Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
Anyway, Mike called us at 8:30 with the great news. Peter had entered the world at 7:54, 7 pounds, 4 ounces; 19 1/2 inches long. Lots of blondish hair with maybe a tinge of red. Maren's nose. And healthy. Both Mom and Baby. Thank you, God. Soon we were at the hospital and Maren had the promised first look at him. Kate later said when Maren first saw him sprawled in his bassinet, legs frog style, arms flung out, fresh after his first bath, she laughed. Chuckled with delight. In that moment she became a loving big sister.
A major part of that role while Peter was still in the hospital was to be with and take care of Maren, and I will treasure that time forever. She was great. She relished her new title of Big Sister. She shared the spotlight. She gave her heart to him. She adapted to the hospital environment easily and all the coming and going. She rarely fussed about anything, and she was my buddy. Such a good companion in all those trips between home and hospital. The last time we drove back home she sang Christmas carols in her sweet voice—knowing the majority of the words—not always easy ones either, as in "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." One time I had the car radio on, but quickly turned it off when I heard a terrible story about the beating death of a four year old. She had heard it, too. She is so completely loved—how could she possibly imagine a child not loved as she is?
The morning Kate, Mike, and Peter came home from the hospital, Maren made a "Welcome Home" sign and Valentines for them all. She even helped me clean. Then when Mom and Dad and new baby snuggled in the car seat, came in the back door, they became a family of four. It was time for me to ease out the door. Not easy, but necessary. Besides they were more than capable of handling whatever came up. All was as it should be.
The house is still quiet, and I miss our dear ones, but I feel better. Much better.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
As a spiritual tool, the labyrinth can be a path to prayer, meditation in motion, a soothing place to ease the anxious mind, and a container for reflection and creative problem-solving. As you walk, your mind quiets, breath slows, time stretches out, insights or new energy or peace emerges. The intentional activity of following a labyrinth path gives an opportunity for a heart-to heart talk with your body and with your spirit.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The first is a prayer:
May everything I do today be beneficial. Through remembering my spiritual practice throughout the day, may I gain more confidence in the wisdom and compassion of my true nature. And through this realization, may every contact I have with others bring us both benefit, relieving suffering, bringing healing and happiness, and furthering us along the path to freedom. May kindness and wisdom increase in the world, and through my efforts today, may I contribute to the betterment of life for all.
The second is a list of ways to integrate your spiritual practice into your daily activities.
On waking, reflect with gratitude on the kindness you have received.
Instead of gossiping, speak well of other people.
Instead of cursing someone, send them your blessing.
When walking, consider you are walking toward the truth.
When preparing to eat, reflect with gratitude on all those whose sacrifice brought you the food; then mentally offer your meal and your enjoyment of it to all enlightened beings.
When cleaning, imagine you are cleaning your negative habits.
When putting on clean clothes, or receiving something new, offer your enjoyment.
When you see someone happy, rejoice with them.
When you see someone suffering, instead of turning away in fear, turn toward them in love, and give what you can in that moment.
Love and Light Blessings
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
For years I walked the same route, no matter the season, and it was in winter that the changes over the year were most apparent to me. Where a huge branch had been struck down by lightening or age. Where undergrowth was more its own. Where nests were left vulnerable to driving snow, sleet, rain. Where time had taken its toll.
The first winter of my walks there I noticed trunks with door-sized holes and wondered if I had peered inside would I find Peter Pan and the Lost Boys or a bear in hibernation? I noticed stumps large enough for picnics in the coming summer. I wondered about lone leaves stubbornly clinging to an otherwise bare branch. What is it holding on to? Why won't it let go?
If I were a painter, winter trees would be my subject. From a distance I would paint the colony, the community of trees in their nakedness, like being at a nude beach. Up close I would paint every line and blemish and wrinkle and wart and age spot and acne scar.
I've always said I have earned my wrinkles and feel an affinity for trees in that respect. They have lived through many seasons, many years, known draught and deluge, the coldness of abandonment and neglect and the pressing heat of passion too close for comfort. They've earned their wrinkles. I love the starkness, the lack of pretense, the startling beauty of trees in winter. The way they seem to say, "Look at me. This is who I am." I welcome the life, the new, young hopeful life of spring, especially this year as we experience our first spring in this house, but on this cold April morning I honor the season of winter trees. A winter tree looks either older than its years or younger than time and that is just the way I feel. I am a winter tree. (Note: the painting is "Aspen Trees" by Ann Doody, an artist based in both Madison, WI and Aspen, CO)
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
This morning I did more than skim the books in front of me. Instead I leaned back in my desk chair, tucked the quilt more tightly around my legs and wrapped my shawl more securely around my shoulders and read a book that has been on my shelf for sometime, The Tao of Dying, A Guide to Caring by Doug Smith. Along with many quotes and ideas appropriate for my current essay, I read the following:
Time is established.
It cannot be altered.
A year will always be a year.
A person's last year cannot be lengthened
A month will always be a month.
A person's last month cannot be lengthened
An hour will always be an hour.
A person's last hour cannot be lengthened
Do not reach forward.
Do not reach back.
Do not push.
Do not pull.
Be settled where you already are.
These are good words for the "sacred sixties," it seems to me.
So I return to the grazing and the gathering time, knowing that it will take whatever time it will take. I have whatever time I have. And soon, perhaps in a few minutes, my sweet six year old granddaughter, who is spending her spring break with us, will emerge from her bed and come into my office and say, "Hi GrandNan," and we will move into our time of play and companionship, loving and living whatever time we have. I am so lucky.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Last weekend I attended a writing conference, Awakening the Soul of the Writer, at the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI. About two minutes into the opening presentation by a former Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Ellen Kort, I wrote a note to myself, "When was my most productive time as a writer? When I was getting up at 5 and writing for two hours. Time to start doing that again." When that first thing in the morning writing time was the norm, I wrote the 11 essays that are the core of my as yet unpublished book, Tears, The Spiritual Invitations of Grief and Loss. During that period sometimes I returned to my writing later in the day, but no matter what else was on the day's schedule; no matter what else pulled me away from my desk, I already had done two hours of writing time in the quiet of the day's beginnings.
I have been to many writing conferences, workshops, and retreats over the years and have even been a presenter at a good number of them, and I am always stimulated and inspired by them, but most often the fruits have been short-lived. By the time I get home, put away the pile of books I bought at the conference book store, filed my notes, emptied my suitcase and started the laundry, the good energy and positive thoughts have dissipated. Obviously, sometimes what I experience at a conference is integrated in ways not always visible, and I in no way regret attending any of these conferences over the years, and I will attend others. This time, however, the fruit of the conference was sampled before I even got home. I set the clock in my hotel room for 5:00 and when it went off the next morning, I got up and wrote. True, the two hours were not very productive, but my goal was to re-establish a beneficial habit. Since coming home I have continued the practice every morning, and the time has been so productive that yesterday I finished revising an essay and submitted it to Presence, the journal for Spiritual Directors International.
I could berate myself for all the mornings I have not gotten up to write; all the days when no writing occurred, even when I intended to write. But giving into regrets is not writing, any more than sleeping is writing. Writing is writing. Other activities may support the writing, enhance the writing, and inspire the writing, but they are not writing. Writing is writing.
So for now I am getting up at 5:00. I have a house guest for a few days and April is full of travel and more house guests. The days and nights will be full, and I look forward to each day, but the alarm clock is still going to go off at 5. Kathleen Norris, author of Acedia and Me, Amazing Grace, The Cloister Walk and other books, was the conference keynoter and she said, "You only need to do it today. Then when tomorrow is today, you only need to do it today." This morning I almost did not turn on the light when the alarm went off, but I told myself, "I only need to do this today." Norris also quoted G. K. Chesterton, "God says, 'Do it again,' to the sun. 'Do it again,' to the moon." God has never gotten bored with creation and the act of creating. "Ok, Nancy," I say to myself, "Do it again."
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Instead, I move into silence.
I wonder if this is a sign of age, a new stage of age. My father, age 85, for the last year or so has stated softly, but firmly that he prefers more and more to be home. He is content for the most part to be alone in his routine. He is not bored or depressed, but his needs for interaction, for society, for external stimulation are less. I've always valued winter as a time of hibernation, and I see that cave time becoming a priority for my father. He seems to be slowing down the rhythm of his days and his body and moving into a more prolonged hibernation. I see those signs in myself as well.
In the past I've said I want my crone years, whatever time period that represents, to be about expanding, about opening even more, and yet, here I am becoming still, a statue in the park, an ice sculpture in a grey, below zero day, a presence in the corner of the room. No, I'm not asleep nor even dozing, but I am still, silent. I am opening and expanding in silent ways. So little feels truly light enough or deep enough to need my voice. I am turning over that job to someone else and allowing myself to finally integrate the words I have been saying, but not always practicing. The outloud words are giving way to the silent spaces. The voice identified as mine is lowering itself into a deeper register.
However, I have no wish to be one of those old people who suddenly clears her throat and makes a pronouncement. "She doesn't speak often, but when she does, you better pay attention," says a grandchild or younger friend or a person in the back row.
No, I just know it is time to be silent, to not get in the way of what it is I am to know and to be.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
You Need A Theme
The reality is, no one lets go in a vacuum--no one lets go of anything
without reaching for something else. But if you don't know what you're reaching
for, you won't let go. The solution is to come up with a theme. Take the
pressure off yourself. Stop trying to figure out exactly what you're going to do
next. Instead, define what the next chapter in your life is going to feel like.
What part of you do you want to express? Freedom? Creativity? Intimacy?
Serenity? Balance? That's your theme. When you get the right word--the right
theme--it mobilizes you to move forward. It gives you something exciting to
create space for. (Julie Morgenstern)
Ever since moving to Wisconsin I have been wondering what I am to do here. What's next on my agenda? When we moved to Ohio in 1994 I was eager to explore new options, do things I had not done before. I left a stimulating, challenging position in public relations for a seminary and decided not to look for a similar job. Eventually, I trained as a spiritual director, opened a private practice and led retreats and facilitated groups on topics related to spirituality. I loved finding a new career, answering a new call. With this recent move I first thought I needed to do something new again. Isn't that part of what a move is all about? After some reflection, however, I thought about bringing what I have done and who I am into this place, this time. How could I use the skills and the knowledge I had developed over the last years in a new setting? With that idea in mind I have investigated some possibilities, but I have not found the right match. I've tested a few things, but have not felt the passion to pursue them. This has been challenging, especially when I am asked "What are you doing these days?"
This "What's next?"conversation is not confined to those who have moved to a new community, but it is also a common conversation among people who have retired recently or are considering retirement. There seems to be pressure to have a fill-in the blank answer. "I am going to_______. I've always wanted to_________. The problem is not a lack of interests or opportunities or support. The "What next?" question is so much bigger than those categories. I think Morgenstern has given an avenue for serious reflection and one worth a number of early morning journal entries. What is to be my theme for the next chapter? Stay tuned.
Oh, and in the meantime a friend mentioning that it may be the right time to retire gave me an idea about what I might do. I have always loved leading groups. One of the things I miss most about my Ohio life is the women's spirituality group I led. What about starting a group for women who are newly or about to be retired? A group that would look at the issues of this time, offer support, explore strategies, and provide a safe and spiritual context for reflection. Interested?
Friday, February 20, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
My first prayer is one of gratitude. Thank you, loving Creator, for this life; the luxury of living according to my own schedule and desires. And my prayers go on from there, beginning with the laundry. As I load the washing machine, I think about the blessings of the recent days. I see a Valentine handkerchief I tucked in my pocket on Saturday and remember the friend who gave it to me. Thank you for the gift of friendship in my life. I toss my husband's exercise clothes into the washer and am grateful he takes care of himself in this healthy way. I change the sheets on our bed, smoothing and tucking and folding and as I layer blankets and spread and pillows, I think about the rhythm of our days, morning to night to morning to night and on and on. I do nothing to make that happen. It just is. I clean our bathroom--not my favorite task, for sure, but I love the light in this room and the view over the rooftops of our neighborhood. I send blessings to all the households in my sight. I hang fresh towels and think about the first time I did that in this house after a year of being in transition, and I am overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude for being able to live here. I vacuum the hallway, peeking in at guest rooms and think about those who have visited and those who will soon be coming and I send them prayers of hope that they may receive whatever it is they need today.
The whole grocery routine follows and here is where it falls apart for me a bit. My least favorite part of the whole process is lugging in the bags of groceries when I get home and then unpacking them. I often tease the bagger and ask if she is coming home with me to unpack, since she does such a good job packing my purchases and often the response is, "Wish I could." Bless your heart, I think, and for an instant I see the holy before me.
Gunilla Norris, one of the goddesses in my life, in her book of poetry Being Home, A Book of Meditations, says, "Prayer and housekeeping--they go together. They have always gone together. We simply know that our daily round is how we live. When we clean and order our homes, we are somehow also cleaning and ordering ourselves...How we hold the simplest of our tasks speaks loudly about how we hold life itself."
I choose to see Monday as a sacred day and to move through this day as if tending an altar where at the end of the day I will kneel and give thanks for the glories of the day.
Friday, February 13, 2009
First, I realized I needed help, and I felt energized by reaching out for help and finding someone approachable and available who could help me. Being new in this community, we are still putting together our team and a good computer tech who doesn't make me feel like an idiot is a necessary member of that team. Now if I could just find a dentist!
The first few days I enjoyed my laptopless condition. I had informed those with whom I communicate most regularly about the situation and asked my husband to bring home his laptop from work, so I could do some emailing in the evenings. At first I enjoyed the extra space in my day. I spent more time in morning meditation. I read more. Walked more. I sat at my desk in our bedroom, where I never bring the laptop, and I wrote letters. Yes, handwrote letters.
I stayed calm. I praised my patience. At first.
However, the time of laptoplessness lengthened and all my dresser drawers were now clean and lavender scented with fresh drawer liners. Each day I would check-in with my computer guy and each day he would be sure all would be well later in the day. One problem became another problem, however, and laptopless time extended on and on. Eventually, these prodigal machines did come home and that was when I really fell apart. You can fill-in the blank with your own computer nightmares, but there were more phone calls, a new printer, loss of email addresses, (but not documents, thank you God) a visit from a tech to install my printer and then frustration as recently as minutes ago because my printer was NOT working. I figured it out and for this moment I am breathing evenly.
During these days I felt a bundle of feelings:
I felt scared.
I felt frustrated.
I felt alone.
I felt lack of control.
I felt disappointed.
I felt sad.
I felt disconnected.
I felt dependent.
I felt uncomforted.
I felt vulnerable.
I felt embarrassed.
I felt angry.
I felt anxious.
I felt unclear.
I felt uncertain.
Sometimes all at the same time.
And then finally when all was restored, I felt grateful, deeply grateful. The first time I emailed dear friends and family members and said, "I am back" was a sacred moment. These machines are sacred objects. Yes, if my house were on fire, I would grab my laptop. But I also became aware, at least momentarily, for this is a lesson, I will need to learn yet again, that these miraculous machines are not objects meant to be worshipped. They are not meant to rule my life or take the place of my life. Perhaps it is time to institute intentional sabbatical time; planned timed-outs from computer accessibility.
Mark Nepo says in his Book of Awakening, "It is the path off the path that brings us to God." And sometimes the path means being off-line.