Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Talked-out Tuesday

So, between an emotionally exhausting ordeal a few nights ago (long story, don't ask, involves helping to save a way-too-tipsy friend from himself), an awesome conversation last night with a new friend, and an awesome conversation today with an old friend, I'm about talked out. Those of you who know me well are likely amused with the irony of ME finding myself with nothing to say. But it just isn't in me right now, folks. I've gotten it all out of my system for now, and am thus left blogless.

But I've had a wonderful day, and want to share. So, here you go-- a few pictures from our day at the Durham Museum of Life and Science. At one point, I took the twins to the toddler play area to give Hubs and the other kids a chance to play big kid stuff, hence my having more pics of the babies than the big ones.


























This next one isn't from the museum, but I snapped this one last week in the middle of our crazy move. They are tres cute, n'est-ce pas?


And finally, I saw this on the bumper of a car painted to look like a giant lavender flower field at the museum today.


Hope you're having a great day!

P.S. The awesome conversation today was recorded, and will be available soon in a podcast produced by said old friend. I'll post a link once it's up.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dropping Keys

In high school, I carried around a book of poetry by the medieval Persian poet, Hafiz. Strangely, the copy of Hafiz' poetry that landed in my life had been translated from the Persian into French, but I remember reading words that were at the same time deeply sensual and profoundly other-worldly. The past few weeks, I've been considering my role in life, and how I can best reflect brilliance (not my own, but radiating brightly from the Light of God through me) into a world that sometimes cowers in darkness. Tonight, for whatever reason, I'm once again led to Hafiz, and these two poems speak volumes directly into my heart.

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He
Knows

While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

.....

and

.....

We have not come to take prisoners,
But to surrender ever more deeply
To freedom and joy.

We have not come into this exquisite world
To hold ourselves hostage from love.

Run, my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear
From anyone likely
To put a sharp knife
Into the sacred, tender vision
Of your beautiful heart.

We have a duty to befriend
Those aspects of obedience
That stand outside of our house
And shout to our reason
"O please, O please,
Come out and play."

For we have not come here to take prisoners
Or to confine our wondrous spirits,

But to experience ever and ever more deeply
Our divine courage, freedom, and
Light!
.....

God, in this time of transition, I am learning to see myself empowered, strengthened, and inspired by Your love. May the words You put into my mouth and the actions You place upon my heart lift me ever higher, fully out of the cages once forced upon me by others-- cages I once accepted out of my own fear of love. As I grow, God, allow me to leave keys along the way-- keys You've gifted me throughout my own journey-- that my life may be a blessing, in some small way, to those who journey with me for this time on this path. Bless those whose sweet spirits have found their way into my heart, that they may be uplifted, strengthened, empowered, guided, protected, released, and at peace. And encourage us all to reach outside our own understanding, even into the darkness of what we do not yet know, and play, ever so sweetly, in the mysteries of You.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Free Spirit Sunday



Those of you who know me well in real life know that I appreciate full and random outbreaks of joy and spontaneity, being prone to occasional such outbreaks myself. One of the things I love about where we now live is that half the town seems to be prone to random acts of joy and life, individually and communally.

The local natural foods co-op hosts Sunday Brunch events during the summer, with live music and a huge crowds on the lawn. We've been to two of these in past weeks, and took the family today for an outing to Sunday Brunch for oatmeal cookies and coffee. Today's band played a mix of Eastern European Jewish music, Russian cabaret, vaudeville, and polka.

The tall guy in the green has been there every week; the other guy, today was my first time seeing them. In either case, I love watching both of them! They are unique, that is for sure. They have a style that I may not end up adopting for my everyday casual style. However, I don't know that I have ever seen two humans as seemingly comfortable in their own skins, enjoying their lives, and not worrying about what others think.


video

What a fun day!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Literary folks, ADD, and RDS

Okay, so I've finished Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, and am currently reading Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder in anticipation of having one of our children evaluated. And, as life would have it, the more I read, the more I think I should have myself evaluated as well.

At any rate, I was reading something in it yesterday that really made sense, and in which I saw a lot of myself. I would have blogged about it last night, but A) I had a baby who didn't want me to blog, and B) I left my book at work.

So, here goes. From Delivered from Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell (this is heavily edited down to not be too long, so that's why it sounds more positive and doesn't include as many of the negative traits; bolding is mine):

I have been drawn to literary people my entire life.... I have always liked to write, and many of my closest friends are writers, editors, publishers, agents, columnists, or other kinds of workers in the word business. I have always been intrigued by a commonality I have noted in literary people. They tend to be highly creative, witty, ironic, a tad cynical, and a tad depressed.... They have an extraordinary eye and ear for what is genuine. They pick up on the telling detail-- a man's pulling up his socks as he talks, or a woman's licking her lips just before offering criticism-- others overlook. They like to know exactly what happened. They love gossip. They abhor hypocrisy and spot it in an instant. They love honesty, and yearn for one honest conversation in a day....

As a psychiatrist, I have come to think of the literary type in genetic terms. I believe they inherit the gene that predisposes towards RDS [reward deficiency syndrome], as well as the genes that predispose toward verbal dexterity, keen powers of observation, a highly developed sense of irony, and a touch of depression. Due to the RDS, they can't find sufficient pleasure in ordinary life. So they resort to extraordinary means. For example, they write. They submit to that unforgiving discipline to try to improve upon life by creating order, even beauty, out of chaos. That is an extraordinary effort to find ordinary pleasure. When it works, they get a squirt of dopamine, and some endorphins and other pleasure mediators as well. They can get a milder shot of pleasure in other "word" ways, such as through a witty conversation or by reading a piece of writing that they love.


I have a whole lot I could say about this right now, but think I may finish the book and give this some time to roll around within before taking it on as a full blog post. But for now, suffice to say, this definitely describes much of what I experience, and describes quite a few of the closest friends I've had over the years as well. Whether or not it's in any way pathological, or simply inspired, or both, I'm not sure.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday of Rest

So, I came home all fired up to write again (I'm falling in love, all over again, with the art and release of blogging).

Unfortunately, Wonder Girl heard mommy clacking around on the computer keyboard, and came and crawled up in my lap and didn't want me to put her down. And since I'm gone a lot, working, doing, I just sat around and soaked it all in-- her little curly, baby-shampoo-smelling hair up under my face, her tiny fingers gently stroking my arms, her weight sprawled across my lap. These sleepy moments do so much to undo a day's worth of stress. I am blessed.

However, I'm not up for another marathon, all-nighter, sleep-depriving post, but still wanted to offer a little something to chew on. Tonight, it's courtesy of my super-awesome, incredibly smart, awesomest of awesome buddy, Crunchy Mama, a fellow twin mama, thinker, and lifelong seeker. We've only met online and via telephone thus far (a reality I hope to one day change), but I would consider her no less of a best friend than anyone I've ever known. Few people earn the keys to all my honesty and adoration-- Crunchy Mama is among the few.

Turning to a book is nothing new in the human spiritual experience. There are holy books for every dogmatic path. But what if every book had the potential to be holy? For me, the line between secular and spiritual is blurring and I’m much more comfortable with that than I would have been previously. This is where the questioning has led me. And for now, I really like it here. Let Holy Curiosity abound! I’ll be grateful for every relative moment of it.


Read More: Holy Curiosities

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My "Bucket List"

Not that I'm planning to kick the bucket any time soon, but I've been thinking it would be fun to start collecting some ideas of things I want to do in my life, just as a reminder in case the opportunity to do one of them comes my way. Some of them I've already done, but I'm still listing them here, just because I wanna.

1) Bungee Jump
2) Learn to Bellydance (the right way-- I can already suck at it pretty well)
3) Learn to play the bagpipes
4) Get my Ph.D.
5) Sing in an all-girl bluegrass band
6) Live in a eco-friendly home that is highly self-supporting in terms of energy
7) Raise chickens for eggs
8) Learn to jar and can (pickles, especially)
9) Learn to sew
10) Get a story published in a national magazine
11) Get a story published in a major national magazine
12) Get a book (or a few) finished
13) Get said books published
14) Speak to a crowd of thousands about positive life change
15) Do that indoor skydiving thing (my son tried it a few months ago and love it!)
16) Learn to hoop like Beth

That's about all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll add things as they come up!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Loving the Death Bot

When we first moved to North Carolina four months ago, we did so with little money, no jobs, and an incredibly strong faith that we were doing what we knew we were supposed to be doing, all outward appearances aside. So far, no regrets! Shortly after arriving here and in accordance with our pre-move plan, I went and rounded up a job that would provide some income while we sorted out the other details of being here. The benefits of this are, of course, income, as well as the opportunity for a seasoned people-watcher to have a virtual national geographic special of co-workers and guests by whom I am constantly reminded of the complexity of the human journey. Some of them are even becoming friends, little by little, like the prince taming the fox, awaiting the secret. The down side to having a joe job, other than the amount of physical exhaustion, would also, however, be having a virtual national geographic special of co-workers and guests by whom I am constantly reminded of the complexity of the human journey.

Last Friday, we spent all day moving furniture into the new home. By Friday evening, exhausted, and hours past our children's normal bedtimes, I sat down to play with my children a little before finally putting them down for the night. And when Wonder Girl (age 2) came running up to jump into my lap, I first noticed a HUGE lump on the right side of her neck. She had been working through a little cold for a few days at that point, but wasn't acting all that sick or like it hurt, so we decided to wait out the night before getting her checked out. Saturday morning, after returning our moving van, I was sitting in the office of the local urgent care. We signed in, and Wonder Girl went to check out the toybox.

With three older brothers (if we count Wonder Boy as older, which he technically is by just over 2 hours), she immediately picked up a hard, plastic, evil-looking black robot/transformer/terminator-looking action figure-- the kind I don't even let my kids have in our home-- and which had a button on the front that, when you pushed it, made it pretend to walk while red lights flashed in its eyes. CREEPY. I could not, for the life of me, figure out why she liked that silly robot death machine better than some of the other toys in the toybox, but she did. "Yook, mama, it's a PIRATE!" She carried that silly toy around, every now and then declaring it to be a pirate, which from her experience (having recently watched Muppets Treasure Island) was a fun and funny and delightful thing to be!

And after a while, she went from mechanically pushing the buttons and making it do its death march, to holding it and cuddling it, and reading books to it. Pretty soon, she was even expecting me to get in on the action. She ran up to me, pushed the red-eyed robot up against my chest, and grinned. "Wuv it, mama! Wuv da pirate!" Amused by her innocence and irresistible cuteness, I did a lame snuggle, trying to appease her sweet nature. Apparently, my feeble attempt was not enough, and she pressed the death bot harder into my chest-- "Don't you wuv it, Mama? WUV IT!!" So, with all the sincerity I could muster, I snuggled and cuddled her silly toy. "Oh, yes!" I said, "What a wonderful pirate you are! I love this pirate!"

Sitting there in an urgent care office on the weekend, knowing I had to be at work that night, sleep-deprived, stressed out, and unsure of what was wrong with my baby, I snuggled that silly macho toy, declaring to love it, and watching the way my daughter's eyes lit up as I did. The funny thing?-- The more I snuggled it, the more I actually liked that toy, and the better I felt. I am 100% positive that "cute, cuddly, snuggly, and loveable" were not words that the designer of that toy would have thought of when designing that toy. I'm sure their intent was not to foster practice for loving relationships, or to give toddlers the chance to "wuv" and cuddle a new favorite toy. But for her, that didn't matter, and allowing myself (even for a few minutes) to get into her world, where the only intent that matters is her own, I did kinda wuv her pirate, and just for a little while, it was real.

We could learn a lot from a two year old.

I think part of why my relationships with my co-workers (most of them, anyway) aren't as complicated and prone to annoyance might be that usually (not always, but usually), I see the best in them. If they say something stupid, or do something annoying, or act in a way that doesn't on the surface seem to be kind, I do my best to assume positive intent, even if the outer expression of that intent comes in the form of a red-eyed, evil-looking, hard, plastic death bot. Most of us have good intentions, after all, especially when we feel that we are important to others, and that they're interested in seeing us for who we are.

And even if they had bad intent and were trying to frustrate or hurt me, what good would it serve to acknowledge that with either anger or hurftul behavior of my own? What good would it do to tear someone down, to insult them, to play mean-spirited pranks? Would it improve the relationship? Would it solve the problem? Would it make me feel better? What if we allow ourselves to imagine, if only for a few minutes, a situation in which someone DID call you out with specific intent to hurt you, and instead of being hurt and reacting from that hurt, we simply assumed (incorrectly) that it wasn't intentional, continued on our way with a cheerful spirit, and refused to hand over to anyone else the strings and buttons that control our emotions? Would we feel stupid for not fully understanding their ill intent? Or could we simply continue to be at peace with a positive assessment of the situation? What if, instead of getting pissed off, we simply let it roll off, continued to see that person as an overall good person, and refused to get caught up in the emotional drama that permeates our lives (not just at work, but in every sphere of our lives)? In the end, what is our goal? To avenge every wrong, no matter how small? Or to live a life that is fun and vibrant and fully alive? Can we be okay with being wrong about someone else, even if it means our own lives are happier? Can we simply ignore the hard, plastic shell and red, glaring eyes, and love the death bot in spite of it all?

Don't get me wrong-- I'm not always a ray of sunshine. I have my moments when I am full of rage, disappointed in humanity, and convinced that another person is a waste of space. I'm human. But I'd like to think I have many, many more moments in which my love for others outweighs my displaced anger, which assumes that they took my power from me, when in fact, I have to give it away to allow someone else to make me angry.

I guess what it all comes down to, for me, is intent. God's intent (for you to live a life that is constantly frustrated by others, or for you to live an empowered life that is full of joy and meaning), your intent (revenge and hypercriticism, or acceptance and love), and the intent of others (which often, in cases where someone else is coming out against you, boils down to their own self-protection amidst inter- and intra-personal uncertainty).

So what's it going to be? Can we be that patient with others, forgiving of them as we'd hope them to be forgiving of our own shortcomings? Do we stick around long enough to know the fox's secret?

Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

When the outer is throwing us off, messing us up, and keeping us frustrated, remember that The Essential is only found with the heart.

Making Frozen Moments Fluid

Larry Losey. That was his name. He was a member of a church where I was working as a youth and children's ministries director, and was not your stereotypical children's ministries volunteer. A former rock-and-roller, long haired, and into eastern spirituality and meditation, he had no children and had never (that I know of) been married. Somehow we clicked and became friends. What struck me about Larry was the strength of his integrity. Integrity is something that is very important to me in my own life, and seems to have been the defining characteristic of those people I've chosen to become my friend-- not just acquaintance, but real friend with access to my heart and emotional energy-- over the past few years. Larry was who he was-- no small task in our modern society-- and seemed content to just be.

At that time in the church, the youth ministry (middle and high school) had been struggling for some time, and believing very strongly that the preteen and teen years were crucial in helping to establish a connection to something greater than oneself, I made it my mission to grow the youth group. I put out a call for volunteers, and personally invited a few friends to join in the effort. Larry was one of those friends. When I asked whether he'd rather work with middle school or high school, his response was that he wanted to serve wherever he was needed.

Through the experience of working together on youth group events, Larry and I developed a closer friendship that was based on time together, and lengthy talks about the nature of the universe. He came to our kinda-annual murder mystery party, bringing a bottle of non-alcoholic wine with him (he didn't drink). It was a 60s themed party, and he was probably the only one there who had been alive in the 60s! And when Jesus Christ Superstar came to Tampa and he had incredible box seats for the performance, he invited me and the Hubster to join him. It was wonderful, and our conversations with Larry (and the Catholic priest he also invited) were amazing that night! In any case, we didn't spend tons of time together, but there was still a mutual respect and mutual admiration between us, and I thought he was an incredibly interesting and unique person.

After leaving my job at the church and preparing to move to South Carolina, I decided to have a final get-together with my friends before the move. I invited a handful of people to join me at Applebees for karaoke (Hubs volunteered to keep the kids so I could have a night out-- he hates crowds and noisy places anyway)-- Larry was one of those people. That night, free from the yoke of having been bound by a volunteer-supervisor relationship, and with me free from the pressure to "say the right thing" as a representative of the church, we talked.

All night long, we talked between songs, talking about Paramhansa Yogananda, whose teachings had been influential in Larry's life, and about each other's histories. We talked about Roy Eugene Davis, chosen successor of Paramhansa Yogananda (who left the monastic life and gave up his successorship to be married), whose retreat center I had visited and with whom I had spent a little time. I learned things about Larry that night that I had never known before-- how he had lived his life before placing integrity and growth before other, less important desires, and about his recovery story from a painful past to a place of peace. He learned things about me, who I was, and some of the events that had shaped where I was going in my life. We talked about God, relationships, family, our pasts, our presents, and it's only in retrospect that I realized how little talk about futures there had been. We talked about karaoke, and friendships, and bungee jumping, and being silly.

And at some point in the night, shortly before I sang my last karaoke song, Larry became very serious. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said, "You are something special, you know. Just really, really special." My usual awkward and giddy self, I looked away and tried to change the subject. He focused in more closely on me, with a gaze I knew I couldn't escape, piercing right through to the core of my being. When he knew he had my attention again, he smiled a little, with the same look of sincere caring and amusement of a loving father. He added, "You are such a free spirit! Just really a free spirit, and I think that's awesome. Don't give it up. Don't let them get you down."

There was something in the way he looked at me that night, and the way he said what he did, that has been permanently burnt upon the film of my life and the story of my soul. It wasn't that he admired me or my free-spirited nature that stuck with me, but rather the overwhelming sense of longing I felt from him that night as he called me out for who I was. He wasn't telling me anything that was completely an unfamiliar idea to me-- I've always considered myself a bit quirky and free-spirited. But it was the nonverbal, the part of his communication that extended beyond his simple words and held me out in the open where I couldn't hide from myself, that made an impression. I knew that night when he said what he did that there was something more than a simple interaction going on, but I wasn't sure what.

And then my family and I moved to South Carolina, and I never saw Larry Losey again.

Shortly after the move, a friend and youth group volunteer from the church back home called, crying, to tell me the news. Larry had just passed on, and I believe she said it was from a rare form of pancreatic cancer. At that moment, on the phone, I understood what I had felt from him that night at karaoke. I still can't put it into words, but I recognize fully the emotion, the longing, the realization he was placing into my heart and for my future, from his own place of staring into the stark reality of not getting well again. For a few months, I saw him in my dreams. And then he just went away.

...

Our move to small town South Carolina in 2004 was initially a good one. The first year we were there, we realized we didn't fit in very well, but were okay with that, thinking it would be short term. Then, as our time there continued, I began to try to preserve my spunk, my uniqueness, in little ways, including using this blog as a creative outlet and emotional sounding board. And then, somehow, over time, I began to give in, in little ways, to the banality of stereotypical family life in a small town and to those who would do me harm. I quit singing karaoke, quit dancing in my living room, talked less and less about my past (even though that involved talking less and less about some of my life's most awesome lessons and insights), quit saying things that might not be socially acceptable, focused my blogging on more light-hearted and less personal things, and began to worry a great deal about fitting in and what other people thought of me. I willingly gave up so much of who I was in the name of maintaining connections-- ANY kind of connections-- with the people around me and the culture in which I was immersed, and left all my free-spirited parts behind. From talking to my husband about our lives and how the move impacted us, it seems we were going through different, but parallel, experiences of feeling we had to choose between being outcasts in our community (or at least oddballs) and giving up huge parts of who we were.

And so, last year, after the quest to become like all other nice families in our area had sucked the Life out of both of us, worried about what we were providing for our children, feeling like our integrity had been sacrificed, we decided we needed to move. Neither of us wanted to be in a big city, but neither of us wanted another super-small town, either. We wanted somewhere progressive, where we wouldn't be the oddballs, and where spontaneity, intellectual curiosity, and spiritual seeking were the norm, and where we could more fully express who each of us wanted to become. We researched, and inquired, and prayed, and finally settled on a smallish (but not too small), crunchy town in North Carolina near a major university. We planned for a few months, and then made our move on a short term lease, which we knew would be up on June 22.

Since moving here, we've become familiar with the local culture, local opportunities, and love where we are. We were feeling the gentle nudgings of Spirit, urging us to once again become comfortable with who each of us is, flaws and all, as long as we were being real, honest, kind, compassionate, and maintaining our integrity. In spite of nudges, however, neither of us was really sure what to do, or experiencing any major life changes or shifts in the past four months.

Until the day we signed the lease on the new place we knew would be a more permanent home. Somehow, over the course of that day, I began to think of Larry Losey and our connected talk at karaoke night years ago. I remembered the way he looked at me when he declared me to be a free spirit, and felt like a disappointment for having become someone so different over the past few years, someone so predictable and boring. I felt as if my spirit had become bound up so greatly in my own fears of disappoinment, of rejection, of loneliness, and of failure, and seeing Larry in my mind's eye, smiling as he reminded me of who I was, tugged at me day and night for several days.

This one moment, frozen in my memory, reminded me of how un-fluid everything in me, everything in my life and soul and spirit and being had become over the past few years-- years that began with one betrayal and were quickly followed by another-- years in which I realized that even those people I had trusted the most and loved the most might be flawed and imperfect and leave me hurt and bewildered. The past few years were years in which I began to feel the need for something outside of me to be stable and steady and predictable, and tried to make it that way by making everything within me as stable and steady and predictable as I wanted my environment to become. Thinking of Larry and his simple assessment (one made with a delight and appreciation I haven't felt from anyone other than my husband in recent years) reminded me that this one moment has become so crystallized in my memory because it is one of the last times that someone else (other than my husband, who knows me through and through, better than I even know myself, and loves me unconditionally-- craziness, quirkiness, intensity, and all) took the time to really get to KNOW me, and further, to encourage me to be comfortable in my own skin, without having to pretend or meet a certain standard of "good"-ness before being accepted.

It's been a long 5 years, and very lonely in many ways.

And frankly, I'm glad to be moving on.

I think I realize now why Larry has been so ever-present in my thoughts over the past two weeks. I'm being reminded that we are here now, not there. I am free now, not bound. I am allowed now to open up, to explore my reality, and to become who I am. I am being reminded that deep down inside, under the wounds and scars and anxieties, there is a free spirit. Someone who is very, incredibly special and unique, and who I'd like to get to know again. Someone who, perhaps, other people might want to get to know, and come to love, and want to befriend. Someone who has something to offer that isn't tied up in social appropriateness but is nonetheless powerful and exciting.

Thank you, Larry, for the reminder. Then, and now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coming back

Okay, I've been inspired (partly by having my life come back into some semblance of order, partly by living in a new place that inspires my creativity, party by needing an outlet, and partly by a friend recently asking about blogging) to revive this old blog and get it back in action. First, I'm going to be transferring over some of the posts I've done on Wordpress since shutting this puppy down. Then, a little editing and reformatting. Finally, writing. I've missed blogging. It's time.

Since I used haloscan for my comments for a long time, most of the old comments are lost. But the posts are still there. :-)