Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Sent You


A couple of years ago I went to a Buddhist retreat in Houston. One of the participants was a Presbyterian minister, another, a Catholic nun. Neither of these women saw any conflict between practicing Buddhism and believing in God.
The Lama, however, did.
At a group meditation one day, he asked for someone to explain it to him.
“I cannot believe in God,” he said, “because how could a benevolent being allow so much misery in the world.”
Not a new question, and yet, it was one that no one answered for the Lama.

I’ve been going around and around with this.
Today, the light bulb flickered.
The idea is still raw and unformed, and I write quickly, before the light goes out.

The Lama believed that the karma that each of us creates in this lifetime will affect future incarnations.
Others take the position that each soul chooses an incarnation based upon the lessons that that soul wishes to learn in this lifetime.
Both of these ideas place our souls at the center of Creation, giving each of us the power of the Divine.
I love the idea of each of us being Divine. And, I understand how, believing in our own divinity can seem to almost preclude the existence of a separate God.

Unless…

There is a God.
And this God allows free will. Both in heaven and on earth.

If that were the case, then God would not be responsible for allowing misery in the world. We would be responsible for allowing misery in the world.

Because…
God’s answer to the Lama’s lament, “Why don’t you do something?” is,
“I have. I sent you.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ten More Things


Top Ten Thank Yous to Patrick
    10. Thank you for living in Portland, Oregon.

    9. Thank you for introducing me to camping.

    8. Thank you for a house that I have been able to make into a home.

    7. Thank you for needing your children to have a stay-at-home mother as much as I needed to be one.

    6. Thank you for seeing in black and white – it gave me grey.

    5. Thank you for pulling the rug out from under me – standing up made me aware that I have two perfectly good two feet of my very own.

    4. Thank you for questioning my beliefs – it helped me to clarify them.

    3. Thank you for helping me acquire the insight I need for my new job.

    2. Thank you for breaking my heart – it gave it room to expand.

    1. Thank you for my children.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ten Things


Patrick and I were together for 23 years! He is the father of my children.
I want to like him.
I don’t.

I tried.
At Christmas, I thought we had crossed that bridge.
We didn’t.
Apparently, we were walking in opposite directions on two completely different bridges.

This is a source of endless frustration for me.
After banging my head against the same brick wall for the past two years, I’m realizing that I’m pretty banged up, and there is not even the hint of a dent in the wall.

Clearly, my focus has been on the wrong person.
I cannot change Patrick. I cannot make him like me or forgive me or see things from my point of view.

I can change me. I can see the silver lining instead of letting my view be obscured by the cloud. I can let go of the destination and focus on the journey.

So, even though it's the dead or winter, I've found a new leaf and I'm turning it over.
I'm going to stop focusing on my grievances and his perceived faults and start working at it from a new angle. A more positive angle. An angle that can change me. The Carrie Wilson Link Top Ten angle.

Top Ten Things I Learned From Patrick
    10. Hearing is not the same as listening.

    9. Yoga is not the only place where flexibility is helpful.

    8. No one else has to agree with me for my opinion to be valid.

    7. I am my own best advocate.

    6. The lower I place the bar; the lower people have to stoop to get under it.

    5. Feelings are just as valuable as reasons.

    4. I would rather be like Morticia Adams than June Cleaver.

    3. It is unfair to expect one person to fulfill all your needs.

    2. Children learn more from what you do than from what you say.

    1. Just because an item is not on the smorgasbord does not mean it doesn’t exist.

These lessons were worth learning.
Thank you.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Seeds Do Sprout


I was out in my backyard the other day, cleaning up dog debris, so I was down low. And there, under the picnic table, I saw a cracked clay pot, partially filled with dirt, with four green leaves sprouting out of the top.

I stopped what I was doing and went over to investigate. Scraping the caked mud off of the outside, I revealed the Christmas montage that was painted on the outside – a Christmas tree in a snowstorm, valiantly protected by a scarecrow wearing a blue shirt and brown hat.

I smiled, remembering the fat little first grade fingers that had handed me that pot with such pride. How could three years have passed already?

He was so excited about the secret that he had planted inside.
He was so disappointed when no secret was revealed, when the bulbs he had so carefully planted refused to sprout.

I scooped dirt out of the flowerbed and gently pressed it down around the leaves, covering the tops of the bulbs.
Bringing the pot inside, I placed it on the windowsill, over the kitchen sink.
My son noticed it immediately when he came in. He looked at me with questioning eyes.
“Do you recognize that pot?” I asked him.
“Uh-huh. Where’d you get the plant?”
“Those are the bulbs you gave me…with the pot. Remember?”
I can see the wheels turning in his head as he processes what I have just said. And then he smiles. The kind of smile that makes all the petty annoyances of mothering disappear, bursting them like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
“I thought they weren’t going to grow,” he admits. “How’d you make them grow?”
“I didn’t,” I confess. “I guess they were just finally ready.”

And, it comes to me. Seeds are like that.
They grow when they are ready, and not a moment before.
It does no good to second guess, or worry, or despair of the process.

I am filled with hope and excitement.
Finally…finally, the seeds I have been carrying in my soul, the ones that have been so deeply buried they could barely breathe, the ones that I had forgotten…finally…they are beginning to sprout.
Finally, they are ready to blossom.

And the colors...they are going to be amazing!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

David's Journey

It was a drippy, grey, slippery Portland afternoon. My oldest son and I were on our way to watch my youngest son, and his only brother, play basketball.
We pulled off the freeway at the 42nd Ave. off ramp and, there at the end of the ramp was the homeless guy. It’s not always the same guy, but there is always a guy sanding there with a cardboard sign, asking for money.
Only today, it wasn’t just any homeless guy. Today, it was David, our homeless guy. He was still wearing his used to be red converse, but an army green canvas jacket covered his too many holey sweaters. His blond hair was slicked to his head by the rain. In his hands, he held a wet piece of cardboard
The light was green, so we couldn’t stop.
David averted his eyes as we drove by.

“That was David,” I said as we turned the corner.
“Who?”, my son asked, drawing a momentary blank. “Oh, you mean that guy from Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah, that guy from Thanksgiving,” I echo, irrationally annoyed at my son for relegating David to such a one-dimensional existence.

And then I’m annoyed with David. I want to yell at him, “Why are you standing on a street corner...in the rain…begging?”

This was not the first time that I have seen David.
I saw him once, just before Christmas, on Hawthorne Blvd., when I was walking back to my car after having lunch with Carrie. I was surprised to see him there, on the opposite side of town. I didn’t get the chance to talk with him, but I remember thinking, “I wonder if he’s over here because of a job.”

Then I saw him again, in January. I was walking through the park by Lloyd Center when I saw him. He had just arrived and he was setting up…and I knew that he still didn’t have a job.
He was arranging himself on the west side of the statue, out of the wind with a hint of protection from the mist that was threatening to become a full-fledged rain shower. He propped up the cardboard sign against his crossed legs and he pulled his fingers back into his sleeves.

When I got closer to him, he looked up. The words froze in his mouth and a flicker of recognition darted through his eyes.
“David,” I smiled, stooping down next to him so we could speak, eye to eye.
“Oh, hi,” he answered awkwardly.
“Have you been doing alright?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve been spending time over on Hawthorne. I was over there on Christmas day, but no one was out.”
I am incredulous…and sad. Why would he expect to be able to panhandle on Christmas day? Why was he alone on Christmas day?! But what I end up saying is, “Yeah, people don’t usually go out on Christmas. What did you end up doing?”
“I went downtown and they were serving dinner down there.”
“You know, I meant it when I told you that you are welcome to come back over…anytime”
David lets my words hang in the air. “Yeah, sure,” he says, but he looks the other way and I know that he doesn’t really mean it.

I want to take him and shake him by the shoulders. I want to say, “David, you’re a smart guy. Why are you wasting your time sitting on sidewalks? Portland has so many services for homeless youth. Use them, dammit!”

But I don’t.
I know that he already knows this. I know that this is why he is in Portland in the first place. He told us that on Thanksgiving, that he had left Seattle because Portland was a better place to be homeless.

I want so much more for this young man. This boy who moved to the US when he was seven. This boy who has dreams of building ships.

And I know that what I want doesn’t matter. All I can do is be here, for him. This is David’s journey, not mine.
And so, I stand up, and continue on my way.
“Good seeing you,” I say.
“Yeah,” he mumbles, and he is already looking away from me, down the sidewalk, toward the next person, the person that might have some change to spare.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Horse of a Different Color


I woke up at 5:30 this morning and have spent the past five hours drifting in and out of dreams, cruising the blogoshpere and talking myself out of going to two different Bikram yoga classes.

I LOVE YOGA!
LUH-UV YOGA!

I love…
    the purging
    the moving meditation
    the way it stretches the muscles that I didn’t even know I have
    the way it stretches the muscles that I did know I have
    the way it warms my body
    the way it warms my soul
    the clarity that comes after a particularly good class
    the sense of well-being
    the utter exhaustion
    the complete calm
    the annoyingly repetitive, constantly droning voice of the instructor that gives me the SAME instructions at EVERY class that I somehow hear for the very first time on my 150th class
    the feeling of accomplishment I get when I can hold a posture until the instructor says “change”
    the hour and a half that is MINE
    the connection of all that is within me
    the connection with all that is outside of me

I LOVE YOGA!

I don’t love the going to yoga part. And clearly, I don’t do it very well.
Once I’m there, I’m fine.
But getting there…now that’s where that horse of a different color rears his colorful head.

That’s where he tells me that I have time to do just one more quick thing before I get ready to go. I fall for it every time and it is never just one more quick thing.
Or where he convinces me that I deserve to stay in my warm, cozy, comforter cocoon and I can just catch a later class, that I miss because I am busy doing that one more quick thing.
Or where he says that I’ve been to yoga three days in a row so missing today will be okay.
Or where he badgers me into serving my children’s irrational needs and insists that they must be fulfilled at exactly the same time as yoga class is offered.

I have one more shot at getting to yoga today.
I’m going to lock that mythical horse in the equally mythical barn and see if I can make it to class.

Wish me luck.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Feelings


My oldest is worried about her father.
“He never goes out!” she complains. “He needs to go out.”

“Don’t worry about your father,” I tell her, hoping that I am concealing the annoyance I feel toward him for being mopey around her. “That’s not your job. You have enough to do without worrying about your father. Let him take care of himself.”

“Yeah, but he seems so old! You don’t.”

“Thank you, AND, quit spying on your father. Life goes in cycles. He used to go out a lot. Now he doesn’t. He’s just not in the going out phase right now. It will come around again.”

“But I HAVE to spy on him! Besides, I spy on you too.”

“What?!” I swallow hard and silently reprimand myself for being annoyed with her father two seconds earlier.

“Yeah, I ask Bub if you still yell a lot. You know like you used to with me.”

The guilt I still carry with me over our past comes flying out of the neat compartment in which I had it stored. It hovers at the edges of our conversation, threatening. I hold my breath and brace myself for an answer I don’t want to hear and I ask, “And what does he say?”

“He says that he just tries to do what you ask because if you guys have an argument, you always end up going downstairs and apologizing and then you want to talk about feelings and he really doesn’t want to talk about feelings.”

I exhale and the pressure in my chest eases.

My daughter and I laugh. I laugh because I love the way my son deftly parried to avoid really answering the question. I laugh because his response succinctly sums up the difference between my two older children and my two younger children, the difference in the atmosphere in which they were raised.

When I was married to their father, feelings were the Cinderella step-sister of his sensible household where facts reigned supreme. There was no emotion that logic could not over power, no feeling that couldn’t be trumped by fact.

I became the keeper of feelings. I was not big enough to hold them all. When they finally crashed through the walls that had been so meticulously erected, the avalanche shook our world and buried my marriage.

My oldest son is not yet comfortable with the new order of things. He is learning. He is getting better at sharing feelings…occasionally…on his terms. He is finding out that harmony and anger, love and hate, are merely the bookends to a whole range of emotions.

“You know,” I tell my daughter, hesitating a bit, summoning that breath of courage before I go on, “things have changed since you and your father moved out. I have changed. And it’s not because of you.”

“I know,” she replies, “and it’s good. And I love you.”

I smile when I hear this, and, when I take a breath, it is big and deep and full of light. Every cell in my body jumps in, eager to be expanded. They all join together as I exhale, "I love you too, my sweet girl."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Driving to School


I was driving my youngest daughter to school today when the song Why Don’t You Stay?, by Sugarland, came on the radio. It’s a song from the point of view of the “other woman”.

My daughter wondered out loud what that would be like. “If you loved someone,” she said, “you would totally forgive them, right?”

Hoo boy! Loaded question for a five minute drive to school.

So I hedge my bets. “You know,” I say, pausing and breathing deeply, “everybody’s situation is different. It is so easy to be black and white about things, except that’s not real life. Everybody has their own set of circumstances and their own points of view and their own reasons.”

Silence.

I glance over at her in the passenger seat. She is looking at me and she nods her head, encouraging me to continue.

I tact to the left. “Did you know that every cell in your body regenerates itself? You know how you’re constantly sloughing off old skin cells and replacing them with new ones. Well, every cell in your body does the same sort of thing. I’m not sure what the time frame is, but at some point, you have a completely different body than you used to have. And that happens repeatedly throughout your life. So you are literally, physically, not the same person.”

“Wow. That’s kinda weird to think about.”

“It is. So the person I am today, is not the same person as I will be next year or next month or next week. Even tomorrow, I will be different. Like with you and your sister. I was a different person when your sister was your age. I made different decisions with her than I do with you.”

My daughter chuckles. “Yeah, she was your practice child.”
She has heard her sister throw this accusation at me more than once, but I am still surprised to hear it repeated.
I think she is surprised that she said it and when I turn toward her, she can’t look at me and instead glances out the window to watch a leaf blow down the sidewalk.

“No, she was not a practice child, but I know more things now than I did then. I see things differently and I understand more than I did when she was your age. I made the best decisions I could given the set of circumstances that I had. I might make different decisions today, I might not. And, I have not changed any of our basic rules, just my reaction to the breaking of those rules has changed.”

“Yeah. Totally!” she agrees.
“You know how you act differently when you are with your basketball friends or your volleyball friends or your middle school friends?”

“Yeah?” she answers a bit warily, unsure of where I am going with this.

“It’s the same thing with parents. Each child is different. If I tried to be the same with each of you, it would be unfair to all of you.”

We reach the school and I begin circling, looking for a place to park.
I go off on a tangent about how different my sisters and I are and about how the circumstances in which we were raised were different. I keep on babbling and the moment changes from a teachable moment for my daughter into an “aha” moment for me. The fist tight fingers of resentment surrounding issues I have with my mother begin to loosen, not completely, but a little, and my lungs have room to breathe.

We loop around the block and another song comes on the radio “…and your high school sweetheart becomes your bride,” warbles the country singer.
My daughter is humming along and I turn to her and ask, “So, are you going to marry your high school sweetheart?”
She smiles, a big, wide, grin. “Weell, I would say “no”, but I don’t know really know what all the circumstances will be when that time comes, so…” she finishes with a shrug.

I laugh. “I guess you do listen to your mama’s babblings.”
“Duh!” she says, pursing her lips and giving me a kissy face.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kindness Chronicles II


I made a promise to myself to go for two consecutive weeks without complaining.
My commitment to be complaint-free for two weeks is my gift of kindness to myself as well as to those around me.
Kind of the flip side of telling people when you notice nice things.
More recognition and appreciation of the positive.
Less looking for and commenting on the negative.

I thought I was starting out small. Just one two-week period in 2008. Any two weeks out of the entire 52 weeks available in the year. Thankfully, I was wise enough to include a leniency policy in my effort so as to avoid the very real possibility of having to flog myself for failing. I told myself that I could start over as many times as I need in order to reach my two-week goal.
I have already started over eight times.
My record is six days.
Yeah! Almost halfway to my goal and there are still eleven months left in the year!

I shared my promise with my youngest daughter. Now she is tracking me. She’s on the look out for any complaining.
And she calls me on it.
Every time.

I tried to scoot out of it once by tacking “not that I’m complaining” on to the end of a major whine.
She called it.

One morning, I observed that people should pull over to the side of the road when dropping off their children at school rather than just staying in the line of traffic and having children slide sleepily out of the car, which delays EVERYONE in the line, especially when each car in succession does the exact same thing!
She called that too.
I was using a “tone”.

She is a rigid taskmaster.
And I, it turns out, have been a complainer.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines complaining as
    1. To express feelings of pain, dissatisfaction or resentment.
    2. To describe one’s pains, problems or dissatisfactions.

Who knew? I thought I was being funny…sarcastic…even, clever. Turns out, it was complaining, complaining cleverly disguised as comedy, but complaining nonetheless.

Complaining has become a habit. It has become my own little stand up comedy routine, only I’m usually sitting and I usually only have an audience of one. I have justified it by saying that if I was laughing and causing others to laugh, I wasn’t really complaining. As though laughter somehow mitigated my negativity.

Like this morning. I had coffee with Carrie, just so we could chat and catch up. We talked about life and kids and men, all things ripe with complaint possibilities. We reaped a bountiful harvest and spent a lot of time laughing.
But when, I told her about my efforts to put a moratorium on complaining, she cocked one eyebrow and dipped her mouth behind hands that were clasped over her coffee mug, stifling a smile.
“I know,” I complained, realizing my blunder through the world of whine far too late, “Now I’m going to have to start at day one…Again!”

But I have had some successes.
I mean, six complaint-free days! Judging by my coffee date with Carrie, I’ve passed up dozens of opportunities to complain.
I managed not to complain about a particularly awful person I saw at my daughter’s basketball game. Ditto the long line at the gas station, the rude driver, the broken heater and the three trips to the grocery store.

I’m a work in progress. I have 45 years of training to overcome. Like Shrek, I am an onion -- I have a lot of layers left to peel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over


When Lynn offered me my job – note the use of the personal pronoun here, it’s gone from the job to my job – I danced around my room and yelled “thank you” to the walls and did a whole lot of whooping. I didn’t think that anyone could be more excited about my new job than I.
I was wrong.

My children are over the moon excited about my new job.

My youngest cannot believe his good fortune at being able to attend extended day (i.e. after school care).
“When do I get to start?” he asked, face bright enough to power an entire Third World country. “Do I get to go every day?”
“Yes you do,” I smile back to him.
In my head, I’m screaming, “It’s daycare! Did you hear me? D-A-Y-C-A-R-E! You’re not supposed to want to go to daycare!”

My youngest daughter does a fist pump and says, “Tight! Now when people ask me what my mother does, I can tell them you have a job!”
Apparently, my dabble in the independent sales rep world didn’t qualify as a job. “You worked at home,” she explains patiently, as though talking to a petulant two-year old. “You didn’t go to work.”
“I went on business trips,” I whine in my best terrible-two voice.
“That doesn’t count,” she states, emphatically.
Inside, I am incredulous. “My guilt about being away for week long sales trips, missing meets and tournaments, was merely gratuitous guilt. Who knew?”

My oldest son acts nonchalant.
“It means that I may not be able to drive you to school every day,” I warn.
“No problem. I’ll just get a ride from Lauren or do a morning run to get to school,” he flips. “Yeah, that would be a good time to do my run,” he adds with a smile.
And I’m thinking, “Huh, I’ve been struggling all year to get you and your sister to schools that start at exactly the same time every morning and are located on different sides of town and it’s no big deal to you to have to find another way to get there?! Could you maybe have let me know this a little sooner?!”

I am thrilled that my children are thrilled. Really. But come on! Is it really necessary to make me feel foolish for trying so hard with the stay-at-home mom-ing?

Of course, they are not making me feel foolish, I am making me feel foolish.

There is a verse from the Talmud, “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.

My children have been seamlessly able to switch from being children with a stay-at-home mother to being children with a mother working outside the home. Neither is inherently better or worse than the other, it’s all about the view.
I didn’t see them changing.
Apparently, they did see me changing.
Even before I did.
And they accommodated my change.

I know we're all in a bit of that honeymoon phase. I know that the landing into reality may be a bit rocky. And, I know that we'll make it through just fine.
We'll make it through just fine because my children see a glass that is half full.

Talk about hitting the jackpot!

I get to do something I really want to do AND my children are happy and supportive about it.

Apparently, someone, somewhere, taught them well.
Woohoo!

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Rose By Any Other Name...


I have a Hawaiian name. Kapuananiokalaniakea – beautiful blossom of the wide heavens. Pronounce every vowel, and you’ve got it.

Hawaiian tradition says you must use a person’s full name. Addressing someone using an abbreviated portion of her name is thought to also abbreviate the person.
I am a whole person. I deserve a whole name.

Makes sense, except…look at my name! It’s twelve syllables long! It’s too much for standard American tongues.
So I shorten it to Puanani – beautiful blossom. Which gets shortened to Pua – blossom. Which gets shortened to Pu.

Pu?!
    1. Polite name for awful, smelly stuff you step in and need to scrape off the bottom of your shoe when you’re out walking in the park

    2. A muddle-headed bear who lives in the Hundred Acre Woods.

    3. Pee-yew!

    4. General name for a pumpkin or a squash. (Hawaiian Dictionary definition)

Hmm.
Perhaps it's time to re-examine tradition.

Love...Unconditionally


Love often comes with strings.
I love you if…
I love you when…
I love you because…

Love like this hurts.
I have been loved like this. A lot.

This is not love.
Love is unconditional.
Love loves you like my grandmother, Nana, loved me.

She loved me whether my grades were good or bad. She loved me whether I went to church or not.
She loved me even when I tried to make her stop. Even when I stole money from her purse, she loved me. Even when I wouldn’t eat the food she cooked for me, she loved me.
When I dropped out of college for a term in the spring of my sophomore year, my entire family stopped talking to me, everyone except Nana. She kept on supporting me. She kept on checking in to make sure that I was okay. She kept on loving me.

She learned about love with my grandfather. She loved him from the moment they met until the day he died, and thirty-four years beyond that, until the day that she died.

A few years after Nana died, my father gave me her wedding ring. He had been keeping it in his sock drawer. He gave it to me out of the blue, without ceremony.
“Here, do you think you might want this?” he said, casually dropping it into my hand. “It belonged to Nana,” he added, as though it needed identification. As though I wouldn’t be able to recognize the ring I had admired all my life.
When Patrick asked me to marry him, he asked what kind of ring I wanted. I tried to describe Nana’s rings to him. Patrick tried to match what I described, and he got it close, but not quite.

The little band of gold that my father so lightly tossed into my hand means more to me than anything else I own.
It is a narrow gold band, etched on the outside with a swirly design that the years have aged to a secret whisper between lovers. When I wear the ring, I can feel my grandparent’s love, their love for each other and their love for me.
I feel their courage. Their willingness to love in spite of rules that said they shouldn’t.
When they met, Nana was a sweet young thing, the thirteenth of fourteen children, and the only girl in a proper Chinese family. She had been encouraged to go to college and afterwards, she began a successful career as a traveling dental hygienist. Still, her brothers had plans for to marry a nice Chinese doctor.
Grandpa was Hawaiian, a widower and ten years her senior. His family wanted him to marry another Hawaiian woman, so as not to dilute the bloodlines.
They were not supposed to meet. They were not supposed to fall in love. And yet they did. When they got married, Nana’s older brothers, all twelve of them, disowned her. Grandpa’s family never accepted her. But they had each other, and then they had Daddy.

I wear their ring to remind me where I am going and from whence I came. On “fat” days, it goes on my left hand. On “thin” days I wear it on my right.
It gives me courage. It gives me strength. It gives me love.
Unconditionally.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thank You

Woohoo!!!
Clang the cymbals. Bang the drums. Strike up the band!

Guess who just got exactly the job she wants?!
Uh-huh! That would be me.

And so, feeling like a winner, I will follow in the footsteps of all the winners that have gone before me by thanking all those people who made it possible.

Thank you Lynn for your flexibility.

Thank you Samantha for sharing your knowledge.

Thank you Tini for saying all the right things.

Thank you Heather for your skills as an advocate.

Thank you Kim for providing a bridge between then and now.

Thank you to my yoga teachers for leading the 90-minute moving meditations that clear my mind and heal my body.

Thank you Carrie for reminding me what is important.

Thank you Wanda for the boundaries and support.

Thank you Helen for your strength.

Thank you to my blog community for your insights and inspiration.

Thank you to each of my children for loving me, with or without exactly the right job.

Thank you to the Circle for giving me faith.

If I have inadvertently forgotten anyone, please forgive me and know that I really do appreciate you.

You all have taught me so much about life, about love, about me and about what matters.
I am blessed to have you in my life.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What's the Problem?


The front page of the Oregonian this morning carries a story about sea lions. Specifically, about how a group of sea lions are camping out at the bottom of Bonneville Dam and feasting on the salmon that are trying to head back up the river to spawn.

The salmon are “trying” to get back up the river, but it is HARD WORK because there is a damn dam in the way! It slows them down and makes them easy pickings for the sea lions.

People have tried everything – noise, rubber bullets, sea lion relocation -- to get the sea lions to stop eating the salmon. They have failed.
They have failed because this is what sea lions do -- they eat salmon. The sea lions have found the best, most conducive environment in which to pursue their work.

Humans have done the same thing. Anglers camp out on the same area to catch the same salmon. At times, the sea lions have become aggressive – one even jumped into a boat to retrieve “the one that got away” and had to be beaten off by the frightened fisherman.

So now, humans want to kill them.
Humans want to kill them because the sea lions are killing the salmon. Only that’s not what the sea lions are doing. The sea lions are eating the salmon because that’s what sea lions do!

The problem is that the salmon are endangered. Salmon are endangered, in part, because the dam makes it too damn hard for the salmon to get back up the river to spawn. Salmon are endangered because their habitat is being destroyed. Salmon are endangered because they have been over fished.

Anglers are mad because they cannot go over the predetermined catch limit. They have to put certain salmon back in the river. They are mad because no such restrictions have been placed on the sea lions.
The article outlines a proposal to restrict the sea lions to a limit of 1% of the run. If the sea lions “over fish” they will be subjected to fines ranging from hazing (which thus far has not worked) to death.

To me, it makes more sense to say that the fisher folk must stop fishing. Humans caused the salmon to become endangered in the first place. Anglers might say that that is not fair – they’ve already been restricted enough. Why should today’s anglers be forced to pay the price for the misdeeds of their forefathers?

Because, they were your forefathers, not the sea lions’.

The sea lions are simply reacting to a situation that was caused by humans. How is it fair to penalize them? How is it right to murder an animal for doing what it was born to do?

I think the sea lions are not the problem. The sea lions are a simply a symptom. It is the problem that needs fixing, not the sea lions.
I do not have a solution to the problem, so perhaps I shouldn’t be ranting.
I just know that fixing the symptom never really fixes anything.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Finding the Courage


Why no one told me that my body would become a battlefield, a sacrifice, a test? Why did I not know that birth is the pinnacle where women discover the courage to become a mother? Anita Diamant, THE RED TENT


When I was very young, the first thing I ever remember wanting to be when I grew up, is a firefighter. Of course, back in those days, I called them firemans, and I wanted to be one with such intensity that it made my face flush and my skin sticky with anticipation.

For so many reasons, I was never able to bring that dream to fruition, but I can vividly recall the ardent desire that I felt for that career, the unwavering knowing that filled my young body with its rightness.

My body is no longer young and my desire to be a “firemans” has long since waned. But the feeling, the seat of my soul certainty that I felt about being a “firemans”, that, is back. This time, it is accompanied by knowledge and understanding.
So, when I got a call on Monday offering me exactly the job that I want, the job that resonates with rightness in every fiber of my being, I surprised myself by hesitating before I answered.

The reason I hesitated is that the pay is less than I had hoped. Less than I had hoped, AND less than I need.

In that moment of indecision, the breath between “yes” and “no”, I found the courage to say, “Yes…if”. It made my heart race with panic and the palms of my hands grew sweaty.
“Yes,” I said with conviction, faking a strength I didn’t feel, “I will take that job IF you can offer me enough to support my children.”

My words shot into the phone and I watched them travel down a long, dark, twisty path toward the ear of the woman who held the power of “yes” and “no”.

She, too, hesitated.
She, too, said, “Yes…if”.

‘Yes,” she said with understanding, “we want you for this job and I will see if we can offer you more. I am not in charge of the budget, but I know there is often some flexibility.”

She should have some sort of an answer by the end of this week, the beginning of next week at the latest.

And so I wait.
I wait with strength and courage and tranquility, and I know that she will find that flexibility.

*Photo by Asif Akbar

Kindness Chronicles I


This is the first post in the Kindness Chronicles, weekly updates of my adventures in kindness.

This first week has been one of learning.
I have learned that, although I often do kind things, I do not often do kind things intentionally.

I was unintentionally kind at the grocery store on Thursday. In the juice aisle, I encountered a vertically challenged woman who was standing on her tippiest of tippy toes, struggling to reach the last bottle of Pomegranate Pucker juice that was hiding at the very back of the top shelf. I offered to grab it for her and I think I could an actually hear a sigh of relief from her toes as she allowed the muscles in her body to relax. She asked me if I could just make sure that there were no more hiding just beyond her reach and her line of vision. I checked behind the Very Berry, the Pineapple Passion and the Mango Madness, and found that there was no Pomegranate Pucker escaping purchase. We exchanged smiles and continued on our separate ways. I was better for our encounter.

I was intentionally kind at Costco. My intention that day was to let others know when I thought something nice about them. Sometimes, it’s nice to know that others notice you in a positive way.

So, I was in the check out line and an older woman and her husband were in front of me. The woman had perfectly coiffed silver hair, fashion forward spectacles, complete with rhinestones at the temples, and the clearest, brightest, sparkly-est, robin’s egg blue eyes I have ever seen. She was dressed for Costco, pink crocs with fuzzy lambs wool liners, faded old lady jeans, a cream colored long sleeved t-shirt and a cozy blue-grey fleece. Her hands shook a little as she wrote out the check for her groceries. I watched her and was overwhelmed by her beauty. So overwhelmed, in fact, that she left before I could say anything to her.
Dah-yum!

When I picked up my daughter from school, I told her this part of the story, and she said, “It’s a good thing you didn’t say anything, she would have thought that your were a stalker and you would have scared her.”
“Ah, but wait,” I laughed to her, holding up my index finger and wagging it at her, “the story is not over.”

You see, the couple had purchased over $240 of groceries. Their shopping cart was full to overflowing. I, on the other hand, had but a handful of items. I resolved that if I saw them in the parking lot when I was leaving, I would say something.
I walked out to my car. No couple.
I loaded my groceries into my car, returned the cart to the cart corral, and started to leave. Instead of driving out the first exit, though, I drove through the parking lot to the exit at the far end. I peered down each lane as I passed, and, as I drove passed the third lane, I spied them. They were still loading their car, a late model silver Toyota sedan.
Quickly, I looped around. As I neared them, I rolled down the window.

At this point in my story, my daughter is cringing in the passenger seat. She is holding her head in her hands screaming, “No. No! You didn’t. Tell me you didn’t!”

My lips tighten together as I nod sadly at her, “I did.”

I rolled down my window and said, “Excuse me.”
I think I may have given the woman a bit of a start. She was squatted on the pavement trying to drag one of those mega packages of toilet paper off the bottom rack of the cart where it was wedged. My voice broke her concentration and she glanced up at me, her face a mixture of surprise and annoyance.
“I was in line behind you at the check out,” I explained, “and I just wanted to let you know that I think you are the most beautiful woman.
She kind of glanced behind her to make sure that I was talking to her, then, she looked back at me and smiled. Before she could say anything, her husband danced from the other side of the car. He did some sort of a little two-step jig, stuck his thumbs through his imaginary suspenders and laughed, “What about me?”
I waved at him and laughed back and said, “Nope, I can’t do that. That’s your beautiful bride’s job.”
As I drove away, I glanced at them in the rearview mirror. They were standing by the open trunk of their car smiling broadly at each other and for an instant, I could see the young couple who fell in love and promised to spend the rest of their lives together.

“Aw,” my daughter sighs, hands clasped under her chin. “That’s so sweet!”

“Yes it was,” I agree. “So am I forgiven?”
She takes on the air of a queen granting a pardon, looks down her nose at me and nods, “Yes, you’re forgiven.”

Next week, she’s going to join me in the kindness challenge as long as I promise that it is not just a scam on my part to con her in to being nicer to her younger brother.
I promised.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Mother's Words


Still stuck on the mothering thing.
This time, it’s a memory from my childhood, and it has me looking at motherhood from the other side.

I remember when I was about ten and at Mass with my family. I was wearing a jersey knit outfit consisting of navy blue bell-bottom trousers and a sleeveless navy and white stripped shirt. On my feet I wore white sandals, on my head, a plaid, Mr. Toad type motor cap. My dark hair was cropped short, into a pixie cut. I felt too fine for words.

I have no idea what the readings were nor do I recall the sermon. What I do remember is the Communion hymn – Lord of the Dance.

Dance, dance, wherever you may be.
I am the lord of the dance said he
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance said he.


I LOVED THAT SONG! I sang it with all my heart and soul. I felt God smiling down at me and I reveled in the Light.

My mother didn’t love the song.
My mother didn’t sing with me.
My mother didn’t see the light.

I don’t know what she saw.
I do know what she said.

She peered down at me from behind her hymn book, scrunched her eyes, wrinkled her forehead and, in her best church whisper she hissed, “What are you doing?!”

Looking up at her, the air around me suddenly felt too heavy and I wondered if I could continue to stand.
I knew I must.
But I couldn’t hear the music anymore. So, I stopped singing and, like my mother, began to mouth the words.

I am 45 years old, and the sting I felt on that Spring Sunday still smarts.
I’m sure that my mother no longer recalls that day. I’m pretty sure that she forgot that moment the second she turned her attention back to her hymnbook.
To her, it was a casual comment.
To me, it was a crushing blow.

I never sang at Mass again. Ever.

The power of words is amazing and can only be matched by the power of a mother.
I like to think that I have been able to use that power wisely with my children.
Sweetly sad upturned faces and my too late apologies tell me that I may have failed.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Multiple Personalities


It’s funny.
I gave birth to four children.
My four children all have the same father and the same mother.
Except for that…they don’t.
I am a different mother to each of my children.

This fact is painfully evident with my daughters.
When one of my oldest daughter’s friends said, “Wow, you’re mother is so chill!” (i.e. so cool she is BEYOND cool), she responded by saying, “Yeah, well…she’s nice.”
When one of my youngest daughter’s friends said, “Wow, you’re mother is so chill”, she responded by saying, “N0…she’s icy chill!”

Of course, I understand that part of it has to do with the fact that my daughters are very different girls.
But, at least part of it has to do with me. With how I raised them. With who I was when I raised them.

My girls were born four and a half years apart.

My oldest got a more traditional mother. A stay-at-home, Catholic woman who volunteered endlessly, taught Sunday school and believed in the “Father Knows Best” model of family life. She got a my needs come last, my opinions don’t count for as much, I am here to serve you sort of mother. In short, she got someone who was more uptight, less confident and angrier.

My youngest daughter got a mother who was beginning to realize that her view of the world was rather narrow. She definitely got a lot of the angry, but she also got a mother who spent less time channeling June Cleaver and more time getting in touch with her inner Morticia Adams.

Both of my girls got a mother who listened to them, but my younger daughter also got a mother who could hear.
My oldest got a mother who would find solutions to her problems, proper solutions, but solutions that didn’t always fit my daughter. Her sister got a mother who helped her figure out her own answers.

My youngest daughter got a mother who reads aloud to her every night from Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters. Her sister got a mother who didn’t even realize that gender was an issue.

My oldest daughter got a mother who unconsciously split household chores into “boy jobs” and “girl jobs”. My youngest got a mother who splits chores based upon interest, time and need – my oldest son asked to do the laundry, my youngest son enjoys unloading the dishwasher and my daughter loves to bake.

I realize that it is not as though these two different mothers are mutually exclusive nor do I delude myself into thinking that I only house two mothers within me – I haven’t even touched on the kind of mothering I have given to my boys – or that I got it “all wrong” with my oldest and am getting it “all right” with my youngest daughter.
I do believe, however, that I am becoming a better mother, even though I know that I have always done my best.

Nourishing a Soul


From the moment my oldest daughter was born eighteen plus years ago, I have been reading to my children. I read them all of the stories that I had listened to and loved when I was a child. I read them newer stories too. I didn’t give much thought to the gender of the characters in the story, other than the fact that I rarely read “girl” stories (Madeline, The Lonely Doll, etc.) to my sons.

But last week, when I was at the library, a book literally jumped off the shelf at me, Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters. It is an anthology of folktales from around the world featuring heroines. And by heroines, I mean female heroes, not Disney inspired Cinderella princesses.

In reading the introduction, I was embarrassed by the fact that I had never noticed that Dr. Seuss books, the ones that we read so often that my children had them memorized, used male pronouns almost exclusively. When I mentioned this to my fourteen-year-old daughter, though, she gave me that “no duh” look and said “Yeah, except for Lola Lee Lou, Maizie and the sour kangaroo. And they’re all either vain or lazy or mean.”

The author, Kathleen Ragan, noticed this too. She went out in search of stories that feature strong females. What she found was that the most readily available folktales and fairy tales present women as passive, beautiful and helpless. In addition, she found that the ratio of male protagonists to female was severely skewed, with at least 90% of the stories featuring heroes. Through her research, Ragan found that many of stories have been altered to diminish the power of the feminine. In the original German version of Little Red Riding Hood, for example, she encounters another wolf the second time she goes through the woods and this time, she vanquishes it herself.

I have been reading this book to my daughter. She has been listening with the ears of a child who is finally hearing her own language. She has been drinking up the stories, nourishing a soul that had become an arid wasteland of want. We dragged the book with us to a doctor’s appointment and she actually sat in my lap -- all five feet-ten inches of her, with her head scrunched down resting on my shoulder -- so that she would be close enough to make sure that she hadn’t missed a word.

I cannot change the past. I can affect the future. I can give my daughter inspiration and honesty, heroines in all their flawed beauty.

Thank you Kathleen Ragan.

* Photo from Amazon.com

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why Can't We Be Friends?


A couple of years ago, when I was first separated and starting the process of becoming divorced, I was at my youngest daughter’s basketball game. Everybody’s parents were there, cheering for the team. There was one couple in particular, though, that caught my eye. They had come to the game in separate cars. When the mother arrived, she greeted the father with a big hello hug. They sat together, and while they watched the came, they laughed and joked and enjoyed each other’s company.

My children’s father and I, by contrast, sat on opposite sides of the gym. We were like two opposing magnets that couldn’t be brought together. No matter how hard we, or anyone else tried, the invisible force field couldn’t be broken. But this is how we wanted it. At that point, even knowing that the air I was inhaling may have mingled with the exact same air that he was exhaling was akin to breathing noxious gasses.

I watched the happy couple and thought back to a time when I was part of a happy couple.

Patrick and I met at a basketball game. He was a player, I was a fan. We had mutual friends in common, and after the game we all went out to celebrate their victory. Some good conversation and a few beers were all it took for the spark to ignite between Patrick and me.
We started dating, fell in love and got married.
We continued to go to basketball games, he, as a player, me, as his greatest fan.
When we had children, they joined us at the games. The hot sweaty smell of the gym wrapped my babies in warmth and the steady dribble of the ball down the court lulled them to sleep. Nothing, not even the buzzer, could disturb the peace my babies felt at a basketball game.
My children loved watching their father play, and, when they got old enough, he taught them the game.
Over time, Patrick began to spend less time as a player and more time as a fan. We would sit together and cheer for our children. Sometimes, we would hold hands
Basketball was woven into the fiber of our marriage, the first thread in the tapestry of our lives together.


At halftime of my daughter’s game, I started talking with the woman I had been watching. It turned out that the reason she had hugged the man when she arrived was that she hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks. She hadn’t seen him for a couple of weeks because they were divorced!

I glanced over at Patrick and, holding back the urge to vomit, I asked the woman how she did it.
“My husband and I are going through a divorce,” I explained, “and we can’t stand to even look at each other.”

“Yeah, we were like that,” she nodded. “It gets better.”
“How? When?” I pleaded.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “We’ve been divorced for almost five years. It just kind of gradually happened.”

This Christmas, I thought it was finally happening. I took Patrick shopping to help him buy gifts for the children. It went well. We talked. I gave him gift ideas, he listened and actually took my advice. Together, we chose a gift for my oldest daughter’s boyfriend. I tried on clothes to see if they would be the right size for our youngest daughter. I explained to him what Uggs are and took him to Nordstrom so that he could buy some for his mother. I even went halves with my oldest daughter and we gave Patrick tickets to a Blazer basketball game for Christmas.

Last week, our youngest daughter had her first basketball game since Christmas. I arrived first. When Patrick got there, he saw me and took a seat on the opposite side of the gym. Afterwards, he left without talking to me.

And I am left wondering if I dreamed Christmas.

Friday, January 11, 2008

BE Kind


No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible. - Voltaire

It is so easy to point fingers and say "It's not my fault!". I am discovering, though, that it is ALL my fault -- and not in a bad way.
It's all my fault in a good, we're all in this together kind of way. Every word I speak, every thought I think, every action I take, is a pebble dropped in a mirror smooth mountain lake, the ripples reaching far beyond what my eyes can see.

Thich Naht Hanh says that, "It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace."
I love that! Not being peace-ful, but being peace.

I thought of this when I heard about a new project on which Claudia is working. It is a new blog called Everyday Kindness that challeges us to be kind.

To commit one act of kindness every day.

Simple.
No big statements to make.
No huge rallys to attend.
No letters of protest to write.
Just be kind.

I've decided to accept the challenge.
I've decided to drop at least one pebble of kindness in my pond every day.
Just think what a difference we could make if everybody did the same.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Luh-uv That Cat!


It’s 11:49 at night. It is waaay past my bedtime but I can’t sleep because of the incessant meowing at my window. I try to ignore it. I am almost successful, but our cat uses her well-honed sixth sense and, realizing I’m about to nod off, she ups the ante. Out come the claws. She draws them painfully s-l-o-w-l-y
D

O

W

N

the windowpane.
Once.
My ears start to itch.
Twice.
My jaw tightens with that uncomfortable, tasting-something-too-sour feeling.
Thrice.
Sharp needles explode from my ears and jaw and rain down on my body.
I open the window.
Cat – 1. Me – 0.

It is raining outside and the cat wastes no time. She is inside in a blink and pounces on my bed. On my bed with a white comforter. On my bed with a white comforter with her rain stained body and roof debris dirty paws.
Cat -2. Me – still 0.
It’s 12:07. I’m tired. It’s only dirt. I can wash the comforter in the morning.
I crawl back into bed.
Wet rag of a cat crawls in with me, except she does not snuggle down and go to sleep. NOOO! I discover that this cat is the top student of a certain Ms. Link and that this cat is FULLY CAFEINATED! So fully cafeinated that she is oozing spastic energy from every pore! Apparently, she’s done ALL the extra credit that her favorite teacher ever even thought of assigning!

“Hey, scratch me under my chin. No, I mean between my ears. Actually, how ‘bout if you make me a nice cave of covers. Nope, too hot. Can I just rub up under your chin. Don’t you think my butt smells fabulous?! Didn’t get a good whiff? Here let me stick my tail up your nose to make sure you’re all cleared out up there. You know, I’m kinda wet, so maybe it would be good to get under the covers after all, ‘cuz it’s nice and dry in there and I can get rid of some of this wet. Darn, I think I got something stuck in my claws. Oh, oh, ahhhh! Got it. Did I ever tell you your arm makes a great scratching post?! By the way, have you seen my mouse anywhere? I know I left her around here somewhere. Hey, why aren’t you scratching my ears anymore? You gotta put your hand up here. Oh, look, you’ve got something on your face there. Here, let me get it. The rough on my tongue works really well for getting off dried on stuff. Hmm, it’s not coming off, must be a freckle. Quit hogging the pillows. I want that one. Not that one, that one. Oh, guess you were right, the first one was better. I know, let’s get out the laptop and do a little writing. You like writing, don’t you? Let’s do a little writing. Don’t forget to keep scratching, though. I need you to keep scratching. Why are you doing my ears? It’s the chin, the chin needs scratching! Write about me. You’re not going fast enough. Here, let me help. Does my butt still smell sweet? Hey look at that -- if I press here, I can hide the last few sentences you wrote someplace in a previous paragraph. Neat trick,huh? Bet you can't find them! You know, you’re not much fun. I’m gonna go check out what the kids are doing. Don’t forget to post that.”

Cat – 3. Me – -100.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I Swear

#!*@**#@!!!


“I didn’t like playing that team,” my youngest daughter laments, climbing into the car after her last basketball game. “The girls kept on swearing, like the “s” word and everything!”

“Not the “s” word,” I say in mock horror, holding my hand up to my mouth in my best June Cleaver imitation. “That’s shocking!”

She rolls her eyes at me, “Muh-mee!”, she breaths. “I don’t swear.”

(She and I are still at that denial stage in our relationship. I don’t swear in front of her because I am trying to set a good example and teach her better ways of expressing herself. She does not swear in front of me because to her I’m just an old fuddy duddy mother who wouldn’t even know how to swear.)

“No,” I agree, “not in front of your mother anyway.”

Her eyes grow wide as she wildly searches her memory for when she may have slipped and I might have overheard her swearing. She recovers just in time to blink back the panic that threatens to escape. “How would you know?”
She pouts the question to me.
“Because, sweetie, my eyes are everywhere and I can see you.”

“Yeah, I know,” she says in her best Valley Girl voice, “that’s ‘cuz we’re like, identical twins.
She and I actually look almost nothing alike. She has blond hair, blue eyes and skin so fair that she can spend an entire month in Hawai’i and come home without a tan line. I have dark brown hair, brown eyes and olive colored skin.

“Dah-yum, girlfriend, you’re right,” I agree, hitting myself on the forehead.
(Note: The first syllable in the word “dah-yum” is emphasized and is executed on a slightly higher note that then slides into the “yum”.)
“Muh-mee! You’re not supposed to swear!” she admonishes me.
“I didn’t.” I say defensively.
“Yes you did. You said the “d” word.”
“No, “damn” is the “d” word,” I correct her. “I said “dah-yum”. It’s okay to say “dah-yum”.

My daughter struggles with this distinction for a bit and then asks for an explanation.
“Damn”, I explain, “is an angry word. “Dah-yum” is not. As in, dah-yum that was good! Or Dah-yum that’s funny! Or plain ‘ol dah-yum by itself when you’re just speechless with surprise. It’s sort of like a verbal exclamation point.”

She tries it, but the “dah” gets stuck in her throat, and the “yum” jumps out in a hiccup.
“No, no, no. It’s dah-yum.” I repeat.
She tries again. This time she gets it backwards and the “dah” is a lower note than the “yum”.
I repeat it for her again.
She breaks down laughing. She laughs so hard that she’s crying.
“I am so telling all my friends,” she laughs.
“What?”
“I’m gonna tell them all that my mother is trying to teach me how to swear!”
And then I start to laugh too, because her interpretation of our conversation is so “dah-yum” funny.
Someday, she will probably hear me swearing. Someday is not today.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Impossible?


I picked my youngest up from soccer practice at Adidas Field and noticed a HUGE sign strapped to the fence that said “IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING”.

When I was vacuuming, I found Sue Monk Kidd’s book First light hiding under my chest of drawers. When I pulled it out, it fell open to page 29 and this passage:
In ALICE IN WONDERLAND the White Queen practiced believing six impossible things every morning before breakfast. My daughter Ann and I became intrigued. “Maybe we should try it,” I said.
Next morning when I woke her for school, we conjured up six “impossible” things to believe in. “I believe I will make a hundred on my science test today,” Ann said. Since this was her hardest subject, I knew this was a leap of faith.
My turn. “I believe I can write two speeches before tomorrow,” I muttered. Foolishly, I’d agreed to fill in at the last minute for a conference speaker who’d canceled. It seemed like an impossible feat.
That afternoon Ann bounded in the house from school. “What did you make on your science test?” I asked.
“A hundred!” she cried.
I looked down at two finished speeches on my desk. How limited the world would be if we confined ourselves and God to what we think is impossible.”


Hmm. Curious that these two events would happen almost simultaneously.
Interesting that they happened now, as I contemplate my choices for president.
Coincidence?
I think not!
___________________

Impossible.
It has been said that Barrack Obama’s vision of America is impossible. It’s na├»ve. It’s idealistic. It’s just words.

He asks us to believe in him AND to believe in ourselves. He challenges us to be the change that we want to see in the world.

Can Barack galvanize John and Jane Q. Public into action?
Watch TV. Read the newspapers. He’s already done it. Record numbers of people are turning out to vote. More people than ever are caring and are participating the process.
I am caring. Me. A formerly uninformed, uninvolved citizen. Me. Whose main purpose in voting had very little to do with a passion for the issues or the candidates and very much to do with setting a good example for the children.
And I don’t think my caring is based on the fact that Barack and I were classmates in high school; I don’t think that I’m just riding the wave, caught up in the excitement of his words.

I think it’s hope. In this bleak time, Obama offers hope.

Naysayers argue that Obama’s vision is impossible. They ask that we limit ourselves, the Universe, the Divine, God, to what is possible!

I say “NO!”
I argue that it is by reaching for the impossible that we grow and in achieving the impossible that we create miracles.

So I’m jumping. I’m grabbing for that brass ring. I’m believing.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Words Matter


”Stick and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” from popular children’s rhyme

I don’t know if it’s a sign of aging, maturity, boredom, or a commentary on my love life, but on Saturday night, I sat alone, cross legged on my bed, sipping ginger tea and wearing sweats, and I watched the New Hampshire Presidential Debates.

The Republicans went first, during dinnertime, so I missed most of that. But I watched the Democratic debate in its entirety.

Hillary was cute when she feigned disappointment at not being as likable as Obama. Obama clearly outlined his position on healthcare. Edwards spoke passionately about internal motivation. Richardson played the elder statesman card well.
(Interesting, isn’t it, how all the male candidates are generally referred to by their last names, while Hillary is called Hillary.)

Each candidate’s supporters claimed victory in the debate. I can't say that I noticed any clear winner.

But one line did stand out for me. Two words, actually. Spoken by Barrack Obama. He said, “Words matter.”

Ga-zing!
My head snapped to attention and I quickly pressed the TiVo rewind button. What did he say?!
Stop. Play.
Obama leaned forward on his elbows, put his mouth closer to his microphone, turned his body towards Hillary and said, “Words matter.”
YES! I heard it right!
Words matter.

Words matter because the ability to express oneself well can be the difference between understanding and confusion.
Words matter because they can draw us together or tear us apart, engender understanding or ignite opposition.
Words matter because they are a direct expression of an individual and carry the power of feelings.

Words matter.
And the way in which words are used, matters.
I love you! I love you. I love you? I love. You?
Words that matter…differently.

Words matter.
And the absence of words matters.
Silence is silence. Or silence is unspoken words. It makes a difference AND it matters.

Words matter.

The way I speak to my children matters.
The way I express myself to people seeking my advice matters.
The way I choose to demonstrate disappointment, frustration, anger, love, sadness, joy…all of it matters.

Will these words affect my decision for president? Maybe. Maybe not. BUT…they do matter.

Words matter.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's a Two Way Street


There is a poster in the hall at my yoga studio that depicts a yogi in a series of over 900 different yoga poses. Every time I go to the studio, I see that poster. I have marveled at the way this man can gumby his body.
In the bottom right hand corner of this poster, in very small print, it says, “I am not this body. I am not this mind.” I’ve seen that a million times too.

Yesterday, I understood it.

I’ve heard similar statements before. My interpretation has always focused on the aspect of me extending beyond -- an outward migration of my energy, extending me beyond the limits of what is traditionally thought of as “me”. The idea that even my thoughts are energy and can have an effect upon others.
I knew, of course, that if I can affect others, they can affect me. I’ve experienced the veracity of it – how one person’s grumpiness can cause my own grumpy meter to rise.

I thought I got it.
The Divine is inside us. The Divine is outside us.
Check, check. Yup, I agree.

Frankly, though, this idea has, as often than not, felt more dissipating than empowering.

But, yesterday, something shifted.
I actually felt the energy of this truth. Physically.
As I sat there, totally immobile, drippingly sweaty and completely wiped out by 90 minutes of Bikram yoga, the proverbial light went on.
This huge tiredness is huge, only if it only belongs to me. But, if this tiredness is global, if it belongs to the entire Universe, then…WOW!
My mind grabbed this idea and started running with it.
WOW!!!
I was filled with the awe as I literally felt the weary being lifted and shared.
As I write this, it sounds foolish.
Epiphanies happen after major, life altering events, not after a particularly tough yoga class.
But, there it is anyway. For a moment, for a marvelous, shining moment, I GOT it.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Scary Dream


Tap, tap, tap. Tentitively tapping.
“Mummy,” my nine year old whispers, face buried in the door.
“Yes,” I answer, immediately awake. It doesn’t matter that it’s 2:45 in the morning. I am mountain lion alert and ready to pounce on whatever it is that has disturbed by sleeping baby.
“Can I come in?”
“Of course, love.” The door creaks open and I move over and turn back the covers. My little one crawls in and snuggles into the warm space I have left for him.

“I had a bad dream,” he confesses.
His golden eyes are wide and round, bravely struggling to hold back the fear that woke him so abruptly. In the dark, they search for mine and when our eyes meet, the scariness of his dream leaks out in small, hesitant tears.

I pull him closer to me. He is warm and damp with fear. “Do you want to tell me about it?”
He nods.
His words spill out in a confused jumble, the sequencing falling into the familiar scatter pattern of dreams.
“Ea was in her car and a bad man was chasing her and there was this ghost and the man was beating on her windows and Ea couldn’t get away and there was a river and it was dark and no one was helping and she was alone and I don’t know what the ghost was doing and then I woke up.”
“Wow, that sounds scary. I’m glad you told me about it. Now...let it go,” I soothe, gently blowing over his head. My breath scatters the threads of his dream and they dissolve in the darkness.
He snuggles in closer and nestles his head under my chin.
“Pink cloud or white,” I ask.
“Which one is stronger?”
“Well, pink light is love and white is God. What do you think?”
“I think they’re the same.”
“I think you’re right. Let’s do both.”
Together, we surround ourselves in the protective light of love and the Divine.
My baby relaxes.
Before he drifts off he mummers, “Mummy, it’s okay if I have bad dreams because if I have all of them now, you can just blow them away for me and then I won’t have to have any anymore.” Then he nods, as if setting that thought in place, turns his head, and sleeps.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Who's Responsible?

I read Steve Duin’s recent column in the Oregonian. As a parent, I was incensed at he mercenary behavior of the cab driver.

It got me to thinking about responsibility.
To whom and for whom am I responsible?

Since I am the only person over whom I really have any control, does that mean that I am only responsible for myself?
If I always try to do my best, (meaning the best that I am capable of doing in any given moment, not the best that has ever been done in the history of the entire world) is that enough?
What if my best conflicts with someone else’s best?

What about my children?
Where does my responsibility to my children end?
If I make sure that they are fed and clothed, have I fulfilled my parental responsibilities? Do I have to love them too? AND, I do love my children! I love my children with every breath in my body and every ounce of my being. But I have read enough memoirs and heard enough stories about mothers who are found to be at fault for not loving their children the right way. Am I responsible for every neurosis and socially unacceptable tick that my children may develop as a result of the way in which I have loved them?
Is that fair?

And what is my responsibility to the world at large?
Am I my brother’s keeper?
If I pick up a hitchhiker or befriend a homeless person, am I being socially responsible or reckless?
Caring for and about others is an important aspect of being a responsible member of a community. But what if that hitchhiker is a mass murderer or that homeless person a thief? Haven’t I just then been the poster child of irresponsibility by choosing to help a stranger and putting myself and, by extension, my children in harm’s way?
Am I being more responsible by showing my children that we are each part of something greater or am I being irresponsible by not loving them enough to put them and their safety first? Am I setting up my children for a lifetime of therapy or am I preparing them to become fully functioning members of society?

The questions keep coming and my brain is hurting.
I realize that that this is not really what Steve Duin was talking about and that there are much greater problems and more important questions to be answered than the inconsequential wondering of a mind with too much time, but…there it is anyway.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Mouse By Any Other Name




Read this in my Chinese horoscope today.

“Light four seasons lamp to bring good luck, and invite the golden mouse home to increase wealth.”

I could really use some increased wealth! Please tell me that above mentioned golden mouse and the mice of Mice are not related.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

No Christmas Cookies

Every year since my oldest was old enough to walk, we have baked Christmas shortbread cookies and the children and I have delivered them to all of our neighbors. Some years, they were New Years cookies. But every year, there were cookies.

Last year, our neighbors were surprised that we did the cookie thing given the fact that it had been a “difficult” year for our family…what with the divorce and all. But they were all so excited to se us galloping up their walkways with our basket of cookies. Each household received a little bundle of cookies wrapped up in tissue paper with sparkly ribbons. Everyone greeted us with HUGE smiles and proclamations of undying love for their very FAVORITE cookies.

This year, for the first time, there were no Christmas cookie deliveries.
No New Years cookies either.

This year we found out that my two middle children have food allergies.
A lot of them.
Technically, since they merely cause breathing problems and skin conditions and fatigue, rather than throwing anyone in to anaphylactic shock, they are “sensitivities”, not “allergies”. Either way, though, these food “issues” have radically changed the way we eat.

Gone are the days of indiscriminant grazing, of going to the grocery store and buying whatever looks good regardless of what the label says, and of following our noses into a restaurant.
Eating now takes planning and label reading and menu adjustments.

Things on the “No Buy” list include, but are not limited to:
  • Dairy

  • Wheat

  • Beef and Lamb

  • Cane Sugar

  • Onions


  • Until I started reading labels, I did not understand exactly how restrictive this list is.
    Avoiding wheat does not just mean no bread. It means, no pasta, no pizza, and no baked goods. I found wheat in soy sauce, oatmeal and even in red whips!
    No dairy means that ice cream, most chocolate, cheese, and eggs are out. Whey and casein are hidden in all sorts of things, from non-dairy cheeses to taco seasoning.
    And avoiding cane sugar is like trying to stay out of the sun in the desert. It’s everywhere!

    The whole process of feeding my family takes a whole lot longer now. Everything, from the shopping to the preparing, takes more time.

    At the grocery store, every label must be read before anything graduates from the shelf into our cart.
    Ready-made foods are pretty much a thing of the past. There are gluten-free foods, and there are dairy-free foods, but there are very few gluten-free/dairy-free foods. Almost every canned soup or sauce contains onions. And, if you can find a packaged cake or cookie that has no cane sugar, I will worship the ground that you walk on.
    That quick dash through the Burgerville drive-through on those nights when everyone has conflicting schedules is a thing of the past. In fact, dashing to any restaurant is a thing of the past. We need to carefully check menus to make sure that they offer foods that we can eat. If it’s an Italian restaurant, we take rice pasta and have them cook it for us, if it’s a burger place, they have to serve chicken, Chinese food should be safe, but we need to make sure that the soy sauce is wheat-free.

    I’ve got it mostly figured out, though. I know where to get the flour and I know who makes the best rice bread. I’ve learned how to substitute maple syrup for cane sugar and buffalo for beef. We make our own birthday cakes and cook spaghetti sauce from scratch.
    The hardest part about our new diet is learning how to visit friends. It takes planning and preparation. My children can no longer simply go on a sleepover and expect to be fed. They need to pack soy milk and cereal and rice pasta in addition to jammies and toothbrushes.
    But for the most part, our food adventure has brought more good into our lives than it has taken away. With everything in our lives moving so fast, this has forced us to slow down. My daughter and I bake together a lot more than we used to – having a teenager spend more time at home rather than less, is a rare and wonderful thing. Once I got over feeling completely overwhelmed, I learned to cook with intention. More love goes in to the food I prepare, and that has to be a good thing.

    There is one thing, though, that I have yet to figure out…how to make shortbread cookies without using any wheat flour, butter or cane sugar.
    And so, this year, there are no cookies.

    I hope the neighbors understand.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2008

    No Lines Crossed


    YEAH!!!
    Look what I found in my inbox.

    Thanks for your update e-mail. I know it has seemed like a long process
    to get this position filled, but due to the holiday, several key players
    in the interview process have been on vacation off and on so the
    decision was made to not interview until after the first of the year.
    We will be calling you soon to set up an interview.


    I guess I'm okay on the etiquette front.
    LOVE this taking charge of my own life thing.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!