Friday, December 28, 2007

Feeling Safe in a Cruel-Crazy Beautiful World

Jesus found ways to help those around him feel safe while simultaneously confronting them, or teaching them, or asking them to take risks with him. They knew that he loved them. They knew that he would not leave them. And, they knew the grace and forgiveness he breathed. Ultimately, they trusted him and He believed in them.

It has been said that feeling safe is key to being able to be the best you possible. I think safety is important to be able to express one self. Unconditional love, acceptance and the knowing that the world will not come tumbling down if you mess up-these thoughts and actions create a place of safety. It is what I seek and strive for in the place I call home.

So, how do we cultivate a welcoming, loving, safe space at home (our inner sanctum)?

  • The first thing I realize is that we need to listen to each other, so we each feel heard. Feeling heard is key to feeling safe.
  • I suppose another thing is for us to recognize that no one is perfect.
  • If we expect those around us to change for us, on some level we are not appreciating who they are.
  • Yet there may be some need to alter our actions a bit to accommodate and respect one another.

I gather the recipe for a safe harbor is a delicate balance of these things and more.

There is a great song called, Cruel- Crazy Beautiful World (lyrics below):
Johnny Clegg (I think this was intended to be sung to a child)

You have to wash with the crocodile in the river
You have to swim with the sharks in the sea
You have to live with the crooked politician
Trust those things that you can never see
Ayeye ayeye jesse mfana (jesse boy) ayeye ayeye

Chorus:It's a cruel crazy beautiful world
Every time you wake up I hope it's under a blue sky
It's a cruel crazy beautiful world
One day when you wake up I will have to say goodbye
Goodbye -- It's your world so live in it!

Beyond the door, strange cruel beautiful years lie waiting for you
It kills me to know you won't escape loneliness,
Maybe you lose hope too
Ayeye ayeye jesse mfana ayeye ayeye

Chorus: When I feel your small body close to mine
I feel weak and strong at the same time
So few years to give you wings to fly
Show you the stars to guide your ship by

Chorus: It's your world so live in it!

If we truly live in this world we need to try
swimming with sharks in the sea.
Trusting things we cannot see.
Take risks each day.
Yet we long for a safe place.
A place to let our hair down, be who we are
And, be loved-even though.
~Even though and maybe even because of who we are.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Santa Spirit

Last night, Quinn, my oldest son, invited me into a private conversation. He did so knowing that Alea was in her bed and that Kye was knocked out on the couch downstairs after a long night of Christmas shopping.

He confessed gently that he knew that Santa was not real. He has known for a year now and he wanted me to know that he knew. It was his loving way to let me know that he did not want to have secrets from each other. It was a sweet and tender moment.

We talked about the tradition of Santa and about the real Santa that left items in shoes long ago. And, how that tradition gets carried on today to keep the spirit of Santa alive.

Alea asked about Santa in the store, she wondered if every child got a gift. In my head, I felt a sadness in the realization that some children may never experience the Spirit of Santa due to circumstances.

Kye on the other hand, is still in the me phase. He could not understand why he could not get a glow necklace for himself when we were shopping for others in the family. He did reconcile to buy one for Quinn, however grudgingly.

I guess I hope that my kids will remember the real gift of Christmas; God's love for us, the gift of family, the miracle of life and the ability to live each day and experience love.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I can either wallow in it-
or do something about it.
I have tired of wallowing.
It just does not suit me well.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

This Year To-Do List

Below, I hope to capture some ideas in terms of things to incorporate into my life over the next year. I will add as I figure them out. Please feel free to comment about your desires or share a wonderful idea that I could add to my list. These ideas are in no particular order.

1. Develop new friendships
2. Get out in nature more often (even in the winter) -went tobogganing today! (Dec 28)
3. Increase my body's flexibility
4. Get my finances to a good place
5. Teach the kids about money- how to spend, how to save
6. Visit my sister Alanna often
7. Send more snail mail-to friends and family
8. Take a class- may be related to Spanish - maybe not
9. Reconnect with family in Ireland
10. Love those around me more fervently- reflect, each day, on how lucky I am to have them in my life
11. Begin a gratitude journal
12. Take more pictures

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Burst of Sunlight

Peaceful as a bird in flight

Cast across the sea.

~Erin (written in 6th grade)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Human Tetris

This is pretty funny. It seems the Japenese have a corner on stupid game shows. I have smiled many times at this one.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Matters of the Heart

The heart; what a intricate organ. Designed to keep beating in the background, keep oxygen flowing, getting it to where it is needed-all without a single thought. Pretty amazing really.

I have been thinking a lot about matters of the heart lately. Not the one that beats in our chest each minute but the one that warms our existence each day.

The other day, I was in a meeting at work with the guy who wrote Getting Ahead in a Getting By World. His name is Phil Devol and he has been doing research about poverty with people in poverty for many years. This is quite a feat in itself but that is not what struck me yesterday.

At the start of the meeting, he humbly indicated that he would need to leave at a certain time to rendezvous with his wife. He explained that they had special time planned together and he would need to forgo lunch plans with us; they had an Indian restaurant picked out. What was interesting was not only that they planned to be together, but that he was so looking forward to it and was willing to share his excitement with us (boring work people).

The night before, this same guy joined in at our weekly support meeting and participated in an activity about "what gifts we bring through our head, heart and hands". His answer was not unusual or outrageous, but it was telling. He indicated that he has the gift of massage and that he gives a foot rub to his wife each morning. Both of the moments he shared brought a clear image that he loved his wife. It was also clear that he loves loving his wife.

Some thoughts that came to me when I heard Phil's loving words:

  • I know fortunate people when I see them.

  • Who wouldn't desire the fun he expressed in his simple words? Ah, to look forward to special time.

  • I believe we all want to experience the gift of receiving love and giving love.

  • Being able to freely give love and act in love toward another person may be one of the greatest gifts one can give to themselves.

  • Being open and taking the true risk to act with love seems to be key to the process- even if love may not be returned.

  • Yet, what a sweet and special thing when love is welcomed and returned.
A good friend of mine named Lou, introduced me to the concept of the 5 love languages. I shared this with Phil after being a witness to his expression of love. If you are interested in finding out how you express and want to receive love, check out this website here. It also covers how you dish out and best receive apologies.

Love and apologies- just those two words say volumes. I think there may be something about lasting relationships in these words- acting with love, intentionally, every day and knowing when and how to apologize when you screw up. I am sure there is a bunch more wisdom to lasting relationships beyond these two words and I am on the road to find out. (By the way, I have also come to believe that I will always be on the road to find out).

Monday, December 10, 2007


Above is a film from the Dove Company, their Campaign for Real Beauty. When I first saw this, I felt the need to show everyone- and now I share it with you. This movie gives credence to my sneaky suspicion that we were all subjected to a bunch of lies, all around us, when it comes to the advertised concept of beauty. Billboards, magazines, commercials, etc. try to suck us into believing in the "beauty" of the unrealistic, computer altered images that bombard us.

So, how will we define beauty, for ourselves? I spend minimal time primping (compared to many), yet I shave, pluck, put make up on, get perms etc. And, I must admit that these actions sometimes make me feel better about myself.

Even so, I know I should take better care of my skin, I should exercise more and eat more healthy foods. Another thought is that my body is a temple and it is worth taking care of. When is this considered self care and when is it falling into the category of beauty propaganda?

I am daring to think that beauty may reside within me, around me, and maybe even upon my face.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Power in a Word

I had a wonderful conversation recently with a good buddy of mine, named Tim (we have many, this was just the most recent). And, as I have been traveling through this difficult patch in my life he has been a comfort and a grounding force.

Our most recent conversation had to do with dealing with difficult situations and recognizing the gift these situations bring us. (I have been quite gifted lately!). Anyway, during this pondering, I began to tell stories about decisions I have made in my past that have been simple yet profound in terms of a particular dynamic I deal with.

You see, I often find myself conflicted about trying to honor other people's needs and my own needs. And, sometimes others around me choose to act with manipulation or act selfish or act rude to deal with their stuff. For the most part, I believe that they don't mean to be rude, they just act that way from time to time. It may be that they have competing interests or they have a need or whatever.

One story I told him was about a time when I worked with a management team at a social service agency. The team would get together weekly to keep there eye on the business, plan programs and events and discuss other matters of consequence. One of the expressed values for each meeting was to check in at the beginning of the meeting and let folks know what was on our minds and put things aside so we could focus during the rest of the meeting.

Each member took a turn and shared personal and professional things. It was during these times that I recognized a pattern when it was my turn to speak. People would shuffle through papers, lose eye contact and sometimes even have side conversations. There were only 5 people in the room!- this was very noticeable to me and I felt horrible. I had doubts about whether they really valued me or not.

So, I decided to express my concern. They listened and seemed to understand, they even partially apologized. But, the behavior continued. Now, I knew these folks cared about me- but this behavior was downright rude and disrespectful. I thought about it a long time. I figured I could have a temper tantrum and rightly so; but, that was not really my style. And, I doubted it would even work, if my honest attempt at a request did not bear fruit.

So, I decided to look deeper into the dynamic. I became a pseudo research scientist. I started to notice when they checked out and when they listened. I came to discover something. They checked out every time I started to talk about my feelings. When I used the word "feeling or I feel", they would get scattered.

I remembered taking the Meyers Briggs standardized test and the test has a category that measured whether you are a "feeling" person or a "thinking" person. I wondered if a word in itself could have that much power. So, with intention, I attempted to replace the word feel with think during these meetings and I tracked the results. Know what? It was an immediate response and difference. It was like I became E.F. Hutton. This moment and the research that preceded it -has changed my behaviors, the results those behaviors bring and consequently- my life.

Now, I still think it was not right for my colleagues to treat me the way they did. And, if truth be told, they should have made changes to support me; but, I was able to change a bit to get what I needed from the situation and my actions made it more possible for them to hear me.

I guess it was a way for me to do something about my situation and not stay stuck.

I really trust my gut when it tells me to keep noodling something. I suppose I have a lot to noodle in life. So, I am off to do my research. It is my sincere desire to be the best me I can be, and find the resources within myself to learn what I can from these situations.

I get tired of feeling bad. It is time for me to have some trust that those around me really do love me (and even if they don't) I just need to seek a way to communicate differently (more effectively) - through my actions or words. And, I need to have faith that I have what I need inside of me to rise above and bear fruit.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Art of Questioning

I stumbled upon this speakers website a bit ago and now I receive an E-zine that I enjoy profusely. One item of note is his new animated movie that focuses on questions to ponder. I found it very provocative and interesting. His stuff is reproducible as long as you include this verbiage :

Michael Bungay Stanier is a professional keynote speaker, the author of the best selling coaching tool, Get Unstuck & Get Going ...on the stuff that matters and the creator of Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun and The 5.75 Questions You've Been Avoiding. A certified coach and Rhodes Scholar, he works with teams and organizations to help them do less Good Work and more Great Work.

Check it out!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What if you really could just erase your fears? Would you do it? Can you name the fears you have that you would place on this wall?

I never considered myself a fear based person really. But most recently, I am realizing how precious life is and I am worried that I will squander my time here on Earth.

The most recent stuff I am reading suggests that happiness is in the now. Appreciating each moment and being present with myself and others around me. The theory is that if I string a bunch of worthwhile todays, I will in retrospect have a meaningful and enjoyable life.

Anxiety and fear just messes that up; creates a block to experiencing life- it injects doubt and breeds discontentment.

I have been feeling this discontentment and I am tired of it. I have to stop regretting what I could have had or wished I had. Stop worrying about the future and give it my best guess and go for it. I have been stagnant too long.

Time to wake up, walk over to the wall and erase my fears.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tree Dies - Murder Suspected

So, I am going to do it. I am going to cut down the blue spruce tree in the back yard. It is the tree that remains in and around my newly dug garden. This tree had a partner beside it which a friend and I took cut down this past summer. We did this to make room for sunshine to nourish other plants in the garden. I have tomatoes to prove that that was a good decision.

During the cutting my kids in jest implied that we were murderers. Quinn had some convincing arguments even. I must say, the accusation did tug at my subconscious (a little).

So, in honor of my garden and in order for the death to not be frivolous-- the noble spruce will become our Christmas tree.

So, the killing (I mean the cutting) of the tree will happen this weekend. Should I turn myself in? Will I be able to deal with the nagging taunts of children? Only time will tell......

By the way, I don't think my tree hugging days are over, maybe I just have it in for this tree.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

When you die, God and the angels
will hold you accountable
for all the pleasures you were allowed in life
that you denied yourself.

--Anonymous (from The Oprah magazine, Dec. 2005)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Place for Conversation Starting

If you post a comment to this spot, I will create a post to start a conversation. For example, let's say Alanna wanted to discuss Christmas, she could post here and then I would post her note as a seperate post to start the conversation rolling. Let me know what you think. Erin

Friday, November 16, 2007

My "Tiny" House

A couple of weeks ago, my very good friend Cathy came to visit from New York with her boyfriend Mark. She brought goodies from her garden- salsa, jam, spagetti sauce etc.-- a bounty to say the least. She also brought a surprizing perspective. As she took the tour of the house, she exclaimed, "It's huge!!"

I looked at her and saw her big eyes and realized that this was quite true. I did a mental inventory and realized I had a couple of competing feelings. One feeling was of pride - a recognition that I am lucky and blessed. The other was of guilt like I have way more than I need.

Cathy lives in a beautifully simple and functional A-frame house in the North Country. She has everything she needs and lives quite comfortably. Her home is a very welcoming place and holds many memories of happy times for me. It is one of those places where you feel comfortable from the get-go. So, to her, my house is HUGE and, I suppose she is right.

Not many days after her visit, Alea (my daughter) had a friend from school over. We were sitting at the table and we were talking about places we have lived and he said, "Yeah we used to live in a tiny house like this when we lived in the city". (He now lives in New Albany, OH where most houses are rather large). We continued with other trains of thought, but it occured to me that I had a feeling of "smallness" when I saw this child's innocent perspective.

Isn't it funny that we can be influenced by other's perceptions and yet have the ability to decide how we see our situation?

We have a choice about how we see what we've got. This is not a new concept but, it was so beautifully displayed for me in this scenerio and served as a reminder to pay attention to these thoughts and feelings.

Actively choose your path of thought, realize that you can pick your feelings.

So, I choose to believe that we live in a big house and I hope that we can fill it with loads of love and appreciation. And most of all, I choose to sit in the realization that we are blessed.

In a Tiny House

This is a song my mother sang to us when we were growing up. (Mama sang a line, and we would repeat)

In a tiny house
By a tiny stream
Sat a lovely lass
Who had a lovely dream
And the dream came true, quite unexpectedly,
In a gilly gilly hosenefferkabanellerbogen by the sea.

She was out one day
Where the tulips grow
When a handsome lad
Stopped to say hello
And before she knew, he kissed her tenderly,
In a gilly gilly hosenefferkabanellerbogen by the sea.

The happy pair were married
One Sunday afternoon
And they sailed away
One sunny day
To spend their honeymoon
In a gilly gilly hosenefferkabanellerbogen by the sea.

In a tiny house
By a tiny stream
Sat a lovely lass
Who had a lovely dream
And the dream came true, quite unexpectedly,
In a gilly gilly hosenefferkabanellerbogen by the sea.