The Love and the Logic – Part 1

I talk a lot about my job and my children’s school and lucky for me, it’s one and the same. Once upon a time before children, my corporate job lacked the “means something to me component” and so when the time came to choose, it was easy to walk away from the j-o-b. When the school that began with “a dream and vision” came into the area, it took a leap of faith to move my children from their plenty wonderful school.  I simply wanted something different for them.   I worked for the school part-time in PR for a while, and when it was time last year to take the front office job that would get my foot into the door for a full-time position, I was nervous. I LOVE to love my job – and with writing about the vision of the school, loving it was easy. What if the day-to-day activity in the office ruined the love fest? Worse, what if I found that my decision on my kid’s education was wrong? Better now than later, I surmised.

One of the philosophies of the school is the Love and Logic concept. It’s a philosophy that allows children to make mistakes at an early age and learn from them. It’s about accepting the natural consequences of our actions and learning to move forward. It is the “anti helicopter” movement, if you will. In education, it is creating an independent journey and accepting that parent support comes from empathy and hugs – not dropping everything to take something to school, doing half a project, slaving over hours of homework, or God forbid, eventually setting up a college interview for someone who is an adult. Because, what employers are seeing these days, is the helicoptering never stops and the breakdowns with let downs in the twenty-something entitled group are epic. I was raised to be pretty independent so it was easy for me to not only love the concept, but to also go to bat for it every day.  And boy, did I go to bat for it every day.  When a parent/neighbor/friend would try to drop off a forgotten project, band instrument, potato chip bag, pe shorts, etc, I was ready to rationally explain the policy and try to help people understand what they had signed up for when they chose the school.  Inevitably, I was told that it wasn’t the child’s fault (yes, we rely on others in life and others will let you down – even parents…great dinner conversation tonight) and the child is normally so responsible (yes, and responsible children deserve to learn lessons like this also). Unfortunately, rarely was I afforded the time to explain these things…just told that it was stupid and that I was mean…..and then they stormed out the front door.

I learned that even if parents bought into the love and logic philosophy, every parent has their line in the sand when it hurts to let their child fail. For some, it’s the forgotten potato chips to go with lunch, for others it is something bigger than that. For all of us parents (as I remember my parents saying) this is going to hurt us more than it hurts you.   But when you don’t swoop in to save every time, the grace when you do is never forgotten (go back and reference my Fathers Day blog from last year if you don’t believe me).

My biggest hurt from Love and Logic this last year did not concern my own children.  I have been thinking about it since the day it happened last winter, and I am just now able to write about it. It is a day that affected many in our school and solidified for me that I signed my children up at the right place. The worst day of the year, the saddest one, was the one with the biggest lessons…and I am finally ready to share it.  To be continued……..

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The Deep End of the Ocean

Give me a life problem and I will find a metaphor or way to visualize it. I would like to reiterate at this time, that my friends are amazingly patient:) Perhaps it’s the approach of summer, but lately my life is one big visualization of “swimming in the ocean.” When standing in the shallow water, the experience consists of periods of calm..froth…. bubbles…laughter. Periodically, the waves come. I see and deal with most of them. Dodge..jump..get knocked down….surrender my feet for a minute and let the wave take me toward shore. A few of them I don’t see coming or they look smaller than they really are. I find myself doing an underwater somersault and end up with sand located in every body orifice imaginable.

When exhausted with the shallow games, there are a couple of options. It’s certainly in one’s right to ride one of those waves all the way onto the shore and sit on the sand. Check out…escape….watch all the other people splashing and flailing around in the shallows. Or, over one shoulder lies the deep water. The waves are smaller, the roar is quietened in the ears, and it is peaceful. Exhaustion has set in. There has been so much hard work, it would be a shame to walk away – especially considering the effort it takes to get in the water in the first place. With some courage, we can paddle out to the deep end of the ocean….and allow the ourselves to sink a bit. The water is still and silent as we drift down. But, when the pressure builds against the body and mind…fear and panic set in….the bottom is not easy to touch from here. What if exploring the deep doesn’t make life easier and more meaningful? What if it makes us drown? Common sense tells us that surrender, calm and some active kicks will allow us to float to the top. However, in this deep, silent space…the last layer of truth is the hardest to face. There have been many before me that went into this space but did not make it out. And, if I’m honest, there are days when I understand why they did not.

In real life I can swim…..but barely. In fact, and I have disclosed this to very few, I have always instinctively (like from toddler age) feared drowning. This surrender I speak of does not come easy to me and this visualization is the scariest I can imagine. I remember Elizabeth Lesser writing about “the gap” of grief and how if someone stays with it, a fear will set in while wondering if they stay stuck in this difficult place forever. The reason those afraid to deal with emotional baggage decline to go there, is because they are afraid to deal with the mess. I can tell you for those that attempt the mess, the biggest fear is to stay there in it. The key is forward movement, because just beyond that place of fear and sadness….is relief (praying this is true).

My writing this past year is full of decries of surrender and letting go. I have mourned many things. At each resting spot, I am met by God, family and friends and been given tools to carry on. I have finally reached the place, however, that is the most personal. The weight can be crushing. The desire some days is to escape, to run, to deny. But when I look back over my life, every time I escape, run and deny…I become ill. So I am left to deal, act, and accept…or give up. I know I am not alone. I see the pain in too many eyes to know that I am alone. And so, I move forward. I deal. I wait. I try to “out patience” the fear. I try to settle into the deep water and relax. Breathe. Will I float? Can I kick back and smile up at the sun? Eventually, I hope so. Maybe I will even bump into you….floating out there in the deep. For goodness sake though, don’t forget the sunscreen or bring any open wounds….I can’t handle any more drama 🙂

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Thank you, I accept

I visualize things when I want to really drive home a point to myself or others.  When I think about what it looks like to surrender and accept a situation, I imagine my hands as they are open and lifted.  Sometimes I imagine them outside a car window being pried open against the force of the wind or riding the wave of air that’s rolling by.  Occasionally, I repeat these visualizations in physical form.   I wish I could say that my hands are open more often.  They are not.  Blessed?  Yes.  Hopeful?  Sure.  Thankful?  Most days.  Accepting?  Now, wait just a darn minute.

When I was asked recently about my putting some pretty adventurous things on my bucket list,  I replied that the sky is the limit to my daring desires because I no longer fear what happens to me.   Anxiety is no longer pulsing through me.  How wonderful this is in some ways, considering for years I was plagued with managing this monster within me.  How did I slay this dragon?  I think I finally figured out that when I thought I was living “the dream,” I did not believe I really deserved it.  Some people get the perfect package of the perfect church, the spouse, the healthy kids, the dream job, the wonderful friends – all in perfect bowed-up box …… but not me. I could not accept such a life.  So, I spent time fearing that something was bound to happen…with hands closed into a tight fist, because I could not handle having it all.

Of course, something did happen.  Just as something happens to all of us at one time or another, that white and black idea of a dream is crushed, and we are forced to live in the grayness of “what is.”  This life of mine will not include living out my childhood dream.  I cannot have what I want most in this world.  Join the crowd, right?  How we all handle tragedy is often times what shows the outside world and ourselves what really makes us tick.  So, now I start living for the next best thing, making the most of what I do have.

Plan B can be wrought with it’s own crosses to bare, to be sure.  As my mind wanders to those I know that have faced change and now walk on a new path, I ask myself what rings true for them?   Surely there is a possibility of fear, sadness, resentment and anger.  They, like me, may not want to always accept their life as it unfolds before them.  However, what stands out to me is who they have become – strong, connected, humble, and loving.  I may not always accept my path but I accept who I am…who I have become…who I will be…who I want to be for others.  It is ironic that we sometimes curse the path that brings out our best.  God’s plan is much bigger than our tunneled view and so today, like every day, I will open my hands again and say, “thank you …I accept.”  One day, I may actually believe it.

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” -Rumi

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You can quote me on that

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.   -e.e. cummings

There were moments when I looked around the room and thought, “this must be what it feels like if you get married later in life and celebrate 20 years worth of friendships alongside a new beginning.”  Sure, this  weekend birthday trip was filled with fun and silliness, but among the recognizable faces, were layered lifetime experiences.  With each person that “showed up” for the trip, they had already done so in many ways in my life already.  This was just a bonus.

I have made no secret that having my babies opened up a part in me that was love personified.  Sacrifice at it’s finest, I was willing to give whatever it took to give them a solid beginning in this world.  What I received in return was unconditional.  As I have cultivated friendships, what I give is what I can, wherever I am at the time.  What I get in return is permission and acceptance to be exactly who I am and appreciation for what I bring.  So, I tried hard to give these women a token of my admiration for them on our trip by matching a famous quote to each of them. In typical “me” fashion I spent hours looking for the quote that spoke to me about them….and much less time making it look pretty in a frame (oh to be crafty).  Why not just give a card with some kind words?  Somewhere along the way, I decided that there is an artistic side of me and as hokey as it may be, I love layering simple appreciation into words veiled with meaning.  This is burden my friends must bare to be close with me, so I gave them a token of my idiosyncratic to take home. 🙂

In all seriousness though, at the end of this life, I WANT to leave knowing that I put it all out on the line for the ones I love.  Indeed, in these “middle years,” I can’t stop expressing the gratitude and amazement about those in my world, and I have no desire to go back to guarded blinders.  A life full of wonderment, beauty and thankfulness is more special than I probably deserve, but too amazing not to share with others….and you can quote me on that.

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So here I am, tomorrow I am finally at the age that I have been describing my life to be for some time now…. the middle place. Rather than drudge up the meanings of all this at the moment, let’s explore the number 40 instead.  Here is a little trivia:

  • The letters of the word “forty” are in alphabetical order.
  • Is thought to symbolize the death with oneself and the spiritual rebirth.
  • The number 40 is used 98 times in the Bible: including the days and nights Jesus was tempted, the days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, all three times, the amount of days between resurrection and ascension, and the amount of years the Jews lived in the desert.
  • Represents importance in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Russian folklore.
  • Common 40’s: 40 hours in a work week, forty winks of sleep, 40 acres and a mule,  a forty – as in a 40 oz malt liquor, 40 weeks of gestation in human pregnancy, and top 40 music charts
  • Dave Matthews recorded a song called #40 – about friendship

Tables turned again / And you, my friend

You and I face each other  / All time and time out

I know it’s sometimes hard  / But knowing just, oh

That we will get along / ‘Til we are old and gray

And huddled up / And doubled up, we’ll sit

And laugh of times were hard

  •   U2 recorded a song named 40 based on Psalm 40:

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifts me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

  • You know I love a good quote so here is a good one about turning 40:

“To hold the same views at forty as we held at twenty is to have been stupefied for a score of years, and take rank, not as a prophet, but as an unteachable brat, well birched and none the wiser.”  -Robert Louis Stevenson

  • My son said today that I looked like I was about to turn 30 instead of 40….so I will end with that 🙂

So, ready or not……..we…..go…….

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In Juxtaposition

I find myself liking the word juxtapose as of late.  It rolls off my tongue and when I checked the meaning, it turns out that the word Juxtapose is from  the 1660s term coined in French from juxta meaning “beside, near” and posed meaning “position.”  More than just being close to, it means that you are positioned in a way for reason of comparison.

This word came to mind in a discussion about some of life’s most challenging experiences. For some varied reasons, life has been recently difficult for several of my coworkers.  An administrator’s wife is finishing an intense chemotherapy treatment, a teacher’s husband has been diagnosed with cancer and simultaneously fighting for his life, another teacher just lost his father, one lost her mother, another is having some scary medical tests, someone is enduring family divisions over a sibling’s misconduct, and someone else is on the brink of a failed adoption…..and these are just the lives that I know about.  Yet, every day, they walk through our front door with a smile, a wave and a determination to do their job.  Sometimes there may be a tear or worried glance, but without fail, they pour themselves into others as they educate and protect the students of our school.  Most days, you would only ever know that their life was complicated and painful if they slowed down long enough for you to catch a glimpse of the sadness in their eyes.

The human experience – tragic, really.  Life is mired in loss and pain. God offers the miracle of grace, a refuge to turn to if we choose, and a community in which to share love and encourage others.  It is impossible to compare our sorrows in juxtaposition, even if going through a similar situations because every experience is individual.  The human spirit, however, is the love and hope behind the tragedy.   The juxtaposition of the human spirit contrasted against life’s difficulties……is where the beauty lies.    Strength, courage, love, humor, grace, determination, kindness, joy, hope….shown every day, in the face of sorrow, fear, and hurt.  I hope they know the example they set as educators and as people.  I am more than happy to line up with them, juxtaposed or otherwise.

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The Measure of Time

The measure of time happens naturally around the holidays. “When you were this age, you would….” “Do you remember the year when…..” It seems like a natural, for better or worse, time to reflect and reminisce. You leave your present moment to laugh or cry about the past, and although we may know the mantra about the present being a gift, to me….musing (not wallowing) about these memories, gives us glimpses of who we are presently and with any luck, gives pause to be grateful for the present and reverent to the mystery of time remaining.

Even better than the structured milestones, I love it when the measurement of time happens naturally. In the wee hours of the morning today, I had a stiff neck and bad breath. I had MJ on one side and Ry on the other and we were doing the airplane sleep (or rather sleepless) dance. With a dinosaur pillow pet and a blue blanket, we had more position changes than a Madonna Vogue video. When I finally gave up the notion of sleep and just rubbed their backs and watched the city get closer into view, I felt the familiarity of the moment. As we landed, and they of course, were finally sleeping soundly, I grabbed them a little tighter against the braking of the plane….and thought, “How many times have I done this?” Considering MJ took her first plane flight at 4 weeks of age and had 8 different legs, and Ry’s first trip at 3 1/2 weeks included a flight across country and car ride through 5 states……..I have done this A LOT of times.

Sigh, but for how much longer? Surely, my teenagers won’t be splayed out over me, on my shoulder and lap, whining about room and the lack of sleep, whispering “love you” with bad breath, crossing eyes and messed up hair……well, maybe they will. Maybe they will appease me and even let me continue to “hold on tighter” as the plane lands. Life has and will continue to change. But, that recognizable moment that I felt today that measured time back to the others, remains intact…… and I am abundantly thankful for those old travels, grateful for today’s moments and reverently hopeful for the time to create some more memories….maybe with just a little request of some fresher breath along the way.

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Good Grief

Ten years ago today, I went on a hike with the love of my life, while my baby girl was tucked safely away at a campsite at the water’s edge of Lake Powell.  When we learned of the day’s tragic events, we struggled…what do we do? There was nothing that we could physically do and there was not even a tv to gather around to absorb the aftermath of the attack our nation had undergone.  So we did what humans sometimes do in times of tragedy…..we held hands, hiked, looked at the beautiful scenery and counted our blessings. When the world looks big and scary and the grief is rolling through like waves of the ocean, it often feels best to huddle up and put your arms around something that feels safe.

The other night I saw a man on the news sharing his story of escaping the Twin Towers. He witnessed such horror that day and lost many friends, yet he said he would never be a victim of his life because beauty can be found in everything. In all of the tragedy he witnessed that day, there was also love, bravery, compassion, and faith.  He still grieved the friends he lost but believes that the grief is a testament to how deeply he loved them. Amen, brother.  Good grief is often times overlooked.  As a society, we want closure nice, neat and quick. Numb.  Our culture makes millions on ways to numb the grief down. Yet, by doing so, don’t we discount the meaning of what was lost and handicap the recovery process as well? At the end of Broken Open, Lesser references Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian, who called the wound of grief, the gap.  The gap isn’t something to fill or substitute.  It instead is a space that remains unfilled and preserves the bonds we had with someone or something we loved dearly.  God does not fill the gap, but works inside of it and keeps alive the communion…..the meaning of what is lost. Sloppy, messy, brave…the art of grief is acknowledging the loss, the love and then sitting in the gap for as long as it takes until we can move on. Changed….broken….but able to continue forward.

I think many in our country has successfully kept sacred the gap caused by September 11th, 2001.  We still mourn the innocence of life before there were terror warning colors and planes that can be used as missiles.  We are horrified at the evil that some so inclined can accomplish, yet it is the stories of the bravery, the compassion, and the human spirit that touch us so many years later.   Changed…..broken…..but able to continue forward.

As for me today, I am going to do what feels the most natural when the world around me seems daunting and scary.  My baby girl is tucked away near some water, this time a pool in the middle of the desert with some swim team friends.   So, I’m going to take my little boy…..the one that was conceived ten Septembers ago…. and we are going to hold hands, go for a hike, look at the beautiful scenery and count our blessings.  Because in the space of the gap, I am going to give thanks for the biggest example I have of how beauty and magic can appear after a tragic time.   And, I have no reason to believe it could not happen again.  Changed….. broken…..but able to continue forward.

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The Funeral

I have lost those I have loved dearly to death. I have dreamed of being in their presence again. I have remembered times spent with them so vividly that all of my senses can recall the moment. And yet today, at the depths of my Phoenix Process, my Ring of Fire, my Valley…the funeral I am experiencing is for a relationship that is among the living.

The rituals experienced in deaths usually include a family crying and mourning for who and what is lost; a changed life from here forward. They receive friends, exchange memories of good times, split up the family heirlooms, and then try to get on with daily life the best they can. Late at night though, when sleep is elusive, the dark hallways of the house are explored. The weight of the emptiness is woefully heavy; a stark contrast of the love that once lived there. The pictures on the walls reflect a moment captured of a time where joy filtered through faces. Sooner or later, the cries come for God to take this pain away and replace it with the peace that passes all understanding, that he has promised. I ask myself how is this process today different from those funerals in my past? The pain of the finality? Yes, but also painful is looking into the eyes of someone very much alive, yet seeing someone you don’t quite recognize.

Many may find it weak to allow this kind of brevity regarding a change in a relationship. I think instead it is – at least in some ways – brave. Of course we don’t want to be mired in the sadness of change….but to really inspect and feel the change as it occurs, is healthier than packing it away to deal with later or not at all. When today is for the mourning…..tomorrow can be begin the healing…..or at least that is the hope I hold.

The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:17-18

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When A Poem Moves You

Everyone knows I love a good quote.  Sometimes though, a poem will stand out as something that provokes me to be still for a moment and take in the intention. Lately? Of course, Lesser’s recommendation to those that are interested in the Phoenix process, there is this nugget…….

The Holy Longing
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent.
Because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.

In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.

Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher lovemaking
sweeps you upward.

Distance does not make you falter.
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.

And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

The words are beautiful…..they suggest that in some of us, lies a desire to grow beyond who we are to reach another level of living. To be fair, when you research Gothe, the summary is not kind. He was a mess. He was a lawyer and a scientist, turned poet. His relationships were disasters. He was a cheater, a pervert and by all accounts unsuccessful in making relationships work. Yet, here he captures the desire to rise above. Is the desire enough? It is a case of actions vs. wistful thinking. One makes history of literary works, while the other makes a legacy to the next generation. As a writer, I appreciate the ability to capture the magic of our soul by words. I always have. As a mother and a wife, I wish that the person that wrote something as beautiful as this had a life that lived out what they said.

Perhaps that will never be reconciled for me….for what does a content person have to write about?

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