To Live in This World

for Gabe at the start of his season


When he was about 7, Gabe said to me, in his odd, precise way, “Well, you aren’t often wrong.” He wouldn’t say that now. Just shy of 9, he’s seen many things go wrong. Yet there is a growing sense that some important things are being set right. Being made new, made whole. Leaves are falling, but there is also a harvest coming.


Continue reading “To Live in This World”

Invitation: Come for Comfort

On Saturday afternoon I was at the nail place getting my no-chip manicure, looking at and listening to the people around me, which feels a bit like watching TV–calming and weird at the same time. There were two young women talking about their plans to go out drinking, discussing the names of drinks they planned to try: the “Dirty Girl Scout,” the “Naked Girl Scout,” and something with the words “blow job” in the title. There was a lady talking about her plans for the family Christmas dinner she was making, and how some of the kids could eat off of Christmas plates but not all could because she didn’t have enough for everyone, but maybe she should go to Kohl’s and buy more? And then there was the gigantic football player and his girlfriend: he was getting a mani-pedi, she was texting her friends.

Then the Christmas music started, specifically, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and tears started running down my cheeks because all I have on my mind are the people of Newton, Connecticut and their families. I was crying, but couldn’t wipe my face because my hands were soaking in polish remover, and this seemed both ridiculous and completely appropriate at the same time. We go about our regular, sweet, silly little lives, because what else would we do, and at the same time we are all, as one of the characters in Jan Karon’s lovely “Mitford” novels says, “trying to swallow something that won’t go down.”broken-hearts-on-hands

I’ve been wondering for days whether to write this post because what in God’s name can anyone say or do?  That is the question I was asking myself on Saturday, sitting there in the nail place, especially when the owner’s two little boys came in and crammed themselves into one pedicure chair together and played Angry Birds on an i-Pad. What can I do? What can I say? What can I do?

So this post has just been a draft, and would have remained as such until today’s news of the funerals started coming out, and I realized that I was actually afraid to take my 7-year old son out shopping on our way home tonight. What they say when school shootings happen is always the same: “Things like this don’t happen here.” But that has never been true. Things like this happen here, wherever you are reading this; here is Virginia, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Norway…the bottom line is that Newton, Connecticut is anywhere, everywhere, and those children and those families are us. All of us.

My intention in writing this post is to invite you to come and be here. Something like a virtual prayer service. Just be here, with whatever you have, whatever you can offer, whatever you feel. Come and sit here, in front of your computer screen, and pray as hard as you can, pray with everything in your heart. Cry or breathe, let your heart break open, then pray some more, because it matters and you won’t be alone. I truly believe that when we have no idea what to bring but bring ourselves anyway, it matters. If all you have to offer is grief, then sit here in front of your computer with your grief. You aren’t alone, and it matters. Your grief matters. Your love matters. There is love here. There is heart here. Because you are here and you aren’t alone.
brokenheartThe poet Denise Levertov wrote, “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” That is what made me write this post. And because, as the Rilke poem below tells us, when grief is all you have, then grief is what you bring. It is right and good to demand that God hear our grief and help us bear it.

Read the poem. And if you want to let me know that you were here, if it helps you to do that, I promise you that your prayers will be in my heart as I keep offering up whatever I have to offer. Your prayers will echo in the hearts of everyone who is here reading, and that matters. Together we can share what feels unbearable, together all our prayers will mean something, not just to us individually but to everyone else in pain. I promise that too.

I read this quote from one of the Newton school neighbors who took some children into his home to wait for their parents: “This little boy turns around, and composes himself, and he looks at me like he had just removed himself from the carnage and he says, ‘Just saying, your house is very small,'” Rosen said. “I wanted to tell him, ‘I love you. I love you.'”

When our hearts are broken, sometimes love comes out. It will never be enough, but it matters more than we ever know. I love you. I love you.

Pushing Through

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
 in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

School Supply Insanity: Just Do It Or Just Say No?

In 2005, many first-days-of school ago, I watched my 7-year old son walk into his kindergarten class with tears stinging my eyes. I felt stuck in place, unable to leave, and was surprised to see another kindergarten mother walking quite snappily back to her car. It struck me as somewhat unseemly, her sprightly air. The kindergarten teacher, a wise and, I would come to learn, hilarious woman, looked at my weepy-mommy face and winked. “This isn’t her first rodeo,” she said, smiling.

Now, eight years later, with two sons in high school and one starting 1st grade, this impending school year is no longer my first rodeo. Which is why there are no traces of sentimentality left around one of the critical steps in gearing up for 1st grade: the School Supply List.

Long gone are the days when school supplies held the air of freshly sharpened pencils and sheaves of blank, potential-filled paper. Long vanished is the fantasy of cheerfully picking out pencil cases, notebooks, and new crayons with my sons. And good riddance.

Continue reading “School Supply Insanity: Just Do It Or Just Say No?”

In Which I Write About Jacob’s Accident & Become Famous

As some folks know, Jacob was hit by a car last month while riding his bike to school. The driver didn’t stop (yes, you read that right. Someone hit a child on a bike, knocked him over and kept driving.)  Jacob wasn’t hurt.

It was a very powerful learning experience for all of us.  I wrote a short piece about it for the website, and it is my Very First Guest Post Ever.  Go here to read it (Mom, that means you have to click on the underlined words).

Happy May Day all!

The most traumatic Thing about preschool

Having seen 3 boys through preschool, a process of some 15 years duration, I have made a final decision on the most traumatic aspect of this experience.  Separation anxiety, the exposure of your child to influences outside your control, industrialized food stuffs, and the omnipresent smell of bleach were all considered.  These are traumatic, yes, but they are not the most traumatic.  Continue reading “The most traumatic Thing about preschool”

the deepest secret nobody knows

It is such a good thing that people lie to you when you have very young children, and you ask them if it ever gets easier and they say “Yes!”  Because if they told the truth, your own and possibly your offspring’s chances of surviving the first 5 years of their lives would decrease significantly.  I don’t know why people lie to parents of small children about this.  It might be because the horrible physical demands of early parenting do easy up (sleep deprivation, carrying loads of crap everywhere, existing in a constant state of muscle-twitching vigilance, etc.) , and you don’t really have to deal with vomit or snot or feces as much with a teenager as you do with an under-3.  Of course, if you did, you’ve really got a completely different set of issues.  No, I think the reason people perpetuate the myth that parenting gets easier is because the reality would just be too much to take on board for at least the first 10 years.  And the reality is that with each year of your child’s life that passes, you lose less and less control.  So whereas at first your main job is to keep another human alive, when every atom of your body is dedicated to this 24/7/365 to infinity, eventually you just become obsolete.  Except no one remembers to tell your heart this.

Continue reading “the deepest secret nobody knows”

Why Everyone Needs a Superhero

Halloween at Gabe's daycare

In the dark early hours of the morning, I saw a shadowy figure in my bedroom, and my first thought was that it was Jesus.  I’d been reading some Anne Lamott the night before—the part of Travelling Mercies where she describes what she later came to believe was Jesus’ presence in her bedroom as she was struggling alone, drunk, strung out, through the aftermath of an abortion.  Anne writes that she could feel the presence so strongly that she got up and turned on the light to see if someone was there. 
Continue reading “Why Everyone Needs a Superhero”

Transitions & Resilience: “Just do your best, then say ‘Amen'”

Today in Target I had one of those thoughts that I suspect you should probably not say out loud.  For the first time in my life, I thought, “I’m not sure if I should have had kids.”  Since I am not Jennifer Aniston, i.e. since people are not constantly querying me about my desire and motivation to have children, and since my children are already here, I’ve never spent much, if any, time thinking about whether I should have had them.  And I certainly think someone should have had them; I truly believe they add something to the sum of human goodness.  I just don’t know that that someone should have been me.

Me before I had kids

Continue reading “Transitions & Resilience: “Just do your best, then say ‘Amen’””

This is It? Yes and No.

The thought of writing about this topic, #1 of the “43 Eternal Truths,” has been plaguing me since I decided to do it.  No inspiration.  No insight.  Just confusion, that dull, awful feeling when the gears in your brain keep getting stuck at the same place, over and over.  The dilemma was this:  I feel that I should agree with the statement, “This is it!” because what it seems to be saying are things like, “This is your life!  Be here now!  Moments are all we have!”  And that’s fine.  That’s good.  I get it. 

But in my heart, I don’t actually agree that this is IT, that this is all we get or have.  And I don’t agree with the message that you shouldn’t hold onto things, or project into the future, or care too much about outcomes, or that living in the present is the ultimate goal. 

I am a big advocate of mindfulness, of presence, of paying attention. 

However, wrestling with these three little words–this is it–has made me realize that I am also an advocate of allowing ourselves to live in the past, present, future, or our own imaginations, to project whatever desires we want onto our lives, to be strongly attached to whatever really, really matters to us, to care as much as we possibly can about whatever we want, knowing of course that none of this guarantees anything.  Anything, that is, except a life of deep passion and commitment, self-permission and the chance to let your longing and desire become visible enough, powerful enough, that you cannot help but follow it.

Continue reading “This is It? Yes and No.”

To Read in Your Leisure Time (Ha Ha Ha!)

If you are a Dr. Phil viewer, you may have seen the recent show on Dr. John Robinson’s time-use study claiming that “Women have at least 30 hours of leisure every week.  In fact, women have more leisure now than they did in the 1960s, even though more women are working outside the home.”*  If you are a working woman, you may have already used Google Earth to locate Dr. Robinson’s home, somewhere in the Baltimore area, and are currently figuring out how to make something very large and very heavy fall onto it.  And if you were doing this, by the way, you’d be using your “leisure time.”  As Brigid Schulte wrote, in her Washington Post article on the study, answering emails or using the computer for anything other than work is leisure time.  Other examples include:

“Watching movies with the kids. Visiting a sick friend with the kids. Talking to a friend about her leisure time on the cellphone to report this story while taking my son’s bike to the shop for repairs with the kids. Leisure, leisure, leisure.”

“Printing out a gift card to Best Buy for my friend’s son while yelling at kids and husband to “get into the car now” two minutes before leaving to go to a birthday dinner. Leisure.”

“Sitting in a hot, broken-down car for two hours on a median strip and playing tic-tac-toe with my daughter while waiting for a tow truck. Yes, that, too.”

Continue reading “To Read in Your Leisure Time (Ha Ha Ha!)”

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