Can’t Help But Think…We’ve Done This

by Kate Van Raden

http://scriptical.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/cant-help-but-think-weve-done-this/

As I spend the last 17 hours watching reports of the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunamis all over the globe, I can’t help but ask myself…have we done this?!

My immediate response to any emotion-filled situation, comes out best in verse:

3.11.11

We dance the way we’d like to think the world will turn,

Our shoulders sway above our hips, convictions burn

Our soles pound out the earth and shake the plates

Our spirits light bonfires underneath our fates

The mountains quiver, grasping tightly to their roots

The rabbits shudder coldly in their boots

Serpents coil down beneath the cracks

We nomads lash our legacies upon our backs

Grizzlies cower sheepish in their caves

The earth is weeping now in hurricanes and waves

The ocean tucks its skirts and heads for land

So the darkness now descends upon the son of man



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(i just read in a newspaper that a woman adopted a baby – a beautiful little girl – and then a few months later, decided that she wanted to ‘return’ the child. i wrote this blog many, many, many months ago, but felt it appropriate to share it again. ken would rather i didn’t ’share’ it again, so we flipped a coin. HEADS, i won, TAIL between his legs. Welcome to Amy-land!)


It was sort of like an impulse buy. There was a two-week period when I was feeling this overwhelming need to fill a huge void in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what the void in fact was, I just knew that something – something – had to fill it. I remember that morning as if it were yesterday. Ken was reading the newspaper, drinking his hot and steamy cup of coffee, I was deciding on whether to wear the black short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks, or the white short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks. I chose the white. I walked out onto our porch, where Ken seemed so calm and peaceful and I stood there with my hands ever so firmly planted on my hips and said – or rather announced with great determination – yes, I’ve decided, I want to foster a child. Ken nodded, continued reading the Sports page and as he sipped his coffee, caught a glimpse of me over the rim of the cup. “Seriously, Ken, I want to be a mother.” This, a conversation, continuing from the night before.

Let me back track for just a moment. When Ken and I met there were two things that Ken never, ever wanted to do again: one, was get married, and two, was have a child. He had done both, and that was quite enough for him. I too felt when I first met Ken that marriage was a very iffy commitment. I mean, why? So that when you divorce, all the shit that was yours to begin with now has to get tossed into a legal heap and maybe you won’t get the CD’s and the few pieces of furniture you brought to the party to begin with. But a few months after our first date, along with the “I’m never getting married again,” lecture, we found ourselves picking out wedding rings and meeting with Unitarian ministers. We chose both within a week. Okay back to the foster children…

I had this urge, not necessarily to give birth, but to fill what felt like a unyielding emptiness. I am not, I repeat not, a nurturing kind of woman. But there was this need, this urge, this flu like symptom that didn’t seem to go away. I thought maybe instead of adopting a child, we could, for lack of better words, rent one. See if it works. I had heard both very good and very awful stories about foster care, and fostering children. I knew a couple who had brought a foster child into their home and two weeks later felt they were being tortured emotionally. I have friends who had huge success at fostering a child, ending up adopting the little girl, and another one whose child turned out to be the devil doll. But I understood that these children needed to be loved. They needed to be cared for, their place in the world was so fragile, so tentative, so scary.

And I, obviously, had an urge.

I stood there and waited for Ken to give me his blessing. “Sure, fine, you wanna do this, go check it out.” “Wanna come with me?” “Nah. I’m gonna watch football.” Ken thought, right or wrong, that it was like going to the Bide-a-wee, or the Humane Society. This isn’t something Ken cares to do, even though he is a very altruistic kind loving man. I was going to go the Children’s Aid Center and discuss the possibility of he and I becoming Foster Parents and while highly unlikely maybe come home with a happy loving child who Ken could garden with. Or at the very least, watch football with. I am such an optimistic fool.

I go to the Children’s Aid office in our very small town. I am greeted with both a lack of enthusiasm, and much paperwork. Reams and reams of paperwork. I fill out most, call Ken twice (for his social security number which I couldn’t for the life of me remember, along with some financial information) and then I’m Ied to a small empty room with a scattering of very old magazines. I for one believe any and all public spaces should keep up to date magazines. This is a cause I will champion in the future. Nothing worse than old, old news.

A young woman comes into the office. She reminds me of an Amish woman, or a Mormon, wearing a long floral schmata and a very, very bad haircut. It looked like a very, very bad helmet. She says nothing, but gestures for me to follow her. As I walk out of the room with her, I casually mention that they oughta get some up to date magazines.

As an aside, in one of our continual (I am pushy) conversations both that morning, and the night before, Ken tells me that – if in fact I actually go through with this – he would prefer a boy, if in fact there’s a choice, and a boy who can garden, weed, since it’s summertime and if in fact we are going to foster a child for two, three, four weeks than I should take into consideration that it would be great for Ken to have a weeding partner slash buddy. I, of course, would love a girl to go shopping with and go to nail salons with and someone to talk to about Ken’s – her foster father – weeding issues.

I am now led to another room where the Mormon slash Amish woman has a desk. I sit across from her and I look around the room for signs, clues of a life, her life. I see not a photo, or a calendar, or any sign of life, period. In the corner on the radiator what appears to be a dead plant. But, I convince myself, that could happen to anyone. Not everyone has a green thumb.

She pulls out what appears to be a thick binder. She slides it across the desk and motions for me to open it. I am now beginning to think that maybe she is mute, since not a word was spoken. Perhaps I should move my lips very slowly when talking to her so she can read my lips, I think, as I open the binder. There in vivid color are snapshots, photos, 8 x 10 glossies of babies, young adults, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, mentally disabled, physically challenged, older, taller, toddlers, and teenagers. Thirty, forty photos. Some take your breath away. A sparkle in the eyes, a dimple in the cheek, a turned up nose, freckles, thick curly hair, missing teeth, a lazy eye, the gorgeous skin-tone. The sadness is palpable. The joy diminished. The desperation is obvious.

Then she speaks: she tells me it’s a fairly long complicated process, could take weeks and weeks, maybe even a month or two. Yes, yes — bureaucratic bullshit paperwork – my words, not hers. She doesn’t like that I use the word bullshit, I can tell. She continues, a lot of these kids are in homes and are soon to be removed, or have to leave. I ask why. She says well it didn’t work out, there was a clash, the kids, you know, have issues. Major, major issues. The foster parents have issues. Major, major issues. Sometimes there’s no patience or tolerance. Sometimes there are altercations. But they’re getting full up and pretty soon these kids are gonna be back to square one. Her words.

I stare out the window, and think of Ken. He’s probably soaking in a tub, bubble bath and all, watching his beloved Giants, screaming at the TV set, drinking a beer, or glass of Pinot Noir, and enjoying his life completely. Not a care the world. He likes it that way.

I woke up a few days earlier wanting to have a kid, I was hormonal and lonely. Hormonal, lonely and cranky and older than the day before. Not a great combo, I want a kid!!!! Stamping my feet, I’m sure, or the equivalent. Instead of going to the Woodbury Common Outlet stores, I went to Child Services. Instead of trying on a pair of shoes, I looked through a binder of children who needed love, and a home, and a place that was safe and kind and probably, more than likely, never owned a pair of new shoes, because chances are they were all hand-me-downs. And that’s when it all came together. The words: hand-me-downs. I wasn’t making a commitment to giving them a life or a future, I was teetering on making a decision to give them a place to live for a month or two, or maybe even less. In other words, they were returnable. I felt so profoundly sad – my heart breaking. I didn’t want a child for the rest of their life, I wanted a child to take away my loneliness, my crankiness, my hormonal imbalance for a month or two. And it dawned on me in this empty lifeless office with a woman who desperately needed a good haircut and a make-over, that I was being completely and utterly selfish.

I told the Amish slash Mormon woman that I needed some time to think about all of this. I couldn’t be completely truthful with her, and tell her that I had in fact wasted her time, because that would seem even more selfish. She asked me if I wanted to bring the binder home for my husband to look at the photos. I told her, no, and she asked, “Does he like catalogues, because this is just like flipping though a catalogue.”

I stopped feeling selfish in that moment. I looked at her and said: “These kids… in this catalogue, they need love, they need care. They need shoes. They’re not pieces of clothing you pick out, thinking, well if they don’t fit, I can return them, these children on these pages in this binder were not wanted when they came into the world, they’re not returnable. You’re job is to find them a home. A loving home.”

She looked at me, her eyes already filled with sadness, fill up with tears. “I don’t like my job, it’s just I feel so empty.” she said.

We were the same woman in that moment, except I had the better haircut.

“Hey listen,” I say, “I don’t really want a kid, I want to fill a void, and I know what it’s like to feel empty. I do, but while you’re working here, at the very least, please, oh, please … when you hand the person or the couple the binder, please, tell them that the pages are filled with huge potential and an amazing opportunity to love better, love more, and if you don’t wanna do that, maybe you should quit your job and find something you love to do.”

I hit a nerve, I could tell. I hugged her good-bye, a good strong hug. I told her that she should live her life out-loud, that everyone – EVERYONE – is scared, including me, that I was very, very scared; for her to find the thing she loves to do and do it, and … although I thought it, I did not say it: please, I’m begging, go out and get a good haircut, but what I did say was please, please, get rid of the dead plant, it’s not inspiring.

And then the moment of clarity as I drove home. Absolute perfect clarity. I didn’t go there to foster a child, I went there to foster my very own spirit. To awaken to my very own life, to live more fully, to love myself better, to love better period, to stop being so selfish, and to stop thinking I have to — in this moment, right now, this very second – fill a void.

Amy Ferris:http://marryinggeorgeclooney.com/blog/

THEY say that if you pay attention, your children will teach you as much or more than you can possibly teach them. I was reminded of this last night while watching various acceptance speeches during the Oscar’s…One gentleman, fighting back tears, thanked his wife and infant daughter…”who will surely teach me more than I could ever possibility teach her.”

My children are grown. They are living independent lives of their own creation. Naturally as a parent, I had ideas of just exactly what their lives should look like. While I am anything but disappointed, their lives have turned out differently than I imagined. I realize more and more  that one of the most sacred lessons my children have taught me is to let go: let go of expectations, plans…shoulds, coulds and so many many “have too’s”.  My children have taught me that perfectionism isn’t a measure of happiness or success. They have taught me to care as much about my own needs as the needs of others. They have taught me that the stress and anxiety manifested through out my internal being isn’t a desirable trait or a cherished outcome by those I care about most. They have taught me that perfect for them doesn’t have me a wild wreck trying to get every last detail in order. They have convinced me that my stress, no matter what wonderful thing is the  justification, is never a gift for them. They would rather have a relaxed me, than a perfect scenario.

LETTING GO OF OUR ADULT CHILDREN

BY ARLENE HARDER, MA, MFT

A Perfectionist Mother Trying to Do Things Right:

“When I began motherhood, I was fairly liberal politically but fairly rigid in how I viewed my role as parent. This was partly the result of my temperament and partly the consequence of a childhood in which there were many “shoulds,” “oughts,” “rights,” and “wrongs.” Although I didn’t insist on spotless floors and neatly made beds, being a perfectionist permeated many facets of my parenting.

As a child I never questioned whether I was being asked to be perfect; my siblings were also perfectionists in one way or another. Our parents’ high standards left little room to question the reasons for their rules and values – an attitude typical for that generation. When a child was told to jump, she was expected to say, “How high?” and not, “Why?”

As a recovering perfectionist I can see why perfectionism is a common feature of the human character. After all, perfectionists give the best they have to offer. You can generally count on them to do what they say they’ll do, even if it means giving up their own needs to be sure you’re satisfied. On the other hand, I now realize that the standards of perfectionists are usually those others consider “right,” not necessarily those the perfectionist herself would choose – if she could freely follow the dictates of her own heart.”

While raising our most cherished sons and daughters, we teach them to follow their hearts. One of life’s greatest lessons we as their parents/role models/advocates need to learn, is to follow our own…

Though I still feel like I have the unrelenting hopeful spirit of a high school graduate, my 40th reunion is just around the corner. OMG! There are pictures floating thru internet space of me looking like one of Julie Andrew’s charges in Sound of Music. I think that yellow dress was actually made out of an old curtain my grandmother was throwing away.

I rarely think of high school. When I do I break out in a cold sweat. Those were certainly the most awkward years of my life…now, why would I want to revisit them in any way, shape, or form?

I was a geek. Trust me. 6’ tall, 110 lbs. in wet pegged Levi’s and 2 lbs. of hairspray. Not one boy, not one, gave me a second look. Who could blame them. I was taller than 99% of them and I had “DESPERATE” written all over me. When I saw an opportunity to trick a brand new guy, obviously lonely and awkward himself, into coming to a party at my house, I took it.  I told him that all my friends would be there and I would love to introduce him.

When he accepted my invitation, I almost died on the spot. I had never been invited to a high school party and certainly never hosted one. I went to the one BFF I had and told her what I had done. We had 2 days to accomplish a guest list and something that resembled a pre-planned gathering.

Poor Schmuck. He arrived on time and must have thought that;  A. He was at the wrong house (hence not another car in sight),  B. The party had been canceled,  or C. He had been duped. I’m pretty sure that when he walked in to find only me, my BFF and collectively our 3 younger brothers, he knew he had been shanghaied. What high school boy doesn’t come to a party in hopes of finding a keg, cheer leaders and an atmosphere of reckless abandon.

Okay, now get this. Monopoly, with half the players pre-pubescent…not exactly a testosterone fest; my mother wearing her best apron enthusiastically serving trays of warm chocolate chips cookies… looking nothing like a cheer leader; and milk for dipping  those cookies instead of a plastic cup of ‘Bud’ from a freshly tapped keg.

He stayed anyway. The ambush was successful. I had a boyfriend!


For two years he was my EVERYTHING. I couldn’t imagine a day without him. Now 40 years later, I don’t know where he is or what he is doing.  The class of ‘71 has diminished in numbers. There are those who have passed away and those who can’t be found. There are those looking for misplaced friends and soul mates, and those recalling long forgotten memories. Countless pictures are surfacing that prove 40 years is a long, long time.

So in deliberating “to reunion or not to reunion”, the attending column would definitely have more weight if I thought  no one would notice I am in-fact the same geek only now nearly 60 and an inch shorter(can we say osteoporosis); my size 4 Levi’s have been replaced by the size 14’s, or that I look somewhat like the Shar pei Puppy version of my senior picture?

One thing 40 years has taught me is that life is short and unpredictable. There are grown-up Black Tornado’s (that’s right, my mascot!), who back then, smiled at me in the hall and made my day…who included me in note passing in Social Studies and who sometimes joined my table of fellow geeks in the cafeteria. Now that I think about it there were about 500 other kids that probably felt much like I did…uncomfortable, unsure, uneasy.

We now know not one of us existed in pure form. Those were the thoughts of teen idolatry. Each of us was a mixture of thespian, geek, quarterback and cheerleader. The high school playing field has been leveled with time…we have all experienced loss, disillusionment, victories.  Some geeks are now secure, enjoying luxury. Others, for whom we predicted easy success, are still finding their way.

It turns out we are more alike than we are different. The differences are in the details. If we can remember our commonalities while revisiting familiar faces, shared memories and dreams, we may experience our high school years influenced more by the knowing of ‘what we were’ than ‘what we were not’.

Today…right now, there is something you can do to help the victims of rape, yourself and the ones you love. Please read all the way to the bottom and sign the petition that asks our government to protect the victim, not the assailant.

DID YOU KNOW:

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).1

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1

9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked.

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1

  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.1

  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are:7

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.


National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1.800.656.HOPE | Free. Confidential. 24/7.

HELL YES!!!

January 20, 2011

The fear that stops you.

You know when you stumble on to a great idea? Or maybe a surge of confidence, or a step in the direction of your god given gifts…and no sooner are you filled to the brim with possibilities than a dark and damp whisper begins at the very bottom of your soul.

“Who do you think you are; you are ridiculous; everyone will laugh at you; you will never make any money; somebody better will do it and make you look foolish; what have you done to deserve something this good!”

Sound familiar?

I have these amazing human beings in my life. Some as close as a good walk; others a plane, train or automobile trip away. They have inspired me, taught me, loved me, saved me. In their presence I know I am in the company of greatness.

And yet they often struggle with their own greatness; find it hard to move, to carry on, to go forth and change the world as they know they are called to do. They give in to the dark damp voice of DOUBT.

If you believe in evil or not…does it make any sense that just when a magnificent human being is about to make a step forward that will make the world a better place, bring light, hope and encouragement to others, that “evil” says, Hell NO and perhaps uses that dark whisper to stop you in your tracks? End of hope…end of light…end of possibilities.

Time to listen to another voice…one that says…”I can be afraid and hold still, do nothing and live with this fear, or I can hear the voice for what it is and say, Hell Yes?

I choose for them and I choose for me and I choose for you…HELL YES!

http://charliephillips.net/videos/theater-3/nick-vujicic.html

THIS LINK WILL HELP YOU DO JUST THAT…

My Private Tony Award

December 31, 2010

who among us doesn’t have a story…one we tell others and one we tell ourselves. There isn’t a person, given enough time, that can’t teach us a thing or two about overcoming adversity, fear and insurmountable challenge. It always makes me feel like a small part of something so powerful when someone confides in me what they have had to do to wake up and face yet another new and often impossible day. The experiences each of us goes through contributes to the depth and richness of our lives. It is the things we face, the heartaches we bear that do in fact make us stronger and our lives richer…eventually.  If we manage to survive what often times feels like un-survivable, we have stories to tell that prove the notion that we are each stronger than we think we are.

then there are the secret…dirty little secret…stories we tell ourselves. the theater is dark, the stage is empty and yet we execute an entire drama inside our heads; stories of self loathing, stories of inadequacies, stories of worthlessness. I have one…over and over again I see it and hear it and it tells me that I have never been, nor will I ever be successful at anything. depending on my circumstances, levels of depression, lack of self-confidence the story can render me helpless. My story of inadequacy, as ridiculous as it may seem to others, makes perfect sense to me. I know it, I have cultivated it and shaped it for years and years…It is my story and I am sticking with it (no matter how much therapy there is).

yet the “stories” that others live by, listen to and believe are so completely ridiculous to me. how many amazing writers among us, wake up each day and feel that today is the day they will be discovered for the fraud they know themselves to be. or how many gorgeous young women spend day in and day out comparing themselves to any number of photo-shopped images and find that they are disgusting by comparison. how many young devoted mothers tell themselves every minute of every day that they are doomed to be the same kind of distant, unfeeling parent who raised them. how many men live day in and day out with feelings of inadequacy around what they can provide and how they can compete; young teens who beat themselves up on a regular basis because they are different from the norm.

what is it about the negative thoughts that claim the lion’s share of our thinking brain cells? why does one or two or even ten disparaging remarks/thoughts carry so much more weight than the thousands of uplifting ones we are likely to hear in a life time.

I am voting that the mantra for 2011 be… I AM ENOUGH. How about that for story…how about that replacing the countless hours of self doubt; the wasted comparisons to those who look like they have it all…because I know those people, and the stories they tell themselves are the same ones you tell yourself and I tell myself. the secret dark theater thoughts where the story comes alive and is real enough and vivid enough that the Tony Awards should have a category for performances such as these. those people, the ones who must be so very confident,  are looking at you and thinking that you’re the one who must have it all together.

each of us deserves a break from self-imposed suffering. we do.

I know you, I read your brilliant thoughts; I am humbled by your beauty; in awe of your unlimited capacity for love, creativity and stunning accomplishments. You are more than enough. And the deal is if you don’t know and live as if you are, you confirm the shameful story I tell myself. Because I watch you, am inspired by you and follow the examples I trust you to create.

You are enough, and I hope to be just like you someday.

As good As it Gets

December 29, 2010

another year bites the dust.

it came and went and took with it jobs, homes, sons and daughters.

there has been grief and hopelessness, anxiety and fear. 2010 will be a year to remember…a year that felt like not only did Mercury not rise when it should have, it crashed and burned and limped into the repair shop with a diagnosis of total loss.

so here comes another chance…on the heels of one test after another…here comes another chance. will this year be better, more lucrative for “the american people”…will it bring soldiers home and reunite families…will it bring jobs and stability and health care for those who have none? will it offer more kindness and understanding for those children who often feel ostracized and different?

truthfully, it will be what it is…another year; another chance to exercise the best of us…another year to care for others in greater need than ourselves…It will be another opportunity to forgive. It will be what every year that has come before it will be…

It will be as good as it gets.

each year, each month, each day, each moment we get to choose what to do with the circumstances around them…what to do with our friends, families, co-workers. we get to create the life we live inside ourselves regardless of the chaos happening around us.

there is little we can control…god knows i’ve tried. once again, in this new year, in this new opportunity, welcome the chance to experience it all and with as much grace as you can muster….because my friends, that is as good as it gets.

gracious thoughts and deeds in the new year

How many shopping days left?

OMG! … is usually my general state of mind at this point.  It seems no matter how far ahead I plan, or shop, or bake or decorate I am always behind. For as long as I can remember I have been the one descending the stairs with wet hair, struggling to button or zip, while welcoming my family and friends who managed to arrive on time. With the exception of being greeted by a composed hostess, they entered my well designed and executed Christmas “Set”. The tree, the decorations, the perfectly wrapped and terribly thoughtful gifts under the tree; the scents of abundance, candle light and just the right holiday cheer.

I assume I am not alone here when describing the scene. The  cast has arrived, the set is decorated and the performance begins. Usually I am so exhausted and/or stressed out that I am numbed to a great deal of the magic I have worked so hard to create.

Every Christmas Eve since my kids were babies, our family and friends sit down before dinner and listen to my husband attempt to read a lovely little book, A Certain Small Shepard. It is a simple story about a motherless family who tries to make the most of Christmas given the cards they have been dealt. One particular Christmas Eve an unexpected miracle arrives…but instead of being the recipients, they are in-fact the gracious and most generous benefactors

For 30 years we have read the same story and for 30 years there is not a dry eye in the room. My husband always starts, but rarely makes it past the first couple of pages. Seeing his eyes well with tears and a tenderness envelop him have been some of the dearest moments associated with Christmas. The book is then passed to me, and I give it a whirl. On more than one occasion one of the girls takes over, or my father or my beloved nephew. It takes a village to get thru this small work of art. Yet every Christmas Eve we all gather around again to give it another go.

This year I have listened and heard the whispers of my family above the cacophony all around. They don’t want the exquisite set, they want the real thing. They want less and they want to give more to those who really need a hand. They want less wasted food, and more time spent enjoying the simpler food we prepare together.

There is a Certain Small Shepard coming to our house this year, and I want to be fully present. I know most days of the year that what truly matters is the unconditional love I share with family and friends. Somehow though Christmas preparations tend to cloud what I know to be true. This year I want to accept the miracle being given to all who gather; to listen to a simple story, see the aging faces of grandparents light up when surrounded by those most cherished, and realize memories made that are in fact the gifts that we will cherish in years to come.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night…filled with the matters that truly matter to you.

If you don’t know this blog, you should. Peggy is brilliant and thoughtful and often hits the nail so squarely on the head that it explodes…the following is one of those.

The best reason to be rich and famous.

November 8th, 2010

Ever had dreams of being rich and famous?  I admit it.  I have.

Way back in yesteryear, when I was a kid, there used to be a show on TV called The Millionaire.  In it, you saw, only the luxuriously clad arm of “an anonymous benefactor”, sitting in his velvet wing back chair.  We knew his name was John Beresford Tipton but we never, ever saw his face.  He had so much money that he decided to find deserving people to give it to through his loyal employee, Michael Anthony. Michael Anthony’s job was to find the right people and then make sure they received the money, transforming their lives forever.   I never missed an episode.  In my feet-pajamas, drinking a warm, Bosco-laden milk, I dreamed of one day being rich and famous enough that I could be the female version of Mr. Tipton.

I have had my moments, although on a much smaller scale.

A few years ago, a friend, who was radically changing his career from rocket scientist to professional photographer was lamenting the fact that he had spent all his money on cameras and a studio to live and work in.  He had run out money for producing the great business cards and brochures that had been designed for him.  So, while he was taking a phone call, I slipped the artwork into my bag.  At the printer, I instructed them to deliver the business cards and brochures to my friend anonymously.  What a thrill. I was living out my fantasy of being an anonymous benefactor!

One day, he called to tell me about the ” miracle that had happened”.  When he stepped out the door the week before, there were boxes full of his cards and brochures—just sitting there.  He had shared his predicament with a number of people, so he had no idea the source of his good fortune.

AND, as it turned out, this was the same day he had been invited to an event showcasing up and coming photographers in the area.  He was planning to skip the event, altogether, because he was ashamed that he had nothing to hand out to anyone.  But, lo and behold!  About face.  Not only did he go, but he landed his largest, ongoing corporate contract—enough to pay all his overhead for a year!

For me, that’s always been my primary reason to work so hard and do well—to have those moments when I can just make it happen for someone else, especially at a time when it is needed most.  Success that’s shared is the best success of all.

So,  fast forward to a real star.  One we all know.  One who is using his fame and fortune without a shred of fanfare…….Denzel Washington.

Recently, while visiting the wounded soldiers, transferred from Germany to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, he was taken to one of the Fisher Houses on base.  That’s where soldiers’ families can stay for little or no charge  while our young heroes are healing, mostly from catastrophic burns and loss of limbs.The houses stay booked at maximum capacity, with a perpetual wait list.

After seeing how much both the patients/soldiers and their families benefited from being together during the long recovery process, Washington asked how much it would cost to build another one.  Upon hearing the amount, he simply wrote a check, right on the spot, for the full amount.

He demonstrated the best reason to be rich and famous

http://www.screamsofconsciousness.com

  

 PEEC Presents:  WOMEN LIVING FULLY…INVESTING IN OURSELVES 

 

 Oct. 24 – 27 2010 

Imagine yourself nestled in beautiful, inspiring surroundings, your only goal to rest and indulge in self discovery.  Imagine meeting like-minded women who come prepared to explore the same questions that run through your mind constantly… “Now What?”  …“Who Am I?… 

 “How do I make the most of the life that is ahead of me?”  “…What is it to be a true friend – to have a true friend?”…“What matters the most to me at this time in my life?”… “How can I  make a difference in the world?” 

PEEC (Pocono Environmental Education Center, Dingman’s Ferry, PA www.peec.org) is holding this, their  first annual Women’s Retreat, and have invited  inspiring authors, experts in their field and other speakers who will gather to explore all of those questions and more. 

We all know that our lives and daily choices are best governed by ourmost deeply held values, beliefs and priorities.  Yet there is much to distract and dilute even our best of intentions.  This glorious three-day women’s retreat offers you the opportunity to reconnect with that which is most important to you and find new ways to live that are reflective of who you are and what your value.  This is an experience dedicated to women’s complete well being, both individuallyand collectively. 

 You will be inspired by award winning and internationally published authors and other experts, including: Amy Ferris: Marrying George Clooney: Confessions of a Midlife Crisis –   

 Kristine Van Raden & Molly Davis (www.mattersthatmatter.com) : Letters to Our Daughters  

 Monica Holloway Monica Holloway – Cowboy & Willis;  Driving with Dead People, and others.  

Gregory Anne Cox of  midlifewithavengeance.com 

Robyn Hatcher, Amy Litzenberger, Hollye Dexter…and more! 

This one of a kind retreat will provide an insightful and inspiring program highlighting the things that are vital to women in mid-life, and encourage living life to the fullest.  Topics range from living authentic and meaningful lives, financial well being, health and wellness to the need for women to move beyond competition and towards mutual support, completion and collaboration. 

Believing that learning can be a collaborative and supportive experience,  all offerings will be participatory and introspective, inspiring and challenging.  Sessions will include a combination of teaching, discussion and thoughtfully designed writing and thinking exercises. You will write, rest, eat amazing food, drink great wine, voice your ideas and opinions, reflect, rest and renew. You may even be cast as a character in the new play Common Threads…interested? REGISTER SOON, AS SPACE IS LIMITED 

  

You are invited to participate in an experience that will both inspire you and allow you to inspire others.   

Space is limited.  

Cost is $560. which includes lodging, meals and all workshops & activities.  

To register:  Call – 570-828-2319 and ask to register for Women Living Fully

the simple magic of insignificant details

http://blog..com/

Inspired

June 18, 2010

What is it about women? Those who see hurt and lend a hand…those who see pain and lend a shoulder, those who see possibility and commit to a cherished outcome? Where do they come from? How do they know that there is enough for everyone and thrive in generosity?I am surrounded by those women and inspired.

Long ago, we decided that when we saw beauty in anyone or anything we would notice it and appreciate it.  Every time we see a woman with lovely eyes, beautiful skin, a kind heart or gentle spirit shared with the world, we speak our appreciation to that person.

Those few words of goodness can change the course of the day for the waitress serving us breakfast, the grocery clerk packing our bags or the exhausted receptionist checking us in for our doctor’s appointment.  We have come to understand that everyone is blessed with their own unique kind of beauty, and once we make the choice to not only see it, but appreciate it, we find ourselves surrounded by the miraculous in the midst of the ordinary.  And, the most astounding insight has been that when we choose to extend goodness in the midst of this imperfect world, we receive that goodness back in abundance.

Where might you see beauty in the midst of your day?  To whom could you extend goodness, and in the extending, receive in abundance?

Morning Offering

April 14, 2010

Thoughts On Grace:
“I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Waves of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.”

poem by John O’Donohue