Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Structure: Inviting a Framework for Healthy Living

Some days I miss teaching. Rather, I miss the rhythms and order of the school day. I crave the structure inherent in a formal educational setting, complete with an early rising, mapped lesson plans, the ringing of the school bell, and allotted time for lunch, further prep and recess. I marvel reflecting on the discipline required by this profession to have learning objectives and a curriculum laid out that guide each class of learners, and me as their teacher/ facilitator. I miss this kind of framework for my daily life, as well as my role in helping co-create this structure.

As a mom who works part time professionally from home -- and coffee shops-- I need this kind of structure for my sanity, productivity, and well-being. However, this marked rhythm of the day often eludes me. With a beautiful small child at the center of my priorities and focus comes the needs of this little wonder and her own body's growing, changing requirements and evolving temperament. Life changes from day to day. As the old adage goes: the minute you get comfortable knowing your child and their needs, he or she changes.

Marguerite is a good little sleeper by all accounts. There is no question we were blessed by a combination of her disposition and some intentional parenting advice that gave rise to a fairly healthy sleep routine. Kiddo goes down consistently between 7:30pm and 8pm and 9 nights of out 10 stays happily put until 7:30am the next morning. (I'll admit that 7:30am is even EARLY for her to wake, and it's more like 8:30am or 9am when her father or I lift her out of the crib.) It's that tenth evening out of ten, however, when baby girl rears her head towards sleep -- is so engaged in some new piece of learning -- that her spirit demands further awake time, or better yet, more contact time with mom, and things have to shift. My life and rhythms have to shift.

This is parenting, this is a role I have prepped for -- consciously, or unconsciously -- all my adult days. This life is hard.

Add that my dear husband's schedule has changed from week to week for the past 105 that we have been married, and you may begin to fathom my knee-wobbling, weary status. "When do you go to work? When are we having a meal together? Will I see you in bed tonight? Are we able to attend mass together? Do you think we might be able to go out on a date next week?" Nothing is ever really consistent. On Thursday, Mr. Kiemde learns about his Saturday's schedule. Planning ahead is virtually impossible. Add some rocking college courses to the mix of our lives and his schedule, and it all adds up to create a challenging life that invites me to live, most often, ungrounded, but in the present moment.

I hold the needs of my husband and daughter in the center of my heart, and respond accordingly. It's not unlike education in that regard, in that I find my priorities falling behind those of the dear ones that I feel called to be present to, and in the case of family, made a lifetime commitment to.

Enter: The Visitation Sisters. Enter these religious women who have also made a lifetime commitment to Love, to one another, and to God, but whose order of the day is grounded in prayer. Four times a day these nuns convene to pray the liturgy of the hours, to tune into what scripture is saying to them, and unpack their lives through the lens of Love, of God, of inspired Word. It's awesome. I believe this is certainly why I feel called, over and over again, to return to the monastery, to be among the sisters and pray.

Recently, I made a commitment to return to a weekly structured prayer time in the vicinity of the Sisters. The Centering Prayer group that convenes every Tuesday morning at 7:45am at St.. Jane House under the auspices of Vis Companion, Brian Mogren, has rejuvenated me.

I rise -well before my body normally wakes- to shower, dress in the dark, and creep out the door to make my way in early morning rush hour traffic from St. Paul to north Minneapolis, in order to join a group of 15 to 20 or so other friends in silent prayer. Some days I'm able to enter the space during a storytelling time, when a member of the Centering Prayer community is sharing a narrative about their faith journey; I listen and am inspired. Then, with the ringing of a singing bowl announcing the start of prayer, and some intentional words guiding our silent meditation, we enter into the quiet. For twenty minutes I breathe in and out with nothing save the goal to empty myself and make way to tune into the Divine Indwelling. I sit within this circle of aligned individuals from various faith traditions who likewise crave quiet, order, an emptying of all personal agenda, except to Love, Heal, Be. In a word, it's "awesome." At the end of twenty minutes (which goes all to quickly for this aspiring prayer-warrior), another bell rings, and individuals speak aloud prayerful intentions that have surfaced in their meditation. Together, we are joined as individuals in the world with all other prayerful beings around the globe as we give voice to what is in our hearts, or even silently, as we offer these thoughts to a benevolent Creator and one another. Together, we slowly recite the Lord's Prayer, and by 8:30am, we are standing to go on about our day.

And this weekly structured activity is like my salvation. This is where I am able to turn over any and all concerns that plague me and give voice to my heart's deepest longings and largest joys. I celebrate that this group exists. I celebrate all that is necessary for each person to convene to actually convene. I recognize that it is not without some significant conversations and intentional actions on the part of my husband and I to make this weekly activity a possibility for me. I celebrate the way that this experience helps ground me, at least momentarily, in world where I feel so wobbly and crave stability and structure. I celebrate the way that this one activity every Tuesday morning inspires me as a wife, mom, and writer, tuning into the many ways that I am called to love, create and serve in this world.

I wonder how you are making structure, or find such parallel experiences or activity in your world?

Peace, Happy Contemplating,

Monday, November 14, 2011

On Marriage, Love, Stories: An Invitation to Reflect

"It's my ongoing prayer for all men and women to lead lives that honor the way their hearts and God have called them to love. This includes being able to marry." --Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

I attended a gathering of families and friends on Sunday evening, November 6, 2011, marking the beginning of a year long campaign to celebrate marriage equality. There was food, kid friendly activities, and a short program on the MN United for All Families campaign to defeat the "Marriage Amendment", defining marriage as between one man and one woman. A Catholic neighbor of mine invited me to the event. It was at this gathering that each person present received another invitation. Our host, before her 30 or so guests -- all standing or seated next to each other around the periphery of the living, dining and entryways of her home -- said, "I invite you to tell your stories of what marriage means to you. Don't point or refer to large groups of people in general, tell your story. Make it personal. Share something that can be said in six words, or up to six minutes; think of what you might be able to convey to someone, for example, riding on an elevator with you."
"I invite you to tell your stories of what marriage means to you. Don't point or refer to large groups of people in general, tell your story. Make it personal. Share something that can be said in six words, or up to six minutes..."

The prompt gave me pause, made me smile, and stirred something deep within me that longs to talk about this issue, especially as it relates to my faith, my family, and how I'm called to live love, or "Live + Jesus!" as we say.

Marriage is the transformational vocation I received to live my life committed to one other person, a radical action in any time, in my opinion, evolutionary in its charge. I believe God called me to this institution and to my husband, Francois, just as He called and calls me over and over again to serve others in and through relational ways. Marriage is hard work, no matter who you are or what your sexual orientation is. It's something my partner and I return to daily as we tune into the ways God invites us to love and be gentle and nurturing with one another. I could not do this work without a community of people alongside me, helping model and remind me of Love's mystery, grace and on-going call. The Visitation Sisters, the Catholic women I am a companion to, are such a community of nurturing, religious women, who help anchor me in the ways I've been called to love, partner and serve, as they live their faith and the mystery of the Visitation, fostering mutual love alliances at every turn.

It's my ongoing prayer for all men and women to lead lives that honor the way their hearts and God have called them to love. This includes being able to marry.

Our daughter's godfather is a beautiful Catholic man - who happens to be gay. We chose Zac to serve in this baptismal role for Marguerite because of his gentleness, wisdom, humor, and dedication to his faith. We believe he is a model of God's love in our midst: a God-father for our child in the fullest sense. If Zac is called to marry, and be a father to his own children, we want nothing less for him, as a Catholic family, but to have his heart and calling honored by our larger church and civic communities. We want him to be able to have the love and support that we so need in living out our vocations.

And so we pray. We invite you to share your own stories of what marriage means to you.


I share this post here today as a Visitation Companion, as part of my call to write about - and for - women and men discerning their vocations and the way that they may be called in a religious Catholic tradition, as well as in a larger, universal sense -- honoring the Salesian tradition that the Visitation founders - Sts. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal - modeled for us.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fried Green Tomato Church

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

After an incredibly trying church service (in which the newly walking Marguerite Kiemde strutted her developmental stuff, doing laps to the front of the church to the choir, out the side door to the street, around the corner to the front steps, toddling up and back inside, and then repeating the entire procedure with me closely behind, celebrating her steps, trying to stay calm, and avoid any judgmental? stares.) If you can imagine: I came home a bit beleaguered.

(How to parent in church? What does an enriching mass experience look like for a young family without a cry room or child-care center? What fine line exists between cultivating a child's physical/ emotional/ developmental stages appropriately, alongside her spiritual sensibilities? If I am not "fed" spiritually, as my child's mom, how do I ever nurture my babe?... That's another blog in and of itself!)

I turn to how Mags and I made "church" at home, after our early departure from Ascension (post-homily/ pre-Eucharist.) In a phrase we found God in: Fried. Green. Tomatoes.

This past week on facebook there was a whole strand about this delicious summer fare that included several exchanges from my Aunts Marian and Peg and their Osmond/Colorado friend Audrey Wanke Dummer. I asked for recipe ideas, and I got them. And today, after the above described nearly God-less mass, I came home and adapted these cooking ideas, using fresh green tomatoes from my own garden, and tried to channel as much love and family and Jesus as I could into the experience.

I share these recipes with you now, smiling, with a sleeping baby; both she and I with full, happy bellies.
Fried Green Tomatoes
4-6 hard, green tomatoes
Panko crumbs
Cayenne Pepper
Garlic Salt
Bacon grease

I began by frying a half a pound of applewood smoked bacon in a skillet. Once browned and crisped, I removed the bacon, placing it on a large paper-towel lined platter, that I would use for the fried tomatoes. I reserved the hot bacon drippings for frying my green tomatoes.

I cut the tomatoes pretty thin, between 1/8 and a 1/4 inches, salting them, and then soaking them in buttermilk, covering them in the cayenne pepper/ garlic salt flour mixture, and adding panko crumbs for extra crunch, before putting each in the hot bacon fat. I was working this assembly line as quickly as possible with messy fingers, and thanking God for a content Marguerite in her high chair (eating a banana and playing with a clean feta cheese container.)

I fried these till they were golden brown, and appreciated the way bits of bacon adhered to the panko crust. Delish!!

Sweet Onion Relish Sauce
Half of a sweet onion, chopped and cubed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Note: I totally ripped this recipe off from Paula Deen, when I was doing research for the best item to accompany said green tomatoes. (Buttermilk dressing? Spicy mustard? In a sandwich? I didn't know how exactly I was going to EAT the tomatoes once fried.) This sauce rocked!

Paula adds sugar to hers; I didn't. I prepared this onion mixture and served it next to the tomatoes. Maggie then climbed up on my lap and we gobbled up the dish. (Well, mostly, I gobbled up, and she alternated showing me her shoeless and shoed foot.)

"How is this church?" you might persist in wondering. To this query, I respond, channeling my best St. Francis de Sales thinking: that all small actions, done with love, are prayerful ones. I add that when we couple prayerful activity --our intentions directed toward God-- with the company of family, friends, angels, saints, are we not in deed experiencing a kind of church?

Today, I experienced service in a literal way, at Church of the Ascension in north Minneapolis, (in all of its parenting complexity) alongside a more figurative celebration: in my kitchen and at my dining table with my daughter, and the company of women and men who have grown and prepared fried green tomatoes in our family. It was a most nurturing kind of meal that buoys who I am as parent.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Be still and BE:" Gentleness on the Front Lines of Parenting

"Be still and BE."
I'm spending time with the St. Francis de Sales these days. His words on gentleness, and examples of this way of being, are continually emerging in my life; combined with the line "Be still and BE" that I received in an email this morning, this all speaks loudly to my heart and mind.

A simple Salesian phrase from the Visitation Sisters' co-founder that feels connected to this line comes to mind:
"All is gentle to the gentle." --St Francis de Sales (LR VI 28)
I believe that when we allow stillness, simple breathing and an emptying of our hearts and minds to occur, that a gentleness may wash over us.
In the midst of my scrambling this morning, sad from an exchange with my husband that simply didn't go the way that I wanted, the effervescent Marguerite spilled over a glass of raspberry iced tea that I had left out. The contents landed on me, my white shirt, light green pants, and some of her "new" garage sale clothes that had recently been laundered: white and khaki items now turned pink-colored.

I swore, and then started crying. I don't like my child to experience me in such a state, but it is my humanity at work, and so what else is there, but to then be gentle with myself, her and respond as I am able. In the moment, I placed my 15 month old daughter in her high chair, and took all the soiled linens to the basement and sprayed them with stain remover.

When I returned, she was staring at me, and all I could see were the piles of dirty dishes in the sink, the unwashed countertops, an ajar back door: things that needed my attention. I was even more mad. And still: crying.

I could hear this Salesian priest speak to me: The more mercy we require, the more we receive.

I spoke to the knives in the kitchen drawer: I need a lot of mercy right now! Patience! Gentleness! Please?

And my child stood in her high chair, reaching her arms out to me.

That was two and a half hours ago. It's amazing what moving through moments, consciously, prayerfully, full of angst is all about.

"Be still and BE."

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde,
Visitation Companion

Monday, August 22, 2011

Marguerite Meditation...

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

I am daily in awe of this small child that I call my daughter, Marguerite Marie Kiemde. Born May 22, 2010, at St. Joe's hospital in downtown St. Paul, MN, to Francois Kiemde and I, this little girl is rapidly emerging as a fiercely independent, dancing, lunging, walking, willful wonder. I pause this day to reflect a bit on her growth, personality, and all that she's tickling in me.

Social, cognitive, physical, and maybe spiritual developments rattle inside my brain:
--"Hi" is Marguerite's favorite word, used to greet us daily when we enter her room, along with every human being, or creature, who passes by. "Hi. Hi. Hi. HI." She will repeat this single syllable word incessantly as a delighted salutation, as well as a way to mean, "But can I have some more kefir?" Or "Toby, will you give me that toy?" or "Daddy, turn and look at me while I eat my cheese raviolis?!"

--Long gone is the once uttered "Bye bye" as Marguerite seemingly stands firmly in the present and the constant celebration of people arriving, rather than departing. (Note: She will wave when I say "Au revoir", but refuses to speak the b-consonant-sound and word.)

--Her friend Lisa Michaels taught her to "high five" and "blow kisses" one afternoon, and, as Ms. Michaels' insists, "to send text messages." This makes us all laugh and giggle with our communicating wonder.

--Coupled lately with the repeated "Hi" is another favorite word, "daddy." Daddy is everywhere. I marveled -- while sitting in mass yesterday -- that perhaps this was one of the those words and child-inspiring lessons, where I was being invited, through my daughter, to truly meditate on the Divine in our midst. "Daddy" in the apple. "Daddy" in the cat. "Daddy" in the trees. "Daddy" in the picture of me as a baby girl. Daddy, as in a masculine father/ Creator -- a God that I believe completely in, and that she seems to see everywhere, and greets joyfully over and over: "Hi, hi, hi...HI daddy!" She received a ceramic cross plaque at her baptism that reads, "God created everything, butterflies and birds that sing, the sun above and sky so blue, but best of all, God created you." She reads this above her changing table, points to herself, points to the cross and says, "daddy." It makes me smile.


--Whilst big sister Gabby visited us for three weeks this summer, other developments surfaced in our family's social interactions. As Mags insisted on pointing repeatedly to my nose one day, I asked, "Can you show mommy your eyes?" To which she immediately responded by placing her finger next to her eye. Gabby and I about fell over laughing, and in awe of what she seemed to understand us asking.

--The emergence of a new dance-like move -before going to bed one eve - delighted me to no end, and has since been seen in her daily movement vocabulary. Little girl tilts her head to her shoulder and then pops her arm and wrist, twirling her hand in such a way: you'd think she was going to attempt some pop and lock move.

--Gabby's morning routine greeting her baby sister undoubtedly was a highlight of her stay, having a developmental impact on Mags. The elder Kiemde girl would come in to Marguerite's crib area, and sing "Hello" snapping her fingers, twirling, shaking parts of her body that aren't possible to move so seamlessly in this mom. Maggie immediately tried to mimic the snap, pressing her tiny thumb and first two fingers together and giggling. (There's nothing quite so inspiring as this kind of non-verbal interaction between sisters. It's priceless!)

--Going down for her daily nap or to sleep at night includes the activity that has me most by the heart strings, as I observe and reflect on my baby girls' relationship with words and images in our book-reading ritual. My daughter's recognition of her own name, written in a book, is what has me baffled lately. We are sitting in her bedroom rocking chair, me holding her on my lap, she holding her favorite nursery rhyme book. I am reading the second page of the text where the line reads: "This book belongs to...." with Ms. Kiemde's name spelled out in cursive letters, and as I do so, she looks up at me, then back at the page, points to the line, and then points to herself.
I am blown away.

--My final note on Marguerite's development stems from her upright, physical movement. While many of you received the video of her first day walking, it's actually her climbing of steps, that has me more in awe and taking note. She bounds up staircases. There's no "on your knees" forward motion, but, with her hands reaching for mom or dad, the most confident approach to going up: one foot on a step following another. She will get so excited about this process, that her whole body will become parallel to the floor with her fast footwork forward. Step. Step. Step.

I have told her father, and other family members: we cannot criticize this child for her big movements. She is excited; let this be every indication that her spirit and dreams in life are large stepping ones; we are not to dash her ambitions or dreams about moving in any direction! (Especially as she boldly proclaims, "Hi daddy!" with each step.)

Happy developmental contemplations -- as we all reflect on our physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual growth journeys!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Juxtaposition: Embrace

The above photographs were taken of Francois Kiemde and me during the past week. The first was shot on June 1, 2011, at Bethel College, at Francois' swearing-in-as-a-US-Citizen ceremony. Our friend, Alisa Blackwood Nelson was on hand to help document the day. The second was shot on Sunday, June 5, 2011, outside the Church of St. Philip in north Minneapolis. A reporter from the Star Tribune captured this moment just seconds after Fr. Dale Korogi officially declared my church of the past twelve years closed.

These images give me pause. They strike me as similar in subject matter, given that each features an embrace. In the former, I'm embracing Mr. Kiemde, in the latter, he's comforting me as our daughter reaches out to touch my arm. Both capture emotionally charged moments; one of joy, the other of incredible sorrow. Together, they feel like commentary to me on marriage. The way we support, envelop, wrap our arms around another and communicate presence, love.

I keep thinking of Sr. Mary Margaret's words to me so long ago in spiritual direction: When I fall in love, it will be an experience that challenges me to receive and be held in a new way. She talked about my future partner being someone who would nurture and support me in a manner that I had never known. Looking at this second picture: I see her words come true.

These images communicate the mutuality and gift of our marriage, our tenderness to one another. I'm grateful for the juxtaposition.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tune into Tonight: CBS Evening News features Mary Johnson and O'shea Israel

This evening on CBS Evening News, our friends Mary Johnson and O'shea Israel will be featured in a story about their tale as mother, son; mother and murderer; mother and forgiven man. I've written a bit at the Visitation Sisters' blog site about how this woman and man have so touched my heart and moved me deeply in expanding my faith and knowledge of the way grace and reconciliation occur. I invite you to tune in this evening and glimpse a bit of the tale of their lives and what has given shape to the way they work in this radical healing ministry of forgiveness and healing. Mary's outreach to the mothers and fathers of the young men and women who commit murder is what marks this ministry as truly unique, a gift to all who suffer in this realm of violence, death. Theirs is truly an inspiring tale to take in!

For more on Mary Johnson, O'shea Israel and "From Death to Life" healing ministries:
Peace, Blessings!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Abundant Blessings: Home and more!

It's been sort of a red-letter month. (Or should I say a red-letter year?) My husband and I closed on our house, celebrated our baby girl's first birthday, Francois Kiemde was sworn in as a US Citizen, and just last night, we threw our first party, of what, I can imagine might be many.


My heart swells considering all that has occurred in our brief marriage and life together, all that has had to happen for us to be right here in this place. In a new dwelling. With beautiful girls that round out our family and expand the love we give and receive. Me, blogging for nuns in north Minneapolis, married to a baker from Burkina Faso, West Africa, and living in an old house in the Lex Ham neighborhood raising a family. If I ever, in my wildest imaginations could have fathomed that at 42 years of age, in June of 2011, that my life would look like this, I would have laughed heartily and said, "No way!"

But here we are.

And God is good.

Last night's soire is something that marks for me the flurry of life since my 40th birthday. (After selling my home of 15 years, going to Africa for 6 weeks, volunteering at my parish and finishing a book for teachers, returning to the public classrooms I left as a researcher, then meeting my husband, getting married 8 months later, and having a baby girl. It's been a whirlwind). Last night's party was truly a sort of ushering in, and anchoring of this new phase of life: marriage and motherhood, with a definite tribute to the abundance of love and support my husband and I have known in creating a home together.

Nuns were here. New neighbors came. Old arts education colleagues emerged. Our parenting friends and mentors joined us with their tikes. Fellow African and French allies honored us with their presence. Longtime loves convened with food, drink and stories. We were surrounded by a groundswell of good spirited people moving throughout our home: singing, drinking, dining on grilled yummies, being agents of love and blessings.

In short: it rocked.

Twenty four hours later, I need to just mark the fullness of it all, in this simple way, composing a post of gratitude. I extend this note to all who were able to join Francois, Marguerite and I in person at 1196 Selby, and say "thank you" to those who have been prayerfully blessing us from afar. We know and feel your love and support.

I'm really not sure any of these good things in our life would be happening without such a community of friends and people around us.

So: Thank you!

On behalf of Francois, Marguerite, and myself:

(Stay tuned for more pix!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Celebrating a Door: Meditation on Home-Closing

We are trying to close on a house. Trying, I tell you. This is our first home as a family, and it is no small thing. The dwelling proper; the process of purchasing it; the path leading up to and through this very moment: none of it is without beauty, intensity, frustration and grace.

Our offer on the home was formally accepted on Ash Wednesday. We planned to close Easter Monday; the 40 days in between were not lost on me as a sort of prayerful opportunity to journey through Lent to this new dwelling, new way of life, so-to-speak, right? Acknowledging this alignment of purchasing the home with a Catholic, Christian journey toward Easter was silly initially; but at this juncture, let me tell you: it is crucial that I have this season to draw on, as I moment-to-moment, work to make my way through to the end and trust that a new life is here!

We were slated to close Monday. Easter Monday, as I said. The hour passed, however, when we were to be at the Title company. Underwriting still had our file late that afternoon, and we were not cleared to even close! (Confession: in some dark, scary part of our minds, a lingering thought existed that our financing would fall through, that we wouldn't actually be able to purchase this house. Why book a moving truck? Why pack a box? It was dark, I tell you.) But the hour passed, and around 5pm on Monday, we were given a list of a few more "To-Do's" so that we could close on Wednesday. Hooray!

It's Wednesday evening friends, as I write this, and let me tell you: we still do not have the keys to our house! But let me relay what has happened in the meantime.

Francois and I received a tiny gift in the wake of the delay, a gift that I'm happy to share with each of you.

In lieu of today's planned 2pm closing meeting, I went to the property with our realtor, Arlo, to check on the updated repair items. (We had requested a few things be addressed in our purchase agreement and wanted to follow up on them.) There, at the house, we had a surprise, when we met the carpenter responsible for doing 90% of the renovation work on the property. Jack is his name. Lovely fellow. Jack had stories about the house, its original layout and some of the changes they made to improve the place. ("Did you know the main floor had a full bathroom, but the door was right off the kitchen?" and "The back entryway used to be so narrow, you had to pass through sideways." and "They converted it from radiator to forced air heat and put in these vents." and "Let me show you how to get furniture up the third floor staircase." These were stories and information we wouldn't necessarily have ever been privy to without this chance meeting, eh?)

One of the frustrations around the renovation work that was completed was the realization that the original door to the basement was thrown away. We were informed, during the inspection phase of this process, that this door was long gone. As the new owners, with a small crawling child, we were put on a path to finding a new "salvaged door" or having one made especially to fit this unique space. (Menards estimated this cost initially between $300 and $400 - without the mill work completed.) We were set to ordering a custom made one - again for our daughter's safety, when I met Jack, today.

I asked him, "Hey, by any chance, do you know what happened to this door off the kitchen?"

He hemmed and hawed a bit, and then said, "Well, I think it might be in a dumpster on Burlington Street."

Of course!

Forty five minutes later, belly deep in renovation debris, (house siding, pink carpeting, kitchen cupboards, mountain dew cans, a fire place rack) someplace over in East St. Paul, Jack put his hands on the missing door! We wiped it down, put it in my car, and returned it to the porch of the property.

Had the house closed on time, would I ever have met this person? Would I have learned of the previous layouts? Would I have discovered the plumbing changes and trim "tricks" that this carpenter employed? Gleaned his sense of craftsmanship and pride in his work? No.

It was a gift! A "door" on many levels, don't you think?

For the record: I think this process of closing on a home is stressful for every single person involved. Everyone. From the loan officers to title people, agents, the underwriters, to say nothing of the seller and buyers, friends, family, people standing by to help. But in the midst of it all -- circumstances that feel jarring, violent at times with the anger, anxiety, frustration, uncertainty -- there's something awesome at work...

Do you agree?

Stay tuned for scenes from the next instillation of this Easter saga!

Contemplatively yours,
Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love: The Biological Directive

My friend Pat Black posted these words on my facebook page this morning. I have to share them with more people. I plan to return and comment later. After I shower. And tend to household chores.
Humberto Maturano is a biologist. I love this guy's mind and what he brings to the understanding of the living. He describes love as a biological directive. He describes love as separate entities charged with their own self maintenance and life as joining and tying their individual maintenance with that of anothers. He suggests that in the evolution of complex beings, anything that is more than one cell, that love is the force that joined them. One can not move forward in life without the other's well being and maintenance also moving forward. Our edges of self are no longer an intact barrier to other. So I now think of failed love affairs as ones that could not bring this third being into life. This place where they overlap and become one. This new place that brings sustenance and the maintenance of being to two instead of one.

Maturano views this as a physiological relationship. He is not viewing it through a emotional lens since it is basic to life not just mammals.

Thoughts? Responses? I welcome them!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Ms. Kiemde is cutting teeth -- four to be specific. Her top front teeth are coming in, followed by two tiny pearly whites flanking each side. Are they incisors? Eye teeth? I'm not certain of the proper names for these cuspids, but I am certain of what they are inspiring in my almost eleven-month old baby girl. I am observing new behaviors in this child. A new level of cranky. Fiesty. Furious. Feeling her power. Do you remember what your gums cracking open felt like? Having our insides split a bit to make way for new growth: it's difficult. The surface itches, aches, throbs. We bleed when we get new teeth.

I think the same might be said for most developmental processes in all humans. Teething is akin to growing, to adopting new ways of being; it's learning. Just as it is difficult to literally "birth" new teeth, I believe it is as hard for us to make way for any new thing to come forward in our lives. We itch. Ache. Throb. Maybe bleed a bit, too, in some regard.

Today, my prayers are for any and all who are teething - literally and figuratively. I am praying for babies, adults, teens, elders. I am holding images of new cuspids and precious gums in my child's mouth along with the way I am learning to practice being calm when I'm angry; a smile and deep breath are often just as difficult to come forward as these teeth.

I hope this finds you with patience for all that is trying to break the surface; I send good thoughts for all that is trying to emerge and become a helpful, visible new part of your being.

Happy Contemplating!
Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde,
Visitation Companion,
Mom, Wife, Lover, Writer, Contemplative at Work

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Marguerite's Speech

Your baby's ability to vocalize is improving, and he may say his first word any time now. - BabyCenter

Ms. Kiemde is ten and a half months old and knocking our socks off!

In the past week, she has started to repeat the word "Daddy" -- incessantly. These consonants come easily to her, compared with the "M's" in say, her name, my name, and MOMMA!! It's all good, and highly entertaining. She has uttered audibly and distinctly the word "momma" on two occasions. Two, count them:

1. Whilst trying to teach Marguerite not to throw her food or utensils all on the floor when she's done, or bored, I instead invited her to "hand me nicely" the object in question. Last Sunday, during our first attempt at this behavior guidance, following Mag's 2nd tossing of her spoon, I picked up the object, placed it back on her high chair tray and said, "Can you give it to momma?" Jody Tigges was sitting next to us. Maggie took her spoon and with a big smile, put it sweetly in my hand and said, "Momma!" I about died. Ms. Tigges was a witness. I tried not to respond in an overly dramatic way, but said, "Thank you." and smiled. I believe Maggie and I were both grinning ear to ear.

It was our first request/ response "dialogue" or "conversation" - where it seemed she understood clearly my query and I got clearly - on two levels- her comprehension through spoken and physical gestures.

2. Last night in the car, coming home from a visit to our new home, Maggie was practicing her daddy speech. As a way to let her know I heard her, and as a way to participate in the conversation, I was repeating back her syllables, this time, pronouncing "daddy" with various emphasis and alternatively, singing it. In turn, Marguerite played with her pronunciations, even becoming melodic in her expression, following my soprano song of "daaaadddy". Following a pause in the middle of the "daddy" litany, she then said clearly, "MOMMA." Our friend Ann Shallbetter was in the car and I think was nearly as excited as I was by this surprise in the conversation. It's so great to have a witness!

By the way, Marguerite has been repeating proudly this game of "can you give it to momma?" at almost every play interaction/ meal. She has been so proud of herself, beaming at the interaction, and then enthusiastic to repeat the gesture.

We are in love.

For those of you who haven't seen our little pumpkin lately, (or on Facebook) I hope you enjoy these recent snapshots posted. One is with her godmother, Marianna, (above right) and then a few are from last weekend's play date with Geert Bennaars-Mawanda. Smile!


Who doesn't covet a sippy cup?


Thursday, February 17, 2011

On Sanctuary: A Poem by Nikki Giovanni

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Art Sanctuary
by Nikki Giovanni

I would always choose to be the person running
rather than the mob chasing
I would prefer to be the person laughed at
rather than the teenagers laughing
I always admired the men and women who sat down
for their rights
And held in disdain the men and women who spat
on them
Everyone deserves Sanctuary a place to go where you are
Art offers Sanctuary to everyone willing
to open their hearts as well as their eyes

“Art Sanctuary” by Nikki Giovanni, from Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea. © Harper Perennial, 2002. (buy now)

Today’s poem from The Writer’s Almanac speaks to me as prayer. In critical response fashion, I take note of lines, phrases, images that stand out:

person running
laughing teenagers
sitting down for rights

open hearts and eyes

I am reminded of the summer night I saw a man running out from behind the neighbor’s across from St. Jane House in north Minneapolis followed by another person carrying a gun. The poem takes me to stories of pre-1964 southern lunch counters where people with brown skin were not allowed to eat. Simultaneously, reading this, I recall being an awkward thirteen-year old in the seventh grade and feeling the jeers of 8th grade elders (Lisa, Mary, Steph, Jamie?). I can see movie stills in my mind’s eye of Harvey Milk being assassinated as San Francisco’s first openly gay city official. I sit and imagine a beleaguered and weary Christ on Good Friday. (He was spat upon, right?) I note the way the poem provides a through-line of text for these anachronistic memories, moments.

I appreciate Ms. Giovanni’s words. I am thankful for the pride, sorrow, fear, anger and elation that her piece evokes.

I wonder how the author’s compassion was born? (It is compassion she shows in the poem, yes?) What did she see in her life or experience that inspired an alignment with the victim, the tortured, the other? What particular cruelties does she know first hand? I want to ask her how she makes sense of suffering. I want to know what art in particular has provided safety, sanctuary for her. Could she have been sitting in front of a painting that calmed her breathing, opened her heart? (Or listening to song?) I wonder if she’d let me sit alongside her? I want to know if she’s ever seen Brother Mickey’s “Windsock Visitation“? Has she ever contemplated the respite extended by Mary and Elizabeth?

I want to know a lot reading this poem. I am grateful for the places Nikki Giovanni takes me with her words. It is my prayer, today. This poem is a sanctuary.