Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Feel good moment du jour

Much weighs on my mind, but I did want to share a good moment from today:

I was standing in line at Costco in King of Prussia when a man who had checked out came back to the register. After a couple of moments, the cashier thanked him profusely, and it became apparent that she had given him $10 too much change.

"I don't want your drawer to be off, and I don't need the money that bad, you know? Karma, what goes around comes around. You know?"

The cashier thanked him, flagged another cashier to give her change, and when he wished her a good day, she answered, "I'm having one, thanks to you."

I caught his eye and called over "That was a great thing you just did. Thank you."

He grinned back. "No, not a great thing, just the right thing."


Where my head is....

Monday, September 26, 2011


I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people overspend, others overeat, yet others oversleep.

Me? I overschedule. I think on some level that I firmly believe I will outrun stress if I give myself no time to think about it.

How's that working for me? Well, I'm too tired to care about much right now. Today turned into a 7-5 day, followed by late pick-ups for both boys, then off to Nic's social skills group while somehow cramming homework in between transit time. And hubby (bless him) made dinner, which gave me one less thing to stress about.

I also packed my weekend without meaning to. An IEP clinic ran my morning into afternoon, followed by volunteering at our parish carnival, popcorn sales for G, late dinner at the carnival (when was I going to find time to cook, anyway?). Sunday found me waking up, helping G with his PREP homework, me prepping for my class, teaching, church, and more popcorn sales.

G cleaned up his first weekend selling. He could quit now, but the competitive bug has bitten and he wants to see how high he can go. Nic is egging him on. I'm proud of him because this is all him--HE is selling it. He handled his numerous rejections with a great deal of equanmity.

Could this be a calling?

Nic enjoys selling, too. He actually closed a couple deals for G yesterday.

Just reminds me that possibilities--for them and me both--are endless. I just need some sleep to help me figure out what those are.

But for right now, hubby tells me that I need a break.

"Yeah, I know you need to save the world, and the world does need saving, but we need you more."

Copy that.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rewriting the scripts

About a year ago, I wrote a little bit about the whole idea of life as drama; everyone has a starring role in their story, surrounded by all variety of bit player. And no one wants to think him or herself a bit player in some one else's story.

I find myself (again? still?) in the bizarre position of having a fixed role in the collective conscious of, well, let's just say an influential (to me) group of people and leave it there. The story I get from these folk is that the role I am in is the role I will remain in, and that's that. The story I get from another quarter is that I'm 'not ready' and there is 'no visibility' in what I do.

So, having said that, shortly after I wrote my last post, I found myself filling a vacuum, my only thought being that I couldn't possibly make a situation any worse than it was--all win, from where I was standing.

So, the whole argument of 'not ready' goes away. No visibility? The situation allowed for plenty of witnesses. For better or worse, I rewrote my part in a lot of people's scripts.

And this all felt, really, really good. I think of Nic and G rewriting the scripts other people have written for them; I see Nic's smile when he knows he has floored his audience. G is simply G, humble and content and mindful of his own accomplishments. He remains sanguine, Nic, Saturnine, and truly my kid in this regard.

If I'm honest, I know what I did will fade, and my role, as it were, will be assumed to be assumed once again, as it was before.

I think the real test of character is not what you'll say you do in a given situation; it's what happens when and how you react to adverse circumstances.

Short term, I'll take hubby's advice, keep it all in perspective, and remember that others don't get the final word defining who I am.

(But I can't wait to see how this particular story ends....)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Increased Bandwidth's Mixed Blessings

Once, not all that long ago either, I had a relatively easy life at DEFCON1.

When you are poised for imminent disaster, there isn't room for much else. So, any perceived virtue in you as a result isn't really a virtue at all; it's necessity. Life is stripped down to its most essential elements.

As we settle into the new school year, I've eased off, almost imperceptibly, into the new rhythms of our lives. Nic accepts all the rights and responsibilities of his life as a middle schooler (but will continue to try to get away with whatever he thinks he can get away with), and G blossoms in full sunlight, now away from the shadow of his older brother. Great stuff.

Suddenly, my own frontiers expand out in every direction, as far as the eye can see. My sons' collective burgeoning independence has granted me freedom, of a sort. I think about other things, because I can.

I wish this were as cool as it sounds.

On one level, this all-consuming fire of vigilance exhausted me. But only now am I appreciating how much it shielded me.

Now that I've contained the fire, I'm free to see everything that's around it. And the last 24 hours have taught me how much I relied on it to keep from dealing with other things in my life.

I find now that I am consumed with things that have passed me by, and I am forced to confront this daily. Doing nothing is not really an option, but acting brashly won't win me any medals, either.

I walked the labyrinth again yesterday, after a walk, a cry, and Reiki in the woods. I had to stop and ask myself what I was REALLY upset about, because as it happens, I occasionally swap out my truths for less painful alternatives. That doesn't work, because in my heart of hearts, I can't lie to myself, as much as I'd like to, as convenient as that would be.

So, I come to the center of the labyrinth. And I wait. And I am aware of how foolish I look, standing there, waiting for wisdom.

Finally, I speak aloud. "I'm nowhere near home, am I?"

Suddenly, the wind picks up. The low hanging clouds and threatening rain had almost discouraged me from this walk, but I still did it. I wanted my answers. I stood still as the wind whipped through the trees around me.

I continued. "You're not done with me yet, are you?"

One last gust, and then peace.

I walked out from the center, pondering all the implications, none the wiser regarding courses of action I need to take. I hear Fr M's voice once again: "In God's time, not yours."

As life settles into routine, I find I have a whole new set of challenges ahead.

I hope I am equal to them.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
~Lao Tzu

We are a house in transition.

I'm sitting here on the couch with my younger guy pelting me with questions about Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, and explaining to him that the original 1966 album is NOT the soundtrack to the 2002 concert DVD (that's in our van....what an education they have ahead of them). We just made two batches of muffins; I'll make some cookies once the butter melts and I have another cup of coffee.

I'm liking the change and chill in temperatures. Our house reflects the changes, in a good way. We just finished the first full week of school; although Nic has a lot to learn about the rhythms of middle school (organization promises to be our bete noir), he's doing well, making friends and even won an event in the spirit day competition for his team (people high-fived him all afternoon).

I'm a little more troubled by my little one. The kids on the bus stop ignore him, and the one kid he sat with on the bus apparently got wind from the bus stop that G is 'not cool', so a once-promising situation is not so much now. G doesn't seem to be bothered, but by the same token, he is as opaque as Nic is transparent.

I'm worried. But I don't think there's much we can do to fix the bus stop sitch.

On the plus side, he loves Aftercare and has friends there.

And Nic likes his after school program, although he packs up at 4:30 on the nose every day. I think we would do well to lengthen those days. When we get a little more settled, when I have a little less to get worked up about. I reacted overmuch to their collective disorganization Thursday night; G ordered me to "get your angry self out of this room this instant!"

Stress pulls me in a few different directions. I'm playing the elimination game. The kids will win. Everything else will get figured out when I have the energy for it. I get out walking in the woods as often as I can to keep me going.

In the meantime, I have an antsy second grader who just finished loading my dryer for me and is anxious to get cookie-making operations underway.

Time to get busy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Love Letters

I've always been an accomplished lover, but not in the erotic sense. The happiness of the people in my life has always been essential to my own, for better or for worse. Thinking like that kept me in two very unhealthy romantic relationships and countless other abusive platonic relationships.

I've loved indiscriminately. And it's hard to function when you're that splintered.

So, by dint of necessity, I have gotten more discriminating in my affections. True to Mary B's maxim, I have learned to love many and trust few. I have also learned a thing or two about moderation.

I find this the best way to couch my story, another of one of my favorite people, Fr M. As I've said in the past, I love him like my own family, and in many ways, I feel like we are family who have found one another, albeit a bit late in life for us both.

After he visited my family last month, I wrote the following letter:

"Dear Fr M,

Thank you again as always for spending time with my family. Truly, it was a lovely evening in every sense of the word, and more than ever, I get a real sense that 'God is here.' As always, I feel lightness after I talk to you--not as if you've taken anything from me, but more a sense of shared purpose. So funny that we talked of pride, my single biggest sticking point--how often I feel that I am on a mission from God on my own, and how often I am reminded that God is here with me, working through me, speaking through me, and acting through me.

But he is not without his sense of humor. A few weeks ago, I walked a labyrinth for the first time--the one over at St Thomas in Whitemarsh. Have you ever done that? Anyway, a little while before I posted on my Facebook page: "Nic needs to learn gratitude. I need to teach him that. He is a little heathen."

So anyway, I walk the labyrinth a little while later, and when I get to the center, the Holy Spirit has a thought for me:

"So you think you came into this world fully formed and thankful at the outset."

(The divine has a way of cutting through my pomposity.)

So, as I walked the labyrinth out from the center, I reflected on the nature of my gratitude and how it evolved. And the short answer is this: my CHILDREN have taught me what it is to be grateful; my attitude of gratitude, though it feels like I've had it forever, is a relatively recent development. And it was a gift to me from my boys. That I take nothing for granted, that everything--even adversity--is a gift, because you learn your best lessons when things aren't going your way.

And one gift you've given me--'In God's time, not yours'--has gotten me through many a difficult time.

(Actually, you have given me many gifts over the years--too many to list, but I am grateful for all, particularly our friendship).

Please know that our door is always open, and you are always welcome."

This letter sat in my pocketbook for nearly 3 weeks. I got around to sticking it in an envelope on Saturday, thinking I'd drop it by the rectory. But I forgot.

Sunday found me sitting in the church with other second and third grade prep parents, when Fr M stepped up to talk about the sacraments. I remembered the letter in my purse, dug it out, and stopped him on his way out. He thanked me again for dinner and hurried out.

Less than 5 minutes later, my phone vibrated. It was him. I hurried out to the vestibule, answering quietly, "Hello?"

"Oh Liz, hi," he said. "I forgot you were still in church, but I just wanted to say thank you thank you thank you. (I laughed, I couldn't help it, he sounded so happy). I'll talk to you soon, okay, hon?"

"Sure, take care." I hung up, grinning ear to ear as I went back to my pew, and thinking yet again how much happiness, joy, relief, solace he's given to his flock over the years, and thinking how happy it made me to give some of these things back to him.

You can't necessarily take pain away from anyone, but you can lighten the load in thousands of little ways. It doesn't cost anything, yet the rewards are priceless.

And these gifts that I didn't even realize I had until recently have me thinking of other ways I can use them. A path is beginning to suggest itself to me. I know I am doing exactly what I need to be doing right now, in this moment.

But I feel that it's all about to change. Soon.

My prayer right now? To be ready. For anything. And to face it with courage and resolve.

I don't think I ask for much.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


As I prepared to lector the Saturday vigil mass last night, I pondered unfinished business in my own life. Over the last couple of years, I've honed my task to get good with God to a fine point. Yet I wondered, have I done EVERYTHING I need to do?

The first reading, from the Book of Sirach, gave me my answer. I felt color creeping up my cheeks as I read:

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD's vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor's injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults.

By and large, I have forgiven my enemies. But this, and the gospel, plus an outstanding homily from a visiting priest brought home something that I have been avoiding, and now is the time to put one last piece of business to rest.

It's human nature to hold grudges, but in the business of becoming more like God, you have to aspire to be better than human nature. You have to be bigger than whatever slight or injury was done you. Because in the end, these little things snowball--for better or worse. This energy becomes positive or negative--it's your choice which way it's going to go. (Or, as G would have it, blue core or red core).

And a conversation with two of my former grade school grads I met with last night confirmed to me: you must lead by example.

So, with that, I just want to openly say to Amy and Sharon that I forgive you. I let these things go, because things of this earth in many ways matter not.

Wishing love and mercy to all my friends.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Note to the Team.....

We didn't get a chance to meet with Nic's team prior to the school year, so I am hoping you can forward this email to those who will be teaching him. It's just a short history of Nic, written by Nic. I hope it will give his teachers some insight. Nic's come a long way to get here; he was diagnosed with autism at age 2, and for all I know would never speak. He communicated using virtually all scripted speech until age 7, when he started generating his own content. When he's upset, he will resort to scripted (yet appropriate) speech. He takes a minute or so to gather his thoughts to answer questions. He likes elevators and security cameras. He meets expectations, so if you expect nothing, he will give you nothing. If you expect great things, he will deliver great things.

Peer interactions are difficult for him, but he is persistent and determined.

Here's Nic.

I'm going to need a little help with hard social studies because going through the textbook erases my mind. Math is fun, but only a few fraction problems are tricky. (Multiplying and dividing.) Some words in reading can be tough to pronounce.

My mom told me that middle school starts at 7:30 in the morning so I'm not sure that I can make it in time. But I'm going to make sure I do not get detention. If bullies pick on me or someone else, the security cameras (which I'm obsessed with) will capture the scene, then it's detention for them! I know that the elevators are for injured students, but I'm expecting them to be a special end-of-the-day reward if I have a good day. (That's also another thing I'm obsessed with).

I hope I have a good year, work hard, and do well.


Me again. He did that without spell check or edits from me. Please feel free to talk to either of us with any questions. I might be the better person to frame his needs--he knows what he needs, but he is still learning how to verbalize them.

Thank you so much.

PS He had a great first day of middle school. I can't expect him to string 182 days like it together, but we'll take it one day at a time....