It’s All New

Back in the day, when a new month began, we flipped the calendar page. A new picture, new white boxes, new opportunities. Just hours have passed since the old month faded away, but it feels way longer.

The digital age doesn’t give us the same dramatic image, but it’s the same thing. When the first of the month appears, we begin anew. We drag out our tired expectations and breathe life into them. 

This year, it seems everything has been a blur. I recently commented to my brother that the uniforms are always more colorful on Thursday Nite football. Except, he said, it’s Monday.  I generally have no idea where we are on the timeline.

But today I’m grounding myself in awareness. It is the first day of December, the last month of 2020. And although Im tired of hoping everything will be different this year, I’m choosing hope anyway. 

Let’s cheers in this new month. Let’s believe that even if our circumstances can’t be all that different, WE can be different. We can drag out our tired hope off the shelf and believe it is now well rested. Despite what the news tells us or what the governors tell us, we can be socially connected one another. We can give what we have to others.

I’m taking a moment to mentally flip the calendar page, making sure hope comes along. Maybe it was tired at the end of November, but with all the time that’s passed since that month, it is well rested and ready to go.

Play the songs, wrap the gifts, sip the cheer. It’s a new month and hope has awakened to the sound of it all. Let’s be contagious and give it to everyone we touch.

Happy December, Happy Holidays!

Thankful Still

Thanksgiving is a radically defiant day. In the middle of a season defined by short days and long nights, we set aside a day to give thanks—for what we have and who we have.

This year, thankfulness might have to be more grounded in intention. In recent years the challenge was whether or not we would leave our seated positions on Thursday to shop for Black Friday. Who knew that one year, those seated positions might not even be possible.

All of us have likely seen pain, loss, and disappointment over these past months. But Thanksgiving is a symbolic day of declaration: grateful regardless of circumstances.

Whether we are locked down, locked in, or locked out, our hearts are never bound by the same rules. Regardless of any laws being imposed from the outside, our hearts are still free.

*We can sit still and breathe in the abundance of life around us. 
*We can affirm that no matter what we see, beauty is also in our midst.
*We can listen to our beating hearts and remember that love keeps them beating. 
*We can remind others that they are valuable, whether they are sitting with us or not.
*We can decide we want to do better at living a generous and grateful life.

So let’s be quietly defiant today and cultivate gratitude for the abundant grace and mercy available to us all. What we cultivate in the quiet can then be lived out in the noisy, the messy, and the hard. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a little grace and mercy today so let’s be generous in our thanks “giving.”

“Wear gratitude like a cloak, and it will feed every corner of your life.”— Rumi

Beauty in the Broken

There are days, or nights, or long stretches of weeks or months or even years, when breathing is the only prayer we’ve got.” A Holy Experience

I always knew there were long stretches of days, even weeks that required deep breathing. Only recently have I come to realize that those stretches can become years. And I have decided to be okay with that. Change isn’t going away.

Change is generally not our focus growing up. Even if we encounter something hard, there is so much going on that we move forward and adapt. But as we get older, change messes with us more regularly and we feel the changed spaces more intensely.

Before there were vulnerable conversations about well being, I used to feel guilty that I was in the midst of a breathing season maybe too long. Moving through a challenging season, I usually wanted to simply move on and get over it. And we have to do both to move forward. But that’s not the whole point.

Sometimes our very DNA is being changed and it takes time and trust for that to happen. All we can do is surrender and breathe our way through the transition. However long that takes. Whether we see it or not, we are being led to light.

First and foremost, we are spiritual beings. God—or whatever term best describes how we each see the force at work within and without—works in our darkness and silence to bring light and peace.

It helps to remember that love, resurrection, and transformation are at the core of most major religions, spiritual teachings, and the world around us. Every day we watch the steadfastness of the sun rising, the transformative power of rebirth in the seasons, and the metamorphosis of living things all around us.

What is broken gets transformed, healed, and made whole. Over and over again. So let’s breathe our way through this current season. Because even if we get to celebrate a victory, there is so much broken and hurting all around us.

So if breath is the only prayer we got, it’s ok. We are being led to mercy and light, where the mundane and the broken can become holy and whole.

Many of us practice expressing gratitude to counter negativity. A great addition would be searching out beauty and making that a daily habit. It’s pretty easy to stare at the ugly and the sad. But always always always there is something beautiful in the same scene.

Maybe we’ll have an opportunity to point someone towards beauty in the midst of their broken. Maybe that’s what angels do as they walk the earth. And perhaps, sometimes, they quietly inspire us to speak on their behalf.

Holding on to Hope

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu

Trying to make sense out of this season…there is so much swirling around us. It can be hard to wrestle with all the thoughts that fly at us in a day. 

I had been reading a book by Henri Nouwen, spiritual writer and theologian, and I identified one of the swirling thoughts. A friend had asked him if he thought humanity would survive the century. A question certainly relevant today.

“Important for me is not if our civilization will survive or not but if we can continue to live with hope.”

He went on to say that we must always live with hope. And in spite of all the surrounding chaos, we have to avoid the temptation of despair, becoming more aware that God is present. Or a greater Light. Or the compelling force of Love.

And I realized how easily I let go of hope. In spite of all “the surrounding chaos,” all the challenges I face personally, all the things I can’t seem to fix, all the seeming wrong in this nation, all the scandals, lies, vitriol rhetoric, division, hatred, and fear, we must remember a bigger perspective.

Whatever we face personally or as a nation, there is something bigger than us. God is with us. Light and Love guide the universe. Every single day.
May we continue to live in hope. It matters.

Politics, Pigasus, and Paul McCartney

When we can take today’s challenges and view them through the lens of something we have experienced before, it can help us breathe through our now. It helps to remember our history and this much is true: we have experienced political upheaval before. We just didn’t have social media to drive and magnify the frenzy at the level we are experiencing today.

The Democratic National Conference of 1968 was one of the most tumultuous and confrontational in history. The candidates in the primaries had included Robert F. Kennedy, the incumbent President Johnson, and George McGovern. Johnson dropped out of the race after facing the unprecedented embarrassment of finishing third. In June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Two of the three candidates had delegates that had to go elsewhere. Everyone wanted them.

At the time of the convention, the Vietnam war was in full swing, anti-war protests were everywhere, along with civil unrest and riots happening in more than 100 cities across the country. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated in April. 

Leaders like Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and Abbie Hoffman were leading rebellion in the youth. To sabotage the convention, Hoffman announced they were sending “super-hot” hippie girls to seduce the delegates with LSD, and sending hippie “studs” to seduce the wives. Hoffman told the press: “We will p*** and s*** and f*** in public…we will be constantly stoned or tripping on every drug known to man.”

Walter Cronkite was complaining of unwarranted restriction to information. Intelligence agents infiltrated the protesters, including agents from the CIA who had been sent to spy upon citizens.

Just before the convention started, Hoffman showed up at the Civic Center Plaza to free the pig named Pigasus whom they had nominated as the Democratic candidate. The police seized Pigasus and arrested Hoffman and five others. The whole incident was captured live on television. 

The Chicago police raided the mostly black neighborhoods of South Chicago to stage mass arrests of a black power group that was allegedly planning to assassinate Humphrey. Over 10,00 people arrived to protest the war. Within the convention itself, tensions were high between pro-war and anti-war Democrats.
 
Politically, unrest was at a peak. But culturally, the arts were peaking as well. This post started because I read that on the same day that the DNC opened, the Beatles released “Hey Jude.” With its encouraging message, it offered reassurance to millions and became a musical unifier for people around the world.

Supposedly Paul McCartney wrote the song—originally called “Hey Jules”—for Julian Lennon. Julian was upset about his parents’ divorce, after Lennon had a public affair with Yoko Ono. McCartney wanted to tell him that life would get better. Though written for one person, the song resonated with many and is a message we still need today. Great art is timeless and universal. 

Politically, we have experienced tumultuous times before. That is not minimizing what is at stake today. Nor is it denying the chasmic division we are currently experiencing. There is so much at stake. But sometimes it helps to know we we have made it through other explosive times.

I wish there would be music to release hope today. Maybe an artistic space to “let it out and let it in” would help calm our racing hearts. A chance to take a “sad song and make it better.”

A couple lines of “Hey Jude” might help. This song has been stuck in my head since I started writing. I think that’s ok.

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better…
So let it out and let it in.Hey friends begin…
Hey Jude , don’t be afraid.You were made to go out and get her…
And any time you feel the pain, hey Jude , refrain. Don’t carry the world upon your shoulder
Naa na na na na na na, na na na na, hey Jude… (continue for a verrrrry long time…)

PSA: Back to Dining Out

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Here in Washington, as in many other places, restaurants are opening back up. The owners and managers are trying to figure out all the challenges, not the least of which is limited occupancy. They don’t get a 50% reduction in rent. Or utilities. Or salaries. Many employeees have been on generous unemployment and are making significantly less now that they are back at work. It is a whole new game.

I have kids and friends in the industry. The reports from just about all of them are so disturbing. Maybe it’s a matter of understanding? Employeees have rigorous new standards they have to uphold, new policies that they have to implement, and new risks they have to undertake as they serve the public. Maybe if people understood all that, then they would remember humanity?

People are flooding Yelp with bad reviews. They are spoutting negativity at the servers. Obviously this isn’t everyone, but it is also not the exception.

My daughter had one customer round up the bill from $77.60 to $78.00. She had one customer tell her she would die young because she was wearing a mask. She has had many customers complain about service, and she is one of the best. She wanted to quit in the middle of a shift.

Maybe if they realized she has to sanitize in between every interaction. That she cannot just go from one table to another. That no other staff member may approach the table. Maybe people are rude just because they don’t understand????

Tipping has plummeted. And they are now in a tip pool where all the tips are combined and shared equally with every employee in the restaurant. She gets maybe a third of tips earned. So that 40 cent tip left by one customer got divvied up between many. Do the math there.

I thought people would be so happy to get back out that they would be generous. Not just with tips but with kindness. With their words. With their “unmasked” at the table smiles.

Could we all just remember that we are not the only ones who have been affected by this madness? Can we remember humanity? Can we reach down and remember kindness? Can we be generous with each other?

Hopefully we are all trying to learn and educate ourselves in areas that we have not fully understood. But basic kindness should already be part of our old normal. May all forms of generosity be part of our returning. For everyone’s sake, wherever we are interacting with each other, let’s remember our humanity. Kindness, compassion, and generosity are the most basic and most beautiful components of that.

And That Changes Everything

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[Been in a bit of a quiet season lately, but maybe it’s time to jump back in again. This is part of an article I just had published in Paleo Magazine. May you be encouraged!]

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

I recently saw this quote on Instagram with a picture of some mud run type event. I thought about how I haven’t done anything like that for a long time  and how I must not be changing. “Yikes, this does not look good.” And I said that from bed, in the middle of a rough RA flare.

I have been in an opposite season lately. For many reasons, I have been quiet, low key, meditative. When people post about races and successful careers and travel and community and collaboration and magical life experiences, I feel stagnant. Failure-ish.

But when I take my eyes off others and look deeply into what is happening in me, I can see differently. At some level, I know that change is continual. As I fine tune my focus to see the changes that have come during this season, I am better able to be at peace.

There are many avenues of change. Some come along and smack us in the face. No missing them. But others come quietly, in whispers. Those we can easily miss.

When we walk on the beach, or hike in the mountains, or sit beside a lake, we are changed by beauty. Beauty is one of the most powerful change agents I know. It transforms the edges of our soul and makes them less rigid, softer. It increases our sense of awe and wonder. It fills us with light. And that changes us.

When we gather with friends, we are changed by the power of vulnerability. Intimacy allows us to share the deepest parts of our selves. When someone trusts us with that, we cannot leave the same. A measure of brave and grace and compassion get woven into our souls. And that changes us.

When we keep a promise or continue to honor a commitment year after not-so-perfect year, we are changed by love. We become focused more on the ones we care about deeply. More and more with every choice. And that changes us.

When we look at art, or read a poem, or listen to music, or make something with our hands, we are changed by creativity.  The more attention we give to those moments, the greater chance they have to leave a mark in the deepest places of our soul. And that changes us.

When we look at our struggles and choose to believe tomorrow can be better, we are changed by hope. A recent accident set me back in my battle with RA. But if I’ve learned anything in this process, it is that today doesn’t set the rules for tomorrow. Hope is the firm expectation that tomorrow can be better. It believes that all is possible. And that changes us.

So let us challenge ourselves we we can, because that certainly can change us. But let’s also be aware of all the change agents we encounter every day. Beauty, friendships, relationships, creativity, and hope can all help us move forward in ways that make us more caring, loving, kind and graceful people.

And that changes everything.

T H I R T Y

2.21.17. Today marks 30 years of marriage for me and Dave. I think, more than any other thing, time amazes me the most. Like, how did that happen???

Especially when so many days dragged on forever. Three kids all three and under, one with special needs, zero family in the area, friends who were pretty much all in the same boat. I didn’t always handle those days well. And then we added a couple more wonderful human beings to the mix. Some days I saw the beautiful lives we were given; other days all I saw was chaos. Every day was a battle for perspective. Some days I won that battle. And then there were other days.

But yet, as they say, the days may be long but the years go fast no matter what. Thirty lightening quick, blurry years.

We made so many mistakes. And consequently, the regrets that come with them. But the only time there are none of those is when you are looking forward. In those beginning years, we did much looking forward. Like all married couples, we wanted the best for our marriage. Like all parents, we wanted the best for our kids. Dang. Looking forward is easier.

Looking back though, there are a couple of things I have no regrets about. None. I didn’t do 30 years of marriage perfectly. Not by a longshot. But I have no regrets about saying yes. I didn’t do all the years of parenting perfectly. On the contrary, there are so many things I wish we could change. But I have zero regrets about the five beautiful children who seem to believe that love covers a multitude of mistakes. If given the chance to do it all again, I’d say yes before the question even came out. I would just hope I could do it better. So much better.

So today I’m grateful. Grateful for a faithful and loving husband. Grateful for five loving, independent and kind children. Grateful for friends and family who have walked the entire journey with us. And for a God who, it would seem to me, had to be shocked by the amount of grace we needed each day just to survive. For all those reasons, I celebrate this day.
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As I look forward to the next 30, I think we’re going to get it all right:)

Survivors

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Like everyone else, I have been giving a lot of thought to November 9th. Tomorrow. This has been a campaign for the books, with new levels of hated, fear, and distrust everywhere we turn. Even those who are on the “winning side” won’t all be cheering this day. Many are voting for the lesser of two evils.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, tonight, everyone pulls up signs, rips off bumper stickers, takes off the partisan buttons. And we all display a new one with the same message: “We survived the election of 2016,” the craziest season ever.

Survivors are strong. Like women who have battled breast cancer. They fought a battle they didn’t ask for and had their lives completely disrupted. Some days, maybe they didn’t even think they would make it. But with news of remission, they moved past all that. And they came together with other survivors. All kinds of differences mark them. But something bigger has united them. They are survivors.

We have been in a raging battle this past season. Tomorrow, it will be time to think about what unites us. Maybe a new bumper sticker would help us smile and nod when driving past a battle weary neighbor. Maybe the buttons would remind us to high five someone at the grocery store just for getting through. Maybe we’d buy someone a cup of coffee because, well, it’s been a rough season. More smiles. More kindness. More compassion. Because we have all been through it, one painstaking day at a time.

Tomorrow, let’s temporarily forget about winners and losers. Let’s resist flaunting, taunting, and fear mongering on social media. Let’s focus on being kinder, more compassionate, and more concerned for others than we’ve ever been. It just might help dissipate fear, anger, and perhaps violence in the aftermath. Let’s recognize that, really, we all just survived something we don’t ever want to go through again.

Probably a little late to get all those signs made. But we can all think about something bigger than the bloodbath that just took place. Surviving something this crazy just could be the thing that unites us all. And a little unity could make a big difference right now.

Changes That Can Change Everything

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“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”

Recently I saw this quote on Instagram, under a picture of a mud-run type event. And I thought, man, I better get out there and do something challenging because I haven’t done that recently and I am not changing. Yikes, this is not looking good.

But then I got thinking. I have been in an opposite season lately. For many reasons, I have been quiet, low key, meditative. When I’m at my lowest, like when I look at people doing races and being successful in careers and posting about travel and community and collaboration and magical life experiences, I feel stagnant. Failure-ish.

But when I take my eyes off others, and I look deeply into what is happening in me, I don’t see that so much. I see change in many areas. And I am at peace with this season.

There are many avenues of change. When we walk on the beach, or hike in the mountains, or sit beside a lake, we are changed by beauty. Beauty is one of the most powerful change agents I know. It transforms the edges of our soul and makes them less rigid, softer. It increases our sense of awe and wonder. And that changes us.

When we gather with good friends, the power of vulnerability changes us. Intimacy opens us up and allows us to exchange parts of ourselves. When someone trusts us with the deepest parts of themselves, we cannot leave the same. A measure of brave and grace and compassion get woven into our soul. And that changes us.

When we keep a promise or continue to honor a commitment year after not-so-perfect year, we are changed. We become focused less on our entitlements and more on the ones we care about deeply. And that changes us.

When we look at art, or read a poem, or listen to music, or create something with our hands, something inside of us changes. Whether we observe the creative process or engage in it ourselves, something in the deepest places of our soul get stirred. And that changes us.

So let us challenge ourselves we we can, because that certainly can change us. But let’s also be aware of all that is around us, all the change agents we encounter every day. Beauty, friendships, commitments, creation, and creativity can all help us move forward in ways that make us more caring, loving, kind and graceful people. And those changes can change everything.