Thursday, December 16, 2010

The glory and horror of the flesh...

I was perusing Barnes & Noble yesterday and took the time to read, "The Littlest Angel." I know that it is a popular children's story, but I had never read it before. At the end of the story, a little boy who apparently became an angel in heaven after departing from earth at the age of 4, offers the baby Jesus a small box containing all of the treasures he had collected while on earth. These treasures were mementos void of monetary value reflecting experiences that he had cherished when he lived housed in his earthly body. After his impulsive offering, the boy was fearful that this gift would not be well-received. To his surprise, God honored the boys gift above all others because they were indicative of the types of things that Jesus would soon discover. In all its pleasure and pain, the life of the flesh was honored in this story.

I have been pondering my own disconnection from my body in the recent week. The body sometimes houses memories that the mind cannot bear. It is for this reason that I believe we often do everything in our power to disown our bodies, to retreat to our minds or our hearts, to flee the marks that our bodies store on our behalf. Perhaps it is time for me to re-enter my body...no matter how frightening, shameful and overwhelming those memories seem to be. Maybe it is time to set my body free, to face the memories, to loosen the chains. My mind has been set free and has been exploring new territory for a while now. But now it's time for the harder work to begin - the beautiful, messy, painful and pleasurable experience of setting my body free.

A dear friend from my time at MHGS (I've posted quite a few links to her blog in this space) just posted a movie review on Black Swan that is worth reading here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Current events

I needed to rant a bit this morning about a few current events...

Was anyone else disturbed by the fact that Broncos player, Perish Cox, was allowed to play during the game this past Sunday? He was arrested and charged with felony sexual assault a few days before the game. He posted his $50,000 bail, left jail and didn't seem to skip a beat...oh wait, that's right, he wasn't allowed to play as a starter. Most of the media has decided to focus on the apparent double standard when it comes to the consequences set in place for superstars vs. peripheral figures in the athletic arena as Rothlisberger was suspended for 6 games earlier in the season under the suspicion of committing a similar crime, though after a criminal investigation charges were never filed. I've read a handful of articles arguing how unfair this was to Rothlisberger given the failure for the NFL to respond in a similar manner with Cox.

Seriously??? Is that really where our focus should be? Why aren't we asking questions...in the media and beyond...like - What does this convey regarding our culture and the value of women in general? A man is charged with felony sexual assault and he is still allowed to entertain the world from the football field? REALLY?! I  know many will argue that any individual is innocent until proven guilty...and I do value this ideal held by our country's justice system. But is it that preposterous to think that an organization geared toward primarily entertaining men, an organization that holds a significant amount of power in our society, should have a no-tolerance stance on the abuse of women??? No player should be allowed to represent the NFL until his name is cleared of all such criminal charges!

And...onto current event #2. Last night, I watched a clip from Bill O'Reilly's show where he released footage of Miley Cyrus hitting a bong and smoking Salvia. He then proceeded to call her "pathetic" and indicated that her days of being a role model to young girls throughout the world are long gone. I became infuriated after watching this clip. What gives this older male the right to place judgment on an 18 year old girl? I'm not suggesting that smoking Salvia was a wise choice on Cyrus' part, but does O'Reilly have any insight into what it is like to live as an adolescent girl in today's world??? Calling this young woman "pathetic" is not only harsh...it is abusive. She has been in front of camera's since she was a young child, she's had to contend with media attention and the constant scrutiny and expectations of a world drunk on hollywood, and she's recently discovered that her parents are divorcing. Is she an excellent "role model" for our young girls - no, but who made that her job??? How can we expect an adolescent girl to carry the burden of setting the example for a world filled with confused and struggling adolescent girls?

I thought ranting here would help...not so much. Still infuriated with the countless ways women are still continually devalued in our world on a daily basis.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Music as a healing balm...

Whenever I need to connect to what is going on inside of me, music tends to pave the way. This song is serving such a purpose today.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Regaining courage...

"No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear."
~Emily Bronte

Friday, November 12, 2010

Longing for Mother God

I have experienced a number of restless nights this past week and on one of these occasions I found myself fighting with God. I wouldn't equate this experience to Jacob's physical battle (which, in my mind, is likely to have been metaphorical anyway). Instead I felt this insane intense need to verbally attack God while Brian and the girls were all sound asleep. Now, I feel the need to report that this is not a typical behavior, but on occasion I feel the need to expel my emotions in spoken words. And on that night I was frustrated.

I'm still not sure who to direct this anger towards. Maybe it's not the kind of anger that can be directed towards a "who"...maybe it's more suited to be attributed to a "what" instead. What preceded this midnight brawl was a relational experience that brought my mind to the book of Job. I have always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with that particular book of the Bible. I have found great comfort in it's presence in the Bible - it showcases the utter despair associated with suffering that makes no sense. On the other hand, I have also wanted to hurl my Bible against the wall when I can't quite make peace with God's words to Job beginning in chapter 38. God begins his response to Job with these words:

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.  Who marked off it's dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were it's footings set, or who laid its cornerstone - while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:2-7)

It dawned on me the other night why this particular book has left me feeling extremely ambivalent. I realized, maybe not for the first time, that experiencing God primarily as male has not only hindered me from developing a deeper connection to God, but it has held my theological imagination hostage for far too long. You see, as a woman I have been on the receiving end of similar tirades from men who believe they are superior many times over in my life. I have experienced the violence of others in a world married to it's hierarchies. And up until recently (as in the last 3 or 4 years) I have been conditioned and trained to perceive God as a masculine figure (a masculinity that is defined by culture of course). After all, "HE" is above and beyond all of creation...right? (side note: so fascinating that in a culture that has had repeated love affairs with hierarchies, we often focus more upon God's transcendence than Gods immanence.)

But this is where I caught myself, I uncovered the nasty trap that I keep falling into. In a certain sense, my experience of the world, or more specifically, my experience of certain men, has led to my own projection of attributes...or attitudes upon God. What if I projected feminine attributes (again, acknowledging the cultural-constructions at play here as well) upon God? How would this impact my experience of the text, my reading of the story and relationship between God and Job. I had a conversation about this particular dynamic with a girlfriend the other day and as we attempted to imagine the tone of this conversation between God and Job things began to shift substantially. We envisioned God as a mother assuring her child of the goodness and the beauty that surpasses the sufferings of the world. She's not shaming her child or putting him in his proper place in the cosmic hierarchy. Instead, she is painting a picture of the beauty of creation in a time before his arrival.

I am a product of a certain cultural context where God has been primarily viewed as masculine. I'm now longing for a season of life where I can see God through a feminine lens. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we trade one culturally-constructed projection for another, but I have been reminded this week of how much our own experiences, our own notions of power, our own ideals and perceptions, influence how we perceive God. In any relationship we seem to struggle with letting the other simply be just that...an other, which in essence requires acknowledging the other as a mystery.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When little girls grow up to become objects

Well, my first week at attempting to stick to a rhythm of regular weekly blogging didn't exactly happen the way I had intended it to. Imagine that. Kierkegaard's quote, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," haunts me most days of my life. But here I am, a few days late, with something to sort out.

Last Friday (the day I was supposed to be blogging in this space) I took the girls to go watch their favorite uncle jump out of an airplane at about 12,500 feet in the sky. They had the day off of school and my dad happened to be in town so we decided to finally take the plunge and watch my brother (the other sibling who seems to suffer from middle-child syndrome) get his adrenaline-fix for the day. After a lengthy drive and enduring the hour or so it took for him to prepare his gear and board the plane, we witnessed the five minute descent to earth and vicariously experienced our own adrenaline rush. Here are a few pictures from that day.


The girls were mesmerized by the number of fellas all suited up and ready to take the leap of faith.



Faith was taken by the entire experience.  She was waving frantically to Brandon at this point when she could still only spot him through the binoculars.


Bailey and Faith have both now declared that as soon as they're 18 they'd like to jump with their uncle. By that point, he might just be an instructor. But beyond just updating the blogosphere on the recent happenings in my life, I've actually been pondering a few things related to gender (surprise, surprise) since this experience. When we loaded up on the back of the trailer that transported the jumpers to their plane and proceeded to drop us off near the landing zone, I couldn't help but notice that there was not a single female jumper. In fact, during the entire duration of time that we spend at this facility, I only saw a single female jumper. And there had to have been upwards of 75-100 males geared up and ready to prove that they were men (I'm joking about that last comment...sort of).

So I was wrestling all day with the question, "Why?" Why is it that men are more drawn to these types of death-defying adventures? I began to remember what it was like when I was a little girl unbound by gender stereotypes (to a certain extent). I was considered to be a tomboy from about the age of 6-10. And I hate that term actually...because it seems to suggest that I behaved in ways that were culturally deemed more appropriate for boys. I played soccer at recess. I even liked to spit on the soccer field while I was playing. I spit so much that I acquired the nickname "Shauna Llama," given proudly by my childhood best friend, Colin (yes, my best friend was a boy). I rarely did anything with my long wispy hair, other than pull it back in a half-brushed ponytail. I couldn't wait to get home from school so I could ride my bike on the dirt mounds we had constructed in an open field behind our neighborhood. When I was 9, I helped construct a bike jump utilizing a wagon, a few rocks and a long piece of plywood. Colin dared me to jump first. The scars on my knee still remind me of this once fearless and tough young girl.

I often wonder about this young girl still today. Where did she go? What happened to her? Is she still in there underneath all the junk our culture piles atop women (and men for that matter)? And what was it that prompted such a significant shift at the age of 10? In Mary Pipher's book, Reviving Ophelia, she explores this very shift:

"Simone de Beauvoir believed adolescence is when girls realize that men have the power and that their only power comes from consenting to become submissive adored objects. They do not suffer from the penis envy Freud postulated, but from power envy."

I always knew I was an early bloomer...I guess I hit adolescence at the age of 10. My heart aches to know that little girl who had not yet consented or surrendered to being a submissive adored object because she didn't know of any other way. It's not that I long to regain that sense of adventure, or to somehow recover the strength to passionately pursue my own desires so that I can simply jump out of an airplane. No...it's so much more than that. I want that little girl to shed everything that keeps her from running toward her dreams or hinders her from being the first to test the bike jump.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The beauty of a life well lived...

Before I begin with what I really came here to rant write about, let me first say that life is starting to take shape out here. I have officially opened up a private practice (as you can see below) which is the largest piece to the puzzle of my life in Colorado thus far. To help subsidize my income in these beginning stages of growing a practice, I am currently doing some very part-time work for TCON, the nonprofit I traveled to Uganda with years ago. Lastly, I am also developing a relationship with a local nonprofit called Pomegranate Place and am discovering new ways to be involved in their mission to offer resources and connection to women throughout the Denver area.  Having my hands in so many different pots on top of keeping up with my three active little ladies has left me feeling a bit discombobulated. So I'm trying to establish some sense of rhythm and routine...not rigidity and the death of spontaneity...but rather, establish just enough of a sense of ritual to not feel like I'm crazy. Setting aside specific time to blog will be part of the establishment of rhythm, and considering I will now be blogging on my Emerge Counseling website as well, I have decided to blog once weekly in this space...and Fridays seem like the best day to do just that!  Who knows...the quality of my writing and thoughts might even be better after taking the time to really ponder on things throughout the week.

And now, on to what I really came here to address.  I was listening to a popular radio station yesterday where every weekday afternoon two of the radio show personalities host a "mate-debate."  In these debates they have a couple call-in to the show to each deliver their respective sides to an on-going argument they have grappled with in their relationship. On this particular show the couple were fighting over whether or not the wife should breastfeed their soon-to-be-born infant.  The wife indicated that she did not want to breastfeed because she had already sacrificed so much of her body in just being pregnant and she didn't want to "ruin her boobs" as well.  The husband said that he would love her boobs no matter what and that he thought she should stop being selfish and breastfeed because it is what's best for the child. The main issue in the debate was whether or not the decision should solely be the wife's simply because it was her body, or if the man had any right to be a part of the decision.

It was a painful conversation for me to listen to as caller after caller utilized their few minutes of airtime to berate the wife for her selfishness or to berate the two male radio personalities for even suggesting that a man had a right to have any say in the decision.  Aside from my own opinions on a woman's right to make choices for her own body, or on the benefits of breastfeeding both physically and psychologically (for both the mom and the baby), ultimately where my mind wandered to was how sad it is that we allow arbitrary and culturally-bound definitions of beauty to so significantly influence such weighty decisions in our lives. Who decided that the impact on the female body of developing, carrying, birthing and sustaining a life is anything less than beautiful?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

art

A friend posted this find on facebook and I just had to share it here!  The beauty of connection portrayed in an absolutely breath-taking way.


Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Emerging
















It's official...I've started a private practice.  Check out my website!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Growing pains

It's been a long time since I've desired to write poetry. This morning I received this quote from a dear friend:

"Joy in God is a way of living out and finding ever richer ways of being in communion with others, within the demands of concrete and changing situations and ecologies of relationship. It is surely joy in God, but it is also joy in oneself, in others, in the world. Joy as intensification of one's being in communion spills over into, and is experienced in, every relationship. It is the mode of participation in delight in the abundance of God for the world." ~McFayden "Bound to Sin"

It was this quote that seemed to trigger an all too familiar sense of loss coupled with longing this morning. And so on this day, poetry is all that can come forth.

It is that familiar pain,
sensation, faint murmur
the kind of thing that one
can only feel when at first
she acknowledges its existence
but in this she allows
the sensation, the longing
to morph from abstraction
to the reality of form
it crawls from the belly
up into the chest cavity
and clenches, then softens
then clenches again
let go, she pleads,
all the while knowing
it is impossible to escape
this now named longing
it is associated, attached
to their faces, their names,
their stories, their touch
which unleashed freedom,
delivered mercy,
birthed life in abundance
it has maneuvered its way
through her whole being
this sense of loss
and longing mixed up
with disarming gratitude
She looks all around
for something to soothe
this combination
of joy and sorrow
but it seems futile
for she is now alone,
all alone.
Alone.
Left to sit
with the memories,
the chorus of their voices
as they speak life into
her lonely soul.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Medium...shmedium?

Last week I awoke and began my regular morning routine: turning off the alarm on my iphone, checking my email and facebook for the usual early morning updates. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that one of the first things I do each morning is read facebook statuses. What can I say...it gets my brain moving a bit. On this particular morning it actually got my heart beating rapidly as well. One of my fb friends posted a link to an article about North Carolina's legal rape case law (established in 1979) which essentially declares that if a woman consents to sex and then withdraws her consent once the act has begun but the man continues penetration it is not considered rape. Initially I was disgusted. And after reading the comments that followed the posting of this link I quickly became enraged. One woman was attempting to defend this law because she believed that women should have to accept the consequences of their actions. Later I googled this law to see how it was being addressed in other social media circles and became even further infuriated. I thought for sure I would find less ignorant conversations regarding this matter in other forums. Nope. Instead, I discovered a blog post with a long list of comments revolving around the necessity of this law for the protection of those poor teenage boys who just simply can't control themselves enough to stop once they've started or are simply too confused by the "yes"...then "no" response from the girl as those hormones are pumping through their bodies.

WTF. Yes. That is what I wanted to scream at the top of my freaking lungs. Sorry, Jesus, I have picked up this bad habit of cussing in my own head quite a bit as of late. But seriously. WTF. All I could think about was what if one of my daughters chooses to have sex for the first time as a teenager. (Side note: I hope this doesn't happen...I hope...and pray...often...that each of my girls is able to battle the peer pressure and not succumb to making such a significant decision at an age where it is not possible for them to have the wisdom necessary to tread into such sacred ground. But what if?). What if one of my daughters makes this decision, likely out of some form of peer/cultural pressure, but once the act begins she experiences severe pain and begins to beg her partner to stop. You want to tell me that this boy has the right to continue to use my daughter's body for his pleasure when she has asked him to stop because she is in pain? Are you serious? Actually what I really want to say is, "Are you f*#$ing nuts?"

Oh, but way too many internet voices would want to argue that we need to protect boys/men from the women who "cry rape" or who "tease men" only to trap them in the end. And you seriously think we need to have this kind of law set in place to protect these victimized men? I'm sorry (no I'm not...I just say that sometimes when I'm really angry and I'm trying to make a point), but the implications of this kind of law, the ways in which it can be utilized to further victimize women and rob them of power over their own bodies, is simply too much of a risk. Are there men accused unjustly of rape? I would have to concede that it is possible for this to occur on occasion...but I would hope that a jury would do their best to discern as such in specific cases. But to establish a case law like this is not the answer. (You can read about this law here.)

I really hadn't planned on spewing all of that out in this post. But it's been brewing for a while and needed to be released. Actually, I began writing this post because of the interesting take on how the social media has changed history. Anyone and everyone (actually...that's not entirely accurate because you have to have resources in order to have internet access) can say what they think and send it out into the world. I refrained from responding to the comments on my fb friend's link...I really wanted to respond but imagined it would turn into one of those long fb comment fights that wouldn't ultimately go anywhere. I remember thinking throughout that particular day, that I didn't know this woman who was making these comments and that it was the responsibility of someone else, someone who really knew her, someone whom she trusted and respected, someone whose face she knew, to explain to her how her perspective was actually quite violent towards other women. Instead, I posted my rant here. Is that any better? I'm not sure. Is this really the medium to be having these kinds of conversations? It's the medium we have...and I want to use it responsibly. I'm just not sure how.

A brilliant woman who graduated from MHGS with me this past June is now working as a TA at the school. She has a blog at kjswanson.com/blog where she posted this video and a blurb on her most recent class lecture. I miss this kind of dialogue...a lot.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Secret's out

My life is out of sorts right now. Though I'm not sure when it was ever in sorts, I am convinced that this is the most out of sorts it has been in a very long time. We are in an undeniable state of limbo right now. And I hate the limbo. It gives me a really uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. Apparently it is not wise to drink two cups of coffee in the morning when your stomach is already in a state of discomfort.

For the past three months Brian, the girls and I have all been living in one bedroom at my mom's house. It is a rather large bedroom in a rather large house. We have managed to fill this living space with twin bunk beds, a stand-alone twin bed, a queen size bed, an armoire, three small dressers, and a tower dresser along with a few makeshift nightstands. This living arrangement has triggered a variety of responses. There have been moments where I've felt like I should be thankful for the roof over our heads, for the willingness of family in sharing their home with us until we get situated in jobs and life out here. This is probably the thought that I hold onto most vigorously since we have seen firsthand how numerous people (the majority of the world's population actually) live in structures smaller than the size of this bedroom, without electricity or running water.

There have been moments of embarrassment, most-likely fueled by a sense of shame, during this season as well. Bailey is working on maps in her 3rd grade class and one of her assignments was to draw a map of her bedroom. I asked her if she would rather draw a map of her old room in Washington (out of my own sense of embarrassment) and she simply said, "Mommy...that's not the assignment." She wasn't embarrassed at all. But I, on the other hand, was panicked by what others might think of our family. No matter how much I tried to tell myself to take a deep breath, to accept that this is temporary as we are trying to get things figured out and to refute that sense of insecurity with the truth of how fortunate we really are...I couldn't shake this sense that we must appear to the rest of the world as failures somehow.

I'm still wrestling with this fear of how we appear to the outside world. I'm trying to figure out if it is just culturally-influenced or if there is something much more rooted in my personal sense of identity. I wonder if at the core I have a need for everyone to believe that I have it all together. This state of limbo has made it pretty clear - I definitely do not have it all together. Secret's out people. Actually, I think the secret was out long ago...but now I'm having to face the shattering of that illusion, and how it makes me want to cover up my vulnerability.

For the most part, this state of limbo, has left me feeling frustrated. I'm not a very patient person. We are in the midst of a waiting game - waiting to get my clearance from the state of Colorado to practice psychotherapy, then it will be a waiting game to see if I actually acquire any clients, waiting to hear back from any of the agency jobs I've applied for, waiting until we have some stability in our income in order to purchase a home...waiting, waiting, waiting. I'm not good at waiting. Oops...looks like another secret's out.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Narnia Forever...

The girls and I decided to pick up Prince Caspian for a bed time reading this time around. It's book 4 in the C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and it has become one of my favorite of the series. This particular quote captured my heart last night:

"...Caspian, though tears had come into his eyes at saying good-bye to Doctor Cornelius, felt brave and, in a way, happy, to think that he was King Caspian riding to seek adventures, with his sword on his left hip and Queen Susan's magic horn on his right. But when day came, with a sprinkle of rain, and he looked about him and saw on every side unknown woods, wild heaths, and blue mountains, he thought how large and strange the world was and felt frightened and small."

Here's how I've translated it to reflect my own heart's struggle:

Shauna, though tears had come into her eyes and an ache took over just beneath the surface of her chest at saying good-bye to those she came to know at MHGS, felt hopeful and, in a way, excited to think that she was a Therapist on her way to seek adventures, with her copy of Buber's I and Thou in her left hand, O'Donnell and Steve's voices in her right ear, and Dan's pardon of shame written on her heart. But when day came, with not a speck of rain in the sky, and she looked about her and saw on every side unknown faces, unexpected obstacles, and no place to call home, she thought how large and strange the world was and felt frightened and small.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I heart Peter Rollins

Belfast Dividing Wall, July 2010
I recently listened to Rob Bell's interview with Peter Rollins. You can download it or listen to it here. I love this guy. After listening to this interview I heard his voice in my head all night while I was sleeping. He stirs something within...a part of me that is not so easily stirred these days - a part of me that linked intricately with the desire for community, for relationship, for church.

He speaks briefly about Belfast and the Troubles which he linked to the human propensity to cling to an identity of beliefs rather than an identity rooted in the totality of who we truly are. Beautiful...and painfully true.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Convos with my kids

Bailey: Mommy, why does Taylor Swift always sing about boys?

Me: I know, B, it's a bit ridiculous isn't it?

Bailey: Doesn't she know there are more important things in the world than boys?!

Me: (In my head) I can't wait to remind you of this statement when you're 16.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

32 before 32

It seems that the days of the week continue to escape and I'm left wondering when it will feel like we are actually building a life once more. So far, most of our time out here has been consumed with trying to help the girls with the transition as much as possible - getting them into school, joining a soccer league, trying to develop a rhythmic routine on school nights, and leaving space for adventure and rest on the weekends.

It's when I'm not focusing solely on my role as a mother that the sense of sorrow, frustration or self-doubt begin to make their way into my thoughts. Brian and I have been wrestling with a host of ideas about what we want for our life together in this next season. It has been a difficult process - one that often feels like a roller-coaster filled with more screams of terror than squeals of delight. As we've been attempting to sift the wheat from the chaff, I have found it relatively soothing to write lists for each week. I wouldn't say that I've always been a list person - I mean I have definitely written my share of to-do lists...but most of them were abandoned before I ever experienced the sheer joy of crossing every item off. Something has shifted, however, because now it feels like these weekly lists are part of my psychological survival strategy amidst this sea of chaos and questioning.

And tonight I decided to take it one step further...or maybe a hundred steps further. I decided to come up with a list of things that I hope to do before my 32nd birthday on June 8, 2011. I'll post it here and then each time I'm able to cross something off the list, I'll document the experience in some form or fashion in this space as well.

32. Open up my own private practice
31. Write at last 100 pages of a memoir
30. Complete the p90x program
29. Buy a piece of furniture from a garage sale and turn it into something beautiful
28. Cook 10 recipe from Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life
27. Paint a picture
26. Learn to like my own body
25. Take my husband on a memorable date
24. Read another Jane Austen novel
23. Send someone an unexpected gift
22. Complete Bailey’s 0-5 years Scrapbook (yes...I’m very behind)
21. Purchase a new pair of amazing boots
20. Begin to read the Bible again
19. Make a snowman
18. Go on a road trip
17. Learn to bake scones
16. Become and Auntie AGAIN...twice!
15. Get a camera
14. Go to a museum
13. Take the family skiing
12. Go on three artist dates
11. Sew bedding for my new niece or nephew
10. Visit an art gallery
9. Watch a lot of Oprah
8. Learn to knit
7. Get pregnant???
6. Go on a bike ride with Bri-Daddy
5. Re-watch the entire Lord of the Rings DVD set
4. Attend a dance production or musical
3. Spend an entire day by myself in silence
2. Read a history book
1. Make new friends

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Eve Ensler clip

Thoughts on mothering...

"We can't know or be or do everything; we can only listen, notice, and feel our way into who our children are, who we are, and what each of us needs in order to become fully realized as who we are. Mothering is partly about improvisation, creativity, and an openness to discovering what is emergent." - Daphne de Marneffe in Maternal Desire: On Children, Love and the Inner Life

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

choices

I've been wondering lately if we made the "right" choice in moving back here to colorful Colorado. This morning as this annoying question found it's way to the surface of my mind for about the 100th time, it dawned on me that the question is a set-up in and of itself. The question is framed in such a way that one choice is elevated as "good" and one as "bad"...or at least "not as good". Maybe there isn't such a things as the right or wrong choice, good or not-so-good choice. Maybe there is just choice. It just is...and we just need to work with the choices we make.

Our lives are made up, in large part, by the choices we make. And If I'm the one with the power to make choices...then the choice itself can no longer hoard the power. Instead, it exists because of me. For some reason, this shifting of power feels comforting to me. Maybe it's because by remembering this existential tenet, I became empowered. I (or we - Brian and I - in this particular case) made a choice. And we made it for a whole host of reasons. And we can make other choices moving forward. We have the power to keep choosing. This one choice has not trapped us, it has not defined us or necessarily determined our future. The question is not whether or not we can live with our choices, it's rather how will we continue to live with choice.

Monday, September 6, 2010

page after page


With no paper deadlines or assigned reading on the daily agenda, I have finally been able to make a small dent in my amazon wish list of books. A Thousand Splendid Suns was the first book I picked up and cried my way through in about a day and a half. Brilliant. Perhaps even better than Kite Runner. If any of you have not given this book a read at this point, I highly recommend it. Hosseini offers a glimpse into the history of Afghanistan in all its glory and its heartache. This book highlights the oppression of women through a fictional, yet realistic, tale filled with gut-wrenching trauma and profound courage, strength and love.



Sticking with the theme of female oppression and realistic fiction (with a bit of history and cultural exploration), I was drawn to this Oprah's Book Club reader. The form of oppression is different, though no less tormenting, in this story of a Haitian woman. It is a difficult book to read because it explores the complexities of cultural practices that are sexually abusive and the impact upon the lives of those victimized. The perspective is cross-generational and cross-cultural and does not settle for simplified or reductionistic conclusions.








My earliest memory of Dr. Dave was when I was in the sixth grade. I had been taken to a neighbor's house after a freak snowboarding accident that resulted in a whopping 72 stitches in my knee. Dr. Dave was the first to inspect my knee to determine if I needed to be taken to the ER. My mom had dropped the four of us kids off at a sledding hill to entertain ourselves for a bit while she finished up her Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. Upon the removal of my light-washed jeans (we were barely into the nineties) I was able to see the damage done and I nearly passed out, but Dr. Dave remained calm and reassured me that everything would be alright. I just remember feeling safe in his presence.

Later on I would become a frequent babysitter of his four blonde kids, one of whom went on to become the first female football player to play in the College football league. My babysitting days were over by the time he became a regular medical commentator on the local news station. I recently learned that Dr. Dave, the safe and gentle man whose family I was once extremely fond of, had voluntarily served 2 tours of duty for the US Army...and that he had written a book about how this experienced had changed him.

This book broke my heart into many little pieces. It also restored a sense of hope in the men and women who choose to follow their hearts, face their doubts, and struggle with questions of meaning relating to our individual and collective lives. This book was eye-opening, as it offers an inside glimpse into at least one medical facility located in the grueling desert of Iraq.

I just received another pile of used books in the mail...and I can't wait to crack them open!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

heartache

Dear Blog,

I have missed you. I probably think about you everyday...and there are so many things that I long to share with you. But I must confess, it is really hard to face you. It's nothing you should take personally. It's just that you remind me of a season in my life that has come to a close. You see, right now, I'm back in the in-between...and as of right now, I really really REALLY hate the in-betweenness. It's uncomfortable. It's overwhelming. It's calling forth the birth of something knew. Labor sucks. And it's beautiful. It's painful. And it's a miracle. It's messy. And it's transformative.

When I was approaching my due date during my pregnancy with Faith I remember thinking, "I don't care how painful or how long the labor will be...I'm ready to endure it because I long so desperately to greet this precious life that's been dwelling in my belly." When I was actually in labor, vomiting and shivering from the shock my body succumbed to, I remember yelling, "I don't want to do this...it hurts too bad. I don't care what comes next...this hurts too bad."

That pretty much sums up how I feel right now. It hurts too bad. But there remains that still small voice reminding me of the life that just might burst forth if I endure these labor pains.

So, to you blog, I will try to return, though you make my heart feel the necessary contractions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ireland in a nutshell...

Yikes! I have 17 minutes to spit out this long overdue post about our trip to Ireland before I have to go retrieve my lil' ladies from school. I thought I'd share about this amazing experience using a few photos...so here are just a few of my favorites! Oh...and just to prepare you, the few readers I still have, these photos have not been edited and were taken by our pathetic point-and-shoot camera...so don't judge.

The Cliffs of Moher...perhaps one of the most famous natural sites in all of Ireland. The fog was so thick that morning that we could barely see the outline of the cliffs. I focused on the experience of my other senses instead...taking in the smells and sounds in particular and trying to appreciate the feeling of the mist upon my face (that of course reminded me of Seattle). At the very end of our time at the Cliffs the fog clouds lifted for only a moment and we were able to quickly snap a couple of decent shots.




We were in Dublin for most of the trip, but we ventured out into other regions of the country as well and stayed at a few bed and breakfasts. Each one was unique in it's own right. At one of the B&Bs we were entertained by a flock of unruly hens. Brandon attempted to capture one...unsuccessfully.



This is from Glenalough, an ancient monastic city set in the breathtaking Wicklow mountains just south of Dublin. While visiting many of the monastic sites I often found myself attempting to imagine what life would have been like for the devout monks living in the 12th century. I wish I could have spent a couple of days at one of the sites fasting, meditating and committing to silence and simplicity. Maybe someday I'll have a monastic experience.



I think the Rock of Cashel was my absolute favorite site. It was supposedly the site where a king was converted by Saint Patrick himself in the 5th century, though most of the buildings that remain are from the 12th and 13th centuries. The celtic art and medieval architecture were evidence of an entirely different world.



The little towns with their main streets were simply adorable...and yet I don't have a single photo of any of the strips we visited. This is a shot taken from the main street in Kilkenny looking through an alley to the ancient ruins of a cathedral found just behind the strip.



The natural beauty of the country was why I wanted to travel to the land of Ire to begin with. These photos don't even do the beauty any justice. Green was redefined!





And how could I not include a pub photo?! This was actually a church that had been renovated and transformed into an upscale pub in the heart of Dublin. We had our fair share of Guinness (though I must admit I drank almost as little as the prego). The pubs were truly where you felt the heartbeat of the culture...so lively, engaging and enjoyable.



I my include photos and a summary of our trip up to Belfast in a later post...that experience was too heavy for this quick synopsis. Oh...and incase you were wondering, this post took me longer than 17 minutes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dear Colorado,

I guess since I've taken up residence once again in your terrain that now might be a good time to clear the air and reacquaint ourselves a bit. I know that I'm not technically a native since I first arrived on your soil at the tender age of 5, but you never seemed to hold that against me. And now that I've been away for four years, I hope that your acceptance is even further extended.

I have to admit that we never really got off on the right foot. I grew up believing that the move out here was what prompted the demise of my parents marriage, triggering a domino-effect upon the course of my life. I wasn't angry with you specifically, but I think that as a result I was never able to attach to you. You could never be considered home if you were the cause of so much pain in my life.

It was when I became involved with a church youth group that I began to fall in love with you. As I backpacked into your mysterious and vast mountains, skied some of your most rugged terrain, rafted down your rivers, and traveled from one end of the Rockies to the other I grew eyes that could behold glimpses of your beauty. There were many dark moments when your beauty reminded me of life, refreshed my broken spirit, and renewed my hope in the journey.

But as the years went on and the journey laid forth some difficult turns, your beauty was no longer enough to soothe my sorrowful soul. You offered what you could in your masculine landscapes, but it wasn't the rugged terrain I needed. It was the nurturance of a feminine beauty, where one's thirst can be quenched, that my heart most ached for. Four years of being tended to by luscious leaves, water in abundance, and a blanket of clouds...that is what I needed.

So here I am once again. I have come back. And I'm hoping for a new kind of relationship. You no longer have to bear all of the blame for my parents divorce. And I've discovered a life-source within, so your beauty needn't always rescue me. Instead, I long for us to give to one another, to see one another in a new way. Our stories are intertwined. Your land holds many memories for me - many of great harm, many of great joy. But my hope, is that our journey has entered into an entirely new chapter...that our relationship is about to take a different form. Colorado - I'm asking you to love me well...and I finally feel able to truly love you back.

Yours,
Shauna

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Morning Before

I think last night was the first night of a full 8 hours of sleep in at least 2 weeks...but quite possibly in a month's time. And now, after a night filled with anxiety-ridden dreams, I am sitting by myself in bed with my computer upon my lap wondering when the last time was that I had a few minutes in the morning to myself. Brian is off to get a couple of cavities filled before he picks up the big yellow moving truck. The girls are still sleeping...and it's 8 in the morning. Considering the sun has been up already for about 3 hours, the fact that not a single one of them has yet wandered into my room this morning is evidence that their little bodies have also suffered from the chaotic swirling of events as of late.

So here I sit. Procrastinating. I don't want to finish packing up all of our belongings today. I'm resistant to ending. But no matter how long I procrastinate...the deadline will inevitably arrive. Since Friday of last week, where I attended a moving and overwhelmingly emotional graduates breakfast filled with the sharing of memories, I have had little time to stop and identify what is going on within my own heart and soul. Without any time or space to simply let emotions flood over me I found that every moment I had to myself became an opportunity to release the tears that needed to come out. Seriously...every moment I was alone. But those few moments were not spacious enough to really reflect or "process" as we like to call it at MHGS. Pause here. I just realized that I probably shouldn't say/write things like "we...at MHGS" any longer. One more gut-wrenching thought to add to my list of things needing to be processed at a later point in time.

Actually I've been anticipating that it will be the long drive from WA to CO where I'll finally allow myself to fully feel all that I am carrying with me right now. But I will try to be present today as I finish packing each room and scrub it clean till it shines. I will try to count all the things for which I am thankful, for all the faces for which I have grown to truly love, for all the ways in which I have been marked by this place, these faces, these moments.

Friday, June 25, 2010

No words...

There are no words to describe all that I am feeling in these final moments.

So when there are no words...there is always dance.

Click here to watch what happens when words are abandoned and movement becomes language.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Then and Now

This photo was taken a couple of weeks after we sold our vehicles, garage-saled a quarter of what we owned, put the rest in storage and left Littleton, Colorado to live briefly in the beautiful country of Uganda. This was the girls' first day as students at the Kabira International School and it was Brian's very first day of teaching his own class!



Now, nearly four years later, we are about to return to Colorado, the place we used to call home. It's strange to think that it no longer feels like home. At about the three month mark of our time in Uganda I remember thinking that there was no way we could handle being away from all of our friends and family for the three years it would take me to complete a masters degree at MHGS. The months we spent living in a foreign country almost entirely on our own left us feeling a kind of loneliness that I think few people experience in their lifetime. We were fortunate to have one another - and at the same time it was that level of "togetherness" that revealed so much of the brokenness that had been covered up by the distractions of our daily lives before that season.

It was the isolation we experienced in Uganda that Brian and I were forced to face the fracture of our marriage. And it was because of this fracture that we decided not to return after we had traveled to Colorado for Christmas that year. Unsure of what our next step should be, we moved to California to live with my dad so that both Brian and I could work and attempt to save up the necessary funds we would need in order to relocate to the Pacific Northwest so that I could pursue further education. The six months we spent living in California were not necessarily any easier than living in another country. It was the first time since I was five years of age that I had spent any extended amount of time with my father. There I was, a grown woman with three kids of her own, discovering that the wound from his absence in my life was still very much a part of who I had come to be and how I had come to relate to others.

In that six months Brian and I wrestled with our plans for our future. We questioned if such a thing as "our future" even existed anymore. After having grown up in a broken family I never imagined that divorce would be a word in my own relational vocabulary. And yet, we were at our breaking point. Neither of us knew what to do. Years of marriage counseling. Years of seeking out advice from spiritual advisors, friends, and family. Nothing seemed to help. We couldn't help but wonder if the stress of relocating a family of five and the demands of grad school were just simply too much for our fragile relationship to withstand.

So Brian and I were forced to get really real with each other. I know that's horrible grammar...but there's no other way for me to describe it. We had to speak honestly to one another...like really honest. The kind of stuff you only write in journals when you think no one else will ever read them. We spoke of the possibility of divorce and wondered about what that would look like. We talked about our ideas around custody and how we would still be co-parents and that we would have to get over ourselves so that we could celebrate every holiday and birthday together as a family. It was perhaps the most difficult conversation of my life. We also talked about the financial struggles such a decision would inevitably create. And that's when we both agreed that we simply had to move so that I could acquire the degree necessary for me to pursue a career that would make it possible for me to survive with while raising our three girls in a joint-custody situation.

It's so crazy for me to think that it was because we were contemplating divorce that we set sail on this journey three years ago. Sure there were plenty of other things set in motion to point me in this particular direction towards this particular school. But the possibility of us divorcing was one of the deciding factors. We were both hopeful that the experience would help us find one another again, but I don't think either of us really believed such a thing actually was possible.

There were a lot of things that happened in this journey that I never would have believed possible three years ago. And the most surprising has been that somewhere along this road I fell in love with my husband. I had always cared deeply for him before...but I'm not sure that I had really been capable of loving another...choosing to love another...until I began to discover my own true voice, true face, true beauty. In discovering my real self I became truly free to choose.

I am 5 days out from graduating from Mars Hill Graduate School with a Masters in Counseling Psychology. There truly are no words to describe my gratitude for this experience. It is not just an institution that I am thankful for - because anyone who has experienced Mars Hill quickly discovers that it is about the people you walk beside on this journey. So I am thankful for the people that make up this institution. I am thankful for the books I've read and the papers I've wrestled through. I am thankful for God's hand in it all. It truly is a place where text.soul.culture are embodied...they are made tangible, real, fleshy.

One week from tomorrow I will be returning to Colorado. It is no longer the place that I call home because I have actually discovered a home in my own soul. It is there that I have taken up residency and don't plan on ever leaving. Thank you MHGS, for helping me find home...a place where love simply abounds.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

working on my last MHGS paper...

And I stumbled upon this wonderful video. Faith was apparently entertaining herself a few mornings ago with my computer!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

31

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
I'm strong
I'm fragile
I'm young
I'm old

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
I'm wise
I'm faking
I'm content
I'm hungry

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
I'm smiling
I'm lying
I'm laughing
I'm bleeding

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
I'm beautiful
I'm ugly
I'm giving
I'm longing

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
I'm brave
I'm trembling
I'm busy
I'm hiding

I know the truth
You think you do
but you don't
And I want you
to see beyond the front
to know more than me
the layers beneath
the core, the Desire
that makes up
31 of me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

30 Days to Graduation...

And so I will now be counting down (rather than counting up)...not because I'm anxious to finish this chapter, but because I feel like I need to have an awareness of how much time I have left so that I might savor each day. Despite my best efforts to keep it at an arms length, the franticness of ending has settled into my stomach. Not sure if that's where it tends to settle for others, but it is most certainly the place in my body where franticness tends to reside and there are always interesting side effects as a result.

It is so interesting that at the near half way point of this mission to care better for myself I discovered that I needed to complete another 100 hours at my internship in order to fulfill the prerequisite for Colorado licensure. Figuring out how to keep my head above water in the midst of this chaos has been a challenge. But somehow learning to let certain things go (like blogging every night) and choosing to hold onto other things (like going outside in the afternoons with the girls whenever we can) has been my saving grace. And the crazy thing is that once you have a taste of what it's like to not have your world spinning off it's axis, even if it's only for a few weeks, is enough to make you realize you never want to let things get that out of balance again. I am falling in love with the peacefulness that only seems possible if I am intentional about being attuned to my own needs in the midst of providing for others. I am learning how to mother myself...and how to find the mothering I still need from those around me (but more on that little bit later).

Monday, May 24, 2010

blogger break

I was in need of one. I'll be back tomorrow. But for now I thought I'd share a sweet dance video.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day #30...

A few days ago I was overjoyed to share a meal in honor of one of my professors. She was my first-year practicum leader. My fellow MHGSers know something of the uniqueness of this kind of relationship. But for those of you need some further explanation let me simply say this - she walked beside a small group of us as we began the process of growing a mind to see ourselves and the world around us in new and sometimes painful ways. She is a woman who is often referred to as the "good enough mother" of MHGS. To me, she is one of the only women in my life who call forth the little girl in me. When she simply looks into my eyes I am aware of longing to curl up in her lap to cry and to rage at the lack of nurturance, love, acceptance and connection that has marked so many lives. At this special lunch, my professor (a.k.a. my psychological mother) reminded us (her psychological daughters) of the fact that we all need mothers...or mothering throughout our lives...and that perhaps the most difficult task is to mother ourselves.

I have been in need of much mothering in the past week. And I'm feeling this need more acutely today. I'm trying to learn what it means to clean up my own vomit (as I had to do for Krisalyn yesterday) - to comfort and soothe myself while something inside is making me feel sick and uncomfortable. I need someone to see past my foul mood and the way it is being projected onto everyone and everything else so that someone can help me make sense of why I feel the way I do right now (something I've attempted to help Faith with tonight). I am longing for someone to hold me and to tell me that though the world around me feels like it's chaotically and uncontrollably shifting that the love they have for me is constant, stable, unconditional and accessible.

Learning how to mother and care for others has always been a passion in my life. It's mothering myself that feels like the much more difficult task.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day #26...

dancing. laughter. silliness. playfulness.

It was a long week...but ending it by joining others in celebrating the school year at our annual MHGS Spring Banquet was a delight. I'm not gonna lie...I was a bit sentimental tonight as I allowed myself to acknowledge that when I leave this place there are aspects of this experience that no one else will understand or fully know. There is a kind of knowing that can only be felt with this particular community as a result of our shared experience. And I am so thankful for what I have been able to be a part of these past few years.

And the silliness continues.

Look up "swagger" in Webster's and you'll see this photo. Where my mother-fathers at?


then again...maybe we are not quite as cool as we think we are.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day #25...

Haven't stopped going since 6:30 this morning. And it's going to be a long night. Hoping that there will be time to recover at some point this weekend. wow. rest...I need rest. If this is what the next 6 weeks are going to look like, I'm going to need at least a month to recover after graduation!

Day #25 = F in self care.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day #23...

There are some days that are harder to redeem than others. Today was one of those days. I discovered some discouraging news this morning that put me in a funk all day long. Tears were never far from my eyes. There isn't much room for sadness or disappointment in our evening routine. But today was an especially rough day on just about everyone in the Gauthier Clan. Today was a day that couldn't be rescued by a run, some time in the sun, a glass of red wine, or a long bath. In fact, after all of these efforts at self-soothing I found myself stuck in a place I don't like to visit very often. I was troubled by the sense that things often feel difficult in my life.

There never seems to be an easy road...and even if there was, I never seem capable of taking it. And I'm not sure if this all-too-familiar place I get stuck in occasionally is best described as self-pity or simply honest reflection. I'm painfully aware of the fact that many have lived ridiculously more difficult lives than I have up until this point in time which is why I want to shut the door to this darker cavern of my heart as soon as I sense that I'm approaching it's entrance. But a part of me wonders if minimizing my own struggles is really the answer.

As I was still desperately seeking some soothing tonight, I immersed myself in another Narnia book titled The Horse and His Boy. One of the characters, Shasta, a young boy, was feeling rather down about his own circumstances in his life and began to describe his woes to Aslan upon their first official meeting. Aslan responds in a way that reveals his presence throughout the boys entire journey:

"I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight to receive you."

These days I find myself skeptical of a theology that identifies God as an abuser or inflictor of pain for the process of spiritual maturation, but I do take comfort in the idea that in the middle of the abuse, the pain, the struggles, God is there with us - guiding, comforting and attempting to soothe and develop us through it all.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day #22...

I awoke this morning with a sense of nostalgia. Not sure what it was connected to...until I took a shower and used my new bottle of Exotic Coconut Shower Gel from Bath & Body Works. Immediately upon the release of the strong coconut scent I was back in our over-sized (which we affectionately refer to as family-sized) shower in tiny Kampala Cottage. It was how we ended almost every day when we were living overseas. I worked most mornings from the comfort of my back patio. I'd pick Krisalyn up from preschool three days a week around lunch time. We'd play and have a bit of time to ourselves before we'd head over to grab the other blonde-haired bundles of energy. Bri would prep his class for the next day of school and then we'd all head over to the gym and swimming pool. I'd usually hit up the treadmill for a run (it was where I first discovered that I was actually capable of running for an extended period of time) or a spinning class before joining the girls in the sun-heated pool for a bit of family fun. As the day began to make friends with the evening we would head back to our cottage and still dripping the pool water from our bathing suits we'd all jump in the shower together for a quick wash up.

It sounds luxurious doesn't it? It was...sort of. There was something beautiful about the space (or perhaps it was the "pace") we allowed ourselves during that difficult season. To be completely honest, it was one of the most difficult experiences of our lives. We were alone for most of the time we lived out there. We had departed from the only world we had ever really known together- a world that offered us a sense of belonging, purpose, consistency and stability. In Uganda our world was opened up in remarkable ways and in really painful ways. Brian and I were forced to see each other outside of the realm that had provided us with a sense of identity. We were forced to see the world-at-large...thoughts on poverty were no longer faceless. I was able to finally begin to face what it means to be a woman and to live in this world.

Strangely...or perhaps not...it was in that season of our lives that we were kindest to ourselves in our day-to-day living. I lost a total of 17 pounds while we were there and not because I was trying to lose weight, but because I was eating fresh fruits and simple grains for most meals and because I was longing to reconnect with my own body in a way I had never desired to previously. We took time each day to play in the water with these girls that have offered us far more life than we have provided by simply birthing them. We read books. We began drinking (again for me...but a first for Brian). We spent time talking...a lot. Especially after the little ones with the most distinct swim-suit lines one could possibly imagine were tuckered out and on their way to the land of African dreams. We lived life in a very different way then.

So today...in honor of a scent-inspired memory we played in the water (actually it was in the rain).

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I used to watch this kid dance when he was 15. My mom took classes from his mother's studio and they also leased our church facility for their recitals (since we had one of the best dance stages in the area). There are no words to describe the way an amazing dancer gets under your skin and marries the rhythm of your own heart beat as you sit mesmerized by the movement that they live into. This kid is up there in my book. He reminds me of Wade Robson a bit...but with his own unique Russian flare. Maybe I'll rent the Michael Jackson dvd after all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day #20...

wow. First week of the final chapter of my schooling at MHGS...and I am dragging already. This undeniable lethargy could be related to the fact that we were busy with some activity or another nearly every evening this week. Last night, after spending some quality time with my little ladies at our most-frequented park, Faith collapsed on the floor and said, "I am so tired I just feel like crying for some reason!" I couldn't have summed it up any better.

I didn't completely lose sight of being kind to myself...I actually ended up excusing myself from a couple of other commitments this weekend. My hope, though, is that at some point I begin to recognize my limits and live within them...rather than disregard them until I can no longer turn a blind eye. Learning my limits will keep me from having to go back and say "no" where I have already said "yes".

Sleep. That's what took precedence the last couple of nights. And it is beckoning me once again...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day #17...

One of my favorite family rituals is climbing into bed for a few minutes with each of the girls at night before they sink into their dreamland. It's a sacred time actually. Many profound and wonderful conversations are held in those moments. Many tickles and giggles and animal kisses accompany the bedtime snuggles as well. Magic happens in these moments of connection when I can look into the face of each of these girls and marvel at the miracle of their lives and our lives being interconnected, interwoven, intermingled. Tonight Faith asked me a series of questions starting with "Mommy, why is it okay to see each other naked when you're married?" And then a few minutes later she asked, "Why do people have to die?" And finally, "Why doesn't God just tell us everything about everything?...I wish I could just understand everything."

As crazy as it might sound, I absolutely love her questions. And Bailey and Krisalyn have plenty as well. Faith actually mentioned tonight that she thinks that she and her sisters are the most curious girls she's ever met. The questions don't frighten me. Often they echo the questions of my own heart. Imagine that. My little girls' hearts echo my own.

Staring into their little faces each night is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day #16...

When I showed up at our little clubhouse here at the Lodge (our current apartment complex) for my afternoon workout I was greeted with the sound-blasting news report of a woman recently murdered in the area. Instinctually I glanced up at the TV set to see her photo as the news reporter rattled off the detail that this woman has two surviving teenage children. My headphones were in my ears and my music was already playing, but it wasn't loud enough (apparently there was a hard-of-hearing resident in the workout area who needed the volume to be at its maximum capacity) to drown out the reporting of this tragedy. I turned my ipod up in an effort to wage war with the bombardment of more bad news...but the words kept seeping through. Death...car bomb...trial...and each time I would feel this gravitational pull to look up at the bad-news-bearing-screen.

I had to run hard today. I had to run hard so that I could stop thinking about the tragedies. I had to run hard so that I was forced to focus on one thing - placing one foot in front of the other on that freaking treadmill. When I've pushed myself to run hard in the past, more often than not it was a form of self-punishment. Not today. Today it was being kind to myself to run until it hurt and I could simply be in my body and not in my head. Self care came in the form of running my ass off today. Literally.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day #15...

yes...I have shortened the title to this post. I'm just bored with the long title.

Just a little thought for the night. I've learned that self care necessitates that I spend at least some portion of the day or of my week being alone (a difficult task for a wife and mother of three). The fascinating thing I'm discovering, though, is that when I give myself this space and time to be alone, to check-in with myself, to sort of test my own temperature to assess the needs consistently, then I find that I am much more grateful for the time that I have with others. I'm not resentful towards them for being a part of the busyness that consumes my life. I'm not dissociating while i'm with them thinking of all the other things I should or could be doing. I'm not feeling hopeless and depleted because I have nothing left to give. Instead, I feel the honor of being able to come to a place where I can offer who I am to the relationship and can wait expectantly for the other to show up as well. A well-rested soul is a soul alive and ready to engage.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #13

Totally skipped a post yesterday. Thought about it at 11 pm and decided the comfort of my bed was more appealing. Everything is about to start up again and then it will be a sprint to the finish line. I'm hoping that the last two weeks have prepared me well for the effort I'll need to exert in order to stick with this commitment in the thick of the chaos. We mapped out our lives for the next two months and discovered that there is something on the calendar for nearly every single day until we drive off in a big yellow Penske truck once again. Ready or not...here we go.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #11

This is my first moment of genuine rest since I awoke to the smell of the pulled pork that was cooking in the crockpot all through the night. So I didn't earn an A+ in self care today...but I'm okay with that because in reality there will be days where I have to get a lot of things accomplished. What I think I'm most concerned about is trying to shift the axis of my world a bit. I'm trying to figure out what it means to be centered in my own body, mind, and spirit so that when there are days where I have to get a lot of things done - I can still remain grounded, weighed down by the gravity of my own essence. These days of immense rest over the past week and a half are what prepared me for a day like today.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #10

Oh my gosh. 10 days down. 60 to go. That's an "oh my gosh, I can't believe I only have 60 days left in this season of my life!" not an "Oh my gosh, I can't believe I have 60 more of these blog posts to go!"

Self care for today came in the form of my own personal therapy. I have been in and out of various forms of therapy since I was a teenager. Is it any wonder I ended up pursuing it as a career?! I used to think that therapy was all about trying to better understand oneself...or how to better understand another in the case of marriage counseling. And though I may still believe that through the process of therapy one can make such discoveries, I think I'm convinced now that therapy has more to do with learning how to simply be oneself than it has to do with understanding oneself. It's about discovering, through a unique relationship, that you are lovable, beautiful and valuable. It is a redeeming relationship - one that struggles to help set you free to be you.

I'm so thankful I've met someone to journey with me in this process.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #9

I am beginning to wonder if this looming sickness will ever depart from our household. We attempted to usher the girls off to school today despite not being 100% and an hour later I received a call from the school that Bailey just wasn't holding up very well. Poor Miss B. She always seems to be more significantly impacted by the illnesses that pass through our household. And so I was homebound yet another day. It was a bit of a bummer since the sun managed to stay out for most of the day in our neck of the woods.

After going through a roller coaster of emotions as I surveyed the internet to see what jobs are available in the mental health arena all morning, I decided it was time for me to start cracking into my reading for this next and final term. So what does that have to do with self care? That's what I'm about to reveal. Geesh. For this last term I just so happen to be taking a class titled C.S. Lewis: Theological Perspectives for Spiritual Formation. I'm super excited about the class...except for the fact that there are 13 books for this 8 week class (hence the need to start reading NOW). I have read most of C.S. Lewis' more popular...and perhaps more serious literature but only recently began reading his Chronicles of Narnia series. Brian got the set for free a little while ago (a little perk for being a teacher is that sometimes you get free books!) and we started reading it from the beginning with the girls. And this was before I even knew I was going to take the class.

I love entering into a world of fantasy...always have, but was never exposed to really good literature when I was young. There is something about getting lost in a story that is entirely other-worldly. It's an escape in one sense, but more fully it is about the igniting of imagination. I try to envision every detail written on the page as if I were actually in the scene somewhere. The symbolism - of course, is what I am most curious about and somehow I always seem to find a way to feel connected to these fantasy worlds. They offer a new paradigm. I've decided that this is a form of mental play that I deeply enjoy.

Now...I'll let you know if I still feel the same way after finishing all 13 books, a group project, a serious paper and a quiz.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #8

I had an unexpected day off today...sort of. Faith and Bailey both came down with the same cold that Bri, Krisalyn and I managed to survive so I decided to let all three of the girls stay home from school today. I was able to get quite a bit accomplished because the deal was that they could stay home only if they were willing to take it easy and rest all day long.

I've been on Spring Break for over a week now. It's strange how I look forward to these little breaks in between terms but then when I'm on break I'm simply anticipating the next rush of adrenaline that seems to accompany a new round of courses. I can't tell if I'm eager for classes to start next week because the mental stimulation makes it easier to get through the mundaneness of my day-to-day life or if it's because once I finish these classes I will officially be considered a master of something (whatever that means?!).

Something of this day spent at home with all three girls reminded me of what it was like when they were all very young and I spent much of my time at home with them. I was technically working full-time, but it was work for the church so I only spent a portion of my time at the actual office, but the bulk of my work I was able to do from home. They were wonderful years...and very difficult and lonely years. I had two kids by the time any of my girlfriends or family members joined me in mommyhood and I was the only mother of small children on staff at the church during those early years. To say that I felt alone is an understatement.

My babies were the greatest gifts of my life. And yet, they forced me to face myself, my loneliness and isolation at an age when most young women are off at college somewhere having fun and taking their time making some of the decisions I made before I was even able to legally have a glass of wine or a hard cider.

Graduate school has distracted me from that place of loneliness periodically throughout this season of my journey...but it's always there. It is easier to bear now, though, I must say...and I'm not sure why. It's not a loneliness that can be cured by hanging out with people or even by having meaningful conversations - though such encounters are a sort of balm at times. It's a loneliness that seems to stem from living a life that cannot be fully known by any other human being. I thank God that Brian and I discovered that we have to always strive to understand and know each other more fully during every season of our lives, but even we are a mystery to one another.

I felt something of the loneliness that seeps out of my pores and bleeds all over the mundaneness of my life today. And you know what I did to soothe that feeling? I cooked pasta. I ate comfort food. And it filled my belly. And sharing that meal with the gifts of my life helped slightly fill that hole in my soul for at least one day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #6

Figuring out what it looks like to take time to myself during these family-filled weekends will be interesting. We were at a track meet all day today. Literally - from 8 in the morning until 5 in the evening. We were rained on, wind-blown, and cheered-out by the time we rolled into our covered parking spot over here at the Peasley Canyon Lodge. It was a long and full day...and I wasn't actually that intentional about finding a moment or two to be present to myself. But maybe on days like today, simply taking a few minutes to write about my thoughts in this space is enough. And I must say that sitting in those damp bleachers all bundled up in blankets and watching my little ladies run their little hearts out is quite fun actually! I'm one proud mama.

p.s. I've decided that every Sunday, in an attempt to establish a form of Sabbath, I will take a break from blogging. Rhythm...that's what I'm trying to establish here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #5

I knew sticking to this commitment to intentionally caring for myself everyday would be a challenge. I knew that setting limits to what I require of myself each day would be a necessary part of this commitment. I knew that I would struggle with a paradigmatic shift in learning how to balance my own needs with the often demanding needs of my children. I knew that it would be a task that would incite the kind of creativity that I often don't fan into flame on a regular basis. I knew it would be a challenge. But I didn't know it would lead me to a place of deep sadness. Or perhaps, unconsciously or subconsciously...or not, I knew that this sorrow existed and the busyness and failure to be truly present to myself was a way to avoid this space of deep sorrow.

Granted - it has been an emotionally-charged week. Brian traveled to Colorado for his Grandfather's funeral. Elmer was an amazing man and everyone who met him was sure of it. He lived a long and beautiful life - but knowing this still doesn't detract from the sense of loss. The 11th anniversary of Columbine came and went. And we discovered that my granny has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It has most certainly been a tough week. But I don't think that is the only reason I have met such sadness this week.

Because I've also experienced a growing sense of peace as I've faced this sadness. I think this may have something to do with joy and sorrow being interwoven or at least intricately connected. My hope is that the more time I am willing to face, to feel, to acknowledge the sadness, then the greater my capacity to bear it and grow in hope within it.

I've done a decent job at caring for my body these past few days. I am still trying to figure out what it means to begin really caring for my spirit. I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #4

Just a small lesson for today: Sometimes self-care is simply taking a moment to ask yourself what you need. There are moments, days, or seasons where needs are easier to assess. And there are moments, days, or seasons where identifying need seems like a nearly impossible task. For today, however, sickness is declaring that my body needs rest. Therefore, I am signing out early tonight.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mission: Care for Self Day #3


I heard something interesting at that little seminar on Secondary Trauma that I mentioned in an earlier post. Laura van Dernoot Lipsky (the author of the book posted above) talked about how often there is a fundamental notion of scarcity at the root of many of our systems, institutions, religions and philosophies. A perspective rooted in the notion of scarcity claims that there is never enough time in the day, never enough money, never enough people to work the fields, never enough resources. This mentality is sneaky and dangerous. It leaves a person exhausted, bound by obligation, and thereby, unable to experience the abundant life.

One of the reasons I wanted to commit to this endeavor was so that I could develop eyes to see the abundance all around me...even amidst the chaos and deceptive appearance of scarcity. I grew up in a home that functioned out of the oppressive notion of scarcity - there was never enough money, there weren't enough hours in the day, there were too many needs for a working mom, an angry stepfather, and a distant father to tend to. I worked in a church that was often plagued by the same spirit - there were never enough resources, never enough people serving or giving, never enough youth trips or activities. Essentially I internalized this concept of scarcity and deemed that I just wasn't enough...and so I had to work harder and harder and harder. Until one day I was exhausted.

I want to believe that it is possible to experience life in a different way. I want to place the notion of abundance and peace at the center of my daily living. I want to believe that there is enough...for each and every day...if only I have eyes to see and ears to hear.

I did yoga today. I felt the joy of having a body that could move with grace and strength and take in the breath of life. Today I believed, with each breath for those 45 minutes, that my body and it's glory has something to do with the abundant life.