Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015


For the past several months, "forgiveness" has been on my mind and I have been looking for as much information as possible about what it means and how to go about arriving at this place called "forgiveness".

Do I have to be asked for forgiveness before I begin the work of forgiving?

Do I have to be in relationship with a person in order to be able to forgive?

Is forgiveness for me or for the other?


For a long time, I said to myself, "I don't even have to think about forgiveness until I'm asked for it". That way of thinking just left me nothing to do with my hurt and anger. Those feelings are big and heavy. So I decided I had better get at least a little curious about forgiveness.

I read some articles (which I won't even bother to link because they were so ridiculous) to the effect of "Forgiveness in so-many easy steps". They were good for a laugh, but just not consistent with my experience and not helpful.

I went looking for books on forgiveness, and I'll have to say, I didn't find anything very good. I'm sure good books on the subject are out there (because I am pretty sure most of life's answers are in books). I just didn't happen to find them.

But then I found helpful thoughts on forgiveness in very unlikely places entirely by accident. It is such an important piece of the human experience, that I found threads of it everywhere! When reading a bedtime story to my children:
Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing.

And a ridiculous thing, too.

Isn't it ridiculous, after all, to think that a son could forgive his father for beating the drum that sent him to his death? Isn't it ridiculous to think a mouse could ever forgive anyone for such perfidy?

But still, here are the words Despereaux Tiling spoke to his father. He said, "I forgive you, Pa."

And he said those words because he sensed that it was the only way to save his own heart, to stop it from breaking in two. Despereaux, reader, spoke those words to save himself. (From: The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo)
Right there in a children's book, pretty much all my questions answered. Forgiveness is powerful and wonderful and ridiculous (I had suspected so) and it's for ME. It isn't a gift to the other. It isn't about letting the other off the hook. Rather it is letting myself off the hook, preventing my own heart from breaking. Big, huge wisdom in that children's bedtime story.

A friend recommended Jan Karon's Mitford series for a fun read. It is fun, and very, very sweet and wise. Father Tim, the main character, is an Episcopal priest in the small town of Mitford. As he takes care of his flock, he has a great deal of exposure to people who are suffering. He even talks quite a bit about his own pain and his process of forgiving his father. It struck me that Father Tim is in his 60's and has been carrying around his hurt and anger for decades. Though his father passed long ago, Father Tim still finds himself unexpectedly heart-broken over and over again and having to work through his thoughts and feelings yet again. This reminded me of what I already knew, that forgiveness can take a long, long time and that it is not a straight and direct path. Hurt and anger pop up over and over again. Even when you think you've worked through it and you are over it all, there it is again and there is more work to do.

I also decided to look in some of the books I already know I love in case there were some goodies I had missed back when I wasn't thinking about forgiveness.

From Anne Lamott:

“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You're done. It doesn't necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare...” (From: Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
(From: Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)
Ah, well.....yes, forgiveness as a giving up, a letting go. Letting MYSELF go from the nightmare. Stop poisoning MYSELF.

And of course I got out all the Pema Chodron books, and wouldn't you know they all said exactly the right things? I couldn't quote them all. I will say it again because I could never say enough times, I highly recommend keeping When Things Fall Apart on the bedside table and reading it again and again. My particular take-aways from re-reading my Pema collection are the ideas of leaning into difficult feelings and being curious about the human experience of grief, anger, forgiveness, etc. Rather than trying to fix things when I experience hard times, I am working on just paying attention and learning about this piece of the human experience. Also, I am learning to appreciate ALL of it, because it all comes together to make life rich.

I am not so sure anymore that forgiveness is a destination. I think it is a practice, one that I will be called to repeatedly and forever. My reading confirmed everything I have learned from experience.  Sometimes I will be in a good place and other times I will feel like I have made no progress at all. Though the practice is hard, I feel committed to it because it is important, heart and life saving work FOR ME and there are times I experience an opening, a softening which just feels easier and lighter.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Expectations and holiday cheer

My only criteria for having a successful holiday is that I remain a sane and likeable person throughout. I start holiday preparations early. I keep them simple. I set the expectation for myself that holidays are not about the gifts, the decorations, or the food. They are about creating connection and good feeling. I keep in mind that my family is going to be exactly who they are on that day, just as they are every other day. Maybe the best self will show up, maybe not, we cannot know. But there is not any reason to believe that all will be perfect: the decorations, the food, the gifts, the people. It will be what it is and I will enjoy whatever it is, because.....why not?

So, this season, I thoroughly enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. All four days. I did not begin any Christmas preparations in the middle of Thanksgiving. I just fully enjoyed the first before even thinking about the next.

At the beginning of December, we got out the advent calendar, the stockings, the nativity set. We read Christmas books at bedtime. The kids played with their nativity set. We made plans about what goodies to bake for Santa. We began crafting, making gifts for our friends and family. We spent a week or so in blissful creative mode together, loving every moment. It felt really good, like a little taste of holiday cheer.

Then there was a week that it seemed every morning when I woke up to check in with the world via email or facebook, I would be in tears. A mama friend received a cancer diagnosis. A friend's infant son who had been ill his whole life, passed away. A friend, a single mother, lost her job two weeks before Christmas. A friend going through divorce, facing Christmas as a single parent for the first time. Reading the news, which I can just barely stand to read even on good days, became entirely unbearable that week. I became overwhelmed with sadness and found myself saying, "No fair! And seriously, at Christmas time?".

Which reminded me that it isn't just in my little corner of the world that small things may not be perfect for the holidays. It's everyone, it's everywhere, and sometimes it's really big things. Holiday is real, of course, but there is so much more.

This year, this season, I am feeling this complicated jumble of grief and sadness and "no fair"ness and hopelessness and hopefulness and gratitude and compassion and love. It's a lot all at once. It really is. But if I can hold it all at once, all of it, it is a full and rich experience. True to life. True to every season, holiday or otherwise.

Sending love and warmest holiday wishes to all! See you next year!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

No poo update

I have had so much fun learning about no shampoo hair care! Considering that I am learning how to do almost nothing to my hair, I have to laugh at how much I read about this. And truly, there is quite a bit to learn, play with and figure out in order to be successful at it. It's just fascinating to me that this works!

I started my no-poo journey using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I did experience a transition phase where my roots were greasy. It wasn't bad enough that anyone but me noticed it and it only lasted a couple weeks. I wear my hair back most of the time anyway, so it was really no big deal. I also noticed some flakiness. I have never had dandruff or flakes, so I had to read about this. This is how I understand it now. If you notice large flakes and a dry scalp, that is dandruff. Small powdery white stuff is from a buildup of sebum or perhaps even the buildup from your shampoo/conditioner sloughing off slowly. So because my roots were oily, I was having a buildup of sebum. I know it sounds kind of gross. Maybe you are wishing I hadn't mentioned it. But I don't want people to freak out and give up if they notice this sort of thing. It's no cause for a freak-out. It really will pass.

I used to have a slight wave to my hair, very slight. I wish I could show you a before picture, but I am the one taking the pictures usually and I can't find a picture with me in it! My hair also had a tendency to be dry and maybe a bit frizzy. I almost never wore it down because it would get in my face and annoy me.

When I began no-poo, I started having lovely waves. It is darn near curly! Without residue from my haircare products, my hair feels much lighter, dries faster, feels softer, and looks noticeably better. I no longer need any products to keep it from frizzing because my hair is now coated in natural oils (and don't say "Eeeewwww!" because I promise it is not at all gross). It lays nicely and stays out of my face. And I LOVE that it smells like nothing! No flowery scents in my face all the time. Just nothing.

I found my curls picture-worthy, so I can share them with you!

Is that not exciting???

Since curly/wavy hair is a new thing for me, I started learning about how to care for curls. I bought some micro-fiber hair turbans and tried plopping. I'm not sure how I got so far in life without knowing this nifty trick.

So, it has been a couple months since I ditched my shampoo. Several weeks ago I decided to also ditch the baking soda. I read a lot about water only hair care and I figure if water is all that's necessary, why not do the easiest, simplest thing? I experienced another transition period, much shorter and easier than the first. My roots got heavy again. I panicked a little. It just seems reasonable that it can only get worse. How on earth could it get better without using something to strip the oils? Like magic, it does get better. Everything I read said it would, and it did. My body just figured it out. Amazing.

I am still getting to know my hair in its natural state. It is completely different. It feels soft. It looks shiny. When I brush through it at night, it doesn't get all frizzed out like it once did. It just gets soft and shiny. It even separates back out into nice looking waves on the second day. When my hair is wet, I can feel the oil in my hair and I can see it bead up on my shower comb. That is definitely a new thing to get used to. I feared that it might be tangly and difficult to comb, but it has not been. I worried that it might smell bad, but it doesn't smell like anything.

The routine I have settled into is to do a distilled water/apple cider vinegar rinse about once a week or so. Otherwise, I just do water only rinses about every 2-3 days. Not because my hair is dirty, but because I like to refresh the curls and wear my hair down more often now that it is so lovely. After my shower, I do my plopping. Ten minutes later I take it out of the towel and I'm done. Each night before I go to bed, I do my scritching and preening with my boar bristle brush. My oldest daughter and I brush each others' hair. It has been a sweet time with her each evening.

If you are interested in giving this a try, follow my links! These are some of the best resources I found on the subject. Also know that this takes some persistence, patience and tweaking. Tweaking because every person is different, so you will need to get to know your own body and do what works best for you. Patience and persistence because your body will take some time to adjust to your new routine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how the stories we tell about ourselves shape who we are, shape our experience. As I listen to people talk, I often can hear "their story", the same theme over and over again.

"I was left out".

"It wasn't fair!"

"Someone took advantage of my kindness".

"It didn't live up to my expectations".

There are as many stories as there are people, of course.

If I can hear others' stories, I know I must have my own too. I sit and listen to the stories that run through my own mind so I can find where I am stuck, where I need to let go or open up.

I found a couple of lovely quotes in my reading lately that relate to these ideas:

It’s a hard thing, sometimes, to accept that other people feel as strongly about their stories as we feel about ours. A hard thing, but also an essential one. Every so often, it helps to remind myself that a world with only one story might be peaceful. But it’d also be pretty damn boring. (From Ben Hewitt's blog post Pretty Damn Boring)
What makes us miserable, what causes us to be in conflict with one another, is our insistence on our particular view of things: our view of what we deserve or want, our view of right and wrong, our view of self, our view of other, our view of life, our view of death. But views are just views. They are not ultimate truth. There is no way to eliminate views, nor would we want to. As long as we are alive and aware there will be views. Views are colorful and interesting and life-enhancing—as long as we know they are views. (From Norman Fischer, on tricycle)
And of course, Byron Katie is an author to check out if you want to read and think more about stories.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On pits and poo (SHAMpoo, that is)

I have been running a little experiment this summer. I have always used clinical strength anti-perspirant and STILL been a stinky person. In the shower, just out of the shower, all day long. And I decided if I am stinky anyway, why not try something more natural. What have I got to lose, really?

I interviewed my dear friend, who is very chemically sensitive, on her favorite natural deodorants. She recommended Lafe's and Desert Essence. So I got both! And I also grabbed some Crystal Deodorant Spray. I figured I would have to hit this hard if I had any hope of succeeding. I tried each alone and then I tried applying the Crystal Spray before applying the Lafe's or Desert Essence.

When I started the experiment, I thought I was going to have to settle for being stinky, maybe even stinkier than before. I never, ever expected this would work BETTER. It works better. Any of them alone works better, but what works the best for me is using the Crystal Spray and one of the others, either one. I am really completely shocked.

So, with that success under my belt, I am thinking about shampoo.

My kids' hair has been flaky. I have been finding that none of my expensive and fancy shampoos are working all that great for me lately. Plus, I am someone who needs moisture on my skin, so I find it strange that my hair gets greasy. I am not oily anywhere else. So, just not feeling much love for shampoo anyway right now. Maybe it could go.

I'm only a few days into this experiment. Even after 2+ days of not washing, grease has not been a problem. I have read repeatedly it could be a funky few weeks of transition. No funkiness yet, but I am prepared to ride it out if it happens. Anyway, not much personal experience to offer, but I'll share some no poo resources for the curious:

And along the same lines of "What else could go?", it seems baking soda and vinegar could replace not only my shampoo, but ALL my cleaning solutions. Much less expensive than all the natural cleaning products, eh? I like the idea.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An extraordinary life

Time is flying by and we have been in our new home for about eight months already. In some ways it feels like it has been much longer. In other ways we still feel very new here. The navigation feature on my phone hardly ever gets used these days, so that has to be a sign that I am less of a newcomer.

When we left our hometown, we left because it was clear that it was time for my husband to leave his job. Big changes were being made that would mean an end to the work he enjoys and an end to the place he had helped build and felt love for. It was time to GO. So he opened his heart and mind to going somewhere else, leaving his hometown and even his state if he had to. Once he got his opportunity to go, we left.

As a family, we have been so amazed and thankful that somehow we accidentally landed in a city that is really a very good fit for us all. It has been easy for us to find community and make friends. We love all the opportunities for enjoying the outdoors and that it is possible to enjoy the outdoors so much of the year! We are definitely loving this place!

And yet....something we had so recently felt, we were feeling again: this job is not the right fit. Ug. I don't think either of us felt ready for that one yet. However, the fact remained that on every single point, it was not the right job. So my husband started watching. And applying. And interviewing. I was ironing pants. And shirts. And ties. And listening, listening, listening.

As I listened, I got to watch my husband come to a place of clarity about what he was looking for. Over and over, I watched him ignore the advice of the recruiters he was dealing with so that he could get the information he needed to find a job that is truly a good fit for him. And that good fit was very dependent on family life, which some employers did not care about. I saw him turn down offers when I knew how anxious he was to leave his current job, but he was not so anxious to go that he was willing to compromise. He said, "I watch you and the kids live an extraordinary life and I have this idea that maybe I can too". That brought a few tears to my eyes, and I settled in to practice patience.

In a very funny last minute twist to this story, as he was waiting on the offer he had decided to accept, the perfect thing just fell in his lap: the job he was looking for, with people he would enjoy working with, with the flexibility he was looking for and the work/life balance.  It seems to be his opportunity for an extraordinary life.

For us, this part of the story isn't necessarily a happy ending. Who can know? But it is a place where we get to let out a big sigh and feel hopeful about the next chapter of our lives.