Friday, August 29, 2014

Stolen heart

This morning as Lily turns 14
Lily turns 14 today. In fact, she already has ... at 1:47 a.m., to be exact. She bounced into the world rather quickly (7 hours compared to 29 with my first – I have a theory about birth experience/length and how it relates to later behavior) and mostly without the assistance of the physician, who ran in to catch her. The nurses, Lily and I did all of the work. That day and her fragility seem so far away. I do remember rocking on a yoga ball to ease the pain, that I took the epidural after careful consultation with the anaesthetist to ensure it would not re-injure a spinal wound and, 45 minutes later without breaking much of a sweat, this sweet thing was here!

She was a gorgeous, jolly baby always looking for a cue from her beloved older sister. She hasn't changed much. Except when she and I do battle, which has decreased and taught us each something from the other. No one has ever gotten under my skin the way she does. She irks me to no end, but also shows me the endless depths of love. I wrote about her on her 10th birthday:
She shows me what it's like to be wild and free. I model responsibility and discipline. We each desperately need each other, although it's hard for either of us to admit publicly.
Young Lily, busy at the computer; some things never change
In that post, I also wrote about how she whined our entire vacation that summer. That was my fear this summer, when we took the girls to Europe on a long-awaited, hard-earned trip. She was a gem, possibly because I shared the daily plan with her ahead. She likes to know what's coming. The four of us spent a lot of time together in close quarters for those two weeks. That experience eked into the rest of summer and we all liked being together. I sensed this time as ripe for that as both girls are now high schoolers and, all too soon, will be going off into the world on their own.

One of the surprisingly unexpected and wonderful gifts of the trip is how exceptionally close my girls have become. They were always cozy, but in a push-me, pull-me way.  Now, they respect and depend on each other, while each is quite independent. Lily is having the time of her life as a freshman, sampling so many activities, earning new friends and easily picking up a new language. Autumn is off to college classes two night a week as part of a post-secondary education option. They seem to be running in different circles, but after school they often walk somewhere to study or for a snack. That's about the only time they have together.

That means I see them each separately these days, which equates to less drama and more quality one-on-one. I have observed Lily grow into herself, keenly so. She is such a problem solver and always off on some creative adventure like making videos, sketching or having a scavenger hunt with her BFF. 

Lily and her BFF: Dr. Who Halloween
Under her confident smile and sometimes bristly facade lays a huge and tender heart. She still occasionally mentions the homeless woman we encountered in Chicago years ago laying in the alley: How do you think she is now, Mom?

As I have delved the past couple of years into astrology, I have grown more appreciative of her characteristics as a Virgo. A few weeks ago she asked me one of her incessant questions: "What's the most-hated astrology sign?"  I don't know, I answered, fearing it was my own. "Virgo – mine," she answered rather sadly. My wise friend Char shared an affirmation for Virgo with me that I will give Lily today. Here is an excerpt:

"I  accept deeply my keen analysis

and enquiring mind.

I accept fully my high energy

and amazing memory.
I accept fully my ability to see details,
to transform separate parts into meaningful wholes.

I am dependable.
I am precise.
I am meticulous yet practical.
I am industrious and self disciplined.

With great ease I refine, soften, and direct
my inexhaustible energies,
express my discrimination and wisdom
with courage, self reliance, and strength,
my power with delicacy and appropriateness
my invincibility with protectiveness.

I accept my extraordinary ability for self-sacrifice
and my high intuitive gifts that are rooted deeply
to my instinctive human sympathy.

The birthright of Virgo is
to pierce the Grand Illusion of Life."

Lily is ALL of these and more; she's my private wild child who has stolen my heart. Like when Max leaves the wild things, they cry:

“Oh please don't go  – we'll eat you up – we love you so!"

• Who am I close to that gets under my skin?
• Why is that?"
• What do I have to learn from that person?
• What do I have to teach?
• Where is Spirit in this relationship?

tangled hair,
but perfectly
made-up eyes

though I don't
see why

she has a natural,
wild beauty

but, I suppose,
at age 14, she's
fallen prey
to teen experimentation
and off-kilter
marketing that
says otherwise

she has to
discover these
things on her own

as I stand back
and witness
her growing
more and
more into


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lean love

Who am I? How often do you ask yourself that question? On some level, I think I am constantly seeking the answer. I don't want a reflection of who I am, I want the Truth, the naked Truth.

Today's answer isn't so very pretty. It's one of the rare days I can't shake the blues of chronic pain and one more symptom to handle. Vertigo has decided it's time to call again on top of all of my other house guests: poor sleep, stuffy nose, headache, sinus pressure, neck ache, shoulder and hip pain, tight jaw, and constipation. I have a daily regimen of supplements, netti-pot, exercise and food intolerances to handle. I am grateful that they have worked all summer. Until the hammer of stress came crashing down as it does periodically on all of us. And I kept pushing through.

That mess of annoyances is about all that I can see. My pattern is to retreat, where it takes less energy to survive until symptoms recede. But I don't think that's the healthiest route. It seems one of the patterns I need to break. Last week, I spent a good deal of time pouring over some astrology interpretations from the amazing monthly group I attend under the guidance of my spiritual friend, Char. In this space, I have been able to delve deeper into who I am, or am meant to be, and look beyond the drive-me-crazy symptoms. According to the stars (and planets and their interactions), I have been blessed with many gifts and the means to use them. I am, they say and I know myself, a late bloomer. I married later, had my kids older and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I also must follow my own path, which  includes a lot of excavation. I joyously e-mailed Char Monday that I had meticulously gone through all of the material and how happy it made me, how affirming and confirming it had been.

So what's changed in a a day or two? Nothing that I haven't already dealt with the past 16 years. Shortly after I began this post, I looked up, frustrated. I didn't want to whine or be in that self-pitying place. The large signing dangling from my studio ceiling saying "Take a Break" was the first thing that came into focus as I adjusted my eyes away from the computer screen.

I get it, I thought. I doubt the instructions could be any clearer. I quickly Googled what movies were playing and opted to forgo unproductiveness and truly take a break. I settled on the "100 Foot Journey" with Helen Mirren. I'd selected the book a year ago for book club and was thoroughly delighted and entertained ... to the point I'd forgotten it was fiction. In my rushing to the car to make the show, a van driver flagged me down, lost. I drove her to the highway, stopped home briefly and was on my way, arriving ahead of the previews. What wasn't to like: food, France and Indian culture. The scenes shot in Paris brought tears of gratitude for the trip we had as a family this summer. "God, you have been so very good to me," I said silently. I didn't add the "but why am I always struggling" as I had earlier.

One of the things I have been learning about myself by studying my natal chart is that I need to periodically treat myself and take breaks. I tend to push through and deny myself. I've been pushing ... all summer. From a wonderful vacation at the beginning (that I completely planned from scratch, which I love but can be stress-inducing), to balancing kids home and more outside work, some stinging upsets (learning I must relocate my studio and Artsy Fartsy and that I missed a major grant deadline), getting my girls off to school while my husband was out of town (I honestly don't know how single parents do it) and settling my oldest into college courses this week as part of the post secondary enrollment options program. Did I mention we have also have a new driver? 

It is just life, dished out to us all. I live it hard, forgetting to breathe and, often, to enjoy. One of my recent astrology lessons is to let life flow through me. I wonder what that looks like, exactly. Here are a few of the other lessons I am cultivating:
• To live out of abundance, confidence and trust;
• To follow my dreams and truth;
• To let go of fear;
• That boundaries are necessary, barriers are not.
• To bring the past forward;
• That my security in life rests in Spirit.
• To put power and energy into intention.
• That healing requires pruning the excess;
• To rely on my (inner) resources and that looking within gives me the most clarity;
• That's is ok to risk and create new structures to replace what isn't working any more.

I am calling all of this lean love and am thinking that I used a little of that on myself today by going to the movie instead of wallowing in my studio. Hooray for me – I AM learning.

• What's my gut reaction to stress?
• What are my go-to patterns?
• What patterns must I seek to change?
• Where do I find Spirit in the mess of life?
• What lessons about living and loving am I learning?

allowing myself
the luxury
of half
the workout

breast stroke
didn't induce

racing around
to drop my daughter
at school even
though my husband

why? I now

finding the grace
to take a few hours
off, dreaming of
France and food

sneaking in a grocery
trip, attempting
dinner, an aborted
bank stop and
getting my daughter to
her first night
class on time

when, again
my husband

why, God,
do I insist 
on killing myself?

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

God at the margins

I confess, I always put off going because I know it's not a quick drop off or visit. But Wednesday morning for some reason, Spirit let me know to go.

Ostensibly, I was dropping off donated clothes (thanks to a wonderful and thoughtful friend), but needed to speak to Jasmine. Her partner answered the door, grateful for the sporty clothing with tangling tags. "What would we do without you, Miss Cathy?" he said. "Hey, they're not from me; I'm just delivering them."

"Jasmine's awake if you want to see her." I did. He hustled off to get her an iced mocha from McDonald's, her favorite

Curled in her bed, as I often find her, her spirit brightened and lightened the more we talked. Her eyes beamed, her skin glistened, her hair shone and her once-limp arms wildly gestured. This is Jasmine's refuge I have come to learn. At the foot of her bed, at one point, I felt shivers up and down my body, signaling sacred Truth in what she was telling me.

On the surface she looks the farthest place from sacred you could imagine: a mother of five who's battled leukemia since she was 8, had plates installed in her head, was violently attacked at 15, never worked and lives on minimal assistance. She's easy to write off.

Probably the reason I didn't was because I met her kids first. The oldest is a sweetheart, gentle, well-mannered and a straight-A student. Next in line is a dashing, also smart, clone of his father packaged with some learning issues. Third down is a charmer. Next, the only girl, rightly a bit spoiled, and, lastly, the most sensitive, according to Jasmine. Beautiful, intelligent kids whom their mother loves fiercely. Their dad works hard as chief caregiver and acknowledged he has no familial role models, which caused him to leave home at 15.

The first time I met Jasmine was because her oldest was enrolled in Artsy Fartsy Saturdays, the non-profit arts exploration for at-risk local kids I founded in my neighborhood. I was getting something signed and we had our first long talk. I saw that same streak that gave me a shiver this week. As if God were speaking directly through her. She was saying her kids really needed a computer. It took me a year, but with substantial help from my faith community and neighbors, we got them one and all of the accouterments.

She reminds me of where wise theologian and writer Henri Nouwen says he found God: at the margins.

Jasmine is grieving at the death of two sisters to cancer this summer. She reached over and grabbed the lockbox she keeps by her bed, opened it with her extraordinary lanyard of multiple keys and handed me the two obituaries. "I really wanted you to be there. I sent my kids down a few times, but they couldn't get anyone to answer." How could I tell her we were enjoying Europe for two weeks?

I would have gone in a heartbeat had I been home. Feeling as if I missed an important opportunity with her, I managed to deliver news of the real reason I'd stopped by: that a plethora of generous Facebook friends was sending checks to cover another year of Internet.

"I tell you, you really are my angel," she responded. How could I be her angel, I thought, I wasn't even here when her sisters died.

"My grandma knows that you are," she confessed, then told me how psychic her almost 100-year old grandmother is. "I have those abilities, too," she said. "I am very open to things." That's when I got the chills because I recognized it as fact.

"You're not open to everything are you?" I asked. "Oh no, not to evil or dark things. Though I have sure felt some of that in this house."

"Have you ever done a blessing or cleansing?" I wondered. "Yes with oils my grandmother recommended." Clearly this women knows what she is doing.

Many people don't agree. She takes countless drugs for her illnesses, with is primarily why she keeps a locked box. "Don't want my kids getting into them," she says in a very motherly tone.

Many would discount her statement that one of her sister hasn't crossed over yet because she's guarding the very-premature granddaughter born just after her visitation, which sent the mother into very early labor. Somehow I know that she knows.

She rolls up her pants leg and exposes the neat line of a long cut on her shin. "Got another when I fell in the bathtub," Jasmine confesses. "Maybe you should't take that walk I recommended earlier for clearing your head." We both laugh. I wonder aloud if some of her meds cause muscle weakness. "No, I was just born a klutz," she says.

I am profoundly grateful that this visit she doesn't tell me how ignorant she is. Instead and, much to my delight, she delves back into her metal sanctum and produces a paper with her psychiatrist's signature. "He thinks I am ready to take care of my own financial affairs."

Throughout our hour visit, I run through all of the things that I can't do for her. It overwhelms me, an inkling of how she must feel. Then I recognize I am doing exactly as Spirit wishes. Listening to Jasmine and Spirit.

• Where have I found God in the margins?
• What have these experiences been like?
• What persons struggling inspire me?
• How am I inspired to action?
• How do I obey Spirit?

tucked into fetal

I was afraid
of disturbing her

truthful, more so that
she would disturb me

with her illnesses,
struggles and BIG
problems that
overwhelm me

I can't possibly
fix them all

then I get a

that's not my

why do I
feel I have to
play God?

all God asks
is that I listen

when I do,
I see a very bright
spirit uncurl from
her bed and she
teaches me

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