The defining checkpoints.

September 23, 2015 

They filled the classroom bead jar for good behavior. GO KIDS. And like a well run democracy the group voted for pajama day as their reward. Not gonna lie, my friends, there are days I would definitely like to put pajama day up for a vote. 

^^ There is the six year old love of my life right there, walking into school in his unicorn jammies. A bright and colorful and fun My Little Pony long-sleeve top and fleece pants. He totally rocks those things.

But, it will get into the 80s today so I made several attempts to steer him in another direction. What about these pajamas, I’d say, while putting the hard sell on Mario or Angry Birds or Toy Story. But, these are his very favorites and no amount of sunshine or sweat or pressure from me was going to squelch his enthusiasm.

And, for real, why should it?

Then I realized something. Although convenient, the weather wasn’t really my concern. I mean, fleece in September may be a tad aggressive, yes. But it wasn’t REALLY my motivation. It was that knee-jerk reaction. The urge to shield him from judgment that rises in me, so swiftly. Perhaps you’re familiar with this urge, too.

The weather was my excuse for convincing him to not be authentic. To not be HIM. Because *fitting in*, well let’s be honest here folks, it is just less hard.

Judgment, he’s a real jerk that way, right? Because we choose to believe that he matters. Why do we give him so much power anyway? And then, the really tragic irony is that we subconsciously fight him by layering judgment with MORE judgment. And then it’s like that undeserving schmuck wins twice. Bleck, that is uggggggly.

“I like what I like. How does what I like affect you?”

^^ His response. What he said when I asked him how he would respond to the “that (color/ style/ character/ ANYTHING) isn’t for (boys/ girls/ insert endless list of other labels here)” remarks.

And in a dozen words he reminded me, yet again, about what really matters.

Kindness. Compassion. Authenticity.

I’m convinced a full and happy life sits at the intersection of these three powerhouses, friends. And, I hope this kid NEVER stops rocking unicorn pajamas, or whatever it is that makes him joyful. And, if he inspires even one person to feel brave enough to choose kindness over hatred, compassion over judgment, authenticity over fitting in, well….

*******

September 23, 2016

Life doesn’t define us. We define life.

What do you think, friends. Is it true?

A year ago today will always and forever have its arms wrapped tightly around my heart. Let’s call it a defining checkpoint. And such a big and important one in my evolving and shedding and BECOMING as a person.

A day that looked and felt much like any other, really. A bunch of kids that didn’t want to wake up with all of the associated moaning and hiding under covers and just-leave-me-alones and that confetti of toast crumbs sprinkled across my clean floor which I’ve come to rely on and me all YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE and ice packs inserted in lunch boxes and the begrudging brushing of all the teeth and me pleading JUST STAY AWAY FROM EACH OTHER IF YOU CAN’T BE FRIENDLY and socks forgotten in drawers and toddlers forgotten in high chairs and me sweating and stealing hugs and all HURRRRRY UPPP, PEOPLE. You know, just your average weekday.

But, this one was anything but average. In fact, this day looked me squarely in the eyes and said simply, “Choose.”

Will it be LOVE or FEAR?

Will you run towards authenticity or cower to conformity?

Will you be relentlessly brave and courageous EVEN AND ESPECIALLY when judgment and unkind words and hurtful actions beg for your silence?

Will you be part of making sure every human feels MORE THAN, or will you stand by and watch as ego has his way with our world?

And I chose. And I really recognized for the first time how much children teach us about ourselves, if we are listening. And I defined life. And it changed me, in all the best ways.

Go and be brave today, friend. Define it. Reap the rewards of becoming. Let love win.

The only way to shine.

Hey there, friends. 

The pause since my last post has lingered a bit longer than I’d intended. But, you know, when I started this little space the contract stated in bold font: NEVER FORCE IT. And it is a binding commitment signed in ink and, well, it also makes a good point. Blogs, as in life, should never be forced. So, here we are. It’s so nice to connect with you again.

These summer months have been a blur. But a magical blur, for sure. We mastered the art of a perfectly cooked bonfire s’more and buddied up with chlorine and sunshine and layer-upon-layer of SPF and soaked up special time with cousins and ate our collective body weight in ice cream cones and wore out all of the welcomes at our neighbor’s swing sets and racked up miles on our oversized familywagon visiting new and customary spots and pressed *ever so gently* on each other’s last nerve and got our money’s worth on all of these electronic devices and read books (amateur tip: modify your goal to zero and those five books spread across a trimester will feel GOLD STAR worthy) and burned energy and tossed kindling on imagination at day camps and went to battle in the backyard with plastic pistols and bottomless tubs of water balloon ammo and **FULL DISCLOSURE** slowed the cadence on showering and teethbrushing and sleeping. Psssh, we were far too absorbed in dodging rules and order to give attention to such details.

In recent weeks, my oldest son and I had the opportunity to visit Scotland with a small group from our soccer club. And holysmokespeople talk about MAGICAL. Glasgow, Stirling, Loch Lomond. As though lifted directly from the pages of a beautifully illustrated novel. Or really any and every scene from the movie Brave. Either way, it was love at first earful of bagpipes and biteful of delicious fish and chips. And Edinburgh, my love, a piece of my heart was left there with you and I can only assume it is now lounging blissfully on Archer’s Seat relishing in that magnificent 360 view. Swoon. Unforgettable moments with my firstborn that will be deposited in the happiness memory bank for eternity.

I had big plans to write my way through this summer, you guys, documenting all the big and little and painful and glorious. But, instead, I just lived it. And I’d give this exercise in detachment a rousing two thumbs pointed toward the sky along with this review:

  • Make space for simply witnessing.
  • Allow all to be as it is.
  • Reap the rewards of presence.
  • Find your place to feel inspired and GO THERE OFTEN.
  • Breeeeeeathe.

I garner much of my inspiration from nature. I guess it’s that exquisite coupling of Mama N’s undeniable majesty wed with the deepness and focus that can only be unearthed in the quiet of listening and finding and admiring and allowing. When wind makes trees dance or clouds part like stage curtains giving way to a harvest moon or a caterpillar edges slowly across the sidewalk or birds sing or soar or blow-our-flipping-minds by doing both at once or anything whatsoever to do with the sun rising and falling in the sky. Whenever I stop, REALLY STOP, to feel and see these moments, I understand life better. It all becomes clearer. Generally, I end up laughing (or sobbing) about at least 127 of my chosen reactions from earlier in the day. And after that self-discovery is behind me and I’ve dried my eyes from all those joy or sorrow tears, I notice it: 

There is a clarity to things that had gone blurry for a short or long while. And it all feels, lighter. More focused. More loving.

School starts for us this week. And based on the recent deluge of adorable and especially dapper backpack-wielding young people bringing smiles and heart emojis to my social pages, I sense a good many of us are rowing in the same back-to-school boat. I’d also wager that during this twelve week hiatus from a structured existence we have *maybe* at points found ourselves eager to jump in this boat and feverishly row these small people out of our homes. ANYWHERE BUT HERE JUST PLEASE TAKE THEM. But now, we’re holding these oars and ready to push off from the dock and suddenly the boat feels a little, unstable. And we feel less certain. You know?

Like, yesterday was all:
WOOOOO. I CANNOT WAIT TO GET MY KID(S) IN THIS BOAT AND START PADDLING. YIPPEEEEE, SCHOOL YEAR HERE WE COME!!! BUCKLE UP, FOLKS.

And, today is more:
What an exciting journey ahead! Kid(s), go put on your fancy clothes (yes the ones laying on your beds that after today will remain buried in your drawer forever now please for the love just go and don’t come back to me until they are on your bodies). And also toss those 45lb bags on your back because it’s time for school. WEEEE!! Oh geez. Okay, the boat is a bit tippy. I’d forgotten the waters are unpredictable out here. Will my kid(s) be safe navigating this tide? What if there is darkness or storms to weather? What if they hit choppy water and I’m not there to row them back to safety? And is my churning stomach excitement or trepidation?! (Psst… It’s probably both).

As the summer weeks have dwindled to days, I’ve noticed that familiar sensation rising in me. Perhaps you know this feeling, too. I wanted on that boat but now I’m wondering about things. I’m wondering whether my kids will have teachers this year who really get them. And I’m wondering if our elementary school credo priming kids to Be Respectful, Responsible, and Safe is, enough. Does it leave room to also teach and celebrate compassion and empathy and kindness? ARE MY KIDS READY. Will my 8th grader be brave enough to stand up and choose his own path when something doesn’t feel right in his gut? Will my 6th grader field enough comments to convince him that his small stature defines his character in any way other than perfect EXACTLY as he is? And is my sweet second-grader ready to resume defending his heart and soul to those that question how and why a boy could possibly love dresses and bright colors and all things that sparkle and shine? Is this the year he will decide it is just easier to be someone ELSE’S version of him to avoid the side glances and comments and judgment? Will any of them feel compelled to hide their true selves? 

All of the wondering. 

And then, I grabbed some distance to unplug from the wondering and saw this:


The sun was hiding behind a thick blanket of clouds, as it sometimes does. As we sometimes do. And while I stood there and stared at its shadowed figure for a long minute, I again began to wonder. The Sun is always the Sun. Totally not profound. But stay with me…

Do you suppose any planets or moons or asteroids or comets or other members of the solar system ever ask the sun: WHY DO YOU LIGHT THE EARTH? I mean, how come you have SO MUCH hydrogen, anyway? It’s weird, Sun, all of that hydrogen. Why not more helium? And seriously WHAT IS UP with your chromosphere? Eww. Why can’t you be more like the Moon? And Sirius is soooo much better than you at EVERYTHING. You should try to be more like her. 

No matter how unlikely, just sit with that for a moment. Let is steep a bit.

So, when I got home I decided to pose this to the 7 and 10 year olds (G & B). And as they both pondered the idea I followed with, “Do you think this might explain why the sun sometimes hides behind the clouds?” 

“Maybe,” they said.

So I pressed on, “What if when the clouds parted you noticed that the sun had changed into a moon or a comet or something else entirely?”

G: “That would be so weird.”
B: “But we need the sun to light the earth.”

This exchange took us on a twenty minute off-roading adventure that I desperately wish had been caught on hidden camera because we went down some hysterical paths: the Sun as a soccer ball or stickman or unicorn sparkle princess or Sylveon the mammalian Pokemon who evolves from Eevee (no clue) or a cheese pizza or a butt. Yes, a butt. And YES, we obviously lingered on this last one. Kids are so awesome.

Me: “Can you imagine the Sun being anything but the Sun?”

Collective, “Nopes.” Well, except the butt because we all agreed it would be HILARIOUS to see a butt in the sky. But, only for a minute and then we would want the real Sun back. I digress.

“Me neither, guys. The sun may hide, just like you and I do sometimes. But it never changes. The Sun is ALWAYS the Sun. Right? *Heads nod* And that’s good because the Sun is his very best and truest when he is shining brightly in the sky. Just like you are best and truest when you are being YOU. And if anyone ever tries to convince you to be or say or do anything other than what you feel inside, I hope you will be brave like the Sun. I promise to be brave, too. Let’s make a pact right here, right now: to celebrate our authentic selves and claim THIS IS ME AND I LIKE WHAT I LIKE as our battle cry and hold our heads high even and especially when it feels hard. Okay? And let’s never answer to fear. Let’s choose love instead. Because who gets to decide, fellas?

We do. Always. Just like the sun.

Fear is a terrible chauffeur.

So, you guys, I’ve been thinking about proximity. And distance, in particular, it can make us feel unusually safe, right? I mean, let’s be real for a moment, all of that glorious space between ME and YOU offers a sort of unspoken immunity from whatever you may be dealing with. After all, when I’m WAAAAAY OVER HERE it becomes pretty effortless to tuck empathy safely in the shadows and convince myself that your issues aren’t also my own. Maybe?

And the labels. ALL OF THESE GOD-FORSAKEN LABELS. I get it. Life is messy. Labels offer order to a messy existence. Yes? And in our minds we create a world where anything we’ve assigned as *DIFFERENT* is just scarrrrry. And so we fear it. Because we crave order and we like distance and we want immunity from hard issues and, well, as far as I can tell fear has never been a friend to empathy or compassion.

And then, when social spaces meet hungry fingertips, or we step too closely to our discomfort and react with stares or laughter or unkind words or (worse) hateful actions, we unknowingly fan the flames of our ego’s work. And it isn’t pretty. It fractures us. The ground beneath us splinters into a million tiny pieces and WE becomes ME and various parts of us are left on lonely islands feeling less than. LESS THAN. And we think, man I sure hope it isn’t ME that ever feels less than, PLEEEEEASE GOD LET IT BE THAT OTHER HUMAN OVER THERE. Let them deal with it. We silence empathy. We put a muzzle on compassion. And we definitely turn our backs on love. And then fear and judgment, those devious and wholly unloving trolls, are once again triumphant.

Bleck.

My heart cracked wide open on a recent morning as I watched my six year old walk into school, you guys. If you’ve never met him, he is laughter and sunshine and rainbows and karate moves and unexpected sing alongs and the world’s tightest hugs and HAPPINESS. So much joy in that tiny body of his, it’s magic. But, as he made his way into the building his steps were slow and his gaze was affixed on the pavement and the smile that typically lights up his beautiful face was absent. His joy was, gone.

And the hardest truth is that it was because of me. Because of us. Because just three days prior while at a soccer tournament I watched a young boy on the playground tease him incessantly for wearing “girl shoes”. Because my steadfast practice in benevolence was upstaged in that moment by a visceral urge to either cry out GOOD LORD CHILD WHY ON EARTH DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE COLOR OF HIS SHOES or fold this little stranger into my arms and offer a sincere apology on behalf of grown-ups across the land for convincing him that “we know best” while modeling these unkind, unloving, judgement-laden behaviors. (Should you need confirmation that this one is on us, look no further than a 30-second scroll of any ol’ Facebook feed. That outta cover it).

Because on this day when he pulled the rainbow-colored dress off the hanger, my ego screamed WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU IF YOU DON’T PROTECT HIM and I suddenly found myself offering familiar excuses. Are you sure? I should talk to your teachers first, maybe. I mean, it’s kind of chilly out for no sleeves, right? Don’t you love this colorful shirt, though? How about we wear that dress another day?

Pardon me for a moment as I rescue my weary heart off the ground, friends, because that’s where I left it that morning. On the curb at my child’s school, where I “protected” by convincing him that his heart was less than. Over a PIECE OF FABRIC (yes, it physically hurts to write that). That his feelings and desires in that moment were in some way less valid, because they weren’t my own. I left it in the place where I answered to fear and judgment by fueling its ugly intentions with more of the same.

And yes, this post was surely inspired from a hard place. Because the world can be so cruel and we are so scared of each other. But it isn’t really just about my baby. It’s about ALL of our babies. EVERY human. And we know there are innumerable ways that we judge one another. This is waaaaay bigger than fabric. We let fear tell us what to do. We don’t lead with love. We make it about ME, not US.

How much longer will we expect parts of us (ESPECIALLY OUR BABIES) to shoulder the burden of our elected discomforts? When will we awaken from the vice grip of our egos and just LOVE one another EXACTLY as we are?

Fear sells us lies and attempts to stunt our growth. But, love…LOVE returns to our doorstep each day and waits patiently until we invite it into our hearts. Today is a new day and the Universe beckons us with a fresh opportunity to choose love over fear.

Today, let’s all stand a little closer. Let’s not be immune to one another. Let’s stare fear down and decide NO MORE. Let’s make sure joy is for EVERY part of us. Let’s quit it with all the labels. Let’s be JOY SPREADERS. Let’s be the reason that every human feels MORE THAN.

Let’s get this right.