Samsara

So, I’m turning 44 next week and to celebrate I am thinking about cutting my hair all off and starting over. I’ve colored it forever and am curious about it’s natural state. I’ve got a chunky grey streak happening on the front hair line (that I’ve been coloring) and I think it might be cool to let it be free.

Riley asks, “Like….Michelle Williams short?”

And I’m all….. “Maaaaaybe.”

We’ll see if I do it, or if I chicken out. I reserve the right to chicken.

Speaking of being a chicken:

Tomorrow I’m speaking at The Western Reserve Writers Conference. Public speaking is not my most favorite thing to do. When I was first starting out in radio, I hated to talk. I got annoyed with DJ’s who just yammered on and on to hear their own voice. If there was an option to throw on a public service announcement, or read one myself, I always used the pre-taped version rather than blather on. But anyway, it was nice to be asked to talk at this conference and I know I’ll be fine once I get there. I’m talking about writing, which is what I love, so why not?

The last time I taught formally was at a community college many years ago, the one I attended in upstate NY. They needed a last minute fill-in to teach a broadcast communications course and I did it for a semester, but I’d made a career change and was already taking pre-requisites to go back to school for nursing and didn’t agree to continue after getting them out of the pinch. I thought my writing days were over. What would have been the point? Ha, ha.

This conference is at a community college here in Ohio. I have an affinity for community colleges. Mine gave me such a good solid start.

I snuck out to a matinee this afternoon (by myself, which I love) and saw Samsara. Holy, Holy, Holy. The entire world in 99 minutes. I can’t even explain it, other than to say everything is interconnected. Everything is impermanent. The world is beautiful and ugly. We have so much and take so much for granted. Such a vast, rich, glorious, complex, world we live in. This gorgeous film makes you more conscious of everything. There were parts so disturbing, I had to turn away. And I feel no shame in that. I talked myself through saying, “You are under no obligation to watch this part.” And I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m not there yet. Other parts were so beautiful and tender, they made me cry. Did I mention there was not one word uttered throughout the whole film?

I came home more present and more in love with my family and more appreciative of my life and more aware of my world (and less worried about my presentation tomorrow). They’re all so quick, these lives we’re living. Why do we torture ourselves so?

Happy weekend everyone.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Dancing at the Shame Prom

I loved Dancing at the Shame Prom so much I couldn’t help but ask co-editors and contributors (both have chill inducing essays in the book) Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris some questions regarding how it came about and where they are going next. Hope you enjoy this interview, with Hollye’s responses first:

How did the book come about? What was the aha moment?

We wanted a title that was provocative, but not obvious. One that would make people stop and think. In a way, life is very much like prom night. When you’re young, you have these preconceived notions of how perfect and tidy it will all be. You envision yourself in the perfect dress, with the perfect date, like Cinderella at the ball. But then the actual prom happens and you can’t zip your dress because of the ten pounds hormones just gifted you with, you have a zit in the middle of your forehead, your date ditches you for the prom queen and you end up hitchhiking home, your boyfriend decides to confess to you that he’s gay, or maybe you confess to your boyfriend that you’re gay, you lose your virginity in the backseat of a car and it’s nothing like you imagined, you get your period at the dance, fill in the blank. The prom, like life, doesn’t live up to our fairytale projections, but … we’re here- so let’s dance!

Where did the book title come from?

Amy, wonderful whimsical mind that she is, just blurted out in conversation one day, “I feel like I’m at the shame prom!” We nabbed it for the title, then added the verb “Dancing” so people could see that this was not some maudlin book about wallowing in shame. This was celebratory.

How many submissions did you receive? Were writers just bursting forth to share, or was it pulling teeth to get people to submit such personal stories?

We invited over 30 women to write for us- they all said yes. Then came the very hard part of writing it. We lost a few engines there. Those who did write endured us prying, questioning, and pushing them to go deeper. Some got irritated with us (understandably). Some cried. Some threatened to quit. All wrote brilliant, raw, courageous essays that were worth every tear.

I think there is such value in releasing shame (and did so in my memoir), but it circles around and bites me in the butt often enough. Do you think we are ever fully healed, free of it once and for all?

I think healing is a lifetime process, like a spiral that grows smaller as we circle around.

Is there any value in shame? Might some in our society do well to have a little of it? Think….much of reality TV.

Shame, like fear or pain, has a message for us. It tells us, this is not right for you. If we take heed and act on the shame we are feeling, we will not suffer. If we bury it, and then drag that baggage around all our lives, shame leads to self-loathing, which will have us acting out in a myriad of self-destructive ways.

Do you think that as a society we are moving toward less secrets, less shame?

Good God- I hope so!

What’s next for each of you? Will there be a volume II?

This book is just the beginning of what we hope will be a long-lived movement. Amy and I teach workshops, “Righting your life through writing your life”.  In October we’ll be teaching in Woodstock, New York. In 2013, we’ll be in San Miguel, Mexico and Costa Rica, hoping to spread our message around the globe.

We will continue this conversation about shame by interviewing men, getting their voice in the mix, and who knows…maybe a volume two.

And from Amy Ferris:

Hollye & I jumped off this amazing cliff together. We did. We held hands, and jumped… and in the ‘jumping off’ process, we invited many women – many friends – to join us. Most said yes. Many said yes … and some said yes, and then decided – after all – they didn’t want to jump.

It was too scary.

I completely and utterly understood their fear (the ones who couldn’t) only after having read all the essays.
I have layers of shame.
Layers upon layers.
Upon layers.
LAYERS.
In (co) editing this book with Hollye, so much shame came up/manifested for me.
In re-reading the book, so much shame came up/manifested for me.
In hearing snippets … so much shame came up/manifested for me.

I hope, more than anything, that our lives – every single bit – give others hope and confidence and the sheer, absolute power to say, “I AM ABSOLUTELY, IRREFUTABLY… INVALUABLE.”

Thank you ladies! I am excited about the possibility of a book on shame from the point of view of men. I am so glad you made Dancing at the Shame Prom happen. This is a good, good thing you are doing and I wish you so much success.

Quote at the top from Monica Holloway. Her Shame Prom essay about infidelity was amazingly honest. My friend Jenny Rough also contributed a gorgeous essay about her journey with infertility and her ambivalence about adoption. Every story in the book was beautiful and heartfelt. The editors did a great job. There were no weak links.

May reading Dancing at the Shame Prom be the impetus for many to release their own shame.

Calming Tourette’s With Dental Appliances

I had Riley at the orthodontist’s today and we got to talking about Seth and his tics. The doctor told me about work being done to help patients with Tourette’s using dental appliances to stop the tics.

Amazing. Read more about it here.

I don’t know if something like this would help in the case of a PANDAS flare, but it is worth looking into.

Seth just watched the video and said, “I know how he feels.”

I know you do buddy. I know.

Is it wrong?

Is it wrong that the first thing I thought to say/sing when put on the spot by Riley…with her iPod in my face… asking me to sing something for the little talking cat app to repeat back was, “I like big butts and I cannot lie?”

Is it wrong that I had Seth watch an episode of Hoarders last week in an effort to help him find the inspiration to clean his room?

Is it wrong to be reading five books at the same time, when I should be cleaning/teaching/writing/and or practicing for a presentation I’m giving this weekend?

Does it make it better that one of those books is for the homeschool book group I facilitate for ten year olds, and the group meets Thursday at my house?

Is it wrong that someone who is facilitating a homeschool book group for 1o year olds sings Sir Mix-a-Lot (only the first line) to her 12 year old?

Is it wrong to be blogging when I have so much to do?

Is it wrong to be taking pictures of Seth and Jingle instead of all those things?

Is it wrong not to care that Riley’s iPod got its face smashed when she took it on a bike ride(cause she totally rides a bike now, like it’s nothing)? Is it wrong to love that she and Seth worked on collages instead of videos last night because of this? Is it wrong to make her wait a few days/weeks before getting it fixed, (yes we have a warranty)?

Is it wrong to ask “is it wrong” so much?

I thought so.

I’ll stop.

You’re welcome.

Dancing at the Shame Prom

I just finished Dancing at the Shame Prom and I am feeling such a deep sense of gratitude for the women who brought this book to life and for those who contributed to it. I feel like the book is going to be the impetus for the healing of many. It’s as if there’s this outside persona we are all strutting around with, and then peel back a layer, not even a very deep layer, and there it is. Everyone is blanketed in shame.

This book shines a light on it, making the monster that lurks in each of us less scary.

Dancing at the Shame Prom covers eating disorders, childhood neglect, regret, hoarding, abuse, addiction, infertility, infidelity, family secrets, fear of not being a good enough parent, racial issues and more. But this book is in no way a downer. In the telling of the stories, there is a release that happens for the reader. A realization that we are all carrying so much, and an invitation to lay our own burden of shame down. Reading Dancing at the Shame Prom gives us an opportunity to look at each of our fellow humans with more gentle eyes.

Shame. Think about how it feels in the body. For me, it is hot. Contracted. It shuts me down. When I feel shame, I feel unworthy of love. Less than. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I want to hide.

What if instead of hiding our shame, we fessed up to it like the brave writers in this book? What if we set it free? Much of the shame we carry isn’t even our own. It’s been passed down for generations. What if we consciously made a decision to end the cycle and stop allowing shame to rule us. And then, what if we stop blaming and shaming the people in our own lives?

Dancing at the Shame Prom is released today. I am going to write a couple more posts about this book in the near future. The topic of releasing shame is so important! It’s the reason I wrote Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar. To release my own shame and in doing so, I hoped to help others release some of their own.

I hope you read Dancing at the Shame Prom. I hope you look at whatever shame you are carrying, take a deep breath, and give yourself permission to let it go. ‘Cause perfect child of God? You really ain’t so bad.

She Can Do Anything!

In June, I posted this, about Riley facing her fear of deep water and also conquering the dratted climbing structure that had been the bane of our existence for years.

In the post I asked, “What’s next, riding a bike?”

Well.

Yeah.

 

Don’t mind if she do.

I came home from chorus yesterday to a girl who could ride a bike. Easy.

She’d been a bike rider for oh, say, five hours when she said, “Now I can do a triathlon someday.”

And her daddy and I said, “Baby, yes you can!”

Hiding Dietary Supplements for Children in Foods

It wasn’t until last year that Riley could swallow capsules and pills. For many years our mornings and evenings were spent grinding supplements and medications with a mortar and pestle, and mixing them in food and hoping our kids wouldn’t give us too much trouble taking them. In the following video, my dear friend Betsy Hicks of Elementals Living (they are linked on my sidebar) demonstrates how to disguise magnesium supplements in chocolate wafers.

Betsy has such an ease about her, giving presentations in person and on camera. She knows her stuff. She’s a whiz at fermented foods. Plus, she’s pretty. For more of her videos on nutrition for healthy living and special needs click here. You can order supplements from Elementals Living too, if you are in the market for them. They send them out quick to you.

How Todd and I Wound up Crying at 11:36PM

We watched the MTV Music awards on TIVO, whizzing through the whole thing. Only stopping for Pink, Alicia Keys, and then Taylor Swift at the end singing her bubble gum new single, We’re Never Getting Back Together.

And then HT says to me, “How old is Taylor Swift? Is she 25 yet?”

And I’m all, “Hell no. She’s younger than that.”

And then I went to the computer to do my fact checking, and stumbled upon the following video. Taylor Swift wrote this song, inspired by the blog of a mother who lost her beautiful four year old boy to cancer.

FYI, Taylor Swift is just 22.

Sometimes she just knocks my socks off

The other day, Riley wanted to talk to me about something personal and pressing for her. We had a nice chat, in which I shared some related things I’d experienced when I was her age. When we were done she said, “Mom, you had a hard life growing up, but now you know a lot of stuff and I benefit from it because I can talk to you about anything.”

God I hope that’s true.

And if it is, everything in my whole life that led up to her uttering those sentiments, will have been worth it.

Haaaaapy Now!

I’ve written here before about Jack, the boy with Down Syndrome I grew up with. The one who is my age. The one who was ring bearer in our wedding. When Todd and I were first dating, before it would have been cool to even mention marriage, the first time Jack met Todd he got down on one knee and demonstrated how Todd should propose. He pointed at him and said, “Groom!” And then he pointed at me, and said, “Bride.” And then he looked us each in the eye and nodded, satisfied we’d gotten the message.

Then he gave me the once over because there was really only one reason for us to be visiting him in his group home. Presents. He knew I’d have them and he wanted them. He is obsessed with music, so it had to be cassette tapes or CD’s (easily found in cheap discount racks). Arrive with some music and Jack is over the moon.

When I’ve visited him, I like to torture him for a while, act like I don’t know what he wants, and then finally give him the loot, which is hidden in my bag or in my pocket. He takes the CD’s greedily, blows me off completely (my usefulness being over) and starts opening the gifts.

“Haaaaapy now!” He always says.

It’s become part of our lexicon. Todd and I use Haaaaaapy now! Whenever we’re happy and feel it’s worth mentioning.

This morning, it is raining hard. I woke up and noted it, and as I brushed my teeth, I realized it is Saturday and I don’t have to rush off or get anyone up and moving. I quickly grabbed a towel, a jacket, and went out on the covered balcony off our upstairs. It’s old, with a tin roof and the rain sounds awesome up there.

As I settled in on the chair and looked around me at the hard rain blowing around the trees, I wondered how everyone wasn’t outside enjoying this? People are crazy not to be out in the blustery rain at 7:30AM!

I closed my eyes, prepared to clear my mind, and the words I thought were, “Haaaaaapy now!”

Thank you Jack. I have not seen you in a long time. I hope you are happy now, and always.

Yip the Agility Chihuahua?

Inspired by the video above in which Mixy the Chihuahua demonstrates agility, Seth is working with a trainer to teach Yippee some of the same things. Both boy and dog are over the moon. Turns out Yippee is super smart and he loves being challenged this way.

Today Yippee learned to spin. And spin. And spin (among other things). It’s only his second week and he’s learned so much. Seth has too.

Eventually, we plan on building jumps and ramps etc. as part of Seth’s homeschool curriculum. I think our boys are going to have a very good year.

Barbara Azzara,Teaching Excellence Not Perfection

A little background. Probably twenty years ago, my friend Anna mentioned something casually in conversation about Emmanuel’s Book: A Manual for Living Comfortably in the Cosmos. This was when I was living in the DC area. I filed it away in my brain because the concept she presented, or quote, or whatever it was, was quite beautiful.

Not long after, I came across the book in a used book store and bought it. It is a lovely book. It is one you can pick up, read one page, and feel lighter. It covers huge concepts in few words. I love it. I have kept my copy all these years. A few months back, I read it again and was delighted by it again. I checked to see if there was an author website. There was. There were links. One of the links was to Barbara Azzara’s website. She’s a friend of the author. I signed up for her monthly newsletter and have been very inspired by her words. I sent her an e-mail, thanking her for her newsletter. She responded. We’ve emailed back and forth some. I don’t know her well but she is a very loving person. That much I know already.

In last month’s newsletter she asked four questions. I answered them and learned some things about myself. I’m going to include the exercise and my responses here which is a little scary because it’s so personal. I wrote this last month and put it away for a while to let it simmer. To make sure it is something I really feel comfortable sharing. Fear would have me want to keep it locked away to protect myself further.

But I had a little talk with fear yesterday, and turns out while fear might mean well, (and that’s a big might) it’s basically full of shit.

This exercise helped me and maybe it will help someone else. I feel whenever we learn and share, it is a good thing. So here I go…it’s kind of stream of consciousness, but you’ll get the gist. I don’t know why my responses are all in caps, but I promise I’m not yelling. I’m just too lazy busy to go back and change them.

1. Name your images, and understand and name: “what is the fear and the defensive behavior that these circumstances created. ”  Another way of saying it is:  are you willing to ask yourself what is the belief that my ego is built upon?  (I must be agreed with, I must never be criticised, etc.)  Done in depth, this is a freeing exploration.

I MUST BE THE PERFECT MOTHER

2. What are your self judgments and your faults, that have created your idealized self image?  Another way of saying this is:  What about you will you “not accept” so that you will alter yourself and pretend to be other then you are.  You cannot be vulnerable or transparent if you continue to NOT accept your own “imperfections”. List these self limiting values, and see how you have distorted them into “idealization”.  (I must always be “understood.” I must always be generous of my time, money etc.)

I CANNOT ACCEPT THAT I AM OVERWHELMED. I AM LOST. I OFTEN FEEL LIKE I AM BARELY HOLDING MY HEAD ABOVE WATER TRYING TO PARENT THESE KIDS.

I FEEL LIKE I MUST ALWAYS BE PERFECT AT THIS BECAUSE I SUFFERED SO MUCH AS A CHILD AND CANNOT BEAR THE THOUGHT OF MY CHILDREN SUFFERING.

I MUST FIND ALL THE ANSWERS. I MUST FIND THE RIGHT SCHOOLS, DOCTORS, I MUST STUDY STUDY STUDY TO FIND WHAT THEY NEED FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. I MUST DO IT ALL MYSELF BECAUSE NO ONE ELSE IS GOING TO FIGURE IT OUT FOR ME AND THEY NEED HELP. I HAVE TO FIGURE IT OUT. I FEAR LONG TERM EFFECTS. IT’S ALL ON ME. I MUST NEVER LOSE MY TEMPER. I MUST ALWAYS SAY THE RIGHT THING. I MUST PREPAVE EVERY SITUATION AND ANTICIPATE EVERY SCENARIO. I MUST MAKE ALL THE FOOD BY SCRATCH. I MUST PROTECT THEM AT EVERY TURN. I MUST DO IT NOW OR THEY WILL SUFFER MORE LATER. I MUST PREVENT THEIR SUFFERING.

3. Are you willing to be real, (What does this mean to you?) and then are you willing to risk being seen for all of who you are?  Are you willing to accept your own imperfections and not project them onto others.  Are you willing to take the time to write about this?  ( ex:  I am angry, but rather than admit this, I will tell you that you are angry.) 

I CANNOT TOLERATE EVEN A WHIFF OF JUDGEMENT ABOUT MY PARENTING. OVER THE YEARS, SOME HAVE BLATENTLY JUDGED. OTHERS HAVE OFFERED JUDGEMENT THINLY VEILED AS “CONCERN” OR “SUGGESTIONS.” OTHERS, STONE COLD SILENCE WHEN I’VE BEEN BRAVE ENOUGH TO BE HONEST ABOUT HOW BAD IT’S BEEN SOMETIMES. AND IT FELT LIKE A BRICK ON MY BACK THAT WOULD SINK ME. IT FELT MEAN. IT FELT WRONG TOO BECAUSE THEY DID NOT LIVE MY LIFE, OR KNOW MY CHILDREN OR KNOW WHAT THEY NEED OR APPRECIATE HOW HARD I AM ALWAYS TRYING.

4. Are you willing to do this as a spiritual practice and devote yourself to “excellence” not perfection?  Without this commitment to go beyond your frustration, without this commitment to go beyond your fear of rejection, your fear of exposure or criticism,  and without this ability to be objective, first with yourself, and then with other, you cannot be present in your heart, and therefore you will not be able to connect and to walk with another in true open heartedness. This is the way of Leadership, and this is the path of intimacy.

I HOPE TO BE ABLE TO HEAR SOMEONE’S CRITICISM. I HOPE TO BE CONFIDENT ENOUGH IN MY PARENTING THAT I CAN LOOK AT ANY CRITICISM CURIOUSLY. WHAT THEY ARE CRITICIZING ABOUT ME IS A FEAR THEY HAVE THEMSELVES ABOUT WHAT THEY DID OR DIDN’T DO OR WHAT THEY MIGHT DO. WHAT THEY THINK THEY KNOW ABOUT ME, IS ONLY PROJECTION. I AM STRONG ENOUGH TO ENDURE ANOTHER’S CRITICISM. IT DOESN’T MAKE IT TRUE. THOUGH IT MIGHT BE. I’M STRONG ENOUGH TO LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE SAYING, WEIGH IT CAREFULLY AND DECIDE EITHER TO ACCEPT IT AND WORK ON IT OR TO REJECT IT AS INVALID PERCEPTION AND LET IT GO. I DON’T NEED TO LET IT THROW ME AND GET ALL UPSET ABOUT IT. I DON’T NEED TO PROVE ANYTHING.

I DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT. I AM NOT PERFECT. I DON’T NEED TO BE SEEN AS PERFECT.

I CAN MAKE MISTAKES. I AM FALLIBLE. I AM HUMAN.

I AM VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH PEOPLE NOT LIKING ME. I DON’T HAVE TO BE LIKED. I DON’T HAVE TO BE APPROVED OF. RILEY HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE AT THE ORTHODONTIST RECENTLY, AND I STOOD UP FOR HER, BUT THEN WORRIED THE DOCTOR AND STAFF WOULD BE MAD AT ME. IT ISN’T MY JOB NOT TO RUFFLE ANYONE’S FEATHERS. IT IS MY JOB TO ADVOCATE FOR MY CHILD.

IT ISN’T MY WORK TO MAKE THE WORLD APPROVE OF ME. IT IS MY WORK TO BE ME.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER. MY CHILDREN WILL SURVIVE MY IMPERFECTIONS.

I AM AN EXCELLENT MOTHER.

I AM NOT A PERFECT MOTHER.

I AM ENOUGH.

 

*If you would like to recieve Barbara’s newsletter aka Love Letters, click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.

**The Alden Nowlan quote on my sidebar came to me courtesy of Barbara too!

Happy Birthday to Seth

He did it. He turned ten.

He was the best baby. The most precious toddler. The sweetest preschool guy. He’s a joy. He’s a happy person. He is a light. He has more patience than any adult I know. He has insight you wouldn’t believe. He looks for the good in people, and finds it. He’s quick to forgive. He abhors the idea of hurting anyone. He’s sensitive and compassionate. He is Lego and MJ and Chihuahua. He is growing and changing and figuring out more of who he is every day.

Thank you God for the opportunity to be his mom. How’d I get so lucky?

Happy Birthday Little Man!

We love you more than you can fathom.

Happy Anniversary

The first thing Seth said when I came downstairs this morning was, “It’s me and Yippee’s anniversary!”

Two years ago today we surprised Seth with his Chihuahua. It was the happiest day of Seth’s life, and will go down in history as one of my happiest memories. There is nothing as rewarding as seeing one of your child’s dreams come true.

 

He’ll Always be my Baby

“Seth!” I yell from the kitchen.

“What?” he yells back from the living room.

“Is you is, or is you ain’t my baby?”

He giggles from the living room. I get up and walk toward where he is. Standing in the door way, I look at him. He’ll be ten this week. He’s in a white t-shirt and boxer shorts. Black and white checkered fedora on his head at 7AM on a Saturday.

“Well?”

Nothing.

“Is you is or is you ain’t?” I repeat.

He giggles some more.

I walk over to him. Take his head in my hands, guiding it to nod.

This means you is.”

I move his head in a “no” motion,

This means you ain’t,” I say.

He never does dignify my inquiry with an answer, but his eyes twinkle and it’s clear he loves me.

I’m going to take that as an “is.”