Month: November 2013

Did you know?


If you knew what you know, would you have become a mother?

Would you have signed up for the crusty noses, the vomit and the poop?
Would you have applied for the drama, the losses and the back talk?
Would you have agreed to the driving, the scheduling, and the planning?
Would you have understood the worry, the guilt, and the anxiety?

If you knew what you know, would you have become a mother?

I have seen mothers lose their babies at birth and hold them until they could hold them no longer.

I have seen mothers serve as advocates for their child with special needs. Driving vans for wheelchairs, their trunks full of medication. They blog, argue and work for the rights of their child.

I have seen mothers sit for hours at recitals and at meets and on bleachers, losing entire days to watch their child run, or kick, or leap, or sing.

I have seen mothers battle cancer, some winning others losing. I have seen them fight for their marriages, some winning others losing. I have seen them come face to face with their own mortality and wonder, “what about my children?”

I have seen adult mothers tend to their adult children. Looking out like wise eagles, ever-present, always watching.

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. It requires perseverance. It demands a sense of humor. You will not succeed without other mothers, young and old to show you the way and encourage you along. You have to be willing to be in the poop and know that there is nowhere else you would rather be.

Your mother is always with you. She is the sun on your face on a warm day. She’s the extra blanket on your bed. She’s the voice that says you should probably not eat another cookie and to check your hair. She believes in you without hesitation. She’s your biggest fan and your toughest critic. She loves you to the moon and back.




The Artist is changing pallets.

Naked branches provide a new landscape.

Deep shades of blues, purple, periwinkle
cover the sky like blobs of tempera.

Bright colors fade.
The earth slumbers under a blanket of browns.

Crisp winds brush past
dabbing cheeks pink.

It’s a time of turning inward.
To the dormant and the quiet.

Allow life to change color.
Pay attention.

You too are being recreated.


Devotional: The Three Orangutans


There once were three orangutans who loved to swing through the trees and jump over and on top of each other and play tug of war. They were well-known in the forest. Their reputation preceded them. They had a way of showing up uninvited and could ruin any party. Once they had arrived, it was nearly impossible to get them to move on.

The first orangutan’s name was Fear. Fear was the largest of the three. Fat. He would lumber in and plop down right in the middle of a path that some creature of the forest was planning to take. He would just plop down there and put his figures in his ears and his toes in his nose as orangutans do, and the one on the journey would be stuck and unable to walk around the big creature. Fear was in the way.

If one would approach this big hunk of fur, he would look at you with eyes of worry as if to say, “I wouldn’t go that way if I were you. There are scary things down that path, you best turn around, or just stay here with me and enjoy sucking these ants on the ground.” Fear could not be moved. He was too big. Many creatures in the forest have never reached their destinations because of that big, ol orangutan.


The second orangutan was beautiful, and he knew it. His name was Ego. Ego could fly higher than any other orangutan. He loved to show his power and skill wherever he went. Ego liked to sit on the head’s of other forest creatures and cover their eyes so they couldn’t see where they were going. He would sit up there and laugh and laugh, covering their eyes, moving them in the direction he wanted them to go, preventing them from seeing any other creature in the forest. He loved to manipulate all of the decisions in the forest. Once Ego landed on another’s head, it was nearly impossible to get him off. He felt important there you see and he was certain he knew the direction every forest creature should take. Many creatures found themselves walking blindly through the forest because of Ego.


The third orangutan was a little thing. But don’t let her size fool you. She was little and she appeared to mean well. Her name was Attachment. Attachment liked to cling to the legs of her fellow forest creatures. She was so little and cute at first the other animals didn’t seem to mind her. “What difference would it make if she came along?” the would ask. “Maybe we need her.” Attachment would snuggle in and look up with her big eyes and convince whomever she was clinging to that they could not live without her. Slowly, one would try to get Attachment to get off and move on. But by then she was so wrapped around the creature’s leg that it was nearly impossible to peel her off. Many creatures found themselves burdened by Attachment’s constant presence.

Fear, Ego and Attachment. Those three orangutans. Have you seen them lately? They like to play with each other, you see. In fact often you see them together looking for some creature in the forest to harass. If you see them, you cannot run away from them, they are too conniving for that. You must acknowledge them. They don’t know what to do if you acknowledge them. Most creatures like to avoid them and pretend they aren’t there. But that only makes them want to play more. Once you acknowledge them, stroke their heads. Tell them you recognize them for who they are and that they aren’t bad orangutans and you know they mean well. After they receive a little attention, be still. Very, very still. Like a tree or the wind. Be mindful in your stillness. Breathe and be content with where you are. Be grounded. The orangutan will wonder, “what are you are doing? Why aren’t you playing? Where did you go?” They will find that in your stillness you aren’t willing to play. And slowly, Fear will get up and lumber away. Ego will jump down and scamper off. And Attachment will step away. And you will be free.

That Quail Robert, by Margaret Stranger

“The enclosed package is for you to open after you leave Iowa, on the road to Indiana,” my friend Barbara wrote. By this point in the move my house was full of many little things that needed attention and a place to assure that they were not forgotten and were easily accessible. Insurance information, birth certificates, medical forms, mortgage information all were placed in huge accordion file and placed in the passenger seat of my car. Cards and well wishes, gift cards and sentimental items were all carefully placed in plastic bins. Although not essential for a move, these sentiments were important and not to be misplaced. The last loads of laundry, the final travel bags, with toothbrushes, and contact solution, were all gathered up and stuffed in the back of the car. At last the work was done. I took one last, long look around an empty house, and went to the kitchen counter to pick up the last three remaining items. My purse. My keys. And “That Quail, Robert.” I put the little book in my purse, turned, and thanked the big house for carrying my children, said a prayer, and walked out the door.

I didn’t open the book for two months.

I put the book in a special place in our new sun room. It’s the only book in there and it looks pretty next to wicker and sunlight. Plus I can pretend that Barbara is visiting when I see the book. Eventually I decided that the book was not given to me for aesthetic purposes and that I should read it. I found little corners of time to curl up with tea and a blanket and read this old, best seller of a time long ago and the intriguing story of a little bird who befriended humans.

Stranger writes as a psychologist. She observes people and she observed Robert as if she (spoiler alert!) were a person. Stranger uses lovely descriptions so one can almost pretend they are at Cape Cod, caring for a quail, watching it drink V8 juice and sleeping in a red velvet hat. The enduring part of the book is how the people cared for this little bird. Life was just normal, you see, until this unexpected visitor took up permanent residence in their life. She filled a void that they didn’t know was there. She put joy in their lives.

As I read, I wondered, “Of all books, why did Barbara give me this one? What was she trying to teach me?” I could see Barbara through the whole book. She is this wise, funny, insightful woman whom one feels privileged to know. She’s one of those people who makes you feel good about yourself, when you think it’s your job to go care about her – she’s really caring for you. So, if Barbara gives you a book, you know there’s something she is wanting to show you, and one better pay attention.

Here is the gift I received:

Life changes pretty fast. Change is what it is.

But the pace of life needn’t match the changes in life. The pace of life can be of our choosing.

We can give our kids a bath, and be done with it. Or we can pour in some bubbles and find a favorite book, and offer a drink with a crazy straw and we can sit and read to our child while they make bubble mountains. We can get breakfast put together and get to school and get started with the day, or we can smell the toast, lick the strawberry jam off the knife and notice that the birds start to sing before the sun rises. We can finish our day before it begins, or we can move at the pace of the day and be attentive to gift that it is. It’s a gift. Every day. It’s a gift.

Thank you, Barbara.