Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Stop to Savor

Summer begins for me at the end of this week.  In New York, schools go until the end of June so when others have begun their summers these last few weeks, and summer feels like it is here, in New York we have these last few days to push through, making me anticipate the summer pace even more.

What do I like about summer most of all?  Time to savor.  This week I co-facilitated a self-care retreat and the focus was on play.  Just like summer time, play wants a savor space.  One of our activities was to take a Sense and Savor Walk.  This walk can be taken anywhere, but my suggestion is that the walk takes place outside.  A walk like this takes about ten minutes, and its purpose is to simple notice.  To notice the leaf that calls you.  To notice the color of the sky or the ladybug slowly working on a blade of grass.  To notice the intricate patterns and color of a bud and the flower next to it in full bloom.  To notice the ground underneath your feet.   During the retreat we walked in a backyard, all of in different parts of the yard, noticing the world.  In ten minutes we were more focused, more in touch with the world around us and more in touch with ourselves.  More ready for life--and for this retreat, this gave us space to be more ready for play.  I live a fast paced life and don't always notice.  This ten minute walk could be done as a part of my regular practice, not needing summer to give me time and space.

Below are a few of the pieces of nature I noticed on my Savor Walk.  Photos are not necessary to savor...what is happening on the inside as I slow down is.  Notice that on this Savor Walk I mostly viewed things close up.  Next time I think I would like to notice things as a whole, in groups and in sweeping views.

Summer is approaching.  And with it comes the space of time.  One thing I am most looking forward to this summer is time to draw in my journal.  I am not an artist.  Actually the products I produce are not great at all.  Yet drawing gives me a way to slow down and notice.  I can't draw in 10 minutes--I need a stretch of time.  Drawing allows me to really look--just like my savor walk--but only closer.  If I am drawing a flower, I look at the lines of the flower that create it's shape and try to replicate them on my paper.  This takes time and focused attention for me.  I have to really, really look and then take what I am seeing to transfer it on paper.  I try to notice and replicate texture and depth in the flower.  The flower moves in and out in its beautiful shape and in my drawing I try to make my flower look the same.  I first use pencil to get the outline and shape of the flower.  With my pencil I try to make a black and white picture of what I am seeing.  Then I also try to match the color of the flower.  This takes some experimenting.  I work with the color on a scrap paper, looking at the flower's range of hues and experimenting with colored pencils, crayons, markers and paints.  Last year I began to use water color pencils and I felt happy with using this tool.  I didn't always match the color exactly, but I liked the result and the tool helped me to really notice the color.

Below is a photograph of a drawing I did last summer.  I am looking forward to slowing down to draw again this summer.

What happens in my drawing is that I loose all sense of space and time.  It is just me and the flower and the drawing.  Somehow time stops and I am present.  I savor.   It doesn't matter how good or bad the end product of my drawing is.  What matters is the space I am in when I am drawing.  Almost like a prayer.

For those like me who are busy, where time is of the essence, and life is go, go, go...taking time to savor is not only important--it is necessary.  How can you find time to savor.  Can you stop and take a ten minute walk--it can be in your backyard so you don't have to go far, it can be at the park next to your workplace, or it can be at the beach on vacation.  The important part of savoring is noticing and slowing.   And when can you build in those bigger times to savor.  For me I do that in the summer with my drawing.

On Thursday my school year ends.  We are packing up our books and preparing to end our classrooms.  We are thinking about next year.  We are finalizing report cards and thinking about moving up ceremonies.  Life is wonderfully hectic as we prepare to close.  I wonder what I can do to savor this school year and the children in my school one time before I release this year into summer.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for dedicating space and time for teachers and teachers of literacy to come together to share ideas, practice and life experience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


"Laughter is carbonated holiness." ~Anne Lamott

My new favorite quote is one on laughter created by Anne Lamott.  Just reading the sentence makes me want to laugh.  And it reminds me how closely linked laughter and holiness is.  Just a burp away...
So to honor both laughter and holiness here are a few of my favorite belly laugh videos.  Let the laughter bubble up.  Enjoy!

This week for Spiritual Thursday, we are invited to write about laughter.   Thank you to Holly Mueller and to all of the others who contribute their words.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Footprint

This week for Spiritual Thursday, we were invited to write about leaving a legacy.   Thank you to Holly Mueller and to all of the others who contribute their words.

"When you let go of who you wish you were, you reclaim your power to be radiantly, magnetically, and creatively who you are."                                ~Heather Ash Amara                                                                                                                    

I have not often thought about my legacy or leaving a legacy.  Yet we all leave our footprints.  A charmed legacy is one for which, as Amara states in her wise words, one lets go of what is wanted, to stand in the power and the grace of who one truly is.  To leave a charmed legacy is to choose to live life fully…sincerely.  To live through suffering, embracing the tears as signs of a life that touches and is touched deeply--even when a heart is broken.  To live through joy, allowing the well of happiness to be planted deeply within, spreading to others in daily touches--a heart overflowing.  Accepting each moment for what it is--both with its blessings and its sadnesses.  To lead a charmed life one embraces abundance rather than bemoans scarcity.   To live a charmed life one accepts the gift of who one is--with warts and beauty alike, allowing that life to flourish in any and all circumstances.  Living in this space is how I want my footprint to be formed.  How I wish to mark my legacy.

Momentous moments in my life have given me glimpses of my legacy. Times of change--moving from one city to another, going from one school to another, leaving one house for another.  Times of great joy--marriage, birth, life celebrations.  Times of devastating sadness--death, loss of a child’s dreams, loss of a beloved job.  At these pivotal moments, grace to see what is true is given and glimpses of how one lives life can occur.

But those moments are not what a legacy makes.  It is in the day-to-day steps we take…in the ordinary choices that our footprint is cast.  Do I see the extraordinary in the ordinary?  Am I kind--to myself as well as others?  Am I caring?  Do I live my life with integrity and honesty?  Do I laugh…daily?  Do I hug those I love?  Am I open to hugging those I don’t love?  Do I work hard?  Play hard?  Live passionately?  Do I enjoy something--anything on a daily basis?  Even in boredom, do I strive to be alive?  Do I stay awake even when I want to numb or sleep?  Do I forgive myself when I am not perfect?  Do I forgive others the same?  Do I acknowledge all I am given (event those things I might not want) with gratitude? Do I accept what is with grace?  Do I give my gifts and accept the gifts I have to give with humility?  These acts will leave the footprint of the legacy I want to leave. 

The daily-ness of a life given often doesn’t present opportunities to reflect on legacy.  Like I said, I don’t really think about leaving a legacy.  But I don’t really have to think about it.  To leave a charmed legacy one only needs to choose to live life fully, step by step, allowing the grace of who one truly is to be shown. Transformed in the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary of each day.  A footprint is formed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Bridge

I have been spending more time in my childhood city recently, visiting my mom as she transitions into assisted living.  Mother’s Day was spent with her and my two adult children, the three of us traveling on a road trip to see the woman who my children affectionately call grammsie.   When I am there, I usually move between mom and siblings and mom and childhood friends, visiting and spreading my time with those all those I love.  Right now I want to spend all of my time with mom.

Mom links me to my beginnings.  She gave me my first bridge into the world.   And we are at a transition time in her life, when viewing the end becomes inevitable and unbearable.  Three months ago, after her fall, I sat alone, crying, not knowing how she was doing, if she was alive, 500 miles away and helpless.  I had never thought of life without mom and for the first time that thought formed and I was terrified.  I am not ready to lose her.  I don’t want her to travel that final bridge into the unknown.  I don’t want her to travel that final bridge that cuts off hugs and conversation.  I am not ready to lose her.

The three of us set out on our pilgrimage to see mom.  In our travels from north to south we take a detour to the home of my growing up.  Upon seeing the house, memories rush in. I remember the life of seven, living in a house too small to hold both my family and our varied pets.  I remember an old oak tree that sheltered our house and offered me a haven of space when the inside became too crowded and chaotic for me.   I rested with my back on the trunk of that tree.  We played ring-around- the rosy around that tree.  She was base for evening games of capture the flag.  I kissed my first boyfriend under that tree.  I read many a book under that tree.  That tree providing shelter and stability.  She was a place where I could laugh and I could cry freely.  Her roots ran deep and rooted me with her.  And she reached to the sky and showed me a path upward.

The house still stands but the tree is a stump now, cut down when my oldest was a newborn.  On another pilgrimage to visit my mom, my daughter, then three, and I went to say goodbye to that old house as my mom moved to her post family home.   As we said our last goodbyes to a house filled with memories, my toddler daughter ran to the oak tree stump and stood on her.  Mom, she called excitedly, a bridge.  A bridge for us to walk over.  A bridge to link us from here to there. 

My children are at the brink of adulthood.  They are traveling across the bridge between childhood and adulthood.  Endings and beginnings…filled with excitement, fear and anticipation.  I imagine my son finishing college and traveling to new places, possibly settling in one with an oak tree of his own.  I imagine my daughter soon linking a child to her beginnings.  As mom was for me and as I am the link for both my son and my daughter, remembering them when their skin was fresh and their future only offered hope.   One day they may be saying the same words I am now saying about my mom…I am not ready to lose you. 

Yet, like I now am learning and live with my mom, they too will also know, we only have this moment of hugs and conversation.  This moment--each moment--is a bridge from a beginning to an end.  When I live this moment with fullness, my bridge becomes one of gratitude.   Gratitude links me from here to there.  It links us and brings us to together as beginnings come and endings go.  Gratitude continues.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Teeter on the Edge of Longing

 In the winter of my sadness
the silence of snow and
white covered me.
Anticipation forgotten.
The long nights and
short days blended
with ice and grey
numbing desire
within to slumber.

Today, God, I teeter on the edge
of longing.
I look back on the
bleak landscape of a year gone by,
of endless days of grey and ice.
                        of death
                                                of mourning
                                                                                    of sickness and sadness—
when longing was silenced
and waiting replaced
by a deadly stillness.

Through all, You were there with me
witnessing my grief
silently comforting
waiting for me to notice
life beyond and within
the mystery of my suffering.

Today I heard a robin chirp.
A warmer breeze touched by cheeks
turning my lips upward.
A window opened
and a whisper of longing
entered in with the
warmth of the breeze
awakening my silent soul.

Oh God of endings and beginnings
You who wait for me and long for my fulfillment
Help me to yearn again.
I am awake now.
And I want to see the possibilities.
I want to dream.
                                    to know the fulfillment
                                                                        that you have known for me
                                                            all along.