading into the state of Maine. Is it true? Let's see...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Como La Cigarra

Como La Cigarra
Mercedes Sosa

Tantas veces me mataron, tantas veces me morí,
sin embargo estoy aquí resucitando.
Gracias doy a la desgracia y a la mano con puñal,
Porque me mató tan mal, y seguí cantando.

So many times I was killed, so many times I died
But nonetheless, here I am, breathing.
I give thanks to bad luck, and the hand that held the dagger
Because it killed me improperly, and I went on singing.
Cantando al sol, como la cigarra,
después de un año bajo la tierra,
igual que el sobreviviente que vuelve de la guerra.

Singing to the sun like the cicada
After a year underground,
Like a survivor, emerging from war.
Tantas veces me borraron, tantas desaparecí,
a mi propio entierro fui, sola y llorando.
Hice un nudo del pañuelo, pero me olvidé después
que no era la única vez y seguí cantando.

So many times I was erased, so many times I disappeared,
I went to my own funeral, lonesome and crying!
I knotted up my handkerchief, but forgot about it later
Because it wasn't the first time, and I went on singing.
Cantando al sol, como la cigarra,
después de un año bajo la tierra,
igual que el sobreviviente que vuelve de la guerra. 

Singing to the sun like the cicada
After a year underground,
Like a survivor, emerging from war.
Tantas veces te mataron, tantas resucitarás
cuántas noches pasarás desesperando.
Y a la hora del naufragio y a la de la oscuridad
alguien te rescatará, para ir cantando.

So many times you were killed, as many times you will come back to life
How many nights you have spent in despair!
And at the moment of ruin, and of darkness,
Someone will rescue you, to go forth singing.

Cantando al sol, como la cigarra,
después de un año bajo la tierra,
Igual que el sobreviviente que vuelve de la guerra. 

Singing to the sun like the cicada
After a year underground,
Like a survivor, emerging from war.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Perfection? What of it? 

Perfection is elusive, illusive.

Perfection is the province of nature and God. 

Perfection is for sunsets and rainbows and the autumn foliage. 

Women and men have no use for flawlessness. 

Leave perfection to the Earth and sky, and leave us humans to be with our magnificent defects. 

We will scale mountains and write symphonies, using nothing but our flaws.

Bug Light, Portland

I Do.

A pretty big couple of weeks for me.

Another old friend from the Peabody Center passed away the other day. A really special person that I won't soon forget. It was a good reminder for me, how precious life is. In the day-to-day, it is easy to forget how important it is to value the time you share with people you care about.
Old Orchard Beach, Memorial Day

I have begun the process of solidifying my plans to stay on full-time at Catholic Charities after the end of our JV year next month! A very exciting move for me! I have really enjoyed my time at the thrift store and I am realizing that I still have a lot more to give there.

I will be heading back to Seattle in a couple weeks to see family, and to attend my good friend Celine's wedding. It will be so good to be back and to see family, friends, and old coworkers again, especially since it looks like I will be staying in Maine for the next little while.

I started volunteering at the St. Vincent De Paul Soup Kitchen again this month, after a long time away. I started doing it as a way to supplement my work at the Thrift Store (which was highly administrative at the time) with something more service-oriented, but I have come to really enjoy it. In the gymnasium where the food is served there is also a piano, and one of the people who comes in to eat is a great pianist and will sometimes play us some songs. When I realized I was working a soup kitchen with live music, I knew it was the right place for me.

This morning at mass, the gospel reading was the Parable of the Sower. The sower scatters seeds all over; the ones that fall into the street get eaten by birds, the ones that fall into shallow soil  sprout a bit but soon wilt for their lack of roots, and it is the seeds that fall onto deep, rich soil that yield crops. It is the same for us, I suppose - without a good foundation we wither, but we need deep roots, and soil that fosters those deep roots, if we want to thrive.

So there you have it, Portland. Maybe my roots here need time to grow a little bit deeper.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

With Those Who Rejoice

Ignatian Retreat, last May
Happy Summer Solstice to all! Summer is finally officially upon us.

Last week while I was at work at the thrift store I saw something really touching. A teenage girl and her mom were shopping with us, and after trying on some clothes and getting ready to leave, they realized that the girl did not have her cellular phone with her. The girl had just graduated from high school the other day, and the phone had all of her graduation money clipped in with the case. She and her mom searched the dressing rooms and the rest of the store frantically, even shouting throughout the store that they were looking for a phone - but it never showed up.

Nearing tears and surrounded by other uneasy shoppers, the girl and her mom were prepared to cut their losses and head out. It was then that an elderly woman approached the girl and said "Sweetheart, I just feel so bad for you, so here you go." She handed her a wad of cash.

Well, that just about did it for the girl. She burst into tears and 'thank yous,' overcome with the generosity of this stranger, who (judging by her patronage at a local thrift shop) probably didn't have much money herself. Other shoppers, including one of our volunteers, followed suit and slipped the girl whatever they could give, as an extra graduation gift.

I was so surprised at the kindness of the customers, and at the same time, I was slightly ashamed of myself and my own indifference to the situation. When I heard that a customer had lost something in our store, my first selfish thought was 'I hope it wasn't the fault of one of the staff.' Then when I realized it was just some teenager who had misplaced her phone and some cash, I slightly pitied her, but mostly I felt downright inconvenienced! But when I saw the outpouring that the other customers showed this girl, and how much it meant to her and her mom, I was able to see through less alienating eyes. All of those qualifiers and judgment calls I tried to throw at the situation melted away, and she turned into a person who had lost something that meant a lot to her. And I could at least relate to that. Solidarity.

Incidents like that make me realize what a special place I'm in, and remind me to be open to learn from the kindness of strangers. And believe me, I could learn a lot from them.

Speaking of kindness, I had a really nice piece of scripture to work with this week at Spiritual Direction. I thought I would share it here.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21 (New American Standard)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

My dad was born on July 12th, 1947 in Arkansas. He moved to Seattle a bit after he was born, and he grew up there since the early 1950’s. Apart from some time in the merchant marines he spent almost all of his life there.

Dad and me at the beach - when I was in high school
I knew him to be a very private person and he wasn’t the kind of guy who would go on and on about himself, which means that I never new a whole lot about what his life was like before I came along. He loved Jazz, and Birkenstocks. One of the most important connections he had was with his support group, which he attended every week and was involved with from before I was born, until he died.

He struggled with diabetes and liver cancer for the last couple of years of his life. I was away at college so I wasn’t there when he died – but I remember getting the call from my mom while I was in rehearsals for Martin Luther King Night at SCU. If I couldn’t be home when it happened, a part of me is glad that I was there instead.

my parents
A nice memory I have of him was once, when I was a kid and the family was outside mowing our huge yards. When we did yard work my dad would turn into a drill sergeant, and I always hated doing it. Once he took me around to try to run the lawn mover on the front lawn but something wasn’t working. I think a part of the mower was loose or something, I forget. [I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but it was something like this.] He tried to tighten it and was having trouble finding the right sized wrench for the bolt, and I stood behind him, rigid, staring, waiting for further instruction. Instead of grumbling something under his breath like he usually did in situations like that, he turned to me and said: It looks like we don’t have the tools we want for this situation, but “One must learn to make do.”

It was a rare moment to hear him think out loud like that because, like I said, he didn’t talk much, and when he did it wasn’t usually in big-picture truths like that. I think that’s why it stuck with me so much. I can still hear him saying those words when I’m trying to fix something, or trying to make something work the way I want it to but it won't. Sometimes, you just have to make do.

If he were still here, I would tell him that I love him, and I know he deserved more than what he got. I still try to tell my friends about him, and what my life was like when he was still here, to show that he is still a part of my story.

Happy Father’s Day to all!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Blossom Like a Flower

It's amazing how quickly time flies.

The Catholic Charities Thrift Store has been open for about a week now! It has been a truly incredible ride, from carrying furniture and boxes of goods into the store one by one, to building the shelving and storage by hand, to pricing the store, item by single item, with price tags printed onto mailing labels...right down to recruiting hard-working volunteers and a small but incredibly energetic team of staff, quickly training ourselves on the point-of-sale system, and suddenly the doors open and we have ourselves a living breathing store. Simple as that, really.
A shopper at our store. Photo by Gregory Rec, Portland Press Herald.

It has truly  been one of the most exciting weeks I can remember. It's hard to believe how quickly and easily managing a store like this can really grow on a person - being so involved in its conception and construction really helps me to have a sense of ownership over it. This week I was called 'boss' the first time. The week was full of firsts for me, actually.

And look at this - we're famous.

I've been able to do a bit of shopping at the store too, and I came across a book that looked interesting to me - Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. My mom has the book and I saw it lying around the house as a kid, but I never gave it much thought. Now, I think I'm ready for it. I just found a quote of his that really resonates with me. (And come check out the store!)

"If we are not happy, if we are not peaceful, we cannot share peace and happiness with others, even those we love, those who live under the same roof. If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace."

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sister Golden Hair

Summer is definitely taking its time in getting all the way up to Portland. After a few days of teasing with sun and nice weather, the drizzle came back yesterday and is looking to stick around for the next week. While you hope for better weather this time of year, it could be worse, especially after the incredibly heavy winter we've had.

Loading up after the middle school rummage sale
The Catholic Charities Thrift Store is coming together, slowly but surely! We collected what seems like thousands of pounds of donations for the store just this week - including one enormous pickup at a Middle School rummage sale. By the time we were done there, the truck was completely stuffed - we even had to leave things behind! I had to take a photo of the truck as we were filling it, but it just doesn't do it justice. By this weekend I was pretty sore all over, including my back from that one time I tried to get slick and carry a recliner down some stairs by myself in North Waterboro. Gotta remember to stretch first.

That's the other thing I'm liking about the position - I'm able to see so much of Southern Maine by traveling to different towns, picking up larger items. I've been all over the place on pickups, from Rockland to York Beach. It's really a beautiful state.

I might lose some of you on this, but I have to admit - driving throughout the area going on pickups has a tendency to put me in a 'country' mood. Usually I can't take that kind of music, but it fits the scenery so well when we're on the road. I try to convince my supervisor Bill to put on the country music station when we're driving WAY out in the boonies, and he goes along with it but I can tell he's not a fan - so we settle on the classic rock station, which is even better. 'Sister Golden Hair' by America came on once this week and it's been stuck in my head ever since. Sounds summery, doesn't it? Maybe if I listen to enough of the right music, the sun will come out.