Cheers and Blessings

My friends are the beings through whom God loves me.” – Saint Martin

My friend, Bill, came to visit me a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years and in those years, he got married and has moved to three different countries. I still live in the same house, but over that time, I’ve had two children.”

Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do. At first, as Bill was settling his bags in the guest room and talking with my kids, it felt surreal – like paint from one palette had spilled on another. Then when Bill and I went to dinner, it felt like we were working hard to find stories that conveyed the essence and meaning of the lives we live.

I experienced it as practice of the deepest kind of listening. I had to draw from far-back memories of living abroad when I was a kid, and again for a short time in college. And he had to relate experiences he’s had with other parents to try to know the life I’m living. But we both showed up to do that practice and it didn’t seem forced or contrived.

I don’t understand the mechanics of my deep connection to this friend. I wrote about him about a year ago in It’s Love Calling because we usually only speak to each other once every five years or so. Bill and I connected instantly when we met 25 years ago but have not spent a lot of time together in any of the intervening years. The what, how, where, and why of it are completely inexplicable and changeable – only the who stays consistent.

And in between our calls and visits, so much life has happened that it takes conscious effort to pick out the thread of what’s important to say. Yet this weird connection remains vibrant and meaningful.

My conclusion when I talked with Bill last year and wrote was that our connection exists to remind each other that we are lovable without having to perform for it. That there is a Oneness that we can both touch from our disparate lives when we are quiet and still. Somehow this friendship exists as evidence of and a waypoint to it for each other.

I’d add one thing to that conclusion – it’s a gift to have someone so connected yet disconnected come immerse themselves in my life for almost 24 hours. It shows me that every once in a while we receive the gift of being seen from the outside. Someone who knows us and can see our growth – but they have to stay on the outside in order to bestow the gift. I feel the love of God through my friendships, as the quote for this post describes – and every once in a while God makes a special one to deliver perspective as well.

Bill left this note, “Thanks for everything, Wynne. What a pleasure to spend time in your love filled life. Your family is absolutely amazing. Cheers and Blessings.”

Well, I’d probably describe my family as four parts love, one part chaos – and what a gift that he was willing to jump into our chaos to feel and see our love.

As I write this, I still have so many questions about abundant love, connection, and what humans can evoke in each other. But it feels like I have a better sense and shape of the mystery and have extended the notes that I want to cultivate because I’ve written this. It’s expressive writing at its best and if you are interested in the topic, it’s what Vicki Atkinson, Brian Hannon and I discuss on Episode 8 of the Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast: Episode 8: Expressive Writing to listen on Anchor. This podcast is also available on Apple, Amazon, Spotify and Pocket Casts by searching for Sharing the Heart of the Matter and new episodes drop every Friday morning.

Please subscribe! Next week’s podcast is Mitch Teemley talking about having the audacity to believe that others want to read, watch or listen to his stories. It’s really good!

A Golden Moment

When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” – Buddha

Yesterday I had a golden moment with my kids. You know the kind that I mean? Where everything lines up and all our hearts seems to beat in synch for a minute or three.

We’ve been together for three days at a little condo on our favorite beach on Whidbey Island for this long weekend. The weather has been a little rainy so although we’ve walked a little on the beach, mostly we’ve been inside, playing Go Fish, watching movies, doing puzzles.

Then the golden moment came as we were talking about the Beatles last night at dinner. Miss O wanted to know if other musicians know their music so I pulled up this beautiful video of Yo-yo Ma playing and James Taylor singing Here Comes the Sun

Maybe it was just my heart being just a little more open for a moment but somehow the music and the kids listening, everything felt perfect in the world for just a second.

Or it could be because I’d was paying attention because I’d been writing about the curiosity of kids and being at new places for my Heart of the Matter post: Unlocking the Door of Curiosity

Either way – I’m wishing all of you a golden moment for today.

P.S. Watching these two musicians reminded me that I’d written about a story I’d heard about James Taylor: A Show of Character

Celebrating Connection with Others

When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix

It feels like Valentine’s Day is the holiday that it’s safe to hate. It’s not tied to any major religion so it doesn’t feel like it would be offensive to not like it, it’s overly commercialized and has sappy ads, and eating establishments have taken advantage of the hype to sometimes make it exclusive and expensive.

I would definitely fall in-line with those who poo-poo Valentine’s Day. I have a couple of friends whose birthday is Valentine’s Day and it made it so complicated when they were dating someone new. Do you or do you not go out to celebrate without being inundated by the assumptions and hype?

But helping my kids getting ready for it, especially my 2nd grader, has given me a new appreciation for it. At this age, it’s the only holiday for which they prepare cards for their classmates. For elementary school kids, the imagery is simple so they can easily make heartfelt cards for teachers and adults in their lives. In fact, because it’s such an uncomplicated celebration it makes it pretty accessible.

I understand that it gets more fraught as we grow up. When I was 14-years-old, I burnt the cookies I made for the first guy I “went” with and still delivered them anyway. He, on the other hand, had chocolate and roses for me, which made me feel both great and terrible.

So it seems like Valentine’s Day gets more complicated as we grow up. It becomes wrapped up with what romance is and isn’t, tied up with love languages, and whatever else makes it feel forced and unauthentic. As adults we can add our expectations, and our wonderings about how to navigate the wine and roses appropriately. We over-complicate it with our baggage and memories of how we underperformed (or at least I do).

But working with Miss O as she carefully picked a card from the pile that was what she thought each person in her class would like the best, I reconnected to Valentine’s Day as a simple holiday that celebrates our connection to each other. And well, I love that.

As the quote for this post from Jimi Hendrix says, maybe if we spent a little more time celebrating love, we could collectively move the needle on our divisiveness. I mean that generally speaking, not to add another burden on the expectations of Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

The Next Chapter: Car Talk

Does anyone remember the car cake when our car turned 100,000 miles and we made a cake for it?

After we blew out the candles, Miss O turned to me and asked, “Are you going to be alive when this happens to me?”

Oh boy. I thought I better not go with the reply that she better get a used car with a lot of miles already on it. So after thinking about it for a few weeks, I’ve written my answer on Wise & Shine: The Next 100,000 Miles


A lifetime is so precious, and so brief, and can be used so beautifully.” – Pema Chodron

I was standing around the elementary school yard the other day watching parents and children at pick-up time. There was the mom standing with her 1st grader, listening to her and occasionally smoothing back the child’s hair behind her ear. There was a dad standing behind his 3rd grader with his hand proudly on his son’s shoulders. And off to my right was the mom embracing her 4th grade son in a big and long hug.

I’ve been thinking about the scene and how we reconnect with our loved ones because yesterday I had to be sedated for a colonoscopy. Even though I had no particular reason to be concerned, I feel a little nervous anytime I or my loved ones have to go under. I remember feeling this acutely anytime I had to take my now departed dog, Biscuit, in for a procedure, especially when he got older. Something scares me about the way you are there one moment, then they turn up the mixture and you’re out.

I’d worked out the details for my procedure yesterday so that my kids had their normal school day routines. But the anxiety amped up the good-bye sweetness, making me remember that I’d once read that good-bye derived from God Be With You. As Miss O jumped out of the car to run for the gate at school, I said, “Good-bye, my miracle girl!

And she turned, smiled and replied, “Good-bye, my miracle mom.

I felt that all the way through. It is a miracle that I’m a mom. That modern medicine enabled me through IVF to have babies at age 46 and 50 is astounding. Once I felt that, it was a short walk to feeling how this all is a miracle – to be a human on this earth at this moment with all you other delightful humans, understanding we have the capacity to appreciate this in a way that we might not if we were ants or alligators.

The trip to pick my kids up again at the end of the day, my loop around the little neighborhood lake that I’ve driven countless times, was all that much sweeter. To reconnect, scoop them up in my arms, look at them proudly, tuck their hair behind their ears, and celebrate a little more consciously how lovely it is to be here was pure joy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was glad to have a colonoscopy… but hey, anything that reminds me to hug my loved ones a little bit tighter can’t be all bad.

Getting the Best of My Common Sense

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” – Bertrand Russell

My 83-year-old mom had a ping pong accident this week. One minute she was playing a game at her senior residence and the next she dove for the ball, fell on a cot-like thing, hit the rail with her back and was injured enough that the firemen, paramedics and ambulance came and she was on her way to the hospital.

She’s out of the hospital now and doing fine. With a couple of cracked ribs and a little bit of bleeding, the injury is painful but nowhere near as serious as it could have been. She’s chalked the whole thing up to “her competitive nature getting the best of her common sense.

I’m fascinated by that phrase because I can think of any number of things that have gotten the best of my common sense. Usually pride and stubbornness because I’m not particularly competitive. All the times I’ve carried too much (I’m thinking of my post about efficiency), haven’t asked for help, and stayed at something far too long.

And it seems to be passed down in families. The other day Miss O wasn’t feeling well and I asked her if she wanted to cancel anything or take a rest and her answer could have come right from my mouth. “NO! I’m fine, I’ve got this!”

On the other hand, the things I do out of love almost never make common sense. I’m thinking of the time I celebrated my friend Phil’s 400th ascent of Mt Rainier by buying 400 of each his favorite mountaineering provisions. The cough drops and tea bags were fine but the chips and the cookies were quite voluminous so that I ended up delivering 8 storage bins full of stuff.

In honor of my mom, I’m taking a deeper look at what gets the best of my common sense. For the times I extend myself out of love, I’m keeping it. But if I’m extending myself out of duty or pride, I’m going to try to let it go.

Because sometimes when we lunge for things we end up in the hospital. The good thing about taking a dive at a senior residence is that there’s a good portion of the population that can’t remember the gossip. A woman with a great sense of humor but maybe not such a good memory said to my mom when she returned from the hospital, “I heard something about you but now I can’t remember what.”

(featured photo from Pexels)

Negotiating with Others

Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond.” – Buddha

Yesterday as I was getting the kids in the car to drive them to school, Mr. D became very upset because I hadn’t picked the right socks. “The dinosaur socks upstairs” he insisted and I went back to scramble for the right ones but when I came back, they still weren’t the right pair.

Now we were going to make Miss O late for school if I continued to hunt for the mythical socks. Mythical in my mind at least because the problem wasn’t the socks, it was that he didn’t want to go to school yet. So I gave Mr. D a choice between monster socks and airplane socks. He chose airplane and when I got them out it started a whole new round of crying, “That’s helicopters.”

Oh, holy hell. It reminded me of a theory my brother passed on to me about relationships when we were in our twenties. Our beliefs about what’s important will always differ from those around us and that’s the topic of my Wise & Shine post this week: Navigating the Gray Area

Turning Towards

Know all the theories. Master all the techniques. But as you touch a human soul be just another human soul.” – Carl Jung

“Guess what?” Miss O says to me and when I reply, she says, “I love you.” It’s a little call and response that I started with her when she was about 4 years-old. But I stopped doing it. She asked me why the other day and I don’t know. Was it because Mr D got older and I didn’t want to leave him out? Or was it because she started to know what I was going to say every time?

These little bids for connection matter according to Drs John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute. They are our ways of turning towards our loved ones and even though the Gottmans primarily focus on partner love relationships, I think it applies to children as well.

On a recent Unlocking Us podcast with Brené Brown, they were talking about their latest book, The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection and Joy, and what caught my attention was how grounded in research their advice is. Not surprisingly since these are the psychologists and researchers who proved their ability to tell if relationships would last and be happy from just 15 minutes of observation with a 90% degree of accuracy.

They made the distinction between turning toward a bid of attention (responding or engaging when your partner says something like “look at that blue jay out the window”), turning away (ignoring) and turning against (responding with something like “why are you interrupting me?”).

In happy relationships, people turn toward their partner’s bids for attention 86% of the time, couples who were not successful only turn toward each other 33% of the time. John Gottman explained the result, “Couples who increase their turning toward wind up having more of a sense of humor about themselves when they are disagreeing with one another, when they are in conflict.

As Brené Brown summarized “Turning toward gives us a sense of confidence about our togetherness.”

“Love is a practice. It’s more than a feeling. It’s an action. It’s something you do and not something that just happens to you and you need to give and get a daily dose to maintain a healthy and thriving relationship.”

The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection and Joy by John Gottman and Julie Gottman

The funny thing about when Miss O does the call and response with me lately is that she gets me almost every time. She says “Guess what?” and my busy head doesn’t anticipate the next part. It’s the surprise that breaks through the momentum of the day.

I can’t remember why I stopped this particular ritual but now that I’ve been reminded, I am delighted to start doing it again. Because what relationship doesn’t need to be grounded in connection and fun?

To Dance or Not to Dance?

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” – Japanese Proverb

The other day a friend and I were talking about a conflict that’s arisen in her multi-decades marriage. She’s taken up ballroom dancing and loves it. It engages her mind and body in a way that feels like something generative and renewing. She loves studying the movements and the thrill of putting it all together.

Her husband doesn’t have any interest in doing it with her but also has a problem with her dancing with other partners. At times the thought of her dancing with someone else makes him feel queasy. He wants her to quit.

Before I continue, I must interject that these are both very smart, well-intended, committed and gracious people. This particular conflict occurs amidst the backdrop of a loving marriage, not as a crack in something that is already falling apart.

As my friend has progressed with ballroom dancing, she’s learned a great deal – but there have also been injuries that come with learning something new and moving in different ways (usually minor). Every time she has an injury, she wonders if this is a sign that she should quit or if she is learning to push through adversity. And every time it renews the conflict in her marriage. To push through both an injury and the resistance of having her husband against the idea is more than twice as hard but the idea of her hanging up her dancing shoes makes her feel sad and a little robbed of joy.

This is where things become muddy for me. First as someone who has been single for over a decade, I am sorely out of practice at compromise. But mostly because it seems to me that this conversation, and maybe most conversations where we can’t be supportive of what someone else wants to pursue with good intentions, are about something else. Unresolved conflict, old stories, wounds that haven’t healed, insecurity?

When I look at the situation, I can see the ripple effect that comes from one person forcing another to quit something they love. But it’s of course far more complex with that when you have more than two decades of history. It seems like my friend and her husband are already dancing but somehow have gotten out of sync.

So how do they find the wisdom to get back in step?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Our First Team

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh!’ he whispered. ‘Yes, Piglet?’ ‘Nothing’ said Piglet taking Pooh’s paw, ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.'” – A.A. Milne

After I landed at the airport on Friday night, I received a text from my nanny as I was making my way home:

“Lessons of the week:

  1. Big sisters make the world go round
  2. You can’t out-bargain a 3-year-old
  3. Sometimes you just gotta go out in your underwear”

Quite frankly, I was impressed that she was able to get Mr. D to go out in underwear when he has more often than not opted for the full on naked this summer.

And then she expanded on the role that Miss O played during the week.

“I’m just so thankful for and impressed by [Miss O]! There were some really emotional moments with [Mr. D] and she was there for a hug whenever he needed it! She helped me find things around the house, helped me interpret some of his words, and has a true talent for knowing exactly where Bunbun [D’s beloved stuffy] is at all times.”

It made me think of my family of origin. I have an older brother who always made me laugh and cherished me. And I had an older sister that was angry that I came along and was jealous of the easy way I rolled through life.

It seems to me that siblings are the first team that we join in life. Not surprisingly, I was delighted to be on my brother’s team when we were growing up. These days we don’t talk all the time – or even all that often. But if I need to feel better about something incomprehensible, no one can match the comfort I get from my brother.

And if I want to know how to do something, I watch my big brother.

When I don’t understand how the world works, the person I listen most to is my big brother.

He’s like a huge filter of the information I take in as if his context provides me a starting point of where I need to go next.

In my business, I frequently help companies turn data into information. That is to say, there is often too many sources of content and not enough time for workers to verify them. For instance, there may be so many versions of the company background sales presentation, that a new employee may not understand which one to use when her boss tells her to start with that. So I help build systems that tell people which content is trustworthy.

I suspect our older siblings are like that – the systems that help us to know where to start. Whether we learn to trust what they say or to do the opposite of what they say, either way they are a reference point. And when they are trustworthy sources, we have an advantage of using them to help us read the world.

I don’t always listen to my brother, agree with him or even talk with him – but I am forever attuned to taking cues from him. And I suspect little D is growing up to do the same with his sister.

When Mr D was first walking, Miss O decided to train him to give her hugs on command. She’d clap her hands and then yell “hug” and he’d come running (some of the time). When I came home after being away last week, it was like that bond they’ve been building for three years was that much stronger. I’m so grateful not only for the team I have with my brother, but that my kids are building their own team.

How do you feel about your siblings?

If you want to see a video of Miss O training D to give hugs, check out my instagram @wynneleon

I’ve also written about the split in my family of origin because I’ve come to see my older sister’s suffering as one that started when we were young as a feeling of not belonging. More on that at Forgiveness or Letting Go?