The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

I saw the results of a new survey that found that kids will watch a favorite movie on average 244 times. It certainly feels like we are well on our way to that number of viewings of Encanto, one of the more recent releases from Disney.

Which isn’t an entirely bad thing. In addition to some great songs written by Lin Manuel Miranda, it’s a really compelling story about a family of gifted individuals. It’s centered around the story told by the grandmother that they were granted a miracle which has manifested through a candle that always burns, a magical house where they all live and gifts that they are bestowed at a certain age.

One makes food that heals other people, another controls the weather, one sister is incredibly strong while the other sister is beautiful and graceful. But the character at the center of the movie didn’t get a gift when it was her turn.

My 6-year-old daughter and I have had great conversations about the premise of the movie. About what it would feel like to be the one person in a family of talented people who didn’t get her gift. And also does everyone in this world get a gift? Finally, a lot of discussion of that fact that most gifts are given over time, not at a ceremony at age 7, 8 or 9 but through a lot of hard work and practice.

But it certainly has made me think of my own gifts – whether I can recognize them or even value them. I grew up with a natural talent for mathematics. I never thought you had to take notes in a math class because it always just made sense to me and that carried all the way through all the upper level math I took in college.

However I’m not all that crazy about that gift now. 😊 What’s the practical application of that? In fact, it wasn’t until Swinged Cat admitted that he sees in rhyme that I remembered my gift. Sure it was the foundation of my computer consulting career that now supports my family but it isn’t all that warm and sexy.

But I have some traits that I’ve worked hard to develop. I’m a good and empathetic listener. Hiking, mountain climbing and parenting have helped me build a lot of endurance. Meditation has given me the gift of patience and calm. Do any of those things I cultivated count?

Here’s where I came down on this when talking to my daughter:

Some gifts are natural and others you will have to work harder for.

We will only see the gifts we’ve been given if we have the confidence to look and the commitment to grow them.

Whatever they are, when we use those gifts on behalf of other people it makes them matter the most.

When we can combine our gifts with the direction of the Divine, it magnifies their usefulness many times over.

My mathematical brain tells me we have about 111 more times watching Encanto to go. There are many more thought-provoking themes like being authentic, family pressure and being more than your gift so for anyone who hasn’t seen it, I’d say it’s worth watching at least once.

How about you? What are your gifts?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Parenting Review

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

As my daughter celebrates turning 6 this week, I thought some introspection of what six years as a parent has done to me would be fitting. This very demanding job has filled my heart with wonder at the design and spirit of children who are learning machines that laugh so much while they tackle some impressive skills. Here are some of the marks parenting has left on me:

Being a mother has made me a better daughter because I see more clearly how we ride on the shoulders of the people we come from and we write our stories based on the characters they were.

Helping little people manage their emotions has made me better at emotional Aikido because I’ve learned not to block feelings but instead move their energy past me.

Seeing the unmarred canvass of babies has made me want to be a better human because I want to heal all my wounds and oddities so I don’t pass them along.

Witnessing the miracle of birth and children has strengthened my faith because I’ve seen that so much is outside of my control and I don’t have the time or energy to worry about it.

Creating a home with children has helped me understand what the comfort of a home is beyond cozy blankets and soft pillows. It’s the place where we unpack all our junk and sort it out with those that love us so that we don’t have to carry it with us anymore.

Raising children has made me a better citizen because I can see who is inheriting this country and earth.

Finally, becoming a parent has made me a way worse friend (because I can only listen to half of sentence without being interrupted), a terrible house cleaner and poor editor (because I only have time to write) but I’m hoping those are correctable over time.

The one last thing is something that encapsulates all the ups and downs and particulars. On one level, I wanted to have a family and because I was single and old (for motherhood), went to a fertility clinic, underwent IVF treatment and had a baby. But bigger than that, I had a dream and I began it. Now I see the power of taking a leap – the Universe does in fact make it happen.

The Conditions of Creativity

“Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth

The other night we had some friends over. In the raucous atmosphere of an audience after so many months without one, my kids were showing off. My toddler was falling off a bouncy horse over and over and when I went to video him on the fifth time through, I asked, “Did you do that on purpose?” and he turned to me and winked.

It has taken me five days to write about that one funny and wondrous moment of connection with a not-yet verbal human. For me, I need to write in the morning, when I am still fresh from sleep. I can’t write when taking care of my kids, I can’t write in the middle of the day when I’m in work mode, I can’t write at the end of the day when I’m completely worn out. I once heard an interview with the author Ursula Le Guin and she said something about writing whenever she could. Except when her kids were young because she said, “of course you can’t write when your kids are young.” My reaction at the time was, “Why not?”

But now I’m starting to understand three things about being in the thick of life. First, that the moments that I see into the depths of life are precious. Just because we love them doesn’t mean our loved ones can’t muddy our waters. Second, that I can’t be a participant and an observer at the same time. Like the danger of being behind a camera on vacation, seeing everything through a viewfinder with one eye closed instead of seeing the full experience, I can’t digest the meaning of whatever is happening at the moment without creating a barrier to whole-hearted participation. I have to process it later. And third, that the conditions of creativity must be right to write. Even though my kids are so much of the inspiration of living without reservation, the attention they require engages my head in a way that blocks the quiet presence of the heart behind my words.

So I’ve waited until I was clear before writing this to you. That I can do so feels like a miracle, having a free moment, finding some words and depth about how they come, and even to have a medium that allows me to connect with others. It feels a lot like that wink from my son, a small sign that we might truly be communicating. Hopefully the sacred flow of creativity stays open long enough for me to ring true for you.