Tag Archives: spirituality

It’s such a good feeling

My son and I have been watching old episodes of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood lately. It’s much easier than I realized to get engrossed in the land of make-believe and film footage of the crayon factory as an adult. But it’s even easier to rest in Fred’s compassion.

“He seems like a question answerer, conscious child idea conceiver Carl Sagan,” said Declan, looking for (and finding) the right words.

The man understood how hard it can be to be a person, especially a child. That’s been tough work for us lately, so I’m glad to be parenting in a digital age that can take us back in time.

Whether he was singing about liking people for true reasons, or his daily celebration of the fact that we’re alive and growing inside, he had this way of creating safety and space. Even though he has passed, I’m amazed to see that the shows still hold that power for my son.

In one episode, someone in the land of make-believe had invented a machine that could see into people, see something true about them, like the warmth of their heart or their love of chair-making.

When it was over, and the camera began panning above Mr. Roger’s colorful neighborhood houses and toy cars, Declan snuggled his face into my neck and pretended to look into me.

“There is lots and lots and lots of love,” he said. “And lots and lots of art, writing especially. Buddhism. The ocean. Me.”

He stopped, leaned back, and smiled at that thought for a moment. Then he snuggled back in and continued.

“All the art you’ve ever seen in museums. All the music you’ve ever listened to. Not just me but everybody you’ve ever known or loved. All the trees and flowers you’ve ever seen or smelled. All the places you’ve lived. Dogs and dolphins and other animals you loved. Blue sky. Clouds. Rain. Storms. Hurricanes. Your reflections.”

“My reflections?”

“Yes – both kinds. The ones you’ve actually seen and.. your thoughts.”

And that one. That one from my son, inspired by Fred Rogers. That’s a reflection I want to keep forever.


More Fred, because even if you think you outgrew him, you didn’t:

His touching 1969 Senate hearing testimony in defense of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which includes his reading of “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

You can watch or listen to most of his songs on the PBS web site.

Fred’s goodbye on his final program, which is especially sweet for parents who grew up watching him.

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Constructing immortality

I have become an aficionado of science documentaries; a connoisseur of Cosmos, a knower of Nova and a devotee of the Discovery Channel.

Because space remains the iron core of my son’s interests, I’ve been to the edge of the known universe and the inner spaces of the quantum realm hundreds of times (with the help of CGI animation).  For six years, I’ve lived with an almost constant awareness of the infinite without as well as the infinite within.

Thinking about all of that vastness, it is now hard for me to imagine religion at odds with science. My throat gets caught in moments when scientists reflect on things like the stardust that created us, the possibilities that lie within all that we don’t know and how fantastic and improbable humans really are.

A few weeks ago I was watching the Science Channel show Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, which routinely takes on big questions that science cannot answer definitively. The season premiere  investigated the possibilities of life after death.

After circulating through heaven-like scenarios, the possibilities of existing without form or blipping into nothingness, one scientist, who had lost his wife to a brain tumor, declared that there is one indisputable form of an afterlife: memory. You and I are each a mosaic, he said, a swarm of finite characteristics and memories and experiences. And a rougher version of us — a portrait made up of thumbnail-sized porcelain shards instead of so many billions of pinpoints— is carried within all of the people that love us.

Having been through recent losses and facing new ones, this thought is like a nice warm bath. I think of all of the people who make up me, the ways that I fashion them into my own design. The first ones are obvious, living and dead. But those people I didn’t know all that well, yet still feel the loss of because of one moment of connection? This gives me permission to let that solitary moment glimmer. Those people I’ve perhaps known too well, who left me feeling damaged? Let me reach for the lotus growing out of all of that muck and flatten its soft petals.  That vulnerable person I just met today? Let me hold on to her, reflect her.

There is so much you are that I can carry. There is so much I can be that you can carry. And chances are that we’ll both do that whether we mean to or not.

When I hear about God, I have a hard time keeping myself from getting tangled up in his long, angry beard.  When I hear about science, I have a hard time keeping myself from turning up my nose at religion. Cynicism has sometimes made me likeable or funny at parties, but truthfully, it’s not nearly as useful as I thought it was.

A little over a year ago, I started putting faith in people, not knowing what they would do with it and not exactly caring anymore. I desperately needed to put faith somewhere. I stopped worrying about where. Now I find that it is alive and breathing all on its own.

I am the haphazard engineer of immortality for others and for myself. A scientist told me so. And these crazy ruins are among the most extraordinary places that I have ever chanced to visit.

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Like a prayer

I used to bristle when someone told me, “I will pray for you.”

It seemed presumptuous.

Who were they praying to? And how did they know that their God had anything to do with mine?

I remember going to a Bible study with a childhood friend when we were nine or ten. There was a healing. I squeezed my eyes closed and put my hand over a mosquito bite and mustered every ounce of faith in my body that I could. I listened to the words of the faithful in the room and tried to say the same things they did.

“Heal, thing. Stop itching. Jesus, I believe you can heal me. Praise the Lord. Amen.”

It didn’t work.

This breed of faith had little to do with the churches I went to in my family. We didn’t stand up and testify or expect prayers to be answered. We were the same people we were when we were born, and felt that being “born again” would not erase any of our past transgressions.

Still, I experimented with magical thinking as I prayed for that one boy to like me, or that fellow pre-teen girl to understand me or please God, let me have done okay on that algebra test.

I’ve been too cynical to pray for a couple of decades now. God doesn’t grant ponies or fix the things you ask him to. I’ve had my share of desperate, angry moments, but none of them brought me to that late-night Eat, Pray, Love-style oracle.

Lately I’ve been learning to pray differently.  It’s puzzling when a Buddhist says “I’ll pray for you,” because there’s no God out there running things in Buddhism, just the divine nature that allegedly already resides within each of us.

But I understand personal Buddhist prayer to be something more like this: “I open myself up to the possibility that everything in my life is as it’s supposed be, and that my attempts to control that are making me suffer.” Prayer for others isn’t wishing for specific outcomes either. It’s exhaling hope for the best possible outcome, with the understanding that we, the unenlightened, have no idea what that is.

In the twelve steps, prayer seems to work in much the same way. Even though it’s easy to read the steps and imagine that they invoke a magical, micromanaging, defect-erasing God, that’s not really their purpose. The process isn’t to get God to do your bidding with a quick fingertip to your forehead, it’s to probe deeply into your own heart and recognize more fully how you’ve hurt yourself, then others, and let go.

Twelve step prayer, who or whatever the higher power involved may be, is something more like: “God, I am afraid” or “universe, I am trying to control things that are uncontrollable.” It’s the showing up, the opening ourselves to the possibility that we can handle or surrender to whatever is that changes us. It’s the vulnerability. It’s the faith.

I will pray for you.

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When I went out East in August, I was beginning to feel lighter.

I felt invisible at BlogHer, but that was mainly because you have to work so hard to be visible at BlogHer, and I’m not much good at doing that on my own behalf. Having my son in tow and my liveblogging shifts, I didn’t have much energy for it. Meanwhile, my email inbox and east coast conversations bustled with unexpected work possibilities — things to consider or do when I got home and Declan started going to school full time. I was looking forward to this hard and glorious autumn full of work and schedules and cool air and time for coffee with friends during the day and possibilities.

But when I came home and started following up, my emails went out like arrows, got stuck in the wall behind the people I was trying to reach and weren’t returned. Or minds were changed. I searched for new possibilities and found some really promising ones, but the same thing happened.  It’s been frustrating. The more I try to advance, the more I feel like I’ve been checkmated.

So I’ve been doing invisible things. Like spending time in places I usually drive past with the windows closed. Places that have been invisible to me. I’ve carried household things my mom or friends didn’t want to an apartment complex that used to be another blur on the side of freeway. Now it’s home to a friend who is restarting his life with little more than what people have seen fit to give him.

I’ve sat next to a hospital bed, trying to keep an ear on the medical staff as they tended to a person who told me she loved me the first day we met. Another person who has shown me that you can lose everything, that your whole life can turn over, and you can come out of it better than you were before.

I’ve spent time inside of an urban church so humble you could barely distinguish it from an old used furniture shop. I sat on one of its folding chairs and stared at its plastic purple flowers. Just like the old urban church that is now a Buddhist temple that I frequent, I have found that it’s a place of extraordinary grace.

And there’s so little I can say here beyond that about these things, which are the things I can feel in my chest the most right now, I wonder that I should be writing here anymore at all.

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The art of not knowing everything

I once worked with a woman who gave elaborate thespian phone performances. Not the nasty $2.99 per minute kind, but plenty that had the undertow of a more genuine nastiness.

She lived at the desk next door to me in our little room in newspaperland, so eavesdropping was essentially unavoidable unless I brought in headphones and blared L7’s “Smell the Magic.”

I overheard her cooing sympathies for various health ailments and workplace stressors, humble babydoll requests for interviews, breathless apologies for misprints and uproarious laughs at jokes that couldn’t possibly have been that funny. But the minute the receiver hit the base, she would start swearing at the phone like a late-night cable comedian. She’d make colorful hand gestures at it, slam nearby file drawers with her foot, shake her head, yell at the ceiling like a thin, malevolent, female Charlie Brown.

If you threw a softball “what happened?” question her way during the episode, she’d gladly assail the character of her phone acquaintances (minor characters in her life, really) with ruthless assessments. They were incompetent morons at best, insane morons at worst. She was certain.

I was young and at first, I found her routine pretty funny. There’s a sexy, star-chamber quality to cattiness and gossip, especially in the workplace. Moreso in the media workplace, where you high five each other when you manage to unearth the failings of powerful people in the world and lay them bare in print. You feel like an insider. You know stuff that it seems like you shouldn’t. You feel smarter than other people. You find new, cleverer, wittier ways to call out what you perceive as stupid, inane or otherwise inferior. It’s so easy to know everything when you’re young.

But at some point, I realized that it wasn’t funny. It might even be dangerous. Not because I am a great arbiter of morals, but because it became easy to see that this behavior was bound to come home to roost on my own rear end.

I saw the same people who had bitched together about someone else bitch separately about each other. When you’re dancing in the middle of that kind of social quagmire, there’s no question that you’re going to be the bitched about person eventually. You will hurt people and get hurt. In the pernicious culture of the newsroom, I’m pretty sure I did my share of both.

I don’t remember a light bulb moment, but I remember the desperate feeling that I needed to extract myself from toxic work socializing as best I could. I started nodding more. Listening more. Withholding judgment. I searched for metaphors that would properly reflect what I was hearing from the person about how they felt instead of joining their rigged jury. This kind of listening has actually come in handy in my writing life a lot since. And my spiritual life. And my mothering life.

Finding the words to celebrate or applaud things authentically, meaningfully is much harder than finding new, clever ways to bitch about things. Vengefulness is easier than compassion. Suspicion is easier than faith. (This is clearly part of the way that Buddhism appeals to my protestant work ethic.)

It is harder to celebrate and find joy in other people’s children than it is to pick apart the alien ways that they might influence yours. It’s definitely easier to judge other parents and children than it is to see your own flaws. Playgrounds, like newsrooms, are breeding areas for cattiness. Yet, when I make a conscious effort to look for what to celebrate instead of what to criticize, I’ve discovered that finding joy makes everything easier. The older the kids get, the harder it looks, but it is easier. It’s more fun. It’s lighter. It’s less isolating. It’s worth the effort.

I make no claim that I’ve mastered these things. I decided early this year that aspirations are my gig, not hardened vows or easily fractured resolutions. I’m determined to remind myself of the mistakes I have made, or keep making. I’m determined to keep trying.

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A place to be silent

I’m really not a good Buddhist, or technically even actually a Buddhist. I have sung the Refuge prayer in spirit dozens of times but never taken it in formal ceremony. I really don’t have any meditation practice other than a long history with yoga, childhood theater classes that taught me a lot about visualization and a propensity to chant Om Mani Padme Hum while I fold the laundry.

Right around the time that I got pregnant, I started spending time at a Tibetan Buddhist center (Kagyu tradition). This was partly because I had written about an extensive exhibition of Buddhist meditational art called The Circle of Bliss, went to hear Robert Thurman speak and caught the desire to know more. It was also partly because of the gratitude that I felt for an AA meeting held at a local temple that did – and still does, just by the fact it exists – help some people who need that program but feel put off by it because it can seem so Christian-centric. Twelve-steppers aren’t supposed to promote whichever “higher power” they believe in, but I hear that it can be hard to find a meeting where Jesus isn’t name-checked. And that can be a major obstacle for people with religious baggage.

But mostly it was because as soon as I began to tell people I was pregnant, these questions of faith started to come up. What would I raise my child to believe? It was suggested that this was something that I needed to answer as soon as I could. It was also suggested that I had to pick something because wishy-washy in-betweenyness would inflict moral ambiguity on my child. I was raised Christian (baptized Episcopalian but confirmed Presbyterian) but open to all kinds of possibilities. Once, during the Shirley MacLaine vein of the 1980s, my dad told me that a transchanneler told him that he and I were sisters in a past life in the Southern U.S. and that we were very good friends then indeed. He also went to a stark and classic New England Episcopal church regularly. And he had my astrological charts done when I was born.

My best friend’s father was a born-again minister and try as I may to heal my mosquito bites by uttering a lot of Amens and Praise the Lords and Hallelujahs and trying to open my heart during one of his faith-healing Bible studies I could not get it to work. But my Presbyterian confirmation as a 14-year-old followed a year of questioning and analysis at a church that had me go and sit through Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox mass and African American Baptist services so that I might have a decent idea about how diverse Christianity really is. I loved that my minister wasn’t afraid to give sermons about the Cold War or racism or abortion (there was, and still is, a NARAL chapter in that church). I was asked to become a deacon, but that minister left and I lost my closeness to the church and the faith. I am just more comfortable in faith when I’m invited by its envoys to question it.

I’m not the kind of Christian girl who ran screaming from her church thinking that having no religion would make me intellectually superior or that Eastern religions would have all of the answers. When I started going to Dharma talks and public talks by Buddhist teachers, mostly what I found was a way of thinking about the world that is much more Christ-like, as I understand it, than what I find in a lot of churches now. To try and see my worst enemy with the compassion of 10,000 mothers, to dedicate my actions to the benefit of all beings – these things have the spirit I think of when I think of Jesus. And here in the west, anyway, we have the luxury of contemplating Buddha without watching him turn into a political football. Jesus, on the other hand, gets punted and kicked and used for touchdowns and spiked in Washington DC all the time. Most Christian organizations and a lot of self-professed Christians make me feel alienated from the faith. Still, there is no question that I will raise my son to understand that Christianity is part of his heritage and give him the opportunity to explore it as a faith if he so chooses.

Meanwhile, there really isn’t a space for kids in the Buddhist center that I visit. They’ve been kind enough to put speakers in the basement that have enabled me and a handful of other parents to listen to dharma talks while our little ones babble around us and we all worry that they’ll be too loud. But the most popular event there every week is Shi’nay (a silent) meditation, and people – including some parents trying to get that hour of silence – don’t want that kid noise adding to the roars from the nearby freeway and the barking dog neighbors, even if it’s just creeping through the floorboards of the temple from our subterranean space.

A very good yoga teacher of mine taught me that quiet meditation is something you work to do amidst the clamor – that you can’t control your environment, but you can learn to control your response to an environment. I try to stem my resentment that childcare of any form never felt like a consideration at the center. When I’m there, I generally want my son with me. I can’t let go of my expectations that kids are part of the spiritual package. I’m not comfortable being there when it seems he’s not welcome or might raise hackles if he acts as what he is – a child – without feeling like he might be resented for it. So I’ve never sat Shi’nay. And I’ve never felt like I could fully embrace the practice. It seems like many Westerners come into Buddhism in such a solitary way, or in ways that so firmly reject anything that reminds them of their Judeo-Christian upbringing, that a Sangha (community) can feel like it’s being built out of pebbles instead of bricks.

So a couple of weeks ago, when a friend of mine who is deeply involved with Zen Buddhism came to town, I went to a Zen meditation with her. I had no preconceived notions about taking Declan because the group is very small and rents a room in a church, and while there are several differences between Shi’nay and Zen meditation, there are thin
gs that are the same. During that 5o minutes of silence I employed just about every way to clear my mind that I know. I turned numbers into clouds and blew them away. I saw their outlines in the sand and brought in waves to clear them. I burned them as sticks, I wiped them off like chalk, I flicked them off the table like peas. (I guess I used numbers because someone there told me to count to eight to clear my mind.) And I understood something new about the benefits of finding silence, but I found Zen’s coolness a little less cozy than Tibetan Buddhism.

And so, much as in the days when my dad and I were a couple of southern belles, I find myself returning to the laundry.

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A poignant, uncomfortable prayer

This opening prayer for the inaugural festivities, given by Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, was left out of the broadcast yesterday, apparently due to a miscommunication between Obama’s planning committee and HBO. To make up for the mistake, it will be rebroadcast before tomorrow’s ceremonies (at least for the couple million people who are at the event).

In case they don’t share it on the networks tomorrow or you miss it, here’s the YouTube version. It’s a sobering, poignant and uncomfortable prayer:


And here’s something precious to think about on this National Day of Service: 30 Things I Believe by a little boy named Tarak McLain who has already become quite a community activist at age seven. I recommend listening to the brief broadcast so you can hear his voice.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Martin Luther King Day. Here’s a look back at a little mural in an urban Columbus neighborhood that shines a little light on the hopes that Dr. King and our new President have inspired.

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Karma bombing

I believed in karma long before I knew the word. I imagined it as though it was a cosmic superhero, capable of righting all injustices. It’s also known by the grandma wisdom that spills forth when you’ve been hurt by someone else: “don’t worry about it, he/she will get what’s coming to them eventually” or “what comes around goes around.”

Maybe because the golden rule was the rule of law in my childhood home, heaven and hell made less sense to me than the idea that at our life’s end, our soul would be momentarily shattered by a karma bomb. It would be one thing to be presented a list by St. Peter, another to realize fully who we’ve been and how our actions hold up. Every piece of a karma bomb’s brilliant shrapnel would fill us with an empathic experience that would help us vividly understand the joy and pain we inflicted on others during our lifetime.

This belief has been a salve I’ve used on my ego in painful situations, particularly when I’ve needed to accept defeat or, really, reality. It was there when I needed a way to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the face of infinity, or, more often, in the face of one of the world’s big mean jerks. I sometimes went so far as to let it keep me from promoting or defending myself, instead thinking that this cosmic force was going to somehow let the real me, my real intentions, be seen, appreciated, and especially understood by whoever was that I needed to have understand it.

I’ve spent too many wee hours searching for the components to construct my own small karma bombs – usually words. I’ve searched for some kind of truth in language that I hoped would suddenly bring another person to a full-bodied understanding of how their mistreatment of me, or worse, of someone I care about, truly felt. It would let them know all about the parts of the story they don’t know, or fail to look at, powerfully and instantly. And for all of that time I’ve spent laboring, these letters are largely unwritten and unsent.

Some of my journalistic peers say things like “our readers aren’t interested in reading about X,” because they have marketing data that they’ve come to trust beyond their own, far less limiting, human instincts. And X is almost always something that illuminates a social concern, something that asks the reader to consider life outside of themselves. I’ve seethed over our lack of faith in people.

I have heard morally questionable actions repeatedly excused with “it’s only business.” I’ve also seethed over this regularly in my karma bomb-making quarters, because in my mind, business doesn’t get to exist without people. Business is people. Period.

But I’m guilty of trapping ideas about other people under glass myself. Once we grouse about a friend or family member or colleague as thoughtless or incapable or difficult or uncaring, it’s hard to back off of that precipice and learn to see them any other way. The late Randy Pausch has a simple-sounding remedy for this in his Last Lecture — he basically says that every person has a good side, we just have to wait for them to show it to us. And that good side is always, always worth seeing. I believe that, whether or not I can find the patience or the time or the desire to do the searching that uncovering that thing may require.

The more I’ve learned about karma, the more it’s come to mean something else to me… something that’s not about righteousness or judgment or berating myself for being passive or mentally bombing people with my version of reality. My karma is what I do with it. It’s about being loving, taking responsibility for my own actions, sowing what good I can in the world and seeing people if not for what they are, for the way that they ask me to see them, if only just to know what that might be. My karma bombs are useless on everybody but me. Or maybe everybody, including me.

What about you? Do you make them?


By now, you’ve probably guessed that this is little more than a pointed pep talk meant to help me convince myself to stop mentally swearing at bullies, editors, politicians, queen bees, unpaid bills, the life I thought I deserved and mosquitoes so often.

Now back to deep-fried garlic mashed potatoes on a stick.

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The origin of the name Tiny Mantras

(Image: A sculptural representation of Milarepa).

When Declan was about four months old, I took a rare evening to myself so I could attend a teaching by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche. It was to be, I believed, a dharma talk for Buddhist novices like myself, replete with a tantalizing title about the “purity” of desire, stupidity and anger.

After the Rinpoche and his translator entered the room and took their place in front of the group, they compelled us to sing. We sang a verse about the purity and oneness of desire and forms, followed by the same verse, only this time about the purity and oneness of desire and feelings, then about desire and discriminations.

For the first five rounds or so, it felt novel and fun. I sat with friends who brought their weeks-old baby girl, singing along cheerfully, confident that this was an overture for an illuminating lecture. But as we kept on going past four to five, six and seven verses, my friends and I looked at each other, and at the list of 100-plus virtues, vices, senses, feelings, elements and emptinesses that we were marching through.

“We aren’t going to sing all of these are we?” One of us whispered. There were shrugs all around. I started to feel vaguely annoyed. I wondered if I had chosen to spend my precious evening alone for nothing more than an extended Buddhist version of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”?

But as a few more verses came and went, I resigned myself to this fate. Singing these lines would have to be my lesson. Once I accepted that, I enjoyed it immensely, the way that I had found that breathing and accepting the requirement to be still often made breastfeeding a time for meditation, rather than a struggle.

Somewhere during those verses, I let go of some of the noise in my head. I let go of some of the new, protective anger that motherhood had brought me, and the unfamiliar fears. After more than an hour of singing 60-plus verses, I did get the dharma talk that I had hoped for.

Now, I’m no great scholar or practitioner of Buddhism. I started attending dharma talks at a local Kagyu temple soon after I got pregnant for completely selfish reasons – I wanted to find more ways to deal with stress in my daily life. I felt more vulnerable than ever before. And I especially wanted hope for the future in the face of a war I did not support and a president I did not support (who had just been tipped to reelection by my home state). In the sangha, I found some people seeking the same.

Of that night of singing and the talk, what I remember learning best was that things like anger and stupidity can come through us in a neutral and benign way. It’s how we grab at or cling to them, the pentimento that we make of our experiences, that propels us to do hurtful things to ourselves or to others. And simply put, it’s a lot harder to cling to your past or your fears or your ego when you’re singing. (Or chanting prayers or mantras.)

A little over a year beyond that night, Declan’s hunger for language became overwhelming. He went from saying a few words to learning the name of every color, shape, animal and household item in his proximity as quickly as he could. One of his favorite words was “space.” He would jump up and down and cheer “space, space, SPACE!” in front of various Star Trek series’ openings, marveling at the planets, asteroids and stars.

Wondering if his interest would extend to science as well as science fiction, we started saving space documentaries on our DVR. Declan would watch them, and pick out and modify lines from the narrative to repeat over and over while he played, ate breakfast, tackled the dog or took a bath. His earliest mantras included the ominous-sounding “galaxies fade away, all stars merge” (from “Unfolding Universe“) and “just the right speed, just the right angle!” (from “If We Had No Moon“). Others were simpler, like the one he has most frequently yelled up the stairs at me while I try to get work done: “Saturn has rings, MOMMAY!

There is such joy on his face when he says these things – an abandon in his mastery of language, in his strange desire to process the workings of the universe. And because of the vastness and mystery of his favorite subject, his mantras have a special depth and gravity (pun intended). Now that he’s a full sentences kind of guy, he still has a remarkable skill for picking up on soothing concepts, many of which still have to do with space. He also finds them in other places, like the latest wisdom from Blue’s Clues: “Stop. Breathe. Think.” A reminder he’s offered me three times today.

I’m still not very good at managing stress, and I am probably not any closer to being able to let anger and stupidity announce themselves without climbing on for the ride. But Declan’s mantras, like that night of singing, are often the things that remind me that forgetting myself and being in the moment are possible.

This is my 200th post!

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The story of my son

This is part of what I wrote for my son for his welcoming ceremony last weekend. I believe all children should be raised with their own mythology:

I want to give you something that my mother gave to me: the first of what I’m sure will be many larger-than-life tales about the wonderfulness of you. Someday I’m sure you’ll hear that I read at a very young age, that I was practically born to tell stories. Or that a psychic said, when your Uncle Andy was born, that he would be a leader and a great man that people were drawn to.

Both of my parents taught me, each in their own ways, that it’s important that every child knows that somebody believes they are remarkable and able to achieve whatever they set their mind to. And as much as your gentle nature, sense of humor and easy happiness amaze us more each day, you were also remarkable before you were even born.

Before we knew you were going to enter our lives, we went to Greece to see your Uncle Lowry and Aunt Sara get married. While we were there, your daddy, grandma and I visited the ancient city of Delphi on Mount Parnassus, which the Greek God Zeus said was the bellybutton of the universe.

Daddy and I drank from the Castilian Spring, where Apollo, the God of Poetry and Music dwelled with the muses. It is supposed to be a source for inspiration and learning for those who drink deeply from it. Daddy filled a cup for me and I drank deeply from it, so it was one of the very first waters that nourished you.

On this mountain thousands of years ago, there was also an oracle called the pythia. She inhaled vapors from a crack in the earth at the Temple of Apollo and told her visitors what was in their future. Since I don’t get the chance to visit the navel of all existence very often, I got as close as I could to the place where the oracle once stood and whispered what I thought was a very practical question, just: “what do I need to know?”

When we got back to the states and confirmed that you would be joining our lives in the spring, I knew that the answer to my question – the person who would teach me things I couldn’t have imagined, things I need to know – was you.

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