Saturday, November 29, 2014

Standing Still to Not Know

cover art
I have spent the week hanging out, listening to hours of music, lingering in bed, seeing friends, and doing some soul searching. I've wrestled with angels this week. I've had wonderful meals, stimulating conversations, and have cried more than once.  I have seen grace and love amidst it all. I watched a toddler who had a melt down and his apologetic mother be comforted and reassured by the people in a long line at the grocery store. A man ran to the other end of the store to get a wreath when I was in line at Home Depot after he heard me say that I wish I had picked on a five dollar wreath he and his wife had in his cart. People wave at each other in my neighborhood. I heard, "Let me get that for you." "I've got that." "Thank you." There is goodness and love in my world.

I don't know where I stand or what I believe about a lot of issues right now, that would be the wrestling with angels bit. I do know that we are all part of the wilderness experience of being human and that alone warrants respect and compassion on our part. Who am I to judge anyone? I've done my share of raising hell and being stupid.  That's part of the wilderness experience of being human and so is Love. This week I saw a dozen small ways that people care about each other and are trying to create a Beloved Community. May it be so. I am certain of only one thing today. It's either fear or love, baby. I’m trying to put a little more Love in my world. Are you?


Monday, November 10, 2014

Spiritual Wounds & Nine Year Old Philosphers

 I read aloud to my fourth graders every afternoon to wrap up the day. This month we are reading Into the Land of the Unicorn by Bruce Coville. Cara is a young heroine who takes a literal leap of faith and lands in Luster, home of the Unicorns. Early in the story she gets into a fight for her life with a snarky creature who wants the amulet she has been entrusted with.  When she wakes up she is being healed by a unicorn who tells her that she has one wound that is harder to heal, a spiritual wound.

The reason I read Into the Land of the Unicorn is for the lessons in moral courage and choice. I’ve read that book dozens of times, but I have never noticed that particular line before today.  “You have a spiritual wound that is much harder to heal.”  Without thinking I asked, “What is a spiritual wound?” I didn't expect very much from the question. They were only fourth graders after all, average, squirmy ready for the day to end fourth graders. They’re not even one of my best classes.  The question wasn't even out of my mouth when their hands shot up.  I called on Nate who was waving his hand frantically.

He took a deep breath then sat up straighter as if to add emphasis to the point he was about to make, “A spiritual wound is what God gives you to help get you where you need to be.”  There were a dozen heads nodding in agreement followed by more urgent waving of hands.  I did what a wise teacher does when confronted with the unfathomable, stayed silent and called on my students.  I listened to them agree with each other that a spiritual wound is necessary.

I think my young philosophers were onto something.  I love the idea that spiritual wounds are a way for God to get you where you need to be.  If I understand my young scholars correctly a spiritual wound is sacred, the healing of which changes you and those around you.  The first step is to acknowledge it, that means letting go of the shame that we seem so attached to these day. The shame that binds us in fear is infinitely more damaging than the wound itself. How might our lives be different if we treated our wounds as a scared gift instead of something we need to hide?  After all, it’s either fear or love, baby.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

3 D Cell Batteries and a Pair of Shoes Later

 Several chapters ago in a long life of stories I took forever and a heart ache to end a bad relationship, mainly because the sex was so good. When I did call it quits my friends were generous with their support and their advice. Number one on their list of things to do, other than stop dating drummers, was to love myself.  I thought it was an empty feel good platitude that didn’t really mean anything; mainly because I didn’t know what it meant.

I’m older now. It’s taken me that time and a few more stories to understand what it means to love your self.  It’s not what I thought. It doesn't involve 3 D cell batteries for one thing, although that may help keep you away from the odd drummer who comes calling. It also doesn't involve shoes, even though any woman worth her weight in mascara knows that you can’t go wrong with the right pair of shoes. No, loving yourself is different than self gratification, however that looks to you. Self love is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves and it begins, not with 3 D cell batteries or a pair of shoes. It begins in your mind and heart.

Loving yourself means that you are on your side, you think good thoughts about yourself and you do kind things.  You make choices that help you and empower your future self. You stop doing stupid crap that causes you to suffer because you care about you! And you stop looking at your life with critical eyes blinded by judgment and unreasonable expectations.  Because here’s the thing, we are all flawed, it’s part of the wilderness experience of being human. 

You cannot build a life of success on a litany of complaints and flaws.  We are all flawed. That’s a given. And we are also glorious.  That’s the part we forget, and that’s what loving yourself reminds you of. You are glorious, flaws and all. Isn't that how you feel about the people you love?  So, maybe just for today you can consider what it would mean to love yourself the same way you love others.

Maybe you are tolerating something you should walk away from,or there's that one thing you know you should be doing that you aren't.  Let today be the day you stop denying yourself what you most want because you don’t believe you deserve it. Let today be the day you do something that will give you a better story to tell.  Let today be the day that you are on your side.   It’s either fear or love, baby.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Elixir of Small Delights

He didn't notice me at all. He was too young for that, a tow headed baby boy tucked securely inside a bright green sling carried by his mother, his blue eyes filled with joy at the world passing by.  Delight and exhaustion, that happy mixture known only to young mothers and foolish lovers was etched across his mother’s face.  Walking along side them was a woman my age that was stunningly beautiful in a way that Madison Ave. and Hollywood have yet to recognize.  Dressed simply in jeans and a tee-shirt, her eyes full of love and a tender smile her only make up. One hand was on the small of the mother’s back and the other caressed the tow headed infant’s head in the universal symbol of cherish and protect. We smiled in recognition although we had never met and crossed the street going in opposite directions.

I grinned all the way home, delighted with the blessing I had witnessed. I let the goodness of that moment fill me up until I was like a cup running over.  How often have you walked past the small delights of the soul because you were too busy or too preoccupied with the concerns of the world?  Taking in the small delights during day that can restore how we see ourselves and each other.  We have to notice them first; we have to give the present moment it’s full due to be able to embrace the goodness that is so abundant in our lives.

 I tossed my book bag and purse on the nearest chair when I got home and turned the kettle on for tea. While I washed the day from my hands I took a quick peek in the mirror and saw something I didn't expect to see at the end of the long first week of getting ready for a new school year. I saw a smile and eyes that sparkled with joy. That’s what taking in the small delights will do for you; it’s the best beauty secret I know. Who needs Lady Clairol and L'Oreal when you've got the elixir of small delights.  It’s either fear or love, baby. What do you see?


 Art by ladysymphonia 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Man in a Hat and a Wildish Way Child

He was recently single with a wouldn't die dream of the man he wanted to be when he was seventeen.  With money to burn and time on his hands he went out and bought all the trappings of the life he thought he wanted and never got to have.  It went down hill after that.  I guess he didn't know that a hat does not make you a cowboy.  His carefully cultivated life that shouted “Here’s who I am”  ended up being a mile wide and half an inch deep, nothing he could sustain or wanted to when it was all said and done.  The sad part is that he is so busy telling the world who he wants to be that we never get to see who he really is. And neither does he.

Then there’s Rachel. Rachel is a seven year old wildish way child who knows who she is because her mother lets her Be.  Not too long ago she dressed herself in purple shorts, an eighties headband, added a school award  and two paper leis for good measure then struck a pose that declared to the world just how fabulous she knew herself to be. Rachel doesn't try to hide or pretend to be something that she’s not. She knows what I have recently learned again. We are not who the world tells us to be. Nor are we who we declare ourselves to be in the world. Who we are is Love. Love is always right there, waiting to be let loose in the world.  It doesn't matter if you have been happily married for fifty years or single for twenty.  You can be in house full of people or living on an island alone. Love is there because you carry it with you. It's part of our DNA. You are always in love. Now, how cool is that.

When we stop shouting who we are to the world and allow silence to fill our lives something slightly magical happens. We enter the space inside ourselves and in that space we see ourselves as we really are, Love. It may only be a glimpse, but hey, sometimes that’s all it takes to remind you that you are not your wounds, you are not your past, you are not your fears.  You can lay those burdens down and experience the Divine and radiant beauty inherent in each of us. When I see myself as I truly am, a deeply loved child of God, I can’t help but see you that way, and her, and him, and them over there. Then poof, just like that, if only for a flicker in time, differences disappear and we are one, a family of man.

That truth, we are all One Divinely created soul of humanity, never changes.  The only thing that changes is our awareness of it. You either see yourself  with love or you see yourself with fear. And what you see is what you get. When you are like Rachel and you see yourself with love you can’t help but see others with love. The minute that happens it no longer matters what you  or someone else does or doesn't do for a living, where you live or don’t live, and it for damn sure doesn't matter what you look like.  As my friend Bob says, “We’re all born naked, after that it’s drag.” The only thing that matters is that you become who you were born to be, a divine and deeply loved being of peace. It's either fear or love, baby.  What's it gonna be?


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Uncharted Lands and New Beginnings

I have a long history of failure with maps. An orienteering course while I was in college comes to mind. I successfully convinced four experienced members of my team that I knew where I was when I didn't.  They had to send a truck for us.  I don't know why they listened to me anyway because I almost never knew where I was going and got lost more often than I didn't.  Another time I was leading a paddling trip on The Chattooga River,  I came out of the woods with my canoe on my shoulder a very long way from where I should have been.  These stories, and there are more, don’t surprise anyone who knows me.  It’s not unusual for the person I’m meeting somewhere to call and without a hello, or howdy do ask, “How lost are you?”

 Recently, I found myself in uncharted territory, a new and completely unexpected beginning, and I wanted a map. I wanted someone to say, “Over here, not there, go right, not left.”  I wanted a label for my unknown destination in an unfamiliar land. And that is where the problem lay, wanting to call something done when it has yet to begin stops the unfolding of a thing in its track.  It kills the magic inherent in the creation of all new things.

You can’t use an old map in an uncharted land. It does you absolutely no good.  What was a lake on your old map could be a mere pond in the land which is new. What you call a destination, could be a gateway leading to you somewhere more glorious than you imagined…but only if you keep going.  So, take care when you enter an uncharted land. Don’t be so quick to think you know when you clearly don’t. Stop trying to make it what it’s not or what you think it should be and let it be what it could be if you left it alone. Breathe into the fullness of your being and trust in the unfolding of what will be.  It’s either fear or love, baby. What’s in your heart?

Monday, June 23, 2014

No Passport Required

Mention the word adventure and you might think of whitewater rafting, travel to exotic lands, or para sailing over the Mediterranean.   I've done all those things and more. I've taken a moonlight walk in Bali, and had a picnic in Paris. I talked to an old woman in Morocco about the meaning of life and played with kindergartners in China. My life has had no shortage of adventures. I’ll let you in on a little secret though, life is an adventure all by it's self when you have the right attitude, no passport required. Some of my favorite adventures have happened right here in my hometown, living my every day life.

The key to adventure, or just plain fun for that matter, is your attitude. Having a sense of wonder and delight in the world around you, a willingness to be curious and do something new is what makes something fun. It doesn't matter where you are.When I lived overseas I was always surprised and saddened at the number of people who never ventured past their front gate or their own minds.  Unless you are able to embrace the unexpected and set a place for magic, the most wonderful local in the world will be meaningless to you.  It will be an empty experience that you have for the sake of having. What matters most is the sense of wonder and appreciation you bring with you. That changes everything.

Give someone enough  money and time and an adventure is easily had. Money can buy all kinds of shiny new experiences. Sometimes though, there isn't money or time for a bright new shiny experiences. The good news is that with the right attitude everyday can be an adventure. 

                    Every Day Adventures

  1. Have a picnic in an unexpected place.
  2. Write an unabashedly mushy love letter.
  3. Use your good china on a Tuesday night.
  4. Eat cake for breakfast.
  5. Take yourself where you would take an out of town visitor.
  6. Learn one new thing that makes you excited.
  7. Take a walk down an unfamiliar street or drive home from work in a completely new way.
  8. Get lost on a country road.
  9. Unplug completely for a day, no computers, no phones, no tv, nothing. I dare you to.
  10. Head over to a farmer’s market or gourmet store and try something new. 
  11. Make a list of the things you liked to do as a kid and do them again. Do them with a kid.
  12. Drink champagne on Wednesday and watch the sunset with someone you love.
This is a short list. The most important thing is this, live like this is the last moment you have, because it is. Life is an endlessly fascinating cornucopia of new experiences.  Isn't that what we really long for when we want an adventure? We want something new, something fresh and unexpected, a different way of seeing the world around us.  With the  right attitude everyday is an adventure waiting to happen. What kind of adventure will you treat yourself to today? It's either fear or love, baby.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wildish Way Women

I say a little prayer whenever I see a certain kind of little girl. I'm talking about the little girl who is being completely herself rather it’s wearing a pair of red cowboy boots and a pink tutu or strutting around her room singing at the top of her lungs; Nashville here she comes. You probably know a little girl like her, or maybe you used to be like her yourself.

The world can be hard place  for a free spirit, wild child who has the audacity to sing her own song or chart her own course in the world.  While she is young we smile and applaud her cheeky sass. Then slowly, but surely she gets the message that it’s best to be a little less. A little less brash, a little less bold, a little less of herself because she makes people uncomfortable. It takes a strong spirit for a girl to withstand the onslaught of well meaning advice that would tame her wildish ways and make her less than her best.

It’s not any easier being a free spirit, wild child as a woman either.  If you have the temerity to love who you want; a younger man, another woman, a man of color or no one at all you are seen as a threat when that‘s the last thing you are. You can begin to feel that you have to trade being for belonging. I’m not talking about the social compromises we all make as part of any group. I’m talking about feeling like you have to stuff the best bits of yourself into a box to fit in at all.

Some where along the lines I said screw fitting in and decided to be myself. It was not without a price. I do a pretty good job of it most of the time, and can ignore the sideways glances and raised eyebrows when I have the nerve to enter a room like I have a God given right. I don’t much care what people whisper when they think I don’t hear, when they question my motives or make dark remarks about what’s wrong with me because I won’t be owned by a man. The sad part of this all is that other women are the worst, the worst to judge, the worst to be unkind, the worst to sling mud.  Understanding why doesn't take the sting out of it.

Free spirited women with wildish ways are a force of nature and one the world needs more of. We are the women who have the back bone to stand up and say, “What the fresh hell! Have ya’ll lost your minds!” We are the women who know the value of kindness and compassion and the courage it takes to practice those gifts in this world. We are the women who stand up for and stand with other women because damn it, if we don’t who will. It doesn't matter if it’s not a choice we would make or if we understand it or not. Free spirited women with wildish ways know that the best thing anyone of us can do is be our best selves and shelter the space that gives all women room to do that. And we do it because we know this to be the absolute truth, it’s either fear or love, baby.  


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sound Bite Lives

A friend of mine is writing her memoir. Frankly, I’d would rather poke my eye out with a stick and run screaming into the woods.  An honest story told with respect takes guts, and that’s what a memoir is, a story. We need stories. Story tellers used to be highly regarded in communities because despite our apparent differences we are the same in more ways than we will ever be different. Stories remind us of our common humanity. We need to hear stories and we need to tell them. Through the healing power of stories connections are forged and strengthened.

 Without our stories about who we are and how we came to be we sink into sound bite lies that bind us in shame for who we think we aren't. Hearing stories keeps shame at bay. Stories are the equivalent of human road signs that say, "You are not alone!" "Me too!" "It gets better." "Hang in there." Stories infuse our lives with meaning, like salt in a stew. But, first we must get past the idea that our lives only have meaning in status updates, 47 character posts and selfies.

We lose something precious when we attempt to condense who we are and what we’ve been through into a kind of short hand label. “I’m a teacher.”  “She’s a narcissist.” “He’s gay.”  We fling labels at ours selves and each other too easily and treat the truth they allege as sacrosanct.  Then, we act like we know all about someone simply because we know the label we’ve slapped on them. In fact, we don’t know them at all because we haven’t taken the time to know them. It’s like reading a one sentence summary of a novel instead of actually reading the book.
I am more than any one thing that you want call me, a teacher, a single woman, a singer, a poet. All of those labels are true and none of them are true. I am more than one thing and so are you. A friend said that he wished he could ramble through someone’s mind like one would ramble through an antique shop in a small town. The good news is that he can. It’s called having a conversation.  That’s how stories are born.

Here’s how it works, (in case you’ve forgotten), the next time you are with someone, unplug. Put away your device, make eye contact and listen to the person you’re with like you are reading a really good book. Ask questions, share a little of what makes you tick. Don’t complain, don’t gossip, and don’t think you know anything, just have a conversation. You’ll be surprised at the magic that transpires.

We are Holy lovers,
Created by the Divine
Living her story through space and time

Tell me your story
And I'll tell you mine
We'll listen like lovers with nothing but time.

You'll tell who you are
And I'll learn who I'm not
We'll listen like lovers and say that we're not.

Let's sit together, just us two
And share our hearts
It's what lovers do.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I was preparing for a zombie apocalypse in a pretty serious way. Serious enough that I called Revel to ask him how he thought I should store the 100 gallons of water I getting ready to buy. You know, in case the zombies come. He didn't miss a beat. “I got all the water you need. Don’t worry about it.” Just like, that he reeled me back in.  He did suggest that I ease up on binge watching The Walking Dead, though.

At least I knew my zombies weren't real. (Mostly).  A friend of mine, on the other hand is convinced her zombies were real. Darlene is dating a guy for the first time after a nasty divorce. Her zombies are the fear that he will cheat on her or that he’s not being honest. She’s so busy preparing for the zombies that she can’t enjoy the journey to where ever this new beginning is leading her.  She’s convinced that something bad is right around the corner and by God and all that’s holy she’s going to be prepared this time!  

The answer is not to be better prepared for the bad we think will come, although I do have a good supply of shovels now.  The answer is to strengthen our faith through the joys of daily life. There is power in the ordinary moments that make up our days.  When we take time to completely absorb the happiness in every moment we are able to live with uncertainty more easily.  Sinking into the daily happiness of laughter with a friend, a hug from a child, a cup of well made tea keeps us grounded and retrains our brain so that we don’t treat every knock on the door like it’s a zombie attack.  Instead, we can actually enjoy the happiness that is right in front of us. It’s that whole stay in the moment and attachment is suffering thing that Buddha tried to teach us.

‘Cause, here’s the thing, uncertainty and ambiguity are as much a part of the wilderness experience of being human as sex and rock and roll. They aren’t going away, nor do I want them to. We need them because they create a space for Spirit to have a voice in our lives. It’s that gap between what was and what will be where new beginnings are formed from the ethers of our Soul’s dreams. We prepare best when we surrender to what is, and trust the unfolding of our lives. It’s either fear or love, baby. Let’s hear it for dreams. 


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Art of Being Human: Let's Be Honest

The Art of Being Human: Let's Be Honest

Let's Be Honest

 Emily, who is one of my favorite kids, walked into my room after school shaking her head.  She had just gotten into trouble for lying and wanted someone to take her side. When I asked her if she lied she said, "I have to be honest, sometimes I lie."  It was all I could do not to laugh.  If that doesn't sum up the paradox of being human, I don't know what does.

I've been know to lie a time or two and I bet you have too. We all want to believe that things are better than they appear to be. We want life to be easy. We want not to have to endure an unbearable situation one hot minute more. So, instead of being honest,we put a pretty coating of sugar on it and call it what it's not. We lie to ourselves in the worst way to avoid feeling the raw, white knuckle fear that being vulnerable can bring. Yeah, it's not just you. It's all of us.

I've done my share of sugar coating, self delusion.  It never works. It was only when I wiped the clouds from my eyes and dared to see clearly that I was able to do anything remotely useful in the situation.   It's that golden moment when I admitted that I was completely screwed and accepted what was in front of me with dispassionate calm that a miracle unfolded.  Strengths I didn't know I had emerged in the space where resistance no longer held hold. Determination took root.  I didn't have to lie to myself anymore. I had what it  took to persevere to the end.  Those trying, hard to bear times taught me a couple of things. Nothing lasts forever, and who we are sets the stage  for who we will be.  I learned that while I may not like what's right in front of me I have what it takes to persist in the face of adversity. And so do you.

 Admiral Stockdale, who  was held in the Hanoi Hilton POW camp for eight years during the Viet Nam War  said, “You must retain faith that you can prevail to greatness in the end, while retaining the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality.”   When I find myself in a trying situation I am  tempted to do any and all the things we humans do to avoid the holy-crap-now-what feeling. But, then I think about people like Admiral Stockdale.  If he can do it there, I can do it here.It’s either fear or love, baby. Lying to yourself is not love, but you get that right?


Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Gift of the Ordinary

The greatest joys are in the small ordinary moments of our lives. It’s watching someone we love sleep, a cup of tea on a cold day, a thick mat when you step out of the shower. I’m finding that it takes courage to live in the fullness of these moments these days. Not because they don’t exist, but because we are bombarded with messages that tell us who we are and what we have is not enough. We are told in a hundred different ways that we don’t measure up, that the world is not safe, and something bad is just around the corner. It’s fear at its most insidious best. And I get it.  I get that we’re afraid, and I understand why. I’m not living under a rock.

When I did my 90 Day No Negativity Challenge I learned one thing for sure, it’s either fear or love, baby. Fear is a soul sucking joy stealer that brings out the worst in people. We destroy our bodies and relationships, get into debt up to our eyeballs, and we test our poor children to death.  We finger point and blame because if someone else is bad it makes us a little more okay. We take care of ourselves like King Rat and turn a blind eye to anyone other than ourselves.  We demand perfection in an imperfect world, just ask the 12 year old girl with an eating disorder how that’s working.  That’s fear for you.

Then there’s love. People tell me that I can’t change the world. I wonder though if we can’t change the world by how we respond to it.  I’m beginning to think we can. So, I am choosing to enjoy the small ordinary moments in my life.  I’m going to suck up all the little bits of daily happiness like marrow out of a bone.  Yes, I know that I’m a little too fat, I like my music a little too loud, I drive a ratty truck that I inexplicably love. All of that is just fine with me. That’s what love is, unconditional acceptance for your self, flaws and all.  I am deeply blessed and profoundly grateful for the life I have just as it is. And I dare you to make me believe I’m not.  It’s either fear or love, baby. I’m choosing love.