It is the one book on parenting I feel absolutely confident in recommending. It’s short, concise, relevant, spiritual and practical. A good parenting book, like this one, appears to be teaching us how to raise loving, balanced, well-rounded and grounded children but in essence it is teaching us to learn from our children how to become loving, balanced, well-rounded and grounded adults.
Posts tagged ‘motherhood’
I have tiptoed across a dark courtyard at 2AM to spy on Greek Orthodox monks floating in black wool cassocks and high hats through a fragrant fog of amber incense. Chanting Vespers in the candlelit chapel of an Arizona oasis, voices carried to God on white smoke through a starry desert sky. My own soul seeming to rise closer to heaven on every note.
Dear people next door, Welcome to Minnesota. Please write your name here ___ then please send back the card, but before you do that, please write back. You can write whatever you want. From your neighbor Harper and Family. (It included a nice picture of flowers and clouds.)
The year was 1972. I was a shy, awkward eighth-grader at Fridley Junior High in a working-class suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It all began innocently enough when my mother sewed maxi-skirts for my sisters and me one winter. Maxi-skirts were skirts that went all the way down to the floor and were high fashion in 1972; all the cool girls wore them.
Even though my mother warned me there would not be enough of the red fabric I picked out for my skirt, I insisted she use it anyway. The skirt turned out to be more of a red corduroy maxi-tube than the full, flowing maxi-skirt pictured on the front of the Simplicity pattern envelope.
Undeterred by the fact that my stride was roughly as long as that of a Geisha’s, I wore my maxi-skirt proudly to school that fateful day. I was shuffling down the hallway in a sea of my baby-boomer classmates, school books clutched to my chest when my friend Karen swept by me and gave me a slap-on-the-back greeting. That little push sent my torso flying forward at a velocity faster than my tightly bound legs could pedal. Factor in the weight of the books and my 80-pound frame and, well, you get the picture . . . an object in motion and all.
When I tell this story to my kids I insert a little lesson about the physics of this experience just to keep it educational. “Notice how ‘Turning Point’ becomes both a scientific statement as well as an understatement in this example,” I say.
My books flew ahead of me as I slid down the hallway on my belly. To the fast-moving current of students rushing up behind me, I was a rock in the rapids. They were stumbling and lurching trying to avoid stepping on me.
All the while, the tube-like geometry of my skirt and lack of traction supplied by my fashionable, but not-so-functional, ballet slippers made it physically impossible for me to stand up. I was flopping like a fish and polishing a nice, shiny clean spot on the dusty floor as my fellow classmates began parting behind me like the Red Sea, casting horrified backward-glances in my direction. My popularity, already weak and sickly, suffered its last agonizing death-throes right there in the hallway.
Enough humiliation you say? Oh, contraire my friends, this was just beginning. In the midst of my flailing efforts to stand in this sea of inhumanity, I felt two hands under my arms lifting me up from behind. Guess what? Yes, it was the guy I had a huge crush on. (My compliments to God and his impeccable comic timing.) He was a big, handsome, popular, red-headed football player who smelled like Brut cologne, or maybe it was HI KARATE. He was the lead actor in my romantic adolescent daydreams, all of them set to a score of David Cassidy ballads. (Heavy sigh.) What? I’ve already admitted I was not cool. Full disclosure.
After he placed me in an upright position, he steadied me for a moment to make sure I wouldn’t tip over again. He then handed me my books, gave me a quick nod with only the tiniest smirk passing over his dreamy lips before he quickly moved on. I scurried, face flushed red as my skirt, into the nearest girls’ restroom and tried to figure out a way to flush myself down the toilet.
Little did I know when I was experiencing my most humiliating middle school moment back in 1972, this story would become a favorite of my middle school daughter all these years later. She loves to laugh with me every single time I tell it, which she requests I do often. I like to think I am teaching her that seeing the humor in humiliation is all about not taking yourself too seriously, or some other equally noble life lesson. More likely she just loves a good laugh at my expense.
The moral of this story, you ask? I have no idea, but my daughter seems to find comfort in it during her own awkward middle school years, and that’s enough for me. Fortunately for her, I’ve got plenty more stories I’m saving for her high school years!
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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I was half-heartedly playing “restaurant” with my six-year-old daughter Harper one day. I was there with her, but I was completely disengaged from her and the game. I distractedly placed my order and she busily chatted up other imaginary customers. I was definitely just doing hard ‘mommy’ time, having logged countless hours playing make-believe games not just with her, but with her four older siblings over the past twenty-plus years. I was feeling, on this particular day, more than just a little lost.
As I stared off into the distance, contemplating my existence and my meager contributions to building a better world (something I do much too often for my own good) she placed my meal in front of me and waited patiently for me to notice. When I looked down I saw the special of the day at Harper’s Café smiling back at me.
I looked up into her face. She was looking straight at me with a proud smile as big as the one on she had served up on my plate. That’s when I remembered. This happy, confident, compassionate child is no small contribution to a better world. So I enthusiastically ordered dessert and left her a big sloppy kiss for her tip as she laughed and wiggled in my arms.
This Mammaste moment is for all you mammas, grandmamas, aunties, or mentors to children everywhere, women and men alike.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
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I would dream of a golden light flickering between my heart and the heart of a child. It was a faint light like the one you see along the bottom of a closed door while standing in a darkened room. I had a feeling that this child was looking for me as desperately as I was searching for her. A part of me knew that if I could just find the key and unlock the door we would be connected by that light.
I know that I am not perfect, and that I will often fall short of being the person I want to be. But I also know I will be forgiven, I will do better, and that I am working hard at it every day. Exactly the same lesson I hope I am teaching my children.
I am recycling this blog from just over one year ago, because rereading it now, it seemed so long ago that I was wondering what transformation this particular transition would lead to. But only 14 months later, I am the CEO of my own fledgling company, Mammaste! I guess I stretched myself enough to grab that next thread . . . and it was not easy, since I’m definitely not as flexible as I used to be!
“Transitions are hard.” my friend says to me as we watch the orange bus carrying my fifth and last child to school pull away from the curb. “They just are.” she declares, just in case I missed the sincerity of her point. These words are from my dear, no-nonsense friend. Her remarks are in response to the tears welling up in my eyes. She is not a cajoler or a hugger but she pats me on the shoulder, awkwardly, like one would a dog you don’t quite trust. I’m surprised by this physical gesture from her. The thought crosses my mind that I must look pretty pathetic for her to attempt a comforting touch, and this thought is enough to make me smile. I love her for that.
Transitions ARE hard–those times when we find ourselves un-moored and floating in that in-between sea of change. It happens to most of us in varying degrees at some point. It can happen as a result of divorce, the loss of a job, children growing up and moving out, or any event that causes us to reexamine ourselves and the direction of our lives. It’s been over thirteen years since I left my job to stay home and raise my children full-time. I appreciate the gift of being able to choose to stay home and I have (mostly) loved it. But what I am drifting away from has defined me for so long, I suddenly feel like a stranger to myself.
I’ve been thinking about how I became each new incarnation of myself through prior experiences of change and transition in my life. Each time there was a point when I took a deep breath and began to look for that next thread of opportunity to follow. What I learned is you don’t find that thread with your head down. It is always up there fluttering high above you, seemingly beyond your reach until you stretch and extend yourself just enough to grab it.
I am smiling now at the obvious sentimentality of that last statement and how it would make my pragmatic friend gag. Reason enough for me to leave it in here. She is as frugal with her words as she is with her money and she would probably say again, “Transitions are hard. They just are, damn it.” Enough said.
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In my late 20’s, after several yearly surgeries and hormone therapies trying unsuccessfully to conceive a child, I had a very vivid dream.
In my dream, I was sitting in a large lecture hall filled with students. I looked down the slanted incline of seats in front of me to the professor. I raised my hand. I asked, “Will I ever get pregnant? Will I ever give birth to a child?” There was silence until one student at a desk a couple of rows in front of me turned to me and said, “You know that I will be coming someday. We’ve already decided this. Be patient.”
She looked Native American. She was a beautiful, slender young woman with long brown hair, olive skin, and almond-shaped dark eyes. When I woke I couldn’t understand how this person could ever be my child, as my first husband and I were both Caucasian.
So powerful and unusual was this dream that I wrote it down. Fast forward a dozen years or so. The dream is long forgotten. I am a divorced mother of two blonde haired, blue-eyed adopted children from my first marriage. I have already been told and have accepted that I will never conceive a child. My second husband and I are looking into adoption when at age 39 I become pregnant. My daughter Piper is soon born to me and my Chinese-American husband. When she is thirteen years old, I recognize the young woman who spoke to me in that dream so long ago.
Piper has always had a casual certainty that has never left her of the place from which she came before her birth. When she was three, she was sleeping next to me when I awoke with a start (that feeling of falling). Piper was looking intensely at me and said, “The angels came to talk to you in your sleep, but I told them ‘NO!’, so they put you on the ‘heaven slide’ and ‘plop’ you slid back into your body!”
I have had several prophetic dreams. Uncanny and unsettling premonitions of what was to come at major turning points in my life. One such “dream” literally saved me from death. I do not evangelize about these occurrences. I haven’t even talked about them much until now, but they have fueled decades of my own personal study of mysticism, religious theology, and shamanism as well as any possible scientific explanations. I am a pragmatist at heart. I look for logic, for proof, for rational answers. I have found none of these things–only more questions about those angels that still come to talk to me in my sleep every now and again.
A documentary aired (P.O.V. on Public Television) related to this topic. It is entitled, The Edge of Dreaming. It is a fascinating film.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” ~Rumi
“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” (I Corinthians 14:1)
“A dream that is not interpreted is like a letter that is not read.” –Talmud.
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