Last night I dreamed I was about to take a final. I was somewhere between the age when people typically take finals, and the age I am now. I was some vague age taking some vague final for some vague class. I had not studied. I could not remember having been to the class for quite some time. The final included memorizing formulas of which I had not ever bothered to learn. It was 30 minutes before the final, when I finally remembered I was to take the final. Emotionally, I was a mix between freaked out, and perturbed that my plans for the day would have to be altered, if I wanted to get to that final.
Had a dream a couple of weeks ago, one of those back-to-school dreams, that teachers know so well. Was assigned a new school, a new grade (kindergarten!), and showed up to work for the very first time, on the first day of school. Walked into my new classroom, just as the kids were arriving. Had nothing arranged. Had nothing planned. Had nothing ready for the day, let alone the year.
Once a student, always a student.
Once a teacher, always a teacher
Aren't they one in the same? Aren't we all teachers and students, students and teachers, every day, all day long, our whole lives?
Been awhile since I posted. Been busy and yet have had plenty of time to watch bad TV and in general, just goof off.
Summers are for that, goofing off.
Made a goal in May to read six books this summer. Just finished number six. That being said, two were Mindy Kaling's memoirs, and while delightful, hardly qualify as literature.
Don't feel much like doing anything that requires much brain power. Might be being over 50. Might be not being all that intelligent to begin with. Might be that at times it feels each and every thought I have, big or small, important or irrelevant, is interrupted and replaced with someone else's big or small, important or irrelevant thought.
Had a circular conversation yesterday over the change from a $5.00 bill. The ice cream truck came through the neighborhood for perhaps the second time all summer. Five notes in of, "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" and I'm in PTSD from the years and years and years of revolving our lives around whether or not the ice cream truck would come, when, and where. Gave Wil $5.00 and a drawstring bag, and told him to go find the truck on his bike.
We've come a long way.
He came back very happy, and had eaten a Minion treat that he said was $1.00. "I gave him $5.00 and he gave me back $2.50, because it was a dollar." No amount of me explaining it must have cost $2.50, since $2.50 plus $2.50 equalled $5.00, was accomplishing anything except making me want to stab myself.
I dropped it.
I was able to be happy that he had made it all happen without me. Without drama. Without stress. Without any working knowledge of basic, functional math, either, but without me.
Ran errands on Saturday morning, and he was prattling on and on about the fall football games coming up, his plans to have a sleep-over after every-other game, while simultaneously giving me Starbucks orders for people for whom he'd like to buy a treat. All of a sudden, he grins from ear-to-ear, joy in his voice and says, "I should marry myself 'cause everything good is happening to me."
My brain may be shot, but my heart and soul grow by the minute.
Wil is 20 today. No longer a teenager. In fact, I'm out of teenagers around here, which makes me feel old and accomplished, both at the same time.
Somehow, two decades have passed, and we enter a third. We are all a little/lot the worse for wear, yet, enriched, enhanced, perhaps even a tad more enlightened.
Wouldn't wish the last 20 years on my worst enemy.
Wouldn't trade them for the world.
It's the push and pull.
It's the paradoxes that make up life and love.
It's the living in the liminal space.
It's having to establish boundaries where we need them, and break them down where we don't.
It's having to grab hold of what keeps us sane and let go of what no longer serves us.
It's a paring down and a building up.
It's a force-fit into more mindfulness.
It's a clarifier that 20 years of having that feeling of your feet in the starting blocks, ready for that gun to go off, can bring.
On a continuum between barely surviving and completely thriving, we've moved in the right direction.
Today, as we celebrated at 5:07 AM with ice cream cake and boxes to open, what the boxes actually contained being of little to no importance, we heard a "Thank you" after each gift was discovered. When I said, "Look up, I want to take your picture," he looked up. He then helped clean up the mess, put his dirty plate in the sink, and washed his hands without an argument.
He quickly changed his clothes into the new Nike apparel, before hustling off at 6:45 for the daily Mass that starts at 8:00. Last night at a church BBQ, the priest received his instructions to have the mass-goers sing Happy Birthday this morning. When asked by one friend what he wanted for his birthday, he said, "Vacation Bible School is my present. I have everything else I want."
He is here to serve.
He is here to teach.
He is here to tire, wear down, exhaust and deplete to such a point, that what goes back in has to be different than what went out.
Happy birthday to my teacher, my sidekick, my companion, my friend.
Well, Wil forgot entirely about "needing" ground cocoa, but did not forget about needing a lid for his certain re-usable cup he wanted to fill with water for camp. He did not forget to make it my #1 mission in life to track down said lid, before there could be any peace.
Off we went to 7-Eleven, in hopes one of their Big Gulp lids would fit. It did. The nice man behind the counter said we could have the $0.001 lid, but I felt obligated to buy something, so we looked around the store.
We were the only ones in the store, until a man wearing one of those fluorescent orange vests, walked in and headed to the coffee. We left the store with our purchase and our free lid, and got in my car. I started to drive out of the parking lot, and noticed the driveway was semi-blocked by a truck. Thinking that was weird, I stopped, watched for a second, and realized the truck was indeed in motion. Looking up at the cab of the truck, I saw that it held no driver. Putting two-and-two together, I realized the driver must be inside 7-Eleven, getting coffee (which he, obviously, had not had enough of).
I reversed, parked, ran in the store yelling, "YOUR TRUCK! IT'S MOVING! IT'S ROLLING DOWN THE STREET!" The man in the orange vest flew out of the store, hopped in his truck and drove it to safety, before hitting or injuring anyone or anything.
I don't know what I'm more in awe of, the fact that there are no accidents? If we hadn't needed that lid, we never would have been there. If we'd taken the lid and left, and not shopped for a minute, we would have been gone before the man arrived. Or, that with enough adrenaline, my brain can still kick into gear and process information?
In the last 42 hours, I have helped my children find two sets of keys, a wallet, a jacket, a pair of prescription glasses, and a cell phone. These were not items misplaced at home, no, these were items that were left behind and had to be tracked down. In all cases, the items were found and held safe by good-hearted strangers, until we could claim them.
It should be noted that I was not with either of my children, when they lost said items.
Had an impromptu, and lovely, visit with my neighbor and friend last night. She is busy with a demanding career and the responsibilities that come from taking care of aging parents. Although we live across the street from one another, we rarely see each other.
As we caught up, the conversation moved from subject-to-subject. I shared with her, that I'm very worried about my poor memory, the lapses between what I want to say, and what I am actually saying, the increased dependence on Post-It notes and phone reminders, to make sure things get done, and the train of life stays on the track. I shared that I made a grocery list last week, came home with everything crossed off, yet, when I went to look for the corn tortillas, they were nowhere to be found. I remember standing in the aisle looking for them. I remember not finding the ones I like best on one stand, and intending to walk across the aisle to the other stand. Somewhere between that intention and the execution, I became distracted. Could have been that I got a text from Wil with further orders for the day. Could have been that I saw something else in the store, that wasn't on the list, and when I veered for a second off my shopping rhythm, I lost the thread of what I was doing, entirely. Could have been that I thought of something else, grabbed my phone to make a note so I wouldn't forget, and then, forgot what it was I was doing while I was trying to remember what not to forget.
Could it be that I forget what I'm doing because I spend so much of every day keeping everyone else on track? "Do you have your key?" "Do you have your phone?" "Do you have your money?" "Remember when you get there to ___________."
Could it be that I am bombarded from 5:30 AM to 8:00 PM, every day, with total and absolute minutiae that is made to be do-or-die? Last night, while trying to enjoy an outing with STM and two of our favorite people, I got an urgent text from Wil: "ONE THING WE NEED TO GET ALSO FOR OUR HOUSE IN PORTLAND IS GROUND COCOA."
Could it be that I'm 53 and just plain getting old?
Where was I going with this? I don't know. What I do know, is I have to wrap this up because we "need" to go get ground cocoa. Not sure what we'll do with it, but that's neither here nor there.
We know there are many kinds of deaths. We experience the death/loss of relationships, ideals, aspirations, images and identities we held for ourselves, hopes and dreams. Life is on a continual and multi-level cycle of death and rebirth. The old must "die" for new life to be born.
We speak of caterpillars and butterflies. We talk about the circle of life. We throw up our hands and say, "It is what it is," but for most of us, the struggle continues. The struggle to understand and the struggle to lose the need to understand. The struggle to control and the struggle to lose the need to control. The struggle to hold on and the struggle to lose the need to hold on.
I sat this morning, prayerfully shuffling the Mother Mary Oracle cards. I drew Our Lady of Resurrection. She comes to us at a time of resurrection and release. A time of light at the end of a long, dark, circuitous tunnel.
The invitation comes to reflect on the wisdom and meaning of the nocturnal animal, the owl. What has this night-time of the soul brought forward? We think of owls as serene, wise, with an unusual way of looking at things. With the help of owl wisdom, we can find peace after a "death" of any type, we can find our serenity, our wisdom, and adjust our way of looking at things.
Today is the 20th anniversary of my father's death. June 7th, 1996. I was eight months pregnant. We had our house for sale by owner. I had a barely-two-year-old. My father had been living two hours away. I'd had insomnia for months. I was big, hot, tired, overwhelmed and pulled in every direction. It was not a good chapter, and I don't often let my mind go there.
And yet, 20 years later, there's been enough time, healing, distance, perspective and dulling of memory, to make it all feel like a bad dream - one in which I've awaken from. Either that, or a story I heard about someone else. Someone, perhaps, I used to know but with whom I have lost touch.
Today, I will light a special candle for the man that helped bring me into this incarnation. I will let it burn all day. I will reflect on the light held safely within the glass. The light that has the power to purify. The light that has the power to transform.
Had it all planned out. I had the laptop ready-to-go. I was going to spend at least a couple hours trying to write, elsewhere, since no real writing seems to get done at home, what with all the constant noise and demands, both real and imagined.
Just as I was grabbing my keys, putting on my shoes, and about to leave, my husband called. There was a family emergency, of sorts, and was I free?
While dealing with the sort-of-emergency, Wil called. He was at home with his support worker, and the WiFi wasn't working to his satisfaction. Why ask your support worker to help you, when you can just call Care?
"Go upstairs, look at the wall where the WiFi 'things' are plugged in, and unplug them," I coached.
"These?" He asked. "Right here?"
"I can't see what you're looking at. Are you looking at the wall?"
We went several rounds of that, before I asked to speak to the support worker.
Hours later, when all the emergencies of the day had been dealt with as much as they could possibly be, I reflected on Wil's questions. "These? Right here?"
It is often hard to know what we're looking at. Despite guidance, direction, information and having it right in front of us, we cannot always see it. We don't know what to do with it. It's confusing. Sometimes, we need someone else to come along and unplug us - force us to step back, take a break, before starting up all over again.
So many dreams, so little time to tell you all about them. Let's go with the most prominent one:
I have offered to help a friend with her young daughter, I am going to go across, and up the street and get her, but the day turns to black night, is filled with cars coming from both directions, with no headlights on, and I can't cross. The street turns to ocean, but the sky remains black. I levitate across the water to the other side, but it's so dark, I can't find the daughter, so I come back. When I am rejoined with my friend, the sky has turned back to day, and I try to convince her it had just been pitch-black a minute ago, I swear.
I was only going to be able to help for 25 minutes, anyway, so what's the big deal?
What's up with the sky dramatically, and unpredictably changing?
What's up with it only being me that saw the sudden shifts?
When did I learn to levitate, and why can't I do it all the time?
Life can look dark, then suddenly, the sun comes out. And vice-versa.
We don't need other people to see what we see, experience what we experience, to make it true.
Getting up and over the tricky parts of life (levitating) is the key.
Had a Monday morning walk planned, that I'd been looking forward to. Needed the fresh air. Needed to move the body. Needed to get caught-up on ELD (every little detail) with my friend.
As I am wont to do, I tried to cram one more To Do in, before leaving for the walk. I had two outside planters with not-thriving plants in them, and was going to re-plant with thriving plants. Moving the planters from the front to back, where I'd have a hose, and a working surface, and the new plants, seemed hard. The planters were heavy. Tried moving the new plants and all the stuff to the front, but was making such a mess, decided to go back to Plan A. Got a little make-shift cart from the garage to help transport the planter. Tried pulling it. Didn't work. Tried pushing it, worked, until it didn't, and we hit a change in elevation on the driveway, and the cart, with increased velocity due to the incline, sent the planter straight into my shin.
Hurt like hell and my first thought was how irritating. Looked down, and there was huge swelling and bruising, instantly. Walking was painful. The sheer speed and size of the swelling scared me. The rest of the day's plans were scraped, and I spent as much time as possible, elevating and icing it.
Wil really "needed" to go to Bi-Mart and get the one thing from "our" list he had forgotten the day before, from "our" very important list. Talked my now-cancelled walking partner, into taking him to Bi-Mart, as I didn't think I could drive with my right leg in the condition it was in. Didn't know until she brought him home, that she was under-the-weather, too.
Some days our plans are just big cosmic jokes.
Some days our friends go the extra mile, and put your needs before their own.
Some days you just have to accept the situation for whatever it represents, for whatever it is, for whatever it isn't, and just elevate.
Had a very fitful sleep last night. I needed to pick someone up in the "middle" of the night (10:00 PM), and when I got them where they were going and got myself settled in bed, I tossed and turned all night. Long about 4:00 AM the land line rang. Now, before you say it, the only reason we have a land line, is it would raise our bill to cut it. Turns out someone was trying to fax something to our non-fax phone, and they were quite persistent, and no sooner had I hung up, than they would try again.
And so, when I did sleep, I dreamed weirder-than-usual dreams. Most memorable was helping a young teacher move into her newly redecorated classroom, and realizing there were no chairs for the students. Suddenly, a large group of older kids and adults were all filing out to go in search of chairs, and we ended up outside, far from the school, and walked (without the chairs) in the opposite direction. I ended up in a different school (high school?) with three other people, crouched in some back stairway, all using our smart phones to determine where we were, and where we were supposed to be, and the route in which to get there.
To no avail.
Nothing I/we tried worked, and ironically, the most map-challenged one of us (me) seemed to be leading the charge.
Moral of the story: Your smart phone ain't gonna tell you where you are in life, where you're supposed to be, and the route in which to get there.
Or something like that, I'm too tired to figure it out.
I've been playing, and loving, the game Masterpiece, since 1976, when it came out. We owned a game, my cousins owned a game, and between the two families, there have been a million turns around the board, amassing each of us lots of play money and familiarity with the art featured in the game.
Ten years ago, three of my cousins and I were all together and in Chicago, and able to walk through the Chicago Art Institute, where many of the masterpieces used in the game, are actually hanging. We all had our favorites, we remember which ones were "worth" $1,000,000 one time when we "owned" them. We remember which ones, despite the odds, frequently were forgeries. We remember when I mis-pronounced "forgery" and said, "fogery," and we remember how we've never let that joke die.
We taught our own kids to love the game, and have fun playing it wherever we're together. Somewhere along the line, we picked up extra games at garage sales, and each of us "kids" have our own game. When my mom moved from her house in Sisters, I donated the game to the thrift store. My aunt went to that very thrift store, and bought that very game, not knowing it was her sister that had donated it. When we helped my aunt to clean out her house before moving, I ended up back with the exact game I'd donated, originally.
Yesterday, was Woohoo's 22nd birthday. Her college graduation was the day before. Lots to celebrate and appreciate - much gratitude to be given for her, her birth, her accomplishments, and all that lies before her. We ended the evening with a game of Masterpiece.
The round of Masterpiece was a metaphor for each of our personalities: STM broke all the rules, he went for broke, he was able to completely detach from what the paintings looked like, and focus only on what they were worth to him. He brokered deals. He made the game his own, and unsurprisingly, won the game by having over a million dollars more than the runner-up.
I came in last place. I played conservatively. I followed the rules to a T. I bought and sold paintings based on emotion and connection, or lack thereof, to the painting. I played the game the same way I've been playing it for 40 years.
The values of the paintings are in one pile, and the paintings in another. Each new game the piles get shuffled, and are paired "randomly." There is no question that STM and I have been in "the game" before. We've been reshuffled and in different pairings throughout many incarnations, I believe. I don't know all the pairings. I don't know all the past-lives. All I know, is that together, we are a masterpiece.
Recently, I've gone on three blind "dates." That is to say, I've had coffee with women I'd never met before - women who are friends of friends or somehow linked to other women I know in the special-needs world.
We've met under the auspices of me sharing my information, experience, resources, etc. with them. And a little of that happened each time, but very little. What these women really needed and wanted, was someone to listen. Not just anyone, but someone that walked a similar path. Someone that identified with and understood their fears, neurosis, exhaustion, burdens, joys, transformative experiences, life-alterations, isolation, epiphanies - basically, life with the volume turned up.
There are innumerable ways life can turn up the volume and bring us to our knees, either in defeat or surrender (two sides of the same coin?). At these times all our "stuff" gets activated. The strong parts of ourselves, the parts that are unhealed, the light and shadow sides of our basic personalities.
I'm trying, once again, to understand where I am on the Enneagram. Richard Rohr is breaking it all down in his daily emails. He has done this before, and yet, I still struggle to determine where I am - which probably is a very telling sign of where I am (whichever one is most in denial and out-of-touch with their shadow). I am, most likely, a TWO, the Helper, which sounds great, until you learn more about it. One thing that rings true, unfortunately, is the need TWOs have for recognition for all they sacrifice.
Oh, if I had a nickel for how often I've thought, How hard would it have been to say, "Thank you," ? Is that why I continue to go on these blind dates? Because it feels so good to be recognized and appreciated? Because I just thrive on that?
It's not fun exploring the underbelly of our personalities, really seeing and understanding all parts of ourselves, how and why they got started, and what we can do to heal and unify ourselves. But what other option is there? Perhaps, going on blind dates, is a way for me to open my eyes to the parts of me I am blind to.
Had a dream last night that I was driving a car full of people, and went the wrong way, made a wrong turn, and ended up on the wrong freeway. This was not a nightmare, this was par for the course, as I am very likely to do just that in my regular life. I have lived in Portland for 31-years, and still need people to tell me how to get where I want to go. I have gotten lost, walking, in my own neighborhood, where I've lived for 20 years. It's as though the chip for directional skills, is simply missing from my brain. Don't you dare try to tell me to go north, south, east or west on anything. Don't give me the numbers of highways and freeways, all I hear is, "Blah, blah, blah." Don't muddle things by reminding me how I've done it before - each day is a new opportunity to get lost all over again.
Because I have an excellent sense of timing, and would rather die than make someone wait for me, I always allow plenty of travel time + strong-possibility-of-being-lost time + looking for parking + general chance of delays. All this is to say, I am generally the first one "there," and spend a lot of time waiting for others. I have found ways to over-compensate for my traits and tendencies, at least as it relates to timing and travel.
In the dream last night, I was driving in the middle lane, struggling to converse with my passengers, while simultaneously looking for the way off the wrong freeway, and onto the right one, I noticed a car approaching me. Sure enough, there was one car in the fast lane, that was coming toward us, not driving ahead of us. I first saw the headlights, thought that was weird, then tried to get back to my other problem at hand. But a few seconds later, another car's headlights approached, and then another. All the cars in the fast lane, were going the wrong direction. Those of us in the middle lane were confused and disoriented. The people in the slow lane were just over there minding their own business and moving along, unaffected.
Was this a dream that reinforced slow and steady wins the race?
Was this a dream that taking the wrong route can be scary, but not necessarily a bad thing?
Was this a dream that life in the middle part of life, is disorienting?
Was this a dream that being in mid-life feels like the younger generations are going too fast and out-of-control, and the older generations are oblivious?
Was this a dream that the Middle Way is the way of wisdom?
We've all heard the advice to just go with the flow. Good advice. Hard to follow. More difficult, perhaps, than going with the flow, is identifying it, and discerning how to get in it, and making choices that keep you there, rather than letting the external conditions toss you all around.
You know when you're in flow - things click along, line up, the Universe feels like a collaborator, and not a punisher. There are more "chance" happenings, more "perfect timings," more "meant to be," experiences. It feels great, and you think to yourself, Ah, I got this. That very thought, it seems, invites chaos and your feeling in the flow is threatened.
When you are feeling out-of-the-flow, when everything you try to do seems to make it worse, the only thing to do is stop doing. Step back. Take yourself out. Remove the boulder from the flow, which is you.
I have a friend going through an extremely difficult time. The layers and layers of the issues she is addressing are daunting and paralyzing. Where to begin? She can't do this until she does that, but she can't do that until... and so on. Most resources are depleted: financial, emotional, physical, time.
What is not depleted, is her faith. "I have learned through all of this, that the more I stand out of the way, the more God sends angels in to help." She then told me story after story about doctors, fellow parishioners, teachers, neighbors and friends, stepping in and stepping up, in a big way, and leading her out of this dark forest of burden.
She has helped remind me that sometimes, when you don't know what to do, do "nothing," just move out of the way.
I've been playing upwards of 16 races of MarioKart now, for weeks. You'd think I'd be great, but if I get in the single digits, I'm thrilled. Wil and I typically come in 11th and 12th place, and whichever one of us gets 12th, shouts, "DEAD last!"
The great thing about being in the back of the pack, is you are able to get what we call, the rocket. When your guy/gal is in rocket mode, you zoom ahead and get caught back up, and are given another shot at competing. It wasn't until I tried to find an image for this blogpost, that I realized it's not a rocket, it's actually a bullet. We'll go on calling it a rocket.
I have quite a day ahead of me today. I decided to do a little morning meditation, imagining a love rocket zooming ahead of my day for me, and soaring ahead with all things good, paving the way for me to "stay on track" and get through the finish line. (Today's "finish line" will be binge-watching the second season of "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.")
I'm an excellent worrier, one of the best. I can go to worst-case scenario in 0.2 seconds. It takes greater effort to move through life's challenges with a sense that love prevails, that there are forces of good, both seen and unseen, working to conspire and collaborate with us.
One friend learned this morning that her friend of 35 years, passed away in the night.
The baby was born on Good Friday. Two weeks before he was due, but apparently, wanted to be born on one of the holiest days of the year.
The father waited until his wife of well-over 50-years briefly stepped out of the room, threw open his arms in full surrender, and died peacefully. "That was Daddy's last gift to me, not to have me watch him die."
The friend defied all odds, had eaten virtually nothing in two-and-a-half months, her body nothing more than a skeleton, yet her face angelic, peaceful, radiant, beautiful. An anointing ceremony was held over a week ago. The song, "On Eagle's Wings" was played on the piano and sung while her friends, relatives and priest gently placed holy oil on her face and arms, and said their goodbyes. "I'm ready to go, send me off," she said. Eight days later, she was "off."
As you know, I'm a big fan of Theresa Caputo, aka the Long Island Medium. After watching every episode of her show over the years, I'm even more convinced that the veil between "here" and "there" is thin and fluid, and Spirit (as Theresa calls it) moves freely amid them.
"Your loved ones are safe and at peace on the other side," Theresa says all the time. When something "weird" happens, a "coincidence" or unusual occurrence, she says, "Know that that was their spirit with you at that very time."
As "new" spirits come into our lives and familiar souls "leave," it is comforting, for me, to think of them as part of the continual cycle of life and death, and not the beginning or end.
We die a little each day, and ideally, we are awakened, or born, a little, too.
Woohoo graduates from college in 19 days. How is this possible? As they say, the days are long and the years are short. So true.
We decided we both needed new dresses and shoes for the big graduation. Not enough can really be made of this milestone, and new outfits would help to make a little more out of it. Sunday, Woohoo and I went to the mall where we've been together a million times, but not for a long, long time. That, in itself, was sentimental, just walking by the stores where we used to get her children's clothes, then her tween and teenage outfits. She's not much of a mall person these days, but recalls when going there was what she most wanted to do.
Because Woohoo and I are similar shoppers (quick and efficient, no dilly-dallying), we were able to select our dresses and matching shoes pretty easily, and had plenty of time to go across the street and have a beer. Not enough can be made of having your children reach drinking age.
As we were leaving the mall, we spotted a woman who has a son that went kindergarten through high school with Woohoo. We stopped, visited, caught up, laughed and marveled that this woman and I met on a pre-dawn, chilly, dark January morning in 1999, as we stood in line outside the school, waiting to register our preschoolers in kindergarten. There weren't a lot of spots, and it was first come, first serve. I was number 2 in line, she was number 3. We chatted. We got acquainted. 17 years later, there is still a strong thread that runs between our lives. Through 40th birthday parties, travel, divorce, re-marriage, the natural waning and waxing of most friendships, we have an unbreakable connection.
No accidents that we ran into her, of all people. She is a living bookmark of where we are now in the book of life, where we've been, and the exciting possibilities of where we will go.
"Yes, those with mental and physical disabilities, minority groups, LGBTQ folks, refugees, prisoners, those with addictions--anyone who's "failed" in our nicely constructed social or economic success system--can be our best teachers in the ways of the Gospel. They represent what we are most afraid of and what we most deny within ourselves. That's why we must learn to love what first seems like our 'enemy'; we absolutely must or we will never know how to love our own soul, or the soul of anything."
- Richard Rohr
We live in very politically-charged times. We all have our opinions, our causes, our hot buttons and issues that make us passionate/crazy/react/retract/etc. It is my personally-held belief that posting on Facebook, or other social media, anything political, causes more unrest than it does anything else. I don't believe people pop on over to Facebook to be educated or have their mind opened/changed, and so, I choose to stay out of that. I have a friend whose own mother said, "We better part ways," over diametrically opposed opinions were posted on Facebook. Yesterday, I read the above quotation from one of my best spiritual teachers, Fr. Richard Rohr (sign up for his amazing daily emails here). While it has long been my belief that those with disabilities are the best teachers, I, personally, see where I need to extend that belief to others that are beyond social and/or economic "success" systems. Harder still, perhaps, is asking ourselves how do we extend our belief that those within the "success" system? Those running for office, those with power, those with influence, those with money, those with millions of people that agree with them, but with whom we strongly disagree. How do we see in them, the aspects of ourselves we are denying and afraid of?
I had a great birthday, thank you for all the warm wishes! I had the perfect combination of a morning all to myself, and an afternoon/evening with family. Wil took me to lunch at his favorite burger joint, and very cutely opened his wallet, handed it to the cashier and said, "Here's a $20." Might not seem like a big deal, but it was. He also re-gifted a little Valentine-decorated box full of candy, then promptly said, "You can give it back to me, if you want to."
Woohoo came over with a friend and they made a delicious, vegan taco repipe from Thug Kitchen, which you need if you really want to be Portlandia, and I know you do. My mom joined us and brought my favorite, boxed German-chocolate cake with coconut frosting, in a heart-shape.
It is a gift to feel loved and cared for, and I am gifted.
Today is my birthday - 53. There is something about having a birthday that adds a layer of extra contemplation to one's life, don't you think? Where am I? How'd I get here? Where am I going? Where do I want to go? What's working? What's not? Am I spending my life doing what I want to be doing, with those I want to be doing it with? Eckhart Tolle describes contemplation as our thoughts and actions touched with gentle awareness. Richard Rohr describes it as a combination of observation along with love. The Jesuit priest, Fr. Walter Burghardt, describes it as a "long, loving look at the real." Lent came early this year, adding solemnity to the occasion. Our priest described the ash crosses on our head on Ash Wednesday, as a sign of love. January 1st marks the new year. For many of us, the start of the school year is when we turn the page. Birthdays present another time to start over, to reform, revise and reflect. Anytime we start over and begin again, to do so with a "long, loving look at the real," is the trick. And in the end, the only thing that is real, is love.
Wil is loud. Wil is loud when he's loud and Wil is loud when he's quiet. There is a beat, a hum, a drumming, always a something, coming out of him that makes his presence in the home, impossible to forget. It reverberates throughout the house, my body and psyche. Ear plugs help, but more than anything, it's the vibration that can't be muted or denied.
My dear mother has taken to having Wil spend the night on Friday nights. He rides his bike up there around 3:00 or 4:00 and for the next 28-hours or so, the house is blessedly still.
Yesterday, he came home and was instantly loud, and STM sarcastically said, "Boy, I missed you when you were gone!"
Wil, without missing a beat said, "God never misses you, because He's in you."
A few years ago, I started playing Solitaire on my phone, when I had a few minutes I needed, or wanted, to kill. I'm not that great at it, but it's fun to win. It's fun to see your time and number of moves decrease. It's fun to think you've lost, then discover there's a way to win. A couple of months ago, I was playing and won. I hadn't done anything fancy or different, I didn't think, but a banner came across the game saying, "You played a perfect game!"
Up until that time, I didn't know a banner like that was even possible - if you won without cheating, that was good enough for me, but "perfect?"
It's messed me up ever since. I can't enjoy the game anymore. Now, every time I "screw up," I think, there goes my perfect game. It's totally ruined the joy of the game for me - the message that anything less than perfect, is losing.
I'm a big fan of Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday" series, and have read many of the books by authors she's had featured. She recently featured Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. I read the book, but I must say, I felt it missed the mark. In my opinion, we don't need any more books telling us how to makeover our lives, we don't need to be told that if we take on four to five big goals a month, and add them to the ones we're already taking on from the previous month(s), that we will be "happy."
I don't think we get "to" happy through perfection, through goals, through addition, through accomplishment, through complicated and involved processes. I agree with the Dalai Lama, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion." In other words, pull your head out. If you want perfection, and you want happiness, practice perfect compassion.
The cover for our under-cabinet lighting cracked and fell, and needing replacing. I went on a search to find a new one, that landed me at a nearby lighting store, where they very helpfully found me a new one. The process gave me quite a bit of time with the woman helping me, and I learned a great deal from her:
1) She was moving
2) They (she and her husband) had found a great deal on a house
3) They had purchased it from the parents of a hoarder, who were selling the house "as is," complete with all the contents
4) The owner was a single woman with no children
5) The contents included, but were not limited to: a crib, toys, a full nursery, gifts for an imaginary fiancé, three truck loads of unopened packages that had arrived in the mail, eight truckloads of trash
Long after I replaced the light cover and moved on, in body, to other tasks, my heart stayed with this poor suffering soul, whose parents had moved her to a psychiatric facility many states away, and sold her house and everything she cared about, out from under her.
I have known my fair share of hoarders and perhaps that is why the story touched me in the ways that it did. Although my need to have bare spaces and no clutter surpasses my need to purchase and save, that doesn't mean I don't hold onto things that don't serve me well. One can hoard memories, fears, resentments, expectations, disappointments, all kinds of things we once thought we needed, and really don't.
Years and years ago, when the kids were very young (15 years ago, at least), I dressed the kids up, stood in line to see Santa, and fitfully got through the ordeal. Santa handed each kid a seedling, and me being me, I came home and planted each in a small pot and nursed them until they were big and strong enough to transfer to a bigger pot. And so on. Months turned to years, we moved, and the small trees came with us. Eventually, we planted them in the ground, and they grew too big for that space, too, and required another transplanting.
The trees have been growing in our backyard ever since, not quite "making sense" there, but meaningful and significant to our family story, none-the-less.
Woohoo didn't come home for Thanksgiving this year, and that meant our annual tradition of going out and cutting down a Christmas tree, the day after Thanksgiving, would be different. We decided this would be the year we'd cut down one of the backyard Santa trees, and use it for Christmas. It's crowded where it is, it's grown too big to fit where once it did.
This was Woohoo's tree, and much the same way, she has grown beyond the limiting space she had in the home, and it is time to be cut loose. In five short months she will graduate from college and be on her own. She is not the little girl that got the seedling from Santa, nor is she the grown woman she will one day be, but she is ready to stand on her own, light her own way, and shine.
Had a weird dream last night that I was in a class, we all had to buy a certain book of poetry, and the poet/author was in the class signing them. Then, after having our own signed copies, we had to pass them around the table the next day, and play a sort of musical chairs with them. I "lost," and was the only one in the class not to get a book.
The dream continued in much the same way, whereby everyone got lunch but I didn't, then, when I went to order my own lunch from a lunch stand, there was some mix-up, and I couldn't get lunch there, either.
I was deeply concerned about everyone having the wrong book, not the books carefully inscribed for them, and worried about where "my" book ended up. About that time, some mom (no idea how old we all were) came up with a frozen lunch, and told the teacher it was for her son, but her son took someone else's (mine) by mistake, and maybe that person could have the frozen one. Some other person/child nabbed "my" frozen meal, and for the third time, I was left without a lunch while everyone went along eating.
After waking up and shaking off the dream of unfairness, I recalled a time in second grade when we had a substitute teacher, and she gave every kid, except me, an STP sticker from the local gas station, at the end of the day. When I asked her why I didn't get one, she said something along the lines that I should know why.
To this day, 45-years later, I still don't know why, and, evidently, it's still bothering me.
The unfairness in the world is evident every time we turn on the news, or open our eyes. It's so hard to keep the faith, the hope, the love. It's so hard to practice mercy, compassion, forgiveness and understanding.
This week of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all those that hold and share the Light.
Did you guys watch your "Super Soul Sunday" last night with Thomas Moore? That show, alone, makes it worth having cable. Moore, a former monk and now psychotherapist, talked about how to make A Religion of One's Own. Loved it and everything about it.
He also spoke about the importance of our dream life, and tapping into it for greater understanding and healing. I just came across two dream journals as I continue to purge, and although I eventually tossed them, it was interesting to see what I've dreamed and wrestled with in the past, as opposed to now.
A few nights ago I dreamed I was running a marathon (I am a huge walker, but not a runner). I was running alone, and apparently, the only runner in the marathon. The marathon was unmarked and held none of the hoopla marathons typically do. I couldn't even tell where I was on the course - no end in sight.
I kept running and running and wondering, am I almost done, yet? I looked down at my shoe to see if there were a chip that was keeping track for me, but there was a padlock, instead.
The dream ended when I finally decided enough was enough, I must be close enough, or more than likely, past the unrecognized finish line.
Wil and I are spending a lot of time together, as in, 20-hours-a-day. Yes, certainly, some of that is spent sleeping, but if you don't think he's on my mind when I'm sleeping, you've got another think coming.
Wil has a wonderful Personal Support Worker (PSW) that spends four-hours-a-day with him, and I am trying to re-shift the way I spend my days, my time, my energy, to be home and stay home during those four hours, and drink in the silence. Maybe it's a matter of not enough medicine, maybe it's a matter of boredom, maybe it's a matter of happiness over-flowing, but when he's home and awake (which is after I've gone to bed and before I've gotten up, lately), there is constant noise coming from wherever he is.
I've taken to recording 10-second snippets on my phone and sending them to my friends to torture them, and to elicit sympathy. You take those 10-seconds, multiply them by the hours and hours a day over 19-years, and you'll have greater understanding for why I have trouble stringing words together these days, either written or spoken. "I'm shot," my husband said the other day, after spending many weekend hours with Wil, "he 'shots' me."
And while we are both "shot" and our basic skills compromised, Wil is thriving. He's happy to be out of the school structure. His square peg is relieved to be out of the round hole. He is volunteering at two different Catholic grade schools, and loving his time with younger kids and staff. He is ready to officially be the teacher he's always unofficially been.
Andrew goes with Wil to his volunteer jobs, and then before or after their shift, they usually go get something to eat, which Wil has now reduced to doing once-a-day. Don't ask him to eat more than that. It's unhealthy, expensive, inconvenient and a pain-in-the-who-ha, but it's a phase that ain't going anywhere soon.
Yesterday, Andrew returned Wil from his job but had to be somewhere else right away, so I took Wil to lunch. We had heard about a new pizza-by-the-slice place, and he was willing to venture beyond the tired places we usually frequent, so away we went. We found a parking spot on the busy street, but it had his side of the car opening wide into oncoming traffic. I wanted him to either crawl over and get out my door, or wait for me to open his door until I could get around and monitor the situation carefully.
He wouldn't hear of it, and opened up the door, with no regard, to the speed and distance of approaching vehicles. I shouted a warning, "Wil! Wait! Watch for cars!"
He replied, equally adamant, "You've got to realize, that when I'm in trouble, you're OK."
We all have a friend or two, or even more, if we're very, very lucky, that always guides us to just what we need, when we need it. My friend, Val, is like that for me. She came over for tea this summer, and with her she brought a set of Mother Mary Oracle cards, and taught me how to use them.
The deck contains 44 beautifully illustrated cards with accompanying guidebook that offers practical healing processes and affirmations.
It should be noted that I have yet to draw such cards as the ones above, and have even dug through the stack to make sure they were included in my stack. No, I continue to draw Our Lady of Truth, Our Lady of the Inner Gate, Our Lady with the Moon at Her Feet. Go ahead and say it with me, "No accidents."
Over and over I receive messages such as, "You must provide the trust in me that gives you courage to take the journey." "Your world is changing, triggered by the transformations already happening within you as you grow spiritually." "I will help you outgrow that which no longer serves, so that what you struggle to attain now, through effort, in time will come naturally to you."
There is also a theme running of not getting what I want, because something different is intended, which begs the question, why even ask?
Each morning I try to quiet the monkey mind, sit in my prayer space with lovely music and lots of candles, and pull a card after shuffling with some degree of inner guidance. One option outlined in the guidebook is to draw three cards, and line them up left to right. The first one you draw represents the past, the second the present, and the third, the future. You are to have the intention of integrating the past, understanding the present, and opening up to your best possible future. This is what I drew today:
By integrating the past, I know that the changes I have encountered, were actually blessings of answered prayers. By understanding the present, I know that I have to surrender all doubt and fear, and trust in Mary's loving grace. By opening up to the best possible future, Mary promises to replace fatigue and struggle with boundless energy of compassion and passionate purpose.
I first became aware of Heather Von St. James and her blog, Dying to Be Heard, only a couple of months ago. I had not heard of mesothelioma, and did not know if it's devastation. Won't you please take a moment to read about it, and possibly "donate" your social media? Thank you for your help!
I had this comment from a reader, recently, and the question has been with me ever since, "Was it hard to learn to let go? To just believe that the right things would happen? I struggle with this and just wonder if you ever do." While I know it in my bones, and feel it in my heart, and have proof all around me, yes, I still struggle to let go and believe the right things will happen. I'm not sure what that's all about. Probably a messy combination of being human, needing to feel in control, habit, mistaken belief that if I'm not worrying, I'm not "doing" anything, and the influence of outside voices and forces. To spend any significant amount of time dwelling on the past, or projecting fear into the future, can whip me up into a right proper frenzy, instantly. I think more needs to be made about the word "right," too. Do I believe the "right" things will happen? Do things have to go my way to be right? When things aren't going "right," it's very easy to fall into the trap of generalizing, globalizing, panicking and believing everything is a catastrophe. Sometimes, perhaps often, the "right" thing comes into our life wearing a clever disguise. Wil starts his new job today. He's been out of high school for three months now, having pretty much the time of his life, doing only what he wants to do and very little of what he doesn't. He's been happy, and the temptation is to keep it that way, arranging life carefully for him, so that he only has to do the things he enjoys and finds easy. We've been working to create a volunteer job for him where he will spend most of his time doing the things he prefers, but at least part of every day he will do something that challenges him, something he doesn't necessarily like and doesn't find easy. He will have a job coach, he will have supervision, he willhave support, he will have checks and balances to make sure it's all going well, but there are many aspects of his new job that I am simply not in control of. It's very hard to let any adult child go out into the world and face the challenges you know they will face. It is particularly hard to let a special needs adult move into the world, even with a lot of support, and enter the work world. But it's time. It's necessary. It's the next step towards greater independence. It's the next step towards greater self-actualization. It's the next step towards letting go.
You may recall that my dear friend, Terry Whitaker, AKA "Toeless," once gave me a healing session (via phone) with Pat Longo. Pat is known largely through her connection to Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, which is how I heard of her. She was able to help heal Theresa's anxiety, that had plagued her for years, and help her discover and accept her gift of speaking to the dead.
Anyway, this is not a post on Pat Longo, except that one thing I learned from her that has really stuck with me, is the "trick" of canceling negative thoughts before they take root and manifest into other things. She says that when you catch yourself starting to spiral, when you have a negative thought that wants to grab onto others and really get going, you say, "Cancel, cancel." You yank that thought back from the Universe and keep it from gaining any momentum. If you believe that our thoughts turn into "things," then it's important to stop the thoughts that we do not want to give strength to.
I have an iPhone, like many of you. My phone doesn't work as well, and sucks up a lot of battery usage, when I have a bunch of apps open - things I don't want open, necessarily, but have not bothered to close. I remember the day I learned the trick of double-clicking the home button, and pulling up all the open apps, then giving them a swipe and making them go away. One friend even showed the the joy of flicking them shut, and if you are really feeling feisty, using three fingers and closing the apps three-at-a-time.
In essence, by closing the apps, you are "canceling" what you don't want "out there," and are concentrating your energy for what you do.
12 years after Pamela Bryson-Weaver's son received his diagnosis of ASD, she decided to write a book about her arriving at a place of acceptance and peace, and the realization of the many blessings in her life, as a result. Since this struck very close to home, I was intrigued to see how Pamela would structure her "story." Part inspirational, part calendar, part journal, part reference, the book is aimed at busy parents/grandparents/caregivers, family and friends affected by autism spectrum disorder.
Seems like about the right amount of time - 12 years. One does not arrive at a place of acceptance, peace and the appreciation of blessings, quickly, in my experience. This book can help with that process. While faith-based, it's not preachy. The quotations are lovely, and come from a whole myriad of people. There is room to write in it, and it would be fascinating to write in it for a year, then start the book all over again, and see how your thoughts have evolved, or not.
With the numbers being 1 in 50 children being diagnosed with autism now, there are so many people that stand to benefit from the support, education and loving care this book offers. You may order your copy of Living autism day-by-day through Amazon.
Wil and I recently spent a weekend at "Family Camp" with our church. Correction: we spent all day Friday, and all day Saturday at camp - we were not overnight campers. There are many things Wil enjoys about Family Camp, namely, the time to meander and chat up a lot of his favorite people. There are many things Wil does not enjoy about Family Camp, namely eating, sleeping, and using the communal bathrooms. This creates a bit of a challenge, so we decided to day trip it this year, and we experienced great success.
He made it very clear that we were to "pretend we don't know each other," he went his way, and I went mine. We would meet only after everyone but him finished dinner, then we'd head back down the mountain. Occasionally, I'd see him with a group, sometimes other adults, sometimes teenagers, sometimes younger kids, sometimes a mix. He was happy, and I was left with a whole day at camp, to fill in any way I chose, it was great.
Many of my favorite people were also at camp, so it was easy to find someone I'd been wanting to catch up with anyway, and enjoy doing just that. Sometimes I'd start talking to someone, we'd walk to wherever we needed or wanted to be, and then we'd bump into another person or group, and the weekend progressed organically, with rich conversations and time spent in community.
One such "chance" meeting had us in a small group discussion about the power of prayer. One of the people in the discussion is going through a personal challenge, and is feeling the prayers that surround her from the community. The question came up about whether there was just as much power coming from one single, focused, ernest, prayerful person, as there was when a whole group was praying. Do we need to "storm the heavens" for God to hear us?
My uneducated response is, yes and no. I don't feel like God requires a "petition," with a certain number of names on it before "He" starts to pay attention, refusing to move our little prayer to the top of "His" pile until it has all the pre-requisites. Certainly, one "little" prayer is heard.
I think, instead, that prayer is energy, and raises vibration. I think that God/Universe/call-it-what-you-will, is love. I think that love is energy. I think that when we truly pray (as opposed to wishing), we are aligning our energy with that of God's, and raising the vibration. The more souls raising the vibration, the more energy and love there is - which, in effect, "storms the heavens."
(First day of kindergarten - only 2 boys in the class)
Wil has a million friends, perhaps more than his "fair share," but that doesn't make saying goodbye to this one, any easier.
Ian will be heading off to the University of Montana this morning. He made sure to pick up a Grizzlies T-shirt for Wil when he went to visit, and intuitively, Wil put it on yesterday, not realizing that would be the very day he said goodbye.
The day was hot, super hot, near 100. I'd lowered the shades on one side of the living room in the morning, to keep the morning sun out. As the sun moved to the front of the house, Wil lowered that side, making a cave-like effect.
I hated it.
Wil loved it.
As the sun went down, I tried to raise the blinds more than once, he wouldn't hear of it.
I tried to turn on a lamp.
Wil had already had an unusual evening in that he'd gone to the mall with three friends. When they came back to our house, he entertained them in the darkened living room. They left, he was humming and stimming in the living room, decompressing and getting ready for bed, when I got this text from dear, sweet, how-will-we-live-without-him, Ian:
Ian showed up in a car with three other friends, two newish, and another dear friend that has also been in school with Wil since kindergarten, Claire P. I wanted to stay downstairs, hang out, turn on the lights, open the shades and hear the banter, but he wanted privacy with his friends, and deserved that, so I poured myself a G & T and went upstairs. Looking out my window while distracting myself on Facebook, I saw another car pull up. Three more friends, including one in Wil's special program from high school.
There is something very right in the world, when six "typicals" make it a point to spend time with their very dear friends, who just happen to have special needs, before heading off to college.
The room may have been darker than I would have liked it to be, but the world isn't. There is every reason to believe this next generation is kind, considerate, loving, selfless, compassionate, and good.
Thank you, friends, for giving us all reason to believe in the light.
They say the hardest part of writing is getting your butt in the chair, and keeping it there. That is certainly true for me, and especially true in the summer when there is no consistent schedule - only consistently inconsistent interruptions.
This summer is a summer like no other, in many ways it's the easiest, and in some ways the hardest. It's the easiest in that I've never had more help. It's the hardest in that Wil is not going back to a full-day school schedule in September, and my fear is this "perpetual Saturday" will be our new norm.
Wil qualifies for what is called here in Oregon, Support Services Brokerage. He has been assessed and assigned a certain number of hours a month (a lot) that he is able to have support with things like activities of daily living, community inclusion, and in September, job support/coaching.
Because there are no accidents, and an abundance of angels, Wil has had the great blessing of a friend as his Personal Support Worker (PSW) this summer. Long story short, I met with a friend in the spring, was casually telling her about Wil's future, and when I mentioned we were in the process of finding a PSW, she said her son would love to be that person. Actually, a dream come true.
And a dream come true it's been for us. This friend, Michael, as in the Archangel (no accidents) has been doing fun things with Wil all summer, and it has been liberating for all of us. They have many mutual friends, and have been able to do outings, without me, that are age-appropriate, fun, and are giving Wil independence skills. He's learned to use a wallet (and has only left it behind once, where Michael quickly retrieved it, fully intact). He's ridden bikes, walked, hopped on the bus and light rail, as well as taken Michael's or others cars all over town, including downtown. His horizons have been broadened, his pallet expanded, his comfort-zone stretched.
Michael, unfortunately, is leaving for college soon, and we will be adjusting to a different PSW or two. We have two wonderful ones in mind, and I'm certain others will be "there" when we need them, too.
Simultaneously, I've moved into a personal support worker role for my mother-in-law. She, too, needs help with activities of daily living and community inclusion. She, too, needs someone to be her second pair of ears, to hear/interpret/feed back to and help form appropriate responses. She, too, needs someone being the second pair of ears to make sure the wallet comes with us, stays in our possession, and is returned to a safe place when we get her back home. She, too, needs someone to do the driving, the arranging, the making-it-all-happen.
That's the circle of life, isn't it? We go from dependent, to some level, ideally, of independence to dependent again. I know there are spiritual lessons intrinsic in the recognition of that circle, the acceptance, the hopping on and off of it when it's our turn to be helped, and be of help, and back around again.
It helps to detach from all outcomes, to simply show up, be a support "worker" of the personal kind, and have no expectations of "results," or effectiveness. It stretches one's definition of what true support is and isn't, what is "personal" and what is simply a matter of pertinent fact, and what is "work" and what is simply love.
Had a dream last night I was driving without my headlights on. Suddenly realized the night was dark, and I couldn't see a thing. Even during the dream I was alarmed that I hadn't realized they were off. Still not sure if the symbolism is: A) I didn't turn them on, and preferred being in the dark B) I was able to drive along not knowing where I was going C) I realized I could shed light on the subject anytime I wanted D) All of the above So, that about sums it up around here. We are in a period of unknown, change, transition, uncertainty, in more than one aspect of our lives. It's hard for us Planners, the Type A'ers, the ones that thrive on efficiency, and execution of a well-prepared plan. I am having to remind myself daily, sometimes hourly, to stay in the moment, stay present. Breathe. Let go of outcomes after doing my best. That being loving is more important than being right (or heard). That some karmic ties and stories just have to play out, despite any efforts on my part to change that. "Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry — all forms of fear — are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence" Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
It is my great and sincere honor to tell you about my friend Tanya's latest book. Tanya's first book, Slip, came out after I'd already become a fan of Tanya's writing, and an appreciator of all the good work she's done to spread awareness on the topics of autism and bipolar disorder. I was given the opportunity to be an early reader of Enough to Go Around. The book was sent to me as an e-mail attachment, and I damn near got carpal tunnel from scrolling, scrolling, scrolling for hours on end, as I was unable to "put it down." Below is a short interview I did with Tanya, about her latest work. Enjoy! TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING THIS BOOK:
Enough to Go Around
has been a process of discovery and a labor of love for most of my life. As a
child I would go to my paternal grandparents’ home for various holidays, and
while sitting around the dining room table eating traditional Slovakian food I
would listen to many stories my grandparents told about their growing up years
in Czechoslovakia and their immigration experiences. I was intrigued and often
entertained by these stories, and when I was assigned a genealogy project in
seventh grade, I brought a tape recorder and a notebook to their house and
listened intently while they retold their stories. It was then that the idea of
writing a book about them came into being.
Years passed – worked my way through college, became a
single parent – and the story began to take shape although there wasn’t much
writing time. Characters evolved, a video was given to me of a trip my dad took
with his sister to Slovakia, and I borrowed books from my dad to use for
research. My initial idea was to create a fictional account of my grandparents’
experiences (because there were a lot of facts and details I didn’t have), but
I also wanted to weave the stories of the past with a present-day extended
family and everyone’s lives. I spent years jotting down extensive notes and
writing at least a dozen different outlines.
In 2007 I was blessed to take a trip with my father and my
sister to Slovakia to do research and meet relatives. It was an amazing and
emotional time. We saw the villages where both of my grandparents grew up,
visited the graves of my great-grandparents, and met relatives we didn’t know
My life with my two sons, one of whom has autism, influenced
me to write Slip, my first novel. I
set Enough to Go Around aside for a
while (which at the time had a different title, one of five over the years). My
life was deeply entrenched in the world of special needs and that was where my
mind was for several years, so I focused on that subject matter.
But a few years ago I was very happy to get back to the
story of my family heritage. I wrote the first full draft during NANOWRIMO in
2008. Since then it continued to evolve into its present state. I am privileged
– and thrilled – to be able to share it.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU WANT YOUR READERS TO KNOW:
Enough to Go Around
focuses on the theme of family life – its complexity, troubles, and rewards. I
wanted to share my family’s heritage, of course, but also other elements of
life, such as mistakes, regret, love, loss, and forgiveness. I wanted to foster
awareness about bipolar disorder, which one of the main characters has, and how
it can affect family life. For this I draw on my personal experience of bipolar,
as well as the pain of losing a close family member to cancer, another element
of the book. (Sadly, my father died of colon cancer in 2011 and did not see
this book come to fruition.) Life is messy, families are fragile, and there are
no easy fixes. But sometimes you can sit around the dining room table at Easter
and tell jokes and stories and laugh and look around the table and realize that
your life may be far from great, it may be really hard at times, but you have
these moments to hold onto, these – and other – moments of grace that are just
as much a part of that life, and perhaps even more important.
On another venture out of seclusion, I go in search of an
ice cream cone. I don’t have to go far before I see a tiny pink building with
BJ’s Ice Cream on it. I pull in, and a man appearing to be the owner, pops up
from the single table in the place, occupied by what appears to be two of his
friends, and welcomes me warmly.
“See anything that looks good?” he asks, “Need a taste of
anything, let me know!”
“I see something I know will be good,” I answer, and I don’t
need a taste, I’ll have a junior cone with cappuccino fudge.”
He starts to very carefully scoop the ice cream, it’s
obvious he’s in no rush, and neither am I, for once in my life.
“Where you from?” he asks.
“Portland,” I reply.
“Oh, then no need to show a passport,” he jokes.
I ask him if he’s from around here, and he says he’s from
Lexington, Kentucky. I learn he moved to Oregon when his wife had a job in
Eugene. I tell him I used to live in Eugene, too. Turns out we lived very near
each other, at the very same time.
“My wife was from England, loved to come to the Oregon
Coast, reminded her of the weather in England. When she died, I didn’t know
what I was going to do with myself, so I bought this little place and named it
“BJ?” I ask.
“No, BJ is the type of ice cream we sell, see the little
sign next to it, the one that says ‘Shelia’s?’”
“Oh, yes, I see it,” I say.
“Gonna get a bigger sign made, “ he assures me, and I nod
indicating my full support.
With each careful scoop of the ice cream scooper, the man
honors a woman from England named Shelia. A woman he loved and lost.A woman who loved the Oregon Coast
because it made her feel at home, and now this man makes others feel that way.
I am away at the beach for three days with the sole purpose
of sensory deprivation. I want less. Less sound. Less vibration. Less text
alerts. Less of anything and everything that lets me know someone wants something from me.
Two days in, I’m so bored I’m climbing the walls. There is
no Wi-Fi. I’ve received notice on my phone we are about to exceed our family
data plan for the month. I’m “cheating,” checking e-mails, getting on Facebook,
sending a text, making a call.
I’m bored and lonely and I never thought in a million years
I’d be bored or lonely.
So, I drive the couple miles into town, and by town, I mean
town. First stop is the local convenience store, which promises free Wi-Fi, espresso, used books,
some videos for rent, and other sundries. I grab some saltwater taffy, light
bulbs, a 6-pack of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, pay and ask for the password.
I sit down at one of two two-person tables with a vinyl
sea-patterned tablecloth, and get to work. I reply to emails, I write a quick
blog post, I “like” several things on Facebook.I’m about to order Wil’s graduation pictures that the
professional took of him sort-of shaking the principal’s hand, when a woman
wheels up next to me on a motorized scooter.
“Do you mind reaching in the back of my chair and getting
out the charger? I’m heading over the bridge, and don’t want to run out of
juice!” She is a large woman, spilling out over the chair, gray hair in a
ponytail, a face that could be 40, 50 or 60. “The community all chipped in and got me this chair. Great community. I’ve only had it since February.
Medicaid is buying me a new one in August. It’s great, now I’m not housebound.
I can get out.”
I find the charger, and plug it in directly above my left shoulder.
It appears we will be neighbors while her chair charges, as there is nowhere else
for her to go, and the cord is not very long.
“Don’t let me bother you,” she says, as she sings the oldies songs that come on the radio, picks up the rocks that are 4 for $1.00,
loudly expressing pleasure with each.
It’s clear that whatever nonsense I’ve got going on my
computer screen is nothing compared to the story that this woman has, and so I
venture in. “Are you from around?”
“I’m from everywhere. I’m Native American. I’m from Montana,
I’m from Colorado, I’ve lived all over.”
“So, this community chipped in to buy you this chair? You
must be well-loved by the community,” I offer.
“I am,” she smiles. “I’ve got a lot of health problems. I’ve
got lupus. I’ve got fibromyalgia. I’ve got arthritis, the kind that’ll cripple
ya. I’ve got epilepsy. I’ve got heart issues. I’ve got a lot of health issues. I'm going to give this chair back to the community when Medicaid gives me a new one. It's important to give back, pay it forward. My mom taught me it's important to give back. I like to help people."
She sees the Portland Marathon shirt I’m wearing and asks me
about it. It feels cruel to go into too many details of my marathoning, while
listening to her long list of health issues.
“I was only supposed to live until 21,” she says, “but I’m
48. I’ve defied the odds. I was a congenital twin. When we were separated at
birth, by brother died. I’ve had issues ever since.”
I learned she lives in Section 8 housing with a care giver
and the care giver’s husband. “Three’s a crowd, I’m moving out into my own
apartment in August.”
I’m ashamed for the few minutes I buried my head in my
non-important Internet “needs” while ignoring this woman who so clearly needed
“It’s not nice here very often, I try to get out when it is.
I don’t like crowds much, but I don’t like being in my house all the time,
I learn she takes 20 pills with breakfast, 10 with lunch and
30 with dinner. I learn she technically died three times just last month. “If
you have something to say to someone, say it. Don’t take tomorrow for granted,”
she wisely shares.
I learn that the life I thought I needed a break from, is a
piece-of-cake compared to so many lives riddled with pain, suffering, poverty,
I learn that sometimes a need for connection goes beyond the
tap, tap, tapping of the keyboard, straight into the eyes of a stranger.
“I think my chair is charged up, would you mind unplugging
it, rolling up the cord and putting it in that pocket in the back?”
I do so and she asks, “Is my wallet back there? It has a
dream-catcher on it. I want to make sure my caregiver put it in there.”