Photos of the Week: Aug 6

Time wasted at the lake is time well spent.” – unknown

We were lucky to spend the last day of the PNW heat wave with friends at a lake cabin. It was definitely the right way to beat the heat!

For the kids’ birthdays, the Tumblebus, a full-sized bus that has been converted to a mini-tumbling gym, pulled up front for a fantastic party bus. It was so impressive to watch the guy parallel park the bus!

The August mornings have been a little bit darker which is delightful for my morning yoga and meditation time. The kids are great at staying in bed and not interrupting my sacred time – but the cat not so much. She brought a baby bunny in the house early in the morning (see corner of the room in the picture) and then I had to get creative about how to get it safely out of the house without waking the kids. Good news – the bunny was just fine and lived!

What were you running around doing this week?

A Question of Love

The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them: there ought to be as many for love.” – Margaret Atwood

Yesterday in the car, Miss O asked me who she should marry. Off the top of my head I said, someone who is kind, honest, funny and smart and then stopped to ask what she thought. She added, “Someone who is sweet and who likes to kiss.”

I started laughing and she explained that not all boys like to kiss which I’m sure is accurate in the 7-year-old world.

But it made me think of all the times I’ve wondered who I should love and the answer started with loving myself.

And it made me think of that WHO I should love is also an acronym for HOW I should love which I found is best with conviction, patience and kindness.

It reminded me that sometimes the answer to the question isn’t who I should love but am I brave enough to try.           

Finally, I landed on what is with age becoming clearer to me is that when I tap into the Oneness of things, I find it easier to love everyone, even the people that get my goat because when I look closely there is something about them that reminds me of me.

Miss O has about 20 years until she reaches the average age of brides in this country. I hope that in that time she learns a little about love, especially self-love, before she does.

What’s your list for what to look for in a partner? And your best advice about love?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Young Love

The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” – Rumi

The other day Miss O came home from playing at a neighbor’s house with a mystified expression. She told me that the 9-year-old brother had been kidding his 7-year-old brother about “playing with his girlfriend.” It appears that the younger brother had confided in his brother about a crush on Miss O and now the older brother was teasing him mercilessly.

Now I understand why that delightful boy is always smiling ear to ear every time I see him. I had just assumed he was extraordinarily happy and polite.

There are so many places to go with this story it feels target rich – the complete and utter delight of having a crush, the irrepressible urge to tell others when someone sparks your heart and the vulnerability of sharing your secret.

Just witnessing the potential energy of this little scene reminded me how powerful young love is – and I don’t mean just love among the young but the first stirrings of the heart. There are so many more questions than there are answers, the anticipation is excruciating and life is so wonderfully alive! It’s the heart begging to be let off the leash and dance, the mind trying to fill in the blanks all the while you are pretending to have it under control even as you know nothing is actually normal or controllable.

So you have to tell somebody – and this leads to the next potential topic from our story. It makes me think of the time in junior high that a friend told me she’d been making out with my best friend’s boyfriend on the side and swore me to secrecy. After I sweated it out for a couple of days, loyalty won out over secrecy and I told my best friend. And it also reminds me of my friend in my adult years that would relish in telling all the dirt she knew about other people’s indiscretions. She always had a story and it made hiking up a trail a little more interesting.

Then when my husband’s infidelities came out, I found out it was my messy life that was her fodder. I was chagrined that I had listened to those other stories. And I also learned that the vulnerability of falling in love might actually pale in comparison to the vulnerability of falling out of it.

So then we get to the third act – the brotherly teasing. In his book, The Thin Book of Trust Charles Feltman defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” It seems like siblings and these juicy secrets full of so much potential energy are often the proving ground for trust. And we don’t always get it right.

Our neighbors were leaving for an extended trip on the day after older brother revealed younger brother’s crush. Hopefully that gives the boys time to work it out. Meanwhile, Miss O doesn’t seem too changed by the news which makes me glad that the power of love is still pretty tame at age almost 7.

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.

Still Waters

God leads me to still waters that restore my spirit.” – Psalm 23

Today is my birthday. When my 6-year-old daughter realized that earlier this week, she said “Great, can you wake us up early on your birthday so we can make you a surprise?”

Wait a minute…this is a trick. So sweet of her but that morning time is my sacred time. Waking my kids up early is the opposite of a birthday present.

I’ve often thought that the transition between my quiet morning time when I do yoga, meditate, read and write to the time when I get the kids up and ready for school was a hard transition because I was selfish and wanted more quiet time. But something I read this week sparked the thought that it’s really something deeper.

In those quiet morning moments, I find my own stillness. I breathe into the space beyond myself and feel that unity with the Universe. And in that place, the feelings settle, the rush quiets down and it feels like I see beyond all of our physical boundaries if just for a moment.

And I feel that love for my kids that came the moment they became real for me. It’s bigger than a reaction to something they’ve done or the way we express ourselves. It’s that pure connection between the core of them and the core of me, not complicated by any movement. It’s that overwhelming feeling that I get when I creep in and watch them sleep. They are quiet and I’m quiet.

When I’m still, it feels like I’m standing in one of the clear lakes in Northern Idaho we used to visit in my childhood on a hot day without wind. I can see all the way to my feet and beyond.

Then it’s time to wake them up – and any movement stirs the waters. I reach for them and stir up the waters between us. It’s time to accomplish things, meet a timeline and respond to any worries. It’s like going from my peaceful standing in the lake to a full-on water fight. I have trouble traversing that threshold because I miss the quiet view of my little loves.

It’s not just these relationships either. When I’m quiet and peaceful, all my relationships seem clearer and easier to understand than when we are in front of each other talking and stirring up all the things that come with interplay. It’s harder to feel the full appreciation for the depth of each relationship in the busier moments, I just have to hold the quiet snapshot in my heart.

My friend Betsy, who is a more experienced parent than I am, suggested what to do about my birthday. Get them up just a couple of minutes early – so I get my morning quiet time and then also get to feel their love in full audio as well.

Photos of the Week: June 4

In a week that ranged from rain to sunshine, sickness and health, nights that had restless sleep and nights we slept well, not only did I eat Dove chocolate to get through, but I also wholeheartedly adopted this wrapper advice.

My favorite picture of the week – little people casting long shadows. It reminds me of the beginning of Peter Pan where Wendy is sewing his shadow on so it can always be with him.

Backyard camping where the primary wildlife we saw was the cat trying to squeeze herself between the tent body and the rain fly.

I know what the boots are for – measuring who has collected the most water at the end of puddle jumping. But what are the umbrellas for?

Reading my tea leaves — I see love…!

How was your week?

Open Up, Buttercup

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress. Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.” – Maya Angelou

The other day on the carpool home from school, my daughter teed off when her friend said something about being called on in class. “I never get called on in class!” and “I never get to say my ideas!”

Self-pity is the emotion that I have the most trouble with. I think the idea that we should never feel or express self-pity was inculcated in me from an early age. My memory is that it was communicated in statements like “You can join us again when you are feeling more positive.” Or “Can I join the pity party?” or “Toughen up, Buttercup.”

So I think I came by my intolerance of self-pity in myself or others honestly from probably generations of family habits. But a little self-reflection shows me that the complete shutdown in my ability to listen and feel when self-pity appears is neither the person or parent I want to be.

I was mulling this over when I heard a Ten Percent Happier podcast with therapist Dr. Jacob Ham that helped clarify the underlying question. In the course of the conversation the topic of whether you have to love yourself to love another came up. Dr. Ham’s answer was it depends – “It depends if your fear is so great that it inhibits connection to yourself or another.”

While my natural inclination is not to name the feeling as fear, it gets at the heart of the question of solving things in ourselves so they don’t hinder our connection to others. I still have trouble thinking of self-pity as anything useful – but I also know my resistance tells me that it’s inhibiting the Flow of life somewhere and it’s worth a look.

In the car when I was listening to my daughter’s complaints, I could relate that I often see a skewed version of events when I’m tired or not feeling well. In my daughter’s case, I think she was both tired and hungry so I asked if we could come back to it after we filled her tank.

She said it was frustrating not to feel seen at times but after acknowledging that, we made a list of things she wants to do so that she can speak up about her ideas like raising her hand more enthusiastically. We’ll see if it works but I’m just grateful that I held on long enough to participate in the conversation.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Showing Up When It Matters

Look at the bright spots. Look at the things that energize you.” – China Brooks

“Your son did a great job and you were amazing too” the dentist said to me as we were heading out the door. I know she meant it sincerely but it’s hard to accept a compliment for something that you never wanted to be good at. As was the case here as I had just held my 2-year-old son through getting a root canal.

It had all started with Mr. D’s dental checkup on Tuesday when they noticed a cavity. Two hours after the appointment his temperature spiked at daycare and they sent him home. I called the dentist, described the bump she saw on his gum and she dismissed it as unlikely he had an infection.

Until we showed up Friday to get it filled and she took one look and declared it was abscessed and he had to have a root canal. The tooth is important for the spacing of the next tooth to come in so they have to try to save it.

I’d spent the last two and a half days nursing him back to health after the temperature spike and so this was an unwelcome surprise on top of a dumpster fire of a week of only being able to work at night after the kids were in bed.

The only routine that made it through the week intact for me was my self-care routine in the morning – yoga, meditation and writing.

As I sat in that hot room, stinky with the smell of teeth and hissing with the noise of the drill I wondered if the reading, writing, and meditating made any difference. Then I paged through the thoughts that arose:

Therapist and author Deb Dana declares having a well-regulated central nervous system a gift to those around you. Whether or not we intellectualize why, the “neurosception” of our body as it senses another nervous system often reacts to what it finds. Our brain then gets a sense of whether or not we feel safe simply cued by the nervous system.

I thought of the comment that apeacefultree made in this post asking Can we be selfish and selfless at the same time?  “Healthy selfishness can include self-care and putting our own oxygen masks on.”

Then I landed on the research of Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, behavorial economist and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow who found the way that we remember both painful and pleasureful experiences as defined by the peak moment and the end moment. It helped prompt me to try to make the end moments of this procedure as good as possible in order to help Mr. D’s memories of it less painful.

Cycling through those thoughts, I came to the conclusion that the time reading, writing and meditating made a big difference. Because this was life – this was showing up when it mattered. Of course it’s also in the dance parties and the snuggling up to read at night but you can’t have one without the other. Or at least not the depth of one without the depth of the other.

It was because I’d taken the time to meditate and get myself in order before this appointment that I got through. The credit goes to Mr. D for being an easy-to-calm kid but I can at least say that I didn’t make it worse as I’m sure I would have if I’d gotten in a few more billable hours but had come in hot.

It’s so hard to stay present for someone else’s suffering. But it also is an honor to be able to do that for the people we love.  And I think why we call people like Mother Theresa saints for witnessing the suffering of people they don’t even know.

At the heart of this is that I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else. The experience taught me that I need to keep doing my self-care if I’m to have any chance to help Mr. D work through this a traumatic experience. Especially because we have to go back for the second part of the root canal in 8 days.

(featured photo is of Mr. D playing at the dentist before the procedure)

The Deep Story

Our days are happier when we give people a bit of our heart, rather than a piece of our mind.” – unknown

I have a perception problem that caused a disagreement. I adore my brother. I see him as smart, likeable, responsible, resilient and industrious. I also know he has faults and avoids conflicts, will disengage instead of work things out or stand up for himself and has trouble being vulnerable.

We have another family member that sees him as manipulative, irresponsible, underhanded and arrogant.

Generally, we know the same history of my brother with the ups and downs of his life and interpret the story with our own lenses. I see him as the older brother I can always call and she seems him as the schmuck that dated her best friend in junior high.

In this On Being podcast, sociologist and Professor Emeritus Arlie Hochschild talks about the idea of a deep story which she defines as what you feel about a highly salient situation that’s very important to you. A story that explains how we can look at the same set of facts but come up with different conclusions because of the emotions that underlie the story. Her work has been primarily about our political divide – the deep stories of the red states and blue states.

But I see it at work in the stories of my family. It explains why we see things differently and have this perception problem that no amount of facts can solve. It points to the amount and type of work my brother and our family member would have to do in order to rewrite the deep story.

It also predicts that my brother and I will probably always be in accord through the rest of our lives. For me it makes some sense out of the unconditional love and adoration I have always felt and acted on through our many different phases of life.

Finally, it reminds me that the work of empathy for and listening to others is not only necessary for our relationships but also possibly the most transformative. Because even when we don’t agree on the facts, understanding someone else’s deep story at least brings the a-ha moment of understanding.

Are their deep stories in your family? Are there places where facts don’t seem to matter?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Looking for Evidence

Remember it is who you are that heals not what you know.” – Carl Jung

Yesterday I came across some notes I jotted on my phone of books that my brother recommended the last time we were together.

I adore my brother. He’s 6-years-older than I am and has been the sibling that I’ve looked up to since I learned how to look up. I’ve lived near him my entire adult life, I was very close with his daughters when they were growing up and now he’s very close with my kids. There was even a time 20 years ago when I worked for my brother at his company.

So I think it’s safe to say we have a natural affinity for one-another – we have lovely conversations, enjoy our time together and have stuck together through the ups-and-downs of life.

But I can’t name a single book that I recommended to my brother that he has read. And he reads all the time so it isn’t because he doesn’t like to read. Same goes for podcasts, tv shows (back when I watched tv) and spiritual practices like meditation.

It’s taken me a lot of growing up to be able to say with certainty that it isn’t because I’m his younger sister. I know he thinks I’m smart and he respects me.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has looked for evidence that they matter in the lives of the people close to them. I’m thinking of a comment I once heard a husband tell me that his wife had to vote exactly the same way on a ballot which surprised me for an independent couple.

When my brother eulogized my dad he described my dad’s ability to “meet you where you were at without leaving where he was at.” Coming back to that helps me remember that hearts are the center of friendships, not heads. The work of love is to meet each other so we all know we aren’t walking alone. Instead of looking for the ways I’ve influenced my brother, perhaps I should just count all the miles we’ve walked together.

 I ended up not checking out any of the books on the list from my brother. Not because he doesn’t read mine, but because I like it when he tells me the stories of what he’s read and where’s he been. It gives us something to talk about when our hearts meet.

Do the people in your lives read the books or content that you recommend? Does it matter?