I lit a few candles yesterday. Reading the gruesome report of the events in Peshawar had me rattled. Two days prior I was hanging little ornaments on my tree in memory of each person killed in Newtown, MA and now 148 lives were gone at the hands of the Taliban. Children and teachers were shamelessly killed.

My daughter walked out to a dim kitchen and she knew right away.

“Pakistan mom?” I nodded as she sat down to join me and we stared at the candles hoping the light was strong enough.

My son had a different response.“Candles mom?  How will that help?” He had questions, lots of questions, and so finally I pulled up a recent news article and we read it together and my candles did nothing for him.

His eyes filled with tears. “I’m scared, mom. School should not be scary.”

I did not correct him.

“Things like that don’t happen here” would have been my response a few years back. Maybe we don’t have the Taliban and the US remains largely a much safer place to be educated than in many places around the world yet uncertainty has now crept into our haven as well.

For once I did not know how to comfort him.

After a bit I reminded him of one of our favorite books The Three Questions based on a Tolstoy fable. In the book a panda named Stillwater is trying to teach a friend how to determine who the most important person is, what time is the best, and what actions are the right ones to take. Through some experience he learns the most important time is now, the most important person is the one you are with, and the most important action is the kindest one.

And so that is what I tried to tell him.

“So Bug, right now I am feeling helpless. I can light this candle and send my thoughts towards people far away. I can show you I care by listening to your concerns even though I have no answers."

He wasn't completely satisfied, but his gaze drifted toward the candle. He took my hand and we sat there lost in our unsettled thoughts together. 

Oh Friday, we made it!

So many troubles, but there are bright spots. I read these and am reminded yet again of why I love reading and writing.

It's dark and December and the country feels sad and drab. And yet I get to work HERE and I think one way of not letting the darkness settle in too much is to make a plan for sunny days. Mine will involve catching a few free concerts and seeing a few plays next summer in my hometown of Winona. If you are within driving distance OR need a little getaway, I can hook you up! My town shines in the summer- outdoors and in the theatres, we really have it all and I feel so lucky to call this place home. But what I really want to say, is make a plan to visit a friend, go see a live performance of something, book a camping trip. Planning for future fun really does help.

I am not in a position of power, nor have I ever really wanted to be but I do believe women are extraordinary in leadership roles. I found THIS fascinating. We don't have to compromise the essence of who we are, especially if who we are is simply kind. It was a refreshing read after all the bossy/lean-in talk.

Finally, I just have to talk to you about Molly Barker.  She has created a movement called The Red Boot Coaltion. If you poke around on the website, you will find that Molly cares deeply about the world, the sense of helplessness we feel regarding politics and lack of meaningful conversations, and the overall sense of unrest in our country.  She has tried many things to make an impact and what it has come down to is very simple. She wants to engage folks in a discussion about what matters to them. She believes that at our core we are more similar than different and to that end, she is seeking what she calls Red Booters to inititate conversations around the country. I am one of them!  We talked on the phone yesterday and it was like talking to a twin (one who is a runner and has been around the country doing really important things while I am chubby and home schlepping kids) but a twin nonetheless. We are both sensitive, passionate, hopeful about the world and believe in the innate sense of kindness of the human spirit. And so, we talked and she told me how to get started and I smiled and I just simply could feel in my bones that gathering people in Winona to work the ELEVEN STEPS is what I am meant to do. I have gathered some interest and will hold my first meeting in January. I am so excited!  And if you are remotely interested in doing one in your own community or joining me, please let me know. I would love to see you, support you, encourage you, listen to you.

And that is the key. One of the most important things Molly and I discussed was listening. I have said more than once on this blog that other people's stories matter. I have said people just want to be heard, and Molly's position is that the internet has given people unprecedented abilities to share but we have tuned out. We don't listen so much as react. And I know with my whole heart that the listening as we discuss what each of the steps means to us as inviduals is going to be key. It is not about being right...it's about gaining perspective through listening.

Can I tell you again how excited I am? It reminds me a great deal of my work with Minnesota's marriage equality and I have rarely felt more alive than when I was engaged in that work..

And finally, I want to announce that I am designing a workshop with the same women who worked with me at Camp Empowerment. This workshop will be for adult women and we are simply giving women two and half days to think only of themselves in THIS place. We will write and move and meditate and create a vision for a life we desire and support and listen to each other and ourselves. More details will be coming but clear your calendars for March 13-15th. 

Enjoy your Friday. Plan something, read something, and revel in what makes you happy.

Weighty matters.

I was in a bit of a rush, sailing through a department store searching for something to wear to an event I will be attending Friday night. My eye is consistently drawn to the same lines and colors so it seems like it should be easy to shop, but I wasn't feeling great because I have gained weight and this does not make for a fun shopping trip.

But I persisted in spirit and mind because I get to have clothes that I feel good in no matter my size. A woman came up to me and said, "My daughter, she's chunky. She has, what do you call it? A muffin top? Do you think this would fit you?"

Hmm.....there aren't too many ways to interpret this other than I am most certainly chunky too. But in a moment of personal growth, I didn't let this send me running away without a purchase. Instead, I said, "You are a brave woman buying clothes for your adult daughter." I purchased my clothes and never really answered her question.

It's been a weird year, a difficult and trying one. I have ushered my family through a lot of uncertainty. My husband's ego was tested time and again in various work places. My daughter was diagnosed with a difficult but treatable disorder, my son is in the pit of puberty, and the things I tried to prioritize fell away. Often I felt like a bit of a puppeteer struggling to keep one hand talking to the other.

I put my family first. I took in the world as the sensitive person that I am. I ate my way through a lot of pain and tried to walk and talk and journal and listen to my husband and my friends and my children and last but not least myself, and then I ate some more.

My oldest brother is an alcoholic. He earned his 3 year chip for staying sober. I felt I earned some chips too in this last year, but mine were potato and chocolate. And as different as my life looks from Kelley's on paper, I know we share a common core. We are anxious about the world around us, it affects us deeply, and to cope we have to find ways that sometimes soothe us. Thankfully and with true grit, he has recovered and has taken to walking, walking, and walking some more, and chugging diet Mountain Dew. It might not be the real prescription for long term health, but when you think of the alternative I'd say he is doing quite well. 

I'd venture to get that many of us numb ourselves. It could be with food or exercise or the internet and in doing so we get carried from one moment to the next. I am not dumb. I understand real addiction. I am not risking my life or someone else's with my extra piece of chocolate. And when I have made these attempts at escape, I was admitting to myself that sometimes the pain was too great.  

Through my attempts at soothing and healing, I have gained some padding. My dog was recently hit by a Fed Ex truck and the vet said her extra weight saved her. Her legs are not crushed and her liver is not damaged because of her padding. Maybe my padding saved me.  Instead of thinking I was careless, I am choosing to see it as being full of care. It was me trying to so hard to keep it together and failing late at night when the lights were dim and the house was finally sleeping. Sometimes, in order to hang on, you have to let go.

I did not let myself go. Instead, I found a way to stay. And despite what I gained in pounds, I didn't lose a single friend, a child, a husband, or an animal. In fact, I have stronger relationships and feel deeper love for everyone in my life. I have lived through some terrible things and I have been witness to some terrible things and yet I have held on. I have risen to the occasion and I am still here.

It would be easy to suggest I am over-thinking, but this is me. And part of being me is trying to figure things out. I don't need any more health tips regarding coconut oil or the natural drug, exercise. I know! We all already know. And I am growing because I can look back at this year and see myself with loving eyes. I had coffee and tears with good friends. I read stories with my babies and shared tense and loving conversations with Big Man. I had too many hugs to count and comfortable silence when the talking was done. I  took a chance and tried some new things like meditation and writing for healing. Yes, I had too much of this and that, but what I had was just right for the moment I was in. 

I am still thinking about that woman and what she said to me and what I hope she doesn't say to her daughter the next time they meet. What I hope is that she pulls her in for a long hug and whispers into her ear, "I am so glad you are here." 

That is exactly how I feel. I am so glad I am here.