Saturday, March 27, 2010

What's missing?

What a moment it was to run around front and see our house without "the tower" sticking up above. A sight we were eager to see for going on 5 years now! A "blow by blow" of the progress can be seen at Again we were grateful for the extra hands, neighbors stopping by, and wonderful working weather.

Looks like we'll have a slight "pause" in the demolition progress as other commitments coming up will delay "demolition weekend 3" for several weeks. Not to mention that some plants are ready and waiting to get in the ground. Is April really just a few days away?! Too tired for any in depth reflections - those may come another year?!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gentle reminders

This afternoon we were invited to share the story of our journey with Nora in a Trauma Healing class at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, the graduate program of which is Janelle's place of employment. The professor and students were especially interested in how the process of writing and sharing our writing with others (which we did along the way and have done since) affected our experiences of grief, situational stress, etc. One of the exercises for the class was to create "100-word Haiku" written expressions surrounding some experience of personal trauma. The poems are intended to succinctly convey the impact of a given experience, as well as communicating some element of release or healing. Having been made aware of this exercise as we prepared to join them for this class time, we each took our own crack at it, coming up with the two poems found below. I will provide a one-sentence introduction for each.

My attempt was in reference to the period of time during which Nora's growth began to falter in earnest; about this time of year, two years ago.

Stalactites from the Sky

She seems to need a savior.
Her suffering grows: stalactites from the sky,
filling my world. Why does she not
make bone and skin and muscle—tender—from
her mother’s milk? I hold a plastic bottle,
bent and trembling, distorted
by my feverish grip—inside there is
an ounce or two of milk, grown cold.

Extra heat could never speed
the hatch, it is the chick that does
the growing, not the hen. Likewise a baby,
and the space and time, food and shelter, love
were there. She could never grow, though
what we offered was enough.

Jason Myers-Benner
March 2010

Janelle's expression refers to both the afternoon when Nora was airlifted to UVA, where she spent the final days of her life, and the moments of her death.


Oxygen needs increasing, labored breathing, on our way to the ER.
"I won't hold a gun to your head,
but I think you need to let her go."

Her doctor's words stung.
The nurse accepted my meager offerings of milk.
Nora's body tucked away out of reach,
the sound of propellers.

She was out of reach, I was out of control.

Had I abandoned her?
Did she know that this was not what I wanted?
That I loved her?

A week later, she left me.
She was in control and in my arms.
She showed me how to fly free.

Janelle Myers-Benner
March 2010

We continue to seek connections with that part of our history, and to thereby continue cultivating a sense of closeness to Nora's memory and her self. Willing participation in events such as this afternoon's class have that effect, for which we are grateful.

Another of those opportunities is our bimonthly blood donation. We went straight to the hospital from the class, and though my lingering minor lung tickle from a recent cold kept me from giving my blood today, Janelle was able to do so; we benefit from that ritual.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Demolition Weekend #1

It's 11pm and we are still eating dinner! What a fun weekend, full of lots of hard work, good conversations, yummy food, laughter, sore muscles, aching feet, sunshine, cool breezes, and friendship. See lots of pictures at: More reflections may come later when our minds and bodies are more rested. Enjoy the before and after pictures noted here! We were so grateful for the extra hands around the last three days!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Three yellow flowers

As winter came to an end the year Nora was with us, Kali determined that it was time to take her outside when we saw three yellow flowers. So it was no wonder that Jason came to find Kali and I inside today to let us know we might want to come outside to see what he had discovered. There in the yard were three, and only three, yellow flowers. It was striking this year, just like it was last (see - we can see that they are blooming several weeks later this year!)

This morning someone was reflecting during the sermon time at Shalom about their time living in Palestine. One of the lessons she took from those years was that death is a part of life. She reflected with us on the various ways that people shared condolences with one another. I can't seem to get the one out of my head and heart: "May the rest of her life be lived in yours."

We have been living full and fun days! Dreaming of the future, remembering the past and enjoying the present. Not to mention that we've made quite the tree-clearing crew the last few days. Jason even offered to have me try using his electric chain saw. I successfully made one cut and then went back to hauling and stacking wood - a much more efficient division of labor!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hearts to love with

The title of this blog post comes from Kali's comment to me (Jason) this evening after I tucked her in. We have this bedtime ritual where she declares me her night-time routine "machine" (potty-going machine, tooth-brushing machine, tucking-in machine). I make jerky motions, speak in a monotone, and sometimes suffer malfunctions and almost make the kinds of mistakes that only a machine literally carrying out orders or failing to recognize the subtle distinctions between the various tubes of self-care products found in our bathroom (say, toothpaste versus hemorrhoidal ointment) could make. After "the machine" mechanically pressed Kali's head onto the pillow and abruptly flumped the covers over her in a typically unemotional parroting of the ordinary, more tender parent-child ritual, "it" leaned over stiffly and planted a vacant smooch in the exact middle of her forehead. "Oh." She said. "I didn't know machines had hearts to love with." It was hard to keep the emotion out of the monotoned response, "Sometimes. They. Do."

In other news, we've seen our first groundhog of the year. Up close. Real close. Smudges-on-the-doorglass close. Jump-and-scream-and-curl-your-toes close, as it were. He or she was first spotted trotting towards the house from the area of the garden and woods, looking considerably less obese than was surely the case last fall. I was surprised to see it out and about with snow still on the ground, but I have to admit it was a lovely day, and, hey, this is 2010: so far, nearly all of 2010 has had snow on the ground, so it's not like there was a lot of choice. Anyway, it got so close to the front wall of the house that I couldn't see it out the window anymore, and it seemed to be on the move...I assumed it was looking for a new den site for the year. Curious about what it would decide and what mishaps might befall it (little did I know) during the exploration, I hurried outside to observe. It wasn't on the west side of the house, so I went around to the east, where our front entrance is. I just saw its tail disappear behind the storage bin full of outdoor toys we keep on the front porch, and heard it scratching around back there. No good could come of that, so I went to stir the pot a little, hoping to discourage the idea of hanging out on our porch.

Simultaneously, Kali and Janelle approached the front door and opened it. It seemed Kali had seen the restless rodent peering in the front door, where it had left smudges as evidence. I told them where the dude was, and they watched with interest as I grabbed a small plastic sled and banged it around behind the storage bin. This resulted in the groundhog exiting the space behind the storage bin and retracing its steps (which led straight towards the open door, with Kali and Janelle standing innocently in its opening) at full speed. The lumbering marmot passed about 4 inches in front of Kali's bare toes, which reflexively curled towards her heels while her electrified mind set her muscles on the course of a useless, paralyzing spasm. It's the old fight or flight--or panic--syndrome.

I'll congratulate myself for following the right instinct in that moment. One inner voice compelled me to lunge towards the developing situation in order to protect my daughter from being nipped on the toes. This could not have helped. The other inner voice noticed that the door was open, and figured it might be best to hold still and let the noise automatically being generated by the two figures in the doorway be sufficient deterrent to any potential toe-nipping OR entry into a cozy-looking (if paradoxical) sunny cavern; i.e., our home. I followed the advice of the second voice, and the groundhog passed straight by the open door without hesitation and lit out for the safety of the woods.

Janelle immediately began laughing and exclaiming with the exquisite pleasure of a person who has been surprised in a big way and has come close to a mighty unpleasant situation but yet stands unscathed. But that was because she was behind Kali, and couldn't see her face, which was still contorted with horror, she having not yet recovered her breath from her first silent, wrenching wail. I interrupted Janelle's mirth with a sober, "Um...she's not happy." As soon as Kali was able to inhale, she exhaled again and again in sobs that were no longer anywhere near silent. This brown, hairy, interesting, living, lunky, energetic thing had abruptly invaded her world (not to mention her personal space). It was too, too much new information for anyone to reasonably assimilate: hysterics were clearly indicated, and were accordingly supplied.

Parents can do their best to comfort their child in this kind of situation, but we must understand that our powers of consolation are no match for adrenaline...we just need to let them know they are o.k., we are o.k., the groundhog is o.k. (and is elsewhere), and give the body time to settle out of it. The transition from absolute shock and horror to moving on to the next fun thing took all of about 30 seconds. Kids are amazing.

I doubt the groundhog's recovery was quite so swift. I'm imagining the entry posted on ITS blog tonight: "Towering Cave-dwelling Bipeds Employ Sneaky Sled-rattling and Sudden Piercing Shrieks as Sole Territorial Defense (And It Sure Worked on Me!)." A million years of evolution could not have prepared it for that encounter.


was a good day...

And we spent a lot of it outside. It was the first time we have had a "family work day" where we got to work on something together for what seems like a really long time. It was once again affirmed just how much fun it is to work together! It was a beautiful, sunny day and we moved a lot of junk (treasures?!) around in preparation for the pending building project to begin and for taking down some trees that need to come down to make way for my parents' home and which will hopefully also supply them with flooring!

It was also a day of discovery. Spring is coming. The first was these little purple and orange (I called them "Kali Nora flowers") flowers, and a honey bee had also found them. Kali kept checking on them throughout the day and watered them with some of the water she was helping remove from her swimming pool so we could move it. She noticed them begin to close up at the day's end and she commented, "now they are just 'Kali flowers'."

I took a moment in between carrying rolls of wire to see what might be springing forth in Nora's garden. It is special to see little shoots coming up from the ground and buds on some of the trees. Kali also rescued some daffodil bulbs that, in our haste to keep working we were ready to discard. They are now tucked safely in another spot that will not be disturbed and she has proclaimed daffodils her favorite flower!

A quick "inside the house" update. First of all, after my last post I decided I needed to give my Mom's hardboiled egg recipe another try. I've given it two good attempts - bring to a boil, set the timer for 10 minutes, then cool them down. And I've had two frustrating tries at peeling eggs. I'm going to go back to forgetting about them! On the other hand, I faithfully watered my sprouts every day this time. By the look of them on the one day, I thought the radishes were moldy. I felt a little silly when I took them to Jason commenting that I should have just forgotten about them and noting that my paying closer attention got worse results, only to learn that they were the little tiny root hairs (which I had missed last time as they came on one of their days of neglect).

A report on the "no grocery stores" for Lent. No one is going hungry. In fact tonight, I tried a fancy new recipe that I found by googling "ricotta recipes." It was one of the first I found and I had all the ingredients. It was fun to use my homemade ricotta for the first time. See if you want a recipe with A LOT of protein - meat, eggs, parmesan and ricotta cheese. We had cornbread with it and stir fried kale to balance it out!!

However, in the process of making dinner tonight I did empty out one food item in the house that is not in season, not a the Farmer's Market and may be noticed as "missing." We are 100% out of parmesan cheese. Kali doesn't know it yet and as long as we don't make plain noodles anytime in the next month we'll be okay...