November 30, 2010

Cooking For Company

Mince the herbs, open the cans,
dice the potatoes, get out the pans-
Make a salad, (or maybe two)-
find for tonight a new recipe to do!
Whip it all out, and clean on the way
hurray! can you believe it? they're coming today!
Soup on the stove, potatoes crisping up fine-
ah! still so much to do to be done on time!
Get out the feta, lettuce, and tomatoes!
look! it's almost time to take out the potatoes!
Clean off the table, push in the chairs-
make it look like you where never there!
Put it all on the table and smile as if to say,
"Work? Why, I do this every day!"

November 25, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [11]

recounting our blessings-

Thanksgiving day-

little girl says solemnly:

"I am thankful I'm not

the turkey in the oven"

*story told to us by Edith DeCarmine, referring to her nephew's daughter.

November 23, 2010

Something about "Money"

Have you ever cringed at the mention of "money?" Have you ever worked for someone and when it came to being paid (and, Great Scott!, how much?) you practically writhed in discomfort?

Let it here be said: I have an odd relationship with money. 

I have always had a peculiar knack for deducing what is of the most value in a situation and aquiring it (I was quite successful at haggling in India). An example of such 8-year-old wiliness (or 18-year-old, for that matter) would be something like this: There is a bowl of Skittles and Snicker-Bars. There are only a few Snicker-Bars. I do not like Snicker-Bars. But everyone else does. In a mad rush for candy- I would pick the Snicker-Bars because they, being in higher demand, are more valuable than the Skittles and once all the other Snicker-Bars are gone I will be able to get far more Skittles than before for the simple exchange of the much-desired Snicker-Bars. (No, you didn't just read that.)

I have difficulty making even such simple decisions as which kind of pie to have without making above calculations. How mercenary.

When I was six or so my mother was reading the story of Joseph to us. I was, well, quite surprised that Pharaoh would trust anyone so willingly with ALL his money. "Oh," I said. "I would like that job! 'You have ONE dollar left!'"

It was a common saying in our extended family that one day they'd all be working for me. Yet even with a mind that so easily deduces and calculates and pinches and saves and spends- why is it that over the years I have developed a loathing for actually making and *thinking* about money?

The idea of investing makes me feel ill. And ask for money? Over my dead body. And MAKING money? How often I squirm when people ask how much to pay me. How much is too much? Wouldn't it be better if they didn't pay me anything at all- and I was a free, willing, helpful worker?

I was this week in such an awkward situation- when what was supposed to be an exchange of academic services turned out just me- tutoring another student- and I was in the position of informing him that my time was valuable and I needed monetary satisfaction.

Is it possible that I care so much about money I can't bear to let it show?

Maybe I heard one too many Sunday-school lessons about theft and greed.  Maybe, in light of how well I can deduct how to get the most out of a situation, I am forever terrified of taking advantage of someone... (Even odder when my employer feels the same way- and we both stand, awkwardly, "money" hovering in the air, as neither of us wants me to be paid too little, or, God-forbid, too much!)

Was I told one too many times not to ask for anything as a guest in someone's home? Or maybe, because I can't, I just can't imagine anyone giving anything away for free- out of good-will?

Maybe it's because, at the end of the day, we all want to get paid. We as humans are ever bent on what we are owed. And the physical existence of that insatiable desire in the form of stupid, worthless pieces of paper is so self-convicting, and disgusting, to me.

I am going to great lengths to avoid debt in college. And I hope that if and when I marry, my husband will manage all the bills. I will do my part by being a spend-thrift wife.

Oh, why do we have to have money at all?

I wish we traded in butterflies.

And maybe I wish we were all butterflies- care-free, beautiful, and as trusting as sparrows...

In heaven we'll trade in kisses

we'll barter with butterflies

and we'll say, "don't worry, pay me later-

"I have an eternity of time."

November 21, 2010

Weekends Of Music

There is music that feeds the mind- and music that feeds the soul. These last two weekends have been full of both.

Our family has long been attenders of the concerts at Chapel of Our Lady Restoration - an old church in the Greek Revival style now used for special events. It sits across from the train station in Cold Spring- one quaint building among many, perched on top of a hill overlooking the Hudson River.

To reach it you climb stone steps, great slabs of rock worn into the hill. At the top you have a view of the river- expanding beneath you- reaching out to the north and the south- and in the distance the other side, rising mountains. Down-river is West Point, with its mighty walls and steeples. On the other side of the church is a path leading down to the water-line, where years ago cadets who had journeyed across the river would dock their boats to come to service.

The building's acoustics are sublime and the performances were magnificent. This time we were seeing The Claremont Trio- Donna Kwong (piano), Emily Bruskin (violin), and Julia Bruskin (cello)- the latter two were twins and we had seen Julia in spring play with her husband (on piano). 

The music began- fierce, passionate, racing, mournful... I cried twice within the first movement- Modéré, Trio (1914) by Marice Ravel. I did not cry again during the performance- I lost myself in the reverie- (though once, I confess, I did imagine murder on the balcony- such is the power of music).

The concert was long- silence reigned till applause roared. We filed out into the cold night-  our senses acute to the beauty around us, darkness over the mighty river while warm, fire-like lights twinkling at us from distant West Point.

Then yesterday our own church gave a concert- MaryAnn McCormick blessed us with her magnificent mezzo-soprano voice singing sacred music. I can't say I'm the biggest fan of opera (nor, for that matter, of classical) but when anything, be it food or dance or art, is of such high quality I believe there is something inherently beautiful within it which no one can possibly be immune to.

Who could fail to be moved- by such glory given to God in such resounding, powerful, triumphant tones? Nor by such words as were penned under the inspiration of the Spirit- for you, for me- thus lifted up? We left incredibly edified.

Below is one song which spoke to me particularly. 

O rest in the Lord
wait patiently for Him
and He shall give thee thy heart's desires
Commit thy way unto Him,- and trust in Him;
and fret not thyself- because of evil  doers.
O rest in the Lord
wait patiently for Him
and He shall give thee thy heart's desires...

(Psalm 37: 1, 4,7)

Trust is something I have been learning yet again recently. For I know desires well. And I know what it is to be consumed by them- and by worry, too, as I wonder how and when.
How blessed it is that God knows them, too- and He says: trust, wait, rest in me- for I will withhold no good thing. (Psalm 84:11)

November 18, 2010

November 15, 2010

Poems From India [Pushkar]

These are some of the poems I wrote in India - excerpts from my diary.

November १th, '०८ - पुष्कर, भारत

I can hear the

praise song rising

over the dancing dunes

white clouds over

vaulting mountains

can't help their joyous tune

I see the dance of angels

in the patterns of the sand

and in the vibrant whirl of color

I see an Artist's hand

*Photo by India Travel Blog: Used by permission.

November 14, 2010

Hair & Body Wash

Sometimes I feel stupid.

The bathroom (which I share with four siblings) has long been out of body-soap (and I just finished yesterday the little test-bottle which I got for my ninth birthday). However today- low and behold- there were new bottles on the shelf and one of them said quite clearly, "Hair & Body Wash."

This did strike me as odd. I'd never seen them both in one bottle before-- though I'd heard that Einstein used the same soap for all of him to save time. (Both of these facts- the fact that I hadn't seen it before and that my one example was male should have tipped me off but... no.)

The suds had begun to lather when I began smelling a, well, odd smell. I grabbed the bottle and read, quite clearly, "For Men."

I hesitated. But... it was just shampoo, right?

Just a few seconds later I gasped for breath and choked in horror as potent, suggestive fumes filled the air.


I applied much cherry-blossom perfume and rose lotion. However I still smell residues.

Moral of the story: Read labels.

November 12, 2010

Poems From India [Bijaipur]

These are some of the poems I wrote in India - excerpts from my diary.

November १th, '०८ - बीजपुर, भारत

it is morning

and the blazing sun is rising

its embers falling

on the sleepy town

soft voices murmuring

with the cheerful birds

don't wake the dogs

still sleeping

yesterday's guide                 

 through the village  

 gives me this morning's       


*Photos by Catherine Sheen  

November 11, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [9]


(so anxious to visit me)

is busy about drilling

a hole

through my bedroom wall

November 10, 2010

I Can See You Now (A Letter to a Friend)

...I wonder what you thought all those years ago. About me.  About my life...

We could relate when we talked about books and poems and longing to be loved. But we were talking about two different things.

Were you holding your tongue when I rhapsodized about this guy- about that guy? How nice they were. How smart they were. How gentlemanly they were. And how they liked me. And I liked them. And their smile made my world shake, the room swirl around me- my stomach tie up in knots- my eyes dance in happiness.

What were you thinking, friend?

I remember the way I caught my breath- the way my heart lurched in pain- when you told me you would never marry. That you didn’t want to marry. That you were going to be a nun.

Two fourteen-year-old girls- and in two different worlds.

I didn’t understand yours. And you were too young- and too surrounded by it- to explain it to me.

Years passed between us. I was ever in your prayers. You were daily in mine.

Time brought us both experiences that made us understand one another.

There we were- seeing each-other after so long- laughing and talking so fast over our drinks at Starbucks… realizing we had stepped into each other’s worlds.

I had been raised by a godly man. My whole life had been surrounded by males whom I looked up to- whom I could follow- boys whom I admired and instinctively- blindly trusted. I had not been sexually abused- as you had been.

India was the closest I ever got to ever experiencing what it might feel like- objectification- to despair of ever being loved for who I am as a person- to be ashamed of my own femininity.

And now we had switched places. You who had known so few true men were surrounded by them at seminary. You were being treated like a queen- and were becoming one.

And I? At my college… I see girls- who have lost all they ever had to give- with no conception of what it means to be- nor any hope of ever being- cherished. I see men taking advantage- daily- of our vulnerability. Do you know what it did to me, dear friend, to see boys (I can’t call them men) shove, pull, mock, and strike their girls- in public (all this mixed in with false, filthy kisses)- and not one person protest? Oh, sister! How easily we are lead! How easily we love! How easily we are deceived!

What does a girl do when she has no protector? She can do one of two things. She can give in. Or she can recognize the men around her for what they are: animals- and refuse to be their plaything in the only way she knows how.

I read the paper you wrote. I will quote it here. “I got tired of men real fast. By thirteen, I was dressing like one, talking like one, walking like one. I wanted to be one, because men weren’t man enough. I saw a need for men, but I couldn’t see any men. I had to make up for what men were not. I was the man of the house. Women have become the new men, that’s my theory.”

I understand the feminist, now. I am not one. But I understand what wrongs have made them- and I find in my heart no strength to judge my fellow sisters- for I have been blessed with what they were not: to know men made after the likeness of God- who sacrificed themselves as Christ did for their brides.

I know you are meeting them, too. And I know you are coming to love them as I do. I am glad. But my heart breaks for our sisters who will never have the hope that you and I do. And I must love them- even as they hurt- as I loved you- because of the inescapable that we share: we are women.

November 7, 2010

Blythe & Bonnie Are Dead

Blythe & Bonnie are dead. Quite dead. And I killed them.

It’s not completely my fault. All I did was take two tropical lovers--stick them in a cold, dry, lightless corner, and give them temperamental waterings. (They had eachother!)

But… it’s becoming a habit… this is the second plant I’ve killed. In the same pot. In the same corner.

It’s not like every plant I touch dies. I have two very happy Pathos plants: Lata (Hindi for creeping vine) and Bandit Bill (he’s a creepy one, too). And just in case you begin to think I can only take care of stalwart, independent plants--I also have a very large (and currently happy) Ficus.  Ficus plants, as you may or may not know, are incredible fickle (hence the assonance in the name, My Fickle Ficus Frankie). Move a Ficus plant an inch and they’ll throw a fit--all their leaves on the ground--wailing. (Frankie himself sulks whenever weather changes.)

But Blythe & Bonnie? My sweet Anita Dracaenas? Dead? They held on for fully a year. They all do that--those southern flowers. Their predecessor, three sturdy palm trees, Jacques One, Two, and Three, also held on for fully a year before (how well I remember it!) Jacques Two (always the strongest of the three) gave a horrible shudder which echoed throughout the room and gave up his last leaf--defeat.
I take off my cap to them--for lasting so long under such conditions before succumbing to the elements. And I weep too, and repent of all I have put them through. I shall mend my ways. Plastic plants are now in order. But for Blythe & Bonnie there now remains but one end: the grave. I think for their heroism they deserve a proper burial. And maybe a tomb stone. And an epitaph.

November 4, 2010

November 3, 2010


I have at various points in my life been witness to abject apathy. India was once place. My school is another.

For some odd reason- nobody runs at my school. I do- when time requires it. And I get strange looks. I don't understand why. People are doing all sorts of things all the time- but nobody stares like when I run...

For a culture plagued by stress, I can't say the same for over-achievement- not, anyway, among young people. Day after day I hear my teachers ask questions of their students... simple questions. 

Did you do the reading? Uhhhh....

What do you think of this piece of art? Uhhhh... 

And big questions. What do you want to do in life? Uhhhh.....

Perhaps in the hyper-glamorized projection of wealth and happiness- disillusionment has sunk in- with nothing to replace it? Maybe school has always been boring? Maybe somewhere along the line a puzzle-piece wasn't put in and lack of knowledge snowballed and they've given up?

I'd think this- except it's widespread- and seems to be... well.... expected.

Like in India. Nobody was ever in a hurry- for anything. Life was inevitable. What you could do today you could also do tomorrow. Sit back. Relax. Let life pass you by.

Once we had an extra-credit project for class- we could bring in cultural food. To make a long story short I arrived with my Moru Curry in class only to discover I'd left the serving spoons back in the cafeteria by the microwave, so off I ran to get them. (Yes, people, I ran! thank goodness for no hall monitors!) I got stares for my trouble. When I skidded back into class- perhaps out-of breath- but quite triumphant- one of the girls asked, incredulously- You ran?!? (What happened to them? Surely this is not Victorianism they are clinging to here?)

You see... People just don't run on my campus.

Students, mind you, will show up to class twenty minutes late- but I  never seen people run- excepting for two notable exceptions. One was a guy pretending to be some sort of horrific, mangled zombie careening his way through the cafeteria on Halloween. The other was one fellow classmate- she runs, too- into our 8:00 class- and she too meets incredulity.

Is running so very bad? Little kids love to run- with abandon. But even sports players run. And beautiful maidens in movies who have had a misunderstanding with their sweethearts run. Business men late for a very important meeting run- and arrive just on time. Surely it could not behoove a student to scooch a little to arrive on time for class?

Or does running require a certain purposefulness- a goal which the runner desires to reach?

Maybe students don't want to arrive on time. Maybe- they have nowhere they want to be. Nowhere they want to go.

Though the Christian's call to run the race with endurance pertains to our spiritual commitment to remain steadfast in faith till the end- it has taken on a new meaning for me. We as Christians are not called to apathy. We are called to run. And run after something. Not what the world runs after- the easiest way, the quickest way, the most pleasurable way. But we are called to run after Christ. -To run after his righteousness- to let it infiltrate out way of life- how we live, react, make our choices, plan ahead, and live the day. We run even  when we look ridiculous- even when everyone around us says- stop! rest! taste this! buy this! take this easier road!

I left class this afternoon- for the first time in hours the sun warmed my upturned face. So I ran. I ran because I could. Because I delighted in feeling the wind against my face.
When the prize is worth winning, the race is worth running.