Archive of ‘Love’ category

Brain Stories and SFD

For those of you who don’t already know, Brene Brown and I became best friends (in my head) almost 3 years ago. When I first saw her Ted Talk, I purchased all of her books. I obsessed over how brilliant it was to have a scientific mind break down for us the data points of vulnerability and shame.
THEN.
She wrote a book called Rising Strong.
I admittedly have not read all of it. (I’ve been a little busy obsessing over our first home purchase.) However, the parts I have read explain a phenomenon I have experienced forEVER.
Telling stories.
brain-readingIt’s this awesome little thing we do when we aren’t really sure what’s going on: we tell a story. We fill in the blanks, we write the ending, we suggest how it all started…based on patterns already existing in our brains from past CRAP. Crap we KNOW.
For example, during the move from this house to our new on in December, everything will go wrong and we will be displaced and nothing will be OK and someone will die.
Why?
Because I don’t KNOW that part of the story yet, and so my brain naturally fills it in with a story it DOES know the ending to (the most TRAUMATIC example of an ending my brain has stored) in order to fulfill our ever-growing need TO KNOW. Since the devil you know beats the devil you don’t, my brain tells me that my boss doesn’t like anything I do and I’m a terrible writer and she’s probably going to fire me because tonight she told me today she was too tired to talk.
At least I know, right?

Brene says, “We are neuro-biologically hard-wired to make sense of our hurt and fear as fast as we can, and come up with a story that makes sense of it, and our brain chemically rewards us for that story whether its accurate or not.”
We are in survival mode, all of the time. It’s normal. It’s called being human.
So what’s a human to do?
Notice it.
We notice when we’re filling in blanks with information we don’t actually have. For example: Your bestie hasn’t called you back for 3 days. You decide it’s because you said something negative about bestie’s ex-boyfriend to another friend who then told bestie that you were talking smack about her and now she’s ignoring you. Brene calls these “shitty first drafts” or “SFD” because the initial story you’ve written is not good, hardly believable, and nothing you’d ever be able to turn in for credit. You decide to approach the bestie you’re positive is crazy-mad at you and say, “I’ve got to clear something up. I haven’t heard from you lately and I’ve written this story in my head about how you’re upset with me, and I’m not even sure if that’s true. Could you tell me?”
You’ll get one of two answers.
1. Yes. I’m upset. Here’s why…
2. No. I’ve just been busy.

Who would you rather be friends with? The friend who makes up stories or the one that comes to you and tells you they’re HUMAN and they let their brains fill in the blanks and now they’d like you to do real life with them instead?
I pick human friend.
That means you have to do the human thing. And it’s really. freaking. hard. Noticing it is HARD. Doing something about the SFD is damn-near impossible. It’s uncomfortable to admit you’re obsessing about something. It’s terrifying to be vulnerable enough to admit MAYBE everything isn’t about US all the time even though that’s the way we’ve been thinking. But it’s how we stop the never-ending cycle of displacing responsibilities for our own emotions, reactions, and lives. Grow up. It’s just an SFD.

 

 

 

In the Middle of the Minute

shallow-poolMy thinking has not been very deep lately, if you can believe that. I’ve actually been learning that deep-thinking, over-thinking, analytical thinking, whatever you want to call it, can tend to get into the destructive range of the helpfulness spectrum for me. I really do enjoy knowing the how and the why of experiences and behavior, but sometimes I just plum don’t need to know why. (Nothing teaches you that better than trying to qualify for a home mortgage, amiright?)
I used to analyze my partner’s bad mood because maybe he’s thinking about leaving me. I panicked when my son had an awkward movement because now he has Tourette’s. I flipped out if one of my dogs was limping because now Charlie is going to die by sunset…
Turns out, my partner just had a bad day at work and was fine after a beer, my son was just trying something new with his eyeballs and he stopped the next day, and Charlie spontaneously stopped limping because he’s a freaking dog.

My point? Sometimes I just need to wait a minute and things will level out.

The question is…what do I do during that minute while things are leveling out without my help? (Did you know the Universe thrives everyday without my help?!) This is what I’m learning now. I spent all these years practicing meditation and yoga and journaling. What I now see is that it’s in those moments that I’m not trying to save the planet, I want to eat a bowl of pasta, or count the money in my wallet, or clean the entire kitchen and give away half our pots and pans. I have these little quirks that quell my anxiety when I feel like I SHOULD be doing something. But as it turns out, all the hippy-dippy crap I’d been immersing myself in for all those years…THAT’S what I’m supposed to do when I’m “in the middle of the minute”.
Stop.
Breathe.
Write.
Pray.
Notice my body.
Get quiet.
Stop.
I spent quite a bit of time this past week STOPPING in the middle of the minute. I’m not trying to get to the root of my anxiety or choose a different feeling. I’m just kinda hanging out with the crap that’s floating around. Because I can’t change it and I can’t change LIFE. It’s not a huge difference in my life; it’s just giving God the opportunity to solve the problems without my help.
Hey. Look! That’s kinda deep!

 

I WAS JUST ON THE PHONE WITH OPRAH

(Stick with me. The title is true.)
I have this viewpoint on God and religion that a lot of people don’t have. For the most part, and there are ENORMOUS exceptions, I believe most of us are just trying to talk to God. Religions are like languages, different ways of talking to Him. I use Christianity, but I don’t judge someone who uses Buddhism because I find that though our languages differ, we’re saying the same things.
Now, to suddenly and without warning become far more shallow…I love Oprah.
I love her.
I think she is annoying and real and hilarious and a terrible interviewer and a wonderful interviewer and SO heart-centered in everything she does and an honest-to-goodness human being who is just doing her best and doesn’t mind if you watch her THE WHOLE TIME. I sincerely love the woman. I watch her TV channel, OWN, so much that Bear might sometimes secretly request to God himself that the cable go out. These sometimes self-indulgent television shows fascinate me because I feel the common thread O is trying to sew through all of them. (What? I call her O. She’s doesn’t care.)
While watching an episode of something that made me cry recently on the OWN channel, I said out loud, “I just want my job to be watching the OWN channel and then talking about what I watched while crying.” You know. Logical stuff.
Cut to a week later.
A client I’d done some writing for called me VERY excited that she had an AMAZING opportunity and she wanted me to help her. Excited by her excitement, and always being impressed by her projects, I turned on my listening ears. And do you know what she asked me to do?
Spoiler alert: YOU KNOW WHAT SHE ASKED ME TO DO.
Oprah created a new series on religion called Belief. The series will be 7 nights long and she wanted to know if I would watch the episodes now, respond to them, and then help create a conversation live among her clients online when the actual series ran.
She wanted me to watch OWN and then talk about it while crying.
Belief-Card-Boat-p2
She invited me to join The Belief Team, a grassroots group of people headed up by O herself looking to share the beauty of this series. No mass marketing. No uncomfortable sales pitches. Just a bunch of people who happen to believe what I believe: we can all believe different things and still welcome each other with love and compassion.
I’ve watched three of the Belief episodes and wept through every single one of them. I am SO blown away by the beauty of each faith, and it only STRENGTHENED my own faith. I’m so excited about the live launch on October 18.

And then, tonight, I got to be on a phone call. With Oprah’s producers.
And…with O.
OPRAH WINFREY.
It was a conference call to drum up excitement among a community of thought and faith leaders. And I was allowed to be on the call.
Like. No one kicked me off.
I was there the whole time. Squealing.
I wasn’t brave enough to raise my hand or post a question. But as I sat breathless listening to leaders of all faiths come forward and share their love of this series, their love of their own beliefs, and Oprah’s response to it all. I felt like I came out of my body.
In short: Holy. Shit. I sat in on a conversation tonight. With Oprah. Winfrey.
Mind. Blown.

She spoke for a moment about the series, and then some of the more prominent leaders on the call were offered the chance to ask O a questions. What did I do? I transcribed her answers like a squirrel at a keyboard COVERED in nuts because I was freaking out that I was listening to O speak from her bedroom in a comfy chair with a cup of tea in a bath robe (NO I DON’T KNOW WHERE SHE WAS OR WHAT SHE WAS DRINKING OR WHAT SHE WAS WEARING BUT I GOT TO BE ON THE CALL WITH HER SO I GET TO PICK ALL THOSE DETAILS).

I’m posting all the questions and answers because I assume everyone is like me and you want to know EVERYTHING SHE SAID.

What does God feel like?
O: God feels like life. Every breath that I take and every moment that I’m allowed to touch, feel, taste, and experience life. It’s my favorite bible verse, Act 17-28. It’s…when I was on trial in 1998 for saying something bad about a burger, in Amarillo, TX, I was going into the courtroom and my friend and mentor Maya Angelou told me to look above the juror’s heads and see the Lord’s salvation and repeat to yourself as your mantra, “In God I move and breath and have my being.” I did that so much on the witness stand I literally had this feeling that the presence of God was so with me that I felt exalted! I’d been two days on the witness stand and after 2 days of testifying from 9-5, I said to the next person who was going to sit on the witness stand, “Oh my God. You’re gonna love it!! You’re gonna love the experience! Lean into the space that is God and let that space carry you wherever you need to go. No prosecutor…no harm can come to you.”
It was one of the most challenging times of my life. Because we all go through trials, and depending on where you are in your life they show up in different ways, and literally sitting on the witness stand I thought, “Oh gee, I live such a big life that I would actually BE on trial! The whole purpose of the trial is to help you lean into the space that is God. In god I move and breath and have my being. God is this space and entity in which I’m allowed…that is in me and around me and through me at all times.

How do people without faith connect with the Belief series?
O: One of the reasons we wanted to do this series was for people who aren’t connected, or to have an array of choices and ideas and approaches to looking at faith. That they can see what may or may not align with their own or just to choose to see the spiritual thread of love and compassion that connects all of the stories. That’s why we tried to be inclusive of Adam, the mountain climber story, who doesn’t believe in anything, doesn’t call it God, but he believes in life and living in the present moment and going throughout the world and trying to be a decent person and contributing to humanity through his work and his passion, and his pride in climbing. So I think there’s something in the series for everybody and I think that people who may or may not be as aligned with a particular faith will have particular interest in the series because it opens up that door to be inclusive for everyone.

What was your favorite moment of the pope’s visit?
O: I was so moved by his visit here, and my favorite moment was after he had spoken to Congress and he was standing on the balcony. It speaks to what Bob just said. When he said, “Pray for me, and if you don’t believe in prayer, just send me good wishes.” I just thought Wow. We have this pope who acknowledges that there are people who don’t pray, but that if you don’t pray, that’s ok. Just send me good wishes! I’ll accept those, too! I thought that statement, his example, was one of the most inclusive things I’ve ever seen. It was a way of opening up and being inclusive without saying, “…and now I’m going to include all you sinners!” More than what he said throughout his visit here, his countenance, the very essence and spirit of him…the way he walked, the way he moved through the crowds, the way he acknowledged other people, and even in his calm moments, I’ve never felt so clearly that Wow. That is a man of God. And the peaceful space from which he seemed to speak and move and have his being was what touched me the most. I watched him and thought – I want some of that! Whatever you’re doing pope, I want some of that!

Which faith was most surprising while creating the series?
O: I wasn’t aware of the ritual of the Changing Woman. I wasn’t aware that…I’ve seen so many rites of passage in the Jewish faith and even the African community as well, and I didn’t realize that that was such a strong tradition and part of their culture and faith. And so I was particularly…it was one of those Woah! I never knew that! Never experienced that.
Also that Jain nun who was in the Indian Army and let to go from the army to being a nun. And not just a nun but a JAIN nun, and having ever hair plucked form her head in the town square. I think what all of these stories do, to an extent, is… would I be willing to do that for my faith? I’m glad my faith doesn’t require me to have every hair plucked on my head, but I admire the courage and discipline and devotion to faith that I experienced in some of those stories. I felt strengthened by them in my own way, as I hope everyone will. That’s why the series isn’t preachy or “This is how you should think” or “What we want you to think or feel is…” It’s however it touches you. And when you leave audiences with that light touch, you have the greatest chance of opening up that heart space for people.

Final thoughts:
O: From the depths of my self, and this is what I know for sure (otherwise you wouldn’t take the time on this call or be a part of the Belief Team), this is how we change the world. We all, in our daily lives, look at the news and experience the world and talk about how terrible things are. But this is how we change it. One person at a time. One bishop, one pastor, one rabbi, one imam, one buddhist, one sikh. Through our experiences, we get to offer a piece of healing, and your being a part of this is part of the chain of healing. It’s what Bishop Walter Scott Thomas said…too often the religious expressions of the world hunker down in their own bunkers or cocoons and don’t have a clue of the religious world outside their walls and then they start to believe that they’re the only one who’s right, and many go on to believe their rightness means they can hurt other people or undermine other people…
But in my life experience, I truly believe this series could serve mankind as a great corrective of that mindset: i you can find the true character of God in any faith as evidence through the tenants of faiths shown in all of them:
Compassion and kindness and love.
Whenever you can find that and affirm it and praise it and bless it, wherever you see the character of God, you see the glory of God.

And there it is. That last line…it’s final proof to me that maybe my way of thinking isn’t so crazy. Maybe there are other people out there who are OK if you just practice compassion and kindness and love in your way. And what a lovely world it would be if we cared less about the language we use and more about what we’re saying.

Also…Oprah and I are best friends.

I Wonder

NoelI’m moving forward with a new house and a new relationship and a son almost the same age as your daughter, and I wonder what you’d be doing right now…
I wonder if you’d have a big-time corporate job, or if you’d choose to branch off and do your own thing.
I wonder if you’d have been someone’s best man or flown in for the birth of a kid or two. (You would have.)
I wonder if you and your wife would have hit any rough patches these past 5 years. I wonder how you would have handled them.
I wonder if you would have given your daughter an old Tennessee hat!
I wonder where you guys would live now. What kind of car you would drive. Would you have gained weight? Jumped on the Crossfit train or maybe running?
I wonder what you would think of the mid-thirties. I wonder if you’d just be the same as you were in your mid-twenties and that’s why we’d all love you. (“Oh, that Noel…”)
I wonder if you’d mow the lawn.
I wonder if you’d cook meals for your wife and daughter.
I wonder if you’d have more kids…

It’s easy to compare my life to other lives; to watch on Facebook as people succeed and thrive and love. It’s easy to get jealous. It’s easy to wish I wasn’t divorced and I wasn’t scared sometimes and I wasn’t dealing with the single most argumentative 5-year-old on the planet. It’s easy to look at other Facebook pages and feel like I’m failing. Then I wonder, though…what would your Facebook page look like today?

This morning I pray for your wife and your daughter and your family and your friends, because I know they probably wonder these things everyday. Thank you for reminding me, this year, that even when things are hard…at least I’m still here to wonder about the possibilities.

 

Oh No She Didn’t

I had to make a visit to a popular children’s second-hand store yesterday because I realized Abraham has outgrown every last pair of pants in his drawer. This particular second-hand store is possibly the most aggravating store in this town as it’s run by a family who are constantly pissed off at each other. No one is ever polite to customers, which is probably on account on everyone behind the counter whispering obscenities. And yet…they give cash for old clothes and their selection is awesome and very affordable. What’s a mom to do?

There’s an entire used-toy section of the store. Abe is aware that he’s allowed to check the toys out while I shop so long as he:
A. Puts them back the way he found them, and
B. Stop to try on clothes if I need him to, and
C. DOESN’T ASK ME TO BUY ANYTHING.
I began going through size 5T jeans, listening to him down the aisle discussing with himself how cool the toys were. Until I heard him say, “Hey. Hey, you, little boy. Look at this bus.” I looked over and he was showing a boy, maybe a year or two younger than him, a school bus toy. My heart was all soft and yummy watching my one and only son being so sweet and inclusive of this little guy. I watched for a moment before I continued sifting through jeans as I listened to him share.
Then I heard, “Honey, no. Come here. Come away from him…”
I whipped around. “HIM?” I KNOW you’re not talking about my child…
I watched as a woman in sweat pants and a black t-shirt grabbed her child by the arm away from the toys. Well, maybe she just meant that she wanted her son to be within her sight because she’s one of those hawk-eye moms.
Then I considered the fact that I might in face be a terrible mom. I don’t always have my eyes on my kid. I mean, I let him go inside single-stall restrooms by himself while I stand outside. I let him look at the toy section in the pharmacy while I pick up prescriptions. Holy shit…I’m a terrible mom…
“Here! Try this one!” I looked over again and saw Abe showing the same little boy a different toy. Again, super proud of him. And again. “Come here. Come. HERE. You do not play with those.” I watched her this time, dragging him away from my son.
“But mooooom,” her son whined. Yeah! Why can’t he play?!
“No. I said no. We are not playing with the toys, that’s NOT what they’re there for.”
“But HE gets to play with them!”
“Well, YOU’RE obviously not HIM.”

Oh no she didn’t.

I might be a terrible mom for not watching my son like a hawk, but I am NOT a terrible mom for letting my son play with toys in a second-hand store while I buy him second-hand jeans because I’ll be DAMNED if I pay $30 for one pair of jeans he can wear a total of 4 months. I walked over to Abe while her son was now crying because he couldn’t play, and I LOUDLY asked, “Having fun, baby? You’re playing so nicely.”
“I was playing with a boy but now he’s crying.”
“I know, and you did such a nice job of inviting him to play. I watched you.”
I could hear the now-disgruntled mom of the crying son trying to get him to quiet down. I watched her lead him by the arm past the aisle in front of us, exasperated with his crying. Trust me. Every fiber of my being wanted to shout, “Maybe you should think about your stupid mom-shaming rules the next time you want to shop in peace like I WAS DOING…” But then…that just would have been mom-shaming, too, huh?
Then I thought about saying, “Lighten up. Why can’t he play? It’s not like your kid is going to break a second-hand toy leaving you to foot the bill. I mean, even if he does, the toys are all like $5. I WILL GIVE YOU $5.”
Yeah. Still kinda mom-shamey.
I ended up saying nothing. I didn’t make a passive aggressive comment and I didn’t commiserate with her over her son crying. I just packed up our loot and left.

Making a growl-y dog face while feeding the dogs!

Making a growl-y dog face while feeding the dogs!

Later on we went to the pediatrician for Abe’s 5-year check up. This was the first year that Abe’s doctor asked him the questions instead of asking me. She asked him about his letters, his chores, his eating habits. She looked at me and said, “Making his bed, feeing the dogs, clearing his plates, those are all really appropriate chores. He’s right on par with his letters and numbers, and his conversational skills are awesome. Great job, mom.”
You hear THAT lady in the second-hand store?! GREAT JOB, MOM. My son is smart and kind and loves TOYS like a NORMAL 5-year-old and a healthcare professional who went to school for many years just told me I’m a GREAT JOB, MOM.
Amazing how we take other mom’s actions or judgements so personally, isn’t it? You can tell me I’m a bad writer, a bad driver, a bad cook…whatever. I don’t care what you think. But even SUGGEST that I’m a bad mom and my brain goes into OVERDRIVE with anger and resentment and defensiveness. Don’t you?

 

 

Tithing

giveSo there’s this thing in church called tithing. The Pastor in your church says a bunch of nice words about abundance and then asks you for money. I never really got it until I was an adult because as a kid I knew we were just throwing an envelope in a basket in between boxes or raisins or drawing on the program. But now I get the whole faith element involved: trust God with your money and you can trust Him with anything, boo. He’ll prove it.

But here’s the thing. I don’t really LOVE giving money to the church. I know that the church DESERVES donations because it’s not like there’s a cover charge to spend hours there on a Sunday while our children are well cared-for and loved in another room. Even so, I’m just not jazzed about the whole money in the bucket thing.
A few months ago we were at a restaurant where Bear runs a weekly cornhole tournament. Our regular waitress grabbed me my favorite wings without my asking and chatted with me about her new baby. We passed looks back and forth all night about drunk people or hilarious moments during the game, and I realized: I’d rather give my money to her than to the church. I decided that night that while I will always give to the church, I will ALSO tithe in a way that feels good to me. I gave her a big ol’ tip that night, and every week since then it’s become a common practice that I will be taking very good care of her. This past week I even paid a tab someone else had walked out on so she wasn’t stuck footing the bill. It’s not because I wanted the praise or the appreciation. It’s just a case of being human: I like to see that I’m helping.
I’ve also started donating every time someone posts a mission trip or a friend in need on Facebook. I donate to podcasts I love and to OTHER churches that I think are doing a great job. It gets easier and easier to give when I’m giving money to all these causes that mean something to me. It’s almost like I unlocked the Tithe Level in my own personal video game.

Which is awesome, because trying to buy a house is possibly the most terrifying money-experience of my entire life. Everyone wants my money. Everyone needs something from me. These people are VULTURES and I would literally NEVER choose to give any of them money outside of this one situation. No one does what they say they’re going to do. Except Ruben, my real estate agent, who somehow thinks “Jump” and the people giving me trouble scream, “HOW HIGH, RUBEN, HOW HIGH??!?!!” Thank the Lord for Ruben. And thank the Lord for Bear who continues work his BE-HIND off to make as much money as humanly possible to continue feeding these monsters.
(Ok. That last paragraph was MILDLY dramatic. Very out of character for me.)

Anyway, consider that tithing and donating don’t even have to be acts of faith. They can just be acts of good. No one ever went broke by giving of what they had. I think Anne Frank said that. Give up some of what you have to show someone else how much you appreciate them this week. It’s really addicting!

 

Truly Messed

I posted a picture of my son and I to Instagram today. Today is the fourth day of Sukkot, a Jewish celebration of joy and all that we’re blessed to have, so I volunteered at his school to walk him to Temple and celebrate.
I stopped at the grocery store on the way out, getting ready to drive to the courthouse to get some documents our lender needed. The anxiety was creeping up into my stomach, through my lungs, and up/out my shoulders. In fact, the past few months in general have felt like at any moment I could lapse into panic attack. And no one wants to do that so close to the eggs.

When I posted the picture, I wrote about how blessed I feel. How God blessed me with a life wherein I can still visit my son in school on a Wednesday morning.

But that’s not what autocorrect chose for my caption. No, autocorrect chose this:

God messed me with a life that allows me to volunteer in my son’s classroom on a Wednesday morning.

Messed.

And I laughed. Out loud. Alone. Because it’s true. God messed me with this life. Not messed WITH me. He MESSED me:
I asked Him for a life partner and He gave me one in the middle of my divorce. I asked Him for strength and I thought He gave me The 21 Day Fix, but instead He gave me a broken leg and the fortitude to grow my own strength from that. I asked Him for a place Abraham and I could live without sharing a room, and Bear asked me to marry him. I asked Him for a house, and God created this big old mess, at the end of which will hopefully be a a place we get to share as a family. Every purchase, every credit mistake, every issue we have within our financial past and present has risen to the surface for the scrutinization of people who don’t know us (because if they knew us, there would be no question). It is a MESS.
God messed us.

Because sometimes God’s message is in our mistakes.

Sometimes he leads us in the right direction by pointing out our mistakes; sometimes with a painful, glaring spotlight so that we have no choice but to accept our own shortcomings and learn from them. Because if God had needed Bear and I to be financial planners in order to fulfill our destinies, he wouldn’t have left that out of our DNA…
God teaches WITH THE MESS and IN THE MESS. He’s not just there when we need something and he’s not just there when he’s given us something we aaaaaaaaalways wanted. He’s there with the mess, in the mess, sometimes CREATING the mess so that we can learn something we never would have chosen to learn. I would NEVER have chosen to learn how the credit system works, how lenders work, and what it’s like to buy a home. I would have rented forever. The day our plumbing broke in our rental house, I heard SO loudly and SO clearly that we were supposed to buy something even thought I reallyreallyreallyreally didn’t want to. And while some magic has happened as I surrendered to that inner knowing, it’s not all beans and butterflies. I’m still nearing panic attack DANGEROUSLY close to the eggs while I think about how little control over everyone who gets to decide how this whole house thing goes down I have.
No. I’m not handling it all well. But I’m writing and I’m praying and I’m listening to Pastor Furtick (and Bishop Jakes and Pastor Gray and Pastor Stanley, Lord help me…) and singing little motivational songs to myself and doing my DAMNEDEST to trust that we will be blessed with a big, MESSY move my Christmas.
He messed me. He pressed me. He stressed me. He distressed me. He NEVERTHELESSed me! And still, I know, He blessed me.

#iamtrulymessed

Pause.

I realized a few years ago that meditation and prayer are REALLY good ideas. Everyday. For at least 5 minutes. Pause. Get quiet. Re-center. Pray.

It’s also REALLY unattainable for most people.

Because when I tell people to sit down for 10 minutes in the morning to meditate, I know they’ll do it for 2 weeks and then lose track.
If I tell them to write a prayer everyday, they’ll do it for a few months! And that’s it.
I tell them to start a gratitude journal and they never even buy the paper.
Why?
Because that’s what I do.

The truth is that when you’ve got an on again off again relationship with God (or the universe or your inner knowing or spirit), you have an on again off again relationship with life. You make room for the soccer games and a shower and the volunteering and your job and your spouse, etc. etc. etc. But without a daily ritual, you truly can’t commit to anything as a whole person. And that’s a tall order.
You know what I do?

I drink coffee.

coffee-cup-01I don’t just drink coffee like a Starbucks or a quick cup out the door. I sit with my coffee. I saver it quietly and sometimes in the dark, even if just for the first few sips.Usually my cup of coffee leads to a writing a few pages in my journal, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just the coffee. Even Abe knows to let me have a little bit of coffee before making requests when he sees me pour my cup. THAT is my meditation. That is my mindfulness, my prayer, my moment to start the day with God. Does my prayer begin with a caffeine addiction? That’s very possible. But none of those people in the bible were perfect. They found God in some pret-ty dicey circumstances. So my little need for a jolt of electricity in the morning doesn’t seem so bad.

Where this throws people off, and me for a long time, is that this isn’t a spiritual act. It’s not religious. Paul didn’t send instant coffee packets to the Corinthians with his letters. I’ve never met a meditation guru who suggested you start with a mocha-frappe latte. It’s a ritual, a daily reminder for me to get quiet and pause. Pray, clear my mind, re-center, breathe. It’s how I do it. It’s what works for me. And you’re actually allowed to choose YOUR method for pausing everyday, even if for 5 minutes, to get quiet and just be.

Some people do it in a quiet car. Some people do it in the gym. Some people do it while stirring a pot of pasta. But for me, a five minute pause doesn’t have to be accompanied by Deepak Chopra’s voice or an episode of Super Soul Sunday. There is no one way. You get to choose something you love everyday. It has to be a way that works for you. Otherwise, what’s the point?

 

At least you’re not Job.

I had a bad day. A really bad day. One filled with anxiety and frustration and a lot of fear of the unknown. What’s to come? What’s will happen? Will everything be OK?! By the end, I was just feeling completely depleted and sad.
When I’m in that place of fear, I reach out to my friends. And I have two kinds of friends (as I think we all do). One kind is the “everything will be ok” kind. They either pray with you or they pray for you or they offer up a practical look at things that prove with actual facts that everything will be ok. They are the ones who bring cupcakes to cheer you up, or a good bottle or wine, or even a crappy bottle of wine. Their positivity is absolutely uplifting. And I like those kinds of friends tremendously.
The other kind of friend is the devil’s advocate friend. If you’re royally pissed off at someone and you call devil’s advocate friend to vent, devil’s advocate friend will tell you why you should consider the other person’s point of view. Devil’s advocate friend might even try to prove you wrong in the situation. Devil’s advocate friend is a very good, well-trusted friend because they hold up a mirror in your life when you need it most and say, “Baby. Snap out of it.” I like these friends a lot, too.

Today, I texted my devil’s advocate friend: Ivy.
I shared with her all the unknown and potentially life-changing issues I face right now. I told her, “Ivy. I’m so sad right now. I just can’t get it together today.”
And do you know what Ivy said to me?
She said, “Well, hey, at least you’re not Job.”

At least you’re not Job.

“At least I’m not JOB?! That’s what I should be grateful for today?!”
“YES! I mean, he went through it all!”
She then sent me a little picture of a dancing minion.

For those of you who don’t know, Job was a good and loyal man who honored God in all that he did. He had lots of kids and farm animals and a lovely wife and life was going really well for Job. He was super appreciative of God.
Then one day, Satan was like, “I’ll bet I can get him to stop believing in God.” So Satan sent these guys down to kill all of Job’s donkeys, all of his sheep, all of his camels, and all of his children. And you know what Job did?
He said, “What came from God goes back to God.” HE KEPT WORSHIPPING GOD! Even in the midst of all this pain and misery and fear and sadness and loss.
I mean, who does that?
So, then of course, in time Job was blessed with exponential riches and a gabillion farm animals and more children and grand children and great-grand children and he lived another 140 years.

In fairness, no one has come to kill my animals nor children. And I kinda wanted to smack Ivy and say, “I’m not Job. I’m not Jesus. I’m a girl with ISSUES.” But I got her devil’s-advocatey point. No one’s dead. No one’s dying. No one’s even got a cold. The ground is shaky but I’ve got both legs. I probably ought to focus on the things for which I’m grateful for even a PERCENTAGE of the amount of time I spend freaking out.
“ERIN I KNOW ON THE OTHER SIDE THERE IS SOMETHING SO MUCH MORE THAN WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT NOW,” she wrote in all caps a few moments later.
“You should stick with being the devil’s advocate,” I told her.
She sent another dancing minion.
She’s a really good friend.

My point is that maybe today you need the devil’s advocate instead of the cupcakes and sweet hugs and the good wine. Maybe you need to stop the madness for even just a MOMENT and say thank you for what’s good, even if all that’s good is that no one has a cold right now. You don’t have to walk around all grateful all the time when things are falling apart. But you might consider a quick, “Thanks for the health.”

 

 

“What’s for Breakfast?”

My son has a habit of walking into our bedroom in the morning and talking. Just walking in and starting conversations at 6:30 in the morning…
“Hey mom, remember that time when we were at Lucy’s house and we got to play with her PlayMobile house and she had this one piece of it that came off and looked like grapes?”
Coffee. Where. Coffee.
So we made a new rule in our house that Abraham is not allowed to come into our bedroom in the morning without first saying, “Good morning.” Now it’s much better. More like this:
“Good morning, Mom and Ryan. Remember that time when we were at Lucy’s house and we got to play with her PlayMobile house and she had this one piece of it that came off and looked like grapes?”

This morning, though, my son made his bed, let the dogs out, and then came in and said good morning. I was SO incredibly pleased that this child was now 30 years old, I immediately got up and made coffee and asked…
“Abe? What would you like for breakfast?”
“Oh. Um. I’d like cereal. And bacon. And bananas. And cottage cheese. And eggs. Please.”
“Ok, new rule. You may have three things for breakfast. So please pick three.”
“Ok. Bacon. Eggs. Cottage cheese. And bananas.”
“That’s four.”
“What?”
“That’s four. The new rule is you choose three.”
“Oh. Ok. Bacon. Eggs. And cottage cheese. With salt. Wait…that’s four.”
“No, baby. Salt doesn’t count as a breakfast item.”
“It doesn’t? Ok. Bacon. Eggs. Bananas. And salt.”
“Wait. Bananas or cottage cheese?”
“Both.”
“No. Ugh. Abe, you said bacon, eggs, and cottage cheese with salt. Are those the three you want?”
“Yes.”
“Ok.”

Our mornings generally consist of me bringing Bear some coffee (because the man works two jobs and deserves coffee in bed), making Abe breakfast, packing Abe’s lunch, and then drinking my coffee while eating steal cut oats.
IMG_2966I am obsessed with steal cut oats right now. I literally fill little mini-mason jars with almond milk and steal cut oats, put them in the fridge, and then open them in the morning and toss them in the microwave for one minute! Top with hemp and chia seeds, blueberries, and whatever else floats my boat. SO much easier than simmering them for freaking forty-five minutes everyday. And I know people put them in the croc pot over night but eww. They get mushy. I don’t like mushy.
Usually in the morning, I’m also thinking about dinner. And I don’t know about all of you, but dinner is one of the most difficult times of day for us…because 5-year-old. Growing up, we ate dinner at our formal dining room table every night. No TVs, no radios, no nothing. Just family and eating and chatting. After my dad passed away, my mom got a little more lax with dinner. We ate at the kitchen bar in front of a little, tiny TV most nights. But we were still together. We still talked.
Abraham is 5. He eats slower than molasses. He talks over everyone. He asks a million questions. He drops his fork. He complains that he doesn’t like “the green part.”
And we, in turn, are miserable.
How do other people eat dinner with a 5-year-old at the table?! IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. Is it possible for you? Are you able to eat at the dinner with your children like normal people?!

Anyway, I plated up Abe’s eggs, bacon, and cottage cheese this morning (with salt) and set it in front of him at the table. I walked back to the kitchen and grabbed my coffee and my oats. I sat down on a stool and began the few moments I have to myself each morning. It was glorious.

Until…

“MOOOOM?! YOU FORGOT MY BANANAS!!!”

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