Friday, April 27, 2007

On Becoming a Mother 16 Years Ago Today

"It's not just the making of babies, but the making of mothers that midwives see as the miracle of birth." -- Barbara Katz Rothman

Declan turns 16 today. Whew, what a trip it's been! With the exception of coming to understand God's "voice" in me, having Declan has been the singularly most transformative experience of my life.

He was conceived in less than idyllic circumstances (I was split but not officially divorced from my first husband, very casually dating Hammy, un/under-employed, without a home or car, no insurance, no idea what the next step in my life should be-I was 24). Logic dictated that having a baby was the last thing I should be doing but...I just knew it was the right thing. I knew I would be a good mother and would be able to raise a baby-with or without his father being involved.

Becoming pregnant with Declan was not the beginning of me following my intuition (God within) but it was the beginning of me really listening for it and taking it, and myself, seriously.

Ina May Gaskin's book, Spiritual Midwifery, was paramount in helping me learn to trust myself, my intuition and the wisdom of nature. I think that my life would be very different if I hadn't read that book.

Homebirth, extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, attachment parenting, and homeschooling are all things that were pretty directly affected by that book. I guess I could take it farther to include natural family planning, re-washable menstruation cloths, pro-active health care and probably too many things to even consider right now; like so many things, one thing becomes the foundation for so many other things. I originally found a copy of that book in a used bookstore in Valparaiso, Indiana when I was 20 and several years from being ready to even think about having children (I was newly married to my first husband who, after we were married, told me that he was adamantly against having children). I read it then and was blown away by it. Later, when I found myself pregnant, that was the first book I dug out to read.

I'm grateful for the gift of that book, and the guidance of the wonderful midwife who cared for me, mentored me, and helped bring Declan into this world, Darlene Jesse (who now goes by the name Elizabeth). She was the compassionate mother and wise woman I needed at that time in my life. Her tranquil confidence allowed me to have faith in myself as a woman and as a mother.

And now my baby is almost a man. I mothered him the best I was able and I loved him more than I ever dreamed possible-still do. He's still a prickly teenager. He's tall and handsome, mohawked and punk. He's nicer than he was a year ago but I do look forward to him not being so dark and "anti" ("what are you rebelling against?" -"What have you got?"). I look forward to the day when he realizes that doing good in the world is not "going along" or "selling out", when he understands that his potential is HIS to own.

He got a phone call a couple of days ago from the kid he jams with. That kid's music instructor has agreed to let that kid's band play a song for a show at the Ryman and D is going to play drums. My son is going to play the Ryman Auditorium! I'm proud and happy for him. I think he's seeing himself as a person with potential to "make it" in the world. I could see him becoming a professional drummer, playing in touring bands (which delights and terrifies me in equal parts).

He'll be home from school in an hour and will be packing to spend the weekend at the Southern Appalachian Young Friends (SAYF) retreat that Nashville Friends Meeting is hosting. His girlfriend will be here from North Carolina as will his best friend (who now goes to a prep school) and his Farmie friends. It'll be a good time for him; a good way to spend his birthday weekend.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sleep Deprivation

Last night was rough. First, I read to Carmac and, as I was turning the light off, he looked at me and said he was scared and his lip was quivering. He and his brothers watched Happy Feet last night and one of the trailers, for the upcoming Harry Potter movie, frightened him. I turned off the light and snuggled him and he fell almost instantly asleep.

Then, I spent an hour or so studying for my upcoming project training by learning about the branch of the government concerned with economic policy. Boring and stimulating, at the same time. I think attempting to wrap my brain around anything to do with finances causes me to have a surge in adrenaline because when I went to bed, I had a difficult time falling asleep (I'm one of those people who's blessed with the ability to "drop off" almost immediately).

I was just falling asleep when our dog, Argus, who is afraid of thunder, barrelled her way through our dog barricade on the back porch to sleep in the kitchen (we have to keep them on the back porch or the other one will get in the trash) and thump against the cabinets every time she moved. Then a nice gentle rain began falling on the roof.

I'd begun falling back to sleep when Carmac crawled into bed with me announcing he was thirsty. So, I got him water (disturbing Argus and making her thump a bunch) and tucked him back in.

An hour later, I was fully asleep when Carmac yelled "MOM!" causing me to leap from bed to check on him. He just needed to use the potty and snuggled for a minute before he was soundly asleep again.

By this point it's somewhere around 2:30. Declan got in the shower at 5:45 which woke me and that was basically the start of my day. Yeah, I stayed in bed until the alarm went off at 6:45 but not to sleep restfully, or anything.

It's now 7:45 and I will be driving Hammy to work in a few minutes so we can use his car today because we have several errands and a field trip. What I want to do is blow everything off and sleep today, but of course I can't.

I pray for patience and perspective today. When I'm this tired I could go giddy or I could become cranky. I am going to try very hard to do either. My practice for today is to try to be mindful, accepting the grogginess and foggyheadedness but still trying to reflect God in each moment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee (if memory serves) Day 6

I've discovered that, quickly enough, even riding the bus with all the unknowns involved, will become routine. I figure there's no point in writing about a day that sounds very similar to the experiences of the day before so I'll only write updates when something unusual happens.
Today is Wednesday. No bus rides yet this week. We walked to the grocery store and library yesterday (walking home with 20 pounds of dog food!). Today is homeschool park day. I would have us be getting ready to run to the bus but tonight Declan and I have a meeting at 6:10, Hammy has to return D's tux to the shop by 5:30 and can't pick us up at the park and trying to ride the bus home would just complicate everyone's schedule, so we're staying home.
Tomorrow, we're meeting all our friends who did cooperative homeschool classes this year at a fun play-place, and it appears we'll have to do a lot of walking to get there in time due to the way the buses run.

Last Monday a really surprising and nice thing happened at the bus stop. The boys and I left at 8:15 to catch the 8:45; we got there a few minutes early and there was a young woman waiting, talking on her cell phone. A fancy cadillac pulled in the parking lot, a window rolled down and a woman inside called the young woman over. The woman in the car handed the young woman a $20 bill and told her to get a bus pass. She then called me over and offered one to me. Foolishly, I thanked her and told her I didn't need it (I had enough for the bus and to buy lunch that day) and said to save it for the next person (she looked a little disgruntled at my refusal). The young woman immediately called someone and told them what had happened and said she'd been sitting, praying for some solution to how she was going to get across town as she only had enough bus fare for the one trip. Then, while we were on the bus, she was on the phone calling managers of jobs she'd filled out applications for, seeing if they were setting up interviews.
I'm still very moved by the gift that stranger gave the girl (an hand up) and to me (a reminder of kindness and generosity).

Later, I bumped into a woman I've known for 19 years and haven't seen in several. I first met her when I began volunteering for a nonprofit organization that serves clients with an incarcerated family member. When we met, she had 4 daughters between the ages of 1 and 9. Later, she had a son who is the age of my oldest. We became friends (as much as people can when there are the kinds of discrepancies in our backgrounds and lives). A few years ago I worked as volunteer coordinator and children's program director for that same organization and got to know her daughters as young women. See her on the bus was an opportunity to catch up, which was nice, but also, later, depressing. Her life is as chaotic as it had been all those years ago. Her son is in a youth detention center, her husband is doing time for murder. She now has 4 grandchildren (her youngest daughter is the only of her children to have been graduated from high school and recently had a baby). She's still working at fast food restaurants, as do all her children. It was very sad and frustrating to me that all the times I "helped" her find a job, a new apartment, get job training, etc. she never learned to live without chaos. I understand the dynamics but it just makes me sad that her daughters, who were such bright, sweet children, learned to pattern their lives on crisis-like that's the only consistent thing, the only familiar they know and can be comfortable with.
Anyway, if I'd taken the $20 from the caddy lady, I could have passed it on to my friend as she clearly needed it.
Lesson learned. Never turn down a kindness: If I don't need it I can always pass it on.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reflections on Simplicity

Last night's Quakerism class used the Pendle Hill pamphlet Reflections on Simplicity by Elaine Prevallet. I've read enough books and articles on simplicity (or simplifying one's life) that I was in no rush to read the pamphlet, putting it off until yesterday. When I (finally) picked it up, I was very moved by it's depth of understanding of simplicity. The author suggests that simplicity means having an undivided heart-not attempting to live in duality of purpose. When I try to be the center of my life, attempting to control my life, I am living out of harmony with God's will. I am not the center of my life-God is. My life is not about me but about how I can glorify and serve God. The more aware I am of God as my center, the more authentically I will be living.

The author even wrote to the condition I described in my last post: "So the experience of our own duplicity, that quick moment of awareness of doubleness in ourselves is the moment of grace, the moment when ex-posure makes possible a turning, a movement to a new and deeper level in the direction of simplicity."
How beautiful. The discomfort I feel when I recognize the falseness in which I live is grace-a gift; God's roadsign for me on this path.

Even last night in the small Quakerism class, having prayed for God to guide my words and being more aware of letting God lead me, even then I felt the tension of too much speech as I left. I think God is telling me to shut up but I'm too busy talking to hear. I've never been a quiet person and I think God wants me to learn to listen and wait before speaking. I can not imagine anything harder for me to do. As my mom always said, "Mary Linda, you love the sound of your own voice." It's true. I love the facts and knowledge I have and love to give advice and share my wisdom and resources with others. It's all about me-not really about helping others. I love to speak of my experiences, telling stories about crazy, funny things that have happened to me. I love to make people laugh. But it's not about them, it's about me. It's all ego. It's all me, me, me. I don't really know how to listen. I'm too busy riffing puns to hear what others are saying to me.

I think God is trying to get me to understand that I can't really know compassion for others, I can't really love them, if I see them as vehicle to puff myself up in some way. I can't learn to serve God via service to my fellow humans if I'm always looking to interject a punchline into each interaction.

I'm not sure how to stop talking and listen more. For me, it's sort of like trying to break the habit of swallowing. How do I stop doing something that is so intrinsically a part of every moment of my waking life? Maybe this is part of my fantasies of living alone in my own "walden". I daydream a quiet life for myself, imagining the centered, calm, serene person I could be if only...
But this life, with three rowdy, rambunctious boys and me loudly in the center of it, this is real. I have to open myself to my center, find the stillness and accept the silence as Truth, within myself in this life.
Today, I will try to talk only when it is necessary. Today, I will listen with full attention as often as I am able. Today, I will try to be fully in each moment, aware of how my actions and speech reflect God's place in my life.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Testimony: Integrity

I've been aware of an uncomfortable feeling of late, not a fully realized discomfort, just a vague dis-ease. This morning I stayed in bed for a while praying and thinking about it and what I've come to understand is that I've been feeling that I've misrepresented myself of late. It's not that I've been lying to people or deceiving others or acting in a way that is false, so it's not really a misrepresentation of myself. What I think is that I have been representing only myself. Yes, that's it. I have been speaking for myself, from my experience. What's been missing, what is causing this unease, is that I have not been aware of God and how I represent God. I've been speaking from my ego rather than from my center-which is filled with God (always, whether I am aware of it, or not).

I am so dreading this upcoming work project. I've found myself thinking absolutely absurd things like "maybe if I break my leg I can get out of doing this gig" which I don't really want to have happen. I believe in the purpose of the work I do-I wouldn't do it if I didn't. I think social research is valuable to individuals, groups within our society, and society as a whole. The company I work for is the most respected social research organization in the world. The work I do is important and I'm good at it. But there is a great deal of pressure to perform in this job: We have quotas we have to fill and there is a lot of negativity and rejection (and dog bites, having the cops called and being cussed out) from the individual cases. It's a high stress job for me. Yes, I'm an extrovert. Yes, I like meeting people. Yes, I meet some really interesting people and learn fascinating things about them. But still, it's really high stress.

Monday evening we discussed the Pendle Hill pamphlet by Wilmer Cooper, The Testimony of Integrity in the Religious Society of Friends, in our Quakerism class. As we discussed using honorifics, I began thinking about my job and how I use "sir" and "ma'am" with people and how false I feel when I do. When doing projects in the past I've sorta kept my beliefs separate from my work. Not that I lie to any of my respondents or misrepresent the work or myself; I would not do that for any job. It's more that I am so afraid of loosing a respondent that I see each as a goal rather than as a person. I often speak falsely to respondents simply because I speak from my fragile, fearful ego rather than my Christ-filled center.

I started looking for a job last October. I sent my resume to bunches of prospective jobs. I was interviewed a couple of times but never got a second call. I have never had a hard time of finding a job in all my years of working. I know that I had some pretty rigid criteria for when I was able to work but even with that, it seemed harder than it should have been. In the past I'd always felt like God put me where I needed to be. This time I felt like I was on my own. Finally, I was offered this project and I felt I had no choice but to take it (the money is better than I can get doing anything else).

I've begun thinking that I'm going to be working on this project so I can learn the spiritual lesson I need to learn. I think I need to let go of the fear I associate with this job so I can meet each person I encounter and see the Light within ("namaste": the Spirit within me salutes the Spirit within you). I can't imagine how to let go of the fear unless I am able to center myself on God within me. I've been bitten by dogs on 3 occasions over the last few years. I've been yelled at and cursed and had nice people treat me very meanly. It hurts one's ego (and body) to have those things happen. I don't think I could get beyond those things on my own-not without years of intensive behavior therapy anyway. I have to trust that God, if I allow, will guide me. I have to let go of myself and "let God". Not my will but Thine. Even when it comes to requesting people to allow me into their homes to ask them intimate questions about their financial situation. Either I live with God at my center or I don't. If I live with God as my guide sometimes but forget at other times, I'm living falsely, untrue to what I know God wants for me. My recent discomfort tells me I need to make the next step, I need to center more fully, accept God at the core of being so I can live my life for God, not for myself.

I read about the "Hero's Journey" and wish for my "test". I long for my calling and now I see that all the time I'm living it. I'm the Hero of my story. My test is everyday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


"...You can use his higher power
In every day and any hour
He heals the sick and heals the lame
Says you can do it too in Jesus name"
-from Van Morrison's song, Whenever God Shines His Light On You.

I'm currently reading Marcus Borg's Jesus: A New Vision and Christopher Moore's book Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Both books are about the life of Jesus. Both books talk about his miracles.

I'm not sure what I think about miracles. I mean, I know that God can give power to humans and that, theoretically, miracles can happen. But do they? Did they? Do they still?

Some of Jesus' miracles seem to me to be symbolic, so the point isn't whether they literally happened but the stories of them happening, the context of the stories. I guess my doubt comes from whether Jesus would have needed to "prove" his divinity. What was Jesus' purpose? I disbelieve the passages of the apostles in which they have Jesus asserting his divinity. I believe Jesus knew himself to be a teacher and guide rather than an incarnation of the Divine. So, if he was a teacher, would he have healed? There are accounts of other spiritual leaders performing miracles, so I guess the answer is yes. My distrust in miracles comes from my inrooted cynicism about claims made "in God's name". I think only charlatans need to speak for God to give themselves power.

I went to a workshop on "hands-on healing" 6 months ago. Around the same time I met a woman who practices a form of healing-touch therapy. I used to be so cynical about that kind of thing. I couldn't stop myself from feeling that people who practiced acts like that were exceedingly gullible, desperate or false. I have difficulty suspending disbelief in things I can't understand. My feelings are that people who are "healed" have become so through their faith rather than any gift or talent on the part of the healer. Psychosomatic healing, if you will. On the other hand, I'm perfectly comfortable with the idea of people in other cultures experiencing healing from indigenous healers. Maybe the difference is that I need there to be a cultural context for healing to happen and my life is lacking in any of that kind of context.

My only connection to the "spirit world" is through my intuition, intellect and books. I've never been in any situation in which others were connecting to the healing of "spirit" or Divine Power (or, if I have been, I was so distanced from it emotionally, that I was unaware of what was happening). Our staid, calm, centered Meetings for Worship don't count. Yes, we are there to open ourselves to the Divine and be ready for God to speak through us, but acknowledging the existence of a spiritual realm beyond the veil of this material world seems very far from where we are when we collectively meet to worship God. I suspect that there are individuals who are aware of, or even "in touch" with, a deeper awareness of the spiritual realm but, for whatever reason, that is not brought to Meeting for Worship-maybe because it would scare the socks off most of the people (as it would have done me up until recently).

I must go get ready for today's bus ride.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Today's Practice: Waiting

Today is Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business. My membership in NFM will officially be recognized this morning. I will be acting as clerk of, what we on the ad hoc committee are recommending be a standing committee, "Electronic Communications"; presenting our findings and asking for support and guidance.

Hammy and I went out to a Turkish restaurant last night. He asked me a lot about Meeting for Business and my role in it. I tried to explain to him that it's not like a "normal" business meeting. We don't "hash out" ideas because, ideally, we're not attached to a particular outcome. I'm just beginning to understand the power and true joy of waiting for Spirit to guide us to unity. It's really hard for someone who has no experience of Divine leadings to understand. I tried to share with him that, for me, it's an amazing act to suspend my ego and let the will of God flow through me.

Today, I will try to let go of myself so that I am a conduit for God's will. Today, I pray for God to guide me and use me to do God's work. Today, I understand the purpose of Sabbath as a day to suspend the hustle-bustle of daily life and focus on allowing God's work to unfold.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Random Thoughts

I was going to write today about spiritual mentoring, but I need to set a while longer and let the idea steep. I also loaned out a book that I think I want to refer to and I'll have to borrow the NFM copy.

I'm reading a book Buddha Da by Anne Donovan. It's author is Scottish and it was written in Scottish vernacular, including alliterative spelling, which makes it formidable to read, but also a lot of fun. I'm finding that reading it out loud makes me better able to "go with the flow" of the language. The book is about a happily married father who begins to practice meditation at the Buddhist Center. His life is turned upside-down when he begins following his "inner guide" (although the book does not call it that) and living true to his integrity. I'm enjoying it, although it is creating a certain amount of tension for me because, in some ways, I'm having a similar experience.

We're going to a fire station today. The weather report says a high of 57 and sporadic drizzle. We'll need to leave the house at 12:30 in order to arrive at the station by 2:00. Declan's girlfriend, Patience, will be here at 4:00 so I've got to hurry home afterwards. This will be the first time, since going car-less, that we'll be out in the rain (on Wednesday I drove Hammy to work so we could get to the dentist in the pouring rain). I like rainy days but with the temp, we may get quite clammy. Fortitude!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clearness Committee for Membership

Last night was my clearness committee for membership. Penelope and Kate (a wonderful young mother who I am looking forward to becoming better friends with) were there (a young woman, actually a teen, was also to be on the committee but we were not able to contact her about the time and the meeting had already been postponed several times over the last month for various reasons so we felt the need to proceed).
Penelope said she'd been unable to find my letter to Ministry and Council so asked me to tell Kate a little about my process. I told her about my experiences with Friends Meeting over the last decade and about the reasons I had not been ready to commit prior to recently. I shared with her about my "calling" when I was in Chicago a year or so ago; about my feeling of agitation and discontent that I couldn't describe or even really identify. I said that intuitively I reached out to my spiritually aware women/mother friends and that it was at that point that I began organizing the Motherhood and Spirituality Retreats. I talked about needing to commit to a specific path and the Quaker (liberal) path is the one that speaks to my condition. I also talked a little about my frustration that the Quaker path is marked with little signs but that, for the most part, one is on one's own to find meaning out of experience.
I said that I want to become an "official" member of NFM because I want to learn to serve-to submit. I've always been vocal and very outspoken but that I need to learn to humble myself, to speak when directed, to submit my will to God's and symbolically to my spiritual community.
I want to go deeper into our faith and practice; I want to be accountable to others who will nurture and challenge me to bring out my spiritual gifts and help me develop my potential.
As we were drawing our meeting to a close, Penelope said that when Caroline brought my letter before Ministry and Council, the committee unanimously said "approved" when she finished reading it but they felt I should have the opportunity for a clearness committee for my own sake. I'm grateful to have been allowed the chance to express my process, my desires and expectations for myself and from the community.

We're leaving to walk to the bus so we can go to the science center this afternoon (generally, I find, that a trip which would take 20 minutes in a car takes 2 hours or so via bus with the walking to the bus stop). I'll post more about this tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee Day 3

We got home about 15 minutes ago. Hammy will be home in a few minutes and we'll leave again. Zed and I are volunteering at the main library tonight; doing a "traffic survey" which means just counting the number of people who walk in the door over two hours.

Our day was fine. We got to the meeting with the senator's staff an hour late. The conference room was full but we found seats. Mostly, the usual people were there saying the usual things. The staff was coolly polite-barely patient. Karl asked me if I wanted to speak so I said this:

"I homeschool my two younger children, my older one goes to public school. A couple of weeks ago, my 12 year old was learning about the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in one of his lessons. At the end of the assignment, he had to answer questions which included one that asked him to describe what he would suggest for a war memorial. He wrote that he would make a statue of a crying mother."
When I told that story, the room was completely quiet. I then told about Declan going to White's Creek High School, which is heavily recruited and next year going to School of the Arts, which is not and how wrong it is, how heartbreaking to me, that our government sees the kids at Whites Creek as expendable to society.
I did not get choked up this time. Whew.
We listened to a couple of other people and then we went to leave. Someone asked if Zed was the person who wrote about the statue and I said yes. The room all applauded him and Karl yelled out that Zed should be the next senator from Tennessee! Z got embarrassed but he was cool with it.

We then caught the bus back downtown and walked to the Arcade and ate at the "House of Pizza" because that's what the boys wanted (actually, they wanted Subway but I nixed eating at any chain restaurant).
When we finished eating, we walked to the library and checked out some books on report writing and I got the book on Judas by Elaine Pagels and Karen King which I am looking forward to reading.

We walked to the transit mall just in time to watch the 3:40 Bordeaux bus pull away (I actually ran a half a block and we still missed it!). We only had to wait 15 minutes for the next bus, although it was the bus with the route that makes us walk longer, but that's fine. Carmac actually fell asleep on the bus and slept until I woke him just before our stop. I carried him a little bit today but he walked over 2 miles!

Today wasn't bad, just tiring.

I got home to find out that Declan is going to be the fill-in drummer for a gig tonight at the Gibson Showcase. He's so stoked I'm almost shocked he hasn't combusted. It is a pretty big deal for a kid of 15 to play. I'm excited for him.

Tomorrow the kids and I have dental cleaning appointments. There's an 80% chance of rain. I'm not sure if we're going to brave the weather or if I'll drive Hammy to work and take his car. We'll see.

Car-Free in Tennessee Testimony of Integrity and Simplicity

Today Carmac and Zed will be going with me to Senators Corker and Alexander's offices for another "Peaceful Assembly" with several of our Quaker and Mothers Acting Up friends. We've already missed the earlier bus that would have gotten us there on time (I got the reminder email at 9:07 when I was still in my jammies-not enough time to get us all ready, dressed and walk to the bus stop for the 10:00 bus). The next bus is at 11:00. We'll get to the assembly about an hour late but better than not at all.

I want to write a little about this car-free experiment. I think it's becoming part of my simplicity and integrity testimonies.
But first, I think I want to explore what a testimony is...

I was raised Baptist. I'd always known a testimony to be an example for others to use as a guide. When a person "shared their testimony" it was always about how they'd been "sinners" and been "redeemed" by God's grace. Witnessing was always about calling people to Jesus, always about salvation.

What I'm doing with going car-free is very personal. Right now, this exploration is about my relationship with my world and God's world. I enjoy walking. I enjoy being close to the earth, to my neighborhood, to people. When I walk out the front door and get in my car and drive to the parking garage and enter a building, I'm not connected to anything except my immediate chore. But when I walk out my front door and across my lawn and onto the street, I'm immediately connected to my world. I hear the birds. I see that there's trash that's blown into the ditch by my mailbox that needs picked up. I wave at my neighbors as they drive by me (looking quizzically or with sympathy-sometimes turning around to offer us rides). Last week as we were walking home, my boys were leaning over a bridge looking at the creek when a beautiful teal duck flew out from under the bridge startling us and the duck. I feel the wind on my skin and really appreciate the warmth of the sunshine when I'm walking to the bus stop. I am aware of time passing in a way that's intimately connected to my body-I walk faster when I'm running late rather than speeding (which is healthier?!). My life is enhanced when I walk. I am grateful for roads and engines when I walk because I can imagine how long a trip downtown would have taken before there was the Bordeaux bridge, before there were so many cars.
So, going car-free is not, currently anyway, a testimony of example. Right now, this experiment is about me finding my balance with what is right for me in this modern world. God gave me feet, hands, ears and eyes. God also gave me the ability to make money. Right now, at this point, taking a job so that I can pay for a car does not feel right (although I will soon be working a job that requires me to drive extensively). Right now, getting closer to my world and my body feels right.

It's 10:23: Time to go catch the bus. More later!

Monday, April 9, 2007

"That's Heaven to Me"

In reference to the earlier post today, a little Sam Cooke:

(The Things that I see as I walk along the street
That's Heaven to Me)

A little flower that blooms in May
A lovely sunset at the end of a day
Someone helping a stranger along the way
(That's Heaven) that's heaven to me

The feeling I have when I hear a touching prayer
It makes me know the Lord is somewhere
Even the birds flying around in the air
That's Heaven to me

It doesn't have to be a miracle
In order for me to see, I know
The goodness of my, my Savior
Is everywhere to me, wo wo wo

Even the children playing in the street
Saying friendly hello to everyone that they meet
Even the leaves blowing out, blowing out, blowing out
blowing out on the tree
(That's Heaven) that's heaven to me

Christ Jesus my Teacher

Yesterday was Easter. As liberal Quakers, we at NFM don't do much around the resurrection of Jesus. During Meeting for Worship, someone will usually rise and give a message about Jesus (natch) and the kids may dye eggs and read a book about the Easter story but that's about it.

I am a follower of Jesus because of his life and teachings.
I believe that each of us has "that of God" within; some of us are not at all aware of the Divine, some in a state of awakening and some are more "enlightened" but the Light, the Christ, lives in each of us. Jesus, I believe, is one of a handful of people throughout time who had a more intimate, immediate awareness of the Divine within and without. I interpret Jesus' teachings (including those written of in some of the Gnostic Gospels, especially those of Mary Magdalen and Thomas) as helping us to understand God permeating all of life. Jesus frequently mentioned "the kingdom of God" in his teachings. "Basileia tou Theou" is how it is written in Greek. I prefer the interpretation "realm of God". Jesus said, "The realm of God is now," and "The realm of God is within you." To me, this means that God infuses everything-including me and you and all living things. There is no "pie in the sky" heaven...heaven is now. The "peaceable kingdom" is now. God's reign is now.

Most Christians believe in Christ because of the resurrection. To me, the resurrection is irrelevant. Whether Jesus died, was entombed and then arose 3 days later to ascend to heaven does not really matter, or, if it does matter, I think it's significance is as a metaphor for enlightenment rather than as an actual physical occurrence.

My mother thinks I'm a heretic and prays for my salvation.

My brother called me yesterday. We had a short, funny conversation in which he said he was glad I didn't die in surgery and that he has plans to live forever which seem to be working. We talked about public transportation and then Easter. We share the mind-set that we don't believe in God for some eventual reward: Heaven. I said I believe in God because God is. (He told me that's very "Spinoza." I'm no scholar and wouldn't know Spinoza from spaghetti, but I guess he meant it as a good thing).

I believe in God because God is. God created all, is all. God is life. I am a follower the Christ Jesus because Jesus teaches me to understand. I believe Jesus was divine but I believe we are all divine in that we are all created in God's image; we are all children of God.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

All Paths

I am of the firm belief that whatever path one is walking, it's the right path for them. Lately, I've read in several places the refutation of the belief that "All paths lead to the same place" meaning, it doesn't matter what your spiritual beliefs are, we're all gonna wind up in the same place (I suppose they mean heaven) in the end. My meaning of "whatever path one is walking, it's the right path for them" is not at all the same as the other. What I mean is that whatever one is doing in one's life, whatever "mistakes" one has made, whatever successes one has had, those experiences are exactly the lessons that individual needed for hers or his spiritual journey. But I also believe that we must take responsibility for our actions and choose God. Every day, every moment, we are given the opportunity to accept awareness of God. Many times each day we are given choices to act according to what's right for us or wrong for us (and by right or wrong, I don't mean sinning in any conventional sense; rather, more like choosing what is healthy and good for us and for others according to our "inner voice"). When we choose what is right and good (for us) we're drawing ourselves closer to God (enlightenment, if you will). When we choose what is wrong (ego), we remain distant from God, but we're allowing ourselves the opportunity for a lesson that may be somehow helpful in our lives.
It is possible for a person to go through hers or his whole life and never choose "right"; to stay in the dark, unaware of God or unwilling or unable to acknowledge God.
I don't know what happens after we die. I lean toward heaven/nirvana/enlightenment being a state in which one lives in full awareness of God's presence in the world: The veil has been lifted and one is aware that God is ALL.
Hell would, by contrast, be blindness to God's presence-the loneliness of life lived unconnected.
I have two friends who have worked with people who were dying: One is a hospice chaplin and the other worked in a nursing home and "midwifed" the transition from this realm to the next with many elderly people. Both have said the same thing: That a person seems to die the same way they lived. If one lives one's life closed and fearful or selfish and ego-centric, one will die the same way. If one lives one's life as if life is a joyous adventure, one will die that way. Conscious living=conscious dying.
Because we have free will-because we can freely choose to act according to God, all paths do not lead to the same place: We are free to choose God or to reject God, we can be righteous or fearful.
My intuition leads me to lean toward reincarnation making sense. My reasons will be for another post but I can only think (hope) that those who choose blindness will have another go-round to find God.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee Day 2

It's 4:35. I've been home 35 minutes. I'm so tired I could happily go to bed for the night (can't, though, because I'm making a huge batch of fried chicken and a couple of salads to take to Hammy's folk's house tomorrow for an early Easter dinner). Today went as badly as yesterday went well.

We left the house at 12:40 to catch the 12:59 bus. Stupidly, I wore woven, thick-soled clogs. We crossed the rain-swollen creek and walked the 2 blocks to the bus stop. The bus wasn't there so we slowly walked the 4 blocks to the intersection of the main road. We waited until about 10 after and the bus didn't arrive. I decided that we'd just cross the street and go to Kroger to get our grocery shopping out of the way (I'd brought a large tote and a wheeled old lady grocery carrier thingy). We rushed through the grocery shopping and hurried to the other bus stop-the bus stop that the bus goes by whichever route the bus goes. We waited long enough for Carmac to be able to eat a protein bar. The bus was 5 or so minutes late-no biggie, except that, because we'd missed the earlier bus, which would have gotten us to the field trip 1/2 hour early, we would now be arriving just in time. So, the bus came, we rode there, Zed pulled the bell a block early so we had to walk an extra block (we could have told the bus driver that we wanted off on the next corner but I thought Zed would be more careful if he had to learn from experience).
We got to the police precinct just at 2:00.

(I found the field trip was interesting. The little kids were bored to death by it but Zed and the adults seemed to enjoy it.)

A friend was supposed to be coming over when she got off work sometime after 3:00 so I'd planned on catching the 2:37 bus but the field trip lasted longer than expected so we walked the block to the bus stop for the 3:17 bus. We got there probably 7 minutes early and waited. The sun was hidden by clouds and the wind was getting very brisk (it's currently 44 degrees outside). 3:17 passed and then 5 minutes and 5 more minutes. I called Nashville MTA and asked a customer service rep who told me the bus was running 15-20 minutes late. What? Why? No idea. The whole route doesn't take much more than 20 minutes when I ride it. So we waited on the corner of a busy street, in quite chill wind for 30 minutes. My question is this: If I hadn't had a cell phone to call MTA to find out the bus was running late, at what point does one give up waiting and seek refuge from the cold or just start walking home? Especially when one has a 4 year old who's saying he needs to use the restroom and there's not one anywhere nearby. How do people do it?

In the past, on the occasions when we've ridden the bus and Carmac has needed to use the restroom, we've been lucky enough that there's been a 20-30 minute gap between our arriving bus and the connecting bus and we've walked down the street to the State Museum building and used the restrooms there. I am fully aware of the fact that me and my children look like nice, white, middle class people. We do not look homeless. We do not look "dangerous" or likely to disrupt anyone's comfort zone. I suspect that other mothers, ones who appear less "advantaged" by our society, might find the guards at TPAC to be less likely to allow them entry. I don't know what those mothers do when their toddler children need to use the bathroom. Maybe that's part of the cause for the overwhelming smell of urine in some areas around the Downtown Transit Mall.

Anyway, the bus was running the main #22 route so we got off where we embarked earlier and walked the mile home. I'm tired. Carmac's tired, too. All the people at the field trip offered us a ride home, which I declined. I think I offended one of them but telling her no but I need to commit to this experiment. I need to think of this as the only option. If it were raining or if one of the kids weren't feeling well, I'd of taken someone up on the ride, but we're fine. Waiting and walking aren't hardships. I don't want to think of them as such. I must embrace this life change in order for it to work for us.

Question Authority? Please, don't!

Question authority-but not mine. Haw-haw.

Actually, I've been resting uneasily with this slogan for some time. When I was younger, I embraced this as my right, but as I get older I question the wisdom of it.

Let me start off by saying that politically-I'm an anarchist. More descriptively, I'm a libertarian leftist according to "Political Compass" ( I'm more left than Gandhi and almost bottom out at the libertarian end of the scale. So, my leanings are toward individual self-regulation. Maybe because the Political Compass quiz only asks about large-scale positions, and doesn't use more personal or localized examples, I'm so anarchist. I am against the current administration and "Big Brother" with every ounce of my being. But, I respect our local mayor (he's not perfect but I believe him to be a good man).
I don't think all authority should be questioned always on principal just because they are authorities. Neither do I think authority should be thoughtlessly accepted and obeyed. I guess, what I believe is that, in some rare situations, authority must be obeyed-yes, just because it is authority- but generally authority should lead from a position of relationship built on trust. It is up to us to find and encourage those leaders we can and will trust. Cops are not the enemy just because they represent authority. Laws are not, in and of themselves, bad things. Yes, there are some bad laws and some bad cops (and bad politicians and bad clergy and bad just about everything you could think of-including anarchist "it's all good" hippies) but that doesn't make cops or laws or anything intrinsically bad.

I used to occasionally drive past a Universalist Unitarian church who's marquee read: "To Question is the Answer". I totally disagree with that. To question one's assumptions is often good and necessary but it is no answer. To question is the beginning. To keep an open mind and a willingness to keep growing but to stand for something greater than oneself is ideal, to me. But to question for questionings sake is ridiculous. To believe that questioning is any kind of answer seems very selfish and immature, to me.

I have a bunch of friends who have raised their children to question authority. To me, questioning authority without thought is as wrong and potentially dangerous as accepting authority without thought. The young people seem to believe that all authority is wrong so they have a right to question everything said by every person with any kind of implied position of authority. One kid, who was in First Day School at NFM years ago, about drove me crazy. I'd try to lead a discussion about something-Quaker history, global warming, the parks department-and, whatever it was, he would question everything I would say, ask or suggest. We couldn't have any kind of linear discussion because his interrogational questioning derailed all attempts.
I've had a bunch of kids like this in homeschooling classes, too. In encouraging their kids to be think freely, to never accept anything at face value, these parents are denying their kids an understanding of basic respect for others-the teachers and the other students. Let's assume that if a parent voluntarily puts a kid in a class (homeschooling, First Day School, whatever) that parent trusts the teacher. If the parent trusts the teacher, the teacher is probably pretty trustworthy-not perfect or infallible but earnest and sincere (and, I might add, willing to do something that other people are not). There's a lot I don't know. When I'm teaching a class, I'm always happy to have other people-kids or adults-interject more about the subject or project to give more information. That's what's cool about homeschooling groups, we SHARE experiences and information. But there's a big difference between sharing and questioning. Questioning implies that the teacher is wrong simply because the teacher is presenting information to a group of others. Questioning suggests that a willingness to put oneself out is, in itself, enough "authority" to corrupt the teacher and make her "the man". Very little positive can happen in that environment.
I would say that maybe the problem rests with me; that I have never learned how to create a positive dynamic, earning the respect of the students so they trusted me and were willing to participate, but I know that's not the case. I've seen these "question authority" type people in other situations, with other teachers, do the same thing. I've been in classes in which the majority of the kids were of this mind-set and, let me tell you, nothing happens unless the kids get so bored with the class that apathy reigns and the teacher can then lead uninterrupted, but that's not a fun and engaged learning environment. The questioning seems especially wrong when one considers that the learning environments I have experienced this in have all been "democratic" meaning that the kids freely chose to participate. Why choose to be in a situation and then question everything about that situation?

OK-rant over. See ya later!

Car-Free in Tennessee Day 1

Well, day one went very well. We left the house with plenty of time; got to the bus stop 10 minutes early and had to wait closer to 20 for the bus to arrive because it was late. The ticket box on the bus didn't want to take my $5 bill and the driver was surly about it, like I was deliberately doing something wrong. It finally did take my money on the 10th attempt but I wonder what the bus driver would have done if it hadn't: Put us out? Let us ride free?
Yesterday was very chilly with a high of 54. I couldn't find Carmac's jacket so I put two shirts, his hat and gloves on him and figured he'd be fine. Zed dressed himself in shorts, a tee shirt and light jacket (against my advice) and both boys were very chill waiting for the bus in the morning. By afternoon it had warmed up and they were fine.
We got to our classes fine and about 20 minutes early so we had time to rest before the others showed up.
I forgot to bring the bus schedule with me to know what time the buses left for our return trip. I called Hammy, at work, to ask him to look up the MTA website and tell me. I've been reading bus schedules practically my whole life but I guess this was his first time doing so. It took him a while to but he found what I needed to know. We caught the #10 Charlotte and arrived ONE MINUTE past when the #22 Bordeaux should have left. Zed and I were just discussing whether to walk to the library during the 40 minute wait before the next #22 came when the earlier bus showed up, apparently late (yeah!). Honest to goodness, the bus driver was Kenny Rogers or his clone! Gorgeous silver hair and beard-actually a little thinner than Kenny at his "prime" in the late 70s. This bus driver was very nice and helpful. We lucked into riding the bus that actually takes us closest to our house (there are 3 routes for the #22 and I don't plan which one I'm going to take I just plan to walk a mile and see what happens). We got off at the stop closest to our house-about 6 blocks away and then Zed showed the the amazing SHORTCUT!! If we walk to the end of the dead end road, we come to a creek. He showed me the path to get over the creek and up the bank and VOILA! our house was just across the street! The shortcut takes about 4 blocks off the walk!

Today we're taking a field trip to the North Police Precinct at 2:00. I have to stop at Kroger on the way home to pick up groceries. I'll post about this tomorrow...

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Car-free in Tennessee

Today is our first day, since my surgery, of venturing out of the house without a car. We have our homeschool cooperative classes today and have to be at the Meetinghouse at 10:00 to unlock the door. In order to get there on time, we need to leave the house about 8:00. We'll be walking a mile to the bus stop (I'm allowing 37 minutes for the walk. I usually walk a mile in 20 minutes but I will be walking very slowly because I'm still sore from the surgery), taking the bus downtown, transferring to another bus that will take us to a stop a couple of blocks from the Meetinghouse. We should be there precisely at 10. This plan works contingent on the buses being on time, the stuff I have to carry (supplies for classes, lunches, things that other's have left at classes in weeks past that have to be returned, etc.) not being too heavy and nobody needing to use the bathroom en route. I mean, the plan will work because it has to work but it's a lot more comfortable when everything goes smoothly. I must go finish getting ready.
Update tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Bright Red Mohawk

I walked to the mailbox yesterday to find that a strangely shaped package had arrived from England. Turned out to be the hair dye Declan had ordered (I'm not at all sure why he ordered from a company in England...probably just so he could say he did). The day he ordered the dye, I bought him some hair bleach. Of course, he was driven to get it done last night, so I helped him. As he only has a strip of hair about an inch wide and 3 inches long that runs from his forehead to the nape of his neck in what is known as a "Mohawk", the bleaching and dying process weren't too difficult. I love that prickly, funny, passionate kid.
As I was squeezing the bleach concoction onto his hair I thought about the fact that I've always wondered about how I would be as mother to a daughter as I'm so totally inept when it comes to fixing hair. It occurred to me that having a punk son is very satisfying.
When we were done with the coloring, he asked me to shave the sides. I don't like the mess or the way the electric razor makes my hands tingle but I do love shaving him because it's the only time he allows me close enough to touch him. We talk openly about things. I found out last night that he and his old girlfriend have gotten back together.
She's interesting. She lives in another state and they met at a Quaker youth retreat. Before I met her, a couple of people who knew her came up to me and told me that Dex's new girlfriend looks like me. When I met her, she walked up to me, stuck her finger in my face and said, totally serious, "I do not look like you". I thought she was joking, although she didn't introduce herself; she just marched away. Turned out that she wasn't joking. They dated for almost a year and not once, in that whole time, was she ever cordial or polite to me. I went waaaaay out of my way on several occasions to drive to pick her up so they could spend some time together and not once did she ever say so much as "thanks". Needless to say, I was not terribly happy when D told me they got back together. He said he talked to her about how she'd spoken to me and that she had been unaware of having been rude. We'll see if anything changes. I explained to him (again) that his life is a lot easier if I can feel comfortable and trust the people he hangs out with. When they're rude to me and antagonistic, it only makes me less likely to be willing to drive them around or go out of my way to facilitate them being together.
One thing about her, and all the girls Dec has dated, they're all very strong, very sure of themselves, intelligent, independent young women. My son is definitely attracted to feminists and I couldn't be any prouder! He also is very accepting of variations in gender identification. Although he has only ever dated girls and doesn't really seem to be attracted to guys, I think he identifies as bi, as do several of his close friends, on principle, I think.
We may clash on a lot of things-I drive him crazy, he drives me crazy-but I think he's growing into a really neat young man. I think one day, when he no longer needs to reject what I stand for, he's going to take all his negative energy and use it to make positive changes in the world. One of these days he will find his cause-some injustice in the world that he believes is worth fighting for-and he will be a powerful force.

Oh yeah, as a footnote: After we were all done with his hair, he was standing in the livingroom showing it off to Hammy, he said he'll probably go to school and get beat up and then suspended. I initially thought it would be because he is the only punk in his school but he said no, it's because his hair is red-the color of one of the gangs. Oh my goodness, what kind of a world is this when a 15 year old punk kid can't dye his mohawk mercurochrome red without the authorities thinking he's a "Blood" (or is it "Crip"?)? I hope he doesn't get beaten up. If school authorities do mess with him I'm happy to take them on. No one is less likely to be part of a gang than my kid-anarchist that he is. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sense of the Meeting

Last night was the 3rd Quakerism class. We studied the pamphlet "Beyond Consensus: Salvaging Sense of the Meeting" by Barry Morley. I have to admit that only within the last year did I really begin to understand "sense of the Meeting" and what it meant; prior to that I had used that and consensus interchangeably.

One thing that was reinforced for me, in reading the pamphlet, is about waiting on Spirit to give a sense of the Meeting. Waiting is hard sometimes, especially if one has a desired outcome. For sense of the Meeting to work, we have to let go of ego and accept the will of God: Not mine, but thine. (I sure wish I'd understood that years back when Nashville Friends Meeting was in beginning the process of looking at the space needs of our growing community-we did, eventually, move into a larger building). On the other hand, if all are in unity, willing and able to put aside individual desires, I think sense of the Meeting can be a beautiful, spiritual and even efficient process.
Our Meeting for Worship for the Conduct of Business has been combined with our "normal" Meeting for Worship" in the last six months. I am enjoying and appreciating the opportunity to strengthen and deepen my awareness of Spirit in our community through allowing us all to learn to worship God by waiting and serving; I think it gives us a new dimension to worship.
Having read the pamphlet I was made aware of the need to allow Spirit time to let the process unfold as God wills. At the beginning of each of our combined M.f.W.f.t.C.o.B., the clerk announces that the Meeting will be held to 100 minutes (or something like that) of which, 20 are spent settling into silent contemplation of the query. We will have M for B on the 3rd Sunday. I am going to be aware of the flow of time and Spirit. I remember a vague sense of hurrying to get to all the items on the M for B agenda last month and I want to become more aware of the unfolding of the process.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Motherhood and Spirituality Retreat

Motherhood and Spirituality Retreat
Sunday, April 22

Trust and Truth: Friendships

9:00-Time to gather and attend to practical considerations
9:30-Getting to know you: Best friends at 10
10:00-Discussion: Betrayal and healing-letting go of expectations
1:00-Finding myself: Rediscovering my Truth
2:30-Time for Stillness
3:30-Opening myself to Trust
5:00-Time to clean-up and depart

Please bring with you:
~a potluck dish
~a physical symbol of a friendship
~clothing appropriate for a walk in the woods
~your warm heart and open mind

As always, lap-babies are welcome.
Please let me know of your intent to participate by April 16th.
The cost per individual is $20.00 or whatever you can afford. Penuel Ridge Retreat Center

7 Days Without Praying Makes One Weak

Bwaa-haa-haa! Don'tcha just LOVE the wisdom of church marquees?
But, as I sat down to write, the above is what came to me, I guess because it's been a week since I blogged. One week ago, I was on an operating table at Baptist Hospital having my gallbladder removed (I feel tired and sore but very well, thank you for asking). Several times in the past week I've sat down to blog and just haven't felt...let us just say, inspired.
I've had great difficulty being aware of the Divine this past week. I have faith that God is always here, always with me. I believe that I live with God every moment. I have frequent, intellectual reminders of my belief but I can't seem to move beyond glimpses of how I want to abide in awareness.
Physical discomfort seems to be a big point of distraction for me. My mind cannot settle if I feel discomfort or pain, I'm not sure why. I believe that God created our bodies as well as our souls. Ideally, I guess I'd be able to use physical sensation as a reminder of God-a physical mantra in a way, but instead, my mind is like a bird trapped in a small room full of windows.
So again, I begin anew. In this moment I will be aware of the presence of God. In this moment I will see myself as more than just this woman who still has 6 out of the 9 things left to do from today's "to do" list. In this moment I am aware of how I reflect God. In this moment, God's will, not mine. Maybe I will get to a point in which this moment will link with other moments and I will actually live in accord with my beliefs. For now, this moment is the one that matters.