Help

stepping_stones_of_memory_by_nwwes-d3krg59I have lots of help. I am surrounded by a community of family and friends who, despite not always understanding my choices, support and trust me. I also benefit from the broader “help” available to me, a community larger than those who appear as flesh and blood in this life and on this earth. I am continuously humbled by the support I receive from both when my intentions and actions match a greater purpose.

As I’ve discussed in earlier blogs, I’ve written another book in an attempt to reach a broader audience. While the process hasn’t been without obstacles — that’s where the lessons are learned, after all — the validation; the offers of help, resources and creative support; the loving and wise feedback; the number of folks who “get” what I’m trying to do here… It’s overwhelming. And the process has only just begun.

I’m writing this partly so I have it to refer to on those days when I doubt my purpose or why I’m making myself, my secrets and my family so vulnerable. Or when I wonder why my book merits the attention of anyone outside my doting and biased inner circle. I will need to be reminded that reaching people, touching people, lighting a path, holding up a mirror and allowing them to see themselves in my story is a major part of my soul’s purpose in this lifetime. I will need to remember all the assistance I enjoy and that they wouldn’t be with me unless there was a grander design behind it all.

I have a lot to be grateful for. But today I am grateful for this phase of the journey and those walking beside me, holding my hand, whispering in my ear lovingly when the doubts and fears arise, helping me see the next stable stone across the rushing river, and cheering when I successfully jump onto it.

In the truest sense, I wouldn’t be able to do it without you. Thank you.

On knowingness

the-thinkerI spend at least a little time on social media every day. Mostly I keep track of my friends and family and what people are thinking and talking about around the globe. On occasion I take some silly quiz telling me which Game of Thrones characters I would be (Daenerys Targaryen) or what my animal totem is (wolf). It’s fun and just accurate enough for me to remain curious about the next one.

Not long ago I took a semi-legitimate test that had been posted by a Facebook friend. It measured how much I used both the left and right hemispheres of my brain—the right being the creative, open, intuitive side and the left offering logic and analytical thought. Jill Bolte Taylor’s brilliant book My Stroke of Insight and wildly popular TED Talk provide the most memorable explanation and illustration of their unique talents.

According to the test, I currently use exactly 50% of each hemisphere. When I saw this I was genuinely surprised. My whole life I have struggled with the continuous nattering my mind, usually ruled by my left brain, offers. Over the years, though admittedly less in recent ones, it has provided a steady diet of almost purely analytical solutions based on carefully considered pro and con lists; insecurities and doubts masked as thoughtful, reasonable caution; and big decisions made only if my brain could offer some rationale to back up what my gut was telling me. I was pleased with the results of my now more balanced approach, but still I questioned them a bit, until a few days ago.

This week I made a decision based solely on my intuition. I’ve been doing that more often (see Unsafe Choices). But this one truly had no logical or practical reinforcement. A job moonlighting as a hostess at a local restaurant fell in my lap one day. The young woman who held this position, but had to quit for a volunteer gig she loved, was cutting my hair as she told me all about it. On paper, the job made a lot of sense. It was at a well-respected farm-to-table restaurant in a great location, weeknights only, nice people, low maintenance. Mostly, it got me out into the community I’d chosen as my new home. I even worked one night of training and found it lived up to my expectations. Two days later I quit.

There’s nothing much to explain. There is no clear reason and I don’t know exactly why. All I know is that my intuition—a gut feeling—took me there. Before I made the call to my new boss, I did just enough cleaning and looking to make sure any lingering insecurities about doing a job I haven’t done in 25 years weren’t disguising their voices, masquerading as my intuition and higher self. My mind can be crafty that way sometimes. Turns out it was just a glimmer, a shadow of a red flag I couldn’t entirely see yet but couldn’t shake, so therefore I was supposed to pay attention to it. With hesitation, I did.

I called, I apologized, he understood, and I know I did the right thing. I don’t know for certain how I know, but I do. And perhaps I’m not supposed to. Perhaps the reasons will never present themselves merely to show me they don’t have to. Through this process I was reminded it’s okay to just know what I know, and trust that enough to act on it. This time I didn’t try to layer the decision after the fact with a thoughtful rationale or retrospective wisdom. I didn’t sit in meditation until I could see everything clearly because I simply had to know why. I just let it sit there quietly. So far it’s remained quiet, but it’s only been a few days.

We need our left brains for survival, to calculate a proper tip and to figure out how to fit the luggage and the bike with training wheels into the back of the car. But we don’t need them as much as most of us believe we do. Not everything needs to make sense or match up. Logic and intuition often agree somewhere, but when they don’t the higher wisdom is still there for the taking.

It’s waiting with open eyes and open arms. It just wants to be seen, felt and heard. It doesn’t need to be understood.

Clear seeing

I-can-see-clearly-with-great-visionI was at the DMV a few weeks ago. We’d just moved back to California and I needed to get my new driver’s license. In this particular state, they give you lots of tests before allowing inferior out-of-state drivers to have licenses. It’s important to immediately recall what school buses must do at railroad tracks and how many days you have to report that you finally restored the jalopy in your driveway. They also want to make sure your eyes work as you barrel down the highway at 70 miles an hour. So, off to testing I went.

The staffer asked me to cover my right eye and read the bottom line. I rattled it off quickly and correctly. He asked me to cover my left eye and read the same line on the next chart. I pulled away and looked at my husband who was standing off the side, my mouth hanging open in shock. All I could see were fuzzy lines and shapes on all but the gigantic top line. I was surprised to discover that while my left eye still worked like a champ, my right had decided to get lazy on me. I took a stab at the row the staffer mentioned, but when I started saying numbers where clearly letters sat, he put me out of my misery. He took me to a different machine and tested both eyes together there, and I saw just well enough to get a license.

The kind optometrist I visited last week fitted me with magic glasses. One eye at a time he presented lenses that showed me just how much I hadn’t been seeing. For me, it was a slow fuzzing of the edges, an imperceptible fading of clarity. As for the kind optometrist, he was surprised the DMV had passed me at all. He was only seeing the end of the journey, where change and overuse had made one eye much less clear than the other and its user hadn’t noticed.

As I wiped the numbing drops from my eyes, I silently acknowledged we’re all witnesses to each other’s journeys, even if just in snippets or toward the end of a particular path. Even if the bigger picture isn’t immediately understood by the observer, there is so much that can be seen and learned. Clarity comes and goes. Confusion caused by stress, emotions, physical imbalance and external energy can make it difficult to notice the effect these things may be having – how energy, growth and intuition may be challenged. Those witnessing my journey along with me, even for a moment, can bring to light things I have been ignoring or can’t find neutrality enough to see myself. If I can set aside my own ego and baggage long enough to hear the wisdom they have to offer, no matter how or when it is offered, than I have an overflowing cup of truth, lessons and teachers around me all the time.

I will always trust my own intuition and inner wisdom first, but more than a few times I’ve received insight from friends and strangers alike that I knew instantly was valuable and wise.

Oh, of course, I think every time. I hadn’t seen it that way. I’m so glad I was listening.

As I genuinely thanked my optometrist for restoring my clear sight, he smiled with a hint of judgment and said, “On behalf of all your fellow drivers, I’m glad you finally came to see me.”

I laughed. It’s funny because it’s true.

There’s no ego in parenting: a much-needed reminder to me

The Ego DichotomyEgo judges.

Ego thinks there is such a thing as success and failure, and that they are important.

It cares what other parents think.

It makes you question your intuition and what you know in your heart.

It thinks it knows when something is “right” or “wrong.” It still believes they exist. If it’s right, you deserve recognition. If it’s wrong, you deserve rebuke.

It wants you to believe you can reason emotions or inconvenient but genuine reactions away, or if you only explain it differently maybe you can get them to understand.

Ego drives you toward some ideal it has created and continuously points out the things that don’t function within that perfection. It thinks there’s something to fix.

It makes you strive for control even when control doesn’t serve anything else but its own survival.

It makes you angry when your child doesn’t do things in the time you require.

It makes you livid when he does things you specifically asked him not to do.

It makes you fly into a rage when he does these things and then smiles because he knows he just made you fly into a rage.

Ego tells you that to be a parent you need to do anything other than love your child unconditionally.

Ego lets you forget how much you have left to learn and that your children are your greatest teachers.

There is no place for ego in parenting. Only love and openness. Open heart. Open ears. Gratitude, even amongst chaos and tough lessons. Presence, even when your pride makes you want to remain in the past. Forgiveness, even when you realize you let your ego parent your child for a little while.

And love. Always love.

Thank you for the reminder.

Unsafe choices

LeapOfFaithMy son lives in a world that wants to make all his choices for him. Others want to tell him how often to brush his teeth, when to cross the street, whether to wash his hands after he goes potty, when to start kindergarten, whether to wear a jacket, how long to play at the playground. As most young children testing their boundaries and figuring out how they fit in the world, he resists this, but that doesn’t stop the adults around him from trying to protect him.

When he’s climbing on a precarious chair or I see the mischievous twinkle in his eye as he considers darting into a crowd, I often say, “That’s not a safe choice.” This awareness may or may not deter him from the activity, but most of the time it does.

As we get older, that external voice moves inside our own heads and egos. Is this smart? Are you prepared? Is this really a safe choice for you right now? For years I let that voice deter me from countless experiences and opportunities. I still do too often.

My family and I recently made what some would consider a string of not-so-safe choices. In fact, my friend Beattie might say we’re on a “risk bender.” A year ago my husband quit his well-paid, stable job to start his own business. We then went on a month-long road trip in a rented RV down and back up the West Coast. Then a month ago we moved from Seattle to Central Coast California without salaried jobs or any other external catalyst to propel us there (except the 30-day notice from our landlord telling us they want to move back in to their home; thank you for the kick in the pants, universe). We simply wanted to live somewhere else, somewhere we loved, and since both my husband and I work out of home offices we had no reason not to go. Others might disagree with this assessment, and have, but most are too busy admiring the relative size of our balls to voice it. I get where their trepidations came from. With few major employers in the area, we were finally and fully committing to our freelance lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit, all in a down economy. We locked into place our dependence on our talents, business sense and good intentions to earn enough to keep a roof over our heads.

To top it all off, I recently completed and soon will publish a memoir, titled Laugh at the Sky, Kid like this blog (more on that soon), that basically outs me as a practicing clairvoyant and energy healer. This is something I’ve never before written or talked about publicly for fear of the inevitable skepticism and criticism from those who only know me outside of that world.

I’m done making only safe choices. Safe doesn’t bring about change or growth. Safe words don’t reach or move people. Safe actions rarely affect anything below the surface. The old ways, the safe or “proven” ways, don’t move things forward. Inside a cocoon of security, it’s rare to find true happiness or your true purpose. Nothing shifts and there is no reason to search for or even be interested in anything beyond the end of your nose. That is no longer acceptable to me and to so many of you. Thank ever-loving-goodness for that.

As a society we are quickly learning that within the presence of infinite possibilities we all enjoy, there are no wrong choices. There are only ones we are comfortable with in this moment and those we are not.

When the inevitable fear arises as I start down a riskier path, I let this truth wash over me like healing waters. And when I can turn off the narrator in my mind asking me to consider whether this new path is safe or not, I find freedom. I find a place where I can fully be.

Your exquisite voice

Kids ListenOne foggy day, as we climbed a brushed and muddy mountain outside LA, I asked a dear friend a question. After she yet again shared an engaging story containing some very wise and eloquent advice, I asked if she ever had considered writing a book.

“Yes,” she replied. “But why would anyone who doesn’t know me want to hear anything I have to say? What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?”

It’s the writer’s dilemma, the human dilemma, the same doubt anyone who has a pen or a computer or vocal cords faces, isn’t it? At least on those struggling days as we sit with ourselves, wondering how we dare to presume our words are worthy of being heard. If anyone cares what our story is or what ideas swirl in our minds and hearts.

When my friend asked these questions of the mountain sky I was already fifteen years and one published memoir into a marginally successful writing career. I had asked these questions off and on for that many years, usually in particularly vulnerable moments – while questioning the invention of the printing press, my mere existence as a result or why Madonna’s brother was a best-selling author as my little memoir struggled to sell those last five remaining hardcopies in Amazon’s “why can’t we get rid of these” storage lockers.

Every day as I wrote said memoir I asked why my story, shared by so many young cancer survivors, was worthy of anyone’s attention? Why was I so compelled to share it nonetheless? Until the mail started coming in. They said no one was telling this story – my story, their story – so honestly. No one else knew what they were going through. In fact, there were several young survivors telling lots of stories, many very similar and some much more fascinating than mine, including best-selling Lance Armstrong. But these readers were convinced I was the lone voice in a sea of folks they couldn’t hear yet. And they were extraordinarily grateful I was willing to share it.

So, I understood my friend’s doubt. But I had an answer, offered to the same sky she’d asked. It’s what I tell myself and my writer clients regularly. It’s also the notion I offer silently to my son – and me – as he struggles to find his voice in a world that expects him to communicate differently than is natural to him. It’s what we all need to remember every time we open our mouths…

Your voice will be heard by anyone who can and wants to hear it. It’s different and worthy because you are the messenger, and there is someone out there who can’t hear yet because you haven’t said it yet.

Not everyone will care what you say. Not everyone is meant to. But in this moment, with your story, with your energy and words, someone is getting the message, the information, the healing, the inspiration, the provocation, the perspective they need and have been seeking, perhaps without even realizing it.

In return, you will know you are heard. You will feel the frequencies unite and your experience, shared as you will, will combine with those you shared it with to become something even greater. You will understand that you don’t need a book or a blog or a microphone to communicate something exquisite that can be exquisitely heard. But look at what you can do if you try.

Every day I thank my friend for reminding me why I write. We all have a worthy voice that offers transforming beauty, healing laughter and truth that transcends what we think we understand. The lesson is in knowing you do and rising above your fears to offer it to a world that will be better off for having heard it.

For when we are brave enough to tell our stories, we all benefit.

Figuring out authority

A beautiful blue and green Seattle day requires a long trip to the park. With a four-year-old, that translates into some time at the playground, and with Henry that means somewhere with a sidewalk suitable for speedy and spirited tricycle laps. There are always lessons to be learned at the playground. Not long ago, a big one — green, with hypocritical eyes — looked me square in the face. Here’s how I got there.

During a recent visit, my husband Larry and I were enjoying the sun on a bench and getting dizzy watching our son go round and round when we realized a meeting was starting on the grass behind us. We turned around and about eight little girls and their camera-toting mothers sat in a circle. It was the kind of meeting where you wear vests with badges. Ooh, entertainment, we thought as we adjusted our heads to the best eavesdropping angle.

Question AuthorityThe troop leader welcomed everyone to their final meeting and started discussing that meeting’s topic and an opportunity to earn their final badge. What are we earning our badges in today? asked the troop leader. Respect authority, they all said. The kind troop leader reviewed what they discussed the previous meeting, the authority figures in our lives who we should respect – parents, police officers, teachers, troop leaders, coaches, etc. Red flags began to go up in my head, but nothing was really that bad yet. I kept listening.

Why should we respect them? she asked the troop of girls who appeared to be about six years old. With the mothers hovering and the troop leader waiting, the girls began responding as they’d been taught the week before:

Because they protect us.

They take care of us.

Because they know best.

Because they make the rules.

It’s what we’re supposed to do.

The kind troop leader’s response: That’s great, ladies.

I hoped no one in their little blanket circle could see the goose bumps on my arms.

We continued to listen as the girls one by one presented the pictures they’d drawn of an authority figure in their life. Most of them were pretty typical: Mom, Dad, school principal. When talking about their parents, “love” was mentioned a lot, but there was just as much talk about making and following rules. One little girl quietly explained that she’d drawn a picture of President Obama because “he knows what’s best for us and has a lot of power.”

Yes, I know they do amazing things too.

I never participated in any troop-like activities when I was a girl, but I have a generally positive impression of any organization that empowers young women and men. For the girls, a couple of Google searches showed me all the great lessons and badges in addition to “respect authority” – all about community, compassion, self respect, honesty, individual responsibility, supporting other girls, doing good in the world and more. I don’t mean to diminish their work nor the positive influence they have had over countless girls and women.

Shouldn’t ignore the boys either. Despite their homosexuality-challenged policies and other issues, they continue to offer positive opportunities and adventures to those seeking this kind of guidance. (However, they have a similar law about “obedience” and even the right way to go about changing rules…as long as you never disobey them.)

With all of my genuine “they do a lot of great things” disclaimers said, this meeting had the misfortune that day to represent the perfect example of exactly the kind of authority programming we shouldn’t be teaching our children. In fact, we should be teaching them the opposite.

They’re powerful and they know it.

Corporations, governments, politicians, large religious organizations, educational systems, healthcare providers, banks and more. They market their own special brand of authority and quid pro quo. Most of them have a lot of power, and most of them aren’t afraid to use it to get what they need to thrive – your compliance.

If you adhere to my laws, I will protect you and your family.

If you buy my goods and services and don’t question how we do business too much, I will make your life more comfortable and improve the economy.

If you do what I say and take your medicine, I can make you feel better.

If you sit quietly and work hard, you will be successful.

If you pray the right way or believe what I believe, you will go to heaven. Or, better yet, you won’t burn in hell.

This is the messaging we allow to manipulate us, consciously or not. We have become accustomed to giving up a measure of (sometimes imperceptible) control to someone or an institution in exchange for whatever we believe they offer us or, in many cases, out of fear of what will happen if we don’t.

In our current world, questioning authority is critical.

Throughout history, questioning authority has always been necessary for any kind of meaningful change. America was founded on a group of citizens questioning those in power, after all. Our time is no different.

Currently Edward Snowden is somewhere running from the U.S. government after revealing that its anti-terror electronic surveillance techniques are much broader than any ordinary citizens previously knew. Whether you believe he’s a hero or a traitor or something in between, Snowden questioned his authority figures, breaking the rules of his government and his contractor employer, to reveal what he believes to be an unjust overreach. Without Mr. Snowden, would we have ever had anything other than lots of conspiracy theories and Person of Interest to provoke an exploration into this issue?

More importantly, when we don’t question it, there are consequences: Dependence. Willful ignorance. A resistance to change. A willingness to conform or even deny our own beliefs out of apathy or fear. An agreement – spoken or unspoken – to give up our own power to those who would have us believe they are our authorities because that’s what we’re expected to do.

And this belief and resulting behavior is what we often unconsciously, and usually motivated by great love, pass along to our children.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

As I listened to the troop leader, I ran through all my long-held beliefs and societal frustrations detailed above and began writing this blog in my head and heart. I wanted to be sure to make note of the organizational line she was leading from and all the ways it is different from my own intentions etc. etc. etc.

If I’m to look at the whole truth, I also have to point my eye squarely back on myself. It didn’t take long to spot a programmer no farther away than my own nose.

At four years old, Henry is all about his independence. Often it manifests as saying a strong ‘no’ just so he’s refusing to do what I want or at least refusing to do it my way or on my timeline. I’ve built up a strong tolerance for this, and often quietly cheer him on out of respect. I was similarly strong-willed as a young person, much to my parents’ dismay.

Reminder to self: Our son isn’t a horse that needs to be broken.

As a family we’ve developed strategies to give Henry back some choice or control in any given situation. Or at minimum an explanation he can understand as to why we’re asking him to flush the toilet. Our intention is to support his independent spirit and nurture a belief in his own power. That’s our intention.

But some days, I just need him to put his ever-loving shoes on so we can get to preschool or give up the bag of cookies he found in the back of the cupboard and now has a vice grip on or stop chucking rocks at the kitchen window or for god’s sake for the last time hold my hand while crossing the street.

In these situations, more often than I’m comfortable with I’ve offered some version of this response to my child when he questioned me as his authority figure:

Why do I have to listen to you?
Because I’m your mother.

Why should I comply with that rule?
Because I love you and I’m protecting you from danger.

Why shouldn’t I throw rocks at the window?
Because that’s the rule.

Why do I have to go to school today?
Because it’s what’s best for you.

That’s how it starts, right? Follow me because I have power over you. Why, Mommy? Because it’s easier for both of us, but really only for me.

Authority is given and can be taken away.

I want my child to believe that authority is earned through trust and given only by choice. That it should always be questioned. That authority can be taken away when it is abused or even if he decides he doesn’t want or need that authority figure any more. There’s always a careful balance to strike, but I want him to be empowered and strong in his convictions, enough so that he doesn’t hesitate to follow his own heart even when it doesn’t comply with anyone else’s rules.

I want Henry to respect me because I am true to myself and my beliefs and because I likewise offer him the respect he deserves, not because I have any measure of power over him. But first I have to admit that though I so easily talk about these convictions I don’t always walk them. I’m grateful to the group of sweet little girls, their loving mothers and their well-intentioned troop leader for reminding me so pointedly how important this lesson is, and that I’m still learning it.

Unexplained and unexplainable

I haven’t talked a lot about adoption. Mostly, it’s just not what I typically think of when I think of my son. Because he was adopted, there are things to consider and keep in mind as a parent. But as parents we also have to keep a thousand other things constantly in mind, so it just depends which “thing” is most present at the time as to whether the fact that Henry was adopted from Taiwan at 11 months old is material.

The first few months weren’t so natural, however. The parent-child bond is a complex and transcendent thing. It often defies logic. It rarely follows common sense. It cannot be completely understood by the mind, by normal emotional standards or even by time. It exists at a higher, deeper level — a mysterious blend of heart, spirit and the soul’s journey.  Before I ever met Henry in this lifetime, before his name was Henry, I knew he was my son. The bond on my end was set. My husband Larry describes the same experience. The meeting and getting to know each other part was just the next necessary phase in the relationship.

But for Henry, we were the next two in a thankfully short line, but nevertheless a line, of caregivers. Immediately after he met us, we took him away on a train and then a plane to a place where everything looked, smelled, tasted and sounded different, including every word spoken. We spent the first few weeks staring at him like deer in headlights, immeasurably grateful for every consent to sleep, eat, hug or play. Understandably, at times he seemed to wonder who the heck these crazy people were and when he was going back to the nursery.

After not long, he seemed happy to be with us. He trusted we would meet his needs, come back when we said we would and catch him when we playfully swung him up in the air. He enjoyed our company and his new home, even warming up to the dog on occasion. He knew we were his primary caregivers, but this Mama and Dada thing we kept talking about… Even after several months we sensed he wasn’t there yet.

Of course he wasn’t. He was thrown into a new situation without warning. He was understandably confused. Every parent of children adopted older than newborns, every book, every adoption class all said this was to be expected. It’s normal for the bonding process to take months or even years, especially for the child. But what we often felt like were parents of a child who thought we were his favorite babysitters. As if he couldn’t or was fearful of understanding what family, Dada or Mama meant. He loved us, but we were still merely characters in his own play and he wasn’t ready to accept it as real.

More than once I wept tears of frustration and sadness about this unrequited bond. At particularly difficult moments I even railed at the universe. Hadn’t we been through enough paperwork and heartbreak and waiting just to get the little guy home? Why does this part have to be hard, too? You know where you can put your lessons…?!

With love the patience came.

Deep breaths brought me back to each moment. Each moment brought me Henry and Larry and our evolving family, and therefore joy. Joy brought me into gratitude, for however they chose to be in my life in that moment. And once I learned to live there, the unconditional love flowed as freely as the days passed. We were perfect exactly as we were, challenging days and all.

One warm spring day only a few months before moving to Seattle, Henry and I went to the Long Beach Aquarium. He was now about 20 months old and home with us for nine months. He asked to get out of his stroller so he could get a closer look at the sea lions. He stood with his face next to the glass for several minutes, a long time by toddler standards. The sea lions played with him, swimming belly forward right in front of his face, flipping their tails as they retreated, making him laugh and widen his eyes in wonder. I watched from behind, took a photo and smiled at this being I so adored who was so filled with curiosity and fearlessness. I took a breath and knew everything was going to be okay. Right then Henry turned, said “Mama” and beckoned me next to him at the glass. I crouched beside him for a minute or two, then he grabbed my hand so we could walk together back to the stroller.

That few minutes, the whole day, was so natural and easy for us both, I almost didn’t recognize the significance of it until he was asleep in the back on our drive home. It was like the last piece of the puzzle had just satisfyingly thumped into place. This may not have been the exact moment, or even the day or month it happened. But it was when I knew he knew I was his mother.

Our bond now resides, unexplained and unexplainable, in our hearts, in our souls and somewhere up in the heavens. It will never be logical. It will always be exactly what it is — what it came to be in its own time. And it can never be broken.

It’s okay to forget.

present signpostIt’s September 11, 2013. For a few minutes this morning, I forgot. It was lovely.

As I woke to some unexpected quiet minutes to myself, I took a few to say hello to the world – first smiling quietly to myself. The cool sheets and soft mattress my body hadn’t yet unfolded from, the sunshine creeping through the blinds, the warmth of my son sleeping beside me, the squeaks and bangs of the morning shunting in the train yards those of us who live near Seattle’s Interbay know so well. My first formed thought: Today I will see my husband who has been in London for several days. I miss him and love him so very much. This will be a good day.

Taking the joy of my morning with me, I decided to say hello to the world on a larger scale and picked up my devices.

Bam.

Oh, yes. I’d forgotten. It’s September 11. Email, Facebook, Twitter, radio, TV. Within the first half hour images of the Twin Towers and the beautiful memorial in lights that now stands in their place and, of course, the words “Never forget” and “We remember” followed me everywhere.

In our world where every story that wants to be told has a place, today’s posts and messages recount endless memories of that day. Amongst my friends and virtual connections I have several New Yorkers, journalists, police officers, Red Cross workers, and a few flight attendants. But even amongst the folks like me who weren’t more directly involved or intimately connected to the events of 9/11, the memories are vivid and the emotions still present for so many. Everyone knows exactly where they were and exactly how they felt. And many feel they should never, ever forget.

Maybe it’s time we forgot a bit.

It’s undeniable that the country – the world – shifted in a profound way that day. Our sense of security, stability and priorities were challenged and changed in ways that we may never completely understand. Many lost their lives or loved ones, both on that day and in the violence and wars that continue 12 years later.

The sacrifices and loss are seen. They are appreciated and honored. They are remembered.

But I have to wonder what good comes from remembering, even reliving, the fear and sadness of that day. Why do we as a country feel it is helpful to hang on to our individual and collective experiences, as if it would be disrespectful not to? As if we need to vividly remember everything that happened and everything we felt in order to ensure it never happens again.

Only when we are able to move beyond the pain of the past are we able to truly heal.

The shift happened. The lessons are still being learned. The effects are still being felt. But the vivid memories do not serve us anymore, and it’s time to move on.

We honor the sacrifices of the firefighters, the police officers, the airline staffs, the soldiers and the innocents more by allowing ourselves to find peace and move forward toward an abundant future unencumbered by our memories and all that we attach to them. By living fully in the present day, with hope for generations of peace, with love for all of our fellow human beings. By not continuing to turn our lingering anger and fear about the potential for another such attack into endless military actions that serve only to continue the worldwide cycle of anger and fear. By taking what we learned on that day and all the days since and using them to better the future and live with purpose and joy.

We don’t need to remember everything to do this.

Just imagine. Next year you could wake up and feel only the smile of a quiet morning and the anticipation of a good day. You check your devices and see the same messages of hope and laughter you see every day. You look at the calendar and remember the loving sacrifice of so many 13 years ago and smile or send up a prayer in gratitude for the strength and beauty of humanity to overcome adversity and selflessly help others. Then you go about your day. And it’s a good day.

Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Water on the fire

Fire HeartIt’s taken me most of my life to understand. I’m a woman. That’s a remarkable, beautiful thing. My femininity and the strong and divine life force that comes from embracing it are important and inescapable parts of me.

We could get into why it took me until recently to appreciate this, but that would require “a very special” series of blogs and a trip to the store for tissues and it isn’t really important to what I have to say. What’s more noteworthy today is that my struggle to embrace both my feminine and masculine sides, a struggle that may sound familiar to you, is merely a microcosm of what’s going on in the world.

Our collective feminine energy – receptive, open, creative, supportive, unconditionally loving – has been challenged for millennia. You can track patriarchal domination, and consequential oppression of women, from as far back as 4,000 BC all the way up to Seth MacFarlane’s boob song at this year’s Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed Mr. MacFarlane’s edgy humor many times over the years, as I did that night. When I tune into Family Guy I expect misogynistic jokes — often ripe with satire and provocative social commentary — just as I expected to see them on Sunday. That’s what the Academy bought, right? But I couldn’t deny my disappointment as it illustrated yet again our world’s decidedly masculine bent.

As many writers and historians and ordinary folks like you and me have observed: Look where this has gotten us. As liberal as most first-world cultures are compared to many places in the world, we are still a society more interested in power and ego than the greater good. In economic strength more than feeding the hungry or caring for the planet. In controlling more than teaching and supporting. In doing-doing-doing more than just being and receiving what’s already there. In getting an easy laugh at a bright, talented woman’s expense simply because she has breasts and was brave enough to reveal them to tell an important story…more than saying something funny that also tickles the brains of that 40 million-person audience.

As wise teachers and indigenous cultures have told us for as long as we’ve been able to hear them, we need something different. We need a world filled with people who see creative, nurturing energy as strength. Individually and collectively, we need to offer support and love to everyone in pain, especially ourselves, so we can heal, find our purpose and contribute. We need to love the dark and the light, the yin and the yang, knowing they are both sacred and necessary to creation. We need to celebrate everyone just as they are. We need to embrace our feminine energy.

This is the new paradigm and that scares the bejeesus out of a lot of men and women alike. Hence the continuous attempts to repress it occurring every day in every corner of our world – and these are only the stories being told.

This is not new or news to most of us and many are very, very angry. You can read about it all day long online or in a stack full of books. You likely can feel it in many of the women – and men – in and out of your life. The anger is justified.

Confession: I am no longer angry…well, mostly. As I fully embrace my feminine energy, it dissipates. I can see what’s going on. It disappoints me. I am moved to speak out and shift my own energy in an effort to help. But over time it makes me less and less angry.

That’s the nature, the immense strength, of the feminine. It allows. It embraces. It supports. It holds the energy we all need to grow and thrive. It loves. It doesn’t know anger or resistance.

It’s a masculine society that taught us that anger is a fabulous motivator. That fiery rage moves us to impose change by doing something. Feminine energy offers water to the fire and welcomes the peace and change that comes from simply being different.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Sufi teacher and author of The Return of the Feminine and the World Soul wrote:

Lady TreeIf women can come to know the sacred dimension of their own and the earth’s suffering, if they can see that it is part of the mysterious destiny of the soul of our world, if they can look beyond their own personal pain and anger to accept their larger destiny, then the forces of life can flow in a new way. The imprint of the divine face can become visible in this world and the glory of oneness be known, and once again life can become sacred.

While I’ve made some grand declarations above, I’m the first to admit I don’t know exactly what that looks like in our daily lives here on Mother Earth, and I’m certain it is easier said than done. What I do know is there are countless wise souls I can turn to for example, guidance and perspective. Some are magnificent women with boundless love in their hearts and laughter in their bones, many of whom already have guided me through hard lessons and shown me how to be both feminine and strong. Some are beautiful, strong men – two of whom I share my home with – who embrace their own feminine energy and know their unconditional support is just as valuable as their ability to do amazing things. Some are teachers like Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee with the guidance of goddesses in their hearts and on their tongues.

Because of them, I have hope, and perhaps I do know what it looks like. It’s already here. It just needs a little loving care.

It’s okay. Just scream.

My son Henry has started screaming. Sometimes at the dog. Sometimes at me or my husband. Sometimes at no one. Often for no obvious reason at all. But almost always with a hint of a smile.

Of course at times he’s frustrated. Toddlers are, after all, easily aggravated, since they firmly believe the world is theirs and when anyone gets in the way of what’s theirs they must be punished. But mostly he seems to take great joy in it. As if he’s finally found his unique voice, a way to express exactly what he needs to, and right now it needs to be very, very loud.

It makes sense, actually. He’s part of this world, this humanity in the process of breaking open, breaking apart, releasing the pressure that’s been building for millennia. The entire planet is filled with souls quickly building to, in the process of, or in desperate need of a magnificent release. The earth itself is enjoying a much-needed good scream via extreme weather, earthquakes, natural disasters and massive change. Henry’s just following its lead.

If you ask me, and apparently Henry, we’re all not screaming enough.

This past election season is a perfect example. Many of us, including me, experienced much of the “rhetoric” of the day via social interaction and social media. Except, like me, most of the concerned citizens, political junkies and reasoned voters I know were conspicuously quiet. When we discussed such things, often instead of discussing the issues at hand, we all instead agreed that expressing even balanced political opinions or relatively benign jokes caused enough conflict with our vocal friends on the other side of the aisle or issue that it just wasn’t worth the hassle and frustration.

“No one’s mind has ever been changed by a Facebook post,” I heard more than once as I nodded in agreement. “It’s not worth creating conflict and contributing to the noise. I don’t need to be reminded that half the country thinks I’m an idiot.”

So, political opinions were left mostly to talking heads on the cable news channels and those on either end of the political spectrum who were just angry enough, and often more than judgmental enough, to continuously express their rage against those who dared to disagree with their beliefs to some degree and the organizations connected to such issues. The extremes, the angriest and most self-righteous of us all, were being heard loud and clear.

Meanwhile, most of the rest of us sat quietly in our ideas and explorations, safe in the knowledge that at least we weren’t contributing to the divisive language of the day, hoping against hope that once the election was over the screaming would soften to a simmering roar and we’d all accept and contribute to the tasks at hand – that we’d put down our pitchforks and work together toward the greater good.

Naïve? Perhaps. It’s wouldn’t be the first time someone’s optimism has been labeled as such. Naïve or not, so far this is not what has happened and if we stay on our current path, it doesn’t look good.

The angry are angrier. The self-righteous are even moreso. Everyone knows they are right and few with a loud enough voice want to compromise for the sake of progress.

Okay, universe, I hear you. Lesson learned…again.

When we don’t allow the release, the healing light can’t get in.

When we don’t allow some space for everyone to scream when they need to scream, then we all suffer.

My son gets it. He screams when he needs to. He lets it go. He laughs and plays and eats with joy the rest of the time, and he sleeps like a baby.

Here’s a radical idea: Let’s all speak our truth.

Be “brutally” honest. Say what you feel, even when it’s not politically correct. Express that emotion that’s been building in your throat for weeks. Stop apologizing for having unconventional ideas. Tell someone about them. Stop feeling ashamed for buying in to stereotypes or hanging on to old programmed beliefs. Instead, release them. Post that provocative political meme if it’s truly what you want to say. Be yourself, even if that self is exceedingly angry or sad or frightened or confused. Let everything just be what it is. Express it. Release it. Scream. Let it go.

In exchange, we agree to allow everyone else to do the same. We will support everyone’s vulnerability and release equally. We will allow everyone a voice, even those we desperately disagree with. We will openly accept and cheer on everyone who says anything that self-censorship previously kept them from expressing. We will hear everything they have to say. We will welcome disagreement, even angry (but not violent) disagreement, with love and enthusiasm. When people or organizations use negativity or power with the intention of quashing an honest opinion or manipulating a heartfelt belief, we will defend ourselves and others by laughing and enjoying that they are releasing that fear and anger – that soon it won’t be there at all. We will understand that even when you feel it’s being directed at you, it’s not about you at all. It’s personal only to those expressing it.

We’ll all let it flow out as long as it needs to. We’ll all keep screaming and cracking open and listening and cheering until enough of it has vaporized into light and love. We will wait. We’re all in this together – the country, the world, the universe. We’re not going anywhere. It’s okay. Just scream.

Then, when we’re ready, when enough has released and the cracks are big enough for the light to get in…

That’s when the healing will begin.

Are you in?

Communication liberation

I’m finally willing to acknowledge it. Publicly, in fact. Words are an inherently flawed form of communication. As a writer, you may think this is a strange thing for me to say — in a piece of writing, no less. (The irony, it burns!) But I find it liberating. In fact, I’m guessing most writers are well aware of this. Who hasn’t struggled to find a word or phrase that can satisfactorily convey an emotion, a thing of beauty, a horrifying experience, a grand concept or an intuition, only to resign to the “next best” description?

You’re not a bad writer. It’s the words, I tell you. They just aren’t equipped for the job.

As a couple of you may have noticed, I haven’t offered a blog in more than a month. The sheer amount and scope of energetic changes going on in my/the world is boggling. There are stories to tell. But the words simply don’t match up yet. They may never. Heck, I’m having trouble writing an anniversary card to my husband. Words aren’t enough. And truly they’re not meant to be.

By their nature, words are a limited reflection of one person’s perspective and they will be received the same way — through a filter of the other person’s experience and perspective. With words we try to boil down even the greatest things into a few marks on a page. That’s why writing is an art. It’s a beautiful and powerful art, but it’s a terrible way to communicate if you’re trying to do so clearly. So, I’ve given up trying.

My three-year-old son Henry doesn’t talk a lot, and when he does in the conventional sense he tends to speak in a mix of the English he’s been surrounded by since we brought him home from Taiwan at 11 months old, toddler sign language and his own uniquely organized collection of sounds.

He is the most effective communicator I know.

He always is heard when he wants to be. He almost always is able to tell me what he wants and needs or what he’s afraid of. He can share a lesson with a look. He can tell an entire story, what happened and where, complete with how he felt or how he reacted, acted out with exaggerated facial expressions. And some days he may use only ten clearly understood words.

He talks to me all the time. His intention, his energy, his heart and where he is in that moment are always honest and usually crystal clear. He doesn’t need words to communicate them. Even when I don’t hear him quickly enough, he doesn’t try that hard to say it differently. He may get frustrated, but I think he knows he’s saying it as clearly as necessary, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be and I will hear him if I open up my heart to a different way of listening. And then he waits until I do.

I love words, but I’m freeing myself from any expectations for them. I’m giving in to their undeniable nature — to the limitations, to the lack of clarity, to their frequent un-necessity. When there are no words, then don’t say any. When the intention is unclear the words probably are too, so choose the quiet. When I rely upon them too much to understand or see or hear, take a breath, open my heart and use different eyes and ears.

I feel better already.

Nuggets

Many of the most influential and moving books I’ve found on parenting, especially conscious parenting, I have found by chance. Most aren’t best-sellers. They are little nuggets of gold in a sea of stones.

I’m sure there are others I will love and discover over time, and I’m sure you have your own list. (Feel free to share your own online or print nuggets in a comment.) But as I found yet another gem by chance only a week or so ago, I decided to share my short list of the most significant to me in this blog in the hopes that you might find a resource you didn’t already know about that speaks to you and/or helps with your own conscious parenting. There are a myriad of Web sites, too, but since those are more easily found via Google I’m focusing on books.

Note that the links I’m including are only one place where these books are currently available. I use a Kindle, so I included the Amazon links to some, but if you have a Nook you can probably find them there too. Happy reading!

Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Ken Robinson — Best known for his famous TED talks about creativity and the imperative evolution of education, Sir Robinson last year released a full updated edition of this book originally published in 2001. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the AERO Conference in Portland earlier this month and I was truly inspired by his wisdom, clarity and wit. So, of course I bought his book and have found it similarly inspiring, funny and full of great perspective on development in general, how to nurture creativity and happy people.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a beautiful teacher and writer, has several books intended for children or for parents. A Pebble for Your Pocket is a simple book that breaks down basic Buddhist teachings and practices — mindfulness, walking meditation, staying present, diffusing anger — into short stories so they are easy for children (and adults) to understand and make part of their lives. Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children is more for me and Larry than it is for my three-year-old son Henry, but once he is old enough there is a CD with great songs and some more advanced mindfulness practices we can do together.

Muddling Through: Perspectives on Parenting by Bil Lepp — Bil is an award-winning storyteller, a great dad and one of my childhood friends. He tells what he admits are slightly tall tales about his own experiences as a parent and child, then offers advice separately to parents and kids — e.g., parents relax the rules and the need to keep the kitchen tidy and you’ll have more fun, kids try to understand why your parents get uptight about things sometimes. His book is hilarious, honest and, despite its brevity (almost 80 pages on my Kindle), chock full of great stories and parenting wisdom.

Free the Children by Bruce Scott — I met Bruce at a conscious parenting/education conference in LA a few years ago and was inspired to buy his book that was available there. It is a beautiful fable about his journey of discovery as a parent: learning to see our children as whole people and our role as merely allowing and supporting their personal and spiritual journey; accepting we have as much, if not more, to learn from them as they do from us. It’s poetic at times, rich with provoking lessons and a wonderful read.

The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education by Steven Harrison — I bought this book at the AERO Conference based on a recommendation from the woman standing next to me at the sale table. It simply and easily makes the case for holistic, democratic, heart-centered education and child raising. If you’re new to these ideas, this is a great book to start with.

Free to Be…You and Me by Marlo Thomas & Friends — It’s a book, a CD and a DVD and Henry adores them all. I was raised on the book and record back in the ’70s when it came out and I’m thrilled it’s still available, and being updated every few years. It focuses primarily on gender identity, emotional expression and freedom of choice — very progressive topics back in the day. But with Mel Brooks and a great cast to voice the stories and songs, it’s also a lot of fun to watch, listen to and spark conversation.

Update… As expected, I’ve found more golden nuggets!

Waiting for Weston: A Mother’s Story About Raising A Multidimensional Child is a beautifully written and honest memoir by Marilu Schmier. Her son Weston does not speak verbally, but gives seminars, teaches and sends messages to thousands of followers all over the world. He speaks telepathically and through noted healers and clairvoyants and has touched hundreds of thousands of lives and spirits. Marilu’s experiences as Weston’s mother are astounding, hilarious and inspirational. She models extraordinary patience, openness (to literally anything) and unconditional love. Her book is a must read.

Meg Blackburn Losey has worked with Weston for many years and refers to him in a couple of her books from her Children of Now series. My favorite from the series I’m finishing now, Parenting the Children of Now: Practicing Health, Spirit, and Awareness to Trascend Generations. As many books on conscious parenting do, it focuses on us as parents much of the time, understanding that if we change our energy, perceptions and actions, we will interact with our children more openly and with greater awareness. However, it also gives some fabulous practical advice for dealing with the extraordinary gifts all of our children are born with — but that may make interactions with those outside the safety of the family nucleus more challenging.

Great love

My world is filled with all kinds of parents. Not one of us is perfect, nor would claim to be. But all of us know great love.

I am lucky enough to have brilliant models in my life – some who have been in my life for always and some I’ve known less than a week. None is like another, but they all have wonderful qualities to watch and emulate – boundless loyalty to their children’s happiness and best interests, respect, trust, open-mindedness, creativity, presence, an easy and natural way of moving through the day with their children, love and laughter even in the face of adversity, endless energy for play and creativity and talking and storytelling and learning, unconditional support for their children’s eccentricities and unique qualities, and lots and lots of patience.

I love all the parents and caregivers in my life. They all share such unique gifts with our family. I’d planned to write about that today, and may still in the coming weeks. But as I thought about all the remarkable parents in my life, one kept returning to me.

Today I am thinking of Henry’s birth mother. Her time in Henry’s life was very brief. Depending on Henry’s choices later in life, she may or may not ever be in his life again. But I will always consider her a strong example for me, for Henry and for all parents. Look at what she has modeled for me — her compassion for having created and nurtured such an extraordinary being in her womb, her courage as she struggled with impossible choices, her strength as she was able to relinquish her parental rights to us, the continued love and supportive energy I feel constantly from her and send back to her with gratitude.

These are things that bind our family to her forever.

For these strengths I respect her greatly. I happily place her in my circle of trusted parents and guides.

She, perhaps more than most, knows great love.

Welcome the quiet

This morning I wiped out while taking a walk. Slid on a decline in the concrete, tore my hands open and scraped off much of the skin on my right knee. After the expletives stopped involuntarily exploding from my mouth, I laughed. It’s been at least 30 years since I last skinned my knee, I thought. Unfortunately, there was no one to see the fall, watch me laugh at my clumsiness or make the video. If they had I’d post it here. But alas, no one. Well, at least not in a living body.

I was walking quickly through a lovely cemetery at the top of Queen Anne hill and reading the names on the gravestones near the road. One right next to it popped out at me – Vane V. Vance. Really? Who was this guy? And who were his eccentric parents who thought that up? What could the middle initial possibly be? Did all of his luggage sport a triple V monogram? Maybe he designed his own logo. Maybe it looked like a mess of Vs like Volkswagen’s. As I giggled to myself and looked back to confirm I saw what I saw, a rock “popped out” from the pavement in just the right spot for me to step directly on it.

If I’d only listened more carefully. Truth is I’ve been getting messages to slow down for at least a week. My body, my mind, my energy. Even Henry has slowed his pace. Choosing to spend his time with us in the mornings and evenings, usually filled with exuberant play, instead calmly being read to or watching a few minutes of a movie. Rebelling against any activity done with any sense of urgency, especially getting ready to go somewhere by a certain time. They’re really good at that, aren’t they? Reminding us that being somewhere at a certain time only means something if we give it meaning. That time isn’t really linear. Children are really good at quantum physics.

In response to this universal and repeated appeal to slow down, I’ve gone inward. I’m working hard, but one of the benefits of being a writer and a person in need of the quiet is the solitary nature of my day. Introspection, meditation, time where it’s just me and the computer or me and the notepad or me and the pavement. There’s plenty of that. While I sometimes create activities where I must be amongst the people, I have not done so in the last week or so outside of my happy little nucleus of Henry and Larry.

I’m not the only one hearing this call…in a big way in recent days — to slow down, to look inwardly, to breathe fully, to take a break from the routine. Fellow writers are talking about it more eloquently than I, including fellow bloggers and like-minded souls. Facebook friends are posting more and more about the merits and pleasures of simply standing still and being. Folks in my life are having minor accidents, travel troubles, project delays at work, unexpected or even forced time off or time away. For the astrologers in the crowd, Mercury is in retrograde, which seems to help this kind of thing along. But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it so consistently pronounced during such a short period of time.

As for me, I choose to heed the call. When I’m literally halted in my tracks and pushed to the ground while walking and thinking too quickly, it’s time to listen more carefully. To be more present. To be more aware. To see more clearly. To get off the treadmill. To evolve from the inside out. To be more quiet.

This excerpt from Free the Children, a wonderful fable about spiritual parenting by Bruce Scott, helped me get back there:

It is as though we all live in a giant movie theater with the same movie playing over and over again. Same dialogue. Same roles. Same actors, complaints and beliefs. And each morning we wake up, unaware that we are entering into the same theater, to once again watch and participate in the same film with the same ending. And together, six billion of us agree that this is the only film playing.

What if we suspect there is a different movie playing somewhere else…and we seek it out on our own?

Would you go to school? Would you ask your children to be compliant? To follow the rules? Get a job? Prepare for the future? Would you get up every morning to go to work? Would you have a religion?

Would you see women and men as wondrous beings without gender separation? Would you have need to marginalize people by making them wrong or right? Normal or abnormal? Crazy or sane? Hallucinating or having amazing visions?

Or might you go exploring into the wisdom of your heart and soul, and be with people from that place, living differently, quietly inside, softer with others, sweet with innocence, kind to the children, recognizing they, the little ones, will bring you home to yourself, deep inside, gently, with a giggle.

Thank goodness for the giggles, the falls and the quiet.

Love the cracks

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.  – Anthem, Leonard Cohen

The cracks are showing a lot these days, often revealing themselves at inconvenient times. Many wise people in my life lightheartedly (but accurately) call such phases “growth periods,” so I have adopted the habit, as well. Symptoms of a significant growth period include disorientation, emotional vulnerability, sometimes unexplained frustration or impatience, fruitless grasping at control over things decidedly out of your control, loss of focus during business meetings, and bawling at the end of movies containing dogs and/or dolphins and/or kindly aliens. Luckily, they also include great clarity, love, compassion, strength and growth, even moments of extraordinary peace and knowingness – what I would call nirvana. A rollercoaster of evolution indeed.

Basically, like the entire human race, I am experiencing some growing pains. And some times more than others, my cracks show. My son is very aware of this. In fact, he is quick to point them out.

The moment my voice changes and I start to get impatient with him for not putting on his shoes on my swift timeline so we can leave and not be late darn it, he squeezes his eyes shut, shakes his head and goes limp in my arms. If I decide to use my time in the car bringing him home from school to make a phone call and finish the work I was rushing to complete before I left, he decides he needs a drink, a snack and to ask what absolutely everything out his window is during the drive. When I am frustrated with someone, that person becomes his favorite person in the world for the day. When I’m frustrated with myself, he surprises me with a simple act of kindness.

They are such effective teachers, our children. As mine, Henry could be more patient at times, a little less infuriating, but he is only three.

Exactly when I need it, Henry shoves me back into the present. He forces me to let go of control. He shows me how to allow everyone their own cracks and appreciate them all the more for them. He pushes me to look at my own and be grateful for the ability to love myself as much as he loves me, despite them…because of them.

He knows just how far to stick his little fingers in to make that crack big enough to let the light come rushing in.

It’s always there.

It’s a day late, but Happy Summer Solstice to you all! Yesterday was so busy with the business of work and life that I nearly forgot about it. In fact, the last couple of weeks the entire family has been the picture of those proverbial headless chickens. Days are scheduled full. Either Larry or I have been gone and/or working most evenings. Henry spends longer hours at school as a result. While normally we pretty naturally wake with the sun – with a three-year-old and an older dog there is no need for alarm clocks – the family has been struggling in the morning, barely getting enough rest to rise and do it all again yet another day. Plus, we are all very aware that in less than 48 hours, in the middle of a short summer night, we are flying out for The Ohio Friends & Family Visit Extravaganza 2012, punctuated by our niece’s wedding. We have been understandably anxious, believing it will be a while before our normally quiet, spacious existence can resume.

If you merely allow it, the balance returns. In fact, it never leaves.

This morning the house was so quiet and our slumber so satisfying that even though I was the first to wake, I allowed us all to linger a bit longer than normal. If we’re late we’re late, I thought as I happily closed my eyes. All of us, even the dog, languished in those few more minutes of silence and rest. Then simultaneously, and about a half hour later than normal, we all began to rise. After potty time, without many words we gathered in the quiet living room for our typical but recently missing morning hatching, and simply sat. It felt so right to just be, to just allow the quiet and the peace and the joy of being together envelop us. This is our “family normal,” our tether, our grounding and our comfort, and we all needed even a few minutes of it desperately.

Then we took a few breaths and started, filled with gratitude that we always have that peace and unconditional love to return to, wherever we may be.

One moment to notice

Every week I check in with myself about what’s on my mind, in my heart, needing to be heard. Perhaps I’m too new to this whole blogging thing, but I have little to say this week. I have lots to say in general, just ask my husband. There are numerous stories to tell, just take a look at my computer files. But nothing seemed prescient beyond this, right here and now. {shrug} Perhaps nothing was worth offering this week.

But then I sat in that, in front of the computer, as you do. And I thought… Isn’t it lovely that there’s nowhere I want to go that is different from here in this moment, sitting in the quiet in front of my computer? There’s nothing I want to write other than what’s simply before me and within me. Perhaps that’s the story I’m supposed to tell. So, here is my here and now.

Rainy day bright green grass. Huffing pup. Drizzle wind. Damp leaves on bricks. Handsome horse chestnut tree grows before my eyes. Wet Buddha changing colors. Humming laptop. Glowing lamp. Bright red change purse on an apple green box. Throw pillow on my back – an offering from my son. Pillow slippers on my feet – an offering to myself. Stillness. Breath. Click. One moment to notice. One moment to love.

What’s your here and now?

Let’s talk about the schools for a minute

Our son Henry attends preschool. Based on my unscientific research – i.e., conversing in-person and online with a wide variety of parents – about two-thirds of you are shrugging and saying “Okay, and…” and the rest of you are wondering why. This post is not meant to answer that question. I have so many questions of my own, I’m instead using this space to help navigate the process and welcome you into it.

The community of alternative educators, homeschoolers and unschoolers is growing by leaps and bounds. They all have immeasurable love for children and robust beliefs about their development. And I still consider myself one of them – or at least a passionate supporter of these ideals who is still considering her child’s options.

I believe mainstream educational institutions no longer address the needs of our evolving children and communities. A hierarchical structure designed to train young people to be compliant and effective factory workers or, if you’re from a wealthier community, corporate managers, doesn’t work for our children or our society any longer. I think there is a lot of merit to the myriad of alternative options growing in accessibility and acceptability, including home schooling and/or unschooling. I will have a lot more to say about this over time, especially after I return from the AERO conference in Portland in August, but that’s the gist of my thoughts on education.

Here’s the rub. Our son is a truly social being. He loves people – being around them, playing with them, entertaining them, laughing with them, showing affection, enjoying the reciprocation. He runs up to the newest kid or parent on the playground to say hi and invite them to play. Everyone at his school knows him because he welcomes them all as they arrive, usually with a huge smile and a hug. He’s the first to console a crying classmate or defend them when he believes they are mistreated. He is a genuinely friendly child who enjoys the energy and security of a community. He was raised in a group setting – a wonderful nursery in Taiwan – for the first 11 months of his life, and perhaps something stuck. When he’s not with Mama and Daddy, and sometimes when he is, he wants a strong community around him. Preferably one made up of two- to four-year-olds.

When we needed to look for a daytime care situation about a year ago, we were lucky to stumble upon a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool in our community. The short answer to the “What the…?” I just heard you all utter is that this school is one of surprisingly many around the world that uses a community-based approach, developing lesson plans based on what the class collectively is interested in. Then they explore this subject in a very organic, natural way, all while taking the needs of the entire class into account. It builds community, a sense of belonging, a strong sense of responsibility to their fellow human beings, open minds, open hearts, open imaginations, as well as mutual respect among a very diverse group of kids.

Henry thrives in this environment. He’s joyful. He’s challenged. He has strong friendships with his classmates and teachers. He loves going to school because he can express himself, make mistakes and be authentically Henry while he’s there. Like at home, he is loved and accepted unconditionally.

But what’s next? There are few options for Henry to continue with a similar program once he is five or six. Well, unless we want to move to Italy… (Hmmm.) In an ideal world, we would be able to keep him in an inexpensive or free variation on this program for the rest of his schooling, because even public schools would be designed around a similarly progressive philosophy. But alas the educational times aren’t a-changin’ as fast as the rest of the world seems to be and that likely won’t be an option in a couple of years. So, we’ve been looking at our non-mainstream choices and getting dizzier by the month. Homeschooling, unschooling, radical unschooling, expensive private schools, start or join a joint parent-run school, online education, democratic schools, and on and on.

Like every child, Henry is a peg of a unique shape. He doesn’t fit perfectly into any institutional hole. But as an outgoing child without siblings he doesn’t fit neatly into a homeschool hole either. So, our exploration continues. We are confused, concerned, even a little frightened. We want to trust that a path will reveal itself in some quiet moment, and I do believe it will, probably by Henry himself. I guess we’ll just breathe, keep listening and the knowing will come.

I’ll write more about this journey as it unfolds. There’s nothing terribly profound about our story just yet, but there is something profound that happens when stories like these are shared. Just like so many of you, we are parents making tough choices in an ever-changing world. The more we are willing to honestly and openly talk about our fears and ideas, without judging or fearing being judged, the more we all benefit. I guess I’m simply adding our story to all of yours and welcoming you into the conversation. Happy parenting.

An offering

In my first post a couple of weeks ago I began to tell a story about our Buddha statue, one of the catalysts for starting this blog. I’m loath to leave a storyline open-ended or keep the six or seven followers I’ve gained since then (shout out!) dangling, so I guess that’s a good place to go this week…

From all windows in the back of our home we can see our new Buddha statue. It sits humbly amongst the herbs and lavender in a small bed in the back yard near where Henry plays toddler basketball, practices jumping and sets up his race car track on sunny days. We purchased the statue from a free trade store in our Seattle neighborhood of Queen Anne a month and a half ago. Larry and I looked at hundreds of sculptures of all kinds over the last few years, searching for the one that spoke to us, that had the right energy and simplicity. We knew in a moment this – calm, beautiful and still in its shipping crate from the owner’s recent trip to Bali – was the one.

For the first week I found myself seeking him out whenever I was in prime viewing rooms: the kitchen, the office/guest room and Henry’s room. We all did. At bedtime before I closed his blinds, Henry would cock his head sideways, look out at Buddha, wave and say goodnight, which these days sounds mostly like “beebee.” In the morning when we hatched our way down to the kitchen with Henry in our arms, he made sure to say a special good morning to our guardian friend. That week was chilly and wet, so we didn’t much venture out to Buddha, but his presence was felt.

The following weekend the spring sunshine favored us and the yard became the preferred play area. We always said hello to Buddha when entering his realm of the garden, but Larry and I had no regular ritual nor had ever demonstrated one in front of Henry. Then, one afternoon, in the middle of testing which car sped the fastest around the hairpin curve, Henry stopped, picked up his favorite yellow utility truck and placed it gently in Buddha’s open hand. Then he took his brand new drag racer with blue flames on its hood and offered that too. Then he turned around and continued playing.

Over that weekend he offered pebbles, rocks, flowers and more cars. He tried to balance his water bottle in the crook of the statue’s arm, but couldn’t figure it out. He pulled up his Henry-sized monkey folding chair in front of Buddha and sat for several seconds looking at him before getting up and sitting between Mama and Daddy who were watching him in wonder from the garden steps.

Even the strangest concepts seem obvious when you see them unfold so naturally before your eyes. Especially in the last several years, I’ve experienced countless things many may consider extraordinary, even impossible – all part of the package when you start to explore seeing your world more clearly — and as so many of you fellow parents can understand, parenthood has only increased the regularity and normalcy of the “bizarre.” It is so easy to take for granted what many call everyday miracles when you’re negotiating the sippy vs. big person cup conundrum or walking your child to go poopy in the potty. However, this one got our attention.

Here’s what I believe Henry was reminding us that weekend. Children We all have an innate sense, a gut instinct, a strong intuition, a clairvoyance, a memory, a higher self, a wisdom, a voice, whatever you want to call it, that allows us to just know…whatever we need to know. And most of what we know to our core is love.

Henry loves and shows respect for Buddha without even thinking about how he knows to do it. Thoughts, expectations, obligations, beliefs, right and wrong. They don’t have anything to do with it. It is unconditional and without logic. It is simply love and connection. He wants to make an offering in that moment, so he does.

That’s what he came out of the womb understanding…being. We all did. We all are born at peace, connected to both the center of the universe and the center of the earth. It’s allowing ourselves to remain there that’s the tricky part. And, as Buddha teaches, sitting in that is where we learn whatever it is we are here to learn.

I believe it’s that simple. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, but our children often make it look that way. Okay, they know it is. Henry will help me remember that.