You came into our life out of nowhere and flipped everything upside down and inside out. Life as usual has become a way of the past in the mere blink of an eye. You, smaller than the human eye can see, reproduce yourself exponentially, seemingly without effort. You have defied the odds and hitchhiked your way around the globe faster than any of our modern technology could detect. Man-made boundaries and borders mean nothing to you.
You have blown our schedules and plans apart and called our entire way of living into question. You have stopped us in our tracks in ways nothing else has been able to do...not threat of war nor warning of mass extinction, even to our own kind.
You, dear Corona, have stopped the clock. You have shut down our factories, closed our schools, halted mass production and performances of all kinds. You have managed the unthinkable. World class athletes around the globe, and the fans that worship them, are on their knees in reverence of your unmatched strength and power.
You have forced the hand of biological clocks, irrespective of creed or citizenship. You have tanked the almighty stock market. You have awakened world leaders everwhere to the vital fact that our only way forward is together. The very survival of our elders and most vulnerable across this globe depend on a kind of collaboration this world has never managed before.
You, dear Corona, are little but mighty...fiercely mighty at that!
Our clocks were ticking faster and faster in all realms of life. We raced hither and yon to keep up with the Jones’. Corporate marketeers and mongers convinced us that was the right thing to do...that racing fast enough, far enough, for long enough would eventually lead us to the happiness that always seemed just out of reach. We cried out to be let off that dizzying merry go round while continuing to zoom ahead at our usual clip. We collectively created a world that made it nearly impossible to do otherwise. You rushed in with a speed that has left our heads spinning and our feet glued in our tracks by lock down and quarantine.
While you are wreaking havoc upon and testing every man-made system in existence, you are giving us something we have long been crying out for. You are gifting us with the biggest timeout humanity has ever experienced before. You are giving us an exclusive opportunity to break from everything we have become dependent upon to examine if there is a different way, a more humane or ecologically friendly way, to go about the great task of living. You are gifting us with insight about human connection and how much it matters to us in spite of all of our technological advances. You are teaching us what a precious gift it is to walk, stand or sit elbow to elbow with another beloved human being, even if we don’t know them by name. You are teaching us that in spite of all marketing efforts to sell us the elixir of youth, nothing can replace the lost life of any of our elders.
You are forcing us to slow down, to look at ourselves, our patterns, our habits, our values, everything about who we are individually, as a family, as a community, a nation, a species at large. You are giving us an opportunity to think, pray, talk, contemplate, consider. Must we go on living at the speed we have grown to call normal, even though most of us would wholeheartedly agree that it is not? Must we go on using up all that Mother Nature has left to give, because we failed to listen to her repeated “enough's” that have come in the form of a plethora of unforeseen natural disasters and now in the form of a tiny microbe that has managed to strong arm us all?
Dear Corona, the wildfire of all virus’ that have left carnage in your wake, you have gotten our attention. We beseech you to stop your lethal spread across our shared home. But are you saving us from an even bigger calamity if we do not heed your call to action now?
May we act swiftly, powerfully and unilaterally across this globe to curb your impact. May we seize this unprecedented opportunity to change our ways once and for all for the least of our brethren that stand to gain the most from our willingness to change.
99 years old in body, 29 years young in spirit! Not a day more! Fingers, long in bone, full in vein, the same ones I see in my mother’s hands, and my own, working tirelessly, giving selflessly, day in and day out.
Back facing kitchen, looking out over bird feeder and well loved garden chock full of tomatoes and cabbage heads waiting to be transformed into the best sauerkraut around!
Washing dishes, cooking food, preparing feasts, was your way of nurturing all who came to your house, your home, your kitchen, from near and far. Next to you, a medicine cabinet stocked full, at the ready for that which ailed body, heart, mind or soul. Maalox was plentiful and a sure cure for almost anything!
To younger generations standing watch, tchotchkes and nick nacks abounded. To you and grandpa, semi-precious relics from afar to keep alive in your memory ‘oh the places you have gone’ in that camper of yours! Or the places we travelled along with you via grandpa’s camcorder!
You turn around with that sweet smile on your Oil of Olay ‘sweet cheeks’. A warm “Hello!” always promptly followed by “Can I get you’s somethin’ to eat?”
Through the mouth to the belly, this was your way to show love...you who lived through wars, a Dust Bowl and the Great Depression...but were all but depressed!
With the next warm meal on your mind, my mama’s band practice to host in your living room, and Debbie to love and look after, which you did as well as any saint could, you had your sense of purpose to carry you through the good times and the not-always-so-good. Of those there were likely plenty but you weren’t one to complain very often. Without many words, you taught us the way of working hard with a cheerful heart and a tenacious spirit.
Climbing, descending, climbing, back down again...those stairs of wood to that musty basement, your second home, filled to overflowing with any treat a young girl could want. Freezer full of ice cream and enough frozen food for a small army... shelves brimming with canned goods and whatever was on sale last week, last month, last year...or ten. Batteries, toiletries, stale Ritz crackers, cereal boxes, the little ones that were a special treat only to be enjoyed at your house. I’m not sure what else was on those shelves but if anyone was in need, they never disappointed!
So many fond memories that your passing rouses, as if they were yesterday...like pulling into your eternally long driveway late at night after endless hours on the road, and making our way into the garage through the heavy steel door, through the cleared path bordered by grandpas John Deer oil and gasoline scented work clothes that had been relegated to the basement before he made his way up that same path for dinner at noon and supper at 5. I’m not sure what happened to lunch but it didn’t seem to exist at your house! We’d shuffle past those seemingly endless shelves of goods and creep our way up those creaking wooden stairs in the dark, so as not to wake Debbie or Grandpa, the same steps that were visited by the Easter Bunny every spring during our trips to see you!
We’d enter your house, quiet as a mouse, greeted by your sleepy toothless smile in your pale pink, knee-length nighty. You kissed us all, and with a sweet Indiana drawl, you’d say “Hiiiiiiii Dave!”, the kind of greeting that tells a young girl you have a tender place in your heart for her daddy...like he’s truly a son of your own.
You made each one of us feel so loved in your own special way. I could go on and on but I’ve been instructed to stick to 5 minutes! So, the one parting memory I will share, now that you have passed to the land beyond, where beings are known by the light they radiate. After Great Grandma and then Grandpa passed, you shared with me stories of visitations to your room at night in the form of a twinkling light near your picture of the Blessed Mother and her Beloved Son. May you pass swiftly and peacefully to the heavenly realms beyond this world of flesh and bone and reunite with that light for an eternity. May we remain vigilant for the moment when you return to us in the form of a twinkling light, a knowing word, a kind and selfless gesture, a funny joke, a chippendale birthday card, a wadded up $20 bill in the palm, a spoon full of Maalox, a fork full of Sauerkraut, a plate full of Lima beans...or perhaps a set of false teeth in a salad bowl!
Granny, we will miss you more than any of these many words can say but we can only celebrate your choice to return home to the Ones who breathed life into your earthly body one century ago!
You have given us a lifetime of memories that will live on in our hearts forever! From all of us to you, Happy Birthday!
I sure will miss kissing your sweetest of all cheeks!
Sometimes the past seeps into the present unexpectedly...and uninvited. It creeps in through the back door unbeknownst to the one it is greeting and it grates like fingernails on a chalkboard. It is visiting me now. I cannot define whether it is a he or a she. I don't want to turn and look for fear of what I might see.
I was going about my usual business this evening attending to the ordinary...yet aware of something I have been resisting and beginning to question why. That is when the past made its presence known...haunting and taunting so that I would turn around and look. It, he, she is clawing at my insides. Regret, shame, embarrassment, anger, bitterness morph into sadness and pain as I slowly rotate my head enough in her direction to see.
I think she sits hovering in the corner more often than I care to admit...and keeps me spinning my wheels fast enough to believe I am outpacing her and leaving her in the dust. No chance. The moment I slow just enough to feel, she whispers from behind..."I am still here...you can't outrun me...ever."
As I turn to face her I see that somehow SHE is the other part of me I have been looking for. She is power. She is grit. She is spunk. She is tenacity. She is the part of me I sever from when I think I have to do IT...whatever the IT of the moment is...all by myself. She is me but she is bigger than the me I usually identify as. She is not big in size but in energy.
She sits quietly and moves with a stillness that hardly seems to accomplish much...but in her quietness and stillness she commands a rather impressive amount of space and attention. As I hold my gaze in her direction she slowly emerges from the corner I have relegated her to. She rises and we move toward one another. She does not outpace me but matches my every step. As we merge I feel a distinct shift in my energy and a warmth and pulsation that swells within my chest.
She is Me. I am Her. We are One. The past happened and the present is. The only real separation exists within my mind. I stand in gratitude for the power of return, healing, wholeness.
This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt spoke loud and clear to me in 1998 when I was mentally and physically preparing for the longest mountain bike ride of my life, with all of my essentials in tow, in a place where I barely knew the language. As exciting as the adventure of it sounds, I’m more purpose-driven than I am thrill seeking. I was on a joint mission to spread a message about trash and what a mess it has made of the world and why Argentinians should mitigate their consumption practices and waste production immediately to avoid following in our footsteps. Our message was also that the North American bigger-better-faster-now lifestyle sold to them on television commercials isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and is leaving a multitude of people bereft of the very things that make them happy. When you transition to a life of ‘grab and go’ you no longer ‘stop and linger’...a practice which has long been responsible for connecting people and building communities worldwide.
Overcoming my fear and proving to myself that my legs could actually pedal all those miles to fulfill the mission of our trip, 4,300 of them to be exact, I eventually returned home to Milwaukee, WI where I got involved in some local sustainability initiatives. Internally, I was in hot pursuit of some serious peace because, from what I could see, trash was a much bigger problem than I ever dreamed it was and remote parts of the world were on course to replicate our purchasing practices thanks to the allure and success of global corporate sales and marketing efforts. These observations drove me headlong into a deep inner quest to try to make sense of the world I was living in.
As a young student of intense spiritual practice, doing the thing I didn’t think I could do looked like letting go and fully surrendering to a power and presence that was truly beyond the earthly realm I was accustomed to dwelling in. It is hard to say more in the space of this blog post but suffice it to say that the experiences I had ran deep to my core and will forever remain with me. Through them, I came to know that Jesus is indeed a real dude that yearns to be known by us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. In fact, there are hosts of celestial beings at the ready to aid and assist us but they are far more respectful of our will and desire than most humans are and only come when we ask with sincerity in our hearts and demonstrate we are ready.
While the experiences I had in the order remain solid to my core, structural and leadership changes prompted a thorough examining of my heart, a recognition of our maturing family's needs and and eventually my departure. Doing the thing I didn’t think I could do then looked like leaving the order that I had taken eternal vows of service to my Creator in without knowing exactly where or how I would live out this commitment going forward. I had given my all to the order and it had become the core of my adult life. Our girls knew the people in our community as their own family. The ‘center’ we worshiped in was in our very home. Hearing the call to move on was a difficult one for me to trust. But in the stillness of my heart the inner voice that was speaking was familiar, clear and directive. I heeded the call, took the leap and set about building our life anew with my family of four in the Pacific Northwest. Our transition was blessed and we were embraced by family and friends well beyond anything we could have ever hoped for. Oh how we loved that life and those people. Three years there felt like a lifetime in the best of ways!
Then I heard that voice beckoning me to do the thing I didn’t think I could do. Again! This time it was nudging me to uproot from a newfound place and community we loved and return to the Midwest to buy a small farm that would become our family homestead and a nurturing space for guests who wanted to slow down and enjoy simple moments together. I kicked and screamed at that voice! I did NOT want to hear it! But I couldn’t not hear it! It led me in and out of rich life experiences before so I knew I had to trust it. With tears streaming down my face, a solid lump in my throat, and quivering in my footsteps, I heeded the call. Two and a half years in to life on the farm in rural Wisconsin, I am gaining clearer perspective on the fruits and the growth opportunities this move has provided, not the least of which has been bringing me to this moment right now where I am sitting down to begin writing the book that has been in my heart since I left the order.
Up until about a week ago, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff...legs full of lead, heart sunk to my knees, lips an icy shade of blue. Was it carving out the time? Writing the book? Paying for the coaching? Or a combination of all three?
Doing the thing I did not think I could do meant taking out a small business loan and signing myself up to work with a book writing coach for the next 12 weeks to make some serious headway. Once I officially committed to the process, my heart swelled, my breath expanded, my diaphragm relaxed and tears began flowing softly down my cheeks which was all the confirmation I needed to lean in and move forward.
One of my guiding principals in life has been to live in such a way that I would never arrive at my death bed looking back wondering "What if"? What if I had succumbed to fear and backed myself off of any of those scary ledges that served as a catalyst for both death and rebirth? For me, doing the thing was never jumping out of a plane, solo climbing without a rope or harness or summitting Mt. Everest, although sea level to 16,055 feet on a bike feels like it might as well be Mt. Everest. Doing the thing for me has always been doing what is on my heart to do...doing that thing that I knew was up next when it felt impractical, hard or down right terrifying! It has been about listening to and stepping out on the promptings of that inner voice that is speaking inside of all of us and yearning for us to slow down, pay attention and heed the call.
Doing the thing we think we cannot do looks different for each of us and it shifts and changes over time. We are in relationship with a wise and intelligent being that knows us intimately. We are presented with unique challenges and opportunities that serve as the catalyst for our evolution into better versions of our former self. Only we can say yes or no. Nobody else can do this for us. If we pass on the opportunity at hand, our choice to pass will be noted and other opportunities will move into place that may leave us playing smaller in a world that needs us to play big right now! When we say yes, the magic happens.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by William Hutchinson Murray from his 1951 book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (inspired by Goethe):
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back - concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
I feel that old familiar feeling creeping back in, beginning in my chest and making its way into each and every cell of my body via my boiling blood. I want to scream, jump outside of my skin, thrash, kick, swing my arms wildly. A voice yells out from deep inside, “But what about me?! When is it my time?”
While the rest of my new online writing group puts pen to paper, I stand in the kitchen doing dishes while discreetly shushing and ushering my kids to their beds and giving my husband a heartless hug and cool peck on the cheek. Goodnight, he says, with no warmth in return. This is my punishment for taking time for myself...for prioritizing something for me that means something to me. This is the story I am telling myself, the one I keep repeating like a broken record.
It is harder to admit that the real source of my angst lays in the fact that I don’t plan so well. I was invited to and signed up for the bonus class last minute knowing that I was on deck to put my youngest to bed while he chauffeured our oldest to her evening activity. I didn’t have the heart to draw a line in the sand earlier on in my evening and pushed the limits of time to the very end so that all activities collided at once. I was stuck in the middle feeling crunched by everyone else’s demands on me.
Setting clear boundaries and expectations early on would have opened up space, given me room to breathe, allowed my heart to beat with ease and allowed me to go about my evening tasks with serenity on my face and kindness in my voice. I could have hugged more wholeheartedly, each member of my tribe of three, and felt the satisfaction of their heart-felt hug in return.
Why do I resist changing a pattern, a behavior, a way of being when its consequences cut so deep and leave me feeling bereft of the very things I want...warmth, closeness, connection, and most of all, the feeling of being supported by those I love most?
Second exercise commences and on cue I hear the beckoning familiar call “moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm!” “moooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmm!!!” Those three letters put together can create the sweetest sound in the world, but when I yearn to attend to something I deeply value, that word feels like a trap, a prison, like heavy metal shackles!
He has uninterrupted creative time during the day, so I tell myself. When do I get that time? How is this fair? Why do I always wind up feeling like I get the short end of the stick. Again, the voice of reason kicks in to chastise me…he was feeding animals, making and cleaning up from breakfast, shuttling kids to and from the bus stop, grocery shopping, caulking holes in basement walls, preparing and cooking dinner (a delicious one I might add!). “Yes, I know all that! But surely he had some ‘me time’ somewhere in between doing those daily chores!”, echoes that voice inside my head.
Somehow I have this story in me that in a perfect world, if all things were created equal, time would magically stop and space would open up for me to explore, create, write, pursue what makes my heart sing. But to be honest, I don’t think that this has happened for anyone, anywhere, ever! I have never witnessed such a phenomena. There is a well known saying about productivity that instructs, “if you need it done timely, give it to someone who is already busy as they will know how to get it done!"
Wrestling with time is teaching me something vital about time itself. I have to stake my claim on it. I have to get clear, bold, assertive and organized about it. It is not going to magically open up. Nature abhors a vacuum and if I don’t identify and voice what I want to fill the vacuum of my daily schedule, something or someone else surely will and I would only have my own self to blame for that.
Time will never slow down for my perfect life to happen. Time has never slowed down for anyone. Time just is. The clock just keeps on ticking. Sixty seconds will always be in a single minute and that is never going to change. What can change though is how I use time and who I see as being in the driver’s seat of my schedule. I can also decide how I communicate that stuff to the ones around me. Thankfully I am a work in progress and I am becoming better everyday at accepting that simple fact!
Did you know there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 525,600 minutes in a year. I am all in on shifting my relationship to time to make every single one of those babies count in 2020. Are you in too?
A stinging email delivered a powerful life lesson this week. My initial reaction was to rationalize my way out or run from the truth of the words I was reading. Noticing my discomfort, I took some deep breaths, slowed my rapid fire response, and stared this lesson square in the face.
This powerful lesson was about POWER itself.
I have a love hate relationship with POWER. I both respect it and detest it, or perhaps fear it, others and my own. I embrace it and then I want to run and hide from it.
Some grab it. Some steal it. Some shy away from it. Others know they possess it yet are reluctant to own it. That’s me.
Power itself simply is. It’s a force of life to be reckoned with, a force that can be used for good or bad depending on the moral compass and integrity of the one who is wielding it. Power is what makes the time clock of our lives tick.
Disowning one’s power feels weak, victimizing, lacking in some way. It’s a way out. Failing to own it seems like it only hurts the one refusing to take ownership. In reality though, it hurts the ones we inadvertently dump onto when we fail to hold it ourselves. I know because I did this today. From the stinging email I received, it was evident to me that I caused unintended suffering or annoyance. My pride took a pretty good hit too.
It was in a moment of rashness when slowing myself down and taking time to be more thoughtful just didn’t seem in the cards for me, much less taking on the added weight of responsibility that owning my power would have required. When I do this, I feel momentary relief followed by more long lasting resentment.
Yesterday this pattern resulted in burdening someone else a little less close to me with something I was meant to carry. It made the pattern a little easier to see. In the moment when I made the knee-jerk response and passed on taking ownership, I denied myself the opportunity to hold the power myself and the privilege of wielding it responsibly. I feared that I just didn’t have it in me. I was too busy, too stretched, too taxed, not feeling enough for the demands of the task at hand.
Had I slowed time down, stopped to reflect and feel it out more, I would have seen that the mere act of stepping into it and rising to the occasion would have opened up new awareness about the power I already possess. It would have also likely summoned the resources I needed to see the task through. Power is there already. It’s in me already as fully as it is in anyone else. The only difference lays in the degree to which I acknowledge it, accept it, embrace it and own it.
The sting of being called out was biting enough to shift this age old bad habit. As painful and humiliating as it was, I am grateful to the one who called me out and helped me see the negative ripple of dis-ownership.
I was asked “Why did you do this? Why did you dump on me?”
Where would I begin to respond? Being the oldest of five it was simply easier to just throw the towel in and say “because mom and dad said so!” But it feels like my soul gravitated to that response because I had been responding that way for lifetimes.
Deeply worn grooves are hard to side step. But I have side stepped countless other grooves before. This email was my call to side step this one now too and possess the power that was gifted to me upon my arrival here.
If only the emailer knew the lion she was waking! My Leo is rising and I’m ready for her to roar. The world needs well intended folk to acknowledge, step into, and take responsibility for what has always already been there and use it for good.
I say a resounding YES to the Life Force and POWER that animates this hunk of clay and the voice that speaks through it. I don’t know where it will lead me but I’m ready for the adventure!
What groove are you presently stuck in? Are you ready to side step it too? Will you join me in saying YES to the power that yearns to course through you too?
My heart is heavy. I am feeling hopeless and helpless tonight. Darkness has pulled me into its cold embrace. I look around me and see just how dependent we have become on the things that are literally killing us. It seems that a day cannot go by when we are not forced to consume plastic in some way...and thereby contribute more of it to the landfills that are encroaching rapidly upon the places and spaces we call home. Or we send it out to sea where the very animals we indirectly depend upon for our survival have grown accustomed to consuming it as a regular part of their diet.
Who can’t marvel at just how far we have come as a civilization?! We have created modern conveniences that were unthinkable to our ancestors...even just a short generation or two ago. Yet how much good have these done for us? Do we stop to think about our dependence? Do we stop and sit in the discomfort that our “need and greed” has inflicted upon others around the globe if not in the very places we live. It sickens me inside. I feel a raging fire in my belly growing to be a part of the solution yet wrestle beneath my own skin in recognition of just how much a part of the problem I have been.
To gain more awareness for our collective impact, my family committed to tracking our carbon footprint for one month. I can’t say we have come very far in our daily discipline of that task. What I can say though is that the very intention of it has seeped somewhere deep inside and I feel a growing unrest for all the ways I have been indoctrinated into and even pursued a carbon dependent lifestyle.
In my late twenties after traveling by bicycle for 6 months to raise environmental awareness in Argentina, I told myself I would never own more than what could fit in or attached to my VW Cabriolet. I lived in the city and road my bike everywhere I possibly could. In my early to mid-thirties I lived in a spiritual community where I shared most of my belongings with my housemates. After I got married, my accumulation of stuff quickly outgrew my car, but I was able to justify it because my husband and I hosted part of the community in our own home. When we left that life, we got rid of much of our stuff, headed west with our 2 young daughters and downsized to two laundry baskets full of goods from a thrift store.
Eventually we pursued life on a rented farm property and then purchased a small plot of land of our own. In addition to learning the art of homesteading and sharing this lifestyle with our growing daughters, our intention was to share our home with guests who are eager to learn what it really takes to get our food from the farm to the table...and just how deliciously wholesome it tastes when it is grown that way. But the longer we are here, the more I question if we are doing the right thing.
With a goal of reducing my carbon footprint yanking me at my core, I see all the ways this choice to be here runs counter to that value and pursuit. Getting to just about anywhere necessitates a 30-45 minute car ride. I tell myself that when our space is fully ready, people will come and it will all make sense. I am eager to transform this old farmhouse into a green travel destination so folks in MKE can have another option for an experiential culinary outing or a mini-vacation closer to home. It gives me great solace to be here and I know it does the same for our guests. Is that a worthy enough reason for staying the course? Does coming to rest for a while in a quieter place do something worthwhile for a restless soul? My own life experience tells me yes but through my spiritual practice I have also come to know that “quiet” exists within the space of sitting still and taking the time to look within. Treks to distant lands and retreats to remote spaces are heroic endeavors for the spiritual practitioner who is too restless to submit to the practice of sitting still.
What adds to my unrest is the awareness that the mono-culture farmlands our home was built on replaced a more more biologically diverse virgin landscape that was native to this part of the world. Indigenous peoples lived in harmony with these lands prior to the European settlers who tilled the earth and drove stakes into the ground. I have known pristine wilderness areas, but in our modern world it is a rarity. It weighs heavily on me that we don’t talk openly about these losses and our resource-laden habits that are the underlying cause. We don’t openly grieve and mourn the loss of our biologically diverse habitats and wild spaces. It sickens me to my core that sport’s games, social media advances, and the latest clothing trends seem to garner more air time and public discourse than the shit that really matters. Our very future hangs in the balance and we don’t have the bloody balls to talk about it!
We watched a Ken Burns documentary last night called “The West”. It was an older PBS series about our identity as a nation to pursue what is just beyond, what is around the bend or just out of reach. But in our pursuit of the final frontier we have tainted most everything we have touched. Like the dogs we have come to own as pets, we humans have a deep need to leave our mark and claim our turf wherever we go.
I am just as guilty as the next and it is leaving me feeling rather nauseated. Please don’t take this from me. Don’t try to make me feel better. I don’t want to feel better! This is my karma and I want to feel the full depth of my own negative impact so that change can arouse from an equally deep place within. I beg of you to do the same. Let us bear this burden together and then we can roll up our sleeves together and work toward solutions!
I wish that I could be hopeful tonight. I don’t feel that way. What I do feel though is a lightening of my spirit as I share my remorse and sadness for some of my part in this mess. Writing about it helps. Talking about it with others helps. Strategizing solutions helps. Community activism helps! So that is where I will channel my efforts. I will not sulk or wallow in depression as that only adds to the problem but I will have the guts to feel the pain. If I cannot bring myself to feel it and get inspired to act from it, our kids and grandkids are going to suffer a whole lot more.
I came across this quote today while reading Jim Merkel’s book Radical Simplicity: small footprints on a finite earth. I will leave you with it to lift you up after this horribly heavy post!
“Wait a minute! We already have enough darkness! Adding more has no effect. Ahhh… to light a candle… let this be your life.” - K. Viswanathan, founder of Mitraniketan, a center for rural self-reliance in Vellanad, Kerala state in South India.
My social media sabbatical has been a game changer! It has gifted me with focus, clarity, insight and TIME! It has launched me in a whole new direction. I set out to clear my head in prep to write a book and lay the foundation for my coaching practice. While I have made serious headway with both, the course I am charting is looking much different than I anticipated!
When the idea of a book came up, I thought it was going to be a memoir for my daughters...to give them a way to know a bit of my past and theirs and to share some of the lessons I gleaned along the way. Then along came Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate change activist from Sweden! She has rocked my world and for that I am deeply grateful! She has awoken in me the young environmental activist that side stepped a life of passionate but frenzied, anxious activism in pursuit of peace and purposeful service in a world that seemed to be screaming out for so much help. It was this fiery quality in me that propelled me to mountaintops taller than I ever imagined my skinny legs could carry me and to spiritual heights that were equally as profound. It was this same urge that inspired our move to the Pacific Northwest to reconnect with our love of land...and then again to rural Wisconsin to try our hand at some regenerative farming practices in hopes of passing these along to our daughters and bringing healing to our little corner of the world.
While the book will still be a memoir of sorts, the intended audience has changed significantly. I am writing for anyone who feels overwhelmed by the climate crisis and is desperate to find their place and purpose in all of it...and I am writing for the person who is stuck to their couch, their job, their specific life circumstances because the weight of it all feels just too overwhelming but the desire to do something lays just beneath all that weight. I WANT TO BLOW FIRE ON THAT DESIRE AND IGNITE ACTION! The world needs all of us to live full out right now!!
Our kids are screaming out for us to do something NOW so they can do something, anything!, later. They want things we have foolishly taken for granted...clean air, clean water, cool winters and warm summers, seasons they can count on! They want the chance to pursue their dreams too and they deserve that chance!
I have pursued the road less traveled and have thrown myself all in when it made absolutely no sense whatsoever to many standing in observance. I have learned what it takes to pursue a difficult course and make radical changes. I want to use these well-honed skills to help people change their lives in a way that I can only hope and pray might play a small part in slowing the phenomena we have come to know as 'climate change'. Greta's voice helped me to see what has been driving me at my core through all of these crazy maneuvers through life. She and all of the young activists around our beautiful and aching planet have unleashed the flames within my heart! I am on fire to inspire and have no time to lose! Won't you join me?
Oh, in case you were sensing it too, 'slowandsimpleliving' might have served its purpose. I have loved the name and what it has given to me but it may well be time to move on to something a little more fitting for the things I feel inclined to write about! Stay tuned!
Alarming evidence stands before us. It’s impossible to ignore. Call it what you may...the result of a pest that got transported across the ocean and found its way into a foreign landscape that it quickly called home...and soon after devoured...continues to devour daily with its voracious appetite. Leaves turn from vibrant green and golden yellow to ashen brown. Swaths of landscape transform before our eyes making summer look mysteriously like winter, when barren trees abound.
How nice it would be if Ash were the only tree species rapidly becoming but a sweet memory. This fall, when green normally gives way to magnificent hues of yellow and red, I see premature brown in every direction I turn...on trees of every kind. I see evergreens that have cast their lower needles and branches becoming more skeleton-like with each passing year.
These changes before me...the impact of our, MY, human existence...are impossible for me to ignore. I told my daughter this morning that we are striking for Climate Change on Friday along with other concerned citizens across this globe. She asked, ”But what can we do to fix it mama?” My face went flat then flushed with anger at the existential problem we all now face...that we are passing on to her generation and those that will follow. This existential problem is about our existence...yours, mine, hers. The hardest truth to swallow is that I’m not sure we can solve this one. We go to great lengths to make our children comfortable and safe. But the many provisions we have been conditioned to believe will achieve this end are really just more products sold to us by the same marketing gurus that got us into this hot mess! One thing I know for certain is that I will sure as the hell-fire burning in the Amazon do what I can to sound the alarm and clean up my act.
I will march on Friday with my family.
I will tend our land with regenerative practices.
I will support my spouse in his efforts on that front too.
I will eat veggies and limit my meat intake.
I will call my politicians and Wisconsin Public Radio whenever there is an opportunity to share my two-cents.
I will use less water.
I will bring my own thermos or water bottle.
I will bring a packed lunch in reusable containers.
I will lead our Green Team efforts at work with a renewed vigor and bring home our gathered compost weekly.
I will write and blog about my love and concern for this planet.
I will do all that I can to impart a deep love and appreciation for our shared home.
I will shop at thrift and consignment stores and turn off lights when I leave the room and replace light bulbs so when they are on they pull less from the grid.
I will drive my car into the ground and use my own bags to carry goods out of the grocery store...or any store for that matter!
I will call my politicians.
I will march and strike.
I will call my politicians.
But are these things enough? Does my own carbon footprint net out at zero? Will my efforts do anything to resurrect these trees...to bring the life back to their marrow and the color back to their leaves? I fear that we have set a wave in motion that has taken on a momentum of its own.
While my heart is heavy at the changes I see before me, hope and urgency rise within my belly firing me up to do more. As the earth is warming, my heart’s desire is boiling over with yearning to expand my positive impact in whatever way I can. The sickening truth is that somehow we have created a human condition such that we begin to leave a heavy carbon footprint from the moment of our birth...nay, from the moment we are conceived and the ritualistic buying on our behalf begins so that we can be safe and comfortable upon our arrival.
As I look out at the ever changing landscape before me, I will reach out to make connections with those in my community who see what I see and who feel compelled to sound the alarm and take action. I will then continue to roll up my sleeves, wipe the sweat off my furrowed brow and do the hard and collective work of cooling down this beautiful blue planet to ensure our existence for a little while longer...mine, yours, hers. Will you join me?
I vividly recall the lush green landscape of the Rocky Mountain National Forest. It was early July, 2006. I was on the final leg of my journey to my new home in Denver, Colorado. A mere five years later that majestic emerald landscape turned mostly brown thanks to the warmer winter temps that were conducive to the rapid take over of the pine beetle. In just two more years those same mountain vistas were consumed by ravenous wild fire.
During a move to the Pacific Northwest in the Spring of 2013, I witnessed the same progressive destruction of portions of the eastern Cascades. When we landed in our new home in the upper most corner of the Pacific Northwest cradled between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Puget Sound, I was relieved to discover trees that were hearty and thriving. That said, their summers now have an official "fire season" which means that there is a constant haze in the sky and breathing conditions are dangerous from what migrates through the air from surrounding territories where the pine beetle, drought and climbing temps are destructive trio.
In 2016, a return to the Great Lakes region of Southeast Wisconsin put me face to face with more dead or dying trees. To my dismay I observed that many of the pine trees appeared to be distressed with browning at the base due to a tree fungus called rhizosphaera needle cast. Upon revisiting one of my favorite hiking spots in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest, I was heartbroken to realize that all the ash trees I had enjoyed a mere 15 years prior had surrendered their lives to the emerald ash borer, an invasive critter brought to the region via the wood from Chinese shipping crates. My heart sinks to know that my daughters will never get to ride their bicycles through the magical yellow fairy forests that I so fondly recalled from a short time ago.
This summer I am observing a whole new round of tree die off. While I am not for certain the cause, it appears that the polar vortex of winter took its toll on many of the trees and partially or fully deprived them of any color this summer. It’s bizarre to look through a forest of trees that appear to simply be dormant for the winter knowing that it’s actually midsummer and 90+ degrees outside. I am painfully aware that their leafing days are likely over.
When I contemplate all of this during my daily commute, what saddens me the most is nobody seems to be talking about it. Even my own husband who takes pity on a drooping tomato plant thinks I am a Negative Nelly when it comes to the state of our trees. He is right that others are thriving while I tend to take notice only of the dying ones. For me it’s like the big pink elephant in the room that we go on pretending is not really there. It’s a sunny day and we delight in the warmth and talk about the fun ways we are entertaining ourselves this summer. Meanwhile the trees are silently screaming out to us to pay attention...to take action. We pretend not to hear because what the hell can we do at this late stage in the game of human life on earth. We have tipped the balance and what was once an earth with seasons that favored our existence is forcing us to seek refuge indoors from the increasing discomfort we feel when we are outside of our artificially climate controlled environments.
We lost 3 trees to Dutch elm disease this spring or perhaps they suffered from severe frost bite. I know I couldn’t last more than five minutes out there for a stretch of days this past winter, but I had the good fortune of legs to carry me closer to a source of heat provided by burning fossil fuel. These trees seemed to be offering themselves up as a sacrifice lest we have to succumb to the shivering cold.
It seems we have convinced nature that she exists merely to serve us. We have taken for granted her resiliency. Mother Nature has always seemed so willing and able to bounce back for our benefit. Her changes have always seemed slow and gradual to the untrained eye...with bursts of change here and there that she could withstand. Her seasons have been so dependable that we rarely call into question how she might behave this time around. Times have changed in the seeming blink of an eye. Our climate seems to have taken cues from we humans and quickened her own pace to keep in step with our own.
When I was my daughter's ages, there was no reason to question whether my favorite tree swing would have a canopy of leaves above my head to shelter me from the midsummer rays. And if those rays happened to kiss my virgin skin, there was no reason to fear that I would be dangerously sun burned and at greater risk for developing skin cancer one day.
Call me a pessimist if you like. I see myself as a realist and I feel called to draw attention to the things I see. If I could slow the clock down on anything it would be climate change. How about you? Do you have a different view? I’d like to know.
I awaken with a start with a stir of adrenaline in my heart, prompted by these tireless gnawing thoughts. Have I done enough? Have I served her well enough? Did I go off track somewhere along the way? Has my hasty compulsive desire for tidiness and order unintentionally squashed her God-given talents? Her creativity? It’s undeniable that my presence in her life impresses upon her emerging self in a profound sort of way. Have I provided enough opportunity or exposure? Have I nurtured in the right ways through word and deed?
I am imperfect by design so that I may depend upon the One who molded and shaped me. But it is difficult, neigh, near impossible at times, to accept and embrace my full humanity as mother, parent, nurturer. I can be hasty, rash and painfully abrupt. I can brush things aside quickly with disregard for the time and attention that went into creating the very things that I regard as obstacles to my forward movement. I have need for things to be in their place because that keeps me at ease inside and appeals to my aesthetic taste. She has a pension for tucking things above, below, behind, beneath because it feels good to her to be surrounded by her things. “It feels like mommy, comfort, being taken care of” was her response to my question, “Why do you like scattering your stuff all over the place like this?” I’m not even sure how to respond to these wise beyond-her-years words. Slowing down to digest them would surely reveal deep insight but speeding up to tidy more assures me that I am not destined to live amidst her clutter for the next 10 years.
I compare myself to the mothers who take the time to stand in observance of the countless awe-inspiring creations that are manifested by their budding artists each day. I feel a twinge of jealousy at their patience and ability to sift and sort through the multitude of sketches, drawings, paintings and hand-written narratives of all kinds. If it's something that appears to be more of a means to an end, I’m quick to scrunch it up and feed it to the recycling bin. When it arrives at the fire pit for a ritual or get-rid-of-shit burning, she informs me of the care she put into creating it and her sadness at my lack of appreciation.
In the quiet of tonight, the voice in my head is anything but. It taunts me suggesting that I could be doing more, am not enough, have not done or given enough. It’s a fucking broken record with a nauseating tune. Yet when I fail to change the channel quickly enough, I am convinced that what I am hearing might be true. My influence over my offspring is enough to frighten me at times. It makes me want to be more, do better, work harder.
But what if it’s less about being or doing more in any way and more about stopping the looping track, pulling the needle out of that old familiar groove and placing it back down to resume the track or tune that is her, that is God’s unique way of expressing through her? What if I stopped to watch, observe, listen? What if I take 30 minutes, or even just 5, to notice what and who stands before me? What if?
‘slowandsimpleliving’ is my mantra because nothing of real value seems to come from hurry and complication. Help me to heed the call to slow down and simplify my thinking above all else, to pause and reflect while standing in observance of her and all the stuff she brings forth as an extension of her growing self. Whether it’s messy creative flow or her final masterpiece, help me to appreciate it just the same...because it is coming through her, a co-creator in her own right with the one who called her into being.
Some say transition and change is hard. I think the aftershock that is felt in the space of calm, quiet and settling is harder. So do my girlies apparently. Today I came home to finding them ‘moving’ to each other’s rooms. They managed to move a desk that is bigger than both of them put together. Everything else was in a state of migration. I knew they were proud of themselves yet hesitant to see how I’d react. I tempered my response sensing what they both were thinking and feeling. I shared how much I appreciated their enthusiasm and initiative yet how eager I had been feeling to finally get to repaint and decorate my own room and how seeing their rooms in such a state of disarray left me feeling like that eagerness just slipped into hopelessness. I mostly felt a little sad that all the love and energy poured into making their spaces feel like home to them (or perhaps me) felt for naught. My oldest shared that what was really going on for her was homesickness for the homes and heartsickness for the people she had left behind. Moving rooms was a way of staying in motion so she wouldn’t have to feel the discomfort of settling away from places and people she longed for. Oh how I can relate. Sometimes I wish I possessed the power of a genie in a bottle so I could twitch my nose or snap my finger and go back. But to where? ...and to what? ...and to whom? Time has moved on for everyone just as it has for us. What she remembers is an experience in time that is frozen in her memory. She described a hole inside of herself...deep and hard to fill. I know that hole. It’s what propelled me forward onto a spiritual path that those closest to me severely questioned including myself at some point in time. But for all it’s negatives, snipping and clipping away the things I held so near and dear to my heart opened up breathing room for an experience of the Divine that I dare say few humans have fully experienced. That’s a hard truth for me to admit as it calls into question my decision to leave. In the end I knew that my path had shifted and the one calling me the most at my point of departure was that of partnership and parenting. My husband and my daughters challenge me daily to a fuller acceptance of my humanity and a deeper love that is selfless and unconditional. I have a long way to travel on this current path I am on. But as I learned in the discipline of daily meditation and spiritual practice, resisting the urge to run and turning toward that which my heart yearns to know and understand the most leads me to the kind of intimacy and connection my heart longs for. I call out for the wisdom to be still when her desire to run makes me want to don my own tennis shoes. I summon the virtues of fortitude and strength to stay put when my internal tendency is to bolt at the slightest discomfort and unrest...to turn toward her with a stillness and embrace that eases the ache until she develops the resources to do this for herself. Thank you.
This 4 letter word has captivated my curiosity for quite some time. The meaning of 'time' itself first impressed upon me in my late teens when I moved to Brussels, Belgium. People seemed to live at a different pace than I was accustomed to back home in the Midwest. If you were enjoying what you were doing, there was no perceptible rush to be anywhere else. Coffee was a drink to be savored over an equally delicious conversation. Lunch was an actual meal you sat down to during the middle of your workday vs. something you inhaled at your desk while knocking off a few more tasks from your trusty to-do list. Siesta and afternoon tea, although beginning to lose their place in the bustling hub of the European Union, were still regarded highly by many as a sacred daily practice. Dinner was an event that religiously drew people back together as the sun set on the activities of the day. Exercise was a leisurely stroll in the most beautiful and serene of green spaces, an atmosphere that was maintained even when teeming with Sunday guests.
Aside from the camping outings and retreats of my youth, Europe was my first impressionable taste of life lived at a slower pace. Moments seemed to spread out more and time itself was something to be luxuriated in and enjoyed. A return stateside for university and work and the accompanying frenzied pace made me hungry for more of 'slowed time' or timelessness altogether. An invitation to travel through some of the most remote and pristine provinces of Argentina via mountain bike held the allure of satiating that craving. Days were marked by the rising and setting of sun, pangs of hunger and the satisfying feeling of ‘full’, the need to relieve oneself of bowel and bladder and the welcoming bliss of pillow and pad at the end of a long day. Sore muscles or an invitation to tea or traditional barbecue gave good reason to pause from pedaling and resume when the rest and merriment felt sufficient. I was distinctly aware that in the absence of ‘time’ and schedules, there was some kind of solace in daily routine...wake up, fetch water, break fast, clean up, pack up, pedal til you drop, settle for the night, rise with the rooster or barking dog and repeat all over again. The scenery, terrain and witnesses to our journey changed but the daily routines grew fairly consistent.
After Argentina, I returned to work and to a more hurried daily grind once again. I grew ravenous inside to stop the clock altogether. I felt a deep internal hunger to experience the meaning of each moment and the impact I had on these moments, if any. In hindsight, this longing began on the bike as I battled against my own will to keep going. When I applied meaning to the moment, I realized that the courage and stamina to overcome the external challenges before me, or the physical limitations of my own body, came from an internal mindset as much as anything else. While pondering the meaning of life and my purpose in it, in between thoughts of "what the hell am I still doing on this bike?!!", I also devoted much mental energy to planning my next big adventure. The impending return to western civilization with its inevitable ticking clocks made me anxious to create a life in which I had some control over its pace. I loathed the idea of settling in one place amassing a lifetime of stuff I knew I could live well without.
While planting the seeds of a global bike tour volunteering at spiritual retreat centers along the way, I sought out ways to help me cope with a deepening sense of restlessness. The outer world felt as if it was flying by at break neck speed but few around me seemed to take any notice or feel visibly disturbed by it. Discovering and cultivating a daily interior spiritual practice gave me the experience of boundless time that only my restless soul could know to long for. Quickly this practice shifted all of my priorities in life as I yearned to teach others who were hungry for this same internal experience above all else. Fast forward several years through living in spiritual community, ministering to others, marrying a fellow priest and birthing a family of our own. My longings began to shift once again. Life was happening all around me and I felt as if I were missing it while immersed in my own world of spiritual practice and ministry. Everything around me had to speed up so that I could afford the time to slow down in those seemingly self-serving experiences. My spouse, kids, co-workers and patients got my leftovers.
Aside from how I felt while engaged in spiritual practice, I lost all sense of me. I was on auto-pilot performing a role and a function that looked good on the outside. On the inside I grew more and more numb to the world of sense and tangible life experience. It’s as if I could see it through a looking glass but I couldn’t taste or touch it anymore. Mealtime and mothering were chores to get done so I could move on to the ‘work’ and experiences that really mattered. Something felt painfully off-kilter and time felt all out of wack, stretching out in some areas while cramping up in others and in ways that began to feel all wrong. Once again I found myself needing to right my relationship with time and the things and people that occupied it. Don’t get me wrong, the people I ministered to were important and deserving of all the attention they were given...but at what expense to my partner and children...and even my own self in the end?
Fast forward a year or two beyond our departure from the ministerial life when my husband took up rustic Italian cooking and the dinner table replaced the altar as our place of daily sacrament. His culinary journey led him to the concept of ‘slow food’. That discovery inspired in me the idea of ‘slow living’. After naming my Instagram feed accordingly I discovered, with joyful surprise, that it was an actual thing...a movement...a lifestyle that growing numbers of people around the world are aspiring to and working intentionally to create! While my Aries-nature derives satisfaction from being a trail blazer and a leader of the pack, I am happy to know there are way-showers before me who can teach me a thing or two about slowing down and getting the most out of life’s most precious and fleeting moments! 'Slow' has become my daily mantra and a form of spiritual practice. The word itself begs me to pause, reflect, take in the beauty and gift of each moment. It shifts my perspective to the bounty and abundance of the minute I am living in. Incorporating the concept of 'slow' has transformed ordinary segments of time into extraordinary experiences.
I hope you enjoyed hearing a bit more of my own journey to slower living. Please share with me yours! Where are you at in it? What do you struggle with? What daily rituals have you put in place to help time spread out? Sending you good thoughts for your journey to a slowed down life rich in meaning and purpose.
It’s the eve of my 49th birthday. What a crazy number to be turning! Over the past few days I’ve flip flopped from depressed to elated to somewhere in between. If you were to have asked me a few weeks ago, I’d shrug my shoulders and say it’s just a number without much relevance.
As the clock ticks toward midnight, 49 feels significant in ways I hadn’t expected. I’d be lying if I said my body feels as it did half my age ago. I’m beginning to understand my patient's caution that aging ain’t for sissies. My joints stiffen up when I sit too long. My hips and ankles make me seriously question whether running is ever in the cards for me again. I can walk and hike til the cows come home but running makes me remember the residual impact of my long ago gymnastic days. While these sensations vie for some of my attention, I am simultaneously aware of a new fire and vitality churning in me...to identify and do the things that matter most. I feel a call to slow down and simplify along with an urgency to get busy doing what I’m here to do. At this juncture in human development I’ve seen people shrivel up, give up and slip into oblivion. I’ve witnessed others grab life by the horns and take off. I certainly identify way more with the latter. I can't imagine for a second wasting a precious moment of this life I've been gifted with.
Aside from my premature entrance into the world, I was a late bloomer developmentally. In some ways it’s been hard to shake that...making me feel like I had to ask permission to be present at the big kid’s table. There is something about ‘almost fifty’ that takes that need to ask away. I know what life experiences I’ve come through and nobody can take that from me. I know time is of the essence so waiting til it’s my turn to speak up is no longer an option. I’ve got stuff to say and shit to do...and 49 feels like a warm fire under my ass. Get the picture?!
Heading off to sleep after lingering in each moment of my final evening in not-so-sunny Florida. I cannot recall the last time I spent six consecutive days with my mom and dad alone. I think I can almost say for certain that it was before the age of three. Florida was overcast and cooler than usual but felt like warmth and sunshine in my heart. As the oldest of five, I wandered through so many of my formative years trying to secure love and affection.
Although my love for her is unremitting and unquestionable, I resented having to share parental attention with my first sister. I discovered I could secure it again through my good works, especially after siblings three, four and five were born. I was next in charge and the leader of the pack. I was praised often and well for my good example. There was no way for my parents to know the motives of my early behaviors nor the impact of their every word. Certain words left their indelible mark and shaped the course of my life for better or worse. My parent’s stamp of approval reinforced which path to travel and when to shift course.
At a certain point I discovered I had to charter my own course. In a strange sort of way, their raised eyebrow or outright lack of approval affirmed that I was indeed beginning to find my own way. This week in Florida afforded me the opportunity to clear up a few matters but mostly the chance to just be without feeling any need to 'try' anymore. We did many of the things that were among my favorites as a kid...ate 'Jonas' popcorn (it's a legit thing), watched movies snuggled up on the couch, listened to live music, strolled around a farmer’s market, dined on Mexican, enjoy long walks and good talks, clothes shopped with my mama and simply just enjoyed time and space together. I got to say how awesome it was to finally have them all to myself for several days without having to share time or affection with my siblings or kids of my own and without feeling selfish or guilty about it!
It took me a good number of years to acknowledge that I deeply resented having to share affection and attention from the two most important people in my life. I yearned for something good that I just wanted more of. It took me a good number more to vent out all that negative emotion to the point of finally letting it go. Wisdom and spiritual practice have taught me that no one or two humans can ever fill our reservoirs completely...that is reserved for the Divine alone. Being able to identify and label the deep longing has been a vital part of my life's journey. Having the courage to speak candidly and unabashedly with those I held responsible to divvy out all that love was the next most essential step.
Before I discovered the sweetness and fullness of God’s deep and unconditional love and before I had children of my own, I regretfully took the liberty to inform my parents of their insufficient love with great accusation. With all my heart I wish I had the insight, wisdom and self-restraint then that I do now. There is nothing quite as humbling and educational as being a parent myself to teach me about the challenging predicament inherent to that courageous role. We are our kid’s everything until our “everything” is no longer enough. We hold, coddle, embrace and protect while simultaneously teaching, empowering and letting go. My girls struggle with jealousy for my attention and it drives me to want to run for the hills because dividing myself down the middle just doesn’t work. But it’s right for them to want more...to want it 'all'. 'my all'. Without that yearning and without my failing to fulfill, how could they ever sense that internal drive to seek the face of God within.
I have been reminded often enough in life that when I look outside myself to anyone or anything else, including those who stepped in for God for a good number of my formative years, that the love always comes up short. Sometimes it feels more full and satisfying than others but it’s never quite enough no matter how good it might be. I make it a point often to inform my girls that while I will try my hardest to give the best parts of me to them, it will never be the 'all' they are yearning for. As painful as that reality might be, it’s Gods perfect design to bring us back home to the great and whole parental love that lives inside of us. It never betrays or leaves or falls short. I still need to nudge myself to go there...to drink of that deep cup, to feel that holy embrace. As I learn to do that more consistently I also learn to be a better 'asker' for the things that are available to me here and now from those I have chosen to have in my life including my parents and partner. This same kind of initiative allows me to access God’s love more fully too.
While our culture has a pitiful habit of worshiping youth and all that goes with it, I am growing to appreciate more the wisdom that comes with time and life experience. I am grateful to have the perspective that comes with taking a longer view. I still struggle with jealousy and the feeling that others might be more deserving of love, affection and all things good than I am. It is a part of my humanity that I strive daily to cull out, have compassion for, and ultimately transcend. I am deeply grateful for the two who gave me my first taste of something so good that I simply wanted more of it! May I plant and water those same good seeds in those I have been gifted to raise and have the wisdom and wherewithal to help them know what to do with their feelings of jealousy and longing when my love inevitably fails them.
Oh the trials of the in-between-years. I wish I could scoop her up and carry her over the proverbial threshold into her twenties. What a mixed bag and emotional roller coaster these years are. I wish we could rewind and be back in Bham. Would that fix it? I doubt it. I suppose some of it...perhaps much of it is inevitable. I wish that weren’t the case. Please help me help her. Help me give her wings to fly. Everything feels lighter when you are off the ground.
On the night of my daughter’s 8th birthday, you are the daughter I find myself wanting to reach out and embrace. Tears streamed down my face today as I choked back the anger for the horror your 13 year old self has lived through and heroically survived. You are surrounded now by a tremendous community of love but the pain you feel must leave you feeling somewhat isolated and alone. Your Wisconsin mamas and so many others are so very eager to lighten your burden yet our hearts are heavy for your loss...and with your beloveds as tears stream down from heaven for theirs. I pray that somehow in the midst of all this tragedy, you find a way to let the wealth of love and support in. I can only imagine it would be the one thing that would bring a smile to the celestial realm. Jayme Closs, you are a hero. You have drawn a community together and a sigh of relief to scores of anticipating observers of the life you have recently fallen prey to. Your story reminds us, once again, how precious and brief our time is with our beloved ones. Everyone’s loss is tragic in its own right...but yours more obviously so. I cannot control our legislative choices that allowed this guy to possess the gun that took your parents life...but I can continue to speak up. No matter how firmly I embrace my girls, I cannot prevent them from experiencing tragedy in life...but I will hold on just the same relishing in the moments we do have together. I pray that you grieve as you must and then find it within yourself to keep living...and perhaps forgive if you can find it within yourself to let go enough to do so. We are angry and in disbelief with you. We are here to embrace you as one of our own. We are elated for your return from captivity and celebrate with caution knowing that in the midst of all the giddiness your heart is broken. I once read about the kind and benevolent being filled with love that relinquished his only begotten to a world of pain, suffering and uncertainty. The only thing certain was that he would one day be betrayed, tortured and killed. In moments like these I feel the magnitude of that gift to humanity so that we get that we are in good company with celestial beings who truly understand our pain.
Today has come and gone like so many other days of the year. But today was different...it was Christmas. 365 days of anticipation fulfilled in this one day. There were actually no more or less seconds than any other day. But we hoped for it, prepared for it, prayed for it to come quickly...and then when it finally arrived...for it to slow down to an almost stand-still so we could linger in each magical moment. As today comes to an end, the kids are nestled all snug in their beds once again, giving me time to reflect. Will they greet tomorrow with the same zeal of today? Will they look back in reverie for “today” which will, by then, be yesterday? Will they have their sights set on 365 days from now? I pray to prepare for, live in and cherish each and every day like it’s Christmas so my girls can know how to do the same. Perhaps that is why today felt like the best Christmas ever...because slowing down and simplifying is allowing me to do just that. Wisdom nudged me to stick with the essentials this year and let go of the rest. It changed my preparation for and experience of today. I wasn’t perfect at it but I took more occasion to pause, reflect and shift gears when necessary. As I sit in the quiet close of today, staring at the babe in a manger before me, I am reminded of the gift of such humble beginnings...the magic of a rather simple moment...when a star shone bright enough for long enough to awaken us to the magic taking place at the birth of a king. His resurrection is the fulfillment of that birth, the perpetual rebirth of that same powerful presence within us, and an eternal bright star calling us back to the magic of now...when time stops and nothing else matters. Isn’t that what today is all about? Merry Christmas my loves near and far. I am blessed to have shared time and space with you at some point along life’s way...even if only in Spirit. Wishing you more magical moments everyday in this year to come.
This season can be maddening...if I succumb to the external noise and stir of the season...which I admittedly have. The newest addition of the tiny elf to our family was the tipping point. I have rapidly grown to regret my decision to cave to some external pressure to allow her to make her way in to our family. I can’t blame it all on little elfie but I feel that she is yet another huge distraction from what is really going on this season. Beings are working diligently on our behalf to light up the planet and we scurry about at an insane pace trying to perfect upon their efforts...or maybe it’s just that I do...rather than tapping in to the beauty and magic of the season without getting lost in the swirl. I had the occasion today to reminisce about the tornadoes of this past summer. This season feels a bit like that kind of storm. There is a powerful stir happening and we can get sucked up into it and be tossed about at breakneck speed, we can hold steady yet be crashed into, or we can move into the eye of the stir where the peace and calm exist. One of my daughters shared her perspective on Christmas lights during our drive home this evening...that they are visual displays of people’s belief in something higher than themselves be it Santa or Jesus. Such wisdom from her youthful lips that I found soothing for my soul to hear. The biggest unrest of the day (the latter of which was spent immersed in consumerism) was that I had lost my way as a responsible conscious mama...and failed to teach my offspring what this season is really about. Her words alone inform me that Wisdom is having Her way with my daughter in spite of myself. I am grateful that She is getting through in spite of me feeling a bit caught up in the swirl. Out of the mouths of babes come some of the most profound things. In God’s most infinite wisdom, God must have been on to something when deciding to show up as a newborn.
I dedicated 2018 to learning and mastering the art of loving myself. It was given as the second of the 10 commandments so it must be pretty important. I wrote this at the beginning of the year and just took a fresh look at it. The overwhelming feelings I am experiencing this Advent season reassure me that I am well on my way. That said, I would like to share my reflections a year ago to let you in on a bit of my journey. Perhaps you will find it useful in some way. That is my prayer anyhow.
For as long as I can recall, self-love has been a hard one for me. I am not saying its easy for anyone...from the countless life stories I have been told...but it has been particularly challenging for me to do this. For all the times I have been told “I love you” by very convincing people, those words haven’t reached down into the bottom of the pit that is most empty. I have felt an emptiness my whole life that no additions to the family could fulfill, no amount of friends could eliminate, no boyfriends could fix, no parental reassurances could soothe. I have climbed mountain tops (literally), sought out spiritual teachings and worked intensively for 13+ years with a teacher and that didn’t fix it. Oh it helped a great deal and I had moments of “fulfillment” along the way but the hole never went away. I tried serving as a minister for 10 years...that helped increase my sense of worthiness but never completely fixed the problem and created a whole new set of issues to contend with. When I left the order and returned to my family and some friends of old, I found comfort but the pit remained unfulfilled. My resentment toward my husband grew for all that he could not satisfy...and towards myself for the love I have not been able to give in return when I feel I am drawing from crumbs inside. Most people would not know this about me. They would think I have it pretty together and that I have a pretty good grasp of what real love is. They would likely assume I feel pretty whole and complete as is. What they don’t know is how skittish I have felt inside...how impulsive I am the moment I slow down enough to get nearer to that pit that beckons me in order to inform me of its presence. I have hated it with a vengeance. My teacher tried to push me there through countless spiritual practices. I have been challenged by other life mentors along the way to look at what I am running from. I think its the same thing most of us run from. I cannot be alone in this feeling. In fact, I think it serves a very useful purpose as painful as it is. This is the year that I devote to turning towards this feeling...towards this inner most vacuous place inside of myself...and the year that I do it with love, self motivation and self dedication. I am not doing it because a teacher is nudging (as happened when I was a student) or ordering (as happened when I was a priest) me to go there…nor because it makes me “good” in some way or better able to serve the needs of my fellow humans (although I would be delighted if this were the outcome). I am going there because it is clear to me by now that no one else can do this for me...no one else can fill this vacuous pit BUT me via my attention on it. I can beg for God’s love to fill me up but if I am unwilling to love the very depths of my own being than how can God find a welcome space to dwell in because I have already declared it unworthy? My heart aches for the kind of attention that only I can give it. It longs for the kind of deep fulfilling love that only I can give. Trying to do good for the sake of earning someone else’s love is hog wash and just plain doesn’t work...even if that person is Jesus Christ. I know in my mind that there is nothing I could do to earn His love...he already died for me so that I could be filled to the brim. There is a problem with my willingness to accept it...or lack of. I have believed myself to be unworthy in some way...unworthy of the most perfect of all Loves. My mind knows that this is not true...and I have experienced the reality of this unconditional Love in moments of Divine Inspiration and in deep contemplation. I have felt ecstatic Love course through my being and felt this Love to be personally available to me...but I have repeatedly chosen to walk away from it. I have chosen to turn against Love and to stack evidence in favor of why I am not worthy. The reality I then live in is one of deprivation and lack. It is painful, lonely, desperate. I want to describe this in full for the average person that lives with this experience daily and neglects it...or busies themselves in hopes that it will go away. I want to detail out this journey in the event that I can successfully turn the tide on this one and live inside a whole new reality feeling my perpetual worthiness. I want to be able to look in the mirror and see a person who knows that she is worthy of love staring back at me. I want to feel my cup running over and I want to feel an organic freedom to give freely from this overflowing cup. I want to love from a place of wholeness and completeness. I want to see my partner as someone to share life with vs. someone who I need something from in order to feel whole. I want my daughters to have the freedom to be themselves and succeed or fail in whatever way is right for them so that they can ultimately learn the lessons they are here to learn and not have it mean something about my own goodness or badness...my own worthiness or unworthiness. Since we left the spiritual order to embark on a secular life once again in order to salvage our marriage and fully assume the responsibilities of parenting, I have found countless ways to busy myself from moving (on too many occasions to count), settling girls in new schools 3 times for each of them, myself in 3 new jobs and sought out new friendships and attempted to establish a sense of belonging in each new location. We are now settled...or at least settling in...enough so that I can bring renewed attention to myself. In deep meditation when the answers to my questions would determine which direction my life would go, I was told to step down from actively serving as a priest but to write my story. I was instructed to depend on Jesus in a way that I had not before. I have toyed with these internal commands ever since receiving them 5 years ago. I have attempted to put pen to paper but always had the approval of or gift to others in mind when doing so which felt like it tainted the process. Now I write for me...and for the three people I share this home with. I write in attempts to remain close to this process of learning the art of self-loving and to document a process that might somehow serve to benefit at least one other person at some point in the future. If one person’s life is benefited by my living, then I will consider my life to have meant something. For now, that person is me. Hi Kelly...I have finally shown up to love you. What do you need from me? I am all ears.
$91..easily the cost of a sweater, a pair of designer jeans, an Athleta jacket or a pair of shoes bought new at a women’s clothing store. At Goodwill $91 bought me 3 jackets, 2 sweaters, 2 scarves, 1 pair of jeans and a black knit stocking cap. It also purchased 4 Christmas presents, a stylish gift bag and 3 brand new rolls of holiday gift wrap. The icing on the cake was the $6 gala dress that needs just a few minor alterations. It is a secret pleasure of mine to roam the aisles of a thrift store to see what grabs my attention without draining my bank account. I have a quiet passion for re-purposing most anything to extend its life and the longevity of our landfills. This love took root in me early on in life sifting and sorting through the many stored goods in my grandma’s musty basement. Pantry shelves were an eye sore or a treasure trove whichever way you chose to see it. It grew during frequent stops to neighborhood yard sales with my parents and the occasional weekend trips to flea markets with my dad where I watched him scurry about with contained delight. When we moved to Europe the open air markets were some of my most remembered outings watching him speak English slower and louder to overcome any language barrier while haggling for a better deal. During high school, thrift stores were the place to go for men’s boxers and pajamas...not sure how those became popular but pretty much grosses me out now to think about it! In college, thrift stores were the cool place to shop thanks to the hipness of ‘grunge’. Mainstream clothing manufacturers hadn’t caught on yet to the fact that they could make bank off of faded, distressed and torn clothing products. As a new mom, thrift or consignment was the only way to go. How satisfying to walk out of a store with a bag full of clothing for the next growth cycle that I paid for with store credit. My husband tried to convince me that using up the credit didn’t mean free but I wouldn't buy it. In Bellingham, WA, thrift store shopping was cool and conscious. Most kids wouldn’t bat an eye if you revealed where you got your new digs. The first fall in our Shorewood school, my third grade daughter’s brand new Star Wars back pack (with original tags to boot) was something to drool over until she naively announced to her new-found friends that she scored it at Goodwill. Their snubbed noses was her turning point. Thrift was no longer cool or acceptable; in fact, it pretty much grossed her out. Our limited clothes shopping budget and her disdain for most secondhand goods, has left her with a minimalist wardrobe by default. Tonight wise thrifty mama made an appearance. A swift Google search put us in touch with scores of her favorite female celebrities who are intentional about thrifting. While I normally frown at our collective tendency to put the "stars" on a pedestal and then gawk at them, I was grateful for a little reinforcement from the celestial realm. It was good medicine for me too as I found myself shamefully confessing where I bought this or that as if I somehow needed to make excuses for how I satisfy some of our family’s needs and wants. When I was younger it was cool...then it became practical and at times a downright blessing. Most importantly, it has always been difficult for me to reconcile buying new when gently used means one less material item to burden our already overly stressed environment and gluttonous landfills. As my oldest nodded off to sleep she asked if she could at least "occasionally" buy something new. Her request affirmed that the stars aligned and wise thrifty mama got through...and now my not-so-little one is a little wiser too. *If you have thrifty stories you would like to share, please do!
Following the last of the winter thaw, Wisconsin's spring of 2018 ignited with a bang. In just shy of a week, brown was overtaken by electric shades of green in all directions. Quiet was drowned out by a chorus of crickets, frogs, and wind that carried the scent of all things growing wildly. The gentle pitter patter or thunderous downpour was a sure indication that mowing would soon be a priority on the exponentially growing list of chores. Just one cycle of the seasons ago, spring meant a walk to the neighborhood coffee shop or farmer’s market without a burdensome winter coat. Now coffee is conveniently and solely brewed 10 steps from bed and the market produce is 10 yards from the kitchen door. I’d like to say these conveniences mean life is slower and simpler now...but it’s not really. In fact, rural farm life is busier and more complicated in many ways...even on our humble plot of land. It’s demands are relentless so long as the sun keeps shining and the rain keeps falling...and harvest is nothing to joke about. As swiftly as spring arose, autumn descended along with the beckoning call to pick, dry, boil and can to ensure that not an ounce of the summer’s energies were wasted. Farming on any scale is not for the faint of heart or hand. This is where slow comes in. Each day requires a mindful walk about the land to hear which elements are speaking the loudest. Rushing risks missing the call to be pruned so that more vital sunlight can find its way to vulnerable fruits struggling to hang on...or the call of the cabbage leaves being silently invaded by stealthy slugs. Simple comes in next. Routines need to be paired down. When too many steps are involved the most vital one risks being overlooked and imminent death might be the consequence of such forgetfulness. When too many activities are added to the schedule, essential rejuvenation time is missed out on which creates a painful domino effect and life becomes infinitely more difficult for the human residents of this shared land. As the vital life force withdraws deeper into Mother Earth, we breathe a sigh of relief. The push is coming to an end for a season and the return of brown and decay means our bodies can rest and the creative life force can be harnessed anew. For me, this is evidenced by words emerging more freely and abundantly. For Tim it means breads, pizzas and pastries are making their way into and out of the oven once again...and our home smells divine. For our girls it means a deeper dive into academics and extracurricular pursuits that align with their heart’s budding interests. In what ways do you embrace the gift of death that autumn and winter bring? I dread the thought of disrupting our seasonal cycles in such a way that we one day find ourselves reminiscing about this gift of death with nostalgia.
He extended a weekend invitation to his wife and four daughters, the kind of invitation you might chuckle or cringe at as a young girl. I cannot recall if I did either. I think, like most of our family outings, I fondly looked forward to the hangout time we would have together. Whatever else was icing on the cake. All I knew about this peculiar invite was that it included our pop-up camper, clothing for mixed weather, plenty of food and snacks including our favorite black and red licorice and oodles of card games. We loaded up into our rather lengthy striped brown and tan van that had pull out bench seats. I can distinctly recall its musty vinyl smell and how I felt riding in it. I recall moving about freely unrestrained by cumbersome car seats and seat belts that are now the most basic requirement for good parenting. My eyes were wide as saucers as I took in the scene upon arriving at our weekend destination...a wooded lot full of downed trees and an abundance of open space to cartwheel and roam free in to our heart’s content. I recall chilly autumn air with just a faint touch of warmth kissing my reddened cheeks. I recall the sound of the pull cord on the old chain saw and the revving motor that spewed out smoky clouds while in use. I recall the large open space in our van growing smaller by the second as we filled it with stacks of freshly cut wood. I recall waking up in the middle of the night to the anxious stirring of my parents as they wrestled with the small heater in attempts to get it to bring some much needed warmth into our freezing cold camper...and then again in the early morning to a mound of snow atop our camper and all around us. In my memory the whole scene lives on as fondly as one of Laura’s fictional tales in Little House in the Big Woods...except we were the Little Camper in the Big Wood Lot. In my memory there was no arguing or fighting. Our ages were still pretty spread out so there was a comfortable buffer between us that seemed to eliminate any need for competition that might creep in later on in life. My mom might recall it differently...but that is the beauty of memory and story...I get to recall it and tell it as it lives on in me. This past Saturday I invited my husband to be my date at a fancy ball of sorts. It was a lovely occasion and might have stood out in my younger years as the preferred venue for a ball with the preferred attire. Last night and this evening when I learned that he would be chopping and stacking wood, I eagerly rearranged my schedule so that I could help. I am not sure if it was the familiar roar of the chainsaw, the methodical slicing through the dense wood, the sound the logs make as one gets stacked upon another, the campfire fueled by the brush and plethora of irregular woodcuts, our girls running around in the crisp autumn air with the waxing full moon in the backdrop or the feeling I had toward my spouse that in that moment that things were just right...but it all came back...that invitation to the Woodcutter’s Ball decades ago. I thought to myself that if I had to choose, the Woodcutter's Ball is the one for me. It felt like it was yesterday and my heart swelled with an unexpected gratitude for that moment in time then...and this moment in time now. Thank you dad for all of the ways you included us in the experiences that were meaningful to you then so that they can give meaning, depth and a simple richness to our lives now. I love you to that waxin g moon and back.
Tonight was one of those nights that felt close to perfect...minus the parts that weren’t so perfect. I’m going to focus on the near-perfect for now cuz I’d like our nights to feel this way more often and I have a quiet hunch that focusing on them will help toward that end. I think the weather shift was forcing some old shit out and opening the way for something new to come in. Dinner was yummy, peaceful and fun. We all seemed to have happy moments in our day to highlight...new treads on the truck, an audition that led to a favorable outcome, fantasies about a limo ride to the Dells paid for by the Brownies!, and an invitation to a gala. Red licorice chased dinner followed by dancing to everything from Bruce Springsteen to one of my all time favs, John Denver. Watching our youngest bust her fancy moves while slow dancing with our firstborn to "Rocky Mountain High" while reminiscing about her birth in a Colorado spring snowstorm and all the ups and downs we have experienced since...I felt my heart flutter as tears rolled down my face taking it all in...allowing myself to feel it all...especially the gratitude part for the triumphs over the tribulations. My heart was full and life felt pretty perfect in that moment. The remainder of eve following had its moments of turbulence with the usual resistance to bed time, testing technology boundaries, and an emotional meltdown when the boundary didn’t melt. I pulled away from my usual engagement and gave room for reflection and contemplation. The outcome was better than expected and left us all seemingly wiser. Now I’m going to sign off from this nearly perfect night and go to bed. It’s significantly later than a bedtime I cannot seem to keep. I will work on perfecting that another night. For now, goodnight!
Sometimes I grow weary of my unwillingness to self discipline. Perusing social media makes me feel depressed and lose site of the blessings in my own life and objectifies others as something to be jealous of vs. seeing them as beings who have lived complex lives and overcome a myriad of challenges and obstacles to be where they are today. I want to stop but don’t know how. I have fallen prey to something beyond my ability to comprehend right now. I’m filled with jealousy and envy and it’s toxic to my very well-being. What is the best remedy? Remove the apps? How else will I communicate what is of value to me? Does it matter that I try to communicate such things anyway? I see others living in beautiful homes, adventuring in the coolest of places, along side of the most interesting companions with the world's smartest and most talented offspring, contributing the most valuable things to the world. It’s nearly impossible to measure up. What would happen if I removed them? Who would know me? Who would care? I love to write but I hate the idea of putting things out there that spark the same internal processes that I find to be so toxic. Why do we keep going with this poisonous habit? For the shred of good it offers...the moments of intermittent connection, the nostalgic ties to the past which I might argue are more harmful than good by how these reminders make my poor heart feel. I frequently find it to be detrimental to my psychological and spiritual well-being yet find myself returning to it for the crumbs it gives me in exchange for my vital life force. Images are powerful. They have the power to communicate so much so quickly. It’s equally as interesting to contemplate all that we choose to eliminate from a picture. Words force our minds to slow down, process, digest, own or release depending on their inherent value to us. What would happen if I stopped posting? Who would miss out? Who would gain? Me, my girls, my spouse? Those I would take the time to call or make the time to see instead? My introverted tendencies have found a way to engage when I might otherwise keep to myself. But does this engagement serve any purpose beyond giving me a false sense of connection? We...I...try to freeze a moment in time as if simply living it is somehow not enough. The joy of a moment is ours...and shared is ours multiplied...but somehow when it gets “posted” for the world at large something of it gets lost, cheapened for all that another might deduce of that slice of life we provided for them to make shit up about. It’s the journey leading up to the moment that we truly hold near and dear and that we see in the images we personally snap and freeze in time. When someone else looks they can only see the exact moment in time from the vantage point we have opted to freeze...and make up the rest according to their own world view and whatever fits with their beliefs and patterns of thinking. It’s really a crazy thing that we have grown to value a two dimensional screen and the things it communicates to us more than we value the present moment in time we are actually living in and experiencing...the beating of our heart, the pulsation of blood and vital life force coursing through our veins, life giving oxygen flowing into and out of our lungs, the simple raw feeling of being in our bodies living the lives we have been gifted to live.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.