Friday, December 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Another excerpt from "Threads"

(a bit from "Threads," a maybe-fiction-work I'm working on)

"'I want you to let me help you. I want you to let me in, just one step at a time. Don’t even try to trust me. Just let me share today with you. And then let me share tomorrow with you. And I think that after a while, when we have too many yesterdays behind us to count, you will wake up one day and find that that part of you that was broken, isn’t anymore. Or maybe it will always be broken. I don’t know. But we’ll build a new place inside of you, together. One day at a time, we will build something that is new and beautiful and strong. And if it still hurts that the old places are broken, that’s o.k. But I think maybe the more new things we build together, the less the old broken places will hurt. I don’t know for sure, but I want to believe that. Please, Rachel. Just let me in your today. That’s all for now. Don’t even worry about tomorrow. We’ll do tomorrow when it gets here.'”

Her face, so tender and so open, made me weak. And then her hands cupped my chin again and pulled my face toward hers."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Under....Reaching for

Feeling the first list...trying to reach for the second list...

STUCK ....................................... Free
GRIEVING ................................. Celebrating
NUMB ......................................... Feeling
REMOVED ................................. Present
SHUT DOWN ............................. Opened up
DEPRESSED .............................. Joyful
FRUSTRATED ........................... Creative
SAD ............................................. Happy
BROKEN .................................... Whole
LONELY ..................................... Held
AVOIDING ................................. Looking for
HIDING ....................................... Exposing
WORRIED ................................... Hopeful
AFRAID ....................................... Trusting
HOPELESS .................................. Expectant
ISOLATING ................................ Reaching out

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bits of "Threads"

"...'Today as I pulled thread through fabric, and then held the fabric out so that I could see the project I’m slowly stitching on in its entirety, imagining what someone else might think if they saw it, and if they would see the beauty I see, I realized there is something about creating a beautiful thing, something that no one has ever seen before, but that pulls on the viewer's heart or appeals to their soul in some new way, that has always had a curious power over me."

I looked up and met Ellie's eyes. They were intent in a way that surprised me. I was expecting her to be listening, of course, but I hadn't expected the silent 'answer' in her eyes, or the deep feeling of connection her eyes communicated, and not just me to her, but her to me. She was really listening in a way that made me wonder if anyone had ever been listening to me before now. She nodded, encouraging me to continue.

"There are only a couple things besides that that have such power over me," I went on, looking up at her to see if she was still tracking with me. Her brown eyes told me she was.

"One is ... knowing I affect someone else, that something about me draws them in. I am undone by the knowing that, in someone’s eyes, I am uniquely beautiful, and that under their gaze I glow or shine.  I guess this is not that dissimilar from my desire for my art to be appreciated. One is a craving to be seen by someone and found beautiful; the other is a desire for something I’ve made to be beheld by someone and found beautiful."

I stopped, realizing I'd been staring into my coffee cup as I spoke. I looked up again and was surprised to see her eyes were watery. My words had moved her in some way.  

"What does this mean, Ellie?" I asked her, not really expecting an answer. "Perhaps this makes me uniquely insecure and needy. Perhaps it means I’m an artist. I’m sure it means I’m human.'"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love is a Bucket

Love is
Lowering the bucket of my soul
Into the depths of the well of you,
Allowing my soul to be filled up
With that water that is
Deepest and
Lowest and
Truest in you,
And then fetching it back up,
Pouring in into a cup I made with my hands,
And raising it up to your mouth,
So that you may taste what I taste.

And Love is also this:
Doing so, not knowing
The outcome,
But filled with a desire to see your eyes light up
When you taste what I taste
That is greater than
My fear that you will not
Love me in return.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last Day in the Bushes

I've lived so much of my life
In these fucking bushes.

Until today.
That's it.
I'm done.

I had carved a little home here,
Between branches,
On the earth,
Where I could do the necessitites:

It has been
And either
Too warm or too cold at night.
But it's a safe home,
I've told myself,
As I picked the dry leaves out of my hair.
Year after year after year after YEAR.

There was a look-out spot.
A hole in the bushes I made
Through which I peered out,
Looking for
What I've always most wanted to see.

I dreamt about it.
Wrote about it.
Talked about it.
Thought about it.
Cried about it.
Hoped about it.
Asked for it.
My eyes ached
From looking so hard and long

Yes: IT.
I have just been sure
That one day I would look through
That cut-out window
Of my home in the bushes
And see...
Standing there in the clearing,
At the half-way point,
Waiting for me,
Looking for me,
Perhaps calling my name.

Cheryl...I'm here.
I'm here, Cheryl.
Cheryl...I'm here.
I'm sorry it took so long, darlin'.
Cheryl ("Dear One"),
I'm sorry it took so long.
But I'm here now.
Come on out, sweetheart girl.
Come on out, my little one.
Come on out, precious woman.

is of course

(I told myself),
When I see Love/IT,
And when I hear my named called,
It will be safe to leave my home here
In the bushes
And rush
Into Love's arms.

I already know how it will smell,
I told myself.
How it will taste,
How my cheek will feel against its chest,
And just exactly exactly exactly
How it will pull me closer closer closer
Than I've ever been to anyone ever ever ever.
The peace oh the peace oh the peace that would fill me then.

Thirty four fucking years.
That's a long time.
That's fucking half a fucking life.
That's fucking a damn fucking long time to be fucking waiting.

So today I realized
I'm done.
Or really I've been realizing
I've been done
For awhile now.

But TODAY is the day
I weave letters and commas and periods
My Doneness.
This is the day I sew Doneness
To Doneness
To Doneness
I run the needle through and through and through
All the layers of Doneness
And pull the thread tight, tight, tighter.
Knot it off with a firm tug.
Cut the thread.
Sit back and let needle and scissors fall to the ground.
My Intention on my lap,

Can I borrow your bush knife, Mantuya
(My lovely Papua New Guinean friend
Who used to pick beetle larvae
From our yard with bare fingers
To sell at market and
To feed her children)?
Can I borrow your bush knife that stands
In the trunk of the banana tree?
I need it to hack this bush up.
Gonna hack it the fuck up.

Then I am going to pull what's left
Of this bush home
This fucking safe bush home
Up by the roots.
I'm leaving nothing but hard ground here.
Nothing more.
No one will know there were bushes here
Watered by tears, or
That someone spent half her life here, or
That the bare ground was a home.

And then I'm going to stride,
Mantuya's bush knife in hand,
(Because I have nothing else left to hold)
To the clearing.
I'm going to find the spot I watched.
I'm going to find that
Halfway Point,
That place I hoped It/Love would appear,
And I am going to stand there.
I'm going to lay that bush knife down
And breathe one long breath in,
And then breathe it back out.

Pause. One more long breath now, in and out.

With that air in my lungs,
I will look at all the bushes around me,
And I will feel millions of eyes
Peering out at me from behind
So many bushes.
More bushes than I can count.
I might wave a little wave and then laugh
Because look at me!
I'm standing here!
Hoooooo-weeeee....never that I'd be here!
That's funny.
That tickles me.
That's fucking funny as hell.

And I will know that behind each one
Someone crouches.
Behind one you crouch.
Behind each one someone has made
A Safe Home.
Behind one you have made
A Safe Home.
But it's pretty itchy, isn't it?
The dirt is pretty uncomfy, isn't it?
Oh I know.
Oh do I know.
Safety is uncomfy
But feels like a feather bed
When risky risky risk
Looks even MORE uncomfy.
Yes, I know.

And I will call your name.
I will call your name.
And I will call your name.
And I will call your name.
And your name.
And your name.
Your name.
YOUR name.
Not his name or her name.
YOUR name.
You'll see my tears as I holler out:

I'm sorry it took so long, my dear.
Oh I know you thought you'd always be alone.
Oh I know you thought I'd never come.
Ohhhhhhh SWEET sweet sweet...
I know you nearly gave up.
I know you did give up in moments.
Oh my lovely lovely lovely sweet sweet sweet.
I DO know.
I know the tears you cried.
The way your heart fell and fell and fell.
But I'm here now.
Yes I am!
I'm here.
You need not live in the bushes anymore.
Do I mean it?
Yes! Oh my my my my MY dear dear DEAR,
I mean it.
You can let go of that branch, love.
You can let go now.
You can just
Let GO.

You see, my dear?
Do you see?
Do you see how I've changed?
How I'm not who I was?
I mean....
But I'm not.

You see?
Let me tell you, dearest of dear ones,
What has changed -

I thought I wanted to be called FOR.
I thought I wanted to be FOUND.
I thought I wanted to be CALLED TO.

And I do. I do.
Oh how I do.
Oh the ache still aches
And still aches
And still aches.

Or rather...
But -

I'm not crouching in bushes and waiting

Come Out,
Come Out,
Wherever you are!
Yes, YOU.
Come Out!
I'm here now.

I am It.
I am Love.
And I am here.

*Photograph from HERE. I ordered a print of this photo and adore it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Decade

I'm standing on a threshhold.

My big girl just turned ten. TEN. omg.

Tomorrow my baby boy starts kindergarten.

Today is not just Emily's birthday, but it's also marks a decade of parenting.

This decade has been both the best and the hardest decade of my entire life.

Emily asked me yesterday if I liked being a kid better, or being an adult. I said, "Being an adult, for SURE."

What a decade. I started being a Mama ten years ago, at 24. Today I can hardly believe I'm 34 and I have a TEN-YEAR-OLD. It's cliche for a reason: "It's HAS gone by so fast."

Today is also a marker of ten years of parenting "itty bitties." I've been mothering my less-than-school-age kids for a decade and tomorrow when I take my baby to kindergarten, I will go home to an empty house.

I'm not sad, though. I am excited. I WILL cry tomorrow when I close the car door and look back at the empty car seats. But I will be just as proud as I am weepy.

I'm proud of my kids. I'm proud of who they are. I love their spirits. I love the people that they are. I love that they are smart, kind, silly, strong, loving, stubborn as hell...and so much more. I'm proud to send these people out into the world. I'm so very proud to be their Mama. I love them so much.

And I'm proud of myself, too.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some Good Questions

I've heard and read it said, in innumerable places, that life isn't so much about finding "the answers" as it is about "asking the right questions."

Cue sigh.

Of course I know this is true, in a "head knowledge" sort of way. I know it in the same way I know that I should change the oil in my car every few months.

Tonight I asked James a question in a tone I didn't quite intend but that ended up being exactly the right one, judging by the look in his eyes and his answer. And it got me thinking....

What are the questions I most want to be asked?

Here are some I came up with:

- "Do you need a cup of tea?" (asked in the same tone you might ask someone who looks upset, "Can I help you?")
 - "What do you need?" (then wait for an answer)

- "Do you know how attractive you are?" (then explain just exactly how)

- "Do you feel understood?" (if this prompts tears, know that the answer is "no," and determine to "get it," even if it takes all night, all month, all year or your whole life)

- "Would you like a back rub?" (then listen for the happy sighs and the little noises that mean you've found a sore spot that needs working on)
- "What did you most want when you were six?" (if this prompts tears, hold the Other as if they are six, and respond in kind)

- "What do you want more than anything?" (asked in the same tone you might ask, "What sort of jam would you like on your toast?" and then dig your knife into that jar)

- "Do you know why I love you?" (then tell the Other all the things you see when you look at their Real Selves, as if you are painting a picture in great detail, making sure they SEE it as clearly as you do)
My fingers pause now. In the silence, I hear the sound of traffic in the freeway bed next to our house.

I am thinking about how much I want to be asked those questions.

My next thought is that (of course!) the above list is a perfect guide to showing my loved ones how I love them, something infinitely more significant than simply saying, "I love you," although of course it's nice to hear that, too.

The thought after that comes from a new place inside of me...

What if the above list is composed of questions I can ask myself? After all, don't I know by now (please, for the love...if you have learned anything, Cheryl...) that waiting for others to love me "enough" that I can finally see and know my own value, is like waiting for everyone in the world to be served dinner before I take my first bite; wait long enough and half the world will be eating breakfast already.


Though I have been asked almost every single one of those questions at some point in my life, at least once, and I can say without a morsel of equivocation that I will never be asked those questions "enough" in this life, I also know that I need not


So I offer myself some tea. And the taste of the tea is no less sweet than if someone else offered it to me. And I breathe in the delicious pleasure that that is. It is ... a different kind of pleasure.

And I find...

I didn't stir the honey in well enough, so the last sips are soooooooooooooosweeeeeeet


It satisfies a craving I didn't know I had

Until now.

*photo here

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dealing with my shit

Lately I've been feeling this....tenderness, for lack of a better word, I guess? I haven't been able to explain the feeling very well until now, and suddenly this afternoon, after listening to this song, the words to describe my feelings are right here on my lap, calmly sitting, looking up at me expectantly, as if they've been here all along, just waiting for me to pick them up. So here they are...the words that match my feelings. And the song that helped me voice them is below my writing.
Last fall I said to myself and a few other people
That I was ready to "deal with my shit,"
As I put it then.
I expected the outcome would be my inner wounds being healed.
A season of "hospital,"
In which I would tend to old hurts
With clean bandages and gentle hands.
A time of playing nurse in a crisp uniform,
Tucking the hurt under soft white sheets with care.

That's not what I'm experiencing.
Instead, it feels more like
I'm being introduced to multiple war victims inside of me.
One by one, they present themselves.
I drop my neatly-rolled-up bandages
As my hands fly up to cover my eyes.
I'm no nurse; I'm horrified.
Sometimes their faces are only recognizable as faces
Because there are two eyes in the middle of
Broken, bleeding flesh.

Sometimes their bodies are so twisted
I think they must be dead.
I prepare to give one of them a good burial.
I rearrange the limbs piled unnaturally on one another,
Mourning as I do,
But draw back in horror
When hoarse breaths suddenly begin.
Oh's not dead.
I can only stand and weep helplessly before these forms,
Too broken to fix,
Yet still alive.

I choke back the bile sometimes as I look into their faces.
I lean in to hear the whispered words
Coming from what used to be a mouth,
Expecting to hear a last word,
Or a plea to help it end its misery.
And I feel willing;
It would be merciful to assist them in this way.
But instead they whisper,
That they don't want death.
And oh God
They don't want to just be "fixed."
They want and need
Their woundedness to be accepted and loved.

I'm looking into these scarred faces
And instead of flinching and calling for a nurse
To cover up the bloody mess already
And get that goddamned surgeon over here and
I'm seeing that these seemingly destroyed,
Nearly-unidentifiable piles of broken flesh
Want to be embraced.
I want to run.

And it's then I realize that I've been here before
And I've run before.
And I'll be here again if I run now.
So I bend to pick one of these broken, bloody forms up,
The smell of it making me almost ill,
And pull it close against my chest,
And hold it like one of my own children.
I hum a little bit of "Adelweiss," soft and low,
As I did to my babies, swaying a bit,
And patting its little back.

I murmur words into its ear....
Never again...

And I suddenly realize
These are the words I've been longing to hear
For my whole life.
So I say them again.
And again.
Until the little form in my arms finally relaxes
And sleeps.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life is...YOU ARE...

Watching/listening to this incredible video from Akin Salawu over and over again.

As you watch it, pay attention to how your spirit responds to this.

It feels to me like a loving parent is looking into my eyes, fully seeing and knowing the REAL me, and loving me in such an extravagant way that I can hardly keep from laughing and crying all at once.

If you are like me you will feel courage, strength and intention to be 100% REAL YOU because you know that you MUST, and that if you don't, the world will be missing out on you as surely as the rainbow (or the earth for that matter) would be less than itself with the color blue missing...

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Feeling a lot of love for my sweet friends, several of whom are hurting today. Wish we could all just put our burdens, responsibilities and jobs aside for a day and hang out together somewhere peaceful, quiet and just-warm-enough. We'd eat pinic lunches, pick wildflowers, laugh our heads off, cry if we needed to and hug one another. We would lay on a blanket, watch the clouds and listen to the sounds around us. We'd find a little creek, take our shoes off and wade in. And then when the day faded and the stars came out, we'd have a delicious alfresco dinner under the stars with good wine and plenty of cheese and chocolate. And though we can't actually pull that off in real life, maybe we can feel some of the sweetness of that kind of day as we move through "real life." I hope you can imagine my hug, friends, know you are loved and breathe that love into your heart.

Find this pic here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"...And I Know That My Heart Is My Home..."

My new favorite song. I really like the music video, too, but there's some scantily-clad-ed-ness in it, just to warn you. :)

Here's the beautiful but not modest version:

And a version without all the skin, if you prefer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"These Are a Few of My Favorite Things..."

As a little girl, one of my favorite movies was The Sound of Music. I still love it. One of my favorite songs from the film is "Favorite Things."

So yesterday when I found this incredible cover of the song by a...wait for it...KOREAN JAZZ MUSICIAN named Youn Sun Nah, I was absolutely delighted. So I'm including a youtube video of her charming rendition of "Favorite Things."

This morning I've had this song, plus some other new ones I put on my ipod lately, playing on my itunes while I work. And I decided to make a photo collage about the song, which is below the video in this post.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Photo credits:

1. Make Me Smile, 2. Apfelstrudel, 3. Cabled natural white handknit woolen mittens, 4. Brown paper and String..., 5. February 20 - Day 51, 6. Blue Ballerina, 7. Cream Colored Pony, 8. Vintage European Copper Tea Kettle, 9. Whiskers

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How do I stop wanting to dance?

Understanding that foot binding was a deplorable practice
Doesn't mean the women whose feet were bound since childhood can dance.
A change of policy
Doesn't heal the tiny nubs for feet that women can only hobble on.
Not binding their own girls' feet is good,
But it doesn't mean they can run with their whole, big-footed daughters.
Understanding that they should have been allowed to dance on their big, lovely feet
Doesn't make the desire to dance disapear.
How do I stop wanting to dance?

Touching my heart today

I've had this song on my ipod's "sleep" playlist, as well as my "editing" playlist, for awhile now. It's hauntingly beautiful.

Today I found this video version of the song on youtube. I have no idea what the images the video-creator used mean to him or her. All I know is that they were incredibly significant to me. This is the sort of thing that makes me think about Jung's concept of there being a "collective unconscious." I'm wondering if these images are significant to anyone else.

Or perhaps it's as simple as this. Maybe the person who collected these images and created the video is simply in touch with the path his or her own heart and spirit have traveled and unusually gifted at being able to create a picture of that, in all its joys and its sadness, and with in all its longing and pain. And maybe it's just that this path is a HUMAN path. Maybe, like any artist, the creator of the video is just uniquely adept at combining images in a way that paints a picture of what it means to be human with such accuracy that it makes me feel "understood." That make me feel "seen."

I have no idea. All I know is I love it and I wonder if you will love it, too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An "a-ha!" moment

This blog post by Jen Lemen struck something deep, deep inside me this morning. I highly suggest you read the whole post, but #7 was particularly emotional for me; just reading it made me feel teary:

"7. Tell the truth about your beautiful, impossible dream. There’s no point in hiding anymore. Everyone already knows deep down. If you say it, there will be a price to pay, but there will also be a path forward and real excitement."

Even attempting to think about what that "beautiful, impossible dream" is for me made me weep. I chatted with my dear friend, Dena, earlier, and we talked about this. I asked her what her "dream" is and she immediately described it, in detail. It was indeed beautiful; hearing it made so much sense. I can absolutely see her doing, being, creating that dream; it fits her perfectly.

But when I tried to think about what my "beautiful, impossible dream" is, I hit a wall.

"I don't know what it is," I told Dena, "and just thinking about it makes me cry tears."

And then this afternoon, I read Dena's collection of meaningful quotes, ideas and thoughts for today that she posts one of daily on facebook. I came across a quote at the very end of her compilation that made me pause, and then tear up.

Here's the quote:

"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside of us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our touch, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."  - e.e. cummings
When I read that quote, it hit me: that is a piece of my dream. To BE that person who "reveals" to others what is "valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our touch, sacred to our touch." To BE the person who speaks out the value that I see in those I come into contact with.
I'm not sure what "piece" this is in my "beautiful, impossible dream," but it most definitely IS one.

More on Embracing Loneliness

This from my friend Dena's note yesterday totally relates to me and this place of "Embracing Loneliness" I find myself in...

"Any psychological pain avoided always seeds itself into a greater suffering to come, whereas any such pain made conscious - agreed to be accepted for the revelation that it serves - always flowers into a wisdom that soon becomes part of the beauty of one's life." - Guy Finley

Photo Collage credits:
1. embracing memories, 2. Embrace, 3. Embrace Struggle, 4. 9/52 live your emotions

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Embracing the Loneliness

It might not be logical:
Never a moment to myself,
Friends all around
Who know me,
Love me,
Accept me
And yet...
I feel lonely.
So I am accepting it.
Or trying to.
So I say,
Out loud,
"I feel lonely."

Friday, April 22, 2011

You Are Safe

The last few days I have been staying at my parents' condo in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, CA. My husband, kids and I came up here on Monday in two cars, we had a great time together until Wednesday and then they went on home. And I stayed here. Alone. We'd planned it for awhile now. Three days. Two nights. In fact, I'm still sitting here for a couple more hours before I drive home.

If you know me personally you know that last year at this time, I was living in my own apartment, spending days and nights alone, every other week. I should be used to being alone.

And yet I was what you might call "totally freaking out" Wednesday as I got my husband and kids ready to go home without me. It was a combination of not feeling comfortable driving in this area (I am incredibly directionally-impaired and don't have a navigational system or internet on my phone) but I was also worried about...I don't know exactly. Intruders. Getting lost. Some of the fear was just irrational. Nameless. It was just THERE.

But I put them all in the car and waved good-bye. I slept alone, ate alone, watched movies alone, read some, wrote some, sewed some, and even drove down to the Monterey Bay alone. I had a good map but sometimes maps confuse me more, so I....well, I figured it out. I got myself from the condo down to the ocean alone. And back again. I even parked the car on a downhill, which is something I usually avoid if at all possible.

When I got to the Bay I walked to a little area with a bench, overlooking the water. I watched the waves crash. I watched seagulls scavenging for food. I listened to people walking on the bike path behind me. I took a couple photos. And I listened.

The last couple days I have been intentionally "open," wanting to receive/hear what my heart is saying. Sometimes regular life is too loud, too fast and too full to really hear. I have had a sense of anticipation since I planned these days alone; I have felt that I have been here for a reason.

So I sat there last evening on that bench overlooking the Pacific, a cold wind whipping through my sweater and hair, and I listened. Or tried to. First the anxiety came as I realized that no one knew where I was.

"No one I know knows exactly where I am."
"What if someone walks up behind me and grabs my purse? My wallet and keys are in there."
"What if the car doesn't start when I get back to it?"

Irrational anxiety clouded my head and made my stomach churn.

And then my next thought interrupted the anxiety almost as if a voice spoke it.

"You are safe."

And everything shifted in that moment. If somehow I lost my purse, or even the cell phone in my hand, or if I got lost, or if...whatever happened...I would be o.k. I. Am. Safe.

Friendly, happy voices walking by on the path behind me reminded me that the world is full of good people. They reminded me of the DOZENS of people who love me enough to drop everything and come to my rescue if I were in danger. But even the people riding by on bikes seemed friendly. They would loan me a cell phone to call for help if I needed it.

With new eyes I looked around. Even the waves seemed friendly...the same water that might have washed up on the shore of New Zealand where some of my dear friends live. Everything around me suddenly felt "familiar." I felt a part of the grass at my feet, the salty air I was breathing in, the waves crashing on the rocks below where I was sitting. I felt comforted.

Even if the unthinkable happens. Even if everyone I love was swept away. Even if the apocalypse happened.

I am safe.

Today I've been watching movies and relaxing before I head back home. But I've also been stitching something with a needle and thread, my favorite way to sew. It's a little square of pretty quilted Durham rose fabric and layered on top is a cream poplin and a row of rhinestone trim. On the cream poplin I stitched in pink,  "You are safe." I cut the square the right size to put on a tiny canvas which I will hang on the wall at home. Maybe in my room. Or my studio. Not sure yet.

But when I look at it I will be reminded of these days I took for myself. How I did what I was afraid to do, no matter how silly that might sound to someone else. How I pushed through all sorts of fears to sit by the sea. Something so simple but that felt so scary and hard for me until I did it. And how my real self whispered to me what I can now carry back with me into my "real life."

You are safe.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Even broccoli is shouting out that you are loved! Yes! Broccoli!

It's just human to question whether we are loved and loveable. But if we're looking and listening, we will see that we ARE indeed...

Even Nature is on "Project Make _____ (fill in your name) Know (S)He is Loved." Even broccoli is part of this scheme (see bottom left corner photo of the collage!).

WHAT IF what we experience each day just FEELS like abandonment and rejection...but is really a "messenger" (nod to Michael Brown there), invitation in hand, that invites us to open up, often through great pain, our aching hearts so that we can receive the love that is all around us?

WHAT IF "You are Loved" is the lesson we are all here to learn? After all, isn't that our most base desire? And, when you turn that over, look at the other side of it: it means we are perfectly-equipped TO love! We know how to do it because we know what we want!

Some of my readers are deeply spiritual but don't identify with a specific religion; some are "sorta Buddhist" ;), some are evangelical Christians and others...well there are probably as many different philosophies about how to look at this world, our purpose here, etc. as there are readers!

But somehow I can't see how this idea that feels like a song that has always been sung, low and steady, in the background of my whole life, but is now getting a bit louder, is inconsistent with anyone's beliefs, unless of course you are atheist. But even then, why not MAKE loving/being loved the purpose of your life? But if you are someone who connects with a specific religion or philosophy, isn't this a thread that weaves throughout all religions and all philosophies? Love is what we want most. Love, coming and going, is what makes life worth living. The desire for it is something we've had in us since infancy; we can't remember a time we didn't long for it.

What do you think about this desire we all have for love? What do you think about the fact that, if we could step back and look at the world from space, we would see every single solitary person on the earth with a longing inside to be loved AND the ability TO love? How silly would that look from space? Why aren't we loving the person next to us the way we so long to be loved? I have an evangelical Christian background, and even though I'm no longer a Christian, I can see Jesus saying in the Bible, oh-so-clearly, that this is the "kingdom of heaven" he was ushering in, modeling, and inviting everyone he came into contact with into!

So interested in what you all think....tell me, please! :)

*Photo credits:
1. the shape of my heart "winter love", 2. Hearts in Nature, 3. ... Heart'leaf ..., 4. Heart , 5. heart rock, 6. pink bleeding heart flowers, 7. Little Hearts, 8. Heart Strings, 9. Hearts and Flowers (dedicated to Bettie's Mum), 10. Hearts and Flowers, 11. heart, 12. heart leaf, 13. Heart of the (Broccoli) Forest, 14. Heart of Nature, 15. heart, 16. At the Heart of Nature - Nel Cuore della Natura

Created with fd's Flickr Toys

Friday, April 8, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Practice of Love

I am thrilled to announce that pre-orders of The Practice of Love are available starting today! I am privileged to be one of the contributors to this very first collective project by Civitas Press, edited by Jonathan Brink. As many of you know, I recently started working for Civitas Press in an editorial capacity, so I'm proud to see this book hit the shelves for many reasons! I am confident you will be as touched by the stories in this book as I was; it is truly life-changing.

If you are interested in pre-ordering copies of this book, you can find the PayPal button to the right in the margin. You can also go HERE to read more about it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jesus & The Starbucks Connection

I don't claim to be a Christian anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't think about the faith I grew up in. In fact I think about it a lot. Write about it a lot, as you know if you stop by here with any frequency. Often I write in my sadness and anger, looking back at a former set of beliefs that hurt me in more ways than it added to me. I've left evangelical Christianity behind, but I think it would be easier for some people to believe that because I say I'm not a Christian, that that means I hate God, don't believe there is a God or have completely stopped thinking about God.

Fact is, I'm not a Christian and I think about God a lot.

I especially respect the person of Jesus as represented in the Bible. His interaction with people, especially those the religious establishment of his day judged, wrote off, condemned, rejected and abandoned is simply beautiful to me.

I'm not a Christian and I think about Jesus a lot.

Jesus, according to the Biblical account of his life, interacted with people in some really incredible ways. He connected with the people they WERE, rather than asking them to change, telling them they should change, or even asking them to emulate his own actions and behaviors. When Jesus interacted with people, he effectively made a "place" between the people he was talking to and himself. A place where they could sit down together with no shame and no hiding of their true selves. He understood the context of their pain. He saw THEM and didn't define them by their actions or behaviors.

That "place" he created for himself and whoever he was relating to was what he called "The Kingdom of Heaven." It wasn't like a lot of our experiences of "church" where you have to dress up, hide your pain, pretend you are "better" than you are and act like you have it together. Jesus, over and over, looked for and saw the REAL person underneath the behavior, actions and pain, related to and loved unconditionally THAT person. The connection between Jesus and the person he was relating to was for many the first time they had ever been utterly naked AND utterly loved and accepted. That's exactly how I want to be loved and how I want to love others.

But what was going on in those moments? I think I know. This wasn't all about God being able to magically see into people's hearts. That may or may not have also been going on. But I think to only define Jesus' treatment of others by that "divinity" would be a grave error. He seemed to think others were capable to doing the same. So what is it that he was doing that we are also able to do?

I think it was simply that Jesus approached connection with others with the expectation/goal of seeing through the shit to the real person and loving THAT person. I think it's that simple. He was living proof that the religious way of approaching people with a, "Are you 'good' or 'bad?' I get to decide," attitude was not loving and had no place in the kingdom of heaven. He simply saw. And he loved. Period.

So what was happening that created such a "real" connection between Jesus and those he interacted with? I've been thinking a lot lately about how, when we accidentally or on purpose connect with someone outside an established human construct, we often feel and experience a "connection" that we wouldn't normally. That connection is, at least in my mind, usually of a spiritual nature. Something happens when we are connecting with someone in a way that isn't governed by rules, norms or standards. It's almost as though we can sneak in a backdoor, by-passing the part of our brains that says, "Act like this; talk like this; this person is that; this interaction is limited to ..."

It happens in Starbucks sometimes. You might be sitting there in a sunny spot, watching stranger after stranger walk by, but then one stops and asks if they can share your table since the others are all filled. Every once in awhile that thing happens where two people move from strangers to people who "see" the other one in a matter of minutes, simply because they shared a table at Starbucks.

It happened in the streets of Christchurch, New Zealand a few weeks ago during the earthquake, and then again in the aftermath of the tsunamis in Japan. Strangers clung to on another in a sudden, illogical intimacy as they stood in the streets and watched helplessly while family, friends and colleagues were crushed or drowned. All of a sudden two people who would normally have no reason to even speak to one another spontaneously joined hands and cried into one another's shoulders. People who would never have helped one another because of gaps in age, gender, socio-economic level, etc. became one another's very real saviours, friends, brothers.

It happened in my family when one of my sisters gave her son up for adoption nearly 8 years ago. It is an open adoption, which means our entire family has a real relationship with my nephew and his adoptive family. Open adoption is new enough that there aren't "rules" for how to do it. We've made them up as we've gone along, following heart rather than head, without even meaning to or realizing we're doing it. While others would think we "lost" my nephew to another family, the reality has been that we "gained" a sister and brother "in-law," a second nephew and two extra nieces. My kids have an extra aunt and uncle, as well as extra cousins. There's no map, no rules and no "optimum result" besides my nephew being loved. That's it. So much beauty has grown out of what could have been a heart-wrenching loss.

Sometimes we experience this connection with someone else in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. Often times it is at that "love is blind" stage of a relationship that we are able to see the "real," the good and the beauty in a person simply because we WANT to see it and are looking for it.

But my husband and I have experienced it in moments we'd never have expected it, as we sort through the anger, hurt, sadness and disappointment of our marriage. Our love isn't blind anymore, and in fact, the eyes with which we see all too clearly now often brim with tears. We're working through some serious shit in our relationship. It hurts like hell. But sometimes after hours of agonizing conversation, we find ourselves laughing through tears about some silly thing totally unconnected to the bitter pain that is still wet on our cheeks. In those moments of half-hysterical hilarity, we see in one another the old Cheryl and James that stood on the balcony of a pink house all those years ago, watching the stars 'til the sun came up. Sometimes the giggles lead to a tearful embrace and for a few minutes, the pain is gone and it's just ... "us," however impossibly, connecting.

Wherever or however it happens, we've all felt it to some degree. And I guess I'm just asking if maybe those "moments"—those connections—whether for a brief time or a lifetime, are what life is all about. I'm asking if maybe Jesus was living like that. I'm wondering what would happen if we intentionally lived like this, as much as possible.

How much in our lives and in our world would change if we lifted the human "constructs" off and just looked around at one another with eyes like Jesus'?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


A couple years ago I learned that the "tulip tree" in my parents' yard is actually called a "saucer magnolia." I'm not sure who started calling it a tulip tree, but I know why: the blooms each February around this time look a lot like tulips...big giant pink blooms with petals that are strong and almost fleshy. Even gangly at times. These are the sort of blooms that a storm can knock off the tree, but once on the ground, it takes a lot to destroy the actual bloom itself. They definitely aren't delicate, that's for sure. They are gorgeous, strong and always seem a bit on the un-tamed, earthy, wild side.

I don't know if I love the tulip tree because it's just beautiful in a unique way that pleases me, or if it's because it always blooms near my birthday, February 26th, or both. Probably both. There's something comforting about it. Every year it blooms. It isn't phased by what's going on in my little life. It blooms, like clock-work, no matter what, every year.

It bloomed the first year we lived in that house, when I was turning 14 and trying to learn to love the United States again after two years of running free in the green hills, snap-shot-fast storms of the eastern highlands of Papua New Guinea.
It bloomed the Spring I broke up with my first boyfriend while we sat looking at an impossibly-pink sun set over the little lake.
It bloomed the Spring leading up to my wedding in a small, stone church in the country town we would eventually build our own house in.
It bloomed the February my second daughter was born, only 6 days before my birthday, her eyes huge and calm, even then.
It bloomed the February that my heart broke in two, or felt like I did, the shards mixing with old and new hurt, making a poisonous cocktail I would only be able to drink for six more months before it finally ate away a hole that I had no needle or thread to mend, or even fingers to carry them in.
It bloomed last year, the February that I lived in an apartment as a single mom, oblivious to the hurricane coming mere weeks later that would turn me upside down, shake me like a rag doll and leave me, almost lifeless and barely breathing with only a faint pulse.
And though I haven't been to my parents' house recently, I know, without needing to ask, that it's blooming this February, right now, in the days leading up to my birthday, even as I sit and write in my former-but-now-mine-again house, my husband in the next room, trying not to long too much for redemption but knowing I won't stop wanting it any more than I will stop wanting food.

So much has changed in my life in a space of only two years. There has been tremendous joy. There has been devastating heartbreak. There has been brilliant, shining hope. There has been deep, thick-as-mud depression. There has been startling love I swore I'd never allow myself to feel again. There has been throbbing, aching pain I hoped I could keep at bay by staying in safe, calm waters. Call me a masochist (or a romantic realist) but I find I've wandered off into those dangerous waters in spite of my vows not to and, sure enough, been turned upside down by a wave that wants to steal the bloody, beating, apparently-still-too-delicate heart out of me.

And yet every February, irregardless of what is going on, still water or storm, the tulip tree blooms. The only thing that changes is that the tree gets a bit taller every year and the number of blooms it holds multiplies. Those same blooms fall to the ground, eventually. And every year the gardener comes along and rakes the dying blooms into bags to dispose of. When I lived there still I would beg my parents and the gardener to leave the blooms for as long as possible. After a couple of weeks, a portion of the yard is covered in a blanket of pink that is almost as beautiful as the tree heavy-laden with the blooms weeks before when they were new and still attached to branches.

A few years ago I thought about planting a tulip tree here, in my yard. Maybe more than one. It only makes sense. Then I can enjoy it every day, all February, every year. It never happened.

Then last year I thought I would never live here again and I remember once thinking I was sadly glad I hadn't planted one here, as that would be painful to see when I drove up in the driveway to pick up my kids for my every-other-week with them. One more reminder of a dream that died. One more pang of disappointment that my love story didn't turn out as I planned.

And now, here I am, back in the house. There is still no tulip tree. Not yet. I can't buy a tulip tree for the same reasons I can't look at my wedding photos still, despite the fact that my husband and I are back together and want to be. These are things that rub against the wounds still, I expect for both of us. Sure, we are slowly healing. I have come so far in such a short amount of time, when I think about it.

And yet, that doesn't mean the pain is gone. It's no one's "fault." If I try to look around to find someone to hold responsible for this pain, there is no one face I settle on. Certainly not my husband's.

I look for the tell-tale bloody hands that reached into my chest and ruthlessly yanked my heart out before putting it back on my sleeve; I want to return that still-hemoraging heart back into those guilty hands that deserve to carry it around and listen to its soft-as-silk mewings of weak but still painfully-alive sorrow. I don't see bloody hands except for my own as they helplessly swaddle this heart of mine, its wounds still spitting blood every so often. I anxiously hope that, wrapped up in soft, handmade blankets it will drift into a deep, healing sleep and wake in the morning with bright eyes and a hungry, rooting mouth that I can hastily put on my breast to relieve the aching engorgement in my life. It seems, once again, I'm left to tend to my own heart with the tenderness of a mother. So I have. So I do. So I will.

After all, if we've learned anything this last year, it's to finally, sincerely believe that the other person has done their best, at every point along the way. And in spite of doing our best and in spite of, at each juncture, trying to make choices that will hurt everyone involved the least, we still walked away, wounded. It's like a car wreck; even when it's no one's fault, when all parties are doing their best to drive responsibly, accidents occur. People walk away wounded, or worse. Needing hospital care. Afraid to drive again. Shaken and haunted.

"Sadness is but a wall between two gardens," wrote Kahlil Gibran. That's a bright stone I find myself turning over and over in my hand, rhythmically, until it almost sounds like a prayer. Perhaps where I am today is standing in front of a wall that looks impossible to make a hole in or scale, even with the tallest ladder I can find in the back shed.

When I walk around in this garden, there is a sting when I see hard earth where I fondly remember laying (trustingly...innocently) back in a fairy ring of flowers. There is a twist of whatever that is that twists in our guts when I see a once-green, fruit-bearing tree toppled over, its roots askew the way a dead body's limbs lay in unnatural positions that you have never seen a human in even during dance, love-making or gymnastics. Dry, crunchy leaves still try to climb the garden walls in some last, desperate attempt to escape over and out. There is only the vestiges of what was once vibrant, green, buzzing with bees and fairly humming with the low, almost-indecipherable sounds of  insects walking in orderly lines, the slurping of roots underground as their always-thirsty mouths take what they need for growing, feathered bird wings flap and plump earthworms slowly turn earth over, seventeen pieces of dirt at a time.

Now the wind whips through empty air. Un-used oxygen catches the soonest plane out of town. Birds turn their downy heads away, skipping to some other richer earth in which to drop seeds and build nests and sing. They're not telling this garden's secrets; they're too well-bred for that. But that doesn't mean they are going to raise this year's batch of infants there, either.

There are not tulip trees here. And you know? I wouldn't want there to be. They have no place in this cemetary of dreams. They would find no rich earth with the worms having moved on. They wouldn't grow properly without a nest to weigh one branch down while another branch takes its turn growing. The tulip trees couldn't bloom without the muffled lullaby of fellow growing things escaping through ant tunnels and soothing them into a sweet slumber, dreams of growing teaching it which way to reach and when to stay in the bud and for how long.

Some days I press my ear against the wall of this garden and I swear I can hear life in the low murmurs of voices passing through stone. If I inhale while standing in the far corner of this nearly-lifeless garden, I swear I can almost smell Spring. I know there's life on the other side. A place where my tulip trees can be planted young and naive, properly nursed into adolescense, prompted into the quick adulthood and then endless twilight of tulip trees years.

Is this the year I find the gate that leads into that other garden? Is it finally almost time for me to pull back a dead, hanging vine to reveal the rusty doorhandle I've been looking for...well, nearly all my life, if I'm honest?

I'm reminded of the way things are in this day by the soft moans that come from that swaddled, still-bleeding heart that I so tenderly nurse. Will it ever heal and grow into the babbling, always-in-motion toddler that would run through the doorway and plop right down in the middle of a tulip tree blossom blanket?

There's no guarantee. Not with growing things. You can't get an insurance policy that covers hidden doorknobs or lazy earthworms. You can't numb yourself enough that finding the swaddled babe I'm sweetly suckling for now has died in the night won't level you for another day or month or decade. Growing things must be trusted to read their DNA with aptitude and eagerness. They must be allowed the space that a little blind faith makes for them to fatten in. Green leaves aren't greener because they were told to be. Doorhandles, as well, seem to be rather like growing things in that they present themselves when the time is right, just as surely as a peach becomes ripe and dripping with peach-sugar not a day early nor a day late.

Maybe I will sneak over to my parents' house some night and gather the blooms before the gardener can. Maybe I won't. Maybe I will tearfully ask my mother to pick some from the tree so that I can float them in a bowl of water and candles when no one is watching. Maybe I won't. Maybe I will drive out to a nursery early Saturday morning and buy a baby tulip tree for myself. Maybe I won't.

Each would require various amounts of faith...the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen...because they all say, in different voices, "She still wants a tulip tree."

I pull the still-breathing form at my breast a little closer and whisper into its left ventrical something no one else can hear. It seems to understand and begins beating a little quicker. After all this, it still wants to try again; it still keeps hoping to take its old place in my body...amazing, even after all its been through.

A door. Another garden. A hand-planted garden. A tulip tree. Maybe more. I inhale sharply. Hoping hurts. And yet...I can't help but hope. Maybe that's the piece my friend calls "God." Maybe it's not. I chuckle.

"God, the tulip tree." How silly. And yet that thought causes one tear to slide quickly down my cheek before I can brush it hastily away.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Some photos from our little family birthday party for Rachel...