Monday, September 30, 2013


I'm in bed, eating Not-Cheetos (the Earthfare variety - supposedly healthier but still junk), drinking pineapple juice with a splash of vodka (if that has an official, cool bar-mixed-drink name I don't know what it is), and listening to The Wood Brothers' new album, The Muse (check it out on Spotify. in fact, stop reading this blog post. it's not going to be very good anyway. just go listen. now.)

Still here?  Wow. You were warned.

I'm in kind of a everyone-is-stupid-except-me funk.  I want to stay up all night being irresponsible and lazy.  Then I want to sleep till I wake up, no alarm.  Tomorrow morning (or afternoon) I want to drink coffee in silence, then wander to a hammock, far away from people.  ANY people.  And I want to lay there.  Alone.  All day.

I want to gaze at the sky and the leaves on the trees, dozing in and out of consciousness as I simply forget.  Forget all the stuff I want to not know, or at least not care about.
Because caring is exhausting.

The Wood Brothers are still singing.  My glass is empty. I pushed the not-Cheetos bag far away because the aftertaste caught up to me.  Ew.

In the morning, I'll wake with the alarm.  I won't want to, but I will.  I'll walk outside.  It'll still be dark.  I'll look up at the stars. I'll feel the cool air on my skin. I'll listen to the birds and the frogs and the crickets.  And I'll breathe.  I'll breathe deep and slow, and just be out there for a while. A good long while, I hope.
And it'll be enough.

I don't talk much about prayer anymore. That doesn't mean I don't pray, it just means that I don't know how to talk about it. The names for things, the containers they come in - these have gotten awful blurry, lately. But the center is clearer than ever.  When I'm quiet, when I'm open - it's so very clear. Even now, it's becoming clearer.
And it's enough.

I don't write here very often, either.  This season of life has me so busy walking the walk; the path seems never-ending, and sometimes it's exhausting, but it is rich.  My husband, our four children, and my full time job working with special needs students all grow me, daily. I often think of brilliant insights I want to pass on once it all slows down.  I have so very much to say.

But by the time I have a chance to sit and write, I'm spent to the point that all you get is Not-Cheetos, a nameless mixed drink, and The Wood Brothers.

For now, that'll have to be enough. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

we don't know

We've been making a point lately to try out local "mom and pop" restaurants when we're traveling.  Some are better than others, but at least we get a bit of local flavor and support whatever community we're enjoying being in.

Today we found ourselves in the most recognizable hometown in the United States:  Andy Griffith's Mayberry.  If you didn't know, Mayberry is a real place, but it's actually called Pilot Mountain, NC.  I know, I know - folks say Griffith's hometown of Mt. Airy is the original Mayberry, but  he actually pointed out nearby Pilot Mountain as his inspiration.

Either way, we were in or near Mayberry, so when I hit "nearby restaurants" on my GPS and saw "Aunt Bea's" listed, I knew we had to give it a shot.  It didn't disappoint; the food was fair, ambiance was perfect, service was slow but friendly, and the scoops of ice cream were HUGE.

I never expected a placed named Aunt Bea's to have wifi, but I was disappointed to dicover that I didn't even have the slightest hint of a Verizon signal.  I looked around the place; not one person had a device of any kind in their hands.  Quaint.  Well, except 3 of my 4 children, who now quite stood out to me with their ears plugged with buds, noses pointed down, and fingers tapping away on the screens of their ipad minis (the 4th would have been right there with them if she hadn't lost privileges earlier in the weekend).

I scanned the room again.  One couple in particular had taken notice of our little crew.  Eyes darting back and forth led to disapproving sighs, pursed lips, whispers, and shaking heads.  My refined skills of interpretation gathered the following:
"Families should have conversations over meals. Children should not play video games at the table. That  mother should engage with her children, not let technology babysit them." 
Et cetera, et cetera ...

I had to smile, sigh, and shake my own head.

They didn't know.

They didn't know that these children and I just spent 3 hours in the woods, on top of a mountain, having the time of our lives. Engaged. Together.
They didn't know that we'd driven over 90 miles just to have that experience.
They didn't know that even though they'd have preferred Subway, these three middle schoolers had ordered their meals complete with "excuse me", "please", "thank you", and "yes ma'am" (okay - the 13 year old said "yeah" until I elbowed him & gave a sideways you-know-better grin).
They didn't know that 2 of them were working on their Garage Band projects, while the third was playing Stack the States (part of me wanted to see him challenge them to a round, but I thought better of it).
Most of all, they didn't know that 2 of my 4 children have significant-yet-invisible special needs.

There was so much they just. didn't. know.

Don't misunderstand - I wasn't angry. I'm not, now.
I get it.
I do it!

It was my very first visit to Cabo Fish Taco - only the coolest restaurant in the coolest district in town. I'd arranged to meet friends for a pre-concert dinner and was basking in how-cool-am-I?-ness as I joined the table they were sharing with a couple I didn't yet know. I'd arrived late and was feeling a bit like a fifth-wheel, when my friend made a sideways jab at a woman in her yoga class whose "plastic boobs" don't move the way they should when she's in certain poses.  Ah, fake boob jokes - an easy conversational win!  I jumped in, embarrassingly eager to score a laugh from the table, and repeated a well-rehearsed comment I'd stolen from Joy Behar: "When a woman lays flat on her back her boobs should point east and west, not straight up north.  If they point up perky to the sky then you know they're fake, cause God just didn't make them that way!"  That one's always good for a laugh, right? Especially here in plastic-ville, where folks have more money & vanity than sense ... right?


The woman to my right, the one I didn't yet know, said quite matter of fact-ly, "My boobs are plastic."

Painful silence.  A nacho and a wad of guacamole stuck in my throat like glue. I tried to swallow.  No luck. I couldn't breathe. Meanwhile,

"Don't look at her boobs. Do NOT look at her boobs! Do N-  dammit!"

I looked at her boobs.

They didn't look plastic. I mean, they were completely covered with a T-shirt, no cleavage or anything, but they weren't unusually large ...

"Stop looking at her boobs!"

She graciously broke the silence-from-hell:  "I had a mastectomy 2 years ago".

I picked up my glass of wine and gulped.  Down went the guacamole. And the nacho. And my dignity.

"You beat cancer?!" I asked. She nodded and smiled.  "BOOM!" I exclaimed with true joy, along with a complimentary expletive I won't share here.  Then I held my arm out for a fist bump.

Please-oh-dear-God-in-heaven-and-all-that-is-good-and-right, don't leave me hanging. I'm dying here.

She grinned ear to ear, shot out a victorious expletive of her own, and bumped back.  I may be an ass, but she isn't. She's one seriously classy lady.

Never assume a joke made at some unnamed, invisible person's expense is safe. Because you don't know if that unnamed, invisible person is sitting right next to you.

We. Don't. Know.

A month or so ago, I was at one of the closest things to heaven-on-earth I know of:  the annual Wild Goose Festival. I was listening to one of my favorite speakers, a man I know to be authentic and kind and generous. All guards were down.

Then, it happened.

He'd been talking about how beauty, whether in nature or art or music, should be experienced in real ways, not mediated ones. We can't let the symbol replace the original, even though technology offers us unlimited means of doing so.  He was specifically referring to children at this point, explaining the value of letting them turn over an old log and experience real live creepy-crawlies rather than watch an educational video about insects.  Mediated experiences will never match actual, authentic experiences - this is truth.

But then he drove his point home with a side commentary about how "If we did more of this, kids wouldn't need to be drugged up on medicine! Treated like guinea pigs, walking zombies..."

I looked at my feet.
That hurt.

I told myself he didn't mean it. At least, he didn't  mean my kids... He meant those other ones - nameless, faceless kids whose parents never send them outdoors to play, who stare at TV and video games all day long and are given a prescription drug the first time they wiggle in their seat at elementary school.  He probably doesn't actually know a kid like that, but that's who he means. Those kids.

Problem was, the arrow had been released and it had found its mark, intended or not.

I refused to spiral downward.  Instead, I rehearsed all-too-familiar self-talk, between deep cleansing breaths:
"Your kids have spent more time in the mud than most their age.  You continue to use diet and many other means to help your son's autism. You waited till he was 10 before you allowed the neurologist to medicate him (frankly, you should have done it sooner).  Your daughter is missing entire portions of her brain and was facing a future bedridden in a Ukrainian institution.  Both of them are happy and healthy because you provide them adequate and proper medication."

By the time this self-talk was completed, I felt better, but I'd completely missed the rest of his talk.  And I was sorry for that.  I think he would be, too - in fact, I know he would be.  He is a good man, and a good speaker.

He just didn't know.

We. Don't. Know.

So, what's the answer?  Political correctness?  Walking on eggshells, careful not to offend?

A hundred times, NO.

Watching what you say is exhausting and unhealthy and ... well, about as believable (not to mention palatable) as artificial sweetener.


I obviously don't have this one nailed down (just ask my new cancer-survivor friend with the plastic boobs). But I've caught glimpses of light here and there that point to a two-fold solution.

First, compassion.

That invisible person you are willing to sacrifice in order to drive your point home or to score points of acceptance from a group you're trying too hard to impress?  Compassion even for THAT person.

Second, humility.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a detail I'm missing.  Or - sometimes - maybe I'm just being an ass.

Experience has taught me that when compassion and humility are practiced (not pondered - practiced!) then I don't have to watch what I say.  I can let what is within flow out, without care.

In fact, if I sincerely practice them - consistentlysomething truly amazing might happen.

I might find myself having compassion for that couple in Aunt Bea's. Wondering what it must feel like to see young people using devices you believe to be responsible for the ruin of your beloved way of life?
I might even find that I'm humbly checking my assumptions, reminding myself that for all I know these people are angry about the food or the wallpaper - that their disapproving glances might have nothing at all to do with me or my kids.

Because I don't really know, do I?

No ...
I don't.