Do You Believe In Magic?

We are like someone in a very dark night over whom lightning flashes again and again.” – Maimonides

I just finished watching the first three seasons of Arrested Development. The impending change where the show would no longer be available on Netflix finally got me to watch this hilarious and highly -recommended (well, the first three seasons were touted as worth watching) show.

In the show, the eldest brother, Gob, is a magician. A ham-handed, totally inept so his tricks never work, kind of magician. But somehow his character in this show works with all the other characters to make magic of the worth-watching variety.

Do you believe in magic? I mean really believe in magic so that when it comes to getting your deepest desires, something will step in and help along the way?

I don’t. I believe in a lot of things that create magic – being present, finding joy, and counting my blessings to name a few habits that keep me more or less delighted with my life.

And I believe in listening to my inner voice – my God voice or intuition, and then following it. I believe in a Higher Power that I am so grateful to for that inner voice that points me in ways that are bigger and better than I could imagine on my own.

But I think all the work to make life happen is up to me. I don’t think magic will save me, or give me huge leaps to skip over all the steps.

However, I have the feeling that I’m wrong. I have the feeling that magic is happening all around but just on a different pace so that it seems undetectable. Before you think I’ve gone over the bend from watching too many Disney movies (which might also be true), just bear with me.

The other day I was frustrated with a friend – I’d reach a limit of too many bids for connection that had gone unanswered. I’d been totally fine with that for a while because my friend has a lot going on right now but it had reached a tipping point where my heart was starting to feel sore. I was just thinking that I needed to quietly close this door between us when my friend, completely unbidden by me or aware of what I was thinking, sent me a gift.

On Monday, I was working alone at home on a day with no meetings when I suddenly felt disconnected from life around me. I walked to the grocery store, Pictures of You from the Cure was playing on the overhead speakers. As I was dancing down the aisles connecting to memories of my college days, I ran into an old friend.

Or this morning my skin was feeling itchy like it couldn’t stand one more day of winter clothes, and I opened the window to see the blossoms on the tree out front had shown up like magic overnight. (see featured photo)

And my final example is right in this moment when I realized this post, that I thought was completely unconnected to my Wise & Shine post this morning Fear and Courage, is actually completely related in the way that when we acknowledge we are scared, lonely, or fed up, help arrives.

If our lives were a tv show like Arrested Development, the magic would probably be easy to see. But since life doesn’t work that way, it’s up to us to see the magic.

The Window Part 2

When we were children, we used to think that when we were grownup we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability. To be alive is to be vulnerable.” – Madeleine L’Engle

Do you remember this scene in Winnie the Pooh?

“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.'”

Winnie the Poor by A.A. Milne

Of the many sweet things about that exchange, one that I notice is how proximity is so reassuring. The “sure of you” quality of a hug or a hand.

When I wrote the piece about The Window six months ago, our neighbors and my daughter’s first best friend had just moved away. The window had shut and the only thing that I knew for certain was that the reassurance that comes from proximity was no longer going to be there.

Getting to the other side of that grief only comes with time. Now I’ve written The Window Part 2 on the Heart of the Matter blog. It’s part reflection on loss – and part reflection on what comes next…

The Magic Kingdom

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” – W. B. Yeats

I watch a lot of Disney movies these days and I’ve noticed there is always a pause before the magic kicks in and works. Like in Beauty and the Beast, Belle comes back to the castle and the Beast is fighting off Gaston and is gravely injured. Belle goes to him on the terrace and says, “I love you” just as the last petal falls from the flower that held the magic of the curse that turned him into a beast.

Everyone thinks its too late and Belle is crying over his crumpled form…until the magic lifts him up and transforms him into back into a prince.

As I notice the pattern, it makes me think about magic in our lives – and that the pause is of indeterminate length and certainly of a length that we can’t predict. For example, establishing a gratitude practice. My kids and I made gratitude boxes, little boxes to slip the things we are grateful for on a daily basis. But starting that practice and feeling the magical onset of a good mood of the soul isn’t instantaneous.

And the same goes with blogging. It’s not like we write our first blog, and then instantly we’ve perfected our style, know what we want to write about and are surrounded by supportive blogging buddies. It takes time to find our sweet spot and build our WordPress community.

Ditto for passion and love. And everything else where we step forward and then life meets us.

So I know what you’re thinking – none of these examples involves any the special juju as depicted in a Disney movie. There are simply hard work and time.

But I think there is magic involved. It’s magical that we find our way to the things that work for us. And beautiful that we get enough to keep us at it. That we open just long enough for someone else to be open and see us. The magic is in that it can happen in the time between when I open and you close.

It’s magical that when we risk, we open ourselves up to opportunity. When we make ourselves vulnerable enough to be seen, that someone else comes along to hold us is rare and then we tell the stories to inspire others to do the same and we get those tingles all over again.

In The Princess and the Frog, the prince gets turned into a frog by a voodoo man. Then he kisses Tiana because he thinks she is a princess, but she isn’t and they both end up as frogs. [SPOILER ALERT – I’m going to tell the ending here.] After a Disney movie length adventure of making friends and finding out what is truly meaningful, they fall in love, give up their human dreams and get married. Once they do, Tiana becomes a princess because she married a prince, albeit in frog form. The prince kisses her and they both turn back to human.

They stop struggling to be what they thought they wanted and just love each other as they are – only to get it back again. The magic of life.

The secret is in the waiting through the moments where all seems lost, holding the faith for as long as it takes for the magic to work which will likely be longer than the pause in a Disney movie. The magic is in believing it will still happen even as we wait. And then, when it does happen, seeing it as one whole story and telling it to others so they too will last through the wait.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Dancing In the Dark

Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” – Sarah Williams

My kids are going through this “scared of the dark” phase. It seems to be seasonally inspired as the nights and mornings get darker. When we have 16 hours of daylight in the summer, they don’t see the dark very often but right now we’re at just over 10 hours of daylight. By the time we get to the solstice, it’ll be something like only eight hours of light each day.

I asked them what the dark feels like to them. Mr. D said surprise. Miss O added that someone could be a foot away in the dark waiting to snatch them and they wouldn’t know.

It makes me think of one of my darkest moments. When I miscarried a baby 4 years ago, overnight the world completely lost all its color and I couldn’t give a care about anything. In the moments that I felt anything, it was anger like I’d never felt before – rage, really – and nobody could do anything right. Except Miss O – I could muster some energy to pull it together for her. This started 4 days before Christmas, and I stumbled through the motions of the holidays just trying to be polite. I could get the smallest glimmer of peace in the morning when I meditated and every once in a while something amused me but overall the landscape looked completely black/white/gray with an occasional spot of color that pulled me through.

In a few weeks I evened out and I could work through the loss. I had stopped taking all the hormones that come with invitro fertilization when I miscarried so I guessed that there was a strong physical component to my experience of darkness.

Going through this gave me the great big a-ha that my assumption that my life experience and outlook were solid was totally wrong.  And I also began to understand that others might come at life from a completely different felt experience.

Mr. D told me his strategy about his dark – get a flashlight. And I love that because it’s a brave looking into the dark. To illuminate the things that scare us so we can lean in to look more closely. And I keep reminding them that there are many things we see in the dark that we can’t see otherwise – like our adventure to see the stars, Halloween decorations not to mention our own frailty. It’s easier to be vulnerable in the dark.

Sometimes the dark makes things visible– and they are different things to see and learn from than in the light.

My kids love Rihanna’s song, “Dancing in the Dark” from the movie, Home. So I’m suggesting that we can dance in the dark until it doesn’t seem so scary and then stay with it long enough to maybe even understand ourselves and others better.

When We Look Closely

Who sees all beings in his own Self and his Self in all beings, loses all fear.” – The Isa Upanishad

The other day my son was nose to nose with our cat then turned to me and said, “I see me in kitty’s eyes.“

It reminded me of a story from the Talmud that I read in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening:

A Rabbi asks his student, “How do you know the first moment of dawn has arrived? After a great silence, one pipes up, “When you can tell the difference between a sheep and a dog.” The Rabbi shakes his head no. Another offers, “When you can tell the difference between a fig tree and an olive tree.” Again the Rabbi shakes his head no. There are no other answers. The Rabbi circles their silence and walks between them, “You know the first moment of dawn has arrived when you look into the eyes of another human being and see yourself.”

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

I was talking with a friend the other day about Monsters, Inc. which is my son’s favorite movie these days. She asked the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if we as humans figured out how to harness laughter & love instead of screams & fear?”  

To me, it feels with almost 8 billion people on the planet like an almost overwhelming task for the dawn to break so that we can all see we are all different yet we share the same aches and pains of life. But then I breathe and remember, it happens one person at a time. It happens when I remember to be open and take the time to look into someone else’s eyes and gather the power of laughter and love.

And maybe when we exercise gentleness and closeness, it happens too between species like with my son and the cat. That is hopeful too.


A small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” – Stendal

My mom came over yesterday with a newspaper for me because she had an extra copy. It’s been a long time since I’ve beheld an entire printed newspaper. As much as I like the news, skimming the headlines about Ukranian refugees, discord in the state legislature, the approach of 6 million deaths worldwide from COVID reminded me of something I’d heard researcher Brené Brown say. She said her therapist once told her something like, “Brené, in the time we have together each week I can’t undo the damage you do to yourself listening to the news.”

It also reminded me of an On Being podcast I heard recently where Krista Tippett interviewed CEO and Visionary Trabien Shorters. Trabien has identified our need to redefine the way we look at the world. Instead of continuing our habit of seeing problems and defining people in need in terms of their problems, a worldview he calls deficit-framing, he calls us to practice asset-framing. As Krista said in the podcast, “it works with both cutting-edge understandings of the brain and an age-old understanding of the real-world power of the words we use, the stories we tell, the way we name things and people. “

And in Trabian’s own words, he says asset-framing is “It is defining people by their aspirations and contributions, before you get to their challenges. So whatever is going on in someone’s life, you don’t ignore it, but you don’t define them by the worst moment or the worst experience or the worst potential; none of that. You have to look past their faults, to see who they really are. 

And specific to the news, Trabian and Krista talked us through an example of how the news leads us to deficit frame, to see things and particularly marginalized communities by the problems. In the original lede of the story, there isn’t anything very hopeful:

“The Latinx community in the United States has always been, for the most part, on the bottom half on income, in the American society. The struggle to have access to health and mental care is part of the history; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has come to intensify the problems.”

But the revised lede that Trabian and his team helped write started like this:

“Since 2014, Latinx people have constituted the largest ethnic group in the nation’s largest state. They now represent 39 percent of the California population.” And then it goes on to talk about “in recent years Latinx residents have made advances in economic well-being measured by metrics like reduced poverty rates, growth in business ownership.” And then after a couple of sentences like that, people elected to school boards, local offices. “Despite this impressive social and economic progress, Latinx residents have lagged behind other Californians in achieving important goals like home ownership and income growth, and we can now add to that list the disproportionate harm visited on the community by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Listening to that example, I realize how much how the news is presented matters to our perception. It also makes me appreciate this Word Press Community even more because as the war in Ukraine has ramped up, I’ve seen so many posts that highlight the hope of how to get through it like Jane Fritz did with her post on Robby Robin’s journey yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago my 6-year-old daughter look at the news on the tv and said, “The Queen is dead.” And I had her read the banner again which said, “The Queen has tested positive for Covid-19.” The news is important, but a lot of it is how we read it!

(featured photo from Pexels)

Christmas Wish

The most effective medicine here on this Earth is unconditional love.” – unknown

I woke up this morning thinking of two types of people working on Christmas Eve. Healthcare workers and pastors. The former must be so discouraged to see the Omicron fears and anticipate the number of people who might overflow their beds.

And the latter must be so disappointed to see the Omicron fears, knowing that it’ll keep people away from services and reduce the number of people in their pews on Christmas Eve.

Growing up in a pastor’s house, Christmas Eve was a big deal. It was a chance to celebrate with the congregation and whoever else came along the hope, peace and magic of a story. It was a chance to hear silence because regardless of anyone’s particular beliefs, it is a day we close our stores and change our schedules.

It makes me wish on this day where our bodies might not be able to go where we want to be, that at least our hearts can be in the right place. May the spirit of Christmas with its hope, peace and generosity fill us wherever we are!

Nice to Meet You

“A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” – Stendahl

My kids and I have had a dog staying with us this past week. Kelty is a delightful, well-trained Springer Spaniel who at 12 ½ is old enough to pretty much know what to do without direction and deaf enough to have momentary lapses when she wants to look for food and pretend she can’t hear us. My kids have been so excited to take care of a dog so they’ve split up the responsibilities. My 6-year-old daughter scoops the food for her and gives the cup to my 2-year-old son so he can put it in the dish. Or my son goes around the yard looking for poop so that my daughter can pick it up. Hilarious!

The only creature that isn’t happy is our cat who refuses to even meet the dog. She has spent the week lying mostly on the front porch glider occasionally coming in for food or to run upstairs where the dog doesn’t go to have a nap. She’s young, strong and confident enough to roam the entire neighborhood, catch mice and take care of herself but none of that translates until a willingness to meet this nice older dog, She even follows us when we take the dog out walking like she wants to join but darts away if the dog looks at her.

Somehow this has reminded me of me. Specifically about my willingness to meet men. Not that I dart into bushes 😊 but more figuratively that if I am ever to find love again, I’m going to have to start with at least intending to meet men. I’ve had the confidence to walk this path of having kids on my own, I’ve managed to figure out how to juggle most everything – work, house maintenance, kids but the idea of falling in love again unsettles me.

I was playing a catching game with my kids the other day and my daughter said to me, “When we get a dad, we can play boys against girls.” Right! I know it’s the next part of the path I need to walk but like the cat, it’s never going to happen unless I need to try. Maybe at my age, I can find one a little like the dog – old enough to pretty much know what to do and selectively deaf enough to create some mischief from time to time. 😊

Sibling Supportiveness

There’s a sun in every person – the you we call companion.” – Rumi

My kids and I were sitting on my bed reading books before bed and my 6-year-old daughter leaned over and kissed my toddler on the head and said, “Love you, Baby.” He said, “No kiss, La-la.” And so I kissed him on the head and he said, “No kiss, Mama.” But he was smiling so we kept kissing him and he kept saying “no kiss” and laughing.

My kids have such a sweet relationship. When they are in the car and my toddler hears a siren or other noise that scares him, he’ll say, “cared”, my daughter will say, “Want to hold my hand?” and he does.

I work hard to make this happen. I sit with them as they work things out and act as interpreter. I also narrate why he mimics her so much because he thinks she’s the coolest thing ever. I do this because I grew up as the younger sibling of someone who hated me. She was four years older than me which is the same age difference as my two kids. When we’ve talked about it as adults she said, “I don’t know why I was so mean to you.”

My opinion is that my sister has always struggled with feeling like she didn’t belong in our family because she was the one “realist” amongst a pack of optimists. I came along and the easy, happy disposition I was born with challenged her fighter, questioning nature and it is her makeup to push back.

Whatever my sister’s reason was, I find it fascinating to think about the dynamic now. Having kids that are the same age difference has been fear-inducing and healing for me. I was terrified that the same pattern would repeat itself. And now I’m starting to trust that there isn’t any scary truth that four years difference makes siblings not like each other.

There isn’t a more influential factor on my parenting style than the wounds of my childhood. I was scared to live with my sister – scared that anything I professed to love she would destroy. If I had long hair, I was scared she’d cut it off at night, if I liked a particular stuffed animal, I was scared she’d take it or destroy it. To be fair, I don’t think she ever did – but she threatened a lot. And I think I’m still scared of admitting I love something in case that means it’s taken away.

My mom was tired of kid squabbles by the time I came along as the third child. She was ready to move on with her own professional and personal development and given how talented and smart she is, that was only natural. But it meant that telling her my fears or about the conflict was not a fruitful path. She’d call it tattling or say we both caused it, no matter what happened. There was no path to resolution for me as a child – no understanding, no naming it and no way out of fear.

So every day I work at building trust between my kids and making sure they are source of comfort, not anxiety for each other. It heals me alongside helping them. It’s another reminder to me that nothing is wasted in this life – every wound can become a source of knowledge and inspiration. I hope that long after I’m gone, when they are scared, they will still talk to each other about it and hold hands.

The Price of Anticipation

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

My mom invited my five-year-old daughter over for a sleep over at her apartment this weekend. Her place is air conditioned and she had a ton of fun plans like piano lessons and songs to wake up to. My daughter was so excited. Mostly because Nana’s apartment is a place full of treasures that she hasn’t been able to visit during this pandemic but also because her friend that is just a little bit older at 7-years-old is always talking about sleepovers. What a thrill! But then my mom had to cancel because she lives in a retirement community and they reinforced the message that no children under the age of 16-years-old are allowed, even if they don’t go into any common areas. My daughter was so disappointed! She said to me, “I’m just going to expect that good things get canceled.”

Of all the emotions, disappointment seems the easiest to avoid. As my daughter said, you can just expect good things won’t happen, right? It only means giving up anticipation. The feeling of waking up in the morning, remembering what you are going to do today and feeling, “yay!” because it’s something fun.

But what about love then? Is it tempting to decide not to love because the feeling of heartbreak is too crushing to endure? Or what about hope? Giving up the tug that we can, will and might just be lucky enough make our lives better just in case we fail?

All of my favorite emotions have their shadow side. I’ve struggled with trying not to feel any of those and come away worse for the wear. As the brilliant writer, Ashley C. Ford said in a podcast I heard a couple of months ago, “I tried to live a disappointing life so that I wouldn’t ever be disappointed.”

I’m finally understanding the idea of leaning in towards life instead. When getting a little off tilt, leaning forwards, not backwards. But my daughter’s disappointment this weekend made me realize that while I have been practicing that for myself, I’ve been doing the opposite with my kids. I often don’t tell them about things that might be canceled so that they don’t get disappointed. I hold myself as a back stop for all their possible shadow side feelings. As is so often the case, having kids has given me another level of practice. I can still lean forwards with my kids in my arms, ready for joy and also holding them in disappointment.