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 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 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.