Monday, December 31, 2012

Sometimes Life Just Gives You Lemons....

And sometimes it can last a whole year. The acidic taste in my mouth leftover from 2012 has me in a permanent pucker. I am sad. I am disenchanted. I am disheartened. I am not amused. As we pop a cork to celebrate the incoming new year. I am looking for something, anything, to quell the blue emptiness I am feeling inside. Where is my lemonade?

Sometimes, after buoying up on hope and optimism for awhile, I need to enter a glum period. A down period of rest and quiet hibernation. 2012 was that for me. The bright spots of hope were short and ephemeral. The dark days of strife and challenge seemed ever present. The funny thing about being in the dark is that your eyes adjust to it and, after a while you can see some light in the darkness. That is the extent of the high points of last year...minor glimpses of something through a haze of dark.

But it will not always be this way. I know this. I am a woman of faith. I believe in a strong God who has plans for me that are not visible from where I stand. From where I stand, my view is obstructed, and like all human beings, I forget sometimes that this is not all there is. When people say live in the moment, that is all well and good, but in order to truly live in the moment, you need (at least) three other things:

1) You need faith. If you don't believe there is a God and plan, how can you set down your worries, cast off your burdens and kick up your heels in the now? If you don't have faith, and you're stuck in a horrible moment, how will you get through it? Living in a horrible moment really stinks if no one's got your back.

2) You need an ability to let things go. Letting go of the past you are tripping on in your present, letting go of your worries that are based on hard life experiences. Letting go with the belief that those things that are meant to be permanent in your life are there, they are permanent, even if you don't control them and hold onto them and make them stay in your life. This is not about being ok with loss, it's about knowing and trusting that you will be ok, in spite of your sad feelings and loss.

3) You need patience. You need to be willing to wait for things to happen in their own time and to be able to delay your need for instant gratification. We live in an American world that has served to make us lazy and impatient. We are so well stuffed on the consumptions of our life that we want for nothing...this means when we DO want for something, we get petulant like a three-year-old stomping our feet. I WANT WHAT I WANT AND I WANT IT NOW. This will not do...wanting is about yearning for the future. Yearning for something you do not have or cannot have is not living in the moment.

This year, 2013, will be one for me to practice living in the moment. I have already started collecting words of wisdom to help feed me on this quest. I can do it. I know I can.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief

Usually, Doubting Thomas doesn't cross my mind until Lent. I have always adored him. Who doesn't love Thomas? With his finger probing Jesus' wound and his doubts, so human. We love him like we love the kid in sex education who is brave enough to ask the questions that are on all our minds. We all doubt. We all have reason to doubt now and again. When something happens and doesn't go our way, when a prayer seems woefully unanswered, or when a tragedy befalls us.

Let's face it, we all have dark periods of doubt. As Buechner puts it, "Doubts are the ants in the pants of Faith." Without doubting and questioning, our faith is blind. We move dumbly, in rote dogma, toward a God who promises good things, but are not in active discussion with that God. We don't ask the hard questions if we don't doubt. And now is the time for hard questions.

Why our community? Why TWENTY babies? TWENTY innocent children and SEVEN adults? What can we do to rectify our faith and this event?

The first question is "Why does God allow such horror?"

Then, "Is there even a God, if such horror exists?"

And lastly, "And, without a God, how will we ever recover?"

Our instincts are to try and regain control. We try and focus on the heroes and heroines of the story. We attempt to twist our belief system to fit such a monstrous happening. And when it doesn't fit, we are left with a big question, do we doubt the existence of a loving God in the face of such evil and hate?

There are not reasons for what happened on Friday the 14th in Newtown, CT. There is no lovely, Chicken Soup for the Soul answer that will box it all up and put a pretty ribbon on it. There was a horrible event. Sure there were good people peppered throughout said horrible event, but it was horrific. It stinks to the core.

So, what did we do? As a nation, we took it all in. Obsessive for details and more information. We wanted to know WHY? HOW? and awfully, WHAT HAPPENED? Now we know what happened in a timelined sort of 9:40 this happened and at 10:10, this. But, we are interested in the motives, the drivers, the psychology and pathology of the occurence. Maybe, I think we think, if I can just wrap my head around why and how it happened, I can guard against it in the future? Maybe, I can regain some of the lost control I am feeling now that my world is topsy turvy?

I have fallen prey to all this humaness. I have taken to my bed and hid. I have obsessed over every detail. I have even become despondent thinking about the Mayan prediction stating that NEXT FRIDAY (not this one) is to be the end of the world as we know it....maybe they were off by one Friday? After all, it was thousands of years ago?

I have become a feather in the wind. No longer am I rooted and purposeful. No. I am floating and spinning and unpredictable. And then, I remember my faith. I remember that my faith is not there to provide answers and spell out science. Faith's world is the unknown and the unexpected. Faith shines light where there is darkness.When you are in a deep abyss, faith throws you a line and a flashlight. It doesn't. unfortunately, come down into the abyss and spirit you out. It requests that you meet it halfway. Here are the tools to save yourself. Now, go ahead and save yourself.

How? Give it over to God. Let God take the reins. Let God be in charge. Pray, hunker down and be thankful and grateful. Don't fall prey to the attemps to control it all yourself....blame, contention, anger, tenacious beliefs are all ways of trying to believe that we still are in control. Maybe, if we can campaign for gun control reform, or fight for safety in our schools, we can get an insured certainty that this WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN. Not gonna happen.

This is the world. It's a human world. There are humans in it who will do both noble and abhorrent things. When noble things happen, you will stride into church and be proud. You will thank God for his righteousness and for the helping hands he has extended. When abhorrent things happen, you will cower. You will wonder where God is? You will doubt. You are human. It is to be expected. Faith is not a guarantee of a life without adversity. It's the promise that no matter what God is there with us. God is laughing with us when we are overjoyed.
He is dancing with us in ebullience when we receive great news.
And, when bad things happen, he is sobbing, like we are sobbing. God is not able to stop the bad from happening just as we are not able to, but when it comes, He is still by our side. Holding us. Stroking us. Continually there trying to breathe faith back into our deflated bodies.

He has the benefit of being outside of time and of knowing Heaven and we do not, but we are wrong in thinking He needed these kids with him or he took them to live in Heaven. He may have known what would happen on Friday morning, but it did not make Him any happier than it made us when it did. In fact, I think God is groaning with the weight of the entire world's suffering. His hands are open to allow us to pass as much or as little of it that we are willing to relenquish over to Him. For some, less close to the situation, we will be able to do that soon. For others, it may take years.. Much time will need to pass before the wounds stop being raw and open, before the anger dissipates. I pray for that day. I want it now. But I know I cannot control that any more than I can stop the bad things from happening.

I am left with no choice but to, however cliched, Let Go and Let God. Help my unbelief.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

LIke a Spinning Top, Sometimes we Lose Our Balance

If you stand over a spinning top, one that is spinning cleanly, you can clearly see a dot around which the top is circling...a clearly defined center. If something knocks the top, even slightly, the orbit rattles and wobbles and there is a messy center...Off course it goes. Spinning out of control.

Life is like this. It's our ability to reset our spinning, refind our center and begin afresh that brings us back into alignment. What is it that helps you find your center? What tricks do you use for reset?

Recently, I lost a job opportunity about which I was very excited. I am usually able to look to God and pray for understanding that this was a path that was not meant to be. I am struggling this time. I want to know it all. I want to understand why this fell apart after two solid months of interviews and moving closer to the goal. Why?

Maybe, the way we recenter isn't always getting over it. Maybe, it's not always focusing on the fact that it wasn't meant to be. Maybe, it's about acknowledging that it sucks. Not everything is going to be easily rationalized and I am not always going to be able to justify it. Nope. Sometimes it just sucks.

Like the spinning top, sometimes the whole thing has to be knocked down. Comepletely off course, it has to be flattened to the table...and then picked back up and restarted on a clean path...on a new trajectory. Only to eventually peter out and fly out of control again.

In acknowledging the suckiness of life, we do not pretend we are spinning cleanly. No. We realize we have been flattened to the table. It's time to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.

Life is a series of these toddles. Down we fall, head over teakettle, onto our faces. But God is there either way...encouraging us to stand back up. Urging us on, like a one year old learning to walk, He is holding out his hands and saying, "C'mon, you can do it!"

We all fall down.
We get back up.
And we toddle forward.
And gather our steam and start spinning in control again.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Reprise: Big Undies from Momzilla

This morning I saw this picture on Facebook and it instantly took me back to a Momzilla incident from 2003...

Big Underpants

This one goes out to my friend Tiff. She's had a bit of a rough month, so this story is dedicated to her sense of humor. She once told me that mere mention of the word underpants can send her into hysterics. It comes from a high school variety show where one of her peers did a comedy act centering around the word "underpants." Classic Tiff. This is the story of some underpants...some BIG ASS panties.

So one day, my in-laws came over. They come over a lot and visit with Elena and help us out. My mother-in-law is a primo bargain hunter so she always has a few gifts to share. This particular visit, she had been to the local Filenes which was closing. They had "slim-pickings," but she was able to find a few things. She brought me a bra that could have doubled as a baby sling for the new baby. I think it was a 44 DD. I may be a bit more buxom while pregnant, but no where NEAR that size. I politely declined saying that lace bras with padding make me itch. Phew...that was a near miss.

She rummaged in the Filenes shopping bag some more and produced three pairs of underpants. I was looking down at the time, going through some pictures. She annouced that these were for when I "get big and pregnant." They were a size 12. Well, size 12 is smaller than my regular size of pants. Apparently, underwear are sized very differently. A size 8 is the equivalent of a size 16 pants size. So, a 12 is a touch bigger...Here is what a size 12 in underpants looks like:

(Note: It is with great humility, and the sake of a laugh, that I show this picture as I took it for a friend and it's just plain embarassing. It's the Friday night look, robe, hair up, no make-up, etc. So just focus on the underpants.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Great Work, Anne?

Nothing strikes more trepidation in the heart of a parent than a child's first progress report, from a new school, with a new teacher, and when behavior is clearly be a problem. It's amazing in our modern technological world how little has changed in the world of report cards. Sure they used to be hand-written and now they are computer printed, but other than that, they still come in the same odd little privacy envelope, folded in thirds and with the same I-Inconsistent and C-Consistent...1, 2, 3, 4 grading scales...somehow not using actual grades, but breaking tasks down into skills and giving them a number proficiency is supposed to help direct the teaching and learning of a student?

Anyhow, it's that time. Time for my kiddos to get their first report cards. First I looked at Elena's which is almost always predictable. Good work in spelling and writing...pretty good in reading...math struggles...would love to see more class participation...more social interaction. Pretty much the opposite of mine as a child (from a behavioral standpoint). Definitely, the opposite of Liam's....Usually...

This year, however, Liam's held some surprises. First I noticed that there was Inconsistent performance at talking in turn and staying on task...oh yes, that's Liam, for sure. Then, the report card looked really good. Mostly 3's, some 2's. Pretty expected for a 1st grader working on the skills that they will need to perfect by the end of the year. It is with great relish I look to the "comments" section. This is the section where I get to really hear the voice of the teacher and understand what they think of my kids.

Liam's comments section derailed the whole report card experience.

So, my question is where does "Anne" end and "Liam" begin?

The 24-Day Mystery

Never once did our Advent calendar hold candy, or chocolates, or even small toys, or stickers. Nope. Always there was just a picture inside that little paper door. The picture might be of a hobby horse, spinning top or stocking if we had gotten the calendar from our secular grandparents,  or an image with a more "reason for the season" message if we had gotten it from the other side of the family. Either way, it should not have been all that exciting. And yet, somehow it was. Somehow, wrestling with the perforated edges of those tiny flaps became as exciting as any other holiday treat and, like other holiday treats, caused much bickering among the sisters Sassano.

Whose turn was it to open the door tonight? Who was going to get to open the "BIG" door on the 24th? Gathered around the tiny fingers of one sister prying up the paper flap, the other sisters were crowded around, impinging on her space and pressing their faces in close so they could be the first ones to see the blot of color behind it. We always started off the month of December with excellent rigor and discipline, but I fear we left many an Advent calendar opened through the twelfth or so and abandoned.

I even remember a year or two when we recycled a calendar for the next year's season. Opening the calendar loses all its luster when the perforation has already been ripped through and the doors are popping open willy nilly as the calendar is twisted in little hands. Pop. Pop. Pop. Go to open one door and three dislodge themselves and fling wide revealing their secrets. The mystery is gone. The secrets, last year's secrets, no longer interesting.

We are about to relive the tradition here in the Gill household. I wonder how the Advent calendar will compare to the electronic devices and Netflix shows. Is there still appeal in a mystery image behind a thin cardboard door? I am hoping there's enough to interest us, but not so much as to incite fighting. That would be a lovely Advent gift.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Struggle for Good? Good Struggle?

"The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
M. Scott Peck

I am currently reading The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and am coming to terms with some facets of my personality I have never really acknowedged before. I believe I have a "giving-up neurosis." When I try to understand "why" I am stumped. I had a very supportive and loving family. I had a mother who was my best friend and was there for me, almost to her own exclusion. I did not doubt that I was securely loved. So, what might my "traumatic injury" be?

Then I started thinking about the moves. The sheer number of times I moved and left friends, sitters, teachers, neighbors, etc. Could it be that by moving on over ten times throughout my childhood caused me to have a problem with letting go? I'm sure it's possible. To a child, is a move where everything past is gone, never to be seen again, any different than a death?

Then I think about how I parent my child who has a personality like my own: Liam. He is overwhelming in his need for constant engagement. I am firm with him and forced to say things to him that a parent hopes to never have to say to their child. Things like, "Son, I am doing my own thing, you do your own thing and no, I do not want to hear about it." or "Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please, please, please stop talking and go away." It's just too much.

When I think of how I was treated, it's not ever badly, but there was certainly a desperate need for escape on my mother's part at times. She would "conveniently" need to do laundry on the other end of the house and spirit quietly away while I was otherwise engaged. I'm sure she, like me, prayed that an engaging show would come on TV. Anything for a break.

Could that have had an impact? Maybe, the key is not to know WHY the problem exists, but to just know that it does. Maybe the thing on which I need to work is the letting go. I cannot tenaciously hold fast to everything or I will a hot air balloon, trying desperately to float, some baggage must be released.

And so I conclude with another Peck that seems to wrap it all up nicely with a bow...

“We must be willing to fail and to appreciate the truth that often "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived."”

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Of Wood-Stock

I was asked to write about this by a fellow blogging friend, so I will. It's always been one of my guilty pleasures, to shock people with my "Conceived at Woodstock" credential. In some crowds, it buys me instant coolness. In other crowds, I have to quickly back pedal and tell that other side of the story.

My parents lived in Chappaqua, NY. They were both from decently well-off families. They asked their parents if they could go to this concert they saw advertised in the back of LIFE magazine. They sent away for tickets. They were 18, just young-uns. My mom attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, my dad, Middlebury in Vermont. They had been high school prom dates and sweethearts. It was the summer of love, 1969, and they were no exception.

Unlike some of the hippies who headed up to New York for the big gig, my parents were Boy Scout prepared. They had coolers, a tent, firewood, Swiss Army knives, an axe, food for armies...basically supplies up the wazoo. They even had bathing suits so they could be the only ones depicted in bathing suits in that ever-famous nude-mud-orgy bathing hole picture that is on the cover of at least one Woodstock coffee table book. Somewhere, in that picture is a rather tall leggy fellow (6'5") and his adorable Polly Pocket girlfriend (5'3"). They kind of stand out.

A couple of years back, they gave me their original Woodstock program for a Christmas gift. Sadly, their tickets (which of course never got ripped or punched) got misplaced over the years. I do actually remember seeing them. I also think I remember seeing some sort of a parking pass, which of course also became moot. Wish we had all that memorabilia now, though.

They stories they remember are chaotic and have come to me through the years like colorful snapshots. The two I remember best were when they had cooked up their steaks on their portable grills, how the hippies gathered zombie-like at their "campsite" to try and get handouts and when an errant zombie hippie wandered into their tent while they were having a real "sumer of love" moment. Let's just say, "Get out hippie guy! There's a baby to be conceived here!" I will remain eternally grateful for that tent my parents packed and took with them that offered them (however incomplete) shelter and privacy. Without it, I might not be here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

How To Derail Your Work Day...From An Expert...

Is there a world record for procrastination? How about dorkiness? Quirkiness? Nature loving? Pretty sure not, but I would be up there among the finalists...there is, however, a world record for "largest oak leaf" which I have just SHATTERED. Sorry little Plebon boy...I blew the doors off your record.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Carrots or Candy Bars?

Today I learned a new categorization. I think a friend of a friend made it up, but I'm sure all my myriad readers will inform me if this is not the case and this is indeed a social maxim I have missed. Anyhow, apparently women can be categorized quite simply as carrot sticks or candy bars. Carrot sticks are wholesome, good for you, healthy choices. Candy bars are sinful, tasty, ephemeral and bad for you. If you are a man and you categorize women like this, shame on you....but, do tell me where I stand on your continum. If you are woman, ask your man. Am I a carrot stick or a candy bar? Turns out I am carrot cake...interesting...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lovely Innocence

Most of our deepest family conversations happen as we are bopping along on country roads in the Volvo...for example, yesterday I found out that my daughter wants to kiss a boy in her class! Gulp. This conversation was no exception.

Liam: "There is a boy in school who says that two boys cannot get married."

Elena: (piping right up indignantly) "You KNOW they can, Liam. What about Doug and Kyle? Or even T and A who are geting married soon?"

Liam: "Hmmmmmm..."

Me: "Maybe that boy comes from a family who does not believe that two men should marry each other. Not every body believes it is right. Like your Grammy Gill does not believe it is right. Her religion says it is not right."

Elena: (incredulous and getting feisty) "WHAT???!?!! What if when I grow up I want to marry a girl?"

Me: "Well, then you would be doing what you want and believe and not what others or Grammy Gill want or believe. That's what you have to do with love, follow your heart and your beliefs."

Tuning In to Tune Out

When you never watch TV, or rarely do...What happens?

When we moved to the Mountain, I decided to subtly encourage less TV watching as a family by discontinuing all live TV. We still have Netflix available for those long rainy weekends or parenting FAIL moments, but for the most part we live without TV. This means, for me, I live without the opiate of the masses. Without the distraction of a good plot or a steamy character interaction. There are pros and cons.

On the positive side, I am never lulled into inactivity by wanting to catch the end of a show, a movie or  just by the droning box. My kids choose to play outside much, much more than they used to. I get outside and hike much, much more than I used to. I read and find other diversions that are almost as distraction, without as much soul sucking.

On the negative side, however, I find my mind to be overactive. I seem to build stories and create long tales in my head. Thoughts are creative and sometimes my own created thoughts are killing me. It would be nice to plug into a TV show or two and just tune out. I miss the tuning in to tune out.

The ways I tune out as of late are far less socially acceptable than a person watching a TV program. When I was little, if my dad was watching a game or a show, we would be shushed, or told, "You make a better door, than a window" if we passed in between him and the screen. When you are lost in thought, daydreaming or texting on your phone, just try and hold up a hand to shush someone. See how that goes over.

So yeah, I am becoming far more addicted to my iPhone. Really, who needs to proudly say they have no TV if they are constantly staring into the tinier screen of their iPhone?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Mid-Life Crisis

The new mid-life crisis is not about money. It's not about acquisition of a new Ferrari or an extravagant vacation. Lord, wouldn't that be simple. Would that we could go back to the vapidness of the 80's. I wish a fur coat or a yacht would solve these crises. So, what ARE they about? As a 42-year-old woman, I feel I can speak to this because I have found myself in the middle of one for the past few years. The new mid-life crisis is still about wealth, but it's about personal wealth, personal value and self-worth.

Maybe the old mid-life crisis and the new mid-life crisis were both about self-worth, it's just that one generation was easily appeased by throwing a Porsche at it? I don't know. What I do know is that a lot of my peers and I are experiencing similar feelings of restlessness, wanderlust and a feeling like "something is missing." What do we have to figure out? What is it we need? Our answers do not fall in the material world. I have seen mission trips, religion, new jobs, starting new businesses, outreach programs, and other "solutions" abound.

I, myself, have been searching to fill my restlessness with many things: numerous projects, church, a new job, quitting my stable job, relationships, writing, hiking... I am seeking to understand what the restlessness is saying and to quiet it. I want it to shut up. God and being in nature are the closest I have come to being able to silence its needy voice. What do you need? What do I need to do? I am trying to just in the moment and batten down the hatches until I again can attain a feeling of serenity and calm. I'm getting closer. The less I seek, the more I seem to find. It's really very ironic.

I do wonder though, if our stereotypical 80's mid-lifers rode around in their Ferraris with a bad taste in their mouths thinking, "I thought this was going to help..." At least I my Band Aids aren't costing me $100,000!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Get It...Life's Not Fair

If it's not one thing, it's another.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's a Constant Battle of Wills

Once, a long time ago, I led a group of people at church in the "Alpha" program. This program was for Episcoplalian churches to host small dinners and for church members to invite their questioning friends to come and ask their questions. I, with another gentleman, ran a small discussion group. I remember one night in particular we discussed the issue of control. How we always want to believe we have control over our lives, but how we are so much better off when we give God the reins.

The example I brought as an analogy to teach this group is still one I think of when I am trying to remember to let God lead. It requires some knowledge of antiquated computer systems. Back in the day, there used to be a computer help desk in Toronto that would assist us in our remote NYC office by tapping into our computer. The technology (called PC Anywhere) was one of the first remote access computer softwares. In order to enable someone to use it on your machine you had to do three things:
1) Ask for help
2) Open the connection and let the help desk have access to your mouse and keyboard
3) NOT touch your own mouse or keyboard and trust their ability to fix the problem
If you held onto the mouse while they were also trying to drive, you would be stuck in a deadlock. No one would be helping. If you let go of the mouse and let them drive, their (much more complete knowledge) could quickly solve the problem. It was hard to continue to remember to not touch the keyboard or was hard to remember that you were not the one driving, but if you could, you would realize you were in safe and capable hands and the problem was on its way to being solved.

Just this weekend, my mom told me of a sermon at her church where the minister said, "Goodness! I am so glad God is in charge or I would be worried and freaked out all the time." When I find myself worried and freaked out, I look down to see that the reins are in my own hands or that I am grabbing the mouse...I toss them up gleefully and ask God's help in my giving it all over to Him.

Yesterday, I realized I was again trying to convolute everything...trying to corral matters and events to go a certain way like an errant sheepdog. I went hiking and through walking and praying gave it all over AGAIN relinquishing control. Within two hours, I had two calls for job interviews...the first in quite some time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tis Merely a Flesh Wound...

Lately life has been handing out a lot of lemons...I feel like every time I start to buoy up, I get chopped off at the knees...truncated. I have numerous times remembered The Black Knight from Monty Python. I am trying to maintain a sense of humor about things. In case you live under a rock, here is the scene:

My positive attitude and buoyancy has had about all it can take at this point. I am laid low. I thought about taking a personal inventory of 2012, but felt that was really dwelling in the negative. Per my mother's advice, I toss out prayers at the situation constantly. By my own advice, I am hiking the hell out of myself. And the advice continues to pour in, for which I am grateful. If I felt I were fighting this battle with no one in my corner, it would be next to impossible.

Anyhow, I promise, Kiki with the sarcasm and ridiculous observations should be back soon. Just as soon as I find a way out of this here quicksand.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I Should NEVER Worry About Alone Time

Never, Ever, Ever...

Alone vs. Lonely

Have I written about this before? I'm sure I have. It's such a pervasive theme in my life. As I age and get oh so much wiser, I try to remind myself of the distinction between being lonely and being alone. In my mind, being lonely is feeling the absence of people, whereas being alone is just being in the absence of people. Being lonely involves feeling left out, being alone involves no relation to others, just to oneself. My brain sometimes fritzes and confuses the two, however.

When I was five years old, my parents both had the stomach flu and were down for the count. I was left to my own devices. I was an imaginative and creative child who did ok playing on my own sometimes, but liked to be around people. My parents' absence was poignantly felt. I am told I went into their room and told them "I feel forgetted." I would say for me loneliness is always an echo of that feeling - feeling forgetted. I HATE feeling forgetting. It makes me desperate and insecure. It brings out my controlling side. It is my greatest adult not worry about "being forgetted" by people. To just be. To not control. To live in the moment.

Sometimes, when I am presented with "alone time" it feels like a wonderful gift. I am a mother of two small children. There is not much I get to do alone...EVER. I relish vacuuming and mowing the lawn for the silence of the white noise it provides. When alone time comes I usually am thrilled to spend it reading, writing, sitting in quiet or catching up on housework without being followed by two tiny homewreckers. It's all good.

On Saturday night, it was not good. I'm not sure why. I think my brain got confused and thought I was being forgetted and not just being gifted some much needed space from the world. Or, perhaps after years of freaking out over being left in the dust, I am just programmed to panic when faced with a Saturday night alone? Saturday night is just such a BIG're supposed to have something BIG to do.

It all started with a tornado warning and some hefty storms rolling in. We live on a mountain and my children are deathly afraid of storms. They asked to go stay off mountain at Grammy and Grampy's house. I obliged, not wanting to listen to constant fretting, weather reports and upset all night. When I found out they would be leaving, I attempted to find something BIG to do. Despite valiant efforts, I could scare up nothing to do. Not a thing. Not a friend. Not a person was around to play.

Although this made me feel incredibly lonely and restless for a while, I then looked inside and tried to see why it was making me feel this way? I decided to sit home alone with the insecurity and loneliness. And do you know what? As soon as I made the choice to sit with the feelings, the loneliness turned from loneliness into a welcome feeling of peaceful aloneness.

Maybe there is one more facet to the difference between feeling lonely and alone....lonely feels out of your control, being alone feels like a choice. A healthy choice. A peaceful choice...even on a Saturday night.

Monday, September 03, 2012

I Would Never Be a Member of Any Club that Would Have Me As a Member...

Read that title in your best W.C. Fields voice while twiddling your cigar because it sounds a whole lot more authentic that way. I often struggle with this W.C. Fields quote. Although I believe it was delivered EXTREMELY facetiously, there is some real truth behind this statement. I live in fear of that truth. Let me explain.

I have always had a pretty healthy self-esteem, but do have my really insecure moments. Don't we all?. As a woman, I have the lovely gift of PMS once a month for a reliable monthly emotional housekeeping...a dose of humility and disenchantment. During this time, I am the closest to pessimist that I ever get. It's often during this time I find myself attempting to answer the hard questions. This month's quandary was one with which I have struggled many times over, each time coming to different conculsions and spurring additional questions.

The dilemma is this. I am attracted to the people I have to chase. I like people who are stingy with showing their love for me. I always preferred the friends who were interpersonally challenging...alternately pissing me off and hurting me, as much as there for me. The fallow periods in my friendships made the times together that much more exciting and elating. I have preferred love relationships of a similar ilk. If a friend or lover is one who thinks I am their world, I run screaming...I turn into a shrew, eventually being so mean and discontented, I frighten them away. My intention must be TO frighten them away. It's all I can figure.

Many a potential partner has come into my life and taken up the goal of sowing stability and consistency in my life. Thinking I need it desperately, they think infusing constancy will be their ticket to success...Little do they know, though I may respond favorably at first, I will only like it for about six months. Unless, they are emotionally unavailable, mysterious or otherwise provide a psychological enigma for to solve, I will not be able to handle the stability. I will become so bored. I will create drama out of stability...a very unhealthy kind of relationship pattern. I LIKE the seismographic ups and downs.

So, back to my opening statement. I live in fear of W.C. Fields' statement about never being a member of any club that would have me as a member. Why? Because I sometimes forget all of the above truths about myself. That I love the ups and downs. That I like people who are more unavailable. That I enjoy people who are "projects" and provide me with intellectual fodder. I forget all that...especially certain times of the month, and I worry that I am just a broken little girl who only wants to be with people who treat her like she is less than special. I worry (on my worst days) that I am ill equipped to accept's like donning a wet, cold bathing suit...incredibly uncomfortable and impossibly hard to get in to. I worry that I would never be a member of any club that would have me as a member...even a club of two.

This month, I added another theory to why I might prefer these types of people. Maybe it's so much simpler than I ever thought. Maybe it's the old adage opposites attract. I am a confident, extroverted, oversharer. Maybe my "opposites" are always going to be a bit insecure, a bit introverted, a bit closed? Maybe it's as simple as liking that which I am not? Maybe? Gosh I hope so, because someday I would like to find a club I can join, feel good about, and thrive in.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Struggling with My Addiction

Today, I left my phone at home. I am trying to remain more focused on work and in the moment. My phone is getting in the way of this. It seems a lot of the time I am not looking at a sunset and just seeing a sunset. I am looking at a sunset and seeing an opportunity to take a picture of a phenomenal sunset and share it and receive praise and kudos on it. As I confessed in the past, I am praise junkie. The instantly gratifying world of my iPhone and its highly connected communities feeds way too much into this need for attention. I don't even seem to have the self-discipline to NOT be able to look at it. So. I left it at home.

On the ride in, I stared at the USB plug hanging from the lighter hole in the car and came up with a pretty funny country song. A song about a longing naked dongle feeling empty and wishing it could plug into something...anything...Hey, I said it was funny, not quality.

A moment ago, I went and visited my phone via the iCloud "locate your phone" app. Yup, it's still there, at my home, right where I left. I imaing it cold and shivering. Pining away for my touch as well. Because that is how addicts are, obsessed with their drug of choice. I am going to leave it home whenever possible.Electrical impulses are ruling my life, my moods and my time.  I need to foster this letting go. (she says, from the keys of her laptop computer)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reimagining the Past

For all of you children born in the 70's and growing up in the 80's and 90's, who remember junior high and high school without cell phones (and I am not counting here the cellular telephones that were as big as a suitcase and sat in your car between the front seats), here is a fun mind stretching exercise. Try to re-imagine events from your junior high and high school years with today's technology.

I tried this this morning while I was waking up. I wonder what would have happened if... Just try it....

Then, imagine some of your current relationships unplugged. How does it change them? I think a plugged in relationship is a neurotic relationship. Too many answers are expected. Too much "togetherness" is experienced, even though actual "togetherness" is probably lessened. In this world of constant noise and stimulation, do we really need our relationships to be one of the things blinging at us and demanding our attention?

And let's discuss for a moment the Mars/Venus equation in light of texting. How does a man EVER get to go into his cave a woman is constantly able to text at him there? What kind of electronic boundaries should exist in relationships? What kind of texting addictions are being born out of the constant need for attention? What cancerous perversions are cropping up?

Maybe I long for the simpler days. The days like when I was in my summer after ninth grade. A boy signed my yearbook. He wrote, "It was great getting to know you and we should go out this summer." He might have been being nice. I liked him. Maybe he would have asked me out. In the old days, it was more daunting to ask a girl out since you had to call her house and maybe catch a parent on the line. He never called.

But, after a little while, I forgot about him. I bumped into him once that summer. We had an awkward, blushy hello outside the movie theater. There was no personal phone number I could give him on which to reach me. I didn't have to feel the pain of no texting from him, or be on Facebook to see all the fun he had that summer with out me. I could continue to have my life. That was the beautiful thing about life before being plugged into everybody else. We lived our own lives. We knew what we wanted. We didn't have to text ten people to figure out what we wanted to do, we just decided what we were doing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

With a Little Shizzazz...

There is never any question in my mind that God exists. OK, well, sometimes I forget that I believe, but I always know I am in His care. Just this week, I had a chance to chuckle at how His plan is so intricate and yet perfectly simple at the same time. Well really there is nothing intricate, it's all simple. It's the not knowing in our heads...the creative thoughts born out of confusion, trying to make sense of it all, that complicates it. Sometimes, however, a moment comes along that is just so beautifully simple. All intricacy is suddenly distilled into one drop of simplicity.

So, now that I have built up your expectations. I will tell you about the moment.

This week, I was sweeping the deck. Liam thought it looked like fun. Huck Finn style, he begged me to take over. I was generous enough to share the joyful job of dancing around the deck with the broom, fighting large tree detritus with him. He took over just as joyfully. His sister, always a skeptic, ever the realist, looked on with disdain.

Often, the complexity of the diametric opposite personalities of my children is something with which my brain perseverates. I can really hung up on it...struggling to figure out why one was given ALL the optimism and the other ALL the pessimism. One ALL the extroversion, the other ALL the introversion. One is food motivated and struggles with weight, one has to be encouraged to eat and is a beanpole. And the list goes on and on this way. It's challenging, it's like they each require different parenting. And yet, they have only me most of the time. But I digress...

So, here is Liam sweeping the porch as if he were swordfighting or at play. And here is Elena, getting more and more annoyed at his glee. Until she cannot stand it.

Elena: "Liam, you know NO ONE likes to sweep. It's not something people enjoy. It's a chore. It's stupid."

Liam: "I'm making it fun...I'm adding a little shizzazz into it to make it fun."

I love that he doesn't really pay any mind to his sister's wheedling. I love that he makes his own fun. I love that he makes up a word for his own fun. But, I also love that she sets him straight. She's always there to make sure he knows what the world expects of him. That he might not want to pick his nose in public, or wear his "lambie" pajama pants that are two sizes too small out to church, or eat with his fingers.

I love his shizzazz and I love her thoughtful and pedantic way with him. She wants to protect him against the side of him that is too quirky to be appreciated by most of this world. I believe this is God's beautiful plan. Although I sometimes wish they were more alike and there was some degree of moderation in their personalities, He sent them to be foil characters for each other. No sense in fighting it. It just is what it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The promise of a day
Like thick full clouds
That overfill the morning valley.
With the dawn's light warmth,
Giving way
To what will be.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Our Shadow Sides

"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious."
Oh Jung! I never knew you. In some ways, I am glad. In other ways, I suppose it was a necessary step that I come to know you. Let me begin at the beginning so as to not lose anyone along the way...

Once upon a time, there was girl. This girl understood a lot about herself. She worked on digging the dirt out of her subconscious "nails" and attempted to figure out what her darkest and least desirable traits were. She stumbled blindly along this path for years...she read books. She saw therapists. She took prescripted drugs. She flippantly jested with friends about her shortcomings and foibles. She was aware of what was lurking there, or that something was lurking there at least.

Then one day, she was reading a book by M. Scott Peck and she read of the Jungian concept of our shadow self: our denied subconcious, our darkness, our struggle.As he put it, those of us who are the most in touch with our shadow selves are the most good and those of us who are the least in touch with our shadow selves, the most evil. This intriqued me, I researched more.

From Wikipedia:
"The shadow personifies everything that the subject refuses to acknowledge about himself" and represents "a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well".[17] If and when 'an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in others — such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions — ...[a] painful and lengthy work of self-education".[18]

And from John Elder:

"The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self."

I also was not aware of the fact that Jung was the one I had to thank for the concept of "projection." By projecting those darknesses from our shadow selves onto others (who are displaying similar, if not the same, negative characteristics) we are able to chide and to some extent release a bit of our own dark side. Terrific.

The range of what we think and do
is limited by what we fail to notice.

And because we fail to notice

that we fail to notice

there is little we can do
to change

until we notice

how failing to notice

shapes our thoughts and deeds.
-R.D. Laing

This leaves me feeling grim. That I have more muck and mire to wade through before reaching an enlightened state is not news to me, but every time I am reintroduced to this concept, I am disturbed by it. Sigh....Oh Jung...why couldn't you have been a bit more of an optimist?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Favorite Kindergarten Memories

Awkward kindergarten misspellings...although, the rest of this said "I like to cum home because I get to see my mommy"

 When I am 100, I will wear a plaid shirt. (Because Liam has a real thing for color. He wants ALL colors ALL the time. Rainbows are his favorite and red must always reside next to black).

 Favorite Movie? Cars Fre (Cars Three).

"Liam, why are there little people hanging out on your letters?"

Liam: "Because I was making them into something real. When I make the letters into something, writing is easier for me."

The teacher did not suggest this. My little creator!

Another creation...finally, Liam got the hang of representational drawing...and all of a sudden was drawing complex cityscapes.

Speaking of "Little Creator" - LEAST favorite kindergarten memory....Lady MacBeth blood bathroom courtesy of one Liam Gill:


But, in the end it's all worth it.

Sculpey Phases

These are NOT my Sculpey desserts, however, they could have been...apparently, when faced with tiny blocks of brightly colored clay and a penchant for tiny dessert creation, there are some major themes in the outcomes. Strawberries on top, chocolate swirls, cakes cut in half...seriously could have been a plate of my little Sculpey baked goods, not a Google image search.
In my family I am known for many things. I am the oldest of three girls. I am also the dorkiest, most extroverted and quirkiest of three girls. I was an art major at Skidmore College where I remember a teacher of one of my printmaking courses defining art as the "sustaining of a creative idea over time until it has lost all its creativity" (or some such, I am paraphrasing after 20+ years, please forgive the dotty mind). So, I am either a REAL artist or...anyhow...I digress. In my family, I am also famous for my Sculpey phases.

The first Sculpey phase was of course a time of creative expression with Sculpey polymer clay. Let's not focus on the fact that the only creative output was tiny food (as if I were bedecking a dollhouse bakery in cakes and cookies), no, let's not focus on that tiny detail. Let's instead choose to focus on the process. The process is something that is repeatable and has nothing to do with the medium at all. My life has been a daisy chain of these phases of new and exciting explorations, of which Sculpey was merely one.

2011 was the year of the Shrinky Dink. Shrinky Dink charms, Shrinky Dink ornaments, Shrinky Dink geocaching medallions, even a paid gig making Shrinky Dink realistic bird necklaces for a wildlife refuge. Unfortunately, this phase passed before the reorder came in from the refuge and now I sit procrastinating taking out the Shrinky Dink set...oh, and it is a set mind you! When I am in the throes of a "phase" there is no end to number of tools, supplies and craft carriers I need to cart my phase around with my everywhere!

2012 ushered in the phase of the terrarium. It started when my friend said she had been wanting to make mini-terrariums for some time and encouraged me to check them out on Pinterest. First tiny mosses and forest plants were found and a few glass jelly jars scrubbed out to house them. They were adorable! Tiny little magical worlds that captured the imaginations of me and my children. Something to do when I wasn't working at my new business working from home. I was hooked.

Next I found myself at every Goodwill in the tristate area, combing the glassware sections for the perfect terrarium containers, at local hikes hunting new tiny sprouts, and at the nearby garden shops rounding out the terrariums with some store bought plants. Succulents, palms, angelwing plants...Antique jars, boxes of mason jars, apothecary jars. Anyone who has known me in the last six months, has probably received a terrarium I made, or made one with me.

Yesterday, I walked by the terrarium "center" on the front stoop and realized I hadn't made one in a month. And another Sculpey phase passes...I wonder what is next?