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A Peace Treaty

October 2, 2018

 

Today is my anniversary.  I have been legally married to Richard Shaffer for 24 years.  We have known each other for 27 years. This is more than half of our lives.  In 4 days I turn the corner on half a century.

Calling me in the middle of our separate drop offs of children this morning he asked me,  “Do you consider this a happy day? Or a sad day?”

It is hard to make it 24 years married without battle scars.  

I replied, “This is a great accomplishment.  It is a great celebration”

This is a Peace Treaty between two different planets that has held for 24 years.  We have discovered 4 new worlds that are thriving only if Peace continues to reign between us.  

We have each acquired nuclear weapons since our union many years ago.  Either one of us could declare war with one push of a button. There have been things worthy of doing so.  But we each know the cost.  All would perish.  Innocent and guilty alike.

So much time and energy spent building these lives that matter so much.  A history woven together of happy times, celebrations and laughing alongside disappointments, shame and hurt.  So many summits to negotiate our differences. So many times we had to swallow our pride and turn the other cheek.  So much stepping over the things we don’t like. So many hours of listening to navigate danger and difficulty.

Two different planets could never agree on everything. Why do we ever think that they could?

I am sorry for the young romantics who might read this and see cynicism.  I am not unhappy and jaded. I am older and wiser. I am more humble and tolerant.  I have had my faults pointed out to me in ways I can not ignore. My roots grow deeper and stronger in this rich reality.   I can reach higher with help, than I can alone.

I have arrived at a rare stop along the journey.  Not many make it this far.  A place where I have hindsight AND I would not do one thing different.  Yes, I would do it all over again, even the hard.  The hard times taught me the most.  (I would just ask for amnesia to go through it again haha.)

I am thankful.  I am thankful for the happy times.  I am thankful for the hard times.  And I am So so thankful for peace.  I am thankful for peace today. There is no promise of tomorrow. I am Thankful for the strength of this treaty that grows stronger through each challenge overcome.  Thankful for our 4 children who are new worlds of discovery only possible through this partnership. And I am thankful to have an ally in this world.

It is a great accomplishment and a happy celebration:    

 

 

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Uncategorized

A little bird told me…

So I was trying to get on the road for a trip. Subtracting myself from all the details of my house, husband and children is a complicated process. I try to set a deadline for leaving and then have to reset it several times before I actually finish cleaning the kitchen, emptying the refrigerator, taking out the trash, packing the car etc. I just have to leave everything in Good order. It is a mom thing.

So you can imagine my delight when I was actually ready to walk out the door at exactly 1 pm. The original time I said I wanted to leave to miss the Friday traffic.

All I had to do was take the dog out to pee one last time and get in the car and leave. I puffed up feeling pleased with myself.

So I took Lucy out through the garage and let her do her thing. I came back in to put her up and turned around to leave and just as I was about to walk out the open door, a little bird flew in my house!

What the hell!! Seriously? It is 1:02 pm. How can this be? A bird??

What can I do? I have an innocent little creature flying around my house bumping into windows trying to find its way out.

So Lucy and I spent the next half an hour trying everything we could think of to free this little bird. It involved ladders and brooms and fans and opening every window and door. We tried sweet talk as if this little bird understood English. Funny enough, Lucy didn’t bark once. She seemed to know that would scare the little thing further into the rafters of my two story living room. She did use her herding instincts to help me. She and I would just come from each side and try to shoo it and sweet talk it toward the opening.

Finally, the little bird perched on an open windowsill and calmly flew off. I swear it looked at me and nodded like, “ok you can leave now”.

I rushed around closing windows and doors before any other wild creature could fly in.

Whew! Only 27 minutes past my deadline.

Now as I traveled down the highway, about an hour and a half into my trip, traffic came to a complete stop. On I-20 this is never a good sign.

As it turns out, there was a 3 car accident that involved a tractor trailer, a U-haul and a sedan. By the looks of the fire trucks, police and paramedics present, not only was it a bad one, but I missed being involved by about 30 min.

Almost the exact amount of extra time it took me to leave my house because of a little bird.

I looked up at the big sky mystery and said, “wow, thanks”.

Now I am turning 50 this year and you might say it is time for me to grow up and stop this magical thinking.

But I would say to you that I choose to live in a magical, supernatural, spiritual, loving existence. I know the difference between my world and the bigger population of the depressed and the miserable. Since I do have a choice. In fact it is probably the only thing I can really choose. I choose to be in my amazing technicolor world.

I choose to believe that nature is full of loving kindness and giving me support along the way. I choose to believe that I don’t know what I am being protected from when things don’t go my way. I choose to believe that nature communicates with me. All the time. I choose to believe nature and God communicate with all of us but most people don’t know how to hear it.

Sometimes I get validation of this that is hard to ignore. Like being protected from an accident that would at the very least ruined my weekend and at the very worst been a tragedy.

And do you know how I know this to be true??

A little bird told me. 🙂

(Doug this is for you. ❤️ For missing me. I am back.)

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The gift of a

Breath

I learned a profound Jewish teaching from a Franciscan priest!  🙂
Father Richard Rohr learned it from a Jewish Rabbi and speaks about it often.  It gives me great comfort in my life.

In Judaism the true name of God is not spoken. All the names we use are nicknames. The true name of God consists of 4 Hebrew letters (יהוה) (yud, hey, vov, hey). When these 4 letters are put together there are no consonants.

Many believe that we don’t speak the true name of God because it is taboo or because of the commandment, ‘thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain’.  This is only partially true.

The real reason we do not speak God’s name is because it can not be spoken. The closest word is the sound you make when you inhale and exhale.

Just take a minute to think about this.

God’s true name is the sound of your breath.

Inhale.  Exhale.
Do it again.

You are breathing the name of your maker.

We are alive when we are able to breathe.

Gen 2:7  וייצר יהוה אלהים את־האדם עפר מן־האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה׃

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul”  http://biblehub.com/lexicon/genesis/2-7.htm

Breath is life.  Breath is The Spark of God within us.  It is also His name and our own personal prayer.

It is our first word uttered when we are born. It is the last thing we say when we die. We pray it all day everyday.   It is unique to each person and free to ALL.  It is our built in ‘fail safe’.  All the times we doubt ourselves and our worthiness, we are breathing our own affirmation.  God has it covered.  It is not required that we believe in it.  It will happen for us regardless.

When ever I am having a hard time.  When I am tired and overwhelmed.  All those times I am not sure I am doing ‘whatever’ right.

All I really have to do is remember to breathe.  It contains all that I need. It is prayer enough, it is life enough, and it is powerful enough to carry us through.  Trust your breath. When you feel especially lost or heartbroken. Just focus on your breath.

Father Rohr offers a beautiful meditation from Psalm 46:10 to lead you back to your breath:

“Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be still”
May your Breath be with you :))
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Uncategorized

Playground bullies 

During a trip to Asheville NC this weekend, we went apple picking.  Golden Delicious, Rome, Black Arkansas and Fuji are a few of the perfect round shades of green to deep red that are weighing down my trunk as we head home.  

Of course we had to stop at the many attractions that flank these beautiful apple orchards, such as the corn maze 


After getting good and lost, back tracking, walking in circles and having our sense of direction generally turned upside down, we stumbled onto a grand playground that could have been a throw back to my childhood.  Home made swings, a giant mountain of hay with tunnels, a large trampoline and climbing ropes.  In other words, lots of risk and danger :))


Kids were running, climbing and jumping  around in utter bliss. 

What prompted this post was what happened on the tunnel swing. 


There were about 10 children of all ages on this attraction.  I was doing what I love best, observing children at play.  

I know that if you give children the freedom to engage in risky play together they handle it quite responsibly, but it is still such a pleasure to watch it first hand. Without knowing each other’s names there was expert cooperation without any one  boss. They took turns pushing and riding without any conversation about it. The older children kept checking in with younger children to see if they needed to slow down or get off. Younger children were watching how the older ones did things and then tried to emulate them.   They ran this swing like a well oiled machine, not the accident waiting to happen, it could have been.  There are many businesses, organizations and adult groups that could learn from this kind of team work. 

Until…

An older woman carried over a small child about 3 years old. He did not walk over on his own. He was not drawn to this swing by his own volition. Probably because it was developmentally beyond his risk taking interest. Yet, she placed him on and proceeded to take over pushing the swing. The other children were quiet and let her take the lead as you would expect of respectful children. She began to push. The other children followed her lead to help her. The small child began to lean. She kept pushing. Then he leaned some more. The woman told him to hold on, still pushing. We all looked at each other knowing what was imminent. The child had a look of fear on his face. Then boom. Sure enough he fell off the swing. 😦 

Now the woman gasped and ran over to pick him up. What she said next did not surprise me one single bit. 

Woman scolding, “You children are pushing it too hard! You shouldn’t be doing that. You are pushing it too hard for little kids! That is why they are going to get hurt!” 

Me, “Actually I disagree. They have been doing a very responsible job of working this swing”

The woman huffed off with her crying grandchild in her arms. 

I reassured the children that they were working hard to be kind to each other and play together. This was not their fault. 

If I could speak to this woman I would advise her to let her grandson pick his own interests to follow on the playground. If and only if, he wanted to ride this swing then he would have been better off with these children helping him. They would have helped him, communicated to make sure he was comfortable and stopped way before he fell all the way off. Having said that, if he had fallen off he would have been helped up and learned a few things about balance and swinging along with a bit of dirt. 

Why do adults show so little respect for children?  Their interests, instincts and abilities? Maybe because we can. 

I have been learning to stand back a little and give children the respect of their own way when appropriate. What I have been given when I do that is the gift of my  greatest teachers. 

After this incident, another boy came over to the swing and began to play. He said, “you know that woman who picked up that child? She is a teacher at my school and she is really mean.”  

Out of the mouths of babes. Enough said. 

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Remembering

The Forgotten Path

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Why do I get so much joy and satisfaction watching my children play in nature? It is something I have wondered about myself.  One of my favorite activities.  I like to play with them in nature, but honestly, I like sitting back and watching them even more.  I struggle here, to put it into words.

I use the term ‘my children’ loosely as I have taken on 18 other children each week out in the woods.   Watching children in deep play outdoors is something I love.  Why?

Freedom?  I know that when they are unencumbered, outside and unstructured they are free.  Maybe it is the sitting back that is so rewarding.   I move out of their way.  I step back from the telling and the teaching, and create a sacred space for their freedom to step forward.  I love watching where they take it.  There is a deep sense of peace that descends on a creek when children become engrossed in what they and the creek decide to do together.  Two puzzle pieces, the creek and the children, fitting together perfectly and suddenly it all makes sense.  Freedom is definitely an essential ingredient.  Yet…

Wild is the other.

When children set out on their own adventure into wilderness, they are seeking a relationship.  They are looking for connection with each other and me.  But deeper than that, they are seeking connection with the wild.  They know on some soul level that when they find that tadpole and hold it in their hands, it was created in just that way, at just that moment, just for them.  When they are mining for gold in the creek and they find a ‘crystal’, they believe that rock was put there at that moment in time, just for them.   When they sit in their secret hide out, hidden from the rest of us, they are not alone.  They know that this secret spot was created around them, for them.   They don’t seek connection with the man made bridge, as much as, they are drawn to what is flowing and growing and swimming and winding beneath it.  The wild.

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Two weeks ago when a pouring rain just happened to find us outside looking for adventure, they embraced it as the gift it was.  How could this not have been created just for them?  The joy as they received this gift however they chose, was something I will never forget. Standing back and watching them dance with the wild was my joy.

They went home high.

The next day I heard reports of “the best day ever”.  One child told his special grownup that it was “the best day of his life”.  Then he changed his mind.  “It is the second best day of my life.  The best day was the day I was born.”

I watch this and I remember.  I remember what I was born knowing and then forgot. I remember my own freedom dancing with the wild.  I seek relationship with What created the wild.  I catch a glimmer of conversation with my Creator.

The Forgotten Path.  Children are born into the world knowing this path.  It is not forgotten for them.  By protecting space for them to play on their own path, I remember.  They are my guides.  They teach me how to recall all that I know.  It is as much for me as for them.

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Climbing A Mountain of Laundry

How many years I have done the laundry! First just mine and Richard’s. It was a mole hill then. It was a domestic romantic endeavor. I was doing this man’s laundry. I was nurturing and taking care of him. It was such a pleasure to give of myself this way.  Way back then. 

Then it was laundry for 3. I was still in such a state of bliss, that I used cloth diapers and washed them myself. Richard was supportive of me staying home, in spite of the fact that we had no money, at times, putting groceries on a credit card. I was so thankful I did not have to leave my baby with some stranger and go to work. Laundry? It wasn’t even a second thought. It was a privilege. 

Then it was laundry for 4. Then 5. Then 6. The years ticked away.  Laundry overwhelmed me. I dreaded, resented and sometimes just avoided that pile of laundry. It would follow me into my dreams.  It would pile up until we were in a state of emergency over socks, clean underwear or the favorite outfit needed for school that day. 

Richard and I divided the work of family in the most efficient way we could. He built a career and earned the money. I took care of the home and the kids. 

This work was 24/7, for both of us. The work of building and nurturing a family. The work of building income to support that family. There was now a mountain of work where a mole hill had been. A mountain of bills, boo boos, groceries, meals, bath times, bedtimes, school tuition and yes, laundry. 

It is hard to take care of others without time for yourself and each other. Disappointments build up. Resentment creeps in. Climbing that mountain sometimes seemed impossible. Richard and I dubbed those struggles for little pieces of sanity as “fighting over scraps”. We would bicker over the unfairness of it all. I was angry when he was home sitting down for 5 minutes when I was slaving away with dinner, bedtime and…laundry. He was resentful when I was having fun at the pool, lying in the sun with the kids on a summer day while he was stuck behind a desk. 

I am sitting here right now avoiding a mountain of laundry before me. 


Richard is sitting quietly enjoying a book. The old resentment still tries to take over. The old tape in my head tries to play the “it’s not fair” tune. 

But a softening has happened for me while climbing over 21 years of dirty laundry. 21 years Richard and I have been sticking it out, having each other’s back, holding each other afloat, and even tearing each other down. I am far enough up that mountain now that I have a different view. 

I see how hard we have BOTH worked. I see how much we have both sacrificed and, I see how much we have both gained from this division of labor. I see our 4 little start ups beginning to spin off into their own amazing futures.  I see how hard we still both work. I see we still have so much laundry ahead.  I see we are getting older. 

So as I sit here facing a mountain of laundry with an old tape playing, I drown it out with a new tune. Instead of thinking “how unfair for him to sit by while I do all the laundry”, I think how thankful I am to have this nice house, nice laundry, nice washer and dryer. It leads me to other gratitude. 

I feel gratitude for the few minutes of rest Richard can take to recover from a grueling work week. I am grateful I am to be able to focus on nurturing my family. I am grateful Richard is successful and smart and healthy. I am filled with gratitude that my children are well and safe and loved so deeply by both of us. 

Now, as a daily practice I gratitude my mountain of laundry back into just a small mole hill.  Each little dirty piece of clothing piled up into a mountain of blessings to count.  

Blessings I need to get folded so I can go to bed 🙂 

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made with love

Cocoon of Trees

Chicago 2014.  I sat listening to crickets in the trees one night before our move South.  So much unknown terrain stretched out in front of me.   I remember thinking that only in nature can the deep quiet be so loud.  That is when it happened.

God said to me, “It will be the same.”

What I thought?  What will be the same? It is such a surprise to be spoken to this way.  Not the way we speak to each other, but a knowing, a memory of the conversation.  As if you catch it just after the words are spoken.  It took me a minute to gather my wits.  What just happened?  And then I knew.  I was about to pick up my family and move to another planet.  God was tucking me into the roller coaster ride with a message to hang onto.

“It will be the same.”

The same trees, the same sounds, the same sky, the same.  God will follow me there.  With his majestic creation.  I will be starting over, a stranger, but I will be wrapped in a cocoon of crickets.  The same crickets.  They will sing me this very same song.  The one they have been singing forever.  Since the beginning.  A cocoon of trees.  The same trees.  Green and tall and solid, with roots that connect them in communal unity.  A cocoon of sun and sky.    The same sun filling me up with the essence of myself.  A cocoon of earth and dirt.  The same dirt reminding me of where I come from.  All familiar and the same.  This will be my blanket of comfort in the unease of change.

South Carolina, 19 months later, I stand on my back deck.  It is night and I am listening to the crickets in the trees.  They are the same.  A cocoon of trees tucking me in.

I go to say “good night and thank you.”

I look up at these guardians towering over me.  At that moment it happened again.

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God said, “It is here to take care of YOU, not the other way around.”

I said, “who?”  “what?”  There I was again trying to catch the conversation as if that is possible.

God said, “all of it, but especially the trees.”

I stopped chasing and let it sink in.  “Wow, that changes everything.  What fools we are NOT taking care of them, so they can take care of us.”

I got no response.  Just the wind blowing and the crickets chirping.  The same as always.

No wonder I feel grief when I see a forest felled in a single day.

Long ago, when God made the world for us, trees had legs.  They could walk and run just like us.  This is not in the Torah.  It was inspired by my daughter, Hannah, one day as we hiked through the forest.  Trees traveled from place to place.  Usually, they were making sure we were taken care of.  It was their job.   For thousands and thousands of years this worked.  We loved the trees and they loved us more.   Then about 10,000 years ago, we stopped living in small family clans and started figuring out how to farm the land.  We changed.  We started trying to conquer instead of collaborate.  Everyone wanted to be the boss and nobody wanted to compromise.

We began killing for meanness.  We fought just to fight.  The trees were extremely worried for us.  The Grand daddy trees called a council meeting of all the elders.  They came from all over the world for a once in a million year event.  They wanted to help us.  Trees know only peaceful protest and standing for what you believe in.  Period.  No exceptions.  They decided that they could only lead by example, and it had to be drastic.  That is when it happened.  They stood.  Still.  Forever.  The only travel now is a seed carried by wind, or bird or other avenue of nature.

They are waiting for us.  They stand still in their love for us.  They refuse to move until we change our selfish ways.  Of course, we didn’t get it.  Still don’t.  Will we ever?  We cut them down and they let us!  They just stand silent.  When they fall sometimes a groan slips out, but usually their thunderous fall is all that marks the tragedy.   Then the ones still standing  just continue their watch over us.  A loving example.  Waiting.

I am in a quiet place of my life.  It is hard lonely work to pull up your roots and replant them.  Is this how the butterfly feels?  Tucked into her cocoon.   Wrapped up tight.  Is she quiet and lonely?   Or does she know that it is loving protection for the work of change?   The only way transformation can take place.  Does she know that it is temporary?  Something to cherish for the restorative sleep that it is?  How I want to appreciate this silent stillness.  How I want to become the tree I already am.

I am tucked in my cocoon of trees.  They rock me to sleep and sing me to wake.  If you listen in just the right way, they will tell you things.  Ancient things.  They look down with love and look away with respect.  They hold me safe.  Protecting this time of transformation.  They never lose hope.  They are always the same.  I am the one who needs to change.

 

 

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