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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015 - Fears, Tears and Closing the Gap

It's here again, the holiday season.  Like it or not. 

This year I saw it coming and I dodged it, stared it down and then I wrestled with it.  I've personally felt the pain and frustrations as others wrestle with it and then got cranky and lashed out.  I get it.  It doesn't hurt any less but I understand how and why that happens. 

So at 4:15am today as the full brightness of the moon woke me from a dead sleep, I came to this decision on how I will navigate Thanksgiving.

There is so much that is difficult right now.  The news is full of fear and dread and pain and suffering.  Some of it real, some of it hyped to feed our fears masked as news.  My family is adjusting to a new season and new expectations, some changes are good and some are difficult.  My social media feed is full of people embracing their choices and lashing out from their fears; trying to cling to what they believe is right.  The divisions are big on every front; Gaps in beliefs and expectations. As our fears grow, the gaps grow bigger.

I let fear wrestle me to the ground last night. I hope the tears that fell into the pie crusts can be sweetened up with enough whipped cream tomorrow to make it all work out.  Because today I am cleansed and whole.  I refuse to be a part of widening the gap and feeding our fears.

Instead I will just choose to be grateful.  That's it. Simply grateful for all that I am, all that I have, all that will be.

I will pray like never before for the families of our courageous military soldiers fighting our battles. I will not try and solve it with political opinions and ideas and conversations.  I will pray for those that are hurting from the fears and the division that threatens to harden their hearts forever. I won't judge them or be frustrated by their hurt, nor will I take it on as my own.

I will look at my children with love and gratitude.  I will remember how special holidays were as a child, without all the fear and the mess, and I will honor their need to be loved simply.

I will mash the potatoes, watch my mother stress over the turkey, and sip whiskey in my coffee with my grandfather.  I will not widen the gap with fear.  I will shovel it full with love and patience and understanding. I will acknowledge that many do not see the world as I do and that is perfectly okay.  I will shovel the gap full of grace and forgiveness.  I will do it as an act of love and as a decision that I have made.  I am grateful for the brightness of a moon that brought clarity to an otherwise messy mind. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A New Season ... Saying Goodbye and Moving Forward

It has been an amazing summer full of fun and sun and music and laughter.  And on this Labor Day Weekend, the close out of the summer, the fun has been on full tilt.  And then today, as the friends and the kids were packing up to leave I was hit by this strange feeling I didn't want to acknowledge.  With two days left in the weekend and lots of offers for parties and more fun and festivity, I felt this pull to stay.  I fought it hard.  Staying busy, making plans, ready to continue the weekend ...... until I could no longer ignore it.

So I dropped off the last teenager to their next event and slowly made my way back home to do what I knew I needed to do.  The thing I've been ignoring all summer.  It was time to say goodbye.  It was time to let it all go.

This beautiful place that I call home is for sale.  The dream home that was built to fill up lots of broken places in people.  The cracks that couldn't be filled with wildflowers and wood floors. It's time to let it go.  It's time to move on.  I've been at peace with this decision for many months and started marketing this beautiful place on to the next great family who needs to love it well. 

And as I've been busy all summer living and loving and enjoying this life, I've not taken the time to really say goodbye to this property, this home, this season.

So I shut down my phone and all the outside world and I got to work.  I pulled the weeds and I mowed the lawn and I cleaned the floors, and I changed the sheets and I did it with love and gratitude,  just as I did  when it was being built.  No sadness or regret, just the love and gratitude for a season of life that will forever be in our hearts.

I was reminded earlier today while the kids were floating and jumping in the lake for this great holiday that this would be the last summer here.  I knew when I woke this morning that this season is coming to an end.  The summer season and the season of the lake house.  I'm ready, I'm ready for new adventures and new beginnings and new people and places.  I'm at peace and I am ready.

So just as the sun was setting with my favorite last light of the day, I jumped on the four wheeler and toured this place and said my goodbyes.  I stopped at each place and let the memories sink deep.  The flowers that were planted, the paths that were created, the laughs and the parties and the families we've welcomed.  The tears that I've shed on each path through these woods.  I remembered the neighbor girl the first time I met her standing tiny in her pink cowboy boots.  I remembered thinking, this little girl will become my daughter's friend and a part of our story.  And she has.  Now both beautiful young women.

And as I let go and said goodbye, I also said  goodbye to the pain and the guilt and the hurt and the suffering.  Because life is a package deal and you get the good with the bad and the sunshine with the storms.  I acknowledged them all for the beauty of this special season with love and gratitude, ready to let it go.  And as I rode through this place with the warm breeze in my face, I closed my eyes and felt the warm wash of grace and the permission to move forward knowing this place will honor another family and they will also love it well.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

We're all running from something ....

We're all running from something once in awhile.  Aren't we?

We think we're doing a good job of hiding it ...but I've talked to too many of you.We make mistakes, we do stupid shit. I know the pain and the things I hid for years. Then we stew in it and let it harden us and change us.  We pretend like we're the only ones that have screwed up.  We turn our face away like we're the only ones that are hurting and we can't bear to be seen.

We go inside.  We close the door and pull the curtains and we hope someone, maybe everyone will forget. Will forget what?  Will forget the thing we've been stewing on for days, weeks or maybe years? Or should we forget that we're all just human and sometimes we're sad and vulnerable and we make mistakes.  We say things, we do things we just want everyone to forget. 

So if we're all just a little screwed up why can't we just air that stuff out in the sunshine instead of locking it in the dark and damp where it festers and grows?   The sun would bleach it clean.  Light is the best disinfectant. Yet we hide it all in the damp and the dark and feed it to fester and become a bigger part of us than it deserves.

I reunited with an old friend this weekend that I hadn't seen in 31 years.  We talked long and hard about those years we had missed.  Too many of them were spent hiding from people that we loved, hoping they wouldn't see and feel our pain and our disappointment in ourselves.

And how the hell are we supposed to learn and grow and get better if we're so busy hiding and trying not to screw up.  I'm sick of it. Sick of the judgement and the fear and the inability to just lay ourselves out there and know that when the shit goes down we won't need to hide from it.

And when we do change and become more of ourselves, there's always someone waiting in the wings to call out those changes and try to knock us back. I'm sick of it.  I'm sick of people that want to tell me what my right and wrong should be.  I'm sick of the self righteous and the judgement that seeps from the pores of too many.

And I wish I could go back and change those times that I was that person.  I wish I could cleanse myself of the tendencies that I picked up over the years that were based on the fear and judgment of others.  So many times that I felt I couldn't be myself and over time it changed me.  Fear is a relentless bitch. 

I want to spend time with people that have a heart for the humanity of others, not their own version of right and wrong.  I'm sick of the expectations of others that I will do their version of the "right" thing; Wear the right things, say the right things, be their version of the right person.  Who got to make up all of those rules and expectations and how did I get so mixed up in it?  You get mixed up in it when you're hiding from your own pain.  When you hunker down in the damp and the dark choked with fear.

I want to know that someone, anyone  ... will let us air out our fear and hurt and trouble. Air it out in the sun and bleach it clean.  I want to know that someone will watch me do something stupid and then lovingly and knowingly help me air it out in the sun.  And if my stupid shit has hurt them, they will care enough to say, "Hey, that stupid shit hurt me and I'd like to get it aired out in the sun so we can move on."

Because really, who gets to decide what our mistakes really are?  Yea, that's right, none of us.  That's between me and God.  So let's just shine that Light on it and see what happens.  And the rest of you can go about your own business.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

I Saw My Grandmother at Starbucks this Morning .......The One That Passed Away

I knew today was a good day.  I felt it when I opened my eyes.  I felt it not from the sun or the lingering full moon or the flowers that are in full bloom.  I knew from inside.  I knew that my life was well aligned and all the uncertainty and the questions and the wondering about things was starting to ease into a sense of peace.  The struggles will remain, because life is riddled with those, but my sense of confidence and well-being had returned.

I took the girl to her last day of school and made my way to town, ready to take on my day.  I needed Starbucks time, both for the fuel and the time to plan some events of the day.  I chose a Starbucks I don't visit very often, ordered my fare and looked for a place to camp for awhile.  I chose a place at one of those long communal tables.  I sat down my bag and  looked up at my table partners, a mother and child.

Not just any child.  This child was angelic.  Hair spun like gold, eyes dancing and bright as the summer sun.  Her mother was leaning in, engaged completely with her child, a happy morning.  I could feel it.

I smiled at the sight of them.  Then I looked at the child's cup and written on it was the name Elsie.  I blinked and looked again.  We all know that Starbucks isn't famous for getting names right on our cup.  This was not a common name, Elsie.  The name of my grandmother.  My favorite person on the planet grandmother that I watched take her last breath and delivered her eulogy that more than 10,000 of you have read.  I shake it off and assume it must be Elsa from Frozen fame but still a nice coincidence. 

But I must know. 

I smile at this beautiful angel and I say, "Honey, what's your name?" And there in what now feels like slow motion she says, "Elsie" with a shy little smile to her Starbucks stranger.  My heart melts, I am covered in chills and I smile at her mother and say, "Oh my, that's my grandmother's name."  We chat that her beautiful angel is also named after her grandmother and what a wonderful coincidence with a not so common name on this summer morning.

I lean down and say to little Elsie, "that's a beautiful name, honey, you must have a big heart because everyone I've ever known named Elsie has an amazingly big heart." 

I return to the counter, retrieve my drink, still a little shaken and covered in chills.  As I pass by little Elsie I can't resist knowing more so I persist.  "Honey, what is your middle name?"  And in the tiny voice of a preschooler she says, "Rose". And now I'm unable to speak, I surely must not have heard her correctly so I ask one more time and she confirms.  Elsie Rose.    My exact grandmother's name. 

And my tears well and the mom's eyes get soft.  Thankfully she's not afraid of this stranger who has now completely inserted herself into their morning.  I tell the mom that my grandmother was a huge part of my life and I was with her at the end and delivered her eulogy that so many have read and how it always makes me feel like I have honored her well.  The mom is wonderful and kind and lets me have my amazing moment with her daughter.  And I'm grateful to be in public because I find a way to swallow the sobbing that has risen in my throat. 

So today is a really good day.  It's a day of knowing and assurance and love and protection.  My angels are all in place, with Grandma taking the lead.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Pause From Those Freakin' Expectations. A Dream.

Expectations are a real bitch sometimes. 

Aren't they?

We all have them.  For each other, for ourselves.

Sometimes I want to close the door on the little fuckers and take a break. 

I want to award us all a slight "pause" in life from expectations. 

For a short period of time, a couple of hours, a whole day maybe, my God should I dream of a whole weekend?........... just to let the expectations cease.  No one waiting on the project to be completed, the meeting to be set, the SAT tutoring to get scheduled, the dishes to be done, the exercise to happen. 

No one looking at me and thinking where I've been, what I've done, what should I, could I be doing.

My mind to slow down and gently set all of my own expectations for myself aside for just a freakin' minute.  Just a little box by the door where I'll pick them up later.

Even those that love us unconditionally, like our parents, have expectations.  That we'll stay safe, and happy and fulfilled.  Everyone has expectations, some more realistic and healthy than others.

Just a little break.

A break from thinking of others and what they expect of me and how disappointed they might be in me, especially those that are unwilling to expect more from themselves, I absolutely want a break from them.

I even want a tiny break from the dreaming of what could be for myself.  The hopes and dreams and good stuff.  I even want a break from that. 

So tonight I tried to do this for myself.  I ran a bath so hot  and full of sweet smelling bubbles and I lie there thinking of nothing until it ran cold.  But you can't really think of nothing can you?  It's impossible.

So instead I decided to dream about what I would do with those expectation free hours.  My own private pause.

I would put on my favorite pair of jeans and the old boots I've loved for years. Shake out my favorite broken down t-shirt.  I'd stroll into a broken down bar where, unlike Cheers, no one knew my name. 

And in my little dream, there would be an old bartender that made the drinks with a nice long pour and knew how to weave a good tale.  And the pool table would be free and the jukebox would be full of classic rock.

There I'd mix with the locals who didn't know my name and didn't give a damn about wondering who I was. And we'd laugh and shoot some stick and sing along as loud as we wanted. Pull out some air guitar when appropriate, because that's what happens when a great song comes on and you're holding a pool cue.  And the table would have just enough warp to let you know it had been around awhile and didn't expect too much from itself. 

Just a few hours.

Then I'd come home, gently pick up my expectations from the box by the door and carry on.  Simple.

But it isn't. Simple.

So maybe we all need to just give each other a little break.  Give ourselves a break.  Maybe it's time to crank the Tom Petty and sing because you can, not because you're good, like he did.

Maybe we just need to remember that what will be will be and to just try to give each other a little break.  Or give ourselves a little break.   From those freakin' expectations.

And if you see me in your bar this weekend, please just buy me a drink and put some more quarters in the jukebox. Maybe some CCR?  You pick, I'll sing along.  Pass me the chalk.

What's your pause day look like?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

For the Love of Shannon Hoon

 I'm writing this post today out of complete love and admiration for my son.  An artist.  A true artist with an artist's soul. Something that I wish every parent could witness and more importantly I wish everyone could learn to appreciate.

Shannon Hoon was the lead singer of the band, Blind Melon.  A band that those of us growing up in Indiana, loved with a passion.  We loved their music, we loved their proximity.  We felt a part of something as we watched our fellow Hoosiers take the world by storm.

Shannon's story took a tragic turn with his death from a drug overdose at age 28.  An artist's soul can be a place of torment. 

My son, a true musician, an artist's soul, was introduced to Blind Melon through the CDs he adopted from his father and me. He became mesmerized by Shannon's story because the music spoke to him in a way that none had before.  He would tell me at age thirteen,  he wanted to make music that was genre breaking just like Blind Melon.  Something so unique that it brought about complete change in the way that people loved and experienced it.  And the fact that his father had spent more than a few reckless nights with young Shannon before the fame, was fanning his flame for Shannon's story.

When my son learned of this Kickstarter program he called me first thing in the morning while I was away on vacation and asked me if I'd seen it and would I help share it.  When your son asks, you respond. And because I am still a rabid fan of Blind Melon today often jamming "Change" in the car so loud it rattles the windows and reshapes my soul.  When my son knows it's a tough day for me he'll just show up with his acoustic and start strumming "Change" because he knows the calming salve of music to a troubled soul.

My hope is that through the support and love for my son's gift that he'll continue to be inspired to share his story and let the love of music stir his soul for many years to come.  He also fears the torment of fame.  He has said many times, he hopes he can get just good enough to inspire people with his music but not famous enough to lose his place in the world.

I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch this video and consider donating to the cause.

Shannon's story ended too soon and those of us that have loved Blind Melon for all of these years, want more of the story to unfold.  

 Donate Here - Kickstarter

Just a sneak peak .....


I don't feel the suns comin' out today
its staying in, its gonna find another way.
As I sit here in this misery, I don't
think I'll ever see the sun from here.

And oh as I fade away,
they'll all look at me and say, and they'll say,
Hey look at him! I'll never live that way.
But that's okay
they're just afraid to change.

When you feel your life ain't worth living
you've got to stand up and
take a look around you then a look way up to the sky.
And when your deepest thoughts are broken,
keep on dreaming boy, cause when you stop dreamin' it's time to die.

And as we all play parts of tomorrow,
some ways will work and other ways we'll play.
But I know we all can't stay here forever,
so I want to write my words on the face of today.
and then they'll paint it

And oh as I fade away,
they'll all look at me and they'll say,
Hey look at him and where he is these days.
When life is hard, you have to change. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Artist: one courageous enough to look past your judgement

I've been thinking a lot about artists lately.  The one I strive to be, the man-child I am coaching and raising, and those that I admire for their well known work.  Writers, musicians, painters, poets, chefs, leaders; their craft is not nearly as important as their method and their beliefs.  Mostly their belief in themselves and their courage. 

What I've grown to love and appreciate about artists .........the only thing that separates them from the everyman, is their courage.

 An artist is courageous enough to look past your judgement and push through to produce the art. 

I've watched my son take the pain of middle school and the judgement of high school and shrink a bit to try to fit in.  And then to watch him discover the beauty of his own art and slowly, very slowly become more courageous.  Courageous enough to embrace his differences to acknowledge the art is too big and must come out.  The art is about the creating, not always about the outcome. The songs must be written, the music must be played.  And those that are shrinking to fit in and be liked are missing out on the art and the joy of creating.

Some day he may be applauded for his courage but for today he must muster deep deep from within.  Before the applause, before the external glorification of his worth, he must find it deep from within.  He must find it in the creating.

We all possess the artist inside. Those granted with the title of artist, had the courage to look past your judgement and just create. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Am Broken

I am so so broken.  And by the way, I'm guessing so are you.

I've spent a lot of time trying to do things right.  To be the right person.  To know the right things. 

And I'm done. Not because I'm giving up, but because I've seen the Light.

Now I'm going to be me, all of me, broken 'ole me. 

I've looked around at all of us and this is what I know for sure, the only thing we have in real common is our brokenness. 

Our sin, our trauma, our anxiety and our brokenness is who we really are.  This huge knot of complexity that we spend too much time standing apart from one another wondering if your knot is bigger than mine, or maybe you don't see mine if I cover it with enough.

Enough of this, enough of that, none of it is enough to cover the brokenness. 

And what would happen if we really covered it all?  All of what we really have in common.

 In it's sheer complexity of brokenness is our commonality and our connection.

So as I stand in this new moon, this full and beautiful Beacon of Light, what I know is this.......all that we can hope to know ....... is what is pure and true. 

And the rest.  Well, the rest is just our mess.  And guess who loved our mess the best?

Because when we're at our worst, the Maker of Light still loves us the best. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What Needs To Die?

What needs to die in you? 

For you to truly grow
and regenerate
and live fully
and live bravely?

Is it time for you to regenerate?

Is it time to create?
Is it time to regenerate your spirit?
Is it time for you to restore to a better state?
Is it time for you to feel worthy?

What is missing in your life?  Do you even know what's missing?  Do you feel lost and frustrated?

Like a seed ready to germinate, it first must die.

A fire across the land will bring the flowers and grass back lusher than before. 

In order to grow and flourish and live fully alive, sometimes something must first die.

What needs to die in you?

Is it your anger?
Or your worry?
Or your secrets?

What do you need to shed in order to live fully alive?

Are you living in a vicious loop of frustration?  Waiting for something to change?

Maybe it is you that must change.  Maybe it is something that must first die in you.

Maybe today is the day that you just say a small timid prayer and ask for change, ask to be regenerated, ask to be changed.

Maybe today you decide to leave the anger and the worry and your secrets behind and today you just quietly pray.  Nothing fancy.  Just ask. Be humble, be ready, be open. 

Isn't it time to flourish and grow and bloom?  He's ready.  Just ask.

 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Compassion for Teens

I was invited to participate in a wonderful event called 1000 Voices for Compassion.  I took one look at the outline and immediately clicked accept.  Because this world can use about 5 million tons more compassion.

I accepted this invitation more than a week ago and I've been noodling my thoughts about compassion. Watching for it, looking for opportunities where compassion immediately comes to mind.  The blogger who invited us to participate in this movement tagged the invite with this:

Compassion begins at home and there are so many ways to teach our children to be compassionate, so many ways to show compassion toward one another.
I go to a large church with many outreach groups that serve those in need; orphans, addicts, homeless, lots of places to place your compassion far and wide.  That's the easy place to muster up compassion isn't it?  We expect to feel compassion for those that have been marginalized. It's the "right thing to do". 

Aren't there other places that could use some compassion?  Aren't there places inside our own homes and schools and grocery stores that could use some compassion?  The place I felt called to write about most is with our teens.  This teen group cries out for compassion and somehow we just give them higher expectations in the name of good parenting.  Study more, practice harder, don't wear that, don't eat that, why are you screaming at me, why are you screaming at your sister?

Maybe they're screaming for some compassion.

I find it completely ironic that a pregnant woman evokes such compassion.  We say things like, Oh those hormones make things so difficult and aren't you just exhausted, it's so hard when your body is changing and you just can't explain your moods"  If you really think about it, isn't it the same for our teens?  Hormones surging, exhausted, bodies changing.  Yet instead of asking them to put their feet up and get some rest, we rattle them out of bed with chores and expectations to do more and be more.

What if they just need a nap.  What if they just need someone to put an arm around their crabby selves and say, "Maybe you should just chill out for awhile and rest."  And allow them to rest without guilt and a lecture about grades or their next soccer match.

The Boston Globe ran an article in July 2014 sharing the results of a survey of 10,000 middle and high school students conducted by Harvard's Graduate School of Education.  

The students ranked compassion or caring for others below achievement and happiness.  This should concern you.  As we push our students to achieve more and more guess where they now find value..... yep..... in achievement.  While we're busy making sure they study hard and get into all the right classes and get the right grades, and get picked for the right teams, we've sent the message loud and clear that their grades and achievement are more important than caring for others.

I'm quite sure we didn't mean to make this shift in the culture of our children, but we darned well better find a way to change it.  Listen around your house this week. What  are the messages we are sending to our kids?  What do we ask about, what do we praise, what do we encourage?

It might be time to give the kids a rest and a healthy dose of compassion for this hormonal exhausting time in their lives.  Teach them love and compassion by extending it to them.  If we extend them more compassion, maybe they'll learn to extend it to each other. Maybe that's what's really wrong with the kids these days.  Maybe they've learned to be hard on each other because that's what we've accidentally taught them at home.  Maybe we've bought into the lie that if you work really hard and get really good grades and get into the best schools, you'll get the best job, and find the best spouse, and live in the best house, and have the best kids and go on the best vacations. When the truth is, you'll wake up some day exhausted and miserable from always trying to be the best.  Maybe our definition of best is all a huge crock and that's what is really wrong with our kids these days.

So in the name of #1000speak for compassion, I'm going to work harder to praise these beautiful teenagers for their loving hearts and their beautiful souls.  And I'm going to remember they are a raging ball of emotions and hormones and sometimes they just need a hug and a free pass to rest.