Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Middle Way

Practicing Buddhists have a guiding principle that makes a lot of sense but is very difficult to actually achieve: The Middle Way. The idea is simple, balance and equanimity come from veering away from a life of extremes. Self-indulgence or self-mollification. One also stays away from metaphysical extremes (heaven and hell, for example:) The funny thing about spiritual practice is that you think you are going along, very mindfully and with some kind of grace and humor, and then the veil opens and you realize that a religion that believes in many lifetimes is a great thing because there is no way in hell you are going to come even close to any kind of enlightenment this time around.

Last week, as noted in some of my blog entries, I was quite active. I went climbing, skiing, winter hiking and as treat for my husband, I shoveled out the driveway. Long story short, I tweaked my heart a bit with all the activity. So, yesterday, I was back at Mass General, having a little check-in with the cardiologists. I love my team, and they tolerate me...still, we have to come to some common understanding of what the word "moderate" means. My understanding was that I had been cleared to do all activities, all of them. They admitted that they had cleared me but then told me that I needed to use "common sense". OK, now I get where it all unraveled.

I yearn to walk the middle path, but I don't. To be honest, that is why I had this procedure done, so I wouldn't be forced to walk the middle path. I thought that I could learn to ski moguls on a small slope, and that was moderation. I could climb hard but not lead, and that was moderation. Moderation, apparently, is not climbing anything that effects my core for 6 months, no more bumps this season, and no soccer this spring.

I have been running my whole life, literally and figuratively. My life is configured around my extreme activities. As I tell my students, letting go of an older way of being leaves space for something new and beautiful. I have to trust that because I have been benched, again.

So, namaste, my is all impermanent but oh so beautiful:)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Real Magic

The Butterfly Whisperer

Brad and Martha Washburn.....this is what they did on snow days........

Today was a stolen day. I was scheduled to work to cover for a clinician who was at a conference and I had forgotten my husband was taking the kids to the Science Museum. Sad moment when we synched our calenders.... This morning at 5:30, the cancellation calls started rolling in...first, my school, then the kids. Wow! Now, we all get to go together into the big city.

I need to get my kids into Boston more often. For starters, Emma referred to a homeless person as a "hobo" and seemed delighted to see this mythological being. Teachable moment about the hard road some folks have to travel and there is much more to being homeless than a romanticized version. Still, she acted like she had seen a rock star and that was more respectful than some reactions. Luke then demanded to know why I only gave a small amount of money rather than all we had on us. Another teachable moment about compassion and the realization that he was right, really.

The Museum of Science in Boston is a wonderful place to spend the day. I saw liquid nitrogen in action for the first time in my life; learned that it is not the rubber tires on a car that keep us safe during a lightening storm but rather the metal frame (beware you fiberglass-car-drivers-in-a-storm); and learned my son is a butterfly whisperer. The thing that got us to the museum today was the famed Harry Potter exhibit but oddly, it left us all a little flat. Yep, the costumes were velvety and the sorting hat dusty and the Quidditch balls wiggly. But the magic, the real magic was elsewhere.

Here is the thing about magic. I think it is a bit skittish. When you spend extra money to find it, and when you set up a whole room to sell the tune of 44.00 dollars for a map, I think magic has the good sense to disappear. And today, we were paying attention, and we followed it elsewhere. To the butterfly pavilion. Today, I learned my son is a butterfly whisperer. We all sat very still but they landed on him, time and time again. He has that sort of magic. He attracts the trust of animals, small children, and butterflies. He is a little uneasy with his gift and finally morphed into a 9 year old boy and said, "I have got to get out of here" but it was truly something to witness the stillness of his soul as those fragile creatures rested for a bit on his stomach, shoulders, and head.

Today was a stolen day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Apres Ski Day

12:00am. Wake up from couch where I have dozed off watching the Olympics....takes a few minutes to realize I can't stand up. Takes a few more minutes to realize I can't walk...crawl up the stairs to bed.

3:00am. Must drink water...still can't move...wait patiently for the water to appear within range of my throwing something at it and catching a few drops from the spill. Fall back asleep while waiting.

5:00am Time to go the the bathroom...still can't move...vaguely wonder what has happened to all the muscles in my body....make it to the bathroom...feel like an Olympian.

6:30am Youngest appears in bedroom to ask if we are going skiing again today....I would answer with irony except that I'm saving all my energy for the walk downstairs which I know is coming.

7:30am Husband bounds out of bed with no problem and announces he is making waffles. I calculate how much energy it will take to chew. Seems like a reasonable goal.

8:30 Time to start moving and working out the kinks. Wonder how on earth skiing moguls on a run that lasts under 20 seconds could do this to me? Figure out that the ski place I am so fond of must have been built on ancient burial grounds and that I am paying for the sins of my forefathers. It is truly the only thing that makes sense.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ski Day

Vacation is winding to an end, and I'm feeling pretty good. We have a local hill that towers at 410 feet and each year, conditions allowing, they put in the bumps. This is a big moment to the family, and renews our commitment to our small slice of heaven.

OK, so our little place has one chair lift, one Tbar, and the "carrots" also has no lines, no surly lift operators, and no mad-dogs (except for my husband, on occasion). I have come to love this place. We can go after church or after a playdate or even after school. It represents winter and for me, the beauty of New England. Growing up, I had to get up at 4:00am and drive 5 hours to southern Colorado. The skiing was better but it wasn't a lifestyle, it was a special treat that we did on occasion. My kids (as evidenced by my Sports Illustrated photography) are already skiing with more confidence and abandon than I have ever mustered. I now feel blessed, at age 46, to learn to ski moguls because I want to be able to ski with my family, on occasion. So, our little place is just perfect for them, and for me. Enjoy the gifts of the season!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic Fever

(Emma on her luge....if you had asked Scott and I if she could cram her body on top of her Barbie car and slide in the living room, we would not have had the faith she had in her equipment)

We are starting out February vacation by skiing at our local hill and then watching the Olympics in the evening. It is a great combination because the kids can apply what they are seeing in the evenings to their mogul runs in the day. They really see no difference in what they are doing and what the Olympic athletes are doing:

Mom, when will New England host the Winter Olympics?
Mom, how will you decide who to watch if Emma and I are both competing on the same day?

Now I have to admit, until I was about 20, I also thought if I could just find time to train, I too could compete at the Olympic level. I dropped out of college for awhile to race on a women's cycling team, The Bluebonnet Race Team. I was good enough to be a domestique, a fancy French word that means sacrificial rider. My job was to break away from the pelotron (bunched up riders) and hopefully take some other team's top riders with me. This was great but then that spurt of energy meant that you usually finished way back. My job was never to win, but to make sure their top riders did not win either. We cycled 50-60 miles a day and worked hard to be "good enough". At the end of that racing season, I knew I wasn't good enough to train for the Olympics but I treasure that semester of miles and miles of road racing in the Texas hill country.
I want my kids to join a team, a movement, a community and train to be the best they can be. I love the Olympics and cry every day I watch them. The pursuit of excellence is it's own reward, whether you make it to the Olympics or not. I'm glad my kid's world is filled with possibilities, may it always be so.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Spreading the Love

Here is a good definition of friendship: a friend takes an impulse you have that is going to led to nothing good, and turns it around. My buddy over at did just that and came up with a great blog post entitled "100 comforts". I am going to join in the good karma effort and so here is my list of 100 comforts in no particular order:

1. Hiking in the woods in the winter.
2. Climbing with my husband....this one is really a survival thing as he is rock solid up there:)
3. Smartwool can't live in New England without 'em.
4. Singing in church, in the shower, and in the car.
5. Reading and writing poetry.
6. Sledding with my children.
7. Kayaking
8. Old friends...the ones who know the stuff that better not get out
9. New friends...the ones that let you begin anew
10. Running or playing soccer until it feels like you might vomit blood...I know, I therapist worked on this one for years.
11. My Nikon camera and the sound it makes when I take a picture...very definitive, yet not since the next item on my list is...
12. The delete button on my Nikon camera.
13. Bob Dylan's frayed voice and his laser lyrics.
14. My job and my high-spirited students...they help me age backwards.
15. My minister and my UU church.
16. My cowgirl pajamas.
17. My red cowboy boots.
18. Black-eyed peas.
19. Two-stepping
20. Painting "good karma" boxes
21. HH the Dalai Lama
22. Meditation
23. Philosophy and my philosophical friends
24. Laughing until I can't stand up
25. Green chilies in almost any dish
26. Peterboro
27. The desert and the smell of sage.
28. Drinking out of a mountain stream (less comforting a bit later but a small price to pay)
29. Sleeping in a bivy bag while staring at Half-Dome.
30. My grandmothers memory and knowledge that lives on
31. My grandmother's quilts on my bed, my daughter's bed, and my son's wall.
32. Knitting and bamboo needles.
33. Line-dried clothes that smell like summer.
34. Babies that smile at you with delight when you walk in a room.
35. Bloggers and blogging and the circle we are all trying to create.
36. Rituals
37. Ice-skating in the summer.
38. The mountains in New Hampshire in the autumn.
39. A warm croissant from Texas French Bread.
40. My Texas people...quick with offers of help even if they have to fly 2000 miles.
41. My New England people....their fortitude is a beautiful backdrop to my life here.
43. My garden...wild and old and sometimes not recognizable as a cultivated plot.
44. Chipotle's
45. Snowshoes
46. Freshly tuned skis
47. Tibetan monks and their throat singing
48. My artist friends and their ability to see beauty in discarded things.
49. My doctors
50. My African-Cuban drum
51. Dancing to "Happy Feet"
52. My book club, my knitting club, and my crafting club
53. The smell of the Sunday newspaper.
54. Eggnog lattes
55. My daughter's eyes and my son's grin.
56. My husband's gentle spirit
57. Japanese print fabric
58. pom-poms
59. Vintage anything
60 Brimfield
61. Bonfires
62. Used books and used bookstores, especially the ones with a resident cat
63. Dories
64. Obscure museums like The Texas Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford, Tx.
65 Rocky Maine coast
66. Shiner Bock beer.
67. Clogs with embroidered flowers.
68. Bright green kitchen walls (thanks Tracie)
69. Children's books with an edge.
70. Poetry slams.
71. Soccer games in big stadiums.
72. Scrapbooks from my childhood.
73. Clean bathrooms
74. Lime green boots
75. The newest book in a series.
76. The first swim of the season...catching your breath afterward
77. Birds at my bird feeder
78. Peeling is everywhere at my house so I have decided it is a symbol of impermanence.
79. Curling
80. Playing basketball with my students and holding my own for about 5 minutes.
81. This joke....What did the snail say when he caught a ride on the turtle's back? WHHEEEEEE
82. Some Kind of Blue, Miles Davis
83. Heavy eyelids of my kids right before they fall asleep.
84. Depression glass
85. Old jeans that still fit
86. Art supplies
87. Prayer bowl
88. Pedicures in the dead of winter
89. Making stuff out of old beer coaster ornaments were a big hit.
90. People with the energy to volunteer.
91. Journals
92. Karma
93. Aluminium water bottles
94. Saucony running shoes
95. Weeds that might be wildflowers
96. A sharp pizza cutter
97. Teaching my daughter to knit
98. Seasonal decorations like the decomposed pumpkins in my front yard that will stay there until the summer.
99. Old trees
100. This moment:)
Join the fun!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Letting Go

Letting go does not mean not caring about things. It means caring about them in a flexible and wise way--Jack Kornfield

This seems like a good use of time, sorting through what to let go of and what to care about in a flexible and wise way. For example, I'm going to let go of the fact that the rubber bracelets I passed out in group several weeks ago...white and black...have a sexual meaning. White means "flash what you've got" and black means "I like sex in the missionary position". I did think the kids were mighty happy over some Christmas Tree store bracelets. Needless to say, I was unaware of the secondary meaning when I awarded them to the students for "Outstanding participation". You don't say.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Little shout out to Sarah

Here is the deal Sarah Palin: I would not be so proud of myself and so disdainful of the President if I had to write a note on my hand to remember the word "energy". Although I don't agree with any of your politics, your different views make our country what it is, a place where divergent ideas can be discussed. Still, when I heard you ask your audience how "that hope-y, change-y thing was going" I felt in my bones that I will move to Europe if you get elected. I have never felt that before, not even with 43. Truth is, I have felt for a long time that my value system and my belief that we have a moral obligation to care about those who have less opportunity and a less fortunate road to walk is no longer in the mainstream in this country. The fact that we have to debate whether vulnerable citizens in this country have a right to health care makes me heartsick.

My task is to find compassion for you. Instead of shouting "Ass" at the top of my lungs at the TV set, and earning a mini-lecture from the little super-egos I have by my side at all times, I am making a commitment to think of you as needing support. Support in moving from a place of fear and hatred to the realization that we are all connected. The wolves you shoot from the plane, the liberals you feel are dragging down this country, and the father of your grandson. All connected.

Maybe I will stick it out in this country. I feel much better after our chat.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Notes from the Slope

The toughest thing about "recovery" is figuring out where your limits are. The docs have lifted my physical restrictions, but I am having a hell of a time getting my heart beat down when I exert myself. Most of all, this whole experience has left me feeling vulnerable and aware of the fragility of good health. The next phase of the journey resides in my psyche.

We ski together as a family and the kids have missed me on the slopes. For the record, they did not miss me so much that they stayed home with me in solidarity but they were with me in spirit. This week-end, I thought I could venture out on a small hill by our house and give it a go.

The day was crisp and cold with a good wind blowing. My first surprise was that Emma can now ride the chair lifts with very little assistance. Luke is working on getting up enough speed on the jumps to do a helicopter. Scott continues his tele-ways while doing a few rad jumps himself. For me, the runs were short enough that I was blissfully unaware of my heart rate and fully concentrating on maintaining good form. The snow was good and we skied for two straight hours until the wind picked up and I couldn't feel my nose.

"Mom, did you notice Ski Ward is jam-packed with the cutest baby skiers? That's because this is where it all begins." Mature 9 year old skier

"Mom...look at Dad....oh my gosh, he nailed it" Devoted 7 year old skier

"Good to have you back Sweetie" Best tele skier on the slopes

"This was the best ski day I have had in a long time" Grateful mom skier who will never, ever take a day of skiing for granted again in her life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A day in the life

This thing started way back in the day when my sister and I spent six hours making wrapping paper. We cut out a gingerbread person outline from a potato, no easy task in and of itself, and then spent the next several hours hand painting little bow ties and buttons on each image. If memory serves me well, I believe the present itself was worth under ten dollars. This is not well behavior. I don't know the name of the affliction but I don't believe it has gotten any better over the years. It is not just making things, that is good. It is making things that don't need to be made when there is no time to make them.....differentiation of crafts.
Notice the shipping tags above. One is a pale tan. The other, looking suspiciously exactly like the unadorned one, has been painted with white gesso...a process that took all morning. Notice the white string.....exactly what a book mark needs. I thought differently and added beads and ribbon, a process that took most of the afternoon. Then, the bookmarks were ready to be decorated by my children, and they did a fabulous job. As I am typing this, we are not done but I have figured out how to make envelopes out of doilies and so we are adding that to the finished product. That should take the rest of the night. Mission complete. 42 Valentine bookmarks that approximately .023 percent of my children's friends will keep.
A day making valentines. My back hurts and I'm no closer to a cure for NCD (no craft differentiation) and everyone is cranky. Still, there is pride of craftsmanship and we spent some time together without any screens. That is a good day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dear Lord

Dear Lord:

I just want to touch base about a few things. Overall, I think things are going swimmingly, which is a good time to check in...I don't want to be the type that rings you up just when things look dire. In fact, I have not been praying much lately because things have been a little hectic. Truth is, I think you reside in me and so this could be considered a state of the union to myself and to the collective energy that connects me to you and me to all the other spiritual seekers. I have learned to trust that energy and to trust my community. Thanks for that, Lord.

Keep your loving hands on President Obama. It seems like everyone is turning on him...the left thinks he is abandoning health care, the right continues to degrade him every step of the way and the truth is...he is just a guy doing the best he can at a job that is virtually impossible to do. We have a tendency to build people up and then make it a spectator sport when they fall off the podium.

I appreciate the first rate medical care I received at Mass General but I'm wondering why I have access to it and a family I work with is 75,000 dollars in debt due to their medical bills. They are hard working people and I'm wondering, Lord, if maybe you could cut through the rheoteric and help people understand this is a working class issue...not an issue of entitlement.

Lord, I need a little more patience. This week I have been riled up about daisy cookie sales, the pregnacy pact docu-drama, my middle-age, and the slide of our culture into reality TV. Yes, it is true that I watch "Jersey Shore" but after my husband pointed out that I was the market audience, as much as my nieces, I changed the channel. I don't get to watch from an exalted therapeutic stance although I would love access to the producers. How about a reality show with TV producers where the audience can question them on the morality of pulling a group of young people from their supports, filling them with booze, and throwing them in a hottub?

I'm throwing out a prayer for some young children who lost their parents this week. May we throw our arms around them and provide as much love as they can take in during such a devastating time.

Thanks for the run in the snow, Twilight Scene-It, and the laughter of my kids. I know we were hanging out together today.