Invocation for Christmas Eve

We come together hoping for a miracle
Or seeking comfort because we don’t believe in miracles

We come together brimming with excitement and anticipation
Or weighed down by weariness and exhaustion

We come together satisfied by a sensation of wholeness
Because those we love are by our sides, where they belong

Or blindsided by loneliness and isolation,
longing for family and friends
whose absence leaves a scar on our hearts.

We come together for the chance to make
a connection with another human being
or with the holy and the sacred
that sometimes fills us up and sometimes feels just out of reach.

We come together with hearts bursting with joys and yearnings,
With hearts crowded by fears and regrets

Take a deep breath. Breathe in the love that is manifest in this place.
Take another breath. Breathe out peace.

May we be fully present for this hour, open to love, open to peace, open to the possibility of transformation.

 

The Fortunately Unfortunately Game

My daughter once taught me a game that her third grade teacher taught her called Fortunately Unfortunately. Someone starts a story and the next person continues with a twist of fate, either positive or negative. It can be very funny, and more philosophically a good reminder to count your blessings. There’s a story told by Stillwater the Panda in Jon Muth’s Zen Shorts with a similar moral.

I feel like our lives this weekend have been a litany of good fortune and misfortune. Not all of them are funny, but all of them are true.

Unfortunately my wallet fell out of my back pocket into the toilet. Fortunately I had only peed, and the $25 in cash remained miraculously dry.

Fortunately I accomplished a lot of cleaning and organizing. Unfortunately, I fell hard after mopping the floor because the soles of my feet were covered in lint and therefore slippery. Fortunately I didn’t have to go to the hospital!

Unfortunately I also whacked the back of my head hard on Zeke’s bunk bed while trying to make up the bed for my nephew to come for a sleepover. Fortunately Zeke and Charlie had a great time together. Unfortunately there’s a giant knot on the back of my head. Fortunately it didn’t bleed!

Fortunately I convinced my kids to go on a walk with me this afternoon because it was  sunny and warm after yesterday’s endless torrential rain. Unfortunately Zoe stepped in the creek and soaked her feet, despite wearing her boots. Fortunately she shrugged it off and we continued on our walk and went to the playground for a bit, which we all enjoyed.

Unfortunately our thermostat stopped working last week, just as it was getting rather cold out. Fortunately Randy called in an expert who determined that it was just the thermostat and not the heating system, which was much less expensive to replace. Fortunately Randy was able to get a new one on sale and the guy came to install it on Saturday morning and we are masters of our indoor temperature once again.

Unfortunately the kids complained and dragged their feet when we wanted to take them to the No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man exhibit at the Renwick Gallery the other day. Fortunately we finally got ourselves together and drove downtown. Unfortunately it was raining and we got a little wet on the way, despite our raincoats and umbrella. Fortunately it was warm and dry inside the museum and, more importantly, the exhibit is AMAZING (if you’re in DC between now and January 31 I highly recommend it!) and everyone loved it. Unfortunately at the end Zeke begged for something from the gift shop and I refused, so he sulked. Fortunately his sister was kind and spent her own money to buy him something. Unfortunately this may ultimately be sending the wrong message, but I’m not going to worry about that right now. Unfortunately when we were about to leave it was raining even harder. Fortunately Randy volunteered to go get the car and pick us up. Unfortunately he got completely soaked. Fortunately we went home and he changed and everyone had hot chocolate and we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Unfortunately, services at my church were canceled this morning because a car ran up onto the lawn of the church, ran over the church sign, and crashed into the power line pole, and somehow ended up half suspended on one of the power lines. Fortunately, no one was hurt, which I can’t even comprehend.

Fortunately, my kids have started a tradition of their own volition of filling a stocking for each other to put by their beds late Christmas Eve. They asked me to take them to Five Below to buy presents for each other. I was helping Zeke shop and he said, “I want to make Zoe really happy this Christmas,” which filled me with happiness. There’s really no unfortunately to this except that we spent more money than I was anticipating, but it’s really not a big deal compared to the awesomeness that they wanted to do something nice for each other. In case you’ve never been to Five Below, it’s a lot of toys and accessories and candy. Zeke asked if Zoe liked Pop Rocks and I said yes, so while I was looking at something else he put about 25 packets of Pop Rocks into our basket. I put about 23 packets back on the shelf.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, tomorrow is Monday and we have to return to school and work. For Zoe this seemed unfortunate. Fortunately, we spent a while talking with her about the good things and the bad things about middle school and what could be done to tip the scales toward good. Unfortunately she seemed despondent throughout our conversation. Fortunately I think she may try some of the things we suggested. We’ll see. Unfortunately (but not unusually), Zeke didn’t want to shower tonight. Fortunately I distracted him from his complaining but asking him to teach me the lyrics and dances to the Go Noodle songs he is obsessed with and sings around the house constantly. Next time you see us, ask us to demonstrate our sweet moves.

Unfortunately, our country and our world are in incredibly bad shape right now, and so many people are treating their fellow humans with contempt and cruelty. Unfortunately there are more examples of this than I can count and it feels like things are getting worse every single day. Fortunately, I know there are a lot of people–including many I have the privilege to know–who work to care for their fellow humans and the planet. Fortunately, there are people such as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who was recently elected to Congress and who has quickly become one of my heroes, who are not afraid to stand up for what is right.

And so it goes. Unfortunately I know there will be more sorrows tomorrow. Fortunately I know I will also find joys.

Blessings of a Hard-Boiled Egg

At 11pm, the grocery store is blissfully quiet, but not empty. I find my items: bacon, milk, laundry detergent, and two kinds of bread–healthy whole wheat and soft and delicious Martin’s potato bread.

At home everyone is asleep, or almost, and I set to work mashing the eggs I boiled the other day. The yolks are ringed with green, which I learn is from boiling them too long.

After I turned the stove off I set the timer for 20 minutes but then got distracted and abandoned the eggs for some other activity.

I mix in the mayonnaise and sprinkle salt and it’s all an odd shade of yellow green, but I don’t care. On the potato bread it tastes perfect.

I think about everyone who has made egg salad for me, and deviled eggs, and chicken salad, and meatloaf, and slaw with freshly grated cabbage and carrots, and macaroni and cheese, and birthday cakes and even a birthday cake for my imaginary friend. I think about my mom and FG and Nana and all the butter and mayonnaise and love.

At the store I saw Christmas Crunch–an absurdly unnecessary seasonal variety of Cap’n Crunch. I so wanted to buy a box but I didn’t. I thought about how Nana bought me a box of Crunchberries every time I would visit, even though it was totally out of keeping with every other food in her kitchen.

Her scrambled eggs and bacon will always be my favorite breakfast but the Crunchberries were so thrilling.

After I finish my sandwich I rinse my dishes and run the dishwasher. I switch the laundry. I pick through the enormous pile of clothes on the floor, the remnants of what’s left from the week our washer broke, before we had a new one delivered.

I remember Nana scrubbing clothes in a plastic tub in the kitchen sink with Ivory soap and hanging them on the clothesline in the yard to dry, the clothespins in the pocket of her apron.

I remember drying dishes with threadbare dish towels and putting them away while Nana or Aunt Millie or Uncle George washed and whistled or hummed old hymns. There was a dishwasher in the house but no one used it. There were never, ever piles of dirty dishes left in the sink or in the counter.

If you sneaked into the kitchen late at night for ice cream or pie your dish and spoon would be conspicuous.

As I fold clothes and listen to the dryer spin i look around at my messy life and wonder what Nana would think. What I wish is that I could make her an egg salad sandwich, pour her a glass of sweet tea, serve her a piece of pound cake and hold her hand while we blessed the food.

Fingers crossed behind their backs

At once weary of returning again and again
to the ragged scrap of memory ripped
from your long ago life
folded over and over into a tiny square
and shoved into a back pocket
yet feeling one small breath of relief
each time you open it up and
air it out and you hear the choir of one million women
singing, “i hear you ~ i believe you ~ i know you ~ i am you”
their refrain is your lullaby

it is our song now

We have been told
by petulant, bullying, liars
wielding weapons of ignorance and egomania
that our bodies are not our own
at any moment of our lives–they are the domain of men and babies

It has been etched in stone
that truth means nothing
compared to getting what they want
No matter if it is our truth
or the truth we expect from others
Fingers crossed behind their backs
as they take the oath,
like the juveniles they are

We will not forget this week of
scorn
hypocrisy
betrayal
injustice
the defensive outrage of privilege
the sneering sarcasm of entitlement

We will not forget any more than
we could forget our own moments of
being pushed into bedrooms
being laughed at
while someone put a sweaty hand
over our mouth

We will never get over it
but we will survive
we will persist
we will sing
we will write
we will make art
we will preach
we will march
we will meditate
we will pray
we will love
we will listen
we will volunteer
we will campaign
we will gather
we will vote
we will protect ourselves and each other

We will look those men in the eye and say
GET YOUR HANDS AND YOUR LAWS AWAY FROM MY BODY
and we will teach our children to say it too
and

WE
WILL
NOT
BACK
DOWN

 

October 2018

(c) 2018 Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso |
please only repost or reprint in entirety and with credit given

May We Not Shut Up

May we always know someone who will hear us and believe us

Whether we tell our story in a whisper or a sob or a scream or written in tiny letters on a scrap of paper or posted on the internet for the world to see

Whether we sacrifice our privacy and lay bare our hearts for the sake of all women

Whether we are mocked or dismissed or told to shut up

May we not shut up. Ever.

MAY WE NOT SHUT UP.

May we come to understand and never again question that this was NOT OUR FAULT.

Ever.

We never asked to be overpowered or intimidated by a body or bodies or body parts or words or threats or lies.

We never asked to be taken advantage of when we were far too young to be able to defend ourselves, when we trusted older people, when that trust was snapped in two.

May we be strong. May we be brave. May we respect and lift each other up. But may there come a day when such unsurpassed strength and bravery is no longer required, when we are no longer forced to become survivors.

May we now, and whenever we are ready, and for as long as we need to, find the voices to speak and know there are hearts to listen.

September 28, 2018

(c) 2018 Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso |

please only repost or reprint in entirety and with credit given

I Picture You

I picture you
sitting as close as you can possibly pull the chair
up to his bed
careful not to disturb
the noisy network of artificial arteries
filling him with electrical impulses
and life
because you need to hold his hand and
he needs to feel your hand holding his

I can hear you talking with him at times
telling him what the babies have been doing
knowing how they make him smile and how
he can elicit the baby laughs that are the sweetest music on earth
you recall moment after moment of your life together
both ridiculous and sublime, always steadfast
sweet and bittersweet

Thought sometimes you are silent
watching him rest
wondering what is happening in his brain
glancing at the machines that are measuring and monitoring but
not revealing any of the secrets that you want to know

I can picture him lying there
knowing you are nearby
knowing you will never leave
enveloped by your love
waiting to come back to you

September 2018

(c) 2018 Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso |
please only repost or reprint in entirety and with credit given

No One Reads the Fine Print

I suspect you did not know what you were signing up for in this life
No one bothered to read you the fine print when you were born
They were busy
It would’ve been meaningless to you anyway, as it probably is now
The letters shrink smaller and smaller until no one can decipher them at all
So we are forced to improvise

You probably didn’t know how many times your heart would break
or guess who would be the ones to shatter it
and who would mend it
and who would fill it up again with love until it spills over
in tears

You may have thought the instructions should be clearer
the answers more obvious
Subtlety and nuance require patience
You may have heard patience comes easier than it has for you
but you learned quickly that what’s easy is to make mistakes
When they tell you everyone makes mistakes, you’re not sure
you believe them

But it’s true

Did you ever imagine
you would spend so much time awake
because someone desperately needs you
in the middle of the night
Who could possibly have known
how much demand there would be for your presence
in the middle of the night
someone crying or coughing or barking or puking or
flinging their arms and legs across your face and body
while they find the peaceful rest that you have surrendered

I doubt that you predicted what you would let go
and what you would cling to
what would always matter and what would fade
You are probably still making these discoveries
With reading glasses come epiphanies

When did you realize you would be the one
to make the hard decisions
to take the high road
to put on your own oxygen mask first
to say the thing that no one wants to hear or
to swallow the words you wish you could say
because you know no one will listen

You might have thought by now it’s too late
to start something new
But I know it’s never too late
You have shown me that you know it too
It may be hard and it may be messy but
I have faith in you
September 2018

 

(c) 2018 Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso |
please only repost or reprint in entirety and with credit given