Friday, September 20, 2013

The Big Deal Over A Little Lie

Remember the Department of Homeland Security’s color code to warn Americans of possible terroristic attacks? From a low of green to a high of red, it stayed mostly in the yellow range (significant risk) for years before being discarded as not particularly helpful. But there’s something about using colors to label things that is attractive to humans. Our traffic lights are the number one example of this, and one of the first things we teach to toddlers sitting in the back seat of the car. Red means stop, green means go and yellow means slow down and be careful. The color code gets used across our society, so if you see a red button on a machine you’ve never operated, you know it’s the stop button. Yes, there’s something about using colors to label things. Our grandgirl has a behavior color code in her first-grade classroom. Every day every child starts on green -- in the middle of the chart that has five levels: red, yellow, green, blue and purple. Red (maybe because it’s also a color representative of hell, or maybe because the teacher wants the behavior to stop) is when you have acted in such a way as to get sent to the principal’s office. And purple signifies outstanding behavior. Now we have explained to Kaitlyn, 6, that being good is not something she does. Being good is something she is. All the time. But good behavior is something she does. This is an important distinction that gets lost in the translation. We tell Kaitlyn that when we, her grandparents, or her parents or her teacher ask her to do something and she does it, we and they call that good behavior. In truth, it is good cooperation. Basically, we tell kids they behave when they cooperate with our needs (to get in the car when they would rather run around it…to brush their teeth…to sit quietly at their desks). This does not make them good. This makes them cooperative. They are already good, whether they stay seated at their desks or not. But we, her grandparents (Gma and Gpa), are two voices out of hundreds that she hears, so when her teacher told the class about the behavior color code, Kaitlyn immediately wanted to win the game by getting a purple. Instead, she started out with a yellow the first week, one level below the green, on the day she bopped a kid with her lunch box because he teased her. Nowhere to go but up, right? Right. She did not sink to red, despite the warning note that got sent home in said lunchbox that day. And a few days later, she was awarded a blue, which is better than average but not awesome. Purple is awesome, she told us. Most days, however, she and the rest of her classmates stayed in the green zone. Here is where I sound like a grandparent, so that’s my disclaimer: Kaitlyn is an excellent student. Her preschool and kindergarten teachers loved her to pieces. I have not had the chance yet to get to know her first-grade teacher, but I can’t imagine that she doesn’t love Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn, however, likes to talk. A lot. Enough so that her little sister had to be encouraged to talk. Enough so that previous teachers always mentioned that in the parent-teacher conferences. So I suspect Kaitlyn talks out in class, and that keeps her in the green zone. Yet, she apparently craves the idea of hitting purple. One or two blue days was just not good enough. So yesterday when her Gma and Gpa picked her up from school, she announced, “I got purple today!” I was so tickled for her that I texted the news to her parents. And then we went for ice cream, and I posted a photo on Facebook of her biting her cone, saying the treat was because she was awesome in school. Later we learned she had lied to us. Her day actually had been green, not purple. I reflected on this for a while, because at first, it seemed that the lie was the big deal…but as I sat with it, other things floated to the surface. Yes, she did lie, but why? Was it to hurt people or to keep herself out of trouble? No. She lied because she wanted so much to be purple, which is a good thing: the wanting to be purple. And I lied. I had always intended to take her out for ice cream after school. But after she announced her purple day, I tied it to the treat. I lied because I wanted to recognize her thrilled feelings at being purple. I know that if I want something in my life, I send up a rocket of desire and then imagine that it’s already happened and how good I feel that it has. That’s how the Law of Attraction works. Seems to me Kaitlyn was doing just that…and I can’t be too upset with her. I am still going to have a conversation with Kaitlyn about this, now that her mother has clued me in about what actually happened at school. But the conversation will be different. The big deal will not be the lie. It will be how to deal with really wanting something, and all the good feelings that come with it, and telling the truth around that. The truth is that Kaitlyn is purple all the time, even if her teacher doesn’t notice. The truth is that Kaitlyn needs to tell herself that, and that she doesn’t have to tell us something that did not happen. She doesn’t have to lie to make us feel good about her. More importantly, she doesn’t have to lie to make herself feel good about her. The truth is that when you want something, God (or Source or the Force or the Universe) hears you and it’s on its way. You just have to act like it’s already happening. Even if it feels like a lie. It’s not. So this is what our conversation will encompass: I will remind Kaitlyn of her own purple, I will tell her she doesn’t have to settle for a pretend purple. That is what the big deal is.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Link to Book

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Stars lined up, and I learned how to create on Shutterfly this weekend. Our daughter, Becca, had given us a superb calendar of the grandchildren made on Shutterfly...and that led to me wanting to create the annual calendars I make for family and friends on Shutterfly...But then, out of the blue and without a Shutterfly account, Shutterfly sent me a coupon code to get a free 8" by 8" inch square book through its web site. So I spent the weekend putting together a 20-page book of our cruise in April, across the bounding seas to Spain, and now it is on its way. The code was SUMMERBOOK, and I had to have it submitted by Wednesday this week. Can't wait to see it...and the extra good thing is that I've learned how to navigate the web site and the design program a bit. Wanna see the book? Check out the link elsewhere on this blog.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pushing Buttons

We have an automatic garage door that works halfway. It still goes all the way up and all the way down...that's not the problem. And we still can push the remote control, attached to the visor in our car, and open the door.

This, of course, is what makes automatic garage doors convenient: no more stopping the car, getting out, trudging to the garage door, bending over and hoisting it up. Nope. You simply push a button.

And, after the car is in the garage, no more reversing the laborious process to close the door. You just push a button, unless...

Unless it's our door and the door's optics are out of alignment. Then you push the button and the door moves down...until you let go of the button. Then the door goes back up. So you have to stand there holding the button until the door reaches the ground. Every time.

My husband has a way of dealing with this. He leaves the door open.

That doesn't work for me. I want it closed to keep in the heat during winter. I want it closed to keep the raccoons out. I want it closed because aesthetically it looks better from curbside. I don't go around with my mouth gaping, and I'm not one to leave my garage gaping either.

Still, it has been a two-year-long pain to have to stand there, each time, holding the button until the garage door closed. At least two years. Once upon a time, it did work. Not now. And I don't want to spend the money to hire someone to fix it.

But yesterday all that changed. No, I was not the recipient of a monetary windfall with which to hire a repair person. No, I did not say "What the hey!" and decide to leave it open. No, here is what happened.

Over New Year's weekend I participated in a retreat during which it was suggested I feel energy flowing through my chakras--from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. For me, this meant seeing myself as a tree, with my leafy arms connected to Father Sky and my feet rooted firmly in Mother Earth. So that is my new mental image, and I imagine the energy flowing up and down and up and down. It feels good to periodically do this for a minute or two.

And then, yesterday, when I was standing in the garage, holding my finger on the button for a minute or two, the two activities merged. I put my finger on the button and, as the door lowered, I began feeling energy flowing into my crown and out my feet as the door lowered. When the door hit the concrete, I hesitated a minute before letting go. I wasn't sure I was ready for the moment to end.

And, that quickly, my attitude about having to manually close the garage door several times a day changed from pain to pleasure. I wish that all of life was this simple. I suspect that it is.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Backing Off

Through the bedroom window, I could see, at my eye level, a bird sitting on her nest about six feet away. I drew up a chair and quietly opened the window, then sat and watched her. The wind blew my bedroom door shut, and she fluttered her wings in surprise. Then all was calm.

She sat. I sat. I sat watching her for about 20 minutes. She sat longer. I knew that sometimes she left the nest, probably to stretch and grab a bite, because yesterday I'd been outside when I saw her fly back to her nest. That's how I knew there was a nest.

Today, though, she wasn't stirring. Not yet, at least.

And although I stood up and walked out of my bedroom, I wasn't stirring much. Nor have I for the last week that I've been here at my second home in Costa Rica. I've used the time to recover from bronchitis, continue healing from a arterial bypass operation in January and muse about why this place has such a hold on me.

The other day I thought the answer to that was that when I come here, I have no expectations about what should be done or how it should be done or when it should be done. For the most part, that is, because I did think my husband should have drawn money from the bank on one of his first trips to the Grecia square! But, compared to the shoulds of my everyday life in the states, the ones here are virtually nil.

And that's part of the answer to why I love coming here and sitting quietly while watching the leaves sway and the hummingbirds hover near the salvia. But it's not the whole answer.

The whole answer involves my childhood free time, when I also had no expectations. We always had a yard and some undeveloped land near our home, and I spent a good deal of my non-school time outside in these places: lying in a hammock looking at the clouds and sky through the lacy branches of towering tulip poplars...running through grassy fields...watching ants crawl through the grass...climbing trees and scampering back down again...picking iridescent beetles out of zinnia blossoms.

On the surface, none of this was productive activity, except maybe the beetlecide, because the neighbor paid me to pick them off and drop them in a cup of gasoline. She was an elderly gardener whose flowers were prized by all.

But, even that didn't raise any expectations in me: whatever I picked, I picked. Whatever I earned, I earned.

So now it's a half century later, and I'm in that back yard again, with open fields nearby. My husband kills the bugs now; if it were my call, I'd let them live. But he and the caretaker paint the trees and use poison to kill the leaf-cutter ants that have deforested the top of our orange tree. And if the tree makes it, I will get the benefit of the sweet, round fleshy fruit.

I left my expectations at home, with my winter clothes. Both weigh me down, and here I am as lightweight as the singular blue morpho butterfly I spied at the side of our yard yesterday. I watched it fly past me, then over the tall cane that establishes our border. We've been coming here for years and this was the first blue morpho I've seen.

Lsst year I spied my first huge iguana, sitting atop our concrete retaining wall. I was the only one to see it. It was the only time I've seen it.

I realize that sitting outside quietly, just watching, is not unproductive at all: The intangible memories I create are pearls to cherish all my life.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Come together, right now

Three words that scare liberal Christians: Church of Christ.
You probably know some of the myths that some Christians spread about other religions, particularly the Mormon and Catholic churches. Catholics can’t be saved unless they are baptized by immersion. Mormons will be eternally pregnant in heaven. Yada yada.
Well, liberal religions sometimes do that with Church of Christ -- at least some of their congregants do.
I knew a little about Church of Christ. Very little. I knew that they didn’t perform music in the worship service. At least I thought they didn’t. And I suspected they were pretty much anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-other religions.
So when my daughter – born to a mother who was accepted into a convent at 16 (but didn’t go, obviously) and who embraced both a Jewish husband and a liberal Christian religion called Unity – told me she was being baptized into the Church of Christ, I was thrilled. I’m not being sarcastic. I was thrilled. But I was also a little worried.
She is one of the most loving, tolerant, insightful persons I know, and it seemed like a warm and cold front were about to collide and we were in for some stormy weather.
Except, I was also able to know – in my” thrilledness” – that she had made an intimate connection with God. And I believe that is what we humans came here to do: to find again our connection with the Divine.
Some people say the Divine lives within us as well as all around us. That would be me. Some people say one must accept Jesus Christ as their savior. That would be her. I don’t know exactly what people of the latter persuasion think will happen to me and my Jewish husband when we die. My daughter says it’s not her call, and I agree. But I also remember that as a Catholic girl, I felt bad for Jewish people who didn’t embrace Jesus because I was pretty sure they, at best, were going to be stuck in Limbo for eternity. Or at least until 2007 when the Catholic Church abolished Limbo.
So I had a suspicion that my daughter and her new church family might feel sad for me. That was not my problem, I knew, but it bothered me just a tad that someone would be praying for me to see their light, to walk their path.
Nevertheless, when she asked me to accompany her to church last week, I said yes. It was the first time I’d been in her town on a Sunday morning. So I put on my new blouse and black denim jeans and one of her spiffy jackets and we drove to her church. Inside, she introduced me to wonderful people who treat her like she is special, including an avuncular man whose counsel on a troubling matter gave her comfort. (I so appreciated him for that.)
We entered the prayer room, where people sit reading Bible verses and praying for the worshippers in the next room during the church service. Why, we have that practice at Unity! We sit in prayer during meetings and the like, holding the High Watch, as we call it, for those around us. I was tickled at this similarity.
Then I met her closest church friends and loved them at first sight! A member of the choir came over and she joked with him. I could see she had found a church home. Mmm mmm. It felt good to know she was loved here.
We sat in a pew in front of a table full of communion plates, and in each plate were several pieces of communion bread. The communion bread was matzoh, the unyeasted Passover cracker! I couldn’t wait to tell my Jewish husband.
The service began with the choir members running up on stage, microphones in hand, and leading the congregation in two songs, followed by a welcome, and two more songs, the last of which could have been sung by a Jewish congregation: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people.”
I sang along on this one while gazing out the high sanctuary windows, watching the trees wave against the sky. “Surround us, oh Lord. Surround us, oh Lord. We need to be in your presence.”
And, in the middle of the hymn, I realized I was as uplifted as I’ve ever been at a Unity or Jewish or Catholic service. It was a benchmark moment in my life, because I understood that the vibration – the literal movement of the energy in that church in that moment – was the only “real” thing going on.
Not the words. Not the music. Not the similarities. Not the differences.
I know that all of us are one in God or whatever name we have for the divine energy that permeates all. And I know that all of creation is nothing but vibration. Vibrating quanta. Science has documented that. We use our human senses to translate vibration so that we can see the color of a tree or hear the sound of music. But, inside that vibration is where all of us – with all our individualities and differences – are joined.
Yes, the words we use matter. The actions we take speak more loudly than our words. But, as I finally understand with every quanta in my body, vibration trumps it all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Walking through the Door ...

“We are all friends here. There are no strangers once you walk inside that door.” That’s a lyric from a song we sing at church, but it can be true outside of church as well, if I let it.

I’m in Costa Rica, walking up the driveway to the street to deliver my bag of garbage. It’s 5:30 a.m. and the bag must be out before 6. It can’t be deposited the night before because, like anywhere, dogs will tear into it and scatter trash all over. The sun has already sent its scout rays over the mountains to the southeast, so I can see where I walk.

Some bags already line the street, and I drop mine there, too. That’s when I hear music coming from above. Workers at Hogar de Los Ancianos -- the old folks’ home that is the landmark to tell taxi drivers where we live – are listening, and so am I now. Instead of returning to my house, I head toward the lilting sound.

I keep walking. It’s Sabado (Saturday, or the Sabbath, because the Spanish language recognizes both days as times for resting in God; Sunday is Domingo) but people are beginning to emerge. I walk only half a mile, and I pass a half dozen people, some on their way to work, some just out. The panaderia, a new bakery that’s opened near our house since we were down here last, is brightly lit with owners in the kitchen, preparing to fill the neighborhood with a sweet and yeasty aroma.

When I do turn around and head back, I see our next-door neighbor, the one with whom we jammed last night, headed uphill with his garbage. We kiss each other on the cheek and he thanks me for last night’s dinner. I thank him for the music. “More to come,” he says, both of glorying in the fact that we will be here for a couple of more weeks.

“We are all friends here. There are no strangers once you walk inside that door.”

That door, mi amigo, is the world.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Today we left for Colorado at 6:30 AM. We once again entered Yellowstone through the west entrance and, once again, met up with Family Bison. Only this time because of the early start there were only four cars on the road so no delays. But, we did get to see the Bison family up close and personal. They just do their thing. Good for them.
After many delays due to roadwork construction we exited the park and headed for Dubois, Wyoming. The Wind River has carved a splendid canyon just outside of Dubois that extends for miles. The canyon is narrow and small but full of an array of iridescent reds, crimsons, and various tints of purple. It was very reminiscent of the red rock canyons of Sedona, Arizona.
The drive to Colorado Springs was through a high plain valley mostly consisting of rolling fields with an occasional outcropping of shaded rocks.
Today was a day for driving and contemplation. The images of the Geyser valley in Yellowstone got me thinking about what the earth might have been like during the roaming of the dinosaurs. Which got me thinking about how life has changed which got me to thinking about how life has remained the same which got me to thinking about why we're here which got me to thinking about shutting up, letting go and just being.
So, just like Mr. and Mrs. Bison and children I think I'll enjoy the rest of the evening and tomorrow just being with my son and family.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Entering Yellowstone from the East we come upon the familiar solitary sentinels, reminders of previous fires. In addition I noticed the plethora of downed trees. They look like straw scattered through a field. Most are very skinny and bare of leaves. I think these might be lodgepole pines. The Indians value them very highly as building timber. I can see why. They are easily toppled.
About 10 minutes into the park there is traffic moving at about 3 mph. Sound familiar? I had to laugh. Mr. and Mrs. Bison and babies I'm sure are on the road doing their thing.
Sure enough, after about a half hour delay we arrive to see them in the middle of the road watching us humans trying to maneuver around them. I wonder if they are laughing to themselves at our behavior.
Today we decided to view the Yellowstone Grand Canyon formed and sculpted by the Yellowstone. The depth and breath of the canyon is stunning with its array of shades of golds, yellows, reds, oranges, iron, sulphur, mixed together in a remarkable testimony to the colors of time.
The upper and lower falls of the canyon are mighty in force and swift in flow. We snaked down a serpentine trail to stand by the precipice of the lower falls. We could gaze down to where the water was dumping below. The power of nature is awesome. Knowing that the same force that created the falls is the same force with which I'm imbued provides a direct connection for me to source.
After traveling the north rim of the canyon we took the upper loop which took us up and down mountains and plains and past Mammoth Hot Springs which is a layer of hot, mineral springs.
As we exited the park, wouldn't you know it, traffic backed up again for Mr. and Mrs. Bison. This time the delay was only 30 minutes or so. I guess they took pity on us. I love Mr. and Mrs. Bison. They keep us all in our place.
After we said goodbye to the Bison family we went a mile or so and pulled off onto Riverside Rd. where Peggy walked into the stream for some quiet meditation.
Tomorrow we are off to Ft. Collins, Colorado to see the next generation.
My mind harkens back though to the Geyser country. Many parks have wildlife, bison, bear, elk, and many have spectacular rivers, creeks, streams, and many have mountainous features. But, for me, the uniqueness of Yellowstone is Geyser country which I have yet to see in the splendor and quantity that I have witnessed here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today we travelled from Victor, Idaho into Yellowstone by the west entrance.
The drive took us through high farmlands which Peggy described as Kansas on steroids.
Miles upon miles of potato fields. Go figure.
Yellowstone is timeless. We were immediately reminded of the fire which 21 years ago burned a third of the park. There are solitary sentinels with no leaves, no bark, smooth but charred surface, which are constant reminders of the dangers we humans can pose.
Within a few miles after entering the park we encountered some mule deer.
We spent most of the rest of the afternoon visiting all the geyser sites which are almost magical.
Steam rising hot with a concomitant sulphur smell set in a landscape reminiscent of the moon.
This is how the earth must have been when the dinosaurs roamed.
The crystal, clear, blue of the geyser waters I've seen only once before, deep inside the glaciers of Switzerland. Both waters direct from the source, untainted.
Old Faithful was true to her name, erupting within five minutes of her predestined time.
The force with which the water was hurtled upward was terrific.
It reminds me that we are sitting atop a super volcano whose insides occasionally remind us of the forces that churning underneath the earth.
On the way out we got stuck in traffic to the point where we were not able to go more than 3 mph.
We couldn't determine what was the cause and we were beginning to get a little flustered as it took us an hour and forth five minutes to go 6 miles. It was at that point that we came upon a tiny herd of bison including tow babies, wandering down the road. A ranger in a car ahead of them was making sure they would not get hurt. Nothing to be done, can't harm the animals and can't get out of the car to herd them. So, there they were, not a care in the world, going wherever, perhaps to no place in particular, with no timeline. They didn't care if there was a line of cars two hours behind, they didn't care if people liked them or not. They were just there to be.
Excuse me, nature calls.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Day five of the Tress RV experience found us leaving Green Valley, Wyoming headed for the Grand Teton National Forest.
After climbing into the mountains the rest of the drive was just straight along the top of the high plains. Mostly fields of various tints of green and an occasional alpine meadow full of wondrous flowers with iridescent like colors. They looked like tie dye shirted peaceniks swaying to the music of the wind.
The Tetons are spectacular and remain dotted with glaciers that seem to be shrinking.
I couldn't help wonder why we bother to travel. What do we expect to find?
I think, perhaps, more proof of the splendor of spirit, the human spirit in connection with the spirit of the universe.
With every new mountain, every new field field, every new color, new flower, new animal we chance to encounter we are flaunted with eternal energy, infinite being, to which each of us brings a spirit unlike any other in the universe and without which the universe can't exist.
Many of us believe ourselves to be creatures of little merit.
Toward that end Peggy and I have resurrected our " Book Of Firsts". In it we record all the "firsts" we do each and every day.
Start one and see how quickly the pages fill. Perhaps you'll begin to see just how magnificent a creature you are.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day four of the Treiber-Hess or Tress RV experience.
A slight change of plans had us drive from Dinosaur National monument toward our next stop today instead of tomorrow.
If you like to go back in time this is the place. Fossils and petroglyphs dot the landscape.
But what struck me the most was the stark silence of the desert.
For most of our journey the only sound we could hear was our footsteps.
It was interrupted only by others speaking foreign and native tongues, with and without the next generation. Peggy and I would wait until they passed and the silence would return.
I think we forget how spiritual a simple silence is. We might even think we encounter it in the spaces of our city lives. But, as I discovered in the desert, that is merely muffled sound.
We left the desert of Vernal, Utah by US highway 191 which has to be the most spectacular drive I've ever taken.
We passed through the Flaming Gorge National Forest observing the constant road signs that indicate the era of time the land was created. What we drove through was all under water 150 million years ago.
Where did all the water go?
When we left the Flaming Gorge Dam which supplies water to a great deal of the southwest the road ascending about 3,000 feet.
The road rises and falls between roughly a 5,000 foot to 8500 foot elevation.
At unexpected turns the hills simply disappear into canyons of incredible beauty.
There are escarpments which line the horizon as far as the eye can view, canyons which dive below the surface beneath one's ability to see and valleys which have no other side.
All of which are mottled with a cacaphony of hues. The canyons with brilliant reds, golds, oranges, solitary and blended, the escarpments with shades of mocha, ochre, iron, mauve and mixtures of colors that there are no words for, the valley with tones of mint, sage, amarinthine,aqua and teal.
the entire drive I was soaked in colors.
It even rained, here in the desert where it gets less than 10" of rain a year, and a rainbow crowned the mountain. A glorious, spiritual experience. Peggy slept.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Point of Our Possessions




I was looking for a mug in which to brew my first cup of tea today, and a tan one, with a maroon H&H Bagels logo, was at the front. I pulled it down and smiled, remembering how it came to live in my cupboard five years ago.

A man who had been my boyfriend in high school sent it to me, along with a dozen New York bagels, after my mother died. We don't have real bagels here in Northwest Arkansas -- it's the water or the baker's attitude or both -- so they were a real treat and a comfort.
And now, as I filled the cup with our Fayetteville water (filtered, of course, because our family business is water filtration), I felt a warm rush remembering the kindness that he showed me, even though my mother had been a real thorn in his side when we were kids.

He's probably still asleep in New York where he lives, and I don't really know him anymore, except for the core person I met when we were seniors, trying to figure out our feelings and futures. The point of this story, though, is the point of our possessions.

Every few months, I go through various closets or cabinets, weeding out the stuff that almost accumulates on its own, but I won't be giving this mug to The Salvation Army, because every time I use it, I feel that warm rush of affection for the young man I dated, who befriended me again when my mom died. It connects me with him, on a virtual or spiritual or emotional or vibrational level ... you get to call it whatever you want, but it is an energy thing and energy, though invisible, is real. If you're a doubting Thomas, go stick your finger in a socket.

So, to the unclutter experts, I would say, "Don't just toss something you haven't used in a year IF it gives you joy to look at it, to hold it in your hands."

Leave it for your kids to toss!

I don't consider myself to be very materialistic. You come to my house and you will find old furniture, bought at The Salvation Army and recovered. And most of my clothes have been with me for years. The washer and dryer celebrate my husband's and my wedding anniversary with us each year.

But, I have my possessions. The little diamond pendant that my mom wore around her neck for years now graces mine. A tiny wooden bookcase that my Grampa built for my dad holds my canned beverages. The favorite books I read to my children remain in my bookcase to be read to their children. There's more, of course, but these illustrate my story.

Like The Velveteen Rabbit, some special possessions become transformed by time and memories and love. And those we want to hang onto because they have the magic to brighten the moments of our lives.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Family That Sleeps Together Keeps Together

T'was the week after Christmas (and Hanukkah) and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
T'was a mixed blessing: The quiet after all the activity was welcome, but I missed having family eating and laughing and sleeping under one roof.
I like it when family sleeps in the same house.
The family that sleeps together keeps together. That's always been my motto.
But now, Jeremy and I are empty-nesters ... for nearly two months' running. And we miss having little -- and big -- feet pattering about 24/7.
So it felt good to have our oldest son, who lives in Colorado, stay with us during Hanukkah.
And it felt good for me to sleep in the same bed with our youngest daughter when I went to visit her in Austin, because she couldn't make it home for the holidays.
When Jeremy joined me in Austin, we spent the next two nights' with our other Austin daughter and her husband.
We had five nights in a row sleeping with the family.
When I was a child, I couldn't imagine sleeping in a house alone. And as an adult, I pretty much avoided it by getting married three times.
There's a warm fuzzy feeling to hearing a family member gently snoring in the next room. Kind of like a white-noise machine. And it negates the need for a sleeping pill.
Family members -- regardless of religion, politics, or birth order -- are indelibly linked to us, and, I think, an extension of ourselves, even if it's not politically correct to admit.
They may drive us bonkers when they're awake, but ... when they're sleeping, oh, don't they look like angels!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Still Learning To Be Still

"You talk too much, you worry me to death ... You ta-a-a-alk ... talk too much."

I heard this song years ago and never forgot it. I had to google to find out again who first sang it -- Joe Jones -- and got to listen to it again on youtube. You can too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_FvVkcwqIs .

Talking, both aloud and internally, is a major component of my life. I can't seem to get my head to shut up even when my mouth agrees to.

This is not a unique problem. Meditators consider it a human hallmark: the monkey mind, it's called and if you watch Curious George on PBS, you'll understand how a monkey mind is all over the place and into everything under the sun.

I watch Curious George on PBS -- with my 20-month-old granddaughter, Kaitlyn. Now George himself can't talk, but he sure can "hee hee, hoo hoo, ha ha" for most of the 30 minutes that the program is on.

Sometimes Kaitlyn gets going with her own gibberish, which soon will be replaced by several sentences strung together. And then several paragraphs. And in the not too distant future, alas, she will have the same difficult time we all do getting her mind to quiet.

But I, the wise gma (my shortened, hip version of grandmother), am wondering if I can wire in a direct link to silence for my little one, now, before the mind forgets how to be still.

"Learn to be still." Don Henley sang that one when I was all grown up. (You can listen to the song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_f614PDz38 ) but here is the first verse:


It's just another day in paradise
As you stumble to your bed.
You'd give anything to silence
Those voices ringing in your head.
You thought you could find happiness
Just over that green hill.
You thought you would be satisfied
But you never will;
Learn to be still ...

Can I help Kaitlyn find the still small space inside her?

When we were in the car last week I realized that, at the very least, I didn't have to be part of the culture that encourages all this chatter.

She sits in the back of the car in her infant safety seat, alone. When she was a baby, I pretty much let her lie there quietly, but now that she's jabbering, I have been thinking that she needed company, stuck back there all alone. So anytime we we were driving, I would talk to her and sing to her and reach back at stop lights and touch her. In short, I was the antithesis of stillness with this precious spirit.

One day, when we had a lot of errands to run and my mouth was running even faster, I realized it was tiring me to keep up the chatter patter. So I shut up. And in the moments that followed, I realized that shutting up was the biggest gift I could offer Kaitlyn.

So now when we go someplace, I belt her into the seat and tell her she can enjoy this quiet time in the car, and I get in the front seat and I enjoy some quiet time in the car. No radio. No CD. No talking.

No touching, too, I discovered. When we get quiet and are centered in our own spirit, we don't want distractions. Neither does Kaitlyn. Yesterday I was driving her to the store, both of us quietly enjoying the sunshine streaming into the warm car, and I reached back to pat her leg.
She looked so blissful, thumb in mouth, eyes slightly closed. I wanted to touch her.

So I patted her thigh and she shook my hand off. Immediately I understood. The baby was completely immersed in her own space.

For her, stillness still comes naturally. I thought I would be the teacher, but she ended up perfectly modeling the lesson for me.

Shhhhh. Be still and know. Like babies do.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sob Story

The tears flowed. I mopped them from my face, choking on sobs and wondering why I felt such grief. Our grown children had suddenly decided that it was time for them to leave our home for a place of their own.
Actually, I was thrilled for them, even more so after I saw the beautifully maintained two-bedroom house with a deck and fenced yard. Only four miles from our place, it’s close enough for me to continue babysitting my granddaughter while our son and daughter-in-law finish school.
It’s not that I was railing against what was about to happen. I could see the benefits. I could see the disadvantages, too, but it was time, my son explained gently, after expressing his deep appreciation that we had harbored them for the past 28 months.
So I was happy for them, and yet I couldn’t stop sobbing. Yes, the grandbaby, now 19 months, won’t be wandering into our bedroom each morning to wake us up. There could be some sadness around that. And her parents might holler at her when they are feeling frustrated, something her grandparents don’t do because we have the patience that comes with having watched thousands of suns rise and set.
But, to be honest, we hollered at our kids, and in the end our children’s deep love for their daughter will prevail.
Then why the heavy heart, I wondered. I suspected it had a little to do with being at a crossroads in my life, one where mothering moves from the front burner to the back. What is it I want to do with this new chapter in my life? I’m not sure, and that’s a little intimidating, because I don’t want to waste these precious days. I’m old enough to know how precious each one is.
A spiritual guru recently counseled that it’s time to focus on me. I’ve been mothering others all my life, she said, and now it’s time to mother me. What does that mean? How does that work? I don’t know yet, and maybe this explains a cup or two of the tears.
I was driving to the store this morning, musing on all of this, when the tears resumed. I thought about how my nest is emptying out again, and, bingo, I finally understood what was going on. A current situation – my kids’ leaving – was triggering past grief.
My mother, Angela, came to live with us five years ago. I was so excited to be near her after living half a continent away for three decades, and I looked forward to sharing our home with her. But it was a short visit. She came in early September and died a few days before Thanksgiving.
My husband and I went on a cruise for two weeks during the October she was living with me. She was supposed to go on the cruise, too, but had a wound in her foot that was healing and decided to stay behind. Coincidentally, Jeremy and I just returned from a two-week cruise.
The cruise, the kids’ leaving – these events triggered the pain of losing my mom. Once I realized what was going on, I was flooded with relief – and another quart of tears. But the tears were okay now because I understood them and because they brought a familiar feeling: a mother’s love. Not me loving my offspring this time, but, rather, me feeling that my mother still loves me. And on the anniversary of her passing, it warms me up to know she’s still here. It even makes me cry.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fazed About the Moon

I'm up early the day before we fly to Rome to board a cruise ship. It's still dark when I walk outside to check on the moon. In the middle of the night, Jeremy had risen for a few minutes. When he came back to bed I asked him where he'd gone.

"I went up on deck to see the moon," he quipped. He was pretending he was already on the ship: We've both been giddy about this trip to Europe. One thing we love about cruising is being on deck with sky and ocean in every direction.

His joke reminded me that the moon had been waxing in recent days, and now I was wondering how much. I was thinking how lovely it would be to see the full moon rise over the Mediterranean Sea. I've wanted to see that ever since watching the movie, "Joe and the Volcano," where a humongous moon rises over Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

But, alas, not this cruise. Stepping out into the driveway, I look west and see the moon low on the horizon -- looking like a gold brocade brooch pinned to the black sky. It is big and round and full

"Shoot!" is my first reaction. And then I catch myself. I'm going to be traveling with the sun and moon and sea as my companions for 12 days. Hey, over an ocean, any old moon will do!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Stories of Our Lives

The sun hadn’t yet pulled itself up over the eastern hills when I was walking down College Avenue in Fayetteville. I wore my jacket with the hood up to keep the 45-degree air out of my ears, but my hands were cold. I could not tuck them into my pockets because I needed them to balance as I trekked across uneven grass and rocks and asphalt driveways. There was no sidewalk along this part of the main drag. Cars swished past, only a couple of yards to my right.
I had dropped off my car to be washed and detailed, and I figured I could start walking back to get some exercise. My son would pick me up in about 20 minutes and drive me the rest of the way home.
As I walked I thought about the drivers passing me, and I wondered what kind of figure I cut: a solitary middle-aged, hooded woman in blue jeans. Would they wonder why I had no car? Would they suspect I was homeless? Would they think I had no family? Why would I be out walking before dawn?
I thought about all the times I drive College Avenue and make up stories about the people I see out walking. If they have a backpack and are heavily clothed, I guess they are homeless, carrying all of their possessions. If they are lugging grocery bags, I assume they have no car. If there’s a fast-food cup in their hands, I figure they are on break from work nearby. No one walks this route for exercise, so that’s never part of the stories I make up about the people I see.
Stories. It’s what we human beings love to create: tales about life – our own and others. It’s why we are attracted to soap operas and movies. It’s why we buy the tabloids at the supermarket checkouts. It’s why we listen to talk shows on the radio and watch reality shows on television.
There’s this place inside us that relishes stories, and while I don’t have a problem with story telling, too often the stories end up as fodder for our egos, which use them as proof that we are better or worse than the other guy. Even worse, though, is when we start believing these stories are the truth, especially if what we’ve written is a sad story. As soon as I write a sad story and start identifying with it, I begin to spiral downward emotionally, and guess what? My story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because as I get more depressed, I find more reasons to be sad and I attract others who are sad as well. Misery loves company.
But so does happiness and joy. And that’s the truth of our universe: the law of attraction, or like begets like. So if I’m going to make up stories, why not make up happy ones?
My daughter and her boyfriend broke up recently, and she’s written a sad story for herself about this. We all do this sometimes. At my place in life (i.e. older!), it’s easier to see this is a sad story of her own creation. Yes, she hurts. I honor that. But she’s trying to write a story that makes this one act a theme of her life: No one will ever love her the way she wants to be loved. Now that’s a sad story. But it’s not the truth.
More importantly, we can always choose to rewrite our stories. For example, my daughter and her boyfriend broke up and now she knows that her heart will fit more perfectly with someone else on down the line. And isn’t it good that she has this time to reflect on how beautiful the spring is, how much she loves her job, how fun it is to decorate her new apartment – all without the distraction of a long-distance relationship? And doesn’t this give her the space to figure out why she feels sad so much of the time, and to seek instead little pockets of happiness? Little pockets like the light scent of a butter-yellow jonquil blooming in the grass, the warm sun on her back as she rides her bike, the sweet taste of a frothy Frappuccino, the toothy grin on her niece’s face in the picture taped to her computer.
My daughter is not unlike most of us who have explored deep caves of pain. But even in these places, we can mine little gems of joy. And when we do – when we hold these sparkling pieces of now – we find ourselves at a starting point again. We can choose to write new stories. And if we do, let’s end them with “happily ever after.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Falling Into Grace

I saw my chiropractor Monday morning. I was his first appointment and arrived a few minutes before 8. No one else was in the office but him. As he attached me to the machine that would deliver electrical impulses for the next 10 minutes, he told me, “I took my first fall on my scooter today.”

Because he was standing there and acting normal, I didn’t ask the predictable question:“Are you all right?” Instead I went for what I thought was the witty question: “Are you going to see a chiropractor?”

Actually, I was half serious because when I take a spill – or get rear-ended in my car (I was at his office being treated for whiplash from a recent car accident) – I know that spinal care is in order. But he said, “No, it was just a little fall and I’m all right.”

The scooter took the brunt of the fall and was scratched in several places. The scooter has been his means of transportation to and from work for the past 1,455 miles. “That’s 1,455 miles I didn’t use my car,” he said proudly. And when he fills his scooter’s empty fuel tank, he gets change from a $5 bill.

“What happened?” I asked. He said he was preparing to turn left on a busy street and as he entered the center turn lane, the scooter skidded. He didn’t know why, because the pavement was dry.

“The scooter slid and I went down. I was on the ground beside it, with traffic coming at me,” he said, “so I had to jump up and move! Fortunately, the traffic was at a distance.” He said he allows lots of space when turning left on a highway, and it paid off this morning.

After leaving me in the room with the electrical impulses alternately shocking and relaxing me, the chiropractor went to call his wife. “I fell on the scooter, but I’m OK,” he told her. I could hear him through the closed door, and although I could not hear his wife, I knew exactly what she was feeling. A few years back my husband went down on his motorcycle – and had no idea afterward of what had led up to the spill. After an emergency room visit, he was deemed OK, but that turned out to be his last ride, not so much because he was fearful, but because I was!

When the doctor returned to unplug me, I asked if anyone on the street had checked to see if he was all right. He said a driver stuck his head outside the window and asked.

“I told him I was fine,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “It’s great you were able to jump up and grab your scooter. It’s like once you realized you were going down, you stopped fighting it and fell as lightly as possible. And that probably allowed you to quickly pick yourself up and move out of traffic.”

As I left his office, I thought about how there are many moments in our lives when we slip or jump the track on which we had so carefully aligned ourselves. Sometimes the metaphorical pebble that knocks us off is a biggie: a divorce or loss of job. Sometimes it is small: a rejection slip. Sometimes it is in the middle: a scratched-up scooter and injured pride.

The point is not to freeze ourselves in one place so we avoid the occasional spill, but to relax when we start to tumble, trusting that we will get up again. The point is to fall into grace.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Bread Basket Universal Law

"Let's eat at Emilia's" I said to my husband who was talking on his cellphone. He passed by streetside parking places and pulled into a spot that belonged to "36 Club." So we ate there, instead.
It was a tad more elegant than Taco Bell: The waiter brought us a basket of bread wrapped in a cloth napkin, and although it was white French bread, we both dove in. After my first piece, though, I peeled off the crust of the second, and ate just that -- the crust.
Jeremy looked askance. "Do you know who you remind me of?"
I did. "Your mother," I said, knowing that she preferred the crust to the inside. "But, you like the crust better, too," I pointed out, because he always insists on eating the end pieces of artisan breads and challahs.
"Yeah," he said, "but I eat the inside, too. There's a universal law that says you have to eat the whole thing."
"Wow! I didn't know that," I said, masking my sarcasm as wide-eyed wonder. "Maybe we should post that law on our blog to publicize it better."
So we did.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness Of Being

I had an "aha" recently. It has to do with my weight.
I've gained a lot of weight in the last nine years, the last nine years being spent sitting at a desk for eight or more hours a day.
Now I've "rewired."
(Rewired because retired sounds like something you do to a car.)
With my rewirement, I thought the pounds would start dropping off, because I am on the move often during the day. I even have a newborn in my life and carrying her about the house burns calories, doesn't it? The pounds should be dropping like flies.
But, the flies seem to like me.
Four weeks later, I'm still the same weight, even though I'm eating less. At the newspaper where I worked, my colleagues brought cookies and candy and potato chips every night, and I rewarded myself frequently with a mini-Snickers or mesquite-flavored chips or biscotti.
Now my worst temptation is the leftover apple crisp and ice cream I made for guests last Friday night.
It's almost gone.
But, back to the aha ...
First, you have to know, or rather I need to remember, that the extra 30 pounds were added gradually over nine years. That's only 3.3 pounds a year. So if they come off as gradually as they were put on, it will take me nine years to let go of them.
That feels like forever!
So at the beginning of this year, knowing I was rewiring, I started Weight Watchers and took off and kept off eight pounds. But no more. I sabotaged myself, and even knowing this, didn't change my behavior.
Rewiring changed my behavior, though.
There are no colleagues who bring treats into my home.
And caring for my granddaughter changed my behavior.
Still, the pounds have not started to melt.
I realized two weeks ago one reason why: I had reached a point where I didn't believe I would ever be slender again.
My head could not envision me like I was a decade ago.
No wonder nothing was changing.
About this time, the digital scale broke, and I took it as a sign. Stay off the scale until I can see myself light.
I am not losing weight, I am becoming lighter. It is no longer an unbearable thought.
I took a photograph of myself, front and side views, and used a marker pen to black out the excess stomach and back and thigh flesh. Now I have the picture of what I will look like -- I have to squint my eyes, though -- taped to my bathroom mirror.
Finally, I can see myself as the light being that I am.

P.S. About 10 days ago, my husband Jeremy couldn't bear not weighing himself daily. So he plopped a whopping $5.97 down on the old-fashioned kind of scale that has numbers in the window. When I got on it I couldn't see the small lines, but I could tell that I was halfway between two of the large numbers. I was sick, because it meant I had gained three of the pounds back that I'd lost since January. This morning, I wondered if I was any lighter, having had this aha. But this time I went and found my driving eyeglasses before stepping on. It turns out that the large numbers are 20 pounds apart, not 10, and actually, I've lost two pounds in the past month. I am so light now, I am floating.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Eyes Have It

Jeremy did it. Again.

Seven and a half years ago, we invested what was -- for us --- a whopping sum of $4,000 to have his eyes corrected so he could see without glasses or contacts. He'd been wearing heavy-duty glasses since he was a little kid and school chums teased him with the nickname "Four eyes."

So when he passed the half-century mark, we decided enough! His eye doctor had been talking to him about laser surgery for years, and we took the plunge and made the investment, despite other more pressing bills -- or what at the time we thought were other more pressing bills. The surgery came with a lifetime warranty, too, and when he walked out of the Tulsa clinic -- the exact same one where Tiger Woods had his surgery -- he could see far away with one eye and up close and personal with the other. Monovision, it's called, and he'd been practicing in the previous years with contact lenses that did the same thing.

Within 24 hours, we knew that this was the best thing we'd ever spent a lump of money on. It was like a newfound freedom, Jeremy said. I, too, was tickled by how pleased I was that he didn't have to mess with contacts and eyedrops and goggles when he swam. Now I could splash him in the face with reckless abandon. And I did.
That, perhaps, was the only downside, from his perspective.

Fast forward to last week. Jeremy's eye doctor had been telling him that, perhaps, it was time for a tuneup on those eyes -- a procedure called an enhancement. Jeremy's eyes never got very bad, but, well there was this lifetime warranty, so he went in today -- we went in, actually, he and I and our baby granddaughter whom we were babysitting.

Within 50 minutes of arriving, he was walking out with dark glasses wrapped around his head and a sleeping pill dissolving in his stomach, so that he would go home and rest with his eyes closed.

Tomorrow he will open his eyes and perform at an area children's library -- he and I under our act's name of 'Just The Way We Are.' And he will be able to see as well as the 4-month-old who with me watched his eye surgery on a television camera.

It's no big deal, and it's the biggest deal in the world: to be able to see clearly now, the fog is gone ...


My younger brother is about the same age as Jeremy was when he had his first surgery. I hope my brother puts the money down and invests in himself. He still has almost half a lifetime to reap the rewards. It's a no-brainer, as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, August 6, 2007

So she told me she was getting another tattoo ...

No, not another one! Please, daughter. You are so pretty. Your pure, clean God-given skin doesn't need needles drilling black ink into it.
"It's my fourth," she said. "Lauren and I decided we would both get one. It would be a bonding experience."
"Couldn't you both just get drunk together?" I counter. Or run off and join the circus.
But wait. They could become the newest tattoo ladies under the big tent.
And then she dropped the bombshell.
"Well, I'm tattooing your initials on me," she said.
Omigosh!
I urged her to go with a design, not letters. I could just see Popeye with "Mom" popping up on his biceps.
"How about a heart? To represent our love," I asked her.
She called a few days later.
"It's done," she said. "It hurt like hell."
She got the initials, but she had them worked so the letters looked like a heart with a small tail. On her ankle.
She cried out so much, the tattoo artist thought she was ... well ... somewhat turned on, shall we say?
When he asked her, she laughed uproariously.
"That took some of the sting away," she told me.
"Now I have more tattoos than my brother."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
Then the rains come. April showers bring May flowers.
Just in time for Emily who came in April, stayed through May but, in June changed her tune.
We are products of the media.
Yes and no.
The media puts it out there - the axioms, the pronouncements, the right ways to do this and that - but they are full of contradictions. Don't drink, drink wine. Reduce your protein intake. Reduce your carbs. Make peace by going to war.
It's all out there, and we say we are products of the media, but we get to pick which pronouncements we will believe or follow or pass on.
The media is a buffet, nothing more.
We choose the product by what resonates within: fear or love.
You can't make peace by going to war.
You can't make love while you're afraid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Streaming of Consciousness Part 2

Yes. we didn't grow up in the age of computers like our children. You would think they might enjoy the role of teacher. But, noooo, we had to learn for ourselves. Wait until the next time they ask me for a $ 20.00 loan. But what about the BIG question. Why are we here? Maybe to learn computers

Streaming of consciousness

Jeremy and I today learned what "Radio" in i-Tunes is all about.
It's not like you go take a class in streaming or iPod or any of this hip stuff. If your kids don't teach you, you're out of luck. And kids past the age of 8 ain't interested in teaching their parents. Right, Jeremy?