Ten years ago I made my first trip to Oaxaca, a married gringa heading south to meet the family for the very first time. Juan was heading home for the first time in over 10 years, bringing a bride. From the minute I walked through the door of his mothers tiny house in the foothills, I felt I had come home–a home I never knew I had, a home that was waiting for me for almost 30 years.
I was raised Irish Catholic–practically 100%. I was born Margaret Ann Casey. I went to a Jesuit college. I have cops in the family. I can actually do the jig. I am a stereotype. Classic Irish American girl.
When Juan and I met and fell in love he was worried about being swallowed up by us Caseys. We are here. We are loud. We have crazy traditions which we will shove down your throat. We are Irish Americans dammit. Proud.
I loved him and I wanted our life together to be equal. I made an effort to bring the Mexican into my life. I pledged him we would be an Irish-Mexican-American home. I made it my mission not to let his culture be sidelined.
But from the minute I crossed the threshold and embraced his mama, my suegracita, it was no effort. It was natural. It was breathing. I was a gringita by blood but Mexicana by love. Even my suspcious father in law had to admit it. I adopted the culture as easily as I breathed in the clean country air.
A feminist, I had always struggled with the patriarchal church of my youth. But in Oaxaca, I found a community of mostly women, devoted to la virgincita, the mother of all of Mexico, of all of us. I came home to my faith in this culture surrounded by tiny older women kneeling and lighting candles and asking another woman for help, believing in magic and miracles. As a feminist and a Catholic it suddenly all made sense. Home.
I came home to real cooking as I learned to use a molcojete to mash up tomatoes, grind chiles and make salsa (blenders are for chumps people). My love for spice and chocolate found voice in true Oaxacan mole cooked over an open fire all night long, stirred by women taking turns at the community fire, telling the stories of their lives–comadreando under the stars. This was the way my heart told me to cook. This felt like home to me.
From my first Dia de los Muertos where I helped my sister in law decorated her beloved daughters grave, while mariachis sang and a street vendor wandered through the cemetery selling fried dough and families set out picnics by the graves, I embraced the traditions of remembrance that seemed to come from my ancestors too. It made so much sense to me. It was a tradition that I knew must be mine. Had always been mine. Would always be mine. Communal grief poured out. Acknowledgment that we never get over the loss of someone we love–we just change and move on. This was the way I feel I always knew it must be done. To never forget. To love and laugh.
My name was Meg Casey-Bolaños. I chose that name–not just because I married a Mexicano but because it said who I was-someone who had embraced, had absorbed something from the magical Oaxacan sunshine. A woman forever changed by the magic in the air, the water and the countryside. Who loved los santos, who ate mangos by the bucketful and who milked a cow named Marguerita. I wore it proudly–It was a symbol of who I had become: a mujer who was changed forever by milagros and mole and muertos in the Oaxacan foothills.
When Juan left I went back to Meg Casey. It made sense in many ways. It was a demarcation. A milestone. It told people my life had forever changed. It told them I was going it alone. It told them that I was me.
But it also very subtly said I was no longer a member of a familia Mexicana. That maybe I divorced not just Juan but a part of myself too.
A few weeks ago I got an email from Anne asking me if I missed the culture of my adopted family. If I missed baking pan dulce and drinking hot sweet pot coffee on Sundays. Or if I still did it? She wondered because she knew how I had come home that first trip. That every trip I made south over the last ten years was a reunion. She wondered if I was homesick.
I still have my little altar to la Virgen where I light my candles, but many of my milagros have been put away now. From time to time I put away the coffee maker and make my coffee in a pot, the way my suegra taught me. I sometimes pull out my cookbook, the one where she wrote all her recipes down–the one with measurements like “a pinch”, “a handful” and “not too much” and will bake some bread that smells like anise and cinnamon. But really, its true, I packed so much of that away when Juan packed his bags. And I am feeling a bit — well–not quite whole, come to think of it.
Yet, when I decorate for Muertos or consider a party for Tres Reyes, I feel like such a poser, a gringita adopting traditions that are no longer hers. I struggle with whether I can appropriate these secrets that were told to me when I was familia. I feel like an outsider looking in and I can’t figure out whether I should fight my way back into the circle or turn my back on it forever. What do I do with this piece of who I was who was tied so closely with someone who isn’t mine any more?
This week I read this lovely piece about identity–Claiming it, holding it, attaching to it, and letting it morph, be, go, change. It reminded me of this little puzzle, not so neatly wrapped up after my divorce.
Is my cultura a wedding gift I now need to return?
This is my friend Jen Ballantyne. Most of you know her and her amazing blog The Comfy Place. It is a journal about living–living as a single mom, living as a creative soul, living with stage 4 cancer. She writes with raw and juicy beauty.
Back in the day, when I started blogging, there were about 4 people who I knew read my blog. One magical day, a few months into the whole blogging experiment, I got a comment from Jen B. I remember the day as though it were just yesterday. It was a Thursday. My guitar had just arrived and Jeff (who had helped me buy her on ebay) was on his way over to drop it off.
It was a magical evening. Jen was one of the first “strangers” who seemed to have found my writing. Something about her comment, her name, beckoned me to learn more. I googled her and found her blog and spent the whole night reading her posts with my new guitar on my lap, saying “She is JUST LIKE ME”.
We started emailing and became faithful commenters on each others blogs. The emails started off slow and were mainly about bloggy things. Jen was (and still is) a tremendous encouragement to me, a faithful cheerleader of my growth as a writer. Jen is the whole reason I moved off that clunky ol’ vox site and onto a page of my own. She gently pushed me, encouraged me and kept me honest in my writing. She was the first person to ever sk*rt one of my posts. She taught me to believe in my writing.
One night early in our friendship, while chatting about something bloggy I confessed to her that I was about to go on my first date since separating from Juan. She immediately answered back and a whole new door of our friendship sprung wide open. We whisper our hopes and hurts, our fears and dreams, and tell stories of first loves, our youth and our now. Our emails come daily but during one particularly rough patch for me I heard from Jenni several times a day. She is my soul sister and I love her. She is a miracle.
One day before she arrived on my blog I was struggling with some aspect of single parenting that my married friends just didn’t get. Alone at night, feeling scared I shouted out in frustration: “Just Send Me Someone Who Understands!” And then, days maybe weeks later, there was Jen. In my email box. A voice who understood. Who helped me see things clearly. She is my tangible proof that I am held by Someone Greater. She is an answer to my prayers
The day in January that I came home to her email, the one with “Its Back” in the Subject line my heart stopped for a minute or a year–I don’t know. With the recent news of her latest diagnosis I find myself vacillating between hyper-hope mode and hyper-reality mode. Somedays I think of her and my heart just breaks–not only for her and Jack and the sadness and difficulty that they face but also, I hate to admit it, selfishly for myself. I can’t imagine my days without Jen in them.
Back before we knew that her cancer would come roaring back so strongly I wrote her these words
Just think, one day 20 years from now we will sit together on a beach. I will put my head on your shoulder and say, “Remember back then when you had cancer and I was recovering from the loss of Juan and we just held each other across the internet? Look at us now. How beautifully it all turned out! What a miracle! What an adventure!” And then we will laugh and toast ourselves and our beauty and faith.
While I know that things rarely play out the way we dream (and that often it is for the best), I can’t seem to wrap my head or my heart around the truths that tell me that this one is not likely going to play out exactly this way. And it can make my heart ache with echos of future grief.
The one thing I have found that helps is to give. To give to her because I can. To give to her because she is with me. To give to her to tell her what she means to me. To give to her because she is here in all her beauty and I want to celebrate her and help her and comfort her. So I research like crazy. And I make lists of acupuncture practioners in her area. And I knit for her. And I send emails. And I pray. Helping is a balm on my heart, the place that bleeds when I think about Jen’s hurts. Caring for her now is the balm on my heart, the place that bleeds when I think about the day she will not be here. Doing all these things helps take some of the sting out of the fact that she won’t be with me always and forever. They help bring me back from the thousand scenarios of the future that I can play out into my head to the now where Jen is in my email box and at the other end of the phone line. As I DO these things I am rooted in our now. A now where she still laughs at my jokes. A now where I can say to her “Look at us now! What a miracle! What an adventure”
But some days these things just don’t seem like enough. I feel like I can’t do enough by myself.
At this point many of you know about the auction for Jenni that is being organized by Bella, Jen Lemen and I. It has been an experience which has moved me beyond measure. An experience which has taught me so much about how much love there is in the world. So far so many of you have responded in such amazing ways. We already have pledges of things like jewelry, prints of original photography, handpainted beautiful items and more. We are gearing up for a magical auction the week April 25th. Every morning when I check the weloveyoujen (at) gmail (dot) com mail box I am blown away by the tremendous offerings of love and care for one of our sisters. I feel lifted up and cheered and find myself soaring on gusts of tremendous hope. You all are another answer to another of my prayers–You are tangible proof that we are all one, woven together into some beautiful tapestry. Proof that we can make the “now” magical. Proof that we are all held by Love and are all a manifestation of Love.
If you want to donate and haven’t emailed us yet there is still time. Send us a note at weloveyoujen (at) gmail (dot) com. If you want to give cash there is a button over there on my sidebar that says donate. If you click it, it takes you directly to a paypal account that we set up for cash for Jen. If you blog, please help us spread the world about the auction once its live. And if you pray, please pray. Whatever you have to give is enough.
But mostly what I wanted to do here now, what I sat down to do was say thanks. Not what you are doing for Jenni–We give out of love and the gift is its own reward. The gift of her in this world is our thanks.
No I want to say thanks for what you have done for me. How you have proved to me once again that I am, that we all are, held by Someone Greater. That we are all One. And that we are all Love. And that is the miracle of Jenni in my life.
What is it about focus these days that makes me want to lose it?
I am so in love with the world. Absorbed in everyday magic. Everything is a marvel. I am happily wandering around my life with eyes wide open, drinking in the juiciness of life. Every flower, every gentle breeze, every clever thing that a child says, all reasons to drop what I am doing and just celebrate.
It is such a relief to be on this side of the pendulum.
Much of my adult life was spent in frantic, fast paced, hyper speed focus. I was focused like a laser on very practical things-mostly on work and bank accounts and house maintenance–not because I wanted to be but because I was afraid. I was certain that if I didn’t march through completion of all these tasks, if I didn’t fill my garbage can with completed to-do lists, if I didn’t keep up with everything perfectly well…I would get fired, I would lose my house, I would lose my husband, I would lose my son, I would go bankrupt, I would get sick, I would have no health insurance, I would be hated, I would be lonely, I would fall apart and I would DIE.
But, an interesting thing happened. I realized that no matter how hard I tried to keep all the balls in the air some of those things happened anyway. But I also realized that even when it all falls apart, it doesn’t mean it ALL falls apart. When Juan left me my productivity at work dropped. So my co-workers stepped in, supported me and assured me that me at 50% was better than me at 0%. I didn’t go bankrupt, but I did have horrible financial troubles and I learned to live simply, to let go of my attachments to stuff as measures of achievement. I also learned how to ask for and accept help. There were times when Max and I ate cereal or popcorn or even icecream for dinner but he is strong and healthy, eats plenty of fruit and vegetables and now has a taste for whimsy. I learned that the world doesn’t fall apart when you stop spinning like a whirling dervish. In fact, it actually comes together quite nicely.
But now I am left with a new problem. Without all those negative gremlins in my head driving me through the tasks of my day, I have no motivation. I am so good at rolling with it, adjusting, and somehow making it through, so practiced at optimism and embracing the beauty, I am not getting the laundry done, not minding the smaller details of life, not getting the library books back on time, not able to focus on my Very Important Work (the work that pays the bills). I am so wrapped up in stopping to smell the roses that I have no time for anything else.
No longer being driven by fear I am having a bit of hard time getting going.
I am just beginning to learn the art of working not to avert disaster but for the joy of it.
Its true, you know, it I don’t get off the blog and get my workplan done RIGHT NOW, I won’t get fired. My co-workers will empathize and they will assure me that I will get it done. But I do need to do it because it is important. It will make things happen. It will add good to the work to the world. Allowing myself to be driven by this new gentler force is an interesting challenge. Embracing this motivation is so new to me. It doesn’t come easy.
But, at the same time, I know that I am not a complete beginner. There are whole swaths of my life where love is what puts things in focus. Every stitch of my mothering work is guided by nothing but pure overwhelming intense love for this child I have been asked to shepherd. I am also motivated by love in doing for my community, in caring, in knitting for someone dear to me, in making soup for a sick friend or new mom. I can whip out a workplan to help a dear one and move into campaign mode, a general, razor sharp when it comes to a plan to surround those I love with love.
Why is it so difficult to translate this to plumbing? To taxes? To gardening? To laundry? To my paid work? To keeping the house together? To all the things that I used to do out of fear. How can I find the motivation for these things.
This is an interesting part of my journey, this seeking new focus. I am curious about how you do it. Can you tell me? I would love to hear your thoughts. What are your ideas for how I establish new habits to keep me focused without fear?
I need to get off the computer and pick up my guitar. Right now. But I don’t want to–just not yet. See at my last lesson my fabulous, kick-ass, rockin’ guitar teacher pushed it up a notch. He gave me new stuff. Hard stuff. After weeks of steady improvement and lots of positive feedback from that ego critic inside, guitar is getting hard again.
I have been in a comfortable place for a while now. When I first started playing guitar this fall, I was so timid when I held her in my lap. I couldn’t make my hands work to make even the simplest of chords. But now, I have a few songs that I play and are easy and fun and get me all sorts of positive encouragement from my community. I am a mini rock star and I like the confidence I have playing these few little songs.
Which is why this particular set of homework is tough. I am back at the beginning with chords that make my hands twist into all sorts of uncomfortable positions. My notes sound muddy. I am not a rock star. I am in beginner mode once again. And one thing I learn about myself playing this instrument is how uncomfortable I feel in beginner mode.
What is it about not being immediately accomplished that gives rise to insecurity? What is it about the journey of learning that seems to kick up the willies for me? Is it as simple as the fear of not being good enough? Is it the need to be perfect? Is it the shame that I am not living up to my own unrealistic expectations?
Playing guitar has become a kind of yoga for me. I stretch myself and do things that are hard. Not just the chords–but things like putting myself in a space where I know nothing. Doing things I am not good at. Wow–this is NOT easy. When I put myself into this beginner space, all my stuff comes up and I notice it. If I listen closely I hear all the ways that I secretly find to tell myself I am not good enough, talented enough, nimble enough.
But I love playing guitar. I love the music that I can make. I love playing with others. Playing guitar gets me high in a way that seems silly for a girl who only knows 4 songs–it does and so I push through. And I try letting go of all the ways I have to stop myself from even starting.
Truth be told, this is so uncomfortable for me because I would like to think that I have already let go of all the insecurity. I like to think of myself as fearless. As someone who is comfortable being new. I am not sure what is more uncomfortable–the words that come up from this little gremlin in my head or the realization that I haven’t completely gotten rid of her ages ago. Letting go of that discomfort–the realization that I am still uncomfortable in my imperfection seems to be a big one.
And so I practice. I practice my chords, the easy ones and the hard ones too. I practice letting go of the negative mantras that haunt me–the thousand ways my ego has to torture me, all the ways I get in my own way. I practice being beautiful, being brave and being bold.
There is a theme that is repeating itself over and over again in my life. It is a theme of magic, of things happening exactly at the right time and the right place. This lifetime, I am relearning about faith. And I feel like right now, at this very point, I am getting a crash course in it.
When I was a child, I had no problems with faith. I trusted blindly. I feared nothing.
But then, unfortunately I learned to worry. To doubt. I can’t say exactly when it started but I know by the time I was deep into my teens I knew exactly what lack of faith meant. I knew how to predict (and expect) every worst case scenario. I became an expert in disbelief . I actually remember counseling myself to plan for it all to fall apart so that I would be pleasantly surprised if it didn’t.
I suppose it was a way to try and gain a sense of control on this messy roller coaster we call life. I really needed to believe that I was in charge. That I could control what would happen to me on a daily basis. I can say that I almost earned a masters degree in seeking control. Ask my ex-husband. Ask my boss. Ask anyone who had to work on a project with me. I came armed with to-do lists and workplans and plan b, c, and d. Skeptism was my shield. I really believe that it would all fall to crap right without my carefully thought through plans. Needless to say, I put alot of pressure on myself to make sure those plans were right. And interestingly enough, the more plans I made, the more complicated and fierce, the less I trusted that they were, in fact, going to get me where I needed to go. It was an endless cycle of stress and fear.
When my marriage started to fall apart, so too did my illusions that I actually was going to be able to control exactly what happens to me. I struggled for a long time with that lack of control. I couldn’t make Juan come home. I couldn’t make Max happy. I couldn’t stop the tears, the hurt, the disappointment.
But right smack dab in the middle of that shit, something beautiful took root.
As my illusions of control slipped away, the only thing I could do was put one foot in front of the other and breathe and trust that if I did that I would keep moving forward and that I would live.
It was a slowly grasped lesson, this learning to trust thing. But like a rock which I finally have been able to nudge down a slope, I feel it accelerating at a rapid rate in my life. The more I trust that I am being held by someone greater, the more I trust my inner wisdom and own intuition, the more I give up needing to control and instead decide to just go with the flow, the more abundance and joy flows into my life, and the easier and freer I feel.
It happens in big ways, ways I have yet to really even begin to write about, but it happens in small ways too.
Like tonight. My darling housemate, a trained chef who cooks like a madwoman, had carefully planned and cooked a feast for friends who eat with us each Tuesday. But work meetings and traffic jams and college interviews kept them from our door. We sat in our house at 6pm with food to feed an army and just our little weary band. It could have been cause for dismay and cursing at the traffic and work Gods. But she and I both feel that things happen for reasons and really that the food would not go to waste. The cancellation was not a cause for disappointment but an opportunity to make magic happen elsewhere. We got on the phone and started calling around. Our very first phone call was to a friend who had dinner guests coming supposedly with food. But they were not yet there and the children were hungry. “Come” they said, “bring your food. We will make a party for them when they get here we will all eat like kings”. And so we did. Sure enough when their friends arrived they had been held up and did not have much with them. A ready made dinner supplemented with the little they could bring was nothing short of a miracle. A tiny everyday miracle–the kind where it seems that things unfold exactly as they should.
I am reminded today as I go about my day, how life just does seem to fall into place. Flowers blossom without our efforts. When we relax into ourselves, we blossom too. Love and joy bubble up, even when we didn’t try to make it happen. Opportunities cross our paths that change our lives almost magically. Sometimes growth, beauty all the good stuff–it happens despite ourselves. We learn, we grow, we fall in love and end up in beautiful places.
It was just a week ago that I was in the desert. It feels like a lifetime ago. It feels so far away. And yet I am still buzzing in my soul from that trip. It was three days that could have been a lifetime.
One of the most luscious things about this trip was the long stretches of silence and yes emptiness. While there was plenty of laughter and much catching up to do, lots of wine and cooking, there were long periods of time when the talking ceased and we all just sat content in our own quietness.
What struck me at those moments was how unbusy I was. There was nothing to do, no problems to solve, no to do list to process. I would flip through my book, or walk and just sit and be. There were moments when I would just look over at Eddie, who lives so far away and I would just smile, happy to be near him, to soak in the magic of him in in his environment. There were moments when I could just be. Quiet. Unworried. Still.
As we walked amid the chollaya cactus on Sunday, AJC broke the silence. “What is so beautiful about the desert,” she said quietly “Is vast space where things aren’t”.
When she said it I repeated those words over and over again in my brain. The space where things aren’t. That was the magic that was calling to me. I was answering a need to take in the emptiness, to dwell in the vast space where things aren’t.
I am a lucky girl. My life is full and teeming with life. My life is crowded and rich and overflowing with juicy, crazy manic loveliness.
I spend my workdays doing meaningful work surrounded by people who bring me great joy. I return home to a boy who rocks my world, delicious food on the table cooked with love by a dear friend. We sing and hoola hoop and hang in the park and then after Max lays his head to sleep I fill the hours between his bedtime and mine with guitar, long chats with friends, walks with Jackie, blogging, email, knitting and a good book. My life is a rainforest, dense and green, teeming with energy and pulsing with life. It is full of music and laughter and deep conversations and tears of sadness and joy. It is beautiful and I wouldn’t change it.
But it is a bit full and sometimes I feel a bit crowded, choked and overgrown.
I am blessed. I have bills to pay but a checking account to pay them from. I have a yard to sit in but bushes to tend, beds to weed and grass to mow. I have a beautiful house that collects dust and too much stuff that needs to be put away. Sometimes I am drowning in my abundance.
When I walked into the desert and felt the space all around me, felt the austere wind on my face and spread my arms to the sky I could breathe. I could be still. The energy of a thousand wonderful things was not beseiging me.
Instead I could look down and notice the beauty of one small wildflower sprung up out of the rocky sand. One tiny bit of beauty made even more lovely by the fact that it was all alone.
When our time in the desert was done I was thrilled to be back in the jungle of my life. I wouldn’t trim out any of the messiness about me–at least not permanently–but I realized I need to create my own private desert. The mental space where things aren’t. The physical place where I can sit and just be. I need to build me a desert into my days. A space where things aren’t.
Eddie and AJC, my desert co-conspirators, eating by candlelight…
Sometime last November when the blustery winds were biting I started to dream of the desert. I have always been a coastal girl–someone who relishes the smells of the seaside, the feel of salty oceans spitting into the air. But for some reason I felt the desert calling me.
I started to plan and conspire. I emailed my friend Eddie and suggested we make a trip to the California desert. He never replied. He thought I was joking. But my plans continued to churn.
In December as the days grew unbearably short my desert dreams grew more frequent. There was something I needed to feel there. Something I needed to see. While walking to get coffee on chilly and dark day I convinced my dear AJC to go with me. Together we worked on Eddie.
Before we knew it in January we had a whole gang of us signed up and AJC had found the perfect haunt. We were headed to the desert.
All winter long this trip sat like a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Three days in a desert I didn’t know but longed for. I knew it would be magical.
And it was. I will write about it for some time I am sure. There was so much packed into those three days. So much food, so much laughter, so much silliness and so much joy.
As we sat around a table on Friday night and dug into a gratin that Bahar and I had made (eggplant, onions, garlic and potatoe in gruyere and cream) we giggled and told stories and poured wine. These friends are like a little mirror for me. In their beautiful eyes, their warm stories and their crazy jokes, I see myself reflected and I love her alot.
Last month I wrote about my friend Jen Ballantyne. I say she is my friend but she is my hero, really. She is a single mom, just like me. She is beautiful and artistic and creative and an amazing and generous friend. She is also a brave warrior against cancer.
For those who don’t know Jen’s story, you must get thee to her blog. There she gives you the real deal–beautiful stories about what it is like to have stage 4 colon cancer. What it is like to parent a six year old. What it is like to be a brilliant, creative, shining light who is facing possible death so early. Jenni is fighting for her life while she struggles to be a single mom and provide quality care to her sons. She is in the fight day in and day out, bravely, smartly, gracefully slogging it out–all the while finding time in her day and love in her heart for the likes of little old me and many more lucky women who call her friend.
Jenni’s words daily inspire thousands of women across the globe. And a few of us have been struggling as we read, desperate to find a way to make a difference in her life thousands of miles away from us.
We are organizing a group of her blogging friends to raise funds to help pay for her treatment and those forms of care and pain management that will not be covered by insurance: acupuncture, massage,naturopath, etc., as well as create a trust for her son. These are things Jen desperately needs, but can’t afford. This is help she won’t ever ask for, because she is too worried about everyone else. So (with her permission) we have decided to take matters into our own hands.
We are going to host a charity auction, through ebay, and all money made will go directly to her care and to a trust for Jack.
Sound interesting? Want to be an elf too? We need help!
1) If you have or know someone who has, items/s that could be auctioned, we would be grateful for any donations. We are open to receiving all offerings. Some folks have already pledged to donate hand made items and art–handknit pieces, jewlrey,prints, zines etc. Others have offered things that perhaps they were getting ready to auction off themselves (that kitchen aid that you got as a wedding gift and have never used….). The only consideration is shipping costs. For example, if an item is heavy and expensive to ship, we just want to make sure it would earn enough money in the auction to balance this out. If you have an item to donate please email us at weloveyoujen at gmail dot com and let us know what it is and we can get you the information on where to ship the items. (We will handle the fufillment from one central location in Chicago) We are asking that all the items be sent to us by so that we can photograph them and get them ready for the auction. If you have questions, feel free to email us here as well.
2) Help us drum up donations. If you have likeminded friends who you think might want to contribute to this cause please share this post with them. Also, if you have a blog, please help us by posting on your blog too. You can send people who want to donate to welovyoujen at gmail dot com.
3) Help us publicize the auction itself. Check back here and when the auction is up and running, we will have a link to it. Please let your friends and contacts know about it. Post about it if you can to help us drive traffic there.
4) Got other ideas? Please email them to us at weloveyoujen at gmail dot com. We are doing this as a team and are hungry for new ideas, thoughts and are willing to take on other partners!
We are not a non-proft. We are just a gang of women coming together to support one of our own. We are rallying behind Jen because the reality is it could be one of us and we strongly believe that this is what community does. But alas because we aren’t a non-profit we can’t offer a tax deduction for donations. We hope you, your friends or contacts still can help out anyway.
Of course, we ask that you continue to hold Jenni in your thoughts and prayers and continue to support her through leaving your comments and warm wishes on her blog. I am a believer that prayer and love can do wonders to heal, if not the body then the heart and soul.
We are continually amazed and inspired by what a small group of women and their friends can do. Won’t you join us and spread the elfen magic?
I am writing this post from a glass walled conference room named the “Hollywood Room” named for its view of the Hollywood sign on the hills. Ahhh…Los Angeles. Can you feel the glamour?
I am here for a rare work trip. Pre-Max I was a road warrior–on the road almost weekly–jetting back and forth all over the country in the name of social-justice. I have traded in that life for the sake of mommyhood and I am tied to the home office, reluctant to travel, happy to mind the budget and supervise staff and leave the exciting campaign work for others. I am starting to loosen up on that restriction in bits and pieces–for the right meeting, for the right project. Leaving Max at home still leaves me tied up in knots even though I know he is held lovingly in the arms of our community–that I am leaving him with more sets of substitute parents than most kids will know in a lifetime. But now that I am here, this little business trip, the conference room, the morning breakfast with colleagues, the laptop computer that I whip in and out of my backpack like a pro–it all feels a bit like heady–it is a window onto my old life when “Very Important Work” was front and center in my life and I was brilliant and bold and exciting and adrenaline flowed through my veins from 9-5. Now don’t get me wrong–adrenaline still flows through my veins but the surge comes 5-9–my key hours with Max, my truly very important work. No matter how exciting the work project, coming home to Max each night is entering a special kind of heaven.
But still I have to admit that I am loving being here. From the minute I walked into the Echo Park home of my old colleague and dear friend Eddie to a spread of cheese, olives, apples and veggies from the farmers market and good red wine I have been in a different kind of heaven. Being away from Max, I am more comfortable stretching my brain and wrapping it around the work problems, even as I pine for him.
And then, after this meeting is over, I will be off to a different kind of glamour. I am headed out to the desert with five of my dear childless friends for a grown-up weekend. We have rented a cabin on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park. We will hike all day and then come home to cook crazy gourmet meals while we drink bottles of red wine and sit in a jacuzzi under the stars. It feels decadent to think of this and I have to admit my Catholic school girl guilt is bubbling up as I think of it. How can I call myself a mother?
But what occurs to me as I sit here, as my colleagues stream in, as I need to sign off now to shift gears is that I am more than a mother. Even though it is my proudest title, it is only one and the other pieces of me need to stretch from time to time. So let us raise a glass of wine to all of us and our full, juicy selves–the women, the brilliant strategists, the ones who need to stretch their arms up to the moonlight in the desert.
I took this picture of Max and one of his best friends on Friday evening at his elementary school’s International Night. Last year we were so disappointed that he didn’t get into the Spanish immersion elementary where all his friends go. I couldn’t imagine the year Max would have at this school, full of strangers and I grieved the loss of my vision of his perfect kindergarden year. But it has turned out marvelously. At school Max runs with a group of Ethiopian and Eritrian girls who he loves and adores. He has learned all sorts of things about East Africa that I could never have taught him. He has grown in confidence, has become a leader and has stretched himself in ways he may not have had he gone to the school where he would have been comfortable and surrounded by his same old gang–a gang where he is the youngest, a gang where he is the follower. I asked him recently if he still wanted me to put in for a transfer to the Spanish immersion school for next year just in case a slot opens up. “Nah…” he said as he rushed off to find his gang. Our experience with this school reminds me of that old saying, “I got nothing that I wanted but everything I needed.”
It seems as though these days I am a constant witness to this kind of magic in the universe. Life seems to unfold exactly as it should no matter how I try to push, pull, mold and force it into how I want it to be. And frankly I am glad, because the story of our life is being painted with a pallet far richer than I have ever dared to use. If you had asked me a year ago to close my eyes and make a wish for what I wanted my life to look like in twelve months, I would have never have been so bold to wish for what we have now. I am glad it didn’t play out according to my rather shallow and uninspired plans.
Even with my wild storyteller’s imagination, I could not have predicted the crazy and wonderful way this last year has unfolded. I could not have dreamed the characters who have come into our life and I could not have have imagined all the amazing ways that they have given to us or how they have called us to stretch ourselves and give to them. I could never have predicted how in this give and take and daily back and forth, I rediscover my better self over and over again.
When I think back on it the only word that comes to mind is magic.
This week I had a particularly magical few days. Problems, serious problems presented themselves in many areas of my life. Before I had even a minute to despair, someone who didn’t even know what was happening came through with a solution. I felt cradled and as though someone was trying to whisper to me, “Relax and rest–its all taken care of…”
Talk about learning to trust the universe…
I have spoken often, too often perhaps, about my divorce here on this blog. As I have said over and over I would never have chosen this path for myself or my son. Even on the other side, where life is good, beautiful, lush and rich, I would not recommend it to anyone.
But I can’t stop talking about because it is for me the ultimate lesson in trust. I have learned that no matter what life throws at me, I am going to be OK. That while I may experience grief, sadness or heartache that there will be growth, and renewal and solutions too. That life will deliver not only the comforts I need to survive but abundance that will make yesterday pale in comparison.
And so I have learned to let go of trying to direct my life. Frankly I have come to realize that even if I was allowed to make all the creative decisions in my life it wouldn’t be for the best.
As someone who has always been an active participant in her life, someone who is a doer, active and busy, I have struggled with what this means. Alot. Does accepting the fact that it is all unfolding as it should mean I just give up? That I don’t set goals? That I don’t work hard? Does this mean that I sit and wait for the universe to deliver a perfect life to my door?
I don’t think so.
This week as solutions to tough issues fell into our lap it started to click for me.
Its is simply a matter of trust. It is the deep trust that it will be OK that will allow me to run chasing my dreams without keeping myself up at night wondering, “What if?”. I can set forth on wonderful adventures without a compass knowing that if I get lost I will be found again. I am freed up from having to lay out Plans B, C and D–I know they are already formulated somewhere else and instead I can devote my energy to follow the path directly in front of me–to keep my heart focused on the moment instead of solving future problems. This trust is the deep and inner belief that when I run into a wall, a problem or a dead end, something will appear from a place unknown to help me. If I fall in the ocean I will swim like a fish, if I fall off a cliff I will grow wings. That it will all happen exactly as it should. So I should just jump in and live…
If I needed greater proof, yesterday, I wandered around my favorite bookstore, the Meeting Point at Tai Sophia. After one particularly magical experience there I like to go and whisper, “Tell me what I need to know.” In the wandering, I found this–this perfect quote by Rumi. It is an anthem of my life, of my discovery of magic, the lesson of my life to this point wrapped up in 20 perfect words.
“Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings.”