Little Books

It was yet another night of me either ‘creatively redirecting’ the kids to their room for bath time, or dipping into my last reserves of patience as I ignored their whines and pleas to stay up ‘just a little bit longer.’  Once I got them in their room, the chaos continued, especially with my little one:  jumping on the bed, bouncing off the walls (literally), insisting on playing with all of the toys that he had ignored for the past 12 hours, and, most annoying to me, acting like he had suddenly been struck deaf, oblivious to my requests to start to get ready for bed.  Exhausted from the day and from saying, “Please, [take off your clothes/put your clothes in the hamper/go to the potty/brush your teeth]” for what felt like the millionth time, I often felt like crying.  Or yelling.  I usually resorted to the latter.  It was never pretty.

I decided something had to change.

And I had the power to change it.

I remembered my oldest son’s kindergarten teacher’s creative solution to help him remember all of the steps of his morning school routine.  She took pictures of him doing each action that was required, and printed out a ‘book’ for him to follow.  I thought, “Why not modify that brilliant idea for my littlest one at night time?”  I pulled out my camera, told my youngest I was going to make him a book in which he was going to be the main character, and started snapping pictures of him — getting undressed, putting his clothes in the hamper, using the potty, brushing his teeth, climbing into the tub, and sitting down.  That night, I loaded the pictures onto the computer, picked the best shots (there ended up being 9 in all), copied them into a Word document, and added large, simple text.  The title?  “Alex Gets Ready for a Bath.”

When I showed him the book the next morning, he was thrilled!  There he was, the star of the page!  Getting undressed!  Brushing his teeth!  I read it to him once.  I read it to him twice.  “Again!” he asked.  I obliged.  Then the miracle happened:

“I want to read it myself, Mommy!”

“Sure, baby!” I handed the book over.  And my little one, page after page, cover to cover, recited the entire book back to me.  “Again!” I asked.  He obliged.  I watched as he haphazardly moved his finger under the words, just as I had.  ‘This is the beginning!’ I heard the voice in my head squeal excitedly.  ‘He is really, truly learning to read!’  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  As a little test, I asked him where the word ‘teeth’ was on the page, emphasizing the ‘t t t’ sound.  He pointed right to it.  I asked him what letter ‘teeth’ started with.  “T!” he shouted.

I wanted to weep.  This time for joy.

That night, after corralling him up the stairs yet again, I simply flipped open “Alex Gets Ready for a Bath.”  “What do you need to do first?” I asked my son.  Alex looked at the picture on the first page, and immediately began to get undressed.  I turned the page.  Into the hamper the dirty clothes went!  And so on, until my son was sitting down in the tub, ready for his bath.  (Great job, Alex!)

Another added bonus?  After a few nights of reading the book together, I don’t even have to actively use it anymore.  “I know what to do, Mom!” he says.  And he does.  If he starts to get distracted, I just ask him if he needs me to get his book out.  Back on track he goes.  (Great job, Alex!)

A little book was all it took to balance the flow of power between my son and I at bath time, to bring more peace to our night time routine.  My son is filled with pride and a sense of independence; I am able to relax, be present, and soak up the sight of my sweet, precious child surrounded by bubbles.

I am able to just         love.

Alex brushes his teeth.

Alex brushes his teeth.

(This post is an extension of an article I recently wrote for the e-magazine, On the Path — )

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5 Bucks for Van Gogh

One day, my son came home from school and handed me this drawing:

IMG_3628

“Mom, we learned about Vincent Van Gogh in art class today!” he said.

“Wow!” I replied.  “Is this like Starry Night?”

“Kinda — that’s me and Vincent Van Gogh!”

My eyes dart to Van Gogh’s hand.  “Oh, dear Lord, no! PLEASE tell me that is not his EAR!  Should I ask?  Do I dare?”  I had to.

“And what’s that?” I asked tentatively, pointing to the object on the plate.  I braced for the answer.

“Pizza!” my son exclaimed.  “That’s me (pointing to first purple stick figure), giving Van Gogh $5.00 to buy a slice of pizza!”

“Pizza, huh?  [whew! it’s not an ear!]  Did Vincent Van Gogh love pizza, just like you?”

“No, Mom!  Van Gogh was always spending his money on art supplies, so I thought I would give him some money to buy food!”

My eyes welled up.

“It’s beautiful, honey!”  And I promptly taped it up on the wall.

So beautiful.

As a mother, I often feel like all of the hard work I am pouring into molding my children is for naught.  I feel like a broken record, like they don’t get the lessons I am trying to teach (some super simple, really, like don’t. hit. your. brother.).  I start to wonder if it’s worth it, if my time with them has been meaningful and beneficial.  Or not?  Then my son brings home a picture he made at school that clearly and tenderly illustrates the values of generosity, thoughtfulness, and compassion that I so diligently try to instill, and it makes me want to fall to my knees in gratitude.

YES, my parenting is working!  They DO hear me, even if it may not seem so, even if it may take 100, no, 1000 times of modeling, discussing, and reminding!  I felt hopeful; rejuvenated.  Proud.

Sometimes all it takes is a drawing from a 6-year-old.

Recently, my son burst through the door after Tae Kwon Do class, his eyes red, his cheeks wet from crying.  “What happened?” I asked, alarmed.  “Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine.  I, just, I…I threw a water bottle out of the car window, Mommy!” And he burst into tears.

With one glance at my husband, I knew that they had already ‘discussed’ the dangers and repercussions of my son’s action.

I hugged him tight. “You’ll never throw anything out of the car window again, right?” I asked softly.

“I promise I won’t! Never!” he sobbed.

(I sure hoped not.  There have been times I have thought my youngest son’s pet blankie would get tossed by big brother out into the wind.  I hoped this might be the event to prevent that from ever happening.  My fear was slightly allayed…)

As part of his consequences, my husband made my son look-up on the computer how long it took a plastic bottle to decompose:  450 years.

“450 years!”  My son was aghast.  “Dad, we have to go back and get it!”

My husband, God love him, obliged.  He grabbed his keys, loaded my son back into the car, and drove him back to the scene of the crime.

They retrieved the water bottle, and brought it back home, crumpled and soiled.  They placed it on a paper towel on the kitchen island for a while before I tossed it into the recycling can, maybe as a silent reminder of… carelessness tempered by love?

That’s all I want my children to know, really.  It all comes down to love.  Love for their family, love for starving strangers, love for the Earth.

A crayon picture of kindess.

True remorse about littering.

How affirming it is to see that my children actually are absorbing my lessons                   in love.

(This post reminds me of “The Cost of Hope” by Rachel Macy Stafford over at Hand’s Free Mama — http://www.handsfreemama.com/2013/08/27/the-cost-of-hope/.  Our children truly are the love and light of the future!)

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What’s Dumb

I had just finished reaming my 6-year-old out for picking up a sharp shard of glass and squeezing it in his palm (immediately after I had reminded him to “Watch out for the glass!”).  I was fuming.  It was 95+ degrees, we had been at a zoo for 3+ hours, a zoo that I’ve been to a bazillion times before; we were all hot, cranky, and improperly hydrated.   I was tired, physically from all the walking and mentally from keeping tabs on the kids and trying to somewhat keep their behavior in check (alas, still my youngest managed to stick his pointer finger directly in some unidentified monkey goo, so disgusting, again right after a warning of “Watch out for that yucky stuff on the ledge!”)  Underlying all of that was a sense that the entire day was just “life filler”:  “If I entertain the kids until 11:00, take them to lunch, drive 45 minutes to the zoo, spend a few hours there, and 45 minutes back, most of the day will be gone!  I can make it until bedtime then, and I will be one day closer to not having to watch them by myself anymore!”  (there, again, that nasty whisper of wishing away time with my children — or maybe it’s the dread talking of me being alone and in charge of them yet again…)

Then I hear from the right backseat, “Mom, do you like being mad at me?”

“No!  I don’t like being mad at you, but when you do dumb stuff, LIKE PICK UP SHARDS OF GLASS AND SQUEEZE THEM, you leave me no choice!”

“Don’t call me dumb!”

“I didn’t call you dumb, I said you do dumb things!”

A pause.  Then a whisper.

“You know what’s dumb, Mom?  Being mad at people you love.”

My mouth dropped open.  I promptly shut it.  And kept it shut for the remainder of the ride home.  There was the wisdom, the meaning for the day I had been [unconsciously] seeking, stated matter-of-factly, by my little king in the back.  Ironically, I had to go through a ‘stressful’ day in order to hear it.

I have been pleading for grace in finding the Divinity in the every day, but mainly in regards to interacting with my family.  It is counter-intuitive that I can so easily be kind, or at the very least civil, to strangers, that I can pray for and weep over children in orphanages in eastern Europe, and yet when it comes to my family, especially my husband, even civility flies out the window.  Why do I feel like I have a right to take out every frustration on them?  Why do they incur the wrath of every foul mood (and why so many foul moods??)?  Yes, maybe because they are around me constantly, but lately I am understanding that the closeness and proximity we share is all the more reason to               be nice.

Or at least say nothing.  I can hear my mother chiding, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”  It still rings true, louder than ever, thirty years later.  And I have been practicing.  Instead of verbally snapping at the first burst of anger, I have been biting my tongue (sometimes literally), taking a breath, waiting for the initial explosive reaction to whatever it was to subside before I speak or act.  (Not EVERY time, mind you, but I am trying!)  Or instead of my constant parade of ‘don’t do thats’ (“don’t jump in that!” “don’t jump from there!” “don’t pinch your brother!” “don’t poke the dog!” “don’t yell!” [I yell] “don’t” “Don’t!” “DON’T!”) in my obsessive way of trying to avoid pain and harm at all costs, I’ve been [trying to] hush instead.  Obviously after the glass and goo incidents during our most recent zoo visit, my kids are going to choose their own actions despite my [near constant] stream of safety warnings.  Maybe I should save my breath for, well, breathing.  And save the yelling for the seriously dangerous situations.  I am also being taught a HUGE lesson about control.  I can’t control everything, as much as I may want to.  “Mama knows best.”  And mama is realizing that sometimes I need to sink back and         relax.  Let them go.  Let it go.  Let go.

I also feel like I am on the edge of yet another big spiritual breakthrough, about to unearth the next sparkling crystal of truth.  (Maybe another cause of my mercurial feelings of irritation — I sense something coming, and am impatient for it?)  I watched an interview by Oprah of Reverend Ed Bacon, who was sharing an anecdote about the first pilot to break the sound barrier.  He said right before the pilot broke through the barrier, the cockpit shook tremendously.  I can feel my inner and outer landscapes ‘shaking’ in preparation.  Do you know what would be dumb?  To stop the jet.  To turn around.

I am determined to hold on.  I do know for certain that whatever is on its way will help me stretch and grow.  And that, to me, is most meaningful.

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The Vulture and the Hummingbird

I was sitting in my backyard, in a fire-red plastic Adirondack chair, beseeching the light blue sky for a sense of connection.  Lately, I have been feeling

so disconnected.

It waxes and wanes, I suppose.  At times, I am feeling energetic and lively, light and grateful, easily appreciating the magic in life (even in the everyday mundane).  Then the cycle dips, and I feel the inertia setting in.  I fumble through the day, feeling dazed and apathetic, or more extremely, irritated and angry.  I will lose myself in a book, maybe, but I mostly daydream about all the things I would be doing if I didn’t have to (literally) be wiping my son’s butt or pulling my dog away from nipping at the boys for the upteenth million time.  I sigh a lot.  Then its back to dreaming about the White Sands of New Mexico, the spiritual retreat in September I long to (but will never) go on, the exotic places I want to visit, or the next holistic healing session I’d like to have.  Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing I had a day, OK, even half a day!, to drink some tea and write, unstressed and uninterrupted, in my pajamas because I chose to, not because I didn’t have any time to take a shower that morning.

During my “down dip” in the cycle, I often find myself childishly testing the universe.  I have witnessed some miracles sitting, meditating in my backyard, and every once in a while I want a reminder it was real.  Immature, addicted me, like a junkie.  Hooked on miracles.  Guess it could be much more destructive, like, say actual cocaine or heroin.  Hmm, maybe being obsessed with Spirit is not so unhealthy after all.  It just makes me feel weak, to crave outward manifestations of the Divine so frequently.

My tests are absurd, usually.  Demanding.  Like now.  “Angels (God, Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, gods, goddesses, archangels, ascended masters, fairies, light beings, ANYONE!), give me a sign.  Make a vulture (hawk or eagle, some big bird) fly right across this patch of sky I am staring at,” I pray.  Then I wait.  And feel foolish that I am requesting something so ridiculous from the ether.  Nothing instantaneously happens, of course.  Whatever.  Silly, needy girl I am.  Then,

a vulture.  Soaring right across the patch of sky I am staring at.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I’ve asked for similar scenarios (frivolously and impetuously) before (yes, I have), and it always happens.

Am I satisfied?  Oh no, of course I am not.  I need more.  Another hit.  “OK,” I say, “was that a figment of my imagination, a funny co-inky-dink, or not?  Send me another message, another sign, as a symbol of connection.”  I wait and wait, eagerly looking around me.  Nothing.  Another sigh.  I close my eyes.  Pop them open.  There in the branch, right above my head, is a hummingbird.  I don’t know how I even spied her amongst the leaves, but my eyes went right to her.  Three feet above my head.  A symbol of Joy! (something I am sorely needing)

She hums over to the red bee balm I have recently planted, which I have grown to love in all of its disheveled and bewildered splendor.  Mostly because it has brought these delightful, tiny birds to my backyard.  I marvel at the hummingbird’s movement (a female ruby throated hummingbird, I concluded, after consulting my guide book).  She flits, so crisply.  Drinks.  Moves sharply, linearly to the flower to her right.  Drinks.  Darts to the safety of the lowest branches of the nearest tree.  Takes off, dips over the fence to the neighbor’s tree.

I am feeling bold.  Or maybe skeptical.  Or maybe particularly needy.  I decide to push even further.  I am going to try to get the hummingbird to come closer to me (again, pleading for proof of connection with the universe, so immature:  “If you really ARE, if you really love me, you will guide that hummingbird right back here, and not just to my backyard, but to my HAND.  Hmmmpf!”).  I had read online that hummingbirds are not that afraid of humans, and that you are able to hand feed them if you are patient enough.  I vaguely remember a video of a nature center or aviary with people sitting, holding out red glass tube feeders full of nectar, and hummingbirds flying right up to them, drinking from the feeders in their hands.  I pluck off a bee balm bloom (ouch!  sorry plant-y, it’s to lure the hummingbird!), and go back to my chair.  I realize I have a red dress on.  Red chair, red dress, red flower.  Hummingbirds love red.  A hummingbird was just here.  I feel confident; my odds are good.  It just might work.

As I sit channeling St. Francis, I think of my latest encounter with a wild baby bunny.  I had seen him in the backyard over the past few weeks, so fuzzy, teensy, and cute.  I had even watered him by accident, as he hid under the lily leaves, darting out drenched and scared, sliding through the fence boards to escape my hose.  I had also unknowingly unleashed my hound on him a couple of times, opening the back door before looking, watching her charge after this small – yet fast! – young, creature, shouting “no!,” willing it to slip through the fence again.  It always did.  I would leave lettuce leaves and strawberries in the backyard for it, maybe as a peace offering, mostly as a way to keep him coming back.  I checked the window often, hoping to see him nestled in the clover, chomping.  I never minded if he took a couple nibbles of my flowers, either.  He was too adorable.

Watering (again) one day, I noticed him on the other side of the fence, watching me.  Instead of freezing and running away, he hopped closer.  It seemed like he was about to come see me!  I was astounded that A. he saw me and “recognized” me B. that he didn’t run away, considering I had given him two showers already, and my dog had chased him several times now, and C. that he wasgettingevercloser.  Of course, at that moment, the back door banged open, and out bounded my boisterous boys.  Bunny wasn’t sticking around for that.

I thought I’d do an experiment, though, one night when he was in the yard again.  I walked outside with a lettuce leaf and sat down in my chair, hand with said lettuce leaf hanging motionless, touching the ground.  The bunny dashed away.  I waited.  He came back.  Did bunny tricks.  Hopped towards me, fast.  Hopped high.  Hopped in circles.  Flashed me his cotton tail.  Ate some grass.  I didn’t move.  I just marvelled at the sight of Mr. Adorable.  He inched closer.  Then he hopped under my chair.  I could hardly contain myself.  “He’s going to take the lettuce!” I thought excitedly.  But instead, little baby pushed his furry bunny face right into my fingers!  Then he scampered away, and did a SUPER high jump!  Woo hoo!  What a brave rabbit!  What an amazing encounter!

I was snapped out of my reverie by the return of the hummingbird.  I grew still, shaking the stalk of the flower I was holding ever so slightly, to get Ms. Hummingbird’s attention.  Would she notice me?  After drinking from a few flowers, she flew right towards me, then swooped up to the branch directly over my head.  I leaned my head back slowly; tilted it upward.  There she was!  I froze.  She hummed down,  right  to   the   flower  in    my    hand!  She hovered.  Was this really happening?  I knew it was what I was trying to do, what I had been so brazenly asking for, but I couldn’t believe it was actually HAPPENING!  I made the mistake of lifting my head from the chair to get a better view (why?!  what was I thinking??  to get a BETTER VIEW of a hummingbird six inches away?!  oh lord!).  Ms. Hummingbird hovered for another second, and zoomed away.  WOW!  I somehow knew she wouldn’t be back, and although annoyed at myself for moving my head, I was in genuine awe over what just transpired.

Some still might say, “Ah, just dumb luck.”  Or, “Yeah right, this chick’s a cuckoo.”  Or, “Cool encounter!”  “Good story!”  But I was boldly testing the Divine, remember?

She passed.  The results?

I AM loved.  I AM connected.  And if I need a vulture to fly overhead, or a hummingbird to visit my flowers as a reminder, so be it.  It satiates my soul.   Buoys my heart, so I can sail through

bath time.  Again.  But joyfully, tonight.

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Being Present

I am working on being present.

I practice most often at physical therapy, when I am forced to sit immobile for at least 15 minutes with a heating pad or ice pack covering my knee.

We patients sit or lay on tables about a yard apart, encouraging each other, swapping stories of injury.  I have heard tales of 21-year-olds in car crashes, both legs shattered, wheel-chair bound for months, on crutches for months more.  Replaced knees.  Replaced knees again.  Jet ski accidents.  Today, a gentleman told me about his fight against a stubborn staph infection lodged deep in his leg, doctors removing piece after piece of his limb, wanting to amputate the entire thing.  He was cured only by seeking an Enloe Hyperbaric treatment as a last attempt.  Grim. 

I try hard not to participate in the pity parties, nor to feel sorry, or dwell on the shittiness of the situation.  Instead, I try to focus on the progress being made, however small, latching on to any thread of positivity or good woven through a somber tale.  Like, thank goodness Mr. Stubborn Staph’s daughter, a vet, read an article about hyperbaric therapy and passed the info along to her dad.   Thank the stars.

Maybe I do it for myself.  I am determined not to keep company with my own misery any longer.

Sometimes conversations are non-medical, yet deep.  About dependence.  Vulnerability.  The loss of a spouse.  Loneliness.  Memories of grandparents’ farms, completely sustainable, complete with fruit orchards, vegetable crops, cows for milk and slaughter, chicken coops, fish and soft shell crabs from the Chesapeake Bay.  A granddaughter realizing her ballet dreams.

Conversations can be light and benign, too.  My favorites are the ones about puppies.  Actually, talking dog is what inspired me to be more present in the moment, in that place.  It started with one of the aides, the Counter of Exercise Repetitions, the Getter of the Heating Pads and Ice packs, the Timer Turner-Offer, the Pillow Case and Towel Washer, the Mat Cleaner (I knew the job all too well, having spent summers of my own doing it).  She was efficient, busy and hard-working, yet quiet, shy, and reserved.  She hardly ever made eye contact.  And then one day, she walked by me, told me I had 8 minutes left for my ice pack, plopped down next to me, and smiled.  She wanted to talk!  To me?  To me!  So we did.  About school, about sisters, about South America.  And, of course, about puppies.  Turns out we both have Rhodesian Ridgebacks, something I never would have known, had I not went with the moment (ridiculous, but hard for me, as my defense mechanism for authentically connecting with someone in fear that they will reject me  instinct was to boldly and coldly ignore her and whip out my cell phone).

That puppy connection melted my cool defenses.  It was an a-ha! moment:  We all have so much love to offer one another, so much kindness and compassion and wisdom and experience and commonality and connection, if we would only just let it in.  Or listen.  And share.  Now, sounds ‘woo woo,’ but I try to focus on each person as I am sitting there, patients and therapists alike, and say a healing prayer for them.  Lord knows, we all need them.  Of course, that is, if I am not interrupted by whatever precious tidbit the new person next to me has to offer.

I am practicing being present in other places, also.  Like at the playground, where I had two most synchronistic and enjoyable conversations about public schools and autism.  I have tried more with my children, too, but that is still hard.  Being present for Play Doh for the 1000th time tests my limits.  Although I continue to try.  Thirty seconds more of ‘present-ness’ before I mentally check out and begin composing my next blog post is better than nothin’, I guess.

I feel like the Universe recently rewarded me for my efforts, though.  My in-laws, my brother, my two sons, and I had just enjoyed homemade ice cream at our favorite shop/dairy farm.  As the cherry on top, some local artisans had booths set up in the grass outside, selling their pottery and handmade wares.  I picked a vase adorned with leaves, glazed in cream and green.  My brother bought a piece, too, and my mother-in-law had bravely entrusted my two-year-old with her brown handled bag, treasure tucked inside.  We were all walking back to the car, goodies in hand.  Well, I was attempting.  Crutching back to the car is more like it.

Enter an adorable, twenty-something blonde in a navy sundress, patterned with yellow, pink, and sky blue feathers.  “Cute dress!” I exclaimed.  “Thanks!” she replied.  I was just about to ask her where she got it, when she cut diagonally in front of me, and started walking straight to the passenger door of my car.  She yanked the handle open.  As I was about to blurt out (rather mean-spiritedly, I am embarrassed to admit), “Um, that’s MY car!”, she smiled and asked, “Can I hold your crutches or your bag for you while you get in?”  I said, reluctantly, “My bag, I guess,” as I squelched yet another paranoid thought of her flying off through the parking lot with my pot, me hobbling after her on one crutch screaming obscenities.  I struggled to stay in the moment, go with the flow.

“Is that injury old or fresh?” the adorable blonde asked.

“Fresh,” I said.  “Knee surgery, three weeks ago…”

“That is fresh!”  (steadying my elbow)  “There you go!  Are you good?”

“Yup, I’m good!”

And then she leaned into the car and bear-hugged me.  “Take care of yourself,” she whispered.  “And watch that leg, I am going to close you in now!  Bye!”  Ms. Adorable slammed the door, waved, and hopped into her white pick-up truck.

My brother had witnessed the brief scene from the backseat as he was buckling the baby in.  “Who was that?” he asked, climbing in the driver’s side.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You didn’t know her?” he asked, in mild disbelief.

“Nope,” I replied.  And then I giggled.

A hug from the Girl with the Feather-Printed Dress was exactly what I needed.  My present — for being present.

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Gallon of God

Have you ever had a religious experience at the grocery store?

I have.

Twice.

The first time was back in early September.  I was meandering through the aisles, loading up on cake baking supplies and snacks for my son’s lunch box.  His birthday was coming, and he had just started full-day school days.  I was weepy as I was wandering, still in the thick of the “letting go” process.  It was hard for me to stomach him being under someone else’s charge, and apparently it was hard for him, too, as he was exhibiting some spikes in bad behavior.  I wanted to wrap him up and tuck him away from the world, but I knew that I would not be able to shield him from “real life” forever.  It made my heart crack.

Checking out, the cashier must’ve smelled my melancholy.  “Somebody’s birthday?” he asked, as he swiped the candles and cake mix.

“Yup.  My son.  He’ll be 5.”

“Is he at school?”

“Mmm hmm.  He just started.”  I couldn’t help but share more — the young man was being quite tender, and I could sense him inviting me to open up.  “It’s the first time we’ve been away from each other all day, and it hasn’t been so easy.”

“I remember how hard it was for my mom and dad, too.”  And he proceeded to tell me quaint anecdotes about his parents sending him and his siblings off to school for the first time.  We talked about public school.  Private school.  Home schooling.  I asked him where he went to school, and found out he was in his first year of college, studying English.  I had been an English major, too, so we chatted about books.

“Who’s your favorite author?”

He got me with that one.  It’s always difficult for me to choose.  “Virginia Woolf,”  I said.

He picked Faulkner.

The groceries were sitting quietly in their neon yellow bags (yes, I have a dozen eco-friendly ones, but I always forget them in the trunk).  We lingered momentarily, until the impatience of the lady behind us egged us on to good-byes.  I checked out his name tag:  Christian.  “Thanks, Christian, you’ve brightened my day!”  And he had.  Eight months later, the 10-minute exchange still sits in my memory as, well, a holy conversation.  Exactly what I needed.  A few minutes of love from a compassionate stranger to give me a boost.

God truly is everywhere.  In church.  In you.  In me.  In my tree.  A tulip, a smile.  My child.  My dog.  And nestled in between a cashier and a customer on a conveyor belt.  Loaf of bread.  Stick of butter.  Gallon of God.

I heard Him again there, just today.

I have a new habit of dropping my son off at school in the morning and then heading for a soy latte.  I spend a few minutes in the car, sipping my drink and digesting a few pages from the latest spiritual book I am devouring.  I find it hard to concentrate on nourishing my soul in the midst of the kiddie chaos that continuously swirls through my house, and just this handful of minutes (of calm) before the care-taking storm begins has done wonders for me.  I needed to food shop, and was going right after I finished a chapter.  The current passage was essentially about returning to a child-like state and trusting that God will take care of you, of everything.  So let go.  Have faith in our Father.

Yes.  I felt it.  Loved.  Peaceful.  Connected to my heart space.  Connected to All.  Ah.

Off for bagels, fruit, and water.  I grab a cart, wipe the handle, wheel through the sliding doors, and immediately hear, “Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door, hey hey    heyheyhey…”  I chuckle.  I love the humor and joy that abounds in the messages of the Universe.  And the next song was even more poignant, an oldie but goodie, one that I had never heard before.  The gist of it was basically ‘Have a little bit of faith in me.  That’s all you need to do.  I am here, with open arms, waiting to love you whenever you need, girl.  Just have a little bit of faith in me.’  Wow.

This time, God wasn’t in the grapes.

He was singing to me on the radio.

Posted in Awakening, Love, Motherhood, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Love Project Reminder

I was crabby (again! i sense a parenting theme!).  The dog had recently gotten spayed, and her exercise routine was out-of-whack.  She was beginning to get more and more mischievous, as her pent-up energy continued to build with no productive nor sufficient outlet.  The kids were bouncing off the walls, too, (again! another theme!) as they did every weekend it seemed, when it was just me and the dog and them, daddy snoozin’ upstairs from his night shift.  I was glad my husband was around during the week, especially to spend time with my littlest one (and walk the dog!), but it seemed like every festival, birthday party, special event, and holiday fell on the weekends lately, and I was weary  of having to navigate them all solo.  Or to not go, period.  Like today.

In an attempt to lighten my mood, I decided to throw everybody in the car and head to a tiny community playground.  “The Red Playground” we had dubbed it, nothing more than two red swing-sets (for big boys and babies) and a teeny jungle gym with two 5-foot slides.  Just enough equipment to be just enough for the boys to be happy.  liked that it was on a green rolling hill, too, that led to a small wooden bridge spanning a creek.  Just enough nature for me.

I have NEVER seen anyone at this playground in all the years of driving by (nine, to be exact).  I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to have the dog there or not, either.  Our community is notorious for not welcoming dogs in open public spaces like parks and playgrounds.  Of course, today, five minutes after we’ve arrived (and for the first time, ever, in my nine year recollection), another mother, her two daughters, and their brown toy poodle decide that they are coming to the Red Playground, too.  Great.

My dog is so starved for canine attention, that she immediately starts lunging and jumping when she sees a doggie friend a-comin’.  I am dragged over (literally) to meet Mr. Toy Poodle (who looks like he is close to being on the last walk of his life); they sniff noses for a split second, but then Other Mama proclaims, “That’s enough!”, and sharply tugs her little old man away.  My dog would never try to eat such a frail, friendly guy, but Other Mama is not so sure about that.  (He did look sorta Cocoa Pebble–ish, mmmmm…)  Other Mama loudly announces that her troupe should probably continue on, maybe try the playground at the local elementary school.  I breathe a sigh of relief, as (if I am being totally honest) their presence was aggravating me (no! moi?!).  And causing my dog to choke to death.

I had already reached my playground limit (after a whopping 10 minutes), not wanting to have come in the first place.  Instead of feeling better, I am growing grouchier.  I suggest we romp down to the bridge to toss a couple of rocks in the creek, and then head home.  My sons race ahead of me; my (asphyxiating) dog follows them.  I tie the pup to the bridge post for a second, lean on the ledge to just breathe and soak in the scene, just for a moment.  I glance over to my children…

…and there is my oldest holding a decrepit, moldy Gatorade bottle right by its filthy plastic mouth.  I snap, totally irritated, “Put that down!  Can’t you see how dirty that is?  So DISGUSTING!  There’s germs on there, and they are going to make you sick, I tell you!  Sick!  Sick!  Sick!  GROSS!  Put it down!  Now!”  I see my son’s lip quiver, and the tears pool in his eyes.  “But, Mom,” he whispers feebly, “I was picking it up so I could go throw it in the trash.  The Love Project, remember?”  Oh, yeah.  The Love Project.  The grandiose project I had concocted and harped upon, the project which apparently my son had taken to heart, and here I am reprimanding him for actually doing what I had explained.  Ugh.

I softened, immediately.  “You’re right, honey!  Mommy’s so sorry for yelling, I forgot about the Love Project — how smart of you to remember!  The Love Project, of course!   All the different ways we can show love to others, and to the Earth–like cleaning up trash!  Go ahead, go throw the bottle in the garbage can!”  The baby happily followed suit, as he had found the orange top to the mildewed mouth of the disgusting Gatorade bottle.  I bit my tongue.  Enough about the germs.  I kept wishing I had bought them gloves, that I had a trash bag, that there wasn’t so much yucky garbage laying around here.  But watching my two sons joyously run to the [stinky] metal barrel to toss in their loving contributions, so proud to be cleaning Mother Earth (even the tiniest bit), I forgot my germophobia, my crabbiness.  My heart swelled.  The Love Project, yes!  Who needed a formal volunteer schedule?  Let’s pick up some damn trash in the park!  Right now!

And so it began…

Posted in Awakening, Environmental Awareness, Love, Motherhood, Spirituality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment