Thursday, December 30, 2010

Learning to Listen

     I took my television to the curb today.  I couldn’t resist the impulse any longer. Sometimes these urges just hit me, bam! Then I’m off and running. I don’t always understand the hot pokes that I get, however I do trust them. It’s called faith, blind faith to be sure.  You would think that they would steer me towards some profound, deep meaning of life and sometimes they do. Mostly though they point the way in the ordinary tasks that make up my life, which might be same thing and I just too dumb to know it.  I do know that my life is better when I pay attention to the silence. I listen to the urge to make an extra box of cookies and a neighbor drops by. I follow the impulse to call a friend and it turns out she needs a ride that I can give her.  I jump off the couch and run to a jam at the last minute and have a blast. Never underestimate the value of a good time. It’s the secret to my success.
     The little nudges that come my way are my soul’s answer to what next, usually before I’m even aware it needs to be asked. They shepherd me toward choices that empower and enrich my life, like going on a 90 Day No Negativity Challenge.  Call it what you like, inspiration, dancing with the wind, going with the flow.  Truthfully, they don’t always make sense to anyone, least of all me.  That’s when I know for sure that I am in the embrace of the Divine.  Following those nudges is one of the reasons people I work with think I’m a little odd. I zig when they zag and offer no rhyme or reason for it. How do you explain reality? Not what passes for real, but what is real, what can’t be seen but only known through the light that is your own.
    There’s something to be said for being willing to ride the rhythm of the moment and trusting it.  I've given up resisting because resistance is futile, futile and a waste of time. I’ve let go of trying to impose my will on the world and my life and learned to listen instead. I listen to the whispers of Spirit that come my way and have faith in the unfolding of my life and the light that is my own. Why that doesn’t involve TV and TMZ I do not know.  I just know to listen. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's a Choice

   Christmas is two days away.  The house is cleaned, decorated and the presents are wrapped. I’ve made brownies, six batches of Heath Bar Crisps, Potato chip cookies and I’m headed out the door to the farmer’s market to pick up the ingredients I need for   Christmas breakfast and Tim’s Ginger Cookies. You can never have too many cookies especially when you eat them with champagne for dinner.  I’m diggin’ myself and lovin’ my life. I am truly blessed.
  I’ve always been blessed and deeply loved. It’s always been there even if I’ve haven’t been aware of it.  Keeping free of negativity helps me see the blessings that are in my life and there are more than I can count. Keeping free of negativity is a way of wiping mud from my eyes. It’s amazing how much goodness there is in the world when you can see clearly.
     “Negativity is an addiction to the bleak shadow that lingers around every human form ... you can transfigure negativity by turning it toward the light of your soul. “  John O'Donohue, poet. 
     The shadow of fear exists in each of us and I suspect that it will always be there but the gift of free will means that every moment of every day I can turn towards the light that is love.  It’s a choice.   That doesn’t mean it’s always an easy choice to make. It does get easier with time though until eventually you see that whatever appeal the shadow has is a trap that keeps you from the one thing that will  set you free, Love. It’s either fear or love, baby.
       May God bless us with His love and the strength to know that love and have confidence in it. Can I get an amen?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mad Dogs and Hippies

  There is a pivotal scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when a rabid dog comes into town. Atticus Finch is the only person brave enough and skilled enough to shoot the dog that threatens the town and his family. He tells Scout, “Go on in Scout,” then he shoots the dog. Unlike Atticus I don’t always know when the dog is rabid until it’s too late.

  This week I came face to face with a rabid dog, a woman whose carefully crafted illusion of self came undone by her own failure to do what was required of her.  When a person’s self image is the only self they know they become rabid when it’s threatened. They will go to any means necessary to preserve it. They will snarl and snap at whoever gets in the way.   They become fearful and filled with fear, malicious.  Words get twisted and an enemy is created where there was a friend. You can’t talk to them and you can’t reason with them, they’re crazy.  It’s best just to go on inside. That’s what reasonable people do. I am not always reasonable.
  There are times when the hippie in me dances into town, oblivious to what passes for reality. If Harper Lee had put a hippie in To Kill a Mockingbird she would have been like me this week. She would have tried to feed the dog and fix it with what she thought was love but was really her own version of a self serving delusion. One delusion is just as dangerous as another, trust me.  So, I got bit this week then I got mad. That did not make the situation better. It did snap me back into my right mind, thank you very much, but it was bad for awhile.  Being in my right mind helped me see the situation for what it was, then and only then could I choose an action that was based, not on delusion or fear, but on the right action of a relatively sane woman.
    A friend told me that her serenity was more important than relationships, people and causes. She learned to preserve it all costs.  I’m learning to do the same thing and that means keeping my distance from people who are rabid dogs.  There are times when I need to go on inside and shut the door. It doesn’t mean I am unkind or churlish. There’s never a need to be ugly with someone. There is, however, a need to minimize contact with them. The most loving thing I can do is  accept that they are crazy  afraid and there’s not a thing I can do for them except pray that they are restored to their right mind the same way I pray to be restored to my right mind.
  There are times when it seems there is so much fear in a person that there isn't room for love. There is. There’s always room for love.   Love works miracles but it’s the miracle of God’s love not the miracle of a well intentioned hippie.  God’s love is plenty big enough, and while it’s true that His love is manifested in the world by us, it’s also true that we need to know the difference between His love and our ego. We need to know when to go on inside and let Him do what needs to be done. He can handle it. His love is big enough and bright enough for the most fearful of us, even a well intentioned hippie.  

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Purpose of Being Human

   The primary purpose of being human is to experience love, to give love, to receive love. It is not to eat chocolate and drink red wine, chase after guitar players and dance in honky tonks, or raise holy hell and hope we don’t get caught. As enjoyable as those things may be they are not our primary purpose.  Our primary purpose of being human is to reflect the love of God and bring that love into the world. “Love and only love produces miracles.” Marianne Williamson.
  First we must stop waging war against ourselves and each other with negative thoughts and language. It is not necessary. It is not unavoidable. It is a choice we make. The Cherokee legend of Two Wolves tells the story of that inner struggle well.  Grandfather told his grandson that there was a terrible war going on within him between two wolves. One wolf is evil. He is anger and self righteousness, and pride. The other wolf is love, compassion and kindness. “Which one will win, Grandfather?” the child asks.
“The one I feed.”
   It is very easy to feed negativity.  We are bombarded with it. Negative thoughts cripple our spirit and our ability to experience love and the saddest part is that it’s what passes for normal these days. Negativity is not normal. It is not an inevitable part of being human. It’s a choice we make. We get to choose what we put into our minds and what we put into our minds comes out in the world. It’s just that simple. You get what you give so give what you want. I want love so I give love.
   Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I feel like smacking someone in the face with a dead fish. There are days when I’m relatively certain that someone needs to be smacked in the face with a dead fish. Then I remember who I am and  I rummage around for another thought to feed myself because I can. I always have a choice. It is never too late to be great. It is never too late to start over. It is never too late to know love. Every moment is the birth of a new beginning, a fresh start. So, what’s it gonna be, fear or love? The choice is yours.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life Without Nouns

  A very strange thing is happening. A couple of days ago I was in a meeting about our math curriculum and I wanted to reference Maria Montessori.  What I came up with was, “You know, that chick in Italy.”  Then to make matters worse I wanted to quote Pythagoras but the best I could do was, “The dead guy from a long time ago who lived in the place with blue water.”  Somehow Melinda managed to put math, blue water and a long time ago together and come up with his name.  A sugar hit from a couple of Pixi Stix helped, but not much.  I should have just shut up, but I didn’t and it didn’t get better. It’s not just happening at work either.
  I was at a bluegrass jam not long ago and a young guitar player I had met once before came in. I knew everything about him, where he was from, what college he went to, and the fact that he came to Atlanta for college and stayed for love. I knew how many brothers he had and that his parents were social workers. I could not have told you his name if you held a hot poker to my head. I didn’t have a clue. It amused the twenty somethings who were there to no end.  They thought it was a parlor trick because I did it more than once that night. It’s not. A woman I work with calls it Life Without Nouns. 
   They tell me that it happens to you after a certain age and it's all part of the wilderness experience of being human.  It happens to me and it’s going to happen to you. Life is like that. No matter how different we all are we are all, ultimately, human beings having a human experience.  We can embrace the experience of being human and fallible or we can run from it. It’s either love or fear, baby.
  Where there is not love there is fear.  It masquerades as truth and cheapens life.  Fear prevents you from living fully and delighting in the many joys that life has to offer at any age.  It robs you of the treasure that being human offers, to be loved and to love in kind.
    Last spring a group of 5th graders and I were talking about the difference between their generation and mine and their age and mine. When I mentioned that I have lived more than I will live.  Kenyon raised his hand then blurted, “I think you still have a lot of living left to do.”  I think so too. It would be nice to do it with nouns but I’ll take love. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank You

   My ex husband used to say, “Always leave with a good taste in your mouth, Deb.”  There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement.  I knew it then and I know it now. I haven’t always been able to do it, heaven knows I’ve been known to pitch a fit or two, but mainly I make an effort for my own sake. When you leave with a good taste in your mouth you aren’t creating any more baggage to carry into the future. I’m trying to get rid of the baggage I’ve got. I don’t want to create any more.  Gratitude helps with that. It helps lighten the load, lighten the load and a whole lot more. 
   1Thessalonian 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”   No matter what has happened in my life it is gratitude that has set me free and broken the barrier of fear that would hold me hostage to the past. It’s easier to be thankful when you are thankful, when you make it a daily habit. There are so many things to give thanks for when you start really paying attention and staying present to the moment.      
   Rev. John D. Payne of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church wrote, “It’s said that gratitude may be the purest measure of one’s character and spiritual condition.”It is gratitude that allows me to witness the everyday miracles in my life. It is gratitude that keeps my soul unfettered and free that I might sing a Song of God with my life as it is.  My life is what it is. The past is the past and the future is yet to be. The only moment I have is this one and it is here where I seek the Grace of God with a grateful heart. Thank you God for this moment and all that it is. It is enough and I am deeply grateful. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

So You Want to Be Important.

I needed help. I was up to my eyeballs in student projects and student conferences and if any more hands went up in the air I was going to start using them as a ring toss game.  “Help each other, help each other” fell on deaf ears. I called halt and explained that there were all kinds of experts in the room, not just me. I did not have a monopoly on anything.  Hard to believe, I know, but true none the less. I helped my students make a list of other students they could go to for help in a specific area.  Suddenly every eight year old in the room wanted to be on the expert list and they were not shy about it. They were very direct, “You didn’t put me on the expert list!”   One problem solved and another one created.  Luckily for me it was a problem that was easily and quickly solved otherwise I was going to have to suggest that they install a valium dispenser in the teacher’s lounge, an idea whose time as come by the way.
We spent all of ten minutes putting everyone on the expert list. One of my young scholars is an expert at standing in line which doesn’t seem like much but I’ll tell you there are days when I am pretty darned grateful for that bit of expertise. We all like to feel that we are contributing, that we are important, but unlike adults, most kids don’t expect it to be at someone else’s expense.
 I know you know what I’m talking about. There’s always someone who thinks that they can’t possibly be important if someone else is so they make sure they undermine other people. They’re the ones who go around planting little seeds of negativity about other people just to see what will take root. We all know someone who demands that people kowtow to them because they think they are more important then anyone else in the room.  And who hasn’t had an experience with a coworker who is quick to go to the boss about some misdeed so they can feel important. 
That does not make a lick of sense to me. If we are one with God then that means we are all one with each other, right?  If you suffer than on some level I must suffer too and if you shine than doesn’t my light get a little brighter?  If we are all created from God then it must follow that we are all important because we all shine in the eyes of God. Does God love me any less than He loves you? So, can’t we stop being important at someone else’s expense?  Can’t we celebrate each other without being afraid of losing some indispensable part of who we think we are?  
People want to feel important. I get that.  Shoot I want to feel important and I’ll settle for cheap attention and an easy laugh just because it’s fun.  What I don’t want is to diminish someone else so that I can feel puffed up for all of half a second.  I like having attention and feeling important because I am a human being and in case you didn’t get the memo I’m not exactly a shrinking violet.  I have danced on tables and I’ve never met a lamp shade I didn’t look good in.  The thing is I happen to know for a fact that being important is a state of mind that lasts for just this long and really, ya’ll, it’s not the be all and end all of life.  In the grand scheme of things it is just not that significant because it is not who we are, not even close. Being important is, at best, a fleeting sensation that serves no one, not even your own self. It is however, part of the wilderness experience of being human.
 So, go for it, be important, knock yourself out, but does it have to be at someone else's expense?  Can’t we all be important?   Can’t we all be special? 'Cause we are you know. Life is not a game. There are no winners and losers here. There’s room for all of us to shine and we do. We shine in the eyes of God and that is where it matters the most.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's All Good, If You Let It Be What It Is

    I had a busy day ahead of me last Thursday beginning with an early morning meeting with a mother whose son was going to be suspended and ending with a late night of music and a full day in between. The moment my feet hit the floor I was off and running and then I wasn’t. My normally smooth ride to work came to a grinding halt.
  I was one of a string of early morning commuters on the steep curving on ramp to I20 that came to an abrupt stop in the rain. We didn’t slow down. We stopped. No one was moving period.  It was a little like being stuck on top of a Ferris wheel. None of us were going anywhere soon but the view was pretty if you took the time to notice it.  Five minutes passed, then ten. I called work, texted the teacher next to me so she would open up my classroom and then put on Red Haired Boy by Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem. It has some great licks I’ve been trying to learn and I wasn’t going anywhere.
   Twenty minutes passed, I shut the truck off and sat with the window rolled down and watched the rain. Then it hit me, I wasn’t waiting, I wasn’t impatient. I just was. I was calm and peaceful. I was going to be late for my meeting and a math test wasn’t going to get copied but it didn’t matter. They were what would be and this was now and now was the only moment I had. It’s the only moment we ever have but we don’t always take it. We live with one foot in what used to be and one foot in what could be, (but probably won’t be, truth be told,).  I don’t know about you but that generally makes me a little nuts. Ok, a lot nuts, which is why I try to take life one moment at a time, and believe me, try is the operative word in that sentence.  
  Thirty minutes passed when an SUV pulled up along the side of the road and stopped. A young man got out in the rain and started walking up the road. It struck me as a little odd, but what do I know; nothing about him, that much for sure.  I said a quick prayer for his safety and sat, just sat, sat and let peace wash over me.  Ten minutes later traffic started to move again, albeit, at a snail’s pace but moving none the less. I got about a hundred yards down the road when I saw the young man from the SUV walking back to his car. He wasn’t alone. He held the hands of two very young children leaning over them to shield them with his body.  He had a long day ahead of him, mine was nothing in comparison.
   I was late for my meeting, my math test did not get copied and it was all good. It’s always all good if I let it be what it is.



Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Prayer for Dallas

   Last week a friend of mine committed suicide.  He was as good a guy as they come and I will miss him. I will miss his kindness and generosity. I will miss singing Hank Williams songs with him and seeing him smile across the circle.
    I am grateful to know many men like him, good men, who are quiet, every day heroes. They do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and expect nothing in return.  They’re the men who change a tire for a stranger, open doors for women, and make sure everyone in the circle gets a chance to shine.   They’re the men that chase down boats, show eager boaters the line at Five Falls and help because that’s who they are. They’re the guys who coach little league everything, cook pancakes for pancake suppers and build whatever needs built.
    They don’t always get the credit they deserve and I know that too many of them suffer. They endure their sorrow alone and in silence with quiet dignity behind closed curtains in empty rooms that we don’t see.  I will miss Dallas. I still miss Jack and cry for Craig, two other friends who took their lives.  The only thing I know to do is pray.

   My Dear Lord God,
      Let the light of Your Holy Countenance shine upon us and the men we know and love. Bless them with Your Divine Presence. Please be with Dallas’ family during this time, comfort them and ease their sorrow. Fill their hearts with love and their ears with music. Hold them gently in Your loving arms and be their strength. My Dear Lord God, help us all be loving and kind to each other. Let us be bold enough to look past our fears and see the sorrows of another and reach out to them with the confidence that Your love bestows. Help each of us find peace where there is a troubled spirit and strength where there is fear. 
    In the name of Christ My Lord,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just What I Needed

     I have a friend who will never know how good he is for me. Whenever Revel shows up I get a little perk. He encourages my off brand sense of humor and creativity. In fact, not only does he encourage it, he usually has something interesting to contribute. He’s the reason I have a red kayak mailbox that stops traffic.  I’m getting ready to add a piece of art, something metal and circular that will go on the my fence behind a Japanese maple.  I’m leaning towards gears because I like their shapes but am keeping my eyes open. Revel suggested a line of Tibetan Prayer wheels below whatever ‘art’ I come up with.  See what I mean about a having something interesting to contribute?
    I hadn’t realized that I needed a little burst of creativity until he came by.   Now, I have a skeleton coming out of my kayak mailbox with a broken paddle labeled property of River Styx Outdoor Center,  a skeleton sitting on a lawn chair with a glass of wine and a “Help, I’m melting” witch’s hat in a puddle of green with an overturned bucket of ‘water’ in my rose bushes.  I think it’s funny and just different enough to amuse me every time I come home.  I have a feeling that my neighbors think I’m a little odd, as if having a kayak for a mailbox doesn’t hint at that already. Today my neighbor came out, smiling and shaking her head, muttering, “Debra, Debra, Debra.”  What can I say, I like expressing my creativity in a humorous way sometimes and I’m visual.
     I get a kick out of things that are made by every day people like you and me.  It shows their individuality. That’s one of the reasons that I like local music and I like making my own music sometimes. I’m never going to be Patsy Cline and I don’t have to be.  I get to make music simply because it feels good and that’s a great thing to be able to do. It’s the reason my favorite jewelry has been made by me or a friend and why I like using anything I’ve knitted, especially socks. 
  I don’t think of myself as an artist, not even a musician for that matter, but the truth is I’m happier when I am being creative in one way or another.  When someone comes into my home for the first time they always comment on how creative it is.  I don’t see that. I think it’s just me. 
    We all need a creative outlet and it can take many forms. There are as many ways to be creative as there are people.  I think that we need to exercise our creativity on a regular basis. I know I do. When you are being creative you are solving problems and looking at the world in new ways.  We all benefit from each other’s creativity.   Creativity is one way your spirit gets to come out and play.  Think of it as recess for the soul.  We need it. We need it from ourselves and we need it from each other.
Creativity, have you used yours today?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

    “There's a kind of a restless feeling and it catches you off guardGordon LightfootI've been feeling like that this week, restless and ill at ease. River Daughter used to say,“Sometimes you just want to drive 90 miles an hour and do everything they tell you not to.”  She was 15 then and that pretty much sums it up.   Being disrespectful of that restless feeling and wanting to stomp it down will cause a grown woman to do all sorts of stupid ass things.  I know that because I’m a grown woman who’s done all sorts of stupid ass things.  And I don’t regret any of them for a minute, thank you very much, not even the drummers, and that’s saying something.
     There are some women and not a few men who just can’t stand that itchy soul feeling that you get sometimes and before you know it they’re off on a reckless tear that will make someone cry for them.  They don’t give themselves time and space to listen to the breathings of their heart.  They don’t trust that good things coming to them.
     What’s needed is deep trust and quiet, solitude to listen deeply to your heart and the courage to be true to what matters most in you.  Patience, which has never been my strong suit, is needed. Patience, stillness and a little wariness would not be out of order. Yeah, all in all, sometimes drummers can seem like the better choice or at least the lesser of two evils.                        
   It’s tempting to call what’s happening wrong and run like hell when really, it’s your heart saying, and “Get ready, honey, change is coming.”   What that change is and where it will lead is a mystery and there’s something sacred about the mystery of the soul that we need to honor.  We forget that sometimes, least I do. Then I remember that I don’t, in fact, need to know all the answers.  Where to next will make itself known in good time, I don’t need to know where to, how come, when or why, it’s not my job to know.  It’s my job to do, to get ready. It’s my job to listen and I don’t mean to The Grateful Dead or Sam Bush although they help, believe it not.
    This week I am getting ready, for what I do not know. I can’t say that it’s not tempting to chase after something tasty that will feel good and distract me for a moment or two.  I can’t say that I don’t want to drive 90 miles an hour and be a little reckless. I also can’t say that I don’t occasionally want to chuck it all and run away to AustraliaI can say that I know for sure that where ever you go there you are.  That leaves me with honoring the restlessness that is an inevitable part of life and trusting that the answer to what next will come. 
  If I were a snake I’d be shedding my skin. Instead I am cleaning out bookshelves and closets, going hiking with friends and sitting in silence when I dare. I’m eating cake for breakfast because I can, taking  long, headed to nowhere walks, and I am trusting that I am deeply loved by a cherished Father and that good things are in fact coming to me. Good things are coming to all of us. I know that because they are already here. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sometimes It's Mainly Fear

    Mostly I don’t pay much mind to what people say. I know that I am a little bit odd for some folks and I for sure march to the beat of a different drummer. Well maybe not drummer, if you know what I mean, a different beat for sure.  I know that not everyone is going like me anymore than I’m going to like them.  I have long accepted the fact that there will always be someone that I am too something for, too loud, too outspoken, too something.  It’s all part of the human experience. From a very young age I believed that being the best me I could be was the right thing to do. I just always trusted that God made me and that there must be something right with that even when there were people who didn’t think so.  And there were plenty of people who didn’t.
   They thought that I should be more like them. That’s the core it.  Plenty of people wanted me to be like them rather I actually was or not.  That just never felt very loving to me. I tried though because I wanted to be part of a family and a community. But when it came right down to it, I couldn't be something I'm not. I just couldn’t do it. A little Bob Dylan, “I never could drink that wine and call it blood,” must have crept in among the Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn I grew up with. Sometimes it sure shows.
    I learned to read at a very young age and quickly discovered other lives through the window of books.  I saw that there were better ways of living and other places to call home.  Mainly I learned the value of an education.  It was the desire for an education and what it took to get that education that caused my family to disown me. Literally. That was hard and it didn’t help that I was going through a divorce at the time.  I leaned a little harder on God, prayed a lot and trusted the unfolding of my life. I learned faith up close and personal.  Did I mention that I prayed a lot? I became comfortably independent because I discovered that I was never actually alone. I had God.  
   I’m used to being independent.  I’m living a life. It’s not a life for everyone but it’s a good life for me. Revel teases me that I don’t make compromises because I don’t actually have to and that people, even strangers, are really nice to me. He thinks I’m a little spoiled and he’s right.  I have good friends.  You’d think I’d know who they are but sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes I’m so worried about protecting my heart that I don’t see a gift when it’s being given.
   This week someone told my friend Rebecca something about me that was as unkind as it was untrue.  They were mean but then, they’re always a little mean. (This is where Melinda would smirk and tell me that you can't change stupid. I’m trying not to go there.)  Rebecca was quick to let the person know that she was wrong. Rebecca came to my defense the way a good friend does.  She was, you know, loyal and supportive.  She told me about the conversation to reassure me.  Rebecca knew that I had been feeling a little insecure about something in my life. When she told me about what had happened she was letting me know that she understood me and she cared.  Only it took me a day or so to figure that out.
   I listened with my ego when I should have listened with my heart and I made myself miserable.  I heard that someone was saying mean things about me, someone who has always been a little mean to me.  I didn’t hear that someone stood up for me and was telling me that I could trust her.   I let my feelings get so hurt by something someone said that I missed….well, I guess it would be the love. I mean, it’s either fear or love, right? 
   This week it was mainly fear. But, here’s the thing about love, it’s always there. When I am not living in fear I am astonished at how much love there is in my life and the world. When I am not protecting my heart it is free to unfold in the richness of spirit and love that is in my life and has always been in my life in one form or another.  It’s either fear or love baby.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Green Is Not a Good Look for Me

     “Claire Lynch has a great song, “Jealousy, oh jealousy, what a devil you must be. With your chains around my heart…”    I’m dying to sing it, I don’t actually want to experience it though but experience it is just what I what got to do.   
   Recess is a nice part of the day for students and teachers. Melinda and I take our third graders outside after lunch and we joke that the world needs to give itself recess.  The sun is shining and everywhere you look children are laughing and playing during a pause in the day. Most of the time one of us is grading papers or talking to kids. A couple of weeks ago she was grading papers, a math test her students had taken just before lunch.  Did I say grading, chortle with glee is more like it.  Her students had nailed a very difficult test and she was literally jumping up and down with joy.
     I was almost happy for her. I wanted to be happy for her. I tried to be happy for her. It didn’t come out happy. It came out, a little, well, jealous. I almost didn’t recognize that that’s what it was.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been jealous. Melinda was celebrating her and her students’ success and I was jealous.  That’s not the kind of person I want to be but there it was.  
   Like I said, it’s either fear or love baby and it wasn’t love. That meant it had to be fear. You gotta love logic sometimes.  The question was fear of what. All I had to do was ask the question to get the answer.  My fear was the lie that usually fuels jealousy. I secretly believed that I not enough and would never be enough, at least when it comes to teaching math.   Some of my most memorable lessons have been my failures and they usually involve a math lesson.  Lee Ann has seen me teach me math more than once and when I get a little too full of myself she whispers, “math, math, math.”  I have a reputation….and I might deserve it.
  I sat on the edge of the playground watching children swing the swings, slide on the slides and chase each other on the edge of the kickball field and considered my jealousy. Melinda stopped jumping up and down for a minute and explained what she did that made the difference so I could do it too. Then when she went back to chortling with glee and jumping up and down, and I can’t say I blame her. That test was hard. Truthfully, I didn’t begrudge Melinda her success as much as I wanted the same thing for myself. I wanted it for myself but didn’t really believe it was possible.  That was a sobering thought that I didn’t much like. Think about that for a minute, ya’ll, ‘cause that was the key. Had I just given up on myself, accepted something that didn’t have to be true because it was easier than changing?  I decided to act as if being a good math teacher, not just teacher, but a math teacher were possible. After all, I’m a teacher and it’s not like teaching math is genetically coded.
  I spent the week doing a little research and started teaching math the way I teach reading and writing, which I’m pretty good at. I wrote lessons that were heavy on vocabulary, analogies, and writing. Then, lo and behold, we went to a math workshop that proposed teaching math using… yeah, you guessed it, vocabulary, analogies and writing.  I discovered that I like teaching math and I’m actually pretty good at it.  My students are talking about math and get excited when I announce a math talk. The word problems they write have a twisted bent but show they understand the concepts and can put their thoughts on paper.
   Jealousy can, and often does, lead to resentment and destroys relationships. It can also be a springboard to something new, a new way of being.  It’s either fear of love, baby and love is really much easier in the long run.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a math test to grade.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Before You Say Anything, Consider This

   “You don’t understand it’s hard not to be jealous when everyone has what you want and need.”   A number of possible responses came to mind after a friend hurled that statement in my direction. But, like an old gal once said, “If it’s not a question it doesn’t need an answer.”   Instead of saying anything I listened and said nothing. I’m not her momma.  Besides, you and I both know that there are times when people just aren’t going to listen.
   I’ve certainly been one of those people. When I was dating Steve, a.k.a Drummer #1, people tried to tell me in not so nice words that they thought I was the village idiot for staying involved with him. (They honestly had a point.)  One woman, after listening to me complain about him for the hundred and third time said, “Listen to yourself, all he does is hurt you, why are you doing this to yourself!”  Everyone I knew had something to say about the situation I kept myself in, everyone except Martha that is.
   When I relayed another tale of drama involving Steve to her, Martha listened, changed the subject and then we went on to go hear some music, see a good movie or wander through a book store. She very rarely offered advice or guidance, she just let me be who I was and do what I was doing and God knows, I was going to do what I wanted anyway.  I was a little perplexed about why she didn’t say anything though and what she thought.  Martha was, and is, one of the women I most respect and trust. Not because she is so perfect but because she so human and so gracious about it.  I finally asked her about the situation I was in because I was not a complete brain dead moron.   I wanted to know what she thought and I was ready to hear it.
 We were sitting in a theater waiting for a movie to start when I asked her why she thought I stayed in a relationship that caused me so much pain and turmoil.  She didn’t say anything for a minute than in a matter of fact tone said, “It takes what it takes for as long as it takes you to know what you need to know.” That sentence was what it finally took for me to look at what I was doing with Steve and why. Shortly after that conversation I finally, and to the great relief of my friends, ended things with him.  That was almost twenty years ago, close to it anyway.  I’m on the other side of that particular lesson, thank you very much. But, I’m still learning from it.
   Now, as it happens, I have a couple of friends who are going through the stuff that occasionally happens in life.  Any well meaning advice I am tempted give them, is just that, well meaning, and unnecessary. If they want my advice they’ll ask for it and they haven’t so I’m keeping my mouth shut and letting them be who they need to be. They’re both grown and they both got some sense, at least as much as I do, if not more. We all walk in the shadow of our fears sometimes. It’s part of the human experience.  They’ll get through what they’re going through just fine. Just like I got through what I needed to get through just fine. There’s not a thing I need to do for either of them except keep them in my prayers and keep in touch. It’s not my job to save them because they don’t need to be saved, at least not by me.
  Martha didn’t think she needed to save me and because she didn’t need to save me, she didn’t try. She let me be who I was and do what I needed to do.  That was a great gift in my life.  She told me once, when I was questioning my life and my relative sanity, that I was sane before and would be sane again, (even though at the moment sane wasn’t immediately evident in what I was doing). She had enough faith for both of us. It was awfully nice to be on the receiving end of that and it’s just as nice to be on the giving end of it too. I hope I’m on the giving end of it anyway because I want to be. 
    It takes a generous and loving heart to accept people for who they are and trust that they know how to live their life. It might not be the way I would live my life but their life is not mine to live.  I’m not paying their bills and they’re not sharing my bed. I might feel differently if that were the case but I hope not.
   My friends will get through their stuff just fine. They don’t need to me save them anymore than my jealous friend needs me to save her.  She gets to be who she needs to be too.   Regarding the issue of jealousy though, all I got to say is this, it’s either fear or love baby, but that’s a topic for another day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's Not Personal

  I must have missed the memo that said it was Celebrate Complaining Week. Every where I turned someone was complaining about something.  This week my women friends complained about what jerks men were, a guy friend complained about his wife’s cooking, a friend called to complain that her boss reprimanded her for her attitude. I heard complaints about the weather, traffic, the lack of rain.  One woman I know casually didn’t even say hello before she launched into a litany of complaints. When I mentioned that how much complaining I was hearing this week she told me that people needed to vent and that it was normal.
  I don’t think complaining is normal, maybe I’m wrong but if complaining is normal than normal is highly overrated. Actually I think normal is highly overrated, but let’s not go there. The thing about complaining is that it does absolutely no good. It doesn’t even feel good. What it is does is feed the discontent that lurks below the surface.  Once it’s fed it’s like an evil genie let loose to run amuck destroying anything in its path, namely my inner peace and well being. I like my inner peace and well being. Being content and satisfied with my life is a good thing.
   I mostly don’t complain and to be honest I don’t especially want to be around it either.  Sorry folks, but I really like being happy and complaining tend to get in the way of that.
  So, if I’ve changed the subject with you this week, walked away or kept my distance, it’s not personal. It’s me trying to keep my inner peace intact and in one piece. You see, I’ve noticed that when I complain or listen to complaints it’s because I’ve focused my attention on the one thing I didn’t like or haven’t forgiven and ignored the ten other things that went well and that I’m grateful for. I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a good life, it’s not perfect by a long shot but mostly it works for me and it works best when I’m not complaining. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Suspicious Minds

     Revel thinks I’m spoiled. “No matter where you go people help you and do things for you. I don’t get it.”    It’s true, people are mostly nice to me and I’m mostly nice to them. This is especially true on the river. People on the river are just nice. That’s why I like it there, well, one of the reasons anyway. There are other reasons but the people have a lot to do with it. But Revel is wrong, not everyone is nice to me. Hard to understand, I know, but, take Andy for example.
   If Andy is at a jam where I am I can usually count on him being snotty at least once, if not down right mean.  At least I used to be able to count on it. Andy, who has been an annoying asshole for five years, is out of the blue and unexpectedly, being nice to me. He complimented me on a song I sang and loaned me his tuner. He almost smiled at me. Small things I know, but completely out of character with the Andy I've grown to know and tolerate. Then there’s Darlene whose mission in life seems to have been to prove I’m the village idiot.  Lately she’s giving me compliments and bringing me tea. And they aren’t the only ones, it’s like I’m living a Coke commercial, you know the one, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”
      Somehow in the middle of being curious about the changes I was seeing in other people I realized that I had a choice to make. I could accept this apparent change in them or I could continue to react to them the way they used to be with me. I could keep trying to pound them into label I had for them like a two year old trying to pound a square peg into a round whole or I could let them be who they are now and by extension I could be a different me with them. Loving and open hearted instead of fearful. And let’s face it; it’s either fear or love, baby. I offered love and it’s a lot easier to do these days.
      Elvis Presley was never a favorite of mine but he had a point with Suspicious Minds. “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds. We can’t build our dreams on suspicious minds”    People do change…..if you let them.  Suspicious minds can get in the way of the unfolding miracle of the soul. Suspicious minds whisper warnings and judgments instead of acceptance and trust. Maybe you’ve heard them? Mine used to say things like, “I wonder what she really wants?” or He must know whose he’s talking to.” It was always something that justified my shutting my heart and acting out of fear instead of love.  Then it hit me. I was being was suspicious, not because of anything they did or didn’t do, but, because I was guarding my self against an attack that might happen and that was a problem. I mean, who am I, Edger Casey? Not the last time I looked anyway.
      The need to be right about who you think someone is so that you can continue to defend yourself against an attack that might happen is just insane. And I’m many things but I’m not insane. I know this because Ray told me that everyone is a little crazy but I was the least crazy person I know.  So, I let the past die and smiled at Andy and accepted Darlene's compliment and tea. And I did it for me. I did it because I like being happy and having positive relationships with people. I like being nice and having people be nice to me. Life is just easier without the drama of being outraged, annoyed and upset all the time and  that means accepting people for who they are now, not who they were.  People do change, if you let them.
   Don’t get me wrong I’m betting that Andy and I aren’t going to get married and sashay down the primrose path. He’s not a guitar playing cowboy from Montana who paddles a red caption, after all.  He’s a dang banjo player for heaven’s sake, and I doubt that Darlene and I will be BFF’s forever but you never know. Like I like I always say, “You never know what your soul has in store for you.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The World Does Not Rest on Your Shoulders.

     I wrote a blog called Tiltling at Windmills that basically said, “Stop fighting battles that don’t need to be fought.”  Some times I’m just along for the ride here and that was one of those times. I recognized the wisdom of what I wrote. I knew it was the right thing to do but there was a part of me that protested ever so slightly. I wanted to sputter “But, but, but, if I don’t do it, who will?”  Raise your hand if you have ever had that thought flicker across your heart. Come on, get those hands up. Be honest.
 The beliefs that I grew up with and have defined who I think I am up to now were being challenged by my inner guidance, which I mostly trust. I know that at my age I should trust it but I’m me and there are times when I get guidance and my reaction is “You want to me to do what?? Seriously! I don’t think so.”  I know that it doesn’t make sense to argue with God but it’s honest and I decided a long time ago that if I was going to have a relationship with God I was just going to be me and be honest. I figured that God made me and God loved me and He would understand. But, I digress. 
   I started to call Bob who I can always count on to help me muddle through confusion but it was late and I get up early. I went to bed wrestling with the ideas as much out of curiosity as confusion. I may question my inner guidance but it always comes through for me. Early the next morning, just before I woke completely up I heard a voice say, “The world does not rest on your shoulders.” That voice,, which comes when I am still and quiet, has never failed to fill me with peace and serves me well.  It was like a weight off my shoulders, no pun intended.
   Here’s what I learned. I am not bigger than God. I don’t need to be.  When I think it’s up to me to save the world, well, honestly it smacks of arrogance.  That arrogance gets in the way of what needs to be done because it is attached to an outcome that I think is right, needed and or is the only answer. I know you know what I’m talking about. When I think the world rests on my shoulders I stop listening to the Voice of God and start listening to the voice of my own self that needs to be important in some way. You know, like saving the world.
   My motives become as much or more about me than the service that I think I’m rendering and am not.   Some times you gotta stop and question your motives, not the motives that you think you have but the deep, dark, secret motives that really drive you.  It’s either love or fear, baby.
    I believe that we are here to raise the level of humanity and that it begins, not with other people, finding fault and blaming them or fixing what we think is wrong. It begins with a loving heart that is not tainted by fear that we are not enough unless we are important in some way. There’s the truth of it. A whole lot do gooders don’t actually do much good because they aren’t serving others as much as they are serving themselves and on some level they know it. They might not like it but they know it. And the  people they think they are helping certainly know it.
  When you serve humanity with a pure heart you are unattached to outcomes. You do what needs to be done, guided by God and let Him take care of the rest. You are not bigger than God. The world does not rest on your shoulders. Be still and listen and know that the right thing is happening and all is well even when it seems not to be, especially then. Remember this and know it well, “The darkest hour is just before dawn.”

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Should Have Said No.

 Setting limits is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and each other. It is an act of love. Setting limits means saying, no. No is a complete sentence. Try that on for size. “No.”  But, I’m a woman and that means that sometimes I don’t say no when I should.  I say “No, because____”  I say, “Fine,” with an exasperated sigh.  I say all the things women say when they want to say no, when they should say no and don’t.
  I’m pretty good at saying no. Sometimes I say it just to say and because it makes my students laugh.
 “Can we go to recess?” 
“Can we sit on the rug?”
“Can we do math?”
“Can we do our homework?”
  A few minutes of this and we all laugh and then we go to the rug and out to recess and they do math.  Anything for a cheap laugh, it’s the secret to my success, that and a song for any occasion.
      I don’t say no when I should some times because I’m tired, have had too much sugar, am lazy, or afraid.  When I don’t use my no muscle nothing good happens. I get pissed off, usually at the wrong person and I take it out on someone, usually the wrong person. Before I know it I’ve lost my temper and am looking for a gunslinger, preferably one from Montana who’s toting a guitar.
  My dad used to say, “A snake will bite, Deb.”  It was his way of telling me not to expect people to be different than they are. I know that a drummer is going to be fun for a while then break my heart. I know that Joe is going to say something rude and piss me off and I know that Donna can’t be trusted to provide information that is reliable and consistent because she always has a personal agenda. I know that. I wasn't always a good girl but I loved my dad and I did listen to him.  A snake will bite. I got bit this week. I lost my temper and hollered and yelled and cried until I felt better. That was then. 
This is now. Now, I’m putting on a low cut, red dress, dangling earrings and going to a party. I’m going to drink too much, laugh too loud and flirt my ass off.  After all there’s not a mad that a good dress and a little flirt won’t fix.  My dad didn’t tell me that. I figured that out all by myself...  with a  little help from a drummer.            
   What can I say, it takes what it takes. This week it took me getting mad to remember that setting limits is an act of love and the best time to set a limit is before you need it. I'm outta here, don't wait up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Tilting at Windmills

    I work with a number of women who are ten and twenty years younger than me.  They add a nice counterpoint to my life, a sweet to my salty.  They keep me honest and make me laugh.  They also remind me why I have a refrigerator magnet that reads, “Honey, you couldn’t pay me to be twenty again.”   Some times they make me crazy, all I can do is shake my head and bite my tongue.  Occasionally their lack of respect makes me want to smack them into next week.  When that happens I throttle back and regroup because I know that my irritation says more about me than them. 
  Mostly I like their perspective of things even when you can’t tell them a dang thing. The biggest difference I see between our generations is that they aren’t fighting anything. They aren’t tilting at windmills. Women of my generation were the generation of change.  We were part of the woman’s movement, the peace moment and the civil rights movement.  Our generation fought for the right to be more than a stereotype. We fought for the right to chase our dreams and live life on our own terms. Some of us are still fighting. 
   We fight shadows on the wall with a wooden sword because it’s what we know. It’s how we define ourselves. Choose your label sister, survivor, renegade, rebel, outcast, trendsetter. They aren’t the truth of who we are.  They aren’t even the truth of who we were and yet we cling to them like a child clinging to a ratty teddy for security.  We fought to remove limits yet, we limit ourselves the most when we cling to labels of who we think we are or were. Consider the irony of that for a minute.  How much value have we invested in being righters of wrongs and slayers of dragons?
    When I sit in the stillness of now I am none of the things that I think I am or am afraid to be. I simply am, a child of God, whole and enough.  There are no dragons to slay, no wrongs  to be righted, no windmills to tilt at. There are no enemies.
    I like the sound of that, no enemies.  I am putting down my sword and turning away from windmills. I am done creating enemies so that I can be who I think I am rather than be the being that God created me to be.  

 Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It's Either Fear or Love, Baby

   Are my efforts motivated by love or are they motivated by fear? I had one or two opportunities to ask myself that question this week. And by one or two I mean three or four…or five.   The question itself was all it took to bring me back to center, that calm lovely state of love that is becoming more familiar with each passing day.  I like it.  I like it a whole lot more than fear. And fear has become so prevalent that it passes for normal. It’s not normal. Are you getting that? Fear is not normal. Negativity is not normal. It’s either fear or love, baby, and it's your choice.
     An interesting thing happens when I am in the state of love.  I do less and accomplish more. I am inspired, and know the exactly the right thing to do.  Whatever I need to accomplish is better, more productive, and more fun.    Deepak Chopra  refers to the “The Law of Least Effort.”  
    Are my efforts motivated by love or are they motivated by fear?  Fear that I am not enough, am doing the wrong thing, that I will get into trouble if I don’t (fill in the blank.)When my efforts are motivated by fear nothing good happens and negativity contaminates everything in my life.  I rush around and become demanding of myself and the people in my life. I become as much as a bitch as I want to be if only because I can’t stand my own self.
     I want my efforts to be motivated by love. I love the feeling of dancing with the universe and being in union with my soul. That only happens when I listen to the music of love. This week when I wrote my lesson plans and do list at home I added something radical, joy breaks. Five minutes every hour to just stop and reconnect what matters the most, God who is the source of my everything and who is good.Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, Psalms 98:4. Remember that one? "Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people; a cheerful spirit is in keeping with his nature, his acts, and the gratitude which we should cherish for his mercies." C.H. Spurgeon, in The Treasury of David (commenting on Psalm 100:1). 
    In case you didn’t get the memo, fear is not a joyful noise. This week I am going to make a joyful noise, how about you? It’s fear or love, baby.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taking Care of Number One

  Take care of your self is number eight of my top ten ways to eliminate negativity. I am more apt to believe the lies of negativity when I am run down or sick.  Yes, that’s right, I said, negativity is lies. Denial, complaining, critical judgments, unpleasantness, malicious thoughts and words, all negative, all lies. My life runs better without it. I’m happier and that is reason enough to keep it out of my life.  And reason enough to take care of myself.

                                             Ten Ways to Take Care of Number One
  1. Start and end the day with God in silence and prayer. You are not your body. You are not your life. You are not your thoughts. You are a precious child of God. Take time to remember that.
  2. Look good and smile often. You feel better when you look good.  What’s the saying? When you got it flaunt it. You got it honey, so flaunt it. 
  3. Eat healthy life sustaining foods. Sugar and processed foods are not your friends.  Yes, that includes cookies, the tea is fine. Lose the cookies.
  4. Drink enough water.  That crystal carafe on your bedside table is nice with flowers but water would be better way to start your morning. Just a suggestion.
  5. Get some exercise everyday.  A walk around the block will do. Remember your misspent youth and crank up a little Grateful Dead or Little Feat. Pull the blinds, put on a swirly skirt and dance until you can’t stop smiling.
  6. Plan something fun to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be much, a video on Wednesday or some music on Thursday.
  7. Go to bed at a reasonable hour. You get up at 4:30.  Do the math.
  8. Bring beauty into your life. Your soul feasts on beauty be generous with it.  
  9. Be grateful.  Repeat after me, I am grateful that….. I am grateful for….I am grateful that I….. I am grateful to be able to……
  10.  Slow down. You are not the Energizer Bunny. It will get done, it always does.

   Women don’t always take care of themselves, my self included. That’s why I need this list as a reminder. Take care of yourself. And that means you too. Now, get off the computer and go do something good for yourself.  You are the only you the world has and we need your gifts.