Preparing to Meet

My heart laughs with joy, because I am in your presence.” – Chitmachas Chief

How do you prepare to talk with someone that you have great admiration and respect for? I once read a discussion of this question. It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? It combines the need to be courageous along with the ability to master your anxiety.

I recently wrote a quick recap of the moment that my kids and I came face to face with grammy-winner Macklemore and his kids. Did I say anything to him? Nope.

Along those lines, I can think of the time when I was in my 20’s and I got onto an elevator and it was just Bill Gates and me. All I did was squeak out a high-pitch, “Hi.” Wow – that’s profound… <eye roll>

Podcasting with fellow bloggers, creatives, and writers has given me a new opportunity to practice the skill of meeting people I admire, even if it’s just over a video call. Of course, I prepare by reading as much as I can and also writing out discussion prompts.

But it’s the quelling of the nerves that is most interesting to me. I’ve found if I can quiet the noise, it allows me to access a deeper kind of question that arises out of curiosity instead of judgment (of myself). Unsurprisingly, my go-to method is meditation. It allows me the practice of quieting my ego before stepping in to a shared conversation with another human. Sometimes, it evens allows me to listen to my intuition.

And the answer I read about to this question was in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening. Here’s Mark’s answer:

“’If I only have this time on Earth with this person, if I may never see them again, what is it I want or need to ask, to know? What is it I want or need to say?’”

Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening

On that note, Vicki and I talked with blogger, film-maker, producer, director and overall story-teller, Mitch Teemley on the episode of the Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast released today.

I hope you’ll to listen to this podcast so you can be inspired by this wonderful man. Search for Sharing the Heart of the Matter on Apple, Amazon, Spotify or Pocket Casts or click here to listen to Episode 9: The Audacity to Believe with Mitch Teemley on Anchor.

Show notes and more links for Mitch Teemley plus a space to share the take-away gems that you glean are on the Heart of the Matter: Episode 9.

(featured photo from Pexels)

The Power of Friends

Friendship helps our souls grow.” Michel de Montaigne

I worked for a small, local computer consulting firm right after I graduated from college in the early 90’s. Nestled in the suburb right next to Microsoft, it was growing fast – doubling every year. Most of the new employees were my age and it was a fun working environment in which it was easy to make new friends.

So when I recently heard a Ten Percent Happier podcast with psychologist and professor at the University of Maryland, Dr. Marisa G. Franco who has recently written a book called Platonic quote the statistic that we typically have the most friends at age 25 when we are establishing our identity, it matched with my experience.

Dr. Franco had a lot of interesting stats about friendships these days like four times as many people report having no friends as compared to the early 90’s and 2012, the year of the introduction of the smart phone, correlates with a rise in loneliness. One of the interesting things she added about smart phones and social media is that when we use them to connect with people (aka comment and message) and not just lurk, they can be useful tools in supporting friendships.

She also talked about how friends help us grow. Alone, we have an instinct to be on the lookout for danger that can be calmed when we cultivate good connections:

“Healthy and quality connections and it can ground us and center us more, our souls grow because it gives us the space to figure out who we are because we’re not in that active state of threat anymore. Friendship, good quality friendship, good quality connection it regulates us, it helps us feel less activated all the time, less reactive all the time.”

Dr. Marisa G. Franco

I feel so blessed to be part of this blogging community where it has felt easy to create quality connections with other delightful, thoughtful, and interesting people. Establishing friendships with other parents in this phase of life of having young kids has felt much harder by contrast. Dr. Franco’s research on how attachment theory applies to friendships and making new friends is the topic of my Wise & Shine post for today: The Art and Science of Making New Friends

(featured photo from Pexels)

I Have No Words

Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen.” – Orhan Pamuk

When I first started this blog, it was mostly a place for the pictures I took of my dear dog, Biscuit, and the signs he’d pose with. And even though I wrote them, I swear I was channeling his sweet and funny messages, referee calls, and commentary on life. Every once in a while the cat would get to pose with a sign as well. Here’s a slideshow of some of his best signs:

So I felt wordless when Biscuit died six years ago at almost 14-years-old. The day after he passed, all I had was a sign for the cat who seemed equally as lost:

That space and time we need to find our words again after something monumental has happened in our lives is the subject of my Wise & Shine post for today: Writing From The Heart

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.

Without Leaving Where He Was

At some point, you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart but not in your life.” – Sandi Lynn

I’ve written so much about my dad that it’s surprising that I still have something more to say about him. Except that even eight years after his death he’s still teaching me things.

There’s a phrase that my brother used for my father at his funeral, “He met you where you were without leaving where he was.” When Vicki graciously interviewed me about the book I wrote about my dad on this week’s Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast, she asked me about it. In the same way that my Presbyterian pastor dad said that every time he wrote a sermon about a topic it made him more focused on that topic, her asking me about it has made me so much more aware of what an awesome trait it is.

I’ve been thinking about the part of the phrase “without leaving where he was.” Because it’s a lesson that I am learning all the time. I get around my climbing friends and have an enormous urge to work out, my emotive friends and I want to prove I can match their disclosure, or spend time with my children and my creativity explodes. I think that urge to blend in to our current environment is strong for humans – or at least for me.

Here are some of the things I noticed about how my dad, who was also a people pleaser handled this. I’ve spent some time reverse engineering it and come up with five examples:

If he was around someone grieving or sad, he’d definitely dial his energy down. If they were secular, he wouldn’t say anything particularly faith based to them. But he still radiated his love that was based on the belief there was something bigger than this moment, this life, and this pain. He never left his faith behind even when he wasn’t talking about it.

If he was on the golf course with foul-mouthed partners, he didn’t start swearing. But neither did he seem to mind if someone else did. He knew what his values were and was confident in them that he didn’t trade them to fit in. But he was certain enough of who he was so that he seem to understand that others’ behavior didn’t diminish him and therefore freed him from judgment.

If my dad walked into a room or you crossed paths with him in the store, on a hiking trail, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or anywhere else, his presence was palpable. He exuded well-intended welcoming. It wasn’t about him, as it can be sometimes when someone charismatic enters the room, but instead was about a curiosity and interest in others. He didn’t need to tell you who he was but instead was excited to find out who you were.

In that same way, he assumed a lot about the capabilities of others. He was the quintessential “I see things in you that you don’t see in yourself” guy. He would extend himself to help get others to the starting line – but had faith that you could continue on from there. He could help on an effort without needing to own it or control it.

My dad worried over relationships and conflict. It was palpable when something worried him – but then he’d move to do whatever he felt would restore his part of the balance. He definitely followed the advice of one of his favorite quips, “If you have to eat crow, eat it early while its tender.” Then he seemed to be able to let it go so that time and faith could do their parts.

When I break down that phrase that my brother used for my dad, I realize how much magic there was in not leaving where he was. It’s one of the reasons he accomplished so much in his life – because he didn’t waste any time or energy being someone else.

If you are a podcast person, I’d love for you to listen to the Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast (and subscribe). It’s now on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Amazon podcasts, and Pocket Casts as Sharing the Heart of the Matter. And here’s a link to the shownotes to this episode about Finding My Father’s Faith.

Back In The Game

The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting.” – Walt Disney

My 83-year-old mom has returned to playing ping pong after her infamous ping pong dive where she admitted her competitive nature got the best of her common sense. When my family came over for dinner the other night, my brother asked if she was making any concessions in her game to be safer. She nodded yes and said she’s trying to keep a hand on the table while she plays for stability.

Apparently the physical therapist who’s been working with her on a sciatic issue asked the same thing. Not really convinced by her reply, he asked, “Have you ever considered just saying, ‘Good shot?’”

We all got a good laugh out of that one. It reminded me that I’ve read and seen a lot of great advice about staying in the game, whatever our game may be, lately.

From An Audience of One, the wisdom that we need to choose the path we are going to travel and stick with it. Not that other forks won’t arise in the future but that nothing good comes from wavering at the decision point too long or mourning the path not chosen.

And from WritingfromtheheartwithBrian a pep talk straight out of the Buffalo Bills locker room to be fully present. Brian rousingly writes an hearty exploration of the Bills saying, “Where else would you rather be, than right here, right now?” that reminded me to love the life I have and the path I’m on.

Finally I watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade again recently. In it, Indiana Jones is reading the clues from his father’s grail diary to pass the final challenge to find the grail and save his father’s life. He has to believe as he steps forward into the chasm that a path across the void will unfold. He checks his options one last time, confirms he’s in the right location, and then as he leaps, the path appears.

Decide on the path, commit to being present for it and then have faith to take the leap – it’s about as good as it gets for finding our way through this life.

I’m glad my mom has a strategy to keep safe by keeping a hand on the ping pong table. But equally as relieved she’s still in the game. It just wouldn’t be her if she just watched shots go by!

(featured photo from Pexels)

Owning This Emotional Ride

Diaper backward spells repaid.” – Marshall McLuhan

I read Brain Rules for Baby by John Medina when I was pregnant with Miss O. It had these great categories for nature versus nurture (which the author re-branded as seed and soil) and what we can do as parents and caregivers to influence and understand both.

It said that as our little ones’ brains developed, it was helpful to help them identify the emotions that they were feeling. And it advised that to do that, we need to own our own emotions.

I remember laughing and thinking there was no way I was doing that. I was going to be the one parent that could help their child be emotionally mature without doing it myself. Ha, ha, ha!

So, add one more thing to the list of things I thought I’d never do that parenting has taught me how to do. Identifying some of my negative emotions is the topic of my Wise & Shine post today: Emotional Literacy