Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Magical Night

I sat in the room filled with people, all with their own story, all hoping to make it a good one.  Each of us had come to get inspiration, direction, a new focus.  I left with $10 burning a proverbial hole in my pocket.

One of the speakers at the Storyline conference shared how he decided to create opportunities for his church members to live a better story.  Normally, churches ask for money.  The plate goes around and you put your offering in.  That's how it roles.  This guy Mack, decided to break $26,000 dollars into small denominations ($5, $10, $20) and hand it out to anyone who would take one. The catch was: this money is God's money; they were to pray and use it to tell a better story as good as they could come up with; and lastly, none of that money was to come back to the church.

They did the same thing at this conference I went to, and I, being a sucker for a challenge, took one of the envelopes.

I am also a procrastinator.  

About two months ago, right after the Storyline conference, with that $10 burning a hole in my pocket (and heart), I was invited along to a fund raising dinner for an organization called AOET.  I was keeping my eyes open for a good way to tell a better story with $10.  I found it that night while listening to the heart behind AOET.  (check out the impetus behind this org at http://www.aoet.org/?page_id=3).  A young, high school aged girl spoke about how she decided to try to raise enough money to build a house in a new village ($26,000).  I have never tried to raise money for anything, so how a then 15 year old just got it into her head to set that goal for herself and do it was inspiring to me.

As I sat there listening, I thought about Facebook; I know it's a shocker to most of you- I am not totally addicted to Facebook...yet.  Earlier that evening I had noticed that I had 540 friends.  Five HUNDRED and forty.  Suddenly the thought occurred to me, "How hard would it be to raise $26,000...540....26,000...540."  Then I started doing the math, that took more than a few minutes, I can tell you, and you know what I figured out?  Fifty bucks. Fifty bucks each is all it would take to raise the money to build a house.  What do you say?  Want to build a house with me?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Today at The Bridge...

This is dedicated to all the hands.  You know who you are.


There is a reticence in me; I hold back.
I was not born this way,
The wild fearless part of me was taught
                                     Being Careful.

I saw the abyss, the dark yawning void.
It reached out and welcomed me.
Its caressing echo beckoned me.
At the moment I was acquiescing to the pull,
Hands grasped me
By the arm, by the hair
by the heart, dead thing that it was, and pulled me back.
They held on for my life.

The nothing:
It lamented the loss of me
I lamented the loss of nothingness.

On that edge, I felt the weight, the pain, the terror of everything that had driven me to
This end.
I despaired of ever being free.
I wanted to jump.

But Hands...
Hands all around me,
They held.
They were strong when I was not.
They held me when I couldn't.
They were hope when I had none.

I lay there drowning, in pain,
...and slowly, slowly
Something began to rise, grow,
pierce its tender shoot out of my fallow heart.

It was Hope
And it became stronger.
None of the previous cheap, false hope, this was not plastic,
But a living thing.

It broke through the hardened surface and, like green things do,
Restored by destroying.

And now, I hope.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

And The Sun Poured In Like Butterscotch....

This is the first morning in a long time (a whole four months) that I haven't had to wake up to go somewhere.  What a luxury.  I made an egg white and leftover ratatouille breakfast and sat down with a cup of coffee and Anne Lamott's new book Imperfect Birds to enjoy said breakfast.  As I sat eating and humming Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell I realized: I am at peace.

How far I've come; how much my life has changed in the last two years. How much am I blessed.  How many people I have to thank for their love and support.  I can only wish the kind of people I have will be available to you should you ever need it. 

Life will never be perfect, and there will be struggle till the day we die.  You know what I'm talking about.  But when you know you are loved, when you are well loved and you can take that in, the struggle becomes less the point.

Guess I'm just feeling grateful...and hopeful.  Its a good place to be.  Much love.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore

Maybe its the influence of Glee, but everything seems to be coming out with a theme song from some 80's power ballad lately. I swear after watching the finale (3 times in 2 days) I could NOT get "Faithfully" by Journey out of my head...or, for that matter, Finn. 

Are you ready for embarrassing admission number two? I cannot stop watching...well lets say it rhymes with Shmilight. I don't know why either. The acting is so-so, the love story they portray is unhealthy at best, unrealistic for sure, and quite possibly the most immature rendering of two people's feelings for each other I have ever witnessed. OK, I'll give you (if you'll give me) that the scenery is beautiful. So besides the cinematography, which is the only thing I'll admit (out loud) I like about this movie, what is it about this movie that has me watching it over and over again?

I am puzzling through this right now hoping that a blog post will help me figure it out. I'm not one of those gawker/stalker older women who is all into Edward Cullen. Frankly the pale faces on every single one of the vampires, I find, are ugly. I don't want some guy to be all broody all the time because of his tortured soul ( I lie, I totally go for the broody musician types). Neither do I want to be emotionally bounced around (he likes me, he doesn't like me).

I guess what it comes down to is that I want to be important to someone. And I want to be important enough that he'll go out of his way to get to know me. More than that, I want to be the principle character, the main player in my own life.  For so many years I have fit myself into whatever story is playing out, too afraid of failing at it to chance taking a larger role.  Sure I've added pizzazz to any ol' story line you put me in, but I was mostly a character actor, good for a laugh or a moment.

No longer.

I want my own life.  I want a story that won't be worth telling unless I'm in it.  And I want to share that story with someone special.  Let it be henceforth known, I am ready.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Hanging my head in shame, I come back to my blog. I had such high hopes for myself and my resolve to write at least once a week. To be fair to myself, I do have a job. In fact I have two jobs, three if you count the once-a-week 3 hour gig I have on the side. All of these jobs have variable schedules, and on top of that I am searching for a summer job, and a job when I get to Portland in the Fall. I am just a little busy.
And that's a good thing.
I have re-discovered my love for teaching. It was there all along, but paired with my past experiences and therefore tinged with the scent of failure. Teaching was my last hold out; the last big boogety boogety in my closet of fear. Years ago, someone said to me, "Its like when a parent loses a child and they shut the door to that child's bedroom and seal it up like a tomb. There are rooms in your heart where a death has occurred and you've shut the door and said, 'I'll never go there again.'" I didn't understand these words at the time, but the truth in them has been revealed to me recently.
Part of my process of healing has been to revisit those places I have feared the most, the places I have experienced failure. The old me was so terrified of failure, that when I felt it coming on, I would, like a sinking ship trying to stop the inevitable, shut down the water safe doors. There was a problem with my response though. Every time I shut down the door and ran from the impending danger, I left behind something important. I left parts of myself to drown in the rising tide of fear.
But I was a little premature and panicky. There was no water that threatened to swamp the boat. Behind those too quickly deployed doors was the evidence of minor mistakes...nothing fatal. Maybe there was a pinprick sized leak in the hull. Nothing a little tar couldn't fix, nothing uncommon to the seafarer. Unfortunately my fear had clouded my judgment, and now there was a huge bulkhead door in the way and no way for me to observe the minor nature of the problem. As to opening the door to assess the situation, I was SURE that a wall of deathly water would rush over me, ending any hope of survival. Even approaching the door meant being submerged up to my neck in terror.
Those doors and those rooms only have the power over you that you give them. Each time I square off in front of another door I sealed long ago, the fear wanes a little more. I am learning that the fear that grips my heart is a liar. I open the door and discover no deathly threat. Each room rediscovered garners me the treasures I abandoned in panic; treasures I have carried as lost cargo for all these years, thinking myself a flooded ghost ship. Each room opened reacquaints me to myself.
I am becoming seaworthy.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Last Day of February

Its the last day of February (the month of LUUV...and incidentally the shortest month of the year. Coincidence? I think NOT!) and I am at a church (shall remain nameless) in Baldwinsville, in a store front, with my sister. Nice people. There is an old dude with a teal do-rag rocking out on an electric acoustic guitar set to stun. He's got some serious distortion going on. There are more people on stage than in the audience; total :18. Strangely, I'm not uncomfortable. I'm more detached than anything.


This expression of church/faith strikes me as largely innocuous. Not too effective, but certainly harmless. And I am maintaining a distance. I am a safe distance-aholic.

While the worship was gargle, rinse, repeating, I sat down to write, trying to engage God in some meaningful way...for me. I wrote this poem of sorts (as poemy as I get).

Is it broken?
Or am I?
I keep searching, but with less vehemence
The fight has gone out of me....or has it?
I seek a touchstone to
That which has gone dormant
Does it exist?
Or is that fever a sign of sickness,
And all I know of passion just

I know there is mystery in the unknown vastness of God
All the doors I have been shown to get out into that vastness
Have proved doors to:

Rooms with yellow wall paper
Classrooms with teachers who have never experienced the vastness trying to tell me about it.

I want the real deal.

I'm reticent.
I can't believe what I used to, because
The people who ushered me into the cell tried to tell me
The cell was the whole world.

I know that's a lie.

And I don't have to pretend it isn't anymore.
I know the difference between God and prison cell.

I choose to BELIEVE

Even though all that has been presented to me as THE ANSWER
Has been proven


You are not false.
You exist.
And you are good.

I stumble through the hall of doors,
Looking for the way out.
I don't trust any of my old guides...
I can't.

I'm so critical of the counterfeit, I worry I'll miss the truth.

But I know


KNOW the difference


TRUTH and Counterfeit

I trust my heart.
I trust that within me, that knows.

I will not settle for lies.

I haven't seen it yet
But I'll know it when I do.

I trust that I will not wander forever
In this dim wasteland of doors.

The right exit will show itself,
And I'll walk through with no hesitation.

Over the lintel it will say:

All who wander are not lost.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I was listening to a podcast the other day while cleaning a house. Its my one respite every week; I get three hours alltogether alone to clean and put a house in order and listen to podcasts uninterrupted...NERD! I know, I am a nerd, not ashamed to own it. So, Planet Money was talking about the sharp rise in strategic defaults on home loans.

Adam Davidson was talking to a lawyer named Jane that works for an insurance company. Her job is to advise homeowners who are having financial difficulties. She talked about how the calls have changed in the last two years. At the beginning of this crisis, she was getting a lot of heart-wrenching teary calls; people who were desperate to keep their homes and make their payments. Foreclosures started with people who had gotten themselves into homes they couldn't afford. They could make the first payments...barely, but as soon as the loans ramped up to the next payment ( what a-holes devised these?) they were underwater. Jane's job was to gently advise them that it would be better for them to let the bank take the house and start over. This was not welcome news. We see home ownership as almost an inalienable right in America.
This is evidenced by the surplus of home improvement and house flipping shows (where have they all gone?). Most adults who have a job, kids, a spouse would feel like a failure if they aren't living in a dwelling they own. Add that to the traditional shame that comes from defaulting/declaring bankruptcy in our culture, and its hard to decide to default.
Side note, why is there such a strong sense of disgrace for someone who has money problems, and yet we've allowed domestic abuse to go largely unchecked in our culture? It all has its roots in the same soil. What do we value?
Back to loan defaulting. Jane says that in the past year the calls have changed. She now hears from people who have good credit who can make their loan payments, but have realized that it makes more money sense to get out from under a $400,000 dollar loan on a house worth $200,000. They are buying new houses and letting the old house go back to the bank. Who is left to shame then? Everyone else on their block has already lost their homes and left. When asked why they would do this, the homeowners say, "its a business decision." Sound callus? It is. Since when do people see their home in these terms? Where is this coming from? I think its the last trickle down of an attitude that has pervaded our American culture for over 50 years. We didn't pay attention to the canary in the well, and now miners left and right are dropping around us.

Here's my theory: We value money and the acquisition of money above all else. Our glorification of all things corporate shows where we place value. In fact corporate culture has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. We have corporatized all aspects of life in an attempt to squeeze more "profit" out of it. Even farming, the last hold-out, has been taken over by corporations (to disastrous effect) aided and abetted by our government. We disdain small things. We pity people who can't get on board for "progress."

What is the explanation when a company does something questionable or heartless? Its not personal, its business. The underlying implication is that if something must be done to make more money, morals should not enter into it; its business. There are two different accepted mores, one for business and one for personal dealings. Well I'm here to tell you that that is no longer true. There is now just one. Because we no longer place value in anything but money ( in fact we value almost everything with money, how much is it worth?) we are becoming untethered from any decision process that takes intangible value into account.

Let me clarify that I don't think we ALL think this way, but we have come to accept it by default. We have allowed this line of thinking to pervade everything around us. I don't think if I asked most people what they believed in that they would say money. We don't profess it with our mouth, but we do confirm it with our actions, or lack of action.

I find it a little amusing that Jane and Adam (remember the podcast? man I love a tangent) were so surprised to see people, everyday people like you and I making choices that would be deemed shameful and excusing themselves by saying "Its a business decision." Isn't that what companies, banks, corporate culture has been preaching for YEARS?!!?! They have repeated the same mantra while raping and pillaging the environment, the little guy, other businesses, heck anything that stood in the way of them and more money. Are we really surprised that "the little guy" is now playing by the same rules?

We need a hard reset.

Since when did our goal become, who can behave the worst and get away with it?

If things continue the way they have been, the whole system is going to crash down around our ears. I'm not so sure that's a bad thing anymore. Corporate culture has been allowed to run largely unchecked for too long. There is no balance. We've allowed its poisonous thinking to inform our own behavior. Think about it, don't you apply different standards and rules for the workplace than you would with your wife? (I hope) Well, that distinction is quickly slipping. This valuing money above all else has one end result: dehumanization.

Ok enough of my rant. I believe that we are called to more. I believe that we can choose to be different, stop feeding the machine that is grinding up people into soilent green. Its up to each of us to decide not to conform to this system. What does that look like? I'd welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Birthdays, Blessings...and Beauty

Whelp, its that time of year again. I am celebrating another year here on this earth. Thought this milestone would be a hard hitter for me. I am on the down hill slide toward another decade after all, but surprisingly it hasn't really hurt as much as I thought it would. Anticipated pain is worse than actual pain. Write that one down, it is almost ALWAYS true. I guess so much is going right for me that the number just doesn't feel so significant.

Well, so hear we are again...on the cusp of February, smack dab in the middle of a cold snap. All these should be adding up to depression for me, but for the first time ever...just aren't. Isn't that fabulous? There are so many things in my life different for me this year. Let me count the blessings. I have lost 115 lbs total so far, and am within 75 lbs of my original goal, so generally I just feel fabulous, and full of energy. I was diagnosed with diabetes last April and have since gotten my sugar levels under control; this has changed my life drastically. I discovered the wonders of taking Vitamin D3 by the thousands of iu's and Vitamin B12; both of these have changed my winter lethargy and depression into dancing. Then there is the lightening of the emotional load I have carried for so long. Its a wonder I'm not floating 3 feet off the ground. I can honestly say, I am happy and ok, and that feels so good!

Yet, every year a sinking feeling of disappointment and discontent creeps in as my birthday approaches. I generally blame it on one thing or the other that didn't go as I'd planned, but when I finally sat down to look directly at that dirty, wet, dog smelling up the room and dripping wet mud on everything, I couldn't remember its name. It is a familiar dog, but a phantom nonetheless...phantom pain. I can't really point to one specific thing as the culprit for causing my discontent and malaise, and when I try I end up talking myself in circles because I know what I am complaining about isn't the actual issue.

Perhaps I am just reliving the script of so many birthdays past. My soul seeks its old bent more strongly at this time of year than others. I am more comfortable and prepared for the role of disappointed, neglected victim than what I really am. Or perhaps...there are longings and yearnings too deep to be named that I keep trying to slap shallow names on so that they can be dealt with more easily.

I stand in an underground cathedral of a cave, at the edge of an underground lake. All around me is utterly dark and utterly quiet. As I stand there steeped in stillness an almost imperceptible shift from complete darkness to smudgy light happens, more of a hint of light than actual light, indistinct in its origin. Then, as the outline of my hands become apparent, the light centralizes to one glimmering spot far below the surface of the lake. That glow rises toward the surface and is traveling towards the shoreline for me; a date with destiny approaches. Part of me is frozen to the spot with wonder, part of me wants to run up and down the shoreline flapping my hands to scare away that light which evokes exquisite pain, hope, longing, and desire all at once. I have just made peace with the quiet and darkness of the cave, a refuge after the deluge of sludge I had been swept down the swift river with. The quiet has silenced the cacophony of voices that filled me with dread. This new presence in a place so peaceful, at first feels like it might be a return of the old chaos..but deep down, I know it isn't. I know that that light rising to the surface doesn't feel too horrible to behold; rather it feels too wonderful to behold. Can I stand it? Now the shimmering is becoming distinct and I can see that it is a fish the size of a koi, but with fins and streamers like a beta, as it moves through the water it fins scintillate light with every undulation, and its singing.

The fish is singing a song whose tendrils are wrapping themselves around my heart and squeezing. My heart at first feels the pain of constriction, but then begins to resonate. I am afraid of deep feelings; they usually mean devastation and pain, but I know I can and will trust this fish. The pain comes from longing, not fear and loss, yearning for what might be, what someday will be, for all I hope for. Searing as those tendrils are, they are defibrillating my heart, resusitating me. Then, over the building harmonies of the fish song comes an ancient sound, a beat that moves with steadiness into the song.

Its my heartbeat.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Yep, that's where I am. I was driving down the road this morning on my way to work listening to a summer mix my good friend Robbi made me. There is nothing like a summer mix to chase away the winter blues. Picture it: Me, bundled up to the eyes because the heat is broken in the car, driving down the snowy Upstate New York Roads, listening to the Beach Boys and laughing. Happy= me.
I find myself laughing out loud at the sheer joy of life. I am having such a good time. For the first time in a long time, fear is not my constant companion. I feel fearless, grounded, powerful, attractive. Everything is coming my way, and you know why? A lightbulb came on for me. I have given myself permission. I will not limit myself through fear anymore. Conversely, I will not motivate myself by fear either. Fear, your lease on my heart is up and you've been a destructive tenant. Time to go.
Meanwhile, let the good time roll! Laissez les bon temps roules! I am ready to have fun.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I was having Thai with a dear friend the other night. We had walked and shared deeply and were continuing our talk. It was so good to really talk, to talk about things that mattered. By the end of the night, I started feeling a twist in my chest. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from and how to get rid of it. Usually, spending time with people energizes me, especially when sharing hearts is involved, but I left our talk feeling totally sapped. I woke up the next day tired, with no energy for anyone.
So, I set about pondering. I think some of the twisty feeling came from me trying to abdicate my power. This pattern that has been a part of my whole adult life. This needing permission; from men, from those I respected, from those I wanted to please, from those I wanted approve from. I have been abdicating the power of permission in my life to anyone who might take it, whether they asked for it or not. Here, please...validate me. Tell me I am a good girl, that I am right, that I am OK.
I have figured out that I can give myself permission. What joy is this?

Any time I try to give the power of permission to another, it sets up a weird dynamic in me. I begin to feel dependent, insecure, needy of approval, and a little resentful. And here's the kicker...I do it to myself.
I will try to remember more quickly next time, but I give myself permission to make mistakes.

Also, I recognize my tendency to have to label everything...EVERYTHING as either good or bad. It can't just be. I realize that my negativity is a protective mechanism, and immediately I am labeling it bad and feeling like I've got to get rid of it PRONTO.

I just forget.

I forget that this process is so much more natural and gracious. Its going to take time to let go of that protection. I recognize it for what it is now...I will be grateful for what it did for me. When I finally do let it go, I will grieve the loss of it, and then? I will accept that it is no longer necessary to me.

But that will take time.

After all Rome wasn't built in a day.

Far from what I once was but not yet what I'm going to be. (unknown)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Risk Taker

I've spent a few years now in necessary insular protective mode, after a whole life of protecting myself to the point of isolation from many meaningful relationships out of fear. These last few years. I've spent time tearing down old things, sifting through the wreckage of my constructed self, destroyed by disaster. Now that the debris has settled and is mostly cleared, I am so grateful for that disaster. I am not living in a poorly constructed house anymore with leaks and lots of pests. I sleep under the stars for now, and have the free space to imagine what kind of dwelling I actually want. I have built lots of modern, spare, Frank Lloyd Wright inspired houses in my mind replete with lots of windows to let the outside in. I am imagining who I want to be, which is actually who I am meant to be. There is a sort of beauty in the process of dreaming, especially when there is the potential to inhabit those dreams.
Now comes the scary part. I have to actually gather the resources and start to build. Thankfully, my architect is far more talented than even Frank Lloyd Wright, far more inventive, playful, creative, and capable. And She makes beautiful, beautiful things. I am excited/scared of what this all means, and what it will require of me. I must not be afraid to use those stones unearthed in the back corner of the lot and cleared to make way for the heating system. They are beautiful, and will make a beautiful feature wall in the foyer. See how the veins run through them? Evidence of turmoil from eons ago, a reminder of what upheaval can yield. I don't want to forget that.
Mostly, I relish the light that will pour in from the windows. There will be more glass than wall, really. That's the way I want it. I want to live soaking in the magnitude of the beauty that surrounds me. I want to invite people into my space, then allow them into the house from which they can see to advantage those vistas I most cherish. Welcome, I will say. See the beauty? Yes, the structure is beautiful, but just look how it interacts with the beauty around it? Doesn't it put both the dwelling and the surroundings into better context? Don't they each enhance the beauty and depth of the other?

But risk is involved. I am more willing to take that risk recently. I am giving myself permission to take chances, and be vulnerable. The part of me that has always dreamed of jumping out of a plane (with a parachute of course) has now been given voice. OK, fearless me. Its time to count to ten, check your chute and JUMP!