Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Meeting the Stranger Dragon

Once upon a time, in a land much like this one, there lived a person of which many things could be said and were often said; depending upon whom was doing the talking.  But in actuality, no one really knew her.  On this particular day she dressed choosing her outfit carefully.  Kissing her children goodbye, she straightened her crown and headed quickly to court to begin her day.

It was a lovely autumn day, warm with a light breeze.  The sun shown on her golden hair making her feel warm and little happy for just a minute.  But truth be told, she barely noticed, not even on this day, her birthday.  She arrived at court to be greeted with a flurry of activity.  A preparation of sorts was underway, for a visitor she would meet for the very first time, a stranger she thought.

That morning she was nervous and fretful for many reasons.  Some of the reasons she knew and understood well, while others were a complete mystery to her.  She was perplexed and out of sorts, not something she was accustomed to feeling.  But, being a somewhat stubborn person, used to pushing her way through things successfully, and creating things from her shear will, she ignored the feelings of the morning and soldiered on.

Ignoring the court jester on her way in, she was debriefed by several advisors.   Finally after a rather unproductive conversation with Merlin, she quickly retreated to the parlor for a few moments.  Here she did a very uncharacteristic thing; she removed her crown.

If you ask her now, she would say she has always done this before meetings with strangers, but that is revisionist history at best.  If you asked her back then why she did it, she would not have had an answer for you and would have stared at you blankly.   Needless to say, asking her then or now would bear no truth.  The only truth is that it was the first time she had done such a thing.

The visitor arrived as she was entering court from the parlor.  She heard him while nearly simultaneously seeing him.  Here is the part no one will believe, nor should they, for this moment belongs to her alone; but I share it with you at her bequest.  She received a double shock to her system upon first hearing his voice, then seeing his face. But no, shock is not the right word, it is not the word she would use.  She actually does not have a word for what happened but rather an impossible picture, perhaps better described as a feeling,  flashed in her mind; twice, nearly simultaneously.

Upon hearing his voice, a picture of home flashed before her mind.  A place, matched with a person, matched with a feeling, of belonging, safety, sweetness, and calm.  The picture was so vivid, she could smell the air, see the light, and taste the goodness of it.  Upon seeing his face, the picture expanded, filling itself with immense emotion.  Feelings made tangible and solid, so strong she could actually see strength, freedom, and truth along with tables for food and chairs for conversation.  But these are words that mean little and barely do justice to the picture she saw and felt and touched…and loved.

It is a curious thing to be shown such a wonderful picture by a stranger in such a public way.  For she was so unprepared for what had happened to her, assuming anyone can be prepared for such a thing, that the meeting which took place with the stranger after that was a blur for her.  Although she has been assured that she performed quite well in her duties, she could not attest to the accuracy of those assurances.  Even now she struggles to remember much of that time except for the voice, the face, and the resulting pictures.

In the end, the stranger left, her court and her children grew, and the queen cherished the pictures and lived in them all alone.

Time marched on, but the pictures never faded.  One day, a handsomely fierce and dangerously fiery dragon came into the village.  He announced himself proudly, as fantastic trouble and mysterious loneliness.  He bounded around loudly without regard for her kingdom, her court or her children.   He blew a perilous fire that seemed to threaten everything the Queen held dear.

The queen tried everything to rid her realm of him. She tried fighting the dragon by sending her knights, but the dragon was too strong.  She tried outsmarting the dragon by sending her best advisors, but the dragon was too smart.  She tried bribing the dragon with food, wine, and riches, but he gobbled up all she sent and was ravenous for more.  She even tried hiding from him, but he seemed to be drawing nearer with each action she took.  She put all her effort into banishing the dragon from her kingdom, but nothing seemed to work.

She had nearly given up all hope, when she thought of the pictures, her pictures, the pictures that the stranger had given to her.  She was more afraid than she had ever been in her entire life.  If she revealed the pictures to the dragon, he might take them away from her or he might destroy them.  Worse yet he might laugh and think her pictures worthless, something that she knew would finish her completely.

After much contemplation, she did what had to be done; she went personally to meet the dragon.

The dragon was standing on the beach looking out at the ocean, his back to her.  Trembling, the Queen approached him.  She cleared her throat.  She opened her mouth and began to speak.  As the dragon turned around, he first heard her voice, then, nearly simultaneously he saw her face.  The pictures came flowing out of her and into the dragon.  The dragon stood still for a moment, a very long moment, a moment so long that it stretched over time and space and took forever within a second.

Then the dragon smiled.

The dragon took the queen into his arms, and for the first time, there on the beach, the stranger and the queen stood together inside of the picture and kissed.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's all in the picture

As previous post attests to, my year is not exactly starting off with a bang.  Or perhaps it is, just not the bang for which we all hope*.

Which begs the question...

...for what do I hope?


Those are big words with a myriad of meanings, each meaning different depending on to whom you are speaking, what day it is, and if Venus and Mars are aligned.  Meaning of those words aside, I understand all too well the pit falls that come into play when running after happiness, measuring fulfillment, and longing for contentment.  Each action negating the thing for which you are attempting to attain.  The "running after" puts happiness farther away with each step, the mere act of "measuring" assures unfulfilled moments, and...well, certainly "longing for" pushes contentment off with a force equal to the longing.

                  Is there an equation for that?        


So here the deal:
                      I don't know exactly that for which I hope.

I can't name it, but oddly enough I can see my hope in snapshot form**.  I don't have succinct words to write about it, but I can feel hope in my bones when I imagine certain pictures in my head.  I have learned (although I have to remind myself of this often these days) that thinking about my pictures can break the negative cycle of "longing for", "measuring", and "chasing after."  Here is one of my favorite snapshots that gets me through these tough times:

Warm night sweet with ocean breeze, darkness with small lights, flowing soft cloth, light touch, glasses of wine, smiles and laughter, deep conversation, kind listening eyes.

I could go on, but you get the picture (ba da boom).  For me, when I don't know that for which to hope, when words fail me, and people do as well, I think about my pictures and the feelings they evoke.  The one I shared above is of companionship, warmth, and understanding.  For me it rings of touch, taste, and sound.  It brings contentment as I linger in the picture.  If I never experience that picture, it does not diminish the effect it has on me nor does it take away it's power to bring contentment.

...for what do I hope?

Perhaps I hope for the picture.  Or perhaps I simply hope for the feelings associated with the picture.  And if thinking about the picture brings those feelings, is that not enough?***

Perhaps not forever, but for me, now,
                                            ...it's all in the picture.

Footnotes for the others who overthink.

*  Although here is exactly where I want to start talking about it, I'll spare you (for now) the lecture on Conscious Uncoupling, where I tell you how we are each others' teachers, where I explain how there are no mistakes only experiences, and where I tell you that even through the pain of change and the heartbreak of ending, there is good.  Instead of lecturing, I will ask each of you to get the book Conscious Uncoupling:  Living Happily Even After. I think EVERYONE should read it.  Yes you the happily married person, yes you the single person, yes you the person going through a break up now and YES YES YES especially you the heart broken person who can't seem to love again.

**  Glasser calls this a quality world picture: a picture you hold in your mind that represents the feeling/goal/value that you strive to reach or maintain.  Please forgive me as this is likely a bastardized version of Glasser.  Choice Theory deals with the values behind the quality world pictures, talks about the pictures changing but the values remaining the same.  I would say the value represented here has to do with my basic human need for deep intimate connections. But I have learned that thinking about my quality pictures brings contentment, a by-product of the process that I find pleasing.

***  Don't get me wrong, I don't advocate day dreaming your life away and not accomplishing things or even striving to make your pictures a reality.  I am not against measurements (do you know what I do for a living?).  I am no stranger to striving, it is a value I hold at my very core.  I also do not think that longings are even bad.  I am simply sharing something that I have found to be an effective way of calming my mind, adjusting my attitude, and focusing my energies.

Bella doing homework in Jamaica

And if you are lucky, and you pay close attention,
particularly in the quiet moments,
your quality pictures can come to life.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Facebook post Jan 5, 2016

While there are likely people who will think us foolish, selfish, or just plain wrong to air such news on Facebook, Archie and I have decided to share with our community, in this way, some news about our family. We have chosen this venue because it is difficult for us to talk to everyone before the news is shared by others. Simply put we would like to make sure our story, in our words, is out there because our children will talk about it and it is our hope that they will encounter understanding and love.To you adults:
Archie and I have decided to separate. While we remain committed to each other’s success in life, and full of mutual respect for each other, we will be living apart. It was not an easy decision or one taken lightly, but rather one that is rooted in what we believe to be our best chance at being and becoming healthy individuals and the best possible parents to our children. In reality we are working on conscious uncoupling, a process that is rooted in compassion. For us it is a slow, purposeful, kind and respectful way of ending or changing a relationship. It is our hope to build each other and our family up through this process.
To our children we said the same thing but in their terms:
We know how important it is to be healthy. We work very hard at being healthy. We eat good foods and we exercise to make our bodies healthy. We read and learn new things to make our minds healthy. And we speak kindly and act nicely to each other to keep our hearts healthy. There are other things that adults need to be healthy as well. Right now Mommy and Daddy need to work on those adult things to be healthy (our kids know there are adult things that they will learn when they grow up so this is not a strange concept to them). Mommy and Daddy tried to work on them together, but it did not work. So we have to work on them apart.
We are sorry if we did not speak to some of you personally before posting this. It was not due to lack of desire to talk to our friends, but rather a time constraint as our children know and will want to share their news with their community. It is also a daunting task to speak to everyone about something that remains painful for us.
Thank you for being a part of our lives. Thank you in advance for your love and support. It has not been an easy time for our family, but we remain optimistic about the future and believe that good things are in store for our family, no matter what our family dynamic might look like.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

There is a young cowboy who lives...

I was a young mother, a child myself when my first son was born.  To me he was the best plaything for which I could have wished.  And since he believed babies came from wishes, I suppose in this regard he was right.  He was my wish.

I remember…

…that I filled his room with toys we both loved, so we could play together for hours.  He had a huge plastic play house in his room into which we both could fit.  It took up more space than was reasonable.  One day he said that he wanted to be able to see the planets when we were in the house (I had sticker-ed glowing stars and planets all over the ceiling of his room).  So I took the off roof and threw it away, because what adult was there to say we couldn’t?

I remember…

…when the rain was light and warm we would walk between the raindrops (like the witches) and stomp in puddles (like Ping).  We would dig in the mud for worms and hold their squiggly bodies in our fingers.  We would dance barefoot in the rain, because what adult was there to tell us to put on our boots?

I remember…

…when it was cold and rainy we would make forts and create imaginary worlds with sofa cushions, drying racks, chairs, and blankets.  We left our creations up for days and even weeks, because what adult was there to tell us to clean up?

I remember…

…we played and perfected our video game skills.   In fact Zelda was one of our favorites, but I never could fly very well holding that darn chicken and he had to do it for me every time.  Often we played the video games instead of doing homework, because what adult was there to tell us otherwise?

I remember…

…we played late into the evening.  And when we were hungry, we ate ice cream for dinner before tucking in on the sofa to watch TV as we fell asleep.  We kept vampire hours whenever possible, because what adult was there to tell us to go to sleep?

I remember…

…that our life was filled with music.  We danced in our under ware, wearing towel capes fastened with diaper pins, holding tinker-toy marching sticks, yelling at the top of our lungs.  At night I would sing to him my renditions of James Taylor, John Denver, and Joni Mitchell, with some REM and Nirvana sprinkled in for good measure.  We made up our own special song combining cartoon intro, commercial jingles, and our own made up silliness, because what adult was there to say we had to sing lullabies?

 It was with many memories of my son dancing around in my head, that I traveled north for his wedding weekend.  And while his wife is everything I hoped he would find in a partner, the weekend was still a happy/sad time for me.  As I watched him stand before friends and family, my eyes could still see the little boy, even though I knew that she saw the man.  As he read his vows to her, my ears could still hear the little voice, even though I knew that she heard his deep tones.  As I my thoughts continued to travel backwards to the past lived with him, I knew that she imagined forward to a life yet lived with him.

After the beautifully touching ceremony, after their first kiss ever, after lovely boat rides to the reception, after a Hawaiian music filled dinner, and after the most beautiful hula dance from wife to husband imaginable (leaving us all blushing), the son/mother dance was upon us.  We had not talked about it, I did not know about it, and he would not be dissuaded from skipping it (my suggestion since it had started to rain).

So caught up in the moment, only gradually did I hear the song to which we were dancing.  Then it all came flooding back, the memories, the childhood, the playing, the love.  It was the song I sang to him as a baby and the song I sang with him as a child.
There is a young cowboy who lived on the range
His horse and his cattle are his only companions
He works in the saddle and he sleeps in the canyons
Waiting for Summer, his pastures to change
And as the moon rises he sits by his fire
Thinking about MOMMIES and glasses of MILK
And closing his eyes as the doggies retire
He sings out a song which is soft but it’s clear
As if maybe someone could hear 
Goodnight moonlight ladies
Rock-a-bye sweet baby TAYLOR
Deep greens and blues are the colors I chose
Won’t you let me go down in my dreams
And rock-a-bye sweet baby TAYLOR
*MANY changes to James Taylor’s song which are my own

I will always remember…

…the rain was light and he danced barefooted.  We danced in the middle of a crowd, cocooned by their love and cushioned by their well intentions.  We danced alone, through time, as I closed my eyes and sang to him again the words that were so familiar to us.  I rocked the baby once more.  I sang with the child again.  And then at last, I beheld the man.

He has always been my wish.  And when I opened my eyes and saw her standing there watching us dance, I knew that he was her wish too!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Scares Me

As Halloween grows near, with ghosts and goblins around every corner, I was speaking with a friend of mine about fears, real and imagined.  I told her, I don’t watch the news.  I don’t listen to the news.  I don’t read - yup you got it – the news.  It is not that I don’t care about what is going on in the world or even my neck of the woods, it is that my brain cannot get rid of the truly horrible and the media thrives on showing the truly horrible.  The news makes me fearful.
Point in case, as I am sitting in the hospital waiting room the TV is on CNN.  “Up next is a story about every parent’s nightmare, an 8 year old boy, lost in New York city, who turns to the wrong person for help.”  I am heart sick for the rest of the day and cannot sleep at night.  Nothing compared to the horror that his parents are facing, but I don’t need this story to remind me that my children are growing up in an unsafe world.  I already hold them close, trying to protect them from every bump in the night – and some pretty scary day “bumps” too.  I have made my home a virtual fortress - short of putting up barbed wire.  I don’t mind telling you we have cameras, alarms, sensors and every other bell and whistle in place to try and keep our little ones safe. 
I am actually not free from these things even on Facebook, my refuge from reality – come on you all know the life we have on FB is way better than reality.  Ok, well maybe there are a few of you who post all your boo boos and woes – shame on you and stop it!  But the majority of us share happy photos, funny quips and a chicken or two for a farm.  Anyway, sometime ago a “friend” disturbed my Facebook refuge with a story about Shaniya Davis – if you don’t know the story don’t look it up as it will tear you up, just know it is very very bad.  This “friend” said we needed to band together and get rid of such evil in our world.  She reposted the news story in all it’s horrible detail.  And she gave no indication on what banding together to rid the world of evil even meant.  In fact I would guess that everyone reading that post thinks evil is wrong, would like it gone from this world and agrees with her, but just wanting it so or posting on FB does not make it disappear and is not a solution.
At night my daughter has taken to falling asleep with me in bed – don’t tell me how I am ruining her, I actually don’t care.  This time at night gives me the opportunity to snuggle her, holding her in my protective embrace – I think my husband does the same when he rocks our son to sleep every night.  It is not always an enjoyable time for me as she drifts to sleep peacefully; I wish it were.  But often I think of the boy from New York or little Shaniya, or some other horrible thing that has crept into my mind because someone has unwittingly told me a story or recounted a tragedy.  I think about how I could best protect both she and her brothers; quit my job and stay with them 24/7 , hire a body guard, never let them out of the house, I even think about scaring them into being afraid of strangers or at the very least teaching them about strangers.  Thats smart, right, teaching them about strangers?
A long time ago, a young friend of mine was playing downstairs while his mother showered.  She heard a man’s voice downstairs and quickly jumped out of the shower, threw on a robe and ran downstairs.  There at the door, her son was talking to a man.  She quickly got rid of the man and shut the door.  When she calmed down a bit she asked my friend, “Haven’t we said you are not allowed to talk to strangers?” 
“Yes,” was his reply. 
“Well then, why were you talking to that man?  He is a stranger.” 
“OH,” said my young cousin.  “I did not know he was a stranger, he looked just like a human being.”
This is what we are up against as parents.  A world full of strangers dressed up as human beings.  But worse than that we are in a world where evil can be dressed up as human beings.  I don’t mean that in a metaphysical sense, I mean we have evil people among us and they look like us!  I can’t tell the difference between a serial killer and a computer programmer (there is a test you can take for this at http://www.malevole.com/mv/misc/killerquiz/).  So how do I think my children will be able to tell.  And worse yet, most children know the people that hurt them – so putting the fear of strangers into them does not always work either.
Besides, I don’t want fearful children.  The worst thing in Bella's little life right now is naptime and when we run out of gum, Zachary is barely even conscious of the world around him, and Taylor still thinks he is indestructible – as most man cubs do. 
I don’t know the answer.  I don’t know how to keep them safe from boogey people, while allowing them the freedom they need to grow.  I don’t know how to teach them about the world we live in without tainting their innocent hearts.  I certainly don’t know how to keep myself from worrying so they won’t grow up to be worriers themselves.   Do you?
I know this is a bummer of a post, but something that has weighed on my heart for a while.  It is easy to say that fear is not of God, but I believe we are also charged with training our children and preparing them for life.  I share this as a struggle of mine...perhaps you have answers and perhaps you struggle as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bees and other conversations

She got there early.  After ordering her tea and choosing a comfy spot in a tucked away corner, she used the next few minutes to convince herself that everything would be normal.   As she had proven to be unreliable in the past, she did not believe herself now.   Her stomach was tightening, loosening enough to flip over, only to tighten again.  Cradling her hands around the paper cup, she blew on the tea she would not likely drink.  Looking around, she was extra careful not to make eye contact with anyone.   It was unlikely that she knew anyone here, but getting into a conversation, however brief or inconsequential, would have put her over the edge.  

Besides she was horrible at small talk.  She always marveled at how easily others seemed to talk to one another, chit-chatting about small things.  They reminded her of bees, buzzing about with purpose.  Constant buzzing.  They never lacked things to buzz about.  She could never do that, buzzing on and on. 

Oh she did want to be skilled in buzzing.  Often before parties she would practice.  “Can you believe that new finding that was published, the one on sound waves creating mass?”  She imagined her comment would illicit some equally clever response, followed by a deep discussion of physics and God.  They would discuss this new finding as it relates to the Genesis account of God creating the world by speaking.  Others might even join in the conversation, each person building on the comment of the last. 

It never worked out quite like she practiced.  Most of the time she never even attempted the buzz, but when she did she usually got a blank stare followed by a nervous laugh.  Then the bee she was talking to would buzz on about some inane thing, she would respond as best she could at respectable intervals between the buzzing of others.  Last night she had tried to think of some buzzing to start the conversation with today, but she knew it would be unnecessary. 

Mediocre paintings from local artists adorned all of the walls except the one behind her which held a cork board overflowing with papers.    There were two ladies on the sofa in the middle of the room buzzing away.  She strained to hear them as she pretended to read a “Missing Cat” poster on the cork board.

"…was the last time, I told him."  The thin, prissy bee shook her head in disbelief at what the shorter, older bee was saying.  “But he insisted that I was wrong.  Wrong! Can you believe that?”  The prissy bee looked worried and thrilled at the same time.  “So I did it anyway.  And do you know what, it was great, just great.  You have to come with me next time.  Or better yet, I’ll send you the information and you can do it whenever you like.”  Buzz Buzz Buzz.  She listened to the bees for a few minutes, could not figure out for the life of her what they were talking about and finally lost interest and began to scan the cork board in earnest.

She had started to relax just a bit when she heard his familiar voice.

“Hi.” Looking at her cup he pointed to the counter, letting her know that he was going to order his coffee.  She continued to blow on her tea while starring at the papers on the corkboard. 

“Tall Americana with room,” he told the baby faced barista behind the counter.   Babyface was slender and tall with a youthful beauty.  She wished she could remember what it was like to have the adolescent confidence that Babyface seemed to exude.  Did she ever have it or was she always nervous?  Even in her youth she remembered the great effort it took her to look carefree.   The thought of effortful-carefree-ness brought a smile to her face just as he sat down.

“What’s funny?” 

She could not even explain it to him if she had wanted to, and she did not want to.  She hoped that she was doing a good job of looking carefree and dare not give any indication of the huge effort it took just at that moment to sit there calmly with him.

“How’s your coffee?” she asked him, changing the subject.  He was already drinking it piping hot.  It usually took her 30 minutes of blowing to cool her tea down enough to drink it.  By then anyone else she had ever taken coffee or tea with was usually done.   There were dried puddles of tea in parking lots and bunches of paper cups in the back of her car as testament to her inability to drink the teas she ordered.  So wasteful, but who wants to meet for coffee with someone who drinks nothing?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can't see eye to eye

Dear Lady Down the Street,
Hello.  We don’t really know each other.  But I can tell you are full of yourself.  You walk about the neighborhood as if you own the place, nose in the air, chatting with only the chosen few.  I am not one of those people so to me you have spoken maybe 3 words.  You certainly don’t talk to me at parties.  In fact you look right through me all the while being loud and obnoxious with your inner circle.  I would not mind chatting with you when I see you but I can’t bring myself to do it, you see I am shy.  I am not sure what I did, but have resigned myself to not even being neighborly with you.   
-Lady Up the Street-

Dear Lady Up the Street,
Hello.  We don’t really know each other.  But I know you don’t like me.  I walk by your house on nice days, admiring that pretty tree in your front yard, the one that has the robin’s nest in it, but you never talk to me.  I usually cross the street to talk to others.  I tried talking with you once or twice but it is awkward for some reason.  Sometimes I see you at parties but I have friends with whom I feel comfortable and so I generally stick with them, you see I am shy.  I am not sure what I did, but have resigned myself to not even being neighborly with you. 
-Lady Down the Street-