Friday, February 10, 2017

Feeling the Love of Those Departed

(*Wrote this draft 2 years ago, but never published and was reminded about it yesterday when her ex-husband passed away. )

Watching Super Soul Sunday and something profoundly moves me.Madonna Badger, a woman from Connecticut, lost her three daughters and parents in a fire in her home on Christmas Eve 2011.

Now take that in.

Her older daughter was 9 and the twins were 7.  And her parents.  All in one night.
So much devastation and the woman is still standing.

She and Oprah talked about how lost loved ones are still with us.  Madonna shares her experience of conversations with her children and how mind-blowing it is.  She describes one particular time where her pain was so devastating, so deeply intense and the tears felt like blood coming from her eyes.  And she looked in the mirror and saw her children.  And they spoke to her and comforted her.  And she wanted to let who was with her know that it was real.

She says she can feel them and when this occurs her chest feels full.  And this only happens when she feels super present in her body. When she is bitter or angry, she cannot feel her children.

Whoa.  This struck my soul.

When I am bitter and angry, love does not come out.  Love is no where near.  Now, there is a place for anger and it can tell you where you need boundaries but staying in that place of anger and bitterness, does not move me forward and only leaves one stuck.  I have stayed angry about things for years and am slowly, slowly learning, I don't want to reside in anger any more.  I learn to allow anger to move through.  And I still stand amazed every time it does.

It seems Madonna's truth came quickly to her because it was the only way to experience her beloved children.

As Madonna vulnerably spoke this truth on this show, she commented that she doesn't understand why it is that way.

Anger does not take you to the profound places that love does. (Did I come up with this, I must have?)

Love is the answer. Love is always the answer.  And learning to love myself has always been the key to being able to turn it around and love others.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Watching Unity on the Dance Floor

Saturday night was a Mardi Gras Ball for the Youth at our church.  My eighth grade daughter invited a study group of hers from school as her guests.  We made a production out of it with a pre-party at our house beforehand.  It was fun to have the teenagers come and watch the young ladies and gentlemen now mingle together with a tad bit of awkwardness.  I wish we could have invited everybody but as I put 8 kids into my 6 passenger car to drive them home, I know there is only room for so many. They begged to be together on the drive home and go to Waffle house after... but I declined the restaurant as I was wiped out.  Maybe I should have.  We are all only young once.

During the dance, I poured drinks for the attendees and chatted with the other chaperones and spied a little.   I really wanted to dance though.  I'm always called to the dance floor especially with some 80's music.  I did get to dance last weekend at another Mardi Gras Ball.  The whole family attended but did not dance together as I naively thought we would.  Who was I kidding?  They are almost both teenagers now.  What was I thinking?!!  I did get to sing Bon Jovi at the top of my lungs with a complete stranger.!

Music has an energy all of it's own that is so good for the soul.

Who doesn't need some uplifting?

Towards the end of the evening,  I am counting down the minutes til it's time to bring the group home.  And then I hear "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  Oh yes!  They played this last year.  I climb up on the stage to video.  While I'm videoing, I hear the joyous screams that came with the massive shooting out of shiny confetti and I think how lucky I am to catch this on my phone.  Since then, I have watched this video over and over.  The energy of it captivates me.  I see such an exciting energy that only music can do.  As I hear the chorus of young voices chanting, "the smell of wine and cheap perfume," I chuckle.  And then as the beat of the music gets faster, I can barely make out but know the arms are in the air and bodies are jumping up and down. Together.  The foam fingers give it away.

Unity.  Excitement.  Energy.

That energy is so captivating.  On Sunday as I drove to pick up Mallory from a sleepover, I found the song and streamed it through the car speakers and turned it way up and sang very loudly as I can only do when I'm alone in my car.

My soul was uplifted and I went to a happy place.

I forget how much music moves me.


(Enjoy - you may have to click it twice to go to You Tube to watch it)

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Lesson of a Donald Trump Presidency

I have started many post election missives.  And I write and I get worked up and angry and that is not the place I want to come from and I don't finish them.  I'm really going to try to finish in the spirit that it is intended today.  But that spirit is being lost as events and facts continue to unfold and it's even more disheartening.  What is going on is not about politics as usual whatsoever.

I see and hear the frustration on all sides.  The frustration that led unemployed workers in Erie, PA to vote for Trump out of desperation even though they wished he would stop talking a certain way.  Coal miners need jobs yet they are benefiting from ACA and don't think he will really dismantle it.  (How does one choose which thing to believe of what he says? )  I understand those who want change and there was too much progress to handle.  Two months ago, I was stunned but understood those reasons why he was elected.  But now, it's a different story.  There is Russian involvement and that unfolds each day, and Comey and FBI interference.

There is also no transparency of any sort with the businesses that PEOTUS and his family hold, just his word is given to us.  And Kellyanne Conway says not to listen to his words but know his heart.  The heart who degrades anybody who disagrees with him, openly mocked a disabled reporter and grabs pussy because he can.

In the words of the Kentwood native, Oops, I did it again,  I started going off.  Deep breath. Each time I write it boils down to this, the most important occurrence from Nov 8th was...

Decency died.

Do I have to list the reasons why?  If you are reading this, then not likely.

The list is long and there are new reasons each and every day.

Does he really care about Americans?  Or did he just want to WIN!  Did he want retaliation from Obama humiliating him at the 2011 White House Correspondence dinner?  The lesson that his father taught him was all about winning and not being a loser.

This notion of winning really goes deep with a painful tragedy within his family. His father, Fred, Sr. and Donald repeatedly told his brother, Fred Jr, who was eight years older than Donald, that he was a loser because he did not have that killer instinct for the family business.  Fred wanted to be a pilot, and he did become a pilot but was a real disappointment to those two men.  Fred Jr. drank himself to death by the age of 43.  I'm sure that instilled in Donald even further to be a winner, or what he designates as a winner.   He is still seeking approval from his deceased father and from all of us around him.  That is his low self worth on display.  (It takes one to know one, I spot it because I got it!)

This next fact, explained so much of Trump's behavior to me and in particular, behavior that is so intolerable to me.  Roy Cohn, the deceased mob and McCarthy era lawyer, taught him to lie and keep repeating lies until people think it's the truth.  Even today when there is audio or video footage to the contrary, this seems to make no difference at all.  Student Trump did finally learn a lesson and he learned it really well.  Truth and facts do not matter.  Double down.

He has not stepped up into being more Presidential as I meagerly hoped, that is not who he is.  He has tweeted in retaliation throughout the transition, the business elite have been appointed for cabinet positions some of whom don't even know the job they are being assigned or are terribly unqualified, and there is no untangling himself from his businesses.  The potential for conflict of interest is huge.  The first Trump White House Press Briefing by Sean Spicer included an infomercial for his DC hotel.  

He has historically low poll numbers of any President before he is sworn in at 40%.

I am not alone in thinking this man is not ready for the job.

But he was elected and with unprecedented foreign involvement.  Yet, there is a peaceful transition of power.  And then what will happen next?

I read an article in Psychology Today by Karl Albrecht, PhD that described who Trump will be as a President.  It fits with everything that I've read and watched of who he is.  There won't be meetings or information shared by those with knowledgable of the given area because he doesn't have the patience or attention span for that.  His style of leadership will be a fly by the seat of his pants and a competition of those around him who can get his attention the longest and compete for their interests.

A concern that stands out to me is that when a tragic event like the Sandy Hook massacre occurs, can you imagine PEOTUS comforting the families or the United States as a whole?  His thin skin and ego, is all about himself.  Does he know how to be empathetic?

Is he going to grow up?  Is he going to learn, that not everything is about himself?

Now that I've gotten a little bit out of my system, I will attempt to take a different turn.

I do think that with this election, there has been a positive.  He has galvanized those who disagree with him in solidarity!  The marches of women and others demonstrating are going to be amazing. His words, "Nasty Woman" were a rallying call. There is activism out the wazoo to let Senators and Representatives know what their constituents want.  There was a huge response to Republicans trying to gut an ethics panel at the beginning of the month.  I have taken to several different means to communicate with my representatives.  These people in government work for us and we are not going to let them forgot that.

I have to speak up and that is not comfortable for me at all.

But in the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller: I saw these words this summer in Boston at a Holocaust memorial.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

My hope and prayer is that Trump can continue to be an agent of change, just not for what his intentions are, whatever they are.  I have to pray for this man and for those who surround him.  This is a tall order.   I can easily pray for life, liberty and the pursuit of justice for all people of the United States.  All people including those of different skin colors and races, different religions, women, those with disabilities and of different sexual orientations, all of us.  We are all brothers and sisters.  We are all in this together. A divine power created us all.  Now to actually send positive thoughts to someone whom I have seen no decency in? That is how I have to grow.

I pray that as he takes on the awesome responsibility of this job, it transforms him.  One can hope.

The only way that I know to move forward is to love.   I have to love and care for those around me, including myself.   Even though decency died, I have to love those whom I disagree with politically and move forward.  I have to dig really, really deep.  Because that lack of decency is born out of fear.  Fear of not having a job again, fear of the color of the United States changing, fear of a woman leader, and fear of change.  And the opposite of fear is love.  I have to dig really deep to live in peace that all will be well.  This is the ultimate teacher.  Love big even though it is not being demonstrated by the man in the Presidency.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Sending love out.  I will walk my dogs now.  I will work on my budget. I will clean and do laundry and tonight,  I will pick up my kids from school, I will go to my Spiritual Formation conference and listen to the topic of Holy Listening. That is the perfect antidote for today.


Monday, January 16, 2017

I Have Enrolled in Seminary

Not really, but sort of.

I am enrolled in a 2 year paraprofessional certification for Spiritual Formation Leadership.  What is that, you ask?  I'm not sure really, but it requires furthering my relationship with the Divine within and going out of my comfort zone.  So here I am.

It is a joint venture between the Ministry of Spiritual Formation of my church, First United Methodist in Baton Rouge and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois. I'm not sure how I ended up here (oh yes I do), but here I am.

I wrote that a few weeks back and reading again now, I just noticed that the words "Here I Am" were at the end of both of the above paragraphs.  That happens to be one of my very favorite hymns.  It make me want to sing and cry all at the same time.  No coincidence that I wrote those words.  It gives me goose bumps every time.

I am going to determine that this certification is a good thing.  It is comprised of several conferences over 2 years.  And the most important part is taking on different spiritual practices on a near daily basis: keeping a prayer journal, Centering prayer, audio listenings, book reports,  developing a rule of life, Lectio divina,  and small group meetings.

Oh my gosh.  That's a lot and since grad school, I've never been very disciplined in reading activities.  Can I be disciplined?  I have been very intentional in my thought processes and changing those that don't work for me. Guess what?  That is the spiritual practice of Self-Examination.  (Check that practice off the list!!  One down!!)

My spiritual homework is pushing me to do practices that make me feel uncomfortable and are painful.  I am healing the past and... thought processes that did not bring me closer to God.   These new practices, although awkward and challenging, open me up even further to the divine within.  I wasn't ready to read the words or hear the words or speak the exercises before me until now.   Some healing had to take place to make me ready to take in, here it   And love always is the answer.   But love comes not in the form that I expect, so I have come to expect the unexpected. (But of course still some yearning in the ways that I think it should be)

I had put off starting many of the above described homework assignments.   A deadline loomed and I dug in.  It finally hit me why I delayed sitting down to tackle the materials.  This work is emotional.  My fundamentalist baggage is deep.  Whatever I learned when I was younger did not bring me to know how much God loves me.  I read within the first sentence of a chapter on Self Examination: ...God is the searcher of every human heart.

That brought tears to my eyes. Wow.  Eight words did me in. I'm in that every human heart and I believe it. God is seeking me out every day, all day, with a ceaseless love.  (I just have to pay attention and let go of my expectations!)  This is a stark contrast to how I felt about God before.  I felt God was out there (hand as far away from the body as it can get and tilted upward because you know that's where heaven is)  and relentlessly judging me.  I failed in the judgement that I thought was going on each and every time.  What a difference to know a higher power is always there with LOVE, a ceaseless love not judgement.

My former black and white thinking on God (and life) takes time to dismantle.  Now, I desperately need to hear the notion of original love not original sin.  We were born of love, as love.  It takes time to take this in.  People and religions make up rules and dogma instead of doing the hard work of allowing love in.

So I am in seminary, sort of. I wouldn't have ever thought that was true.  I just was invited to take this step and it made sense to follow it.   I am pushing myself once again, uncomfortably into new territory.  This is growth, though.  I cannot grow and evolve standing still or sitting and cowering in the corner as I was accustomed to.  I am dragging myself slowly bit by bit but I know without a doubt I'm on the right path.

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Years Day 2017 - What Does It Mean?

It's a new year!  What does that mean?  What has changed? The ground is still saturated from the rains that lasted all day on New Year's Eve and yesterday. The sun is still not out today and more rain is falling.  So here we are.  A brand spanking new year.  What does it mean?

We rang in the new year quietly.  We had a delicious dinner visiting with George's sister and family from out of town and they headed back to their hotel several hours before midnight.

Riley watched Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve on her own.  Mallory really wanted to stay up so the rest of us watched "Miracles from Heaven" waiting for midnight.  In true fashion, I did fall asleep and make them watch the ending again.  But at 11:55pm, Riley joined us on the couch making our core four celebration and we rang in the New Year together in central standard time.   The ball had already dropped in New York but they dropped a Fleur de Lis live in New Orleans and by 12:02am, we were heading to bed.  Check please!

I'll have to say the first two days of the new year feels sort of empty because it is just the same as the last day of 2016.  It seems as though there is an expectation that is should be brand spanking new!    It is a new year, month, and day and opportunity for a new slate yet the dishes, Legos and laundry are still sitting there waiting.   I gave up resolutions years ago as those don't work.  But what I have learned is that intention is the way to go for me.

Intention has worked for me and I'm not really sure how or why I started I just knew things needed to change.  For one thing, there has to be a very passionate desire to change something.  Intention has been my steely focus on a daily basis on my thoughts (and healing!)  I was very resolute. I haven't been this resolute about anything before.   I didn't start out to be intentional, it just happened along the way... First, I had to become aware that I had negative thoughts that needing changing.  As I woke up to that voice in my head with the runny dialogue I discovered the the story I told myself was "I can't" all the freaking time.  Not a good thing.

After practice, practice, practice, when a negative thought popped in, I take note.  And slowly, I dismantle them.  I ask the critical question, "Is this true?"  Really true?   I used intentionality every day, to change this.  Therapy woke me up but that was just the beginning.  I self taught with many teachers that I listened to, watched videos and read.   Along with intentions, I learned I needed to be in the moment.  Persons like Eckhart Tolle, Gary Zukav, Michael Singer and Byron Katie.  Anyone who taught about mindfulness.  There's so much to this process of becoming awakened.  More later.

(Jesus' taught this too - the renewing of the mind but that blog will come later.)

This past year, I did not write nearly as much, only 20 blogs, compared to 50-60 in previous years.  I had profound thoughts that came into my mind, but they didn't come through me.    Politics anyone?    I have felt blocked and hindered.  I feel like something is passing me by.  It is not a good thing at all.   I have an intention this year to write and blog more.  I need to process my life this way.  I do not feel like I'm in the flow and may energy is sagging not tuning in to my authenticity.  The older I get, I need to listen to my intuition and do what I know works for me.  Shutting out the assault of politics to my senses is going to be one way to help me stay intentional.   Sitting down for my Spiritual Formation homework is another.  It centers me fairly quickly.  

For me, this new year means zeroing in on intention again.   The intention of listening to my intuition and the God nudges that come in my thoughts.  And putting those down even if they are not perfectly stated.  Now that I have spent quite some time clearing some of the negative ones, the light is coming in.  Alright, 2017 here we go!


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Think I Can Be A Dramatic Actress

It was the day after Christmas and I needed a cry.   The feelings just sit on my chest and I can tell the energy needs to pass through.  There is so much buildup for Christmas in so many different ways.  The pressure of the season to have the "most wonderful time of the year" amidst decorating, present buying, party attending, card distribution, AND celebrating the reason for the season along with getting together with relatives.  And then it's over, just like that.

I have had to lower my expectations.

In the car the last week or so, I heard the band Alabama, singing "Angels Among Us" and I immediately started a full out ugly cry within seconds of hearing the chorus.  So this morning while the kids were still sleeping, or so I thought, I played a video to bring the feeling sitting on my chest out.  As soon as I hear the children's chorus, the tears start falling.  It's so cathartic and so needed.  My youngest walked in, sat by me, asked what was going on and I said that I missed GaGa.  She tenderly sat next to me, put her arm around me and watched the video with me, and I told her it's okay to cry.  I absolutely love that we have this moment.  She is learning that all emotions are okay.  And then we carried on with the rest of our day.

I think I have the skills to be a dramatic actress now.  (he he)  I see what actors have to tap into- to bring it, to bring that palpable depth of emotion.  It is not easy whatsoever.  And it's that vulnerability that draws the audience in.  It is some of the hardest work I have ever done to sit with the most exquisite discomfort and allow it to flow.  It has taken years of practice because I emotionally shut down after the postpartum depression I had.   And actors do this for a living.  They purposely bring up this painful stuff.  I have read and listened to actors talking about their processes and it is fascinating and therapeutic.

This is also where numbing can take place if you think the pain of whatever it is too much.  For myself and so many, numbing is the answer because it's excruciating to be with that pain.  I still numb some and it may always be part of my repertoire yet I have other coping skills now.  One of them is writing and for so many years I have been doing so in blog form and this year has not been a good year for that.  I have felt stuck and I have to do something about it.  I have begun to do handwrite in a journal and it is a much different practice than typing it on a computer.  It takes time to learn to do that practice.

This year, I went through a major shift with a person in my life.  It reached a point where I had to let go of ever connecting at the level that I so very deeply desired.  I had to let go of expectations on my part that would never be fulfilled and I was devastated.   I grieved and realized that I spent a lot of energy on something that was not producing.  It was time to move on and free up energy and see what else is out there to connect with that I'm not imagining.  Letting go can make room for something bigger?  I live with such great intention on many areas but this area tripped me up so much.   I need to stop and evaluate what is working and what is not and move on.

I have to lower my expectations for some people, places and things and move on to new areas and adventures.

Although I understand the acting technique, I don't think I will be taking any head shots or taking a Playmakers theater class anytime soon.  I don't think it is where my heart lies.   I can tap into sadness, anger and joy pretty easily.  I need a little more work with joy I think.  But I will continue to enjoy the arts as much as I always have.   There is a reason the Oscars are my favorite time of year.  It is the reason that I LOVE going to the movies.  It is the reason songs can move me to tears or happiness within seconds.   The movies I'm drawn to are the ones all about humans and their emotional entanglements.  This is who I am.


Ode To The Bravery of Carrie Fisher (not necessarily Princess Leia)

Can 2016 get any worse?  There was a joke about hiding Betty White away.  So many entertainers have died, Prince and George Michael are gone.  I really didn't know David Bowie but I liked what he had to say as a person. But I really loved what Carrie Fisher had to say.   And now she is gone and she was only 60!  I'm forty-eight and that gives me pause.  What if I never say or do what I was meant to because I am too scared of what people will think.

The author, Anne Lamott said this...
Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen. Repent just means to change direction—and NOT to be said by someone who is waggling their forefinger at you. Repentance is a blessing. Pick a new direction, one you wouldn’t mind ending up at, and aim for that. Shoot the moon.

(It thrills me that repent means to change direction and she mentions that's it's not wagging a finger in someone's face.  It's a blessing not a judgment.  I've never had that wonderful connotation of that word and I've started to rewire the definition in my head.)

Back to Carrie Fisher.  I know I watched Star Wars long ago but that is not what stuck with me about her.  The movie Postcards from The Edge stuck so I read the book.  And then I read Surrender the Pink and Wishful Drinking.  I just added The Princess Diarist to my hold's list on Overdrive.   Yesterday, I watched the "Wishful Drinking" special again On Demand.  The diagram of her family was hilarious.

It must have been in the 2008 book, Wishful Drinking, what she said about living with bi-polar:   "At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of.  They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication."

That resonated with me so deeply and clinched me as a fan.  I suffered terribly with Postpartum depression and anxiety after my first child.  It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through.  I felt so very alone and there were so many days, weeks,  and sometimes just a moment felt like a struggle.  Making it through an hour was sometimes way too much to comprehend.   I was so alone and felt so hopeless with a helpless infant who needed me, just me.  It was the lowest of lows and the anxiety and the crying were endless.  (Mine and Riley's!)  It took me months to understand that I needed to take an anti-depressant to get back on track.  And it took at least a year to begin to feel like myself again.  The hiccup was that the first night I took an anti-depressant, it lit me up even higher with anxiety than I already was experiencing.   I didn't sleep a wink and I thought that they were going to have to lock me away because I couldn't sleep nor could I function anymore.  I can recall the terror of that period instantly and that night permanently and forever scarred me.  In hindsight, I  should have taken an anti-anxiety along with the anti-depressant until my body adjusted to the anti-depressant.   That bout with PPD changed my life and started me on the journey I am now on.

I can't imagine living with a daily struggle of bipolar that is so merciless that leads to electric-shock therapy.  But you have to do what you have to do.  One can overcome so many odds.

When I read that passage in Wishful Drinking, I thought, oh my gosh, yes!  Instead of looking down on people with mental illness, they really should be applauded because it can be an ongoing, daily, sometimes hourly struggle.  And Carrie Fisher said this out loud!!  Wow!  Bravo!  Through the pages of a book, it made me feel not so alone for what I had gone through.  Sometimes, a connection can be made by reading a book, and now it can be online.

I will miss her wit and her courage and seeing her dog, Gary. I will miss that she stood up for herself and body image for many of us when they shamed her for not looking like her 19 year old self in a bikini.  Carrie wrote about the despair of mental illness but also made it funny.  Princess Leia was a formidable opponent, but it is Carrie Fisher who was the bravest bad ass to me.   Someone who speaks up for those who have no voice.   RIP Carrie Fisher.  You are gone too soon.