January 25, 2018 § 1 Comment
Late last fall, my 12 year old daughter casually mentions to me that the book One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is one she would like to read. I make a mental note to myself that it would be a good Christmas gift for her (the kind of gift that is extra special because not only does she want the book, but because I listened and remembered, surprise!). Later in the month, during our online Christmas shopping trip together over a Chai latte at our kitchen table, I say to my husband that we should order the book for her. He tells me that she already had a plan to submit the book request to her teacher. (Back story: each month my daughter’s Social Studies teacher invites her students to write a short essay on why they wish to own a particular book, what they hope to learn from it, and if the teacher is convinced, she will buy it for them.) Back to my gift idea, I’m a little disappointed, but it’s a great way for her to get a book she likes, so I let it go.
Flash forward to January. My daughter hasn’t gotten around to writing the essay to request the book. It’s a Thursday morning and I am volunteering at our school library processing the piles of returned books. I love this job, because it allows me to see what the most frequently read books are, noting that the ones that get “holds” put on them repeatedly must be real gems. As I’m scanning the bar codes to check each book back in, I suddenly discover One for the Murphys is in my hands. A wave of recollection washes over me and I smile at the synchronicity. My daughter was clearly meant to read this book, and I get excited once again at the prospect of being the one to give it to her. I set it aside to sign out and bring it home to my daughter later.
Before bed each night I have a routine: check the doors are locked, turn off the lights, clean up any straggling dishes or abandoned snacks, cycle the laundry I had forgotten I’d put in hours ago, and then, I check on my children. I collect the phones from the teenagers, place a silent kiss on each of my other two, tell Alexa she can stop spouting stories to my sleeping children, and then I head to bed. On this night, as I stop in at my daughter’s room, she is reading One for the Murphys. “Oh!” I say delighted, “how is it?” She pulls her nose out of the book and responds emphatically “I loooove it”, her eyes growing bigger as she says loooove. “Oh terrific!” I say, as I listen to her go on for several minutes about what is happening in the book at that moment. My mind wanders a little as she is talking and I wonder to myself why she seems to always love stories about orphans. After she finishes and returns her nose to the book, I kiss her good night and take my leave, satisfied with a good result. But, as I was to learn, there was so much more to this book coming into our home.
The next day, the book is laying on the part of the kitchen counter I refer to as “The Landing Area”, as it is where my paperwork and weekly tasks pile up. My daughter is making her lunch nearby and I say “you finished it already?” She turns to look at what I am referring to and when she sees the book, her face brightens and she says “oh yeah!, Mom, it was SO good! You should read it actually, I bet you’d like it”. Inside I was thinking of the five partially-read books currently piled on my night stand, as well as the many bought-but-not-yet-read books I have elsewhere in the house, and I think so myself, I don’t have time to read my kids books. But later that day when I saw the book sitting on my “to-do” pile spot on the counter, I remembered a friend of mine commenting to me about how she really enjoyed reading the same books as her kids because it translated so nicely into great conversations about the story with them. Alright, I said to myself, I’ll read it, then my daughter and I can have fun discussing it – always a great thing to stay connected with your tween, right? My intentions were purely focused on “what would a good parent do”.
Well, as I often say (and yes, I can hear my kids groaning in agreement), “What you focus on, expands”, and boy did it ever. My energy was on the choice to read a book because I thought it would make me a good parent to do so, and boy is that what expanded.
This book is about mothers. Bad ones, good ones, and a young girl my daughter’s age perceiving what makes a mom good or bad, through her young eyes. As I am reading, I am silently comparing my own parenting with what is happening in the book, wondering if my daughter did the same thing as she was reading it. On which end of the spectrum did my parenting land in her experience? As I finish the book a day later (cause I couldn’t put it down), I am in tears over the ending. My tears while prompted by what is happening in the story, have a much different feel to them. I’m not crying about the characters, I’m crying because I have suddenly experienced such clarity about the kind of mother I want to be in my children’s eyes. Not the eyes of other parents, or of my parents, or even my own perception, but the kind of mother I want my children to know me as. And suddenly any tension, anxiety, frustration and resentment I had hidden away in my body about my children’s behaviour and choices, is released. I remove my reading glasses because I cannot see anymore through the tears now flowing down my cheeks. I start laughing, partially because I’ve totally lost it over a book, but mostly cause I’m happy. Happy and so grateful for the clarity.
Like a refreshing splash of water on a hot day, my energy to parent my children is renewed, and I suddenly can’t wait for them to get home from school so I can love on them.
January 31, 2017 § Leave a comment
Funny how some days can sneak up on you. Today for instance, I am missing home. I am missing home, but not just home – I am also yearning for special moments I once enjoyed. I miss inviting a good friend over for tea and chatting while our children play, laughing at the mischief they create together, always with one eye watchful for potential toddler tumbles. I miss spa pedicures and special dinners with my mom and sister, relaxing into the ease that family brings. I miss the house I rocked my babies in, and the beautiful views of sunrises it offers.
You wouldn’t think I would be missing home today, a rare sunny day during a Pacific NorthWest winter, but here I am. Alexa is playing the Lumineers and the song Nobody Knows comes on. It speaks of how hard it is to say goodbye, and how you don’t really realize how hard till you try. It speaks of journeys, and the road home, and how love keeps us going. It recommends to live the day doing what you can, ‘cause nobody knows how the story ends.
So here I am, writing, and doing what I can. I have interspersed my obligations of the day with tasks that bring me joy so as not to slip too deep into a sadness. As I am watchful of my self-care today, in some funny way I begin to sense a heavy ribbon of gratitude woven through all that I feel. I embrace the sweet memories created with loved ones in a place I call home, and I feel grateful for each beautiful experience. More than grateful, I feel enriched.
Each time I look at my teenage son, about to turn fourteen and already taller than me and wearing his Daddy’s shoes, even though he no longer says “Daddy”, I marvel at the light speed with which he has grown. My first born, I recall holding him in my arms and can even still remember his newborn smell. My eyes well up as I realize how far away those days are from where I stand now, and I pray the experience will be echo’d when I hold my future grandchildren one day.
With each wave of temptation to sink into what I am missing, I strive to see what is right in my world. A smile comes to my face as I recall with great clarity dreaming of this exact day. It was during a decade of pregnancies and nursing, up several times a night and rarely ever experiencing a moment to myself for all the demands of my young children. I remember imagining a day when my children would have more independence and not cling to me for every need. I emphatically wondered how far away that day was and how I would fare on the journey to get there.
I recall once, during my early high school years, one of my friends was unexpectedly scolded by her mother for repeatedly wishing for the coming weekend, barely able to contain her excitement about the planned activities. I found it remarkable that she would be scolded for such excitement until her mother explained that she was wishing her life away, and suggested she enjoy where she was at right now. Wise words commonly heard today, but not often heard in the early nineties.
As I close, I resolve to return to the present and embrace the gifts of the here and now. With a beautiful Namaste, I express my gratitude for the walk through cherished memories of my past and open my heart to how I want to feel today.
December 18, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do you know that song?
I’m listening to that song, the one with the lyrics about the world having enough beautiful things, and what it really needs is love. I think to myself, there sure is a lot of that going on – wishing for more love, peace, and joy. In fact we currently are in the season that is famous for extending wishes for love, peace and joy. Christmas cards, social media status updates, ads on TV and radio. SO many wishes.
I have an alternative suggestion. Let’s not wish, let’s BE.
Having recently left my home province of 40 years and moved across the continent to a new country and city, I have become quite familiar with the feeling of longing.
I long for my family, for my friends, for my home. I long for the things I can no longer touch or see, largely because I can no longer touch or see them.
When we lose a loved one, we very quickly fall into the downward spiral of recalling every amazing thing they brought into our world, grieving their loss deeper with each recollection, and forgetting any annoying thing they ever tortured us with. We search our minds for the memories, so we can feel closer to them, to feel like they are still with us. And we feel better. We feel love, peace and joy, at having shared those memories with them.
I recall my “old life” with similar fondness, like I am grieving, so much so that it becomes romanticized in the same way:
I miss the 600 metre driveway that I used to curse every time that it swallowed my vehicle in a snow drift while trying to get the kids from the bus stop. But how lovely the morning jogs were on that driveway while the sun was coming up. Breathtaking.
I miss the backyard that used to cause me hours, days, and sometimes weeks of sore muscles from landscaping and garden care. But the joy and fulfillment I felt upon completion of each flower bed, gazing upon them with a feeling of accomplishment.
I miss my family members whose Christmas gatherings were preceded by hours of grocery shopping, cooking and baking so my family of six would not show up without our contribution to the meal. But the soft place to land of being with loved ones who love you just as you are is irreplaceable.
I miss my friends who I often missed anyway during this season even when I was at home, cause the treadmill we were all on preparing for the holidays was frequently set to “sprint”. But they were close enough to slip in a coffee date or a play date and enjoy the ease of conversation with a “bestie”.
The whole thing is distracting enough to miss the present moments currently being offered to us, moments full of new experiences and opportunities for expansion. Occasions to try new paths, gain fresh perspectives, develop treasured relationships. Gifts.
So let’s not wish for love, and joy, and peace. Let’s BE those things. Instead of offering wishes of love to someone, tell them instead what you love about them. If you are tempted to fall into the usual “sending joy to you” sentiment, wrap up a treat that you know they secretly fancy, and breathe in their delight when they exclaim “how did you know?!”. And when you intend to pray for peace, imagine yourself without the things that create peace in your world. Imagine them lost to you. Search your mind for the memories, so you can feel closer to them, feel like they are still with you, and then revel in the realization that THEY ARE STILL WITH YOU. Now share it. Live the gratitude. Be the love, peace and joy.
November 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
I was chatting with one of the baristas at my favourite coffee shop this morning and was both surprised and excited to learn that she had aspirations to be an astronaut! Fully engaged in hearing how this came about, I asked her more questions. As I listened to her confidently tell the tale of how she has been a “space nerd” since the age of four, and how she is currently studying aerospace engineering, it was quite clear how lit up she was about her dream. As my friend and I asked more questions about her upcoming marriage however, I hear the words she uses to describe her dream start to spiral into uncertainty as she speaks about the next steps.
Her fiancé, currently based in Hawaii, is in the army, and they both want to begin flying. She talks further about the difficult logistics, how matching up bases when one spouse is the army and the other is in the air force is nearly impossible, and how they have decided that she will go for her private pilot’s license to better compliment her fiance’s career choices. By the time she finishes talking she is referring to her dream of being an astronaut as “maybe just a pipe dream”. My friend comforts the obvious shift in her energy by saying ““ah, the things we do for love, right?”
As she notices the line getting longer, she jumps back to work, leaving me feeling unfulfilled in the telling of this young girl’s story that started out so exciting and strong! Pipe dream? What happened to that four year old space nerd?
My friend comments to me about how lovely it is to know from such a young age what you want to do with your life, which I agree is fantastic but then I solemnly think to myself, “how sad that she has allowed these obstacles and boundaries to become larger than her dream!”
As I make the trek through the woods back home I keep thinking about this girl’s beautiful dream and how nice it would be if both she AND her husband could follow their dream. Upon arriving home I take advantage of a few quiet minutes before my next scheduled item in the day to do a meditation with Deepak and Oprah.
Of course it is all about removing obstacles and boundaries in your life.
As I recite the Sanskrit Mantra: Om Gum Namah, which means Expansive Consciousness Dissolves Obstacles, I am filled with thoughts about my barista friend. By the end of the meditation, my next step has become clear to me. I know what to do.
My fingers quickly type the author “Chris Hadfield” into the search bar on Amazon’s main page. In minutes, the book is ordered and due to my house next day. This book is Hadfield’s biography on the time he was a young “space nerd” through till his culminating experience as Commander on the International Space Station in 2013. It’s entitled An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth and it is his story of overcoming obstacles and boundaries to make his dream come true. I write a quick note of encouragement to “Follow your dreams, one goal at a time”, and on the back I inscribe the Sanskrit Mantra from my meditation, along with its translation.
I look forward to presenting this early wedding gift to this young dreamer. I am even more excited to one day see NASA’s announcement of their newest female astronaut, and remember what a great chai tea latte she made way back when.
November 9, 2015 § Leave a comment
So I spent some time on FB this morning catching up and realized I had missed a bunch of notifications. After adding a new FB friend, I enjoy going to my main page to look at it through the eyes of someone else. In no time at all I was deep into beautiful memories, missing home, loved ones and feeling the love.
My ego quickly stepped up and said “oh you poor thing, missing home, where there is security, and familiarity and people who love you, wallow here awhile, feel sad. It’s raining outside for the 14th straight day, just stay in your pjs, don’t bother with the shower, just sink”.
The remarkable part was, when I heard those words in my head, they felt SO strange. And the response, instead of pondering it, was “why the heck would I do that! All of this is love. Love at home, love in Seattle, love on FB. Every one of these pictures is evidence of love in my life. How could that ever make me sad?!”
Well THAT is refreshing!
I think back to almost exactly a year ago, when the rains in Seattle started and we had two weeks straight of no sunshine. Our first experience going so long without sun. Even in Ontario’s dead of winter, the sun reflects off the snow so brightly you have to wear shades to even see properly. I remember thinking to myself, “what have we done? We can’t make it until spring with no sun!” I watched how all my new friends and acquaintances in Seattle had already figured it out, booking their sunny holidays in the south months in advance of the mid-winter and spring breaks. I felt my mood sink into sullen, not going unnoticed by my husband who bought me a faux-sun “Happy Lamp” for Christmas in an attempt to help. I began romanticizing our home in Ontario, seeing it as an oasis, making plans for when we return. Uncertainty set in, and I felt like I had a foot in each home, never really feeling grounded in either.
But then the sun broke through, and our prayers were answered. We were gifted with what everyone described as an “unusually warm winter”. Unseasonably warm temperatures, sunny skies, and outstandingly beautiful blooms on the trees starting in January and continuing like a fireworks show all the way into spring. Each tree took a turn, in yellow, pink and white, shouting from their branches that ALL IS WELL!
Each person I discussed the weather with warned me “don’t get used to it! This is not normal”! As my spirit started to rebound I found myself responding “who cares? It is EXACTLY what we needed in our inaugural winter here. In this moment, it is perfect.”
So now I am faced with the exact same scenario one year later. It’s been raining so long my neighbour asked me this morning where the faucet was to turn it off. But something is different. Instead of uncertainty, I feel grounded. I feel like we are on this adventure, experiencing new things, and while I miss my loved ones at home very much, I am also excited by the new relationships we are cultivating here. And I am grateful at how different they are from the relationships we have at home. There is no replacement for celebrating the holidays with family, but it will be a cool new experience to celebrate the holidays with friends, cherishing the fellowship and warmth it surrounds us with.
I make a promise to myself to continue on this Rampage of Appreciation, and honour each new beautiful experience for the growth it offers. I AM grateful.