Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birth Day (s)

The least of these--the greatest of these---all are Invited

      I am a big cry baby.  Seriously.  I get my feelings hurt easily. I sulk.  I might as well be in a closet curled up licking my wounds when I think somebody has left me out or hurt me.  I'm old (er).  I like to think I am processing stuff more better/faster/with more "consciousness" these days.   Stay put.  Just laying the ground work.
   Taylor was never invited to birthday parties when he was little.  He didn't have a core group as it were. Invitations were just not forthcoming.  So, whereas my other son, Cole, went to a birthday party a week, I really have to rack my brain to remember any  birthday parties to which Taylor was invited.  And,  I cried a lot. I felt left out---rejected.  Early on, I bought into the belief that he/we were not wanted....would not be included in real things.  (Have you ever noticed that when you believe something that you create situations in your life to support that belief? Pay attention. That's a whole different blog.  Hold that thought.)
     I guess then I was stunned, suprised, delighted when Taylor received a for-real, actual birthday invitation (you know, like from Halmark) in the mail.  Gisela was inviting Taylor to her daughter, Cindy's, 7th birthday. The invitation had his name on it.  It was the first birthday invitation he had ever received.  I cried. (Not in the closet---but at the kitchen sink.)  Hooray!! Somebody loves him/me/us!  Taylor, of course, has never doubted that he is loved; he does not have my issues--thank goodness.  On my way to the party, I got a speeding ticket.  I tried to explain to the officer that it was our first birthday party invitation----ever.  I paid $87.00 and sped off.  I remember everything about walking into that house on that Friday afternoon.  Gisela met us at the door---like real guests---like we were treasured.   There was a hat and gift bag with Taylor's name on it.  This sounds so darn sappy, but it makes me tear-up to even type this.  It was one of those days/events/situations that opened up my heart and shifted it off center to a better place.
    My daddy's birthday was (is?) Christmas Eve.   He is in Heaven probably trying to integrate it or get the angels to recycle their aluminum foil and picking up Coke bottles to turn in for cash.   And, then, of course, there's THE other birth day this week. Holy Week.   So, in my life, this is a week that somehow is both fragile and majestic and humble and lowly and promising and full of tender aches.  Enter the violins---can you hear the angels singing to you?
       In so many ways, I have been a great mother to Taylor.  But, if I could have a Do-Over, I think I would have saddled up my camel, my donkey, my Pilot---and busted in on lots more birthday parties.   When earlier folk saw that star in the east,  they just went.  They didn't ask, "Oh, have we been invited? Are we wanted? Are we on the list?"  Heck no!  They saw the light.  They followed it.  They went---ragged clothes, cold, speeding tickets and all. 
      Here's what I know  or want to know:  The Christmas Birthday party is a time for me, for you--for us----to look around and see who's not been invited in sharing what we have. Who needs an invitation? Who feels  disenfranchised and aches to be included?  Ask them in.  Greet them at the door.  Give them a hat with their name on it.
There's room at this birth-day party for all of us.
Happy Birthday, Jesus, Jack,  Taylor, Cindy, Gisela, Dorna, and on and on and on and on---all ye guarding your flock (s) by day and night--your flocks near or far.
Gather round.  Your invitation is here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The hopes and fears of all the Years

How many poignant, here's-a-new-twist on Christmas, reason-for-the-season stories can we read  this year without throwing up our fruit cake? So, I won't even try.  Well maybe. 
All I know is that Christmas---growing up in my large family, was not that magical.  I wonder---really and truly wonder--what the formula is (logarithm?) for how many Christmases a person can go through with unreal expectations---that somehow sort of fizzle and plummet right before his/her eyes---and yet, still, the very next year---cement those same expectations into place? Is that the definition of eternal hope or something else?
     My father was a forestry professor.  We did the whole going out into the woods to chop down our own tree thing.   Of course we never went to a tree farm; we just clomped around in the woods off the side of a highway.   Invariably we ended up cutting down (chopping would indicate a thick trunk) two little trees which we would tie together with rope once we got home so it would look like one tree.  Keep in mind that my  father was  a tree expert. More was expected of him.  Mama always always cried.  The tree---the kickoff to the season--was already a disappointment:  two scraggly trees tied together with some twine brought up from the basement.   Christmas spiraled down when mama's big Christmas from our father was a huge, yellow, plastic trash can for the kitchen.  Daddy had lived through the depression, had fought in WWII and put himself through school.  He didn't need many "things."  He gave us (his eight children) purses we already had, old dolls with different dresses, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, soap from Holiday Inns in which he had stayed.  What threw off the curve or perhaps kept the hope alive, was that every now and then they would throw in a clock radio or one bicycle for us all to share.  Yes, indeed, next year would be different---be better.  Maybe next year we'd get  the stuff we thought would make us happy.   Stuff.  So we hoped.
   When Taylor was born, my parents were old.  They had been on the road for hours when I called them to tell them that Taylor had been born.  Daddy said, "We'll be right there." And they drove four hours in the night to see us. Into my room walked these parents who seemed to have ruined Christmas for me, year-after-year---parents who reached out to take this sweet baby out of my arms--and into their own arms--to hold and keep and honor.  Daddy said, "You are so lucky, Marianne.  Not many people can have a baby like this."  
    I look at that picture of Taylor up there with Santa----Taylor who asked to go see Santa.  Taylor this "child" of 26.  This is not the Christmas card I had planned to send you guys when I was 13 while  unwrapping pajamas that were the wrong color and too small.  This is not the Christmas child I thought I would be raising when I was 14, sitting next to a Christmas tree (s) on its last leg. 
 But this is my child---my gift-----the baby I was given in the hospital manger.
And, oh, I look around me and man do I see wise men and women and Lord knows I hear the angels singing.  I heard her just today. And, yes, there are shepherds. You are probably one of them for me.
   I look at my not-so-perfect-Christmas -child picture -----and the hopes and fears of all the years come up and clog up around my throat.  What were my expectations?
What are my hopes?  What are my fears?
"What child is this?" I wonder.
How do we honor the gifts in our lives?
Whatever form they come in---these, our gifts---how do we honor them?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Only Kindness Makes Sense


Only Kindness Makes Sense
(Geneen Roth)
        I'll just jump right on in here and tell you that we've (I've, you've, me've) been going through a rough spot.  I know I do not have the market on rough spots, but since and because this is my blog, I get to talk about my rough spot. When I have a hard time, I tend to go inside---way inside----maybe even close to under--but mostly just inside.  I know that healing is an inside job.  It's been said that for all hard emotional work, that the only way out.....is through.  No short cuts.  Damn.
    So Taylor has been feeling bad again.  His 26 year old body has been cut on and scarred up pretty badly for a person his age.  Because I am a control freak---you've met me before: I'm God's wife----because even though intellectually I know I can not control his body and how it heals (or doesn't heal), I keep trying to fix him. 
I keep thinking that if I read one more article or if we see one more doctor or if I hear about one more magic medicine---then he will "poof" himself into a light-hearted, physically happy place.  But, it is not happening.  And it's frustrating. 
Join me here:  If you have someone you love dearly, don't you hate it when they hurt?  Your answer, without even emailing me your response is "Heck yeah!"
So, you get me, don't you?
     Within the past couple of days, I had an "Aha!" moment.  I was lead to some words and thoughts that my soul had been searching for---words I think I had a craving to be sunk way down into my own soul:  Only kindness makes sense.
Hold on now.  Here's the good part and I want you to read it with me and tell me what you think.  Only kindness  (even and especially) towards ourselves makes sense.  Towards ourselves----kindness for me....from me....to me.   And then, later on, in a few minutes after I've been kind to myself..... it can be moved out----outward.
    I have spent my entire life trying to change my body---change my thighs, change my this, change my that...beat up myself because my body wasn't thin enough, toned enough, tall enough....yadayada blah blah blah.  You know what? 
Does that sound kind-----sound loving?.......sound gentle?.....sound compassionate? Don't you even try to bolt out of this conversation, because I know that you---yes, most of you, my brilliant readers----you may not be holding yourself  either with tenderness and love and oh I love that word.....grace.  And kind-ness.  Are you?  Be honest?  Are you kind to you?
      I am battling (that means war, doesn't it? And war is not kind....see how smart I am!?) with my own body----and HELLO!!---with Taylor's body!!!   I have felt betrayed and angry and frustrated beyond measure with how his body holds him hostage (not by choice) and then how my body holds me hostage (Ooops! By choice!)  How many times can I say, "That's not fair!"  in one day and still be within the legal limit?
     So today, this epiphany happened inside of my heart.  Only kindness makes sense.  Kindness: accept, embrace, cuddle, kiss, adore, cherish, lavish with tenderness, slurp-up, prize, thank----all of the parts of our bodies---ourselves---just as they are.  OMG----huge.  Landslide huge.
I've got to do this for myself so I can do this for my son who counts on me so.
By "do this"  I mean be kind  turned inward.   
We....I/you/me/him/her/they----are so worth...so worthy of our own kindness.
Only kindness makes sense.
 Begin now.
I'll begin with me.
You begin with you.
This feels like a challenge.  Why is that?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I Heard You Smiling

      I am startled every day----yes every single day---at how true-ly and pure-ly our "guts" speak to  us.  Now, if you're like me, you may not always want to listen to what your right-on-target/I'm-giving-it-to-you-straight intuition is telling you.  But, we  can count on that raw, unfiltered, gnawing-knowing as our  wisest and most valuable counsel.  I am not sure why I (you too?) fight so when it comes to trusting our  own guts.  I try to talk myself out of what I know to be true about myself.  I rationalize, theorize, and can finally---if I really need to---totally convince myself of some flem-flam thought or scheme or belief.  Oh, what a waste of energy it is to try and lie to ourselves---even about little stuff.  But we do.  I do.  You do. 
It has taken me 56 years, but I think I have finally come to know and understand that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves  is  to trust that sure, solid, unwavering, inner voice that knows ---without hesitation --our own personal truth.
     All of my "Please don't talk to me about God" readers will want to close your eyes through this next sentence, but for me---just for me---my gut---my natural intuition is what I know as God talking to me----that voice that sometimes even has to mud-wrestle me to the ground. That voice that has to get me in that double-Nelson soul grip even though  every cell in my body already  knows what is true.  Even with that, I still try to over-talk, out-run, or shellac-over that steady, unwavering, "This is what you know to do"  voice.  Why on earth do we do that?  We each have this incredible gift of truth that lives inside of us, and we do everything within us to stomp on it, hide it, ignore it or yell back at it.  Why?
  So, if you've lived through those first two paragraphs, bravo.  Here's where I was headed when I started out:  For the past two days, I have sort of faked living in my own skin.  I have been restless and full of dis-ease with things.  Taylor has not felt well and I have worked hard to smile and keep going---pretending.  Conjuring up enthusiasm that was sickly and skimpy.  I really thought I had faked Taylor out. 
It's so weird because  I often give him so little credit for his incredibly fine-tuned "gut."  Although he cannot articulate his inner knowing, Taylor knows when the people around him are out-of-sync/ off balance/faking it.  There is not enough wool in this world to pull over his innocent eyes.  Gut is what he runs on.  No double guessing for him.  More lessons from him....to  me.  Oh S*%$#.
   Finally sometime this afternoon,  I just got real still and prayed.  I stopped.  I breathed. I beckoned.  I cried.  I listened.  I rested into the arms of my gut----into the welcome of me.  And something shifted.  For the better.  I relaxed. I decided not to try so hard and be so.....so.....so...so... damn fake perfect. ( As if!)  And still there's  that need to die trying to be it all.  Right?  Oh? You too? 
    But finally and thankfully, I gave in to  just being with my own self---paying attention, observing, feeling "at home" again in my own body.  I was not wrestling---just resting in the uniqueness of my very own humanity (Don't barf; I love those words.)  You see, my "God" voice---my gut voice---had been whispering what it always does while I'm out hollering and trying to outmaneuver the world around me.
"You are  already connected to all that is holy."
 "You know all that you need to know."
  "It's all inside.  You are love (ed.)"
And just about then I felt that sweet little hand on my arm---Taylor's hand on my arm.
And in that gentle, precious voice, Taylor said to me, "I heard you smiling, mama."
He, too, had heard that voice. 
That voice---that truth---that knowing---that, simply put, is peace.
"I heard you smiling," he said.
The sound of  (inner) peace.
You can hear it.

Monday, September 27, 2010



    I am feeling pretty weird about my life these days.  I am sort of 'twixt and 'tween.  Problem is, I can't figure out between what I'm twixt.  I think there must have been a time in about 11th grade when I wanted to be successful.  Even back then, I am not really sure what that might have looked like once I got there.  In some ways, my life was in a bubble.  Everybody I hung around was college-bound.   Everybody would have a career.  There really wasn't too much discussion about any of that.  I was probably on the low-end of the "Let's all be prestigious and go to college in the Northeast."  I think I opted out of being a cabinet member or district attorney or oral surgeon when I  realized that I didn't know what "syntax" meant on the SAT.  It appears that others in my class knew the meaning----and sure enough all those "syntax-knowers"  have gone on to be quite success-full.  
      Last week, a little six year old friend of mine, was filling out a "Sucess Chart" for school.  "What in the world does success mean?" I nudged her as she bubbled in her  'successes."
Without skipping a beat, she told me, " Success means you're all full up.  Full to the top---full to the brim. You feel full. You can't hold any more."
"Any more  of what?"  I asked. 
"Success-full means you're all full up on love and having friends."
"Oh. Good to know, " said I.  Hmmm. 
   Some days,  I am not really sure how to shuffle parts of my life (back) into this deck--of life. I want the rules to be bent.   One son is grown, but, my other son, Taylor, will never be grown.  In some ways, I think I have decided to stay "ungrown" with him.  This is not going to be a very flattering confession, but some days I wonder, "What the heck? What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?"  That's just on some days---some hours mostly.  (Has anybody out there begun decorating for my pity-party yet?)   Arrrggggh....at myself.
And, I can trace those "I'm so tired of this" feelings directly to days when Taylor feels bad and I am completely helpless to ......help. 
I am not able to be success-----full.  And I hate it.  I'm not good at just "being."  I have not practiced working on that "being" muscle as much as I'd like to pretend I have.  So, I fight the current.  I flow against it.  I struggle.  I tug.  I pull and then push and resist.  I want things to be different.  I want me to be different.  I want to be success--full---with him.  With life.
     I know what syntax means now.  Turns out, it never was a very hard word to understand.
I wonder why I  assigned that kind of not-knowing to determine my success.
Help me out, here, folks.  Talk to me. 
What is success?  How do you know when you've gotten there?
Full of love?  Full to the brim with love?
Full of friendships and people who  love you?
Maybe I just need to stop trying to swim upstream---against the current.
Is up-stream where success is?  Did I miss it?
Didn't I just come from there---up stream that is?
Oh, I think I just need to  float a while. 
Not doing.
Not a human doing.
A human being.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Yeah...But....Club


           I've never thought of myself as much of a complainer, but lately I have noticed how things get on my nerves--"on my last nerve" as the kids say.  We really weren't allowed to complain much when we were growing up or we'd get......let me see how to say this politically correctly....oh yeah, we'd get spanked.  My father, a Commander in the Navy during WWII, didn't "cotton" to much fussing or making excuses or plain 'ole complaining.  We were told, "Just say Yes Sir and that's all!" 
     So I was well trained.  Until now. 
     Now I hear myself saying out loud----a lot...."Yeah, but.....I....." and then some excuse or reasoning or poor-pitiful-me type words will come gurgling out.   When friends say they lost a lot of weight walking two miles a day, I am quick to chirp,  "Yeah, but, so do I and yadayadayada."  I can "Yeah, but" myself to death about money, friends, work, travel, dieting (oh yeah, I already said that one), and well, you name it.  "Yeah, but, that would take so long."  "Yeah, but, nobody told me it started early." "Yeah, but, I have to get a sitter."  "Yeah, but, I don't want to give up my Saturdays."  You get it.  Yeah, but, nobody wants to read my blogs anyway.
    I got really defensive yesterday when an acquaintance commented that I made it  seem like raising Taylor was so hard.  She, too, has a child with Down Syndrome; we were just comparing notes.  And I heard all of this come out of my mouth: "Yeah, but, your daughter is not in pain.  Yeah, but you are married and have a husband who helps 50/50.  Yeah, but your daughter is still in school.  Yeah, but she is higher functioning than Taylor.  Yeah, but ya'll have more money.  Yeah, but you have more kids at home to help you."  I Yeah-Butted myself all over the place.  But were they just hollow excuses?
And I knew I was feeling defensive and like maybe I wasn't a good mother and like I didn't know how to do this life thing so well----yeah, but, here I am and who better?  Yeah, but.....maybe all of you would be better at my life.
     This is not my temporary so-called life.  This is not like, "Ok, Taylor's going to be retarded for a while and then when he's 32, he's going to read and write on grade level and become a lawyer."  This is the real-deal way it is.  For as long as our lives are---I mean our physical lives.  It's not, "Well you only have to do this for six months and then we're sending in a replacement---or extra troops or a new set of chromosomes or that new pill that's going to make you lose weight and make Taylor pain-free and with an IQ way above room temperature. "   (Yeah, but most of us have that high IQ and look at us! Ooops!)
So, I am taking stock today. 
My "Yeah buts" are keeping me stuck and creating a longing for parts of a life that probably will never be.
Yeah, but, can I love the life I have?
Yeah, but can you love the life you have?
Yeah, but, can we help each other learn to live wholly/holy and fully and happily in our lives? 
Ok. Ok. Yes!  But To loving our lives just as we find them.
Yeah, but, does anybody know how to make my legs look thinner?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sitting Halo


       Last week I got an email from my brother, along with his daughter's blog about  missionary work she is doing with children in Mexico.  Beka's blog updated her family and followers about how she hangs out, shares her heart, and is a witness to the children she is there to serve.  I can't remember now if she left out a word or if I left out a word, but here's what I read from what she wrote: "Sometimes I just sit.......halo."  Within minutes, and after checking lots of other emails, I wrote back to my brother and asked, "What does she mean to "Sit Halo"? (See, I had already unconsciously taken her words for my own meaning.)  I began to picture my precious niece just being a present and caring presence in the lives of children in a very impoverished country. Perhaps without using words, without pushing her beliefs on them---I could see Beka "sitting halo" for the children she  is there to reach.
        Well, come to find out (is that an old person's expression?), Halo is a video game and sitting and playing halo literally meant sitting and playing that video game.   Shucks! Darn. Even damn.  My whole image and the meaning I had assigned "Sitting Halo"  was crumpled up--null and void.  I had about thirty seconds of disappointment that I had so misread her words, but something stuck with me---those words, "Sitting Halo" kept clamoring around in my head.  There was meaning there for me. I was touched by that expression and I  let it just sit inside of me for several days. 
Sitting Halo. 
Holding a person you love--or loved---or need to love---or can't love (you get the picture---insert your favorite name now)--holding a person in a sacred space---in a holy light---surrounded by grace and compassion--and of course--by light.  Light that might give them a bit of hope or a new perspective or a glint/glimmer that they are going to find their paths.  Sitting Halo---my new best phrase--- means even sitting right next to somebody you want so desperately to "fix" and make better and steer down a different road----but maybe your words are all used up and broken-record-sounding---maybe your words would fall on deaf ears or a hardened heart.  And, anyway, maybe your words are not what they need. You know exactly what I'm talking about; you've been there.  You might be there right now.  So, don't say anything.  Just Sit Halo for that person.  Just pray--- if that's the word that makes sense for you life.  Or meditate---- Send them love.  Ask for them to be sheltered and nourished and to be "healed"-----and yes, I know that can mean a zillion different things.  But you get it, don't you? 
      Sit Halo.
 Today I could not do anything to make Taylor feel better.  I had done all there was to do.  I was frustrated and close to tears.  So, I just stood close, was silent, and "Sat Halo."   For me, that meant I prayed for him to be out of pain.  It felt like such a relief to have a place to "go" with my thoughts and for the love I hold for him. I didn't need to tell him what I was doing or why I was doing it.  It is simply (and beautifully) a prayer for watching over---for whatever that person needs to live his /her life's purpose full out.
   For the woman who cuts in front of you in line at Wendy's:  Sit Halo.  For the  friend we have who is  lost and not knowing where to turn in life:  Sit Halo.
For the sister/son/friend  who has not  made contact with you in months:  Sit Halo.  Hold them in that sacred and holy place in your heart.  Say their names---pour  love on top of their names.  See them in your mind's eye completely surrounded by grace and luminous light.  Ask that they will know hope.
Sit Halo. 
I am honored and so touched  to know that there are those of you "out there" Sitting Halo for me. 
Don't say a word.  Hold that intention----for love---for them.
Sit Halo. 


Taylor and Hawkeye

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Movie...Two Words....Rhymes With....


                     Raise your hand if you like to play Charades! Ok, that's all of you as far as I can see from here. I know, I know. Some of you would rather have a root canal instead of being made to play Charades. But, didn't you ever go to camp or youth group or family holidays where you had to play? I am thinking how intense and intent we become when we actually play that game. All of us stay poised on the edges of our seats making guess after wild guess as the clues come flying at us-----giving it everything we've got to make sense of/understand/find out what the person is trying to have us know. And we keep at it---scanning our brains for any possible connection we can make with all of those, "Sounds like....rhymes with...four words....three syllables....second syllable.' We are like dogs with a bone---not letting go---nothing getting in our way----to get the "thing" that is being communicated. Are you with me? And it can get pretty competitive as only Charades can get. (Oh, come on! Can't you remember your Aunt Hazelnut trying to act out The Titanic?)

      Yesterday I realized again for the 98th time that Taylor and I talk in a form of  Charade-like conversation all day long. This is a typical conversation for us.
Taylor: Lake. Jet ski. Alabama. Aladdin. Call Joe phone. Murphy home.
Me: Taylor, put on your shoes.
Taylor: Wait wait wait. Lake. Jet Ski. Alabama. Aladdin. Call Joe phone. Murphy home.
Pete and repeat sat on a fence......
     I continue to give him directions and he hangs on for dear life to the clues he is trying desperately for me to hear. "Wait. Wait. Wait, " he implores until I finally stop and truly hear what he is saying. I have things I want for him to do. I am impatient with my own agenda.  He has things he wants to make sure I hear. He needs to know that he is heard.  And by golly, he is relentless.
Me: Oh, so you want to go to the lake in Alabama and see Mary Love and ride the jet ski, take your movie, Aladdin, call Joe on the phone when we get there and leave Murphy at home.
Taylor: Stage direction Taylor nods Yes.
And then---and only then, is he willing to put on his shoes or pour his juice or get into the car. He will not budge until I say back to him or reflect back to him what it was he was trying to tell me---what he wanted me to know about what he needed.
      You and I, I and you---we give clues to other people all day long. And we long for them to pick up on our awkward, veiled, poorly expressed words that somehow link way down deep to what our hearts are feeling---and trying desperately to convey.  And we want them to hear us-----really hear what it is we are saying or acting out or dividing into parts and phrases. "Hear me. I'm giving you clues. I want you to connect with me. I want to know that you've heard what I have said---and what I mean."
But somehow in our very real daily lives, we do are not in Charade-playing- mode, so we tend not to guess with the same fervor and interest we conjure up during  the game. Isn't this backwards? Shouldn't this be the other way around? I mean, like, wouldn't it better if we just realized and acknowledged that all of those around us are trying to tell us something---something important to them--about their lives---inside or out? We get tons of clues----verbal and not-so-verbal--from people we see every day? Would it be safe to guess that they (me/you/they) would really love to be listened to.....and then truly heard?
Gosh, doesn't it feel so so so??......good, so complete, so healing...when we know that the person beside us/close to us can take all of our cues, all of our clues and come up with the response that hits our meaning right on the head?
I love it that Taylor insists that I "Wait. Wait. Wait," until he is fully assured that I "get it." I have to say back to him my interpretation of his words until he is satisfied that we both understand what he wants/needs.
Pretty cool, isn't it?
Wait. Listen. Try again. Wait.
Offer a translation. ("This is what I think I heard you say.")
Wait. Listen.
We just want to be heard.
He does. I do. You do. 
Can we try.....harder....more better?
It's the best kind of love.
One word, one syllable, first syllable:  Love
In life, it rhymes with:  I Hear You. I really hear you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beautiful Love

Last night, I was working on my computer in Taylor's room while he was about to go to sleep. Without warning, Taylor hopped up out of bed, came over and gently touched me on the shoulder. In his sweetest, rather high-pitched/angelic--in his, "This is me being authentic and meaningful" voice, he said to me, "Mama bee--u--ti-ful! Mama pre--tt-tie!" I was so caught off guard because he delivered those lines with such conviction and warmth--to me. I looked up at my dear 26 year old son and said, "No, Taylor, I'm overweight. Mama's old and I don't look good. Honey, I'm not pretty." He just stared at me. My words bounced off of him as if he had a protective coating the words could not penetrate. "This does not compute, " was what he might have spoken back to me if he had articulated what he felt. I, on the other hand, was determined to prove him wrong. Within about 8 seconds all of my massive judgements about my physical self came flaming up and hung suspended in my throat. "You're wrong. You're retarded. What do you know about beauty and who's pretty and what the world expects from us?" These thoughts of mine screamed and raged, but they didn't make it out of my mouth. Taylor was not convinced. But, he had set something in motion. Grapple. Grapple Grapple with.
     Who is the judge? Who do you, who do I assign as THE judge that decides who is beautiful and who is pretty--- Or who is whatever.... There must be some body, some one, some thing to which we have all given our power because Lord knows we spend enough time, money, worry, exercise, surgery, media, therapy trying our best to be....beautiful.
      Don't we? Are am I wrong? And with two little bitty sentences this precious living human being touches me and says, "Mama beautiful." AND I ARGUED WITH HIM! And made him wrong---so that I could, so that I could....what??? Be so right about being all wrong about how much I buy into judgements about physical beauty? Let me see now.....he's "retarded" and I'm so darn smart....Something's not right here because he sees beauty and I'm trying to convince him that no he does not see beauty.  After all, what on earth does this fellow know? Does his vote count? I mean as much as yours and mine? Because I've seen Elle and GQ.
I mean....I know what the rules are.  Right?
Stop. Push pause.
      What if we allowed ourselves to bask and bathe in the love that others have for us---with all of our seeming imperfections and flaws. What if we did not treat ourselves so brutally and harshly? (Am I alone in this or are there others of you out there who beat up on yourselves pretty regularly---like hourly?)
         I can honestly say that without exception, I have never ever seen Taylor judge any person----not even one person---based on physical appearance. We have been in physical therapy with severe burn victims, quadriplegics, men with no limbs, all sorts of disfigurements, dirty hair, women with beards, acne, scars, obesity, anorexics---and not even once has Taylor winced, made a face, looked away, made a joke, or compared himself or others to that person. Not once. What he does repond to is love---and being accepted and being welcomed and being acknowledged for being in the room or at the table or right in front of you.
Taylor is right.
What he sees in people who love him is beauty.
Why is that so hard to accept?
Love is beautiful.
Did a rocket scientist have to figure that out?
Taylor is waiting for the rest of us to catch up and catch on.
He knows.
I want to know what he knows.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Emergeny Exits

I guess I'll jump on the Jet Blue/Steve Slater bandwagon here like everybody else.  Come on, folks!  How many times have we wanted to scream, "It's been a great ride!",  grab a beer and slide down that ramp to freedom?  Isn't that right up there with that country song, "You Can Take This Job and Shove It?"  I've been there.  You've been there. The hard part is after we slide and come to our senses and decide we need to make it back up that inflated slide.  Maybe things weren't so bad anyway.  Oops.  Or maybe they were.  Sometimes landing at the bottom of the ramp is exactly where we need to be.  It's a new starting over point.  Time to take off running in a new direction.
    Taylor and I have traveled a whole bunch this summer.  We've flown all over the country on lots of airlines.  He does quite well and I know most of the tricks of the trade now to make flying do-able for us.  When I get to any airport at check in, I immediately go to one of those kiosks and change my seats so we can move closer to the front of the plane.  Three times this summer, an actual, friendly, overly zealous airline helper agent-type, has walked me through the computer steps. 
Here's what's so weird:  Taylor is always standing right next to me.  He is 26, clearly Down Syndrome, has profound speech delay, cannot read, and mostly wants to hug.  So, when we see that the Exit rows on the kiosk computer screen are available, each agent has, with all seriousness, looked at me (and Taylor) and asked, " Is he over 15?" "Does he speak English?" " Could he open the  plane's emergency exit during a flight?"  I am standing there knowing the obvious answer is, "NO" to all of the above, but these agents are asking me these questions.....for real.  So, naturally----because of all of that extra leg room, we (the agent and I) answer "Yes" to all of those life and death questions and click "Continue."   Jumping to the chase:  The agents at the boarding gate are appalled (too strong a word?) and roll their eyes when I explain that one of their own agents helped us make this move. 
So our seats are moved.....again, but closer to the front.  Mission accomplished.
     What has stayed with me in my  love of life's metaphors is how I really love and seem to need to be close to the  emergency exits.  In so many ways, I think I have lived so much of my life planning an escape....from my own life....from situations in my life.  When things get too rough and hard and all gnarled up, my inclination is to emotionally bail out.  There is often that underlying, unvoiced fear that says,  "This is going to be the situation that I won't be able to handle."  And yet, I'm 56 and I've handled every single thing that's come my way.  I wonder then, why I cling to the notion that I need to sit next to the emergency exits in my life.
        What I've come to.....even though I color hair that should be gray and wise....what I've come to, is that I/You/All of us want options in our lives.  We want to know......need to know that in every single situation there is more than one way to think, to feel, to react, to behave....to live.  Trouble comes to me when  fear takes over for me and I forget that in all situations, there are options.  Sometimes we have to dig around for them.....or think outside of that proverbial box...or better yet, be brave (with ourselves.)  But there are options.
There are emergency exits for us even if they are not clearly labeled.
We don't need to speak English or really even have to know how to help others slide down that ramp, nor be able to follow the airline crew's directions.
The directions we need to follow are from that still, sure, sacred voice inside of ourselves. 
That voice is always our gateway to an emergency exit---if we need one.
It leads us to our wherever we need to go in this life.
Sometimes it  does help to take a beer along.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

O Come, All Ye Old Faithful....Friends

    Whew. Whoa. Wow. And Whew again.  Taylor and I just got back from a week in Yellowstone.  Traveling with Taylor is always eye-opening and without fail it calls up in me a whole bunch of my own fears and insecurities. I am so aware of what I have convinced myself is true about life---mine and yours and the universe's.  (Don't you just love it how I just launch right in to real junk?  Well, again, maybe you don't.)  OK, this is brutally honest, but I realize how isolated I keep myself even though I have a gregarious exterior.  This is way too much information and as my ex-husband/friend/it's complicated father-of-my children....says, "Save something for your diary."  The wonderful thing about traveling is that it gives one (us/you/me) time to reflect on who we are and what we want our lives to be about. The bad thing about traveling is that it gives us time to reflect on.......yep.  All of the above.  Reflection. Inquiry.  Worry.  Doubt.  And more what and why and how come questions. 
So, we watched geysers and then found some more geysers to see  and then checked the schedule to see when the oldest and most faithful of the geysers would go off.  Taylor was not impressed.  If he could talk, he might have said, "We came here for this?"  And I watched the throngs of people.  I am always so keenly aware of other handicapped people because I like to see them with their families.  I was  so lucky to be with my sister, a hoard of her friends and with my older son.  As we rode horses and walked the boardwalks, I  guess I was trying to decide if I was  on track or out-of-bounds or on course in my dealings and relationship with my 26 year old Down Syndrome son.  I'm not quite sure from whom I might get my cues when we're out and about in a public and new place.   Can't you see that all of this is just inside of me and not inside of Taylor? He doesn't see the stares and perhaps the looks of sympathy.  As I have to always take Taylor into the "girl's" bathroom with me,  the discomfort of others is palpable.    I can sense it but it makes me up my game and go into "mother of the year" mode.  Help me out here.  Is that sad or necessary or weird or what?
Anyway, what I came away with from this trip is that I want to connect and need to connect with people---with friends---with those around me.  I'm not exactly sure why that's so hard. Well, actually I am but you would need to come sit on my sofa with me for a couple of hours for me to share this part with you.
For those fellow travelers who reached out, made eye contact, initiated conversation, took an interest, allowed us more time and space, I felt so grateful---and connected.  So many kind people opened themselves up to me----to Taylor.
And I was reminded that when I do that---when I open myself up to you----when you open yourself up to me...to others---there is such abundance....of love.
Cheezy. But true. 
I bet you already knew that.
See, I really am the retarded mother. 
I am slow to catch on to these things.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Going Nice

I am fresh out  of "profound thinking"---as if.  As if I ever had any profound thoughts.  But, for those of you who know me, I know I live that ad nauseum sense of making meaning out of ordinary events.  "What does this mean? or What is our lesson here?"  I even make my own self sick with delving deep.  Sometimes clam chowder is just clam chowder.  I can't think of when that might be, but lots of you tell me that it's true.
Which leads me to being polite.....or more directly, "Is it ever ok to be rude?"  When?  I taught in a school system whose motto for years was to be "Firm, Friendly and Fair."  Those guidelines, in tandem, work pretty well.  But rude? Almost never.
Taylor and I just returned from a week in New York City.  We don't do the Central Park carriage rides or have lunch at The Plaza.  We did take in the zoo and scooted along the Hudson River bike path for miles.  Neither  of that challenged our need to be polite/rude.  I had to wrangle with a couple of city bus drivers who wanted to refuse Taylor's scooter on their bus, but I simply said, "It's either this or his wheel chair.  Pick one."  So it was all good after that brief multiple choice option that left them "duh-less."  I mean, what can they say to that??
When the universe did start messing with me again (and my "what are the lessons here?") was when our flight home was cancelled.  Having already been delayed earlier in this crowded airport, tensions were high and true characters rose to the top.  Simply put, I was appalled and stunned at how some fellow travelers approached and treated the airline employees.  OK, it was true that we had no wedding to attend, no graduation to get to, no doctor's appointment to make---so we were not behind that deadline eight-ball.  But still, waiting with Taylor in an airport is not right up there with my favorite things to do in life.  But it gave me another opportunity for a "practice test"---practice what I say I believe---and see if meditation is paying off.
 I watched and wondered, "Do I act like that?  Am I like that?" Gosh, I don't want to be like those people; is there ever a time to emotionally eviscerate an airport agent?
My vote is NO.
As my stomach tightened and my OCD/need for order/planning was turned upside down, I observed Taylor being calm, patient and not having that panic most of us get when we would kill to be at the head of the line.  Our sense(s) of entitlement kick in and we are aggravated that we've been inconvenienced.  Don't we? I am really just having this conversation with myself because it washed over me how attached I am to outcomes and having things work out exactly as I have them planned in my head.  But as Taylor tugged on my sleeve, responding  with, "Go nice" to the angry folks around him, I had to stop and re-think how I behave when a wheel falls off in my life.  I hate wheels to fall off---just so you know.
Taylor does not know the concept "Firm, Friendly, Fair." 
He does know, "Go nice."
He lives Go Nice.
Gosh, we all have so much to learn.
I mean.....I do.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


 Oh Lord.  My older son, Cole, left this week on a sojourn.  A college graduate, smart as a whip, compassionate and wise---he is off to find out what he wants to to do with the rest of his life.  The business for which he has worked for eleven years was sold.  Now real life shows up calling again, "Who is it that you really want to be in this life?" 
It was a tender and touching moment to watch Taylor give Cole a hug as Cole loaded his backpack and other gear into his truck.  Taylor said, "My brother. Trip."
That's all he knows.  Actually, that's all any of us knows.  I watched those tail lights leave down the alley behind our house and I said out loud, "Go forth into the world in peace. Be of good courage."  And then I sang the Rutter anthem I know that is built around that text.  I sang it all day and I wondered and worried that I have not prepared either of my boys to live this life in their full magnificence.  (Is that creepy to say? Ooey--gooey bag kind of question?) I wondered that about them because I ask myself the same question every single day, "Am I living my life to its fullest magnificence?  And, if I'm not, what is holding me back? Where is the fear blocking me?"  (Yes, I am huge reader and supporter of Debbie Ford.  Google her and her work.  Phenomenal!)
I have not climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. I have not paddled the Amazon.  I have not been on all seven continents.  Some days---most days, my adventures seem so small in comparison to those who are "really living."  But wait.  Hold.  Put your brain on pause.  What about the life-changing journeys that many of us try to take every day?  Do they count? 
I love the text from  Book of Common Prayer. Wherever we find ourselves at this very exact moment---these are powerful guides for living---in magnificence.
I ask you....how huge are  these assignments/journeys in our very real lives:
1. Go forth into the world in peace. Your world---the minute you wake up, you are in your world. Before you even get out of bed, you are in your world.   Enter it in peace.  This might be a little like sailing the Indian Ocean on a raft. 
2.  Be of good courage.  Be brave. Do what your gut tells you.  Follow the inner spirit inside of you.  It will always lead you to your best path.  Ok, that's a Mt. Everest climb for me.
3,  Hold fast to that which is good; render to nobody --"not no one" evil-for-evil.   A trip to Antarctica anyone?  I mean, how hard is this assignment? I could ice trek Antarctica more easily than I am willing to give up rendering evil for evil. I mean, my feelings really get hurt and I get mean. And you?
4.  Strengthen the faint hearted.  Support the weak. Help the afflicted.
Sounds like a full time job to me.  Oh yeah, right in our own worlds---wherever we find ourselves---in the bank, on the subway, on a hike, on I-95,  at Macy's, at work, in our own kitchens with our own families. 
5.  Honor all people.  Ahem.  Even the homeless.  Even ugly people.  Even people with rashes and warts and not-so-smart people--even people who use food stamps illegally or cheat the IRS.   That means we can't even make a hidden list of people we don't feel like honoring.   Oh, doing a tri-athlon is sounding easier and easier than honoring all people----when we go forth into the world----in peace.

 In closing (don't you just love to hear those words in a speech---that's why I threw them in just now) the best way for me to teach my own boys is to live my own life the best I can.  They'll catch on.  Anyway, talk's cheap.  Watch what I do.
It's a challenge worthy of National Geographic Explorer proportions:  Go forth into the world (Kroger, neighborhood, bank, dentist, nail salon) in peace.
And all the rest of those things.  Huge inner journeys take us far. Sort of like climbing a mountain or sailing around the world---Be of good courage.
You don't really even need a backpack. 
Let's all meet out there in the world as we journey. 
You'll recognize me. 
I'm the one struggling---but willing. 
Oh, I hope my sons know this.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shoot the Moon

Yesterday while I was at the gym, (I love for you to know that. It's better than saying, "Yesterday when I was at Dunkin Donuts" and then I get to hear all of your judgments from even as far away as my house. OK, a journalist might have just noticed "I buried my lead" so back to the very true--or mostly true-story of my gym life.) So, while on the arc trainer, another gym goer/acquaintance and I were chatting. In talking about our lives, inevitably it came out: "That's just the hand you were dealt, Marianne." Sometimes, and it's always so well-meaning, the capsule that I so often hear summing up my life is, "Well, having Taylor is the card you drew." I get it. I know what I mean when I talk like that and I know what other people mean. Life is not a card game, but yes, I am all about extended metaphors. This is the hand I was dealt---deal with it. Have you ever noticed that people only offer that line when something "bad" has happened? I don't think I've ever heard those pearls of wisdom around a topic like, "Oh, she's Miss Universe? Well, that's the hand she was dealt." It's like the penalty cards are thrown at us in a random way. And all of a sudden, life is a deck of card---house of cards maybe.  But who gets what cards?  Who's the dealer?  Do we have any say? Oh my goodness, this could get thick on us, couldn't it?

Actually, I do love metaphors and symbolism and figuring out how to see things  that are cloaked in irony and camouflage.  I fancy myself as a closet Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Right before she bursts into "Do(e) A Deer...." she has that inward thought and summons all of her ways of knowing......."Let me see if I can make this a little easier," as she makes that teaching leap  towards clarity. . You know, "How can I get this concept across to you?" and so she bursts into song. I've done it myself in my lifetime of teaching. Burst into song and leapt for that metaphor. (If you're still reading, then you've come to where I wanted to begin this blog in the first place. Thank you for still holding on to the rope with me. Back to the card game and hand we've each been dealt---and in particular, since it's my blog--the hand I've been dealt) [Since I'm all over the map here today, what would your blog be about? What hand have you been dealt?]
Actually, I am a a terrible card player ---losing all metaphors.  But I always did love a good game of Hearts. Of course, I cringed until I got rid of the queen, nor could  I ever keep up with who had played what out of their hands.  And there were those brilliant  Heart sessions when somebody would "shoot the moon."  Talk about strategy--or luck or both.  Or maybe the hand that had been dealt was perfect from the start.  But it was that going for broke---going all out, having a plan, risking it all----playing the hand that was dealt with finesse and a driving will  that brought the moon--the winner-take-all into focus.
  My experience in this life, with the hand I've been dealt, is that most people would honestly have to admit that I drew the Queen of Spades in giving birth to Taylor.  (Isn't there always that collective sigh of relief in us when you don't get left with those big-deal cards in our own lives?--Not my child, not my family, not my home and the list goes on of "Thank goodness it wasn't me.")  So, my job now is to have a plan,  use carefully what I already have, and plug away---go for broke, take risks, do all that I can to shoot the moon.
I have already been collecting hearts along the way.  Thank goodness that hearts can be shared because there is certainty that I will be able to come up with a full hand---of hearts---to go along with that tricky spade queen. The good and the "bad."
Because what I'm thinking is this: If we stack our decks with a whole slew of hearts, then we can offset just about anything.
So, give me all your heart (s).  Please.
I'm carrying the queen.
It's only a penalty card if we treat it like one.
Fair warning---since you can see my cards anyway:
I'm going to shoot the moon.
"The risk is high.....but the reward is great. "
That's what the rule book promises: great rewards.
I'm in.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is Taylor's 26th birthday.  More on that in a minute.  I'll circle back and pick you up.  My friend, Terry, is one of the funniest and most compassionate people I know.  She told me the other day that I should collect all of these writings and publish a book.  And she came up with a title and then made me promise that  I'd give her credit if I used it.  Terry's suggested title for my life's blogs is: Chicken Soup My A**!!   I howled when she advised me.   Underneath my laughter was the truth;  It's a perfect title---Chicken Soup----My A**.  It fits.
    So, 26 years ago,  while still in the recovery room, the doctor (s) told me to have someone round up my family right away.  They  said they needed us all together so they could speak with us.   We sent somebody---a nurse?---rushing down to my room where my sisters were tying up balloons and hanging celebratory signs.  Martha and Deanie showed up at my bedside within seconds--out of breath and clearly not knowing what we were all about to be told. 
Dr. H. wasted no time, but she struggled with her words and hesitated as she did her best to break the news to us about our newborn son.  (This has got to be right up there on their  list of  "this is not my favorite part of being a doctor.")  And, then she hit us with the news that would change our lives in one split second----causing us to cough up everything we had ever believed about life up to that point.  "Yes," she lamented, "he will be retarded."  Slam.  1-2 Knock out punch.  What????  Ok, you get it. Huge news.  Devastating news.  Not-what-we-had-expected news.  How-in-the-hell-will-we-ever-do-this news. 
But here is the most incredible and truly beautiful part of that birth-day.  Without hesitating, without skipping even one beat, both of my sisters heaved (visibly) a huge sigh of relief.  "Oh, thank God.  Is that all it is? We were so afraid you were going to tell us there was something wrong with Marianne.  Whew.  We can handle this.  We couldn't have handled the other."  So let's get on with this---- is what they were saying.
 Retarded?  Piece of cake.  We've still got each other and that's all that really matters. ----that was the distinct, unequivocal,  spoken and unspoken message that day.  We can do this.
Isn't that just the sweetest thing you've ever heard? And so it was.....and is. 
And Mr. Taylor is 26.  He knows it's his birthday but he has not handed me a list of "I want this and I want that."  He just wants to blow out some candles.  Candles that he won't be able to count.  So, we'll count them for him.  And remember and celebrate.  Besides taking him to NYC and Yellowstone this summer, I bought him three sticker books.  Now, buying those did make cry.  The salesperson at Borders inquired, "Oh your son will love these Disney sticker books.  How old will he be?"  I gulped.  Should I have lied?  It would have been so much easier and I wouldn't have had the sales lady shifting from one foot to another trying to figure out what to do with my tears.  Maybe when Taylor turns 50 I can buy sticker books without caving in.
So, here's how I'm celebrating.  For 26 years I have told people I couldn't do sit ups "cause my stitches still hadn't healed from childbirth." That, of course, is a big fat lie.
I am going to do some sit ups. 
I think my stitches have finally healed.  Well.....are healing.
Let me just try a few. 
Happy Birth---Happy Life-----Happy Love----to my sweet son.
Bring on the chicken soup--for the soul, for the mama, for the son, for living this life.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Healing Hands

I dragged/drug (?) Taylor to church yesterday.  Not only did I take him to church, we had a little road trip to Montreat, NC, so we could worship with a thousand other Presbyterians at the Montreat Conference Center.  The guest minister was a man  known in national and international circles as “the preacher’s preacher,” the Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes. He was quite eloquent I must say.  Plus, I was just ready to be there. I think it sort of matters how we show up at any event or to any situation or gathering.  An open heart and mind is just so much easier to mold and mend and let stuff in than when we've got that iron door pulled down over us.  So, yeah, I was ripe to be ministered to. (Is it ok to end with a prepostion there---ministered to?)   Taylor does not like church per se.  Because we don't go anymore, he is always on his best behavior when we find our way into a sanctuary of any kind.  He knows there will be singing and that we have to sit still for a while.  He's still not sure about marry and bury and just regular, plain 'ole, "we're just at church now" kind of thing.  I cry pretty much every time I'm in a church, so Taylor gets no clues from me about the poignancy level of the service.  It's all a service to me.
  But anyway....here I am dragging you along too.  Stick with me.  At one point in the service, Dr. Forbes asked us to hold out our hands  in front of us and look at them.  Because Taylor had not been doing the standing and singing much up to that point, I was caught a bit off guard when he joined in; Taylor, like having heard his own name being called,  put his sweet litle hands out in front of himself  to examine them.
Dr. Forbes would go on to invite us and encourage us and challenge us to use our hands---connected to our hearts and God and love and our callings within---to use our hands for healing and service.   This preacher's preacher, convinced that we are all healers,  beckoned us to use our hands to heal---to heal relationships, to heal yucky parts of our jobs, to heal wounds from our past--and present.  All the while, we looked at our hands--each person's hands/gifts/tools right out in front of ourselves----looked at our hands as a real and vital connection that can touch, calm, become a balm---and healer to people whose paths we cross. 
(Yes, I was moved.)
   I put my hand on the deep scar of Taylor's neck.  "Heal him," I prayed.  Here are my hands.  Here is my prayer.  And then I felt Taylor's hand on my face---on my cheek---just brushing at that tear he saw.  All of these years I have taken Taylor "in" for healing---Lord knows we've been to every western and eastern medicine man and religious person that I can find on the map.   But what was clotted up in my stomach on Sunday morning was not my own hands used for healing.....but Taylor's.  What about his hands?  What about how he uses his touch (and gentleness and kindness and love) for healing?  As I watched him in his own precious reverent way hold out his hands as if he were hearing a call very special and particular to his life, I was struck silent and still.  All of these years I have yearned and begged and pleaded and prayed for Taylor's healing---physical healing from pain.  But yesterday I was startled into seeing how Taylor's hands are his gifts too---his gifts and tools for healing.   Why had I not expected him to join in and have something to offer?  Why had I assumed that the service--the message was only for me (and the other 1000 people in that sanctuary) and not for him?   Why do I need to be reminded so often and so vividly that Taylor has his own holy journey?  Why am I hogging this show?
        I know good and well that some of you are just like me.  We decide who has worth or who has more worth or less worth---whose life is more important or meaningful or valuable.  I think I probably have a ranking order (please God tell me it's not a conscious thing!) for other people on this planet.  I bet you $10.00 that I am not alone in this.  So, let me just ask you this: Are outstretched, giving, healing hands all valuable?  Are some more so than others?  "Hmmmmm" is the only answer I will allow myself right now.
And I look at the picture of my sister's hands making a puzzle with Taylor.   Healing hands.  Hands that bring a gift, a touch, comfort, reassurance, help, kindness.   Taylor examined his hands yesterday.  He, too, seemed to be reminded that he has something to offer.
You can't hear me singing, but I am. 
Offer your hands and all to which they are connected--your heart, your skills, all that you know, your hope.  Your hands.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ring Bearer

Yesterday,  my 22 year old nephew got  married.  Jack has just completed four years at West Point.  (His twin brother just completed four years at The Naval Academy.)  America's brightest, most talented, most promising: our future.  I love these boys (men.) I do. Politically I am probably not very much like them or their parents, but our love and respect for each other is strong and real.  And, for all of their lives , both of these young men have embraced, included, and interacted with Taylor in meaningful and loving ways.  Early on, the contrasts were not so glaring or vast.  Today, the gap between the boys (the twins and Taylor) ---intellectually,  physical abilities,  potential earning power, "America's most valuable resource"--the differences can not even be compared on the same chart---if there were such a chart.  (I guess I have an ongoing chart in my head.)  Taylor, 25---the groom, 22--both taking part in the same life----same stores, same speed limits on the same highways,   same family picnics, ---but totally different lives.
    Jack and his bride, Joanna,  asked Taylor to be the ring bearer for their  wedding.  Taylor's "job"  was  to walk down the aisle, find the twin best man and give him the ring to hold for the groom. Gosh, that sounds so simple doesn't it?  Let me just say that it's a good thing we were able to practice. And, even with that, it was touch and go.  But, Taylor hung on to that pillow and found his way down an aisle amongst people who love him and made his way to an anxious and welcoming groom.  Everybody cried.  Cried to see this man child taking so seriously this one seemingly simple and sacred task.  Cried that he was included----"one of the gang" at a grown up wedding---a celebration and ceremony that he, himself will never experience.  Tears came from many layers and for all sorts of reasons.  I am beginning to see that this will be a life-long, kick-in-the-gut, "Oh, but this is my life," process for the rest of my life with Taylor.
     Perhaps the most touching part of the day----the day of the ring-bearer---happened in our home as we worked to get Taylor ready for church.  He is a bit confused about "bury" and "marry" and it became clear that he thought maybe somebody had died and that we would be singing at a church somewhere.  He knows bury better than he knows marry.  Working on my eye liner from another room, I could hear Taylor and his older brother, Cole, wrestle with working the belt through its loops.  Cole, who would later rapture the ears and hearts of  wedding guests,    violin-ing  Saint-Saens , Debussy, and Pachelbel----patiently belted and buttoned his younger brother before his  little ring-bearer  march down the aisle.  Cole left with his violin case and his remarkable, brilliant talent. Taylor carried a pillow and an innocence and un-knowing that most of us cannot begin to re-create. Two brothers and later two cousins, side-by-side with everything and nothing in common.  How delicate---how difficult, how real.  We cried.  You would have too.
       What I witnessed and felt so strongly was the acceptance that was shared with Taylor---in public, in a sacred place with caring people.  To love Taylor---or people like Taylor--- just means that you just become your best self---your higher self---your transformed-by-love self.  Because including him (and others like him) won't "get you anywhere" if any where is where you're looking to be.  But, it will get you to special place--a place that I have come to see as holy and tender and way down deep real.
Bearer of the rings......that he who brings them and they who receive them may abide in peace.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wise Words

My eight year old friend, McLaren Jansen, comes up with the most insightful and endearing comments on a regular basis.  Not long ago, his mother (and my friend), told me a about one of their "Taylor" exchanges.  We are in and out of their house a good bit.  McLaren and his little sister each have their own interaction and relationship with my about-to-be 26 year old man child son.  Just awarded "Most Compassionate" for his 2nd grade class,  McLaren accepts Taylor lovingly---if not with a bit of "I'm not quite sure about this guy, but I'm going to damn well love him."  It's really touching.  McLaren reaches out to Taylor--at a restaurant, in the pool, while riding in the car---and Taylor is often silent.  Still McLaren presses on--with questions, with chatter, trying to involve Taylor like he would a regular 'ole 2nd grade buddy.  Last week McLaren, in seeing a photo of Taylor on his mother's computer, commented, "I love Taylor.  Everybody should love Taylor.  Taylor does no harm."  Breathe that in.  He does no harm.  Although that sounds at first hearing so benign, those words have grown on me and have forged a certain sort of comfort around them. McLaren "gets" the essence of Taylor.  He does no harm.  He has no agenda or judgements. Taylor sees us just as we are---fat legs, bad hair, grumpy moods, wrinkled shirts and all.  No harm done.  No harm felt.
     Last night McLaren taught me another lesson---another gem.  In relating something to his mother McLaren remarked, "You can't be mad at me for talking so much, mama.  My talking is a compliment from God."  A compliment from God.  A part of our personality that may tend to chaff others---a compliment from God.  Breathe into that concept too.  I mean, who has ever thought of a "bad" trait like that as a gift---from God? (Did anybody else gets Cs in citizenship for talking too much??)  My head was sent to swirling in thinking about how all parts of ourselves are compliments from God.  Even the traits that get us into trouble or the parts that we have hated ourselves for having.   I mean, how long have you tried to get rid of something in yourself? Can't you just hear your mother or sister or friend accusing you of, "You are so bossy or sarcastic or insecure or nosey or rude or arrogant or aloof......." And then we beat ourselves up because we're not perfect and we have all of these "bad" parts that we should get rid of . 
Well, listen to McLaren (and other great teachers.)  All parts of ourselves are compliments from God.  We need each trait and harder than that....we need to love each trait----yep---even our jealousy and anger and discontent.  Even those traits we try to bury and deny.  Those hard ones---the ones we hide.  You know what I'm talking about, don't you? 
     McLaren and Taylor are on the same page in so many ways.  Taylor has been complimented by God with so many qualities.  He just lives them out without arguing or trying to fix them.  The rest of us---me...you?....spend a whole lot of time trying to fix stuff in ourselves that is not even broken. 
We are not flawed.
We are whole, complex, beings.
And God has complimented each of us in so many unique ways.
Believe McLaren.  You and I ---all of us....each of us....has been complimented by God.
I love that. 
Now I'm going to try to live that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Building Muscle

“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.” ~ Jim Rohn

I find myself being irritated lately.  I am straying from my center and paying more attention to outside noise.  Even though I know better, I am taking my cues from "external" things.  This will get you (me) into trouble every time.  Have you ever noticed that?  I swear I did not mean to launch into this, but I am going to take this little detour for one second and talk about looking inward and---looking outside of ourselves.  I know so many things in my head, but absorbing them into my cell membranes and making them part of my cell memory (love that concept) are two different things.   Ooops. That was a bumpy sentence.  Here it is in plain English:  When we look for answers, solutions, comfort, approval, gratification, acceptance --"out there"--in external things (people, places, things) then we will forever and ever go without---and just keep on looking frantically to fill up that unnamed emptiness we feel.  News flash---and one I wish my parents had taught me from birth:  It's never out there that we long for. It's an inside job---so to speak.
It's so alluring to believe that what we need is outside of ourselves.   That's probably why we all keep doing that dog-gone, relentless tap dance trying to get recognition, approval. love, acknowledgement from a degree, a job, a spouse, or a smaller size pair of pants.  But, it's a a phantom route---and we all fall for it...day in and day out. 'Cause very simply put:  If we don't go within.......we go without.   (Say that to yourself 100 times and see if it makes sense by supper time.)
   Ok, back to the bad mood/irritability.  Taylor has been perserverating a whole bunch lately.  That means he says the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until I want to scream.  His perseverating  is in direct correlation to  how much pain he is in.  And, because we can't seem to find out what is causing him pain, his broken record words just keep repeating and repeating.  (Please cut and paste that 200 times so I won't have to write it out.) Here's the thing.  When I'm with Taylor by myself, I get into his rhythm and work around it.  I go into my own head, settle into my center, and just let him do his thing.  But, when we're out in public or out to dinner, I can see how it irritates the living daylights out of everybody-----and then I feel responsible---and helpless and like a bad mother.  Irrational but true.
I can see people just shrug and wonder how I do this---maybe why I do this..  "This" meaning have patience again and again for doing what I do during my day.  Here's the deal.  I guess dealing with Taylor day in and day out is a lot like doing crunches or practicing  Hanon scales or flossing your teeth.  There are just some things in life that may not be gobs of fun, but to make our lives function---and better, we have to develop habits that just kick in without our even thinking about them.  "It's just what I do."  I know you have stuff like that in your own life.  Some of you walk every single day no matter what.  Some of you  meditate, or do yoga, or create a habit of writing, praying, vocalizing or applying your Oil of Olay religiously---every night, no matter what. 
We all have our own particular motivators.  Our values, beliefs and even our fear of failure often motivates us.  But it's our ability and willingness to honor our habits that give us grit.  Feel the fear (irritation, fatigue. pissed-offness)---and Do it Anyway!  Putting this into writing allows me to get a clearer idea of  why I have been so irritable.  I have looked outside of myself---fallen for some illusions that are probably not true---and have fought with the loving muscle that I must have to be Taylor's mama. 
I can see some of you so clearly right now in my mind's eye.  I am imagining what habits  that you have been forced to hone and perfect in your own lives---whether you have wanted to or not.  You have had to reach deep---inside of yourself---to do those emotional crunches so that you---and someone you love stays alive or gets fed/bathed. or has an outing or gets to work or stays sober or sees you as a beacon of light.
I am motivated to be a good mother to Taylor.  I know this is a life-long contract---for better or worse as it were.  But motivation with  the practiced  habit of living this life with grace, humor, and yes, "101, 102, 103....however many times it takes..."   is the joyful journey I have been called to make.
I want to walk this path with heart.  It's easier that way.
Now, if I could just find some motivation for doing those sit ups.
The sit-up habit falls into warrior category-------Please, God, don't send me down that path too.