Will you be mine?

Tomorrow is one of those days that some love, some hate. It is hard to find someone who has no opinion on it. I guess that makes sense.

Forced displays of affection + lots of advertising dollars + media-driven fantacies = impossible expectations/inevitable disappointment.

Love is great….mostly, and not great. Valentine’s Day is not necessarily so great.

imperfect-love

I remember studying love in philosophy class as a college student. Plato went on and on about the different types of love. I was intensely invested in the class, not because of any unique philosophical prowess, because I had a major crush on the professor. I can put myself right back in that desk chair and can feel the cramp in my hand as I wrote down every word that came out of his mouth, praying that he noticed that I cared more about Plato than any of the other students in that class and being convinced that my eyes were the ones that he met the most as his curly hair bounced with every gesture and his voice raised with excitement as he shared…..I digress….Here are the categorizations that he suggests:

  • Eros, or sexual passion
  • Philia, or deep friendship
  • Ludus, or playful love
  • Agape, or love for everyone
  • Pragma, or longstanding love
  • Philautia, or love of the self

I’m no Plato but I have a working list of love-categories too:

  • Dutiful love, or the kind of love that gets you out of bed at the sound of puking, keeps your arm asleep under a heavy head, lets your shirt be used as a kleenex, shows up, stays and swallows deeply.
  • Growing love, or that which comes in waves as you get to know someone more and more and find that they have etched themselves permanently into your heart. This love is open to seeing more, to peeling back the layers, to being caught off guard by the wonder of another.
  • Begrudging love, or the one that you give when you know that you have to but you don’t particularly feel it…but you do it anyway…no matter what…maybe not with a smile but you do it.
  • Tender love, or this stuff that seeps out of your pores, changes you, catches you by surprise, leaves you speechless, takes your breath away and brings you to tears.
  • Loaded love,  or the push and pull that guilts you and twists you and bashes you about inside of your head… sometimes on purpose
  • Belly-laugh love, the reflex that comes when you made it through the hard thing and are at the other side of it so you can look back at it together and give that knowing glance that erupts into laughter in the way that can only happen between folks who deeply know one another and have been through some stuff
  • Naked love,  a lens which makes bodily functions ok, sees parts as connected to function, as well as worthy of objectifying, doesn’t look away, doesn’t stare too long but also hooks a gaze deeply
  • Reflected love, all the ways that you see yourself that you would never have seen if the one who loves you didn’t point them out and remind you again and again of what you look like through their eyes
  • Gracious love, this is the one that forgives. This is the one that is prepared to have another go, to give a second chance, to offer the gift of seeing the big picture and understanding the context. This is the love that you never earn or lose because it just is. This is the one that we get and give glimpses. This is the one that is divine.

4ef5e582183208ed657cdae10297c336

There are probably more. None can stand alone. For you to be mine or me to be yours, we need the spectrum. I have gotten lots of love in my life. I have gotten to give lots of it too. This Valentine’s Day, I want to relish that. I want to honor that. I want to lift it up and wave it in the air for everyone to see.  I want to name that while love is patient, its also impatient. Love is kind but sometimes it can be not so nice. It is all the things that we are.

How could it not be?

It is us. It is us. It is us.

 

The big cry of Christmas Eve 2016

I have a habit of trying to busy my way past stress. If the to-dos are heafty enough, surely there will not be any time for feeling sadness, or so I like to tell myself. A holiday is a perfect situation for engaging this strategy.

This year, our family felt like one of those broken-families for the first time in 14 years since my divorce. We have managed to live in such a way that relative peace surrounds our family and most life-events are shared. That is not the case this year. We have been adjusting to a new rythm with clear division of space and time between my ex and myself. It is not comfortable. It is painful. It is stressful. To complicate an already tender time, the plans, traditions, expectations of a holiday season ramp everything up and invite the worst kind of entitlement. My Christmas should be fantastic, of course. My traditions should be upheld at all cost. My gifts will be the best. My events will be the most fun. My, my, my….

I am primed to engage my strategy to mitigate all of the risks of feeling any negative emotions. Lists are written. Guests are invited. Decorations are hung. Gifts are made/bought. Meals are planned. Good-deeds are scheduled. Every nook and cranny that could house any sadness is filled with something to do or someone to do something for or somewhere to be. It serves me so very well….until it doesn’t.

Our kids met us at Macy’s for our anual tradition of taking a picture with Santa. They came with the feelings that they carried from leaving their father on Christmas Eve. Heavy stuff. All of us tried to move through this event as if it was the same as it had been for the past 14 years. You park, walk through women’s shoes, take the elevator to the 8th floor, walk through the Santaland Display, snag a spot in line to be hearded into the velvet-draped room where we fight about which kid sits on Santa’s knee, then out to select this year’s ornament and home again home again, jiggety jog. Done.

image000003

We get home, have a snack, get back into the car, go to Christmas Eve service, come home, take down all of the Advent decorations, put up the Christmas decor, hang the stockings….that is when it happened…that is when we crashed into the wall of this-year-is-not-like-the-other-years-and-that-really-sucks. If memory serves, 5 of the 7 of us cried (child #1 is overseas so she missed out on being one of the criers). We each had our own take on why we were sad and our own complaints, dissapointments, resentments, and feelings of entitlement that bubbled out of us and at one another in angry tones and through stinging tears. I felt all the sads from what our family was going through on top of the dissapointment that my to-do lists had not innoculated myself, nor my kids, nor my husband from ugly-cries on Christmas Eve when everything is supposed to be perfect!

The funny thing about this sort of moment is how much better we all feel after having it. Our bodies are not being fooled by the distractions that we dangle in front of them. The tears need to happen. The feelings need to be acknowleded. That phrase ‘to have a good cry’ is just so, so true.

Apologies were said for the ugly words that bubbled up during our collective-melt-downs. Dinner was eaten at about 1:30 am and then we began our sweet, lovely, quiet, unplanned, unmanaged, gift-exchange with laughter and that peace that we all longed for. It was perfect.

None of our holidays will ever feel quite the same again…. Part of that is because of the new dynamics. Part of that is because really none of them ever were the same…there is always something that is different. Last year, children 1 and 2 were in Spain and we were in New Orleans…that was different. Every year life provides the grace of change and growth that moves us into newness, deviation from norms, adustments, natural ends and beginnings. That is the norm. That always has been the norm. That will always be the norm.

I am so thankful for the big-cry-of-Christmas-Eve-2016.

 

Will you please stay and hold me?

20160805_231832

If you want to feel all the feels, try helping a 28 pound 6 year old get to sleep when he is away from his mother who has flown to a land called Russia that he doesn’t understand. Living in shelters, moving in and out of stressful circumstances, navigating a world in poverty and uncertainty has knitted together a bond between these two that is iron-clad.

I was giving myself some space for a good dose of self pity that day. Hopes I had were not working out. People were disappointing me. My efforts were unseen. Tic, tic, tic…I had the perfect line-up of reasons to wallow. We have not had to do bedtime in years. Now, this kid was in our house and we needed to get him to sleep at a decent hour so that he could wake up for school the next day. What a pain! I was adding this to my list of reasons that my life was not fair. I sent child #3 in to do the task for me. She came out and said that it wasn’t working. I am pretty sure that I said something of a passive-egressive nature. Eye rolling was probably involved. I pouted my way back into the room he was trying to get to sleep in.

I am the sort of mom that usually gets kids to do what I say. I was all ready to just say it was time to go to bed and that he would comply because I had said so. I was not feeling patient, kind, empathetic, compassionate…

Then, I saw him. He barely made a bump in that bed. He turned his little head toward me and a tear rolled down his cheek. ‘Liz, I miss my mom.’ Well…yep…of course he does. Who wouldn’t. I asked him if he wanted me to snuggle him and he nodded his head yes. I climbed up beside him and held him. ‘I miss her so much my stomach hurts.’ ‘Why did she have to leave?’ ‘ When will she come back?’ ‘Where is Russia?’ ‘Is she in a house like your house?’

Shh shh shh, little one. You are safe. Your mom loves you so much and she will come back to you as soon as she can. You are here with us and we will keep you until she can come back.

My cold/self-centered heart melted. His tiny fingers wrapped around mine and we cried together. I cried because I was sad that I had gotten myself into that yucky place where sad morphs into entitlement and anger. It is so ugly.

He cried because his one constant, his only security, his greatest love was gone.

I tried to slip out when I thought that he was sleeping heavily enough…but no. He grabbed my hand and said

‘Liz, will you please stay and hold me?’

I think of that Taize song that we often sing at Lent that repeats ‘stay with me. remain here with me. watch and pray.’ There is a melancholy to the tune that can place a person right into what it feels like to want to be with someone when fear and pain are just too great to bear alone. We can all relate to that feeling. Whatever your stance on the Bible is, you can see why Jesus would have wanted his besties to be with him, to hold him, to stay…

(big segue warning)

I have a group of women that have stayed with me, remained with me through joys and sorrows. We met. We laughed. We trusted one another with our darkest secrets. We ached for one another when we felt pain. We got each other. We get each other. We call ourselves  the Hot Dish Ladies. It’s ironic. All that stuff that I was feeling a few paragraphs up, all that wallowing and yuck is just fine with them. They get it. They are not annoyed by it. They say the right things. They remember the pertinent details. They stay. Here are some of them:

15578652_10101967157043950_5226205448498391205_n

These are the sort of friends who want to go out on a frigid ( colder-than-Mars-kind-of-frigid) Sunday evening, after dark, to celebrate one of us who is about to enter her 40s. They want to know the things that most people would rather not get into. They want to be mad at the people you are mad at, sad about the things that you are sad about. They want to remind you of the story you told 6 years ago where you did that thing and you thought it was going to be a deal breaker but everything worked out ok. They want to help you see just how beautiful you are. They want to mark new beginnings, to share sad endings, to laugh and be laughed with because they know that it is better to do those things with people…not just any people…with these people.

It feels good to know that you have someone who will  stay and hold you in those moments where that is the only thing that will make you feel better. Matvei knows that as a 6 year old. Biblical writers knew that. My hot dish ladies know that. Everyone knows that.

Gemilut Chasadim -Bestowing Kindness…even to myself

There is a jewish saying “Charity awaits the cry of distress. Benevolence anticipates the cry of distress.” Gemilut Chasadim is a mitzvoth…a commandment… in the Jewish tradition. It is a call to act with benevolence toward any and everyone. A call to kindness.

Here are some great images of folks anticipating cries of distress and doing what they can to be kind:

Giving drink to the thirsty, shelter to weary, comfort to the stranger, companionship to the lonely, safety to the endangered. This is just the sort of phrase that I love. All the great religious traditions call on their communities to something similar. Lots of us work on the call to gemilut chasadim…even thought we don’t use those words.

Parenting pulls out lots and lots of opportunities for bestowing kindness. Anticipating cries of distress and meeting them with benevolance is the name of the game for years and years of guiding little beings safely through their stages of development.

My kids here me say to ‘Err on the side of kindness and then you will never make a mistake’ more often than they would like. This is subjective, of course. From my perspective, enforcing bedtimes, limiting screen-time, requiring chores,  brokering peace, teaching manners, etc are all acts of kindness. I am anticipating the cries of distress which would come from young adults who don’t know how to share, can’t get along with others, who have not been set up for success in life.  My kids’ perspective can easily pin these same acts as acts of unkindness. Usually, the line between kindness and unkindness is pretty clear to me. Today was not one of those days.

Two of my kids are technically adults. They can dip in and out of my world as they please. They are self sufficient, responsible, full-functioning members of society and that affords them the freedom to live out of their own perspective. I have spent 22 years honing my philosophy of parenting and raising my kids in that. My perspective (and my hubby’s even though he doesn’t always think he has as much influence as he might want) dictates rules, privileges, responsibilities…all the in’s and out’s of my kids’ world. My-way is the highway, so to speak. That can’t go on forever.

It is an interesting process that I am going through now, as I unhook from always driving things with these two adult women that I birthed. I have to shift into a passenger-seat. 22 years of habits and reflexes and gut-reactions have to be slowed down and examined. I have to remind myself that I am not the only adult in the room when I am with them. My-way was rooted in kindness (in its best moments) but it really is not so kind any more. I don’t necessarily know if they are thirsty, tired, in danger,  making the right choice, doing the right thing…I can’t anticipate with as much certainty.

It is hard. It is wonderful. It is gratifying. It is challenging. Some days, I really suck at it.

Today, I hit all the marks of a newbie-mom-0f-adult-chilren.

  • Spent money I shouldn’t have to try to please
  • Put aside things I needed to be doing which would bite me in the butt later
  • Tried too hard
  • Stuffed my feelings instead of unhooking from them
  • Felt really sure that I was doing all the wrong things
  • Felt really sure that I was doing all the right things
  • Got resentful
  • Fell apart in the end because of all the straining and stuffing and trying and resenting…

Poor child #2 did not know what hit her. She apologized…and yeah, she was a little snappy and less-than-effusive and a little self-focused…but my meltdown was definitely not her fault.

Someone needs to have mommy-and-me classes for the 20-somethings and us middle-aged mamas. I remember learning about startle-responses, tongue-thrusts, swaddling, burping….all the quirky things that infants bring as a part of their being that young-mamas and dads don’t always expect.

Where is the class that will clue me into the doings of a typical well-launched-kid? How can I balance wanting to help and support them without telling them what to do and prying more than I really should into their choices? How can I name that I miss seeing them in the every-day without making them feel guilty for having their own life?  Where is the line between respect for me as an elder and squashing their rights to their own opinions? How do I keep them safe and give them room to make their own mistakes?

I guess that this is a spot in life where I need to offer some benevolence to myself. I need to anticipate my own distress as I have some growing pains and treat myself kindly. I want to do this at the same time as anticipating where they (the new adults in my life) may encounter some distress and offering them kindnesses along the way. Erring on the side of kindness needs to go both ways.

Whew! This growing up thing is hard at 45….its a different kind of hard than it was when I was 20…still, it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks…not that I am old…just sort of set in some of my ways.  I need buckets of grace!

Here is a shot of those amazing women that are helping me to grow up. They are pretty fabulous. Maybe I am biased….no…they just are….

palmerfamily024

 

 

Undivided attention…kinda

Child # 5 somehow slipped herself right between us as we had finally plopped down to sleep. How do they do that? It’s like they have a superpower for undetectable-bed-entry but once they are in there, they make their presence know with their signature moves of taking-all-the-blankets, placing-cold-feet-on-your-warmest-parts, breathing-dragon-breath-right-in-your-face and anything else that can reek havoc on your plan for peaceful slumber. The smallest child can command a sleeping space in such a way that full-adults are banished to the edges. Someone should find a way to channel that energy and use it for good…That’s not really what this is about…

We have six kids. Each of them see themselves as one, not as one-of-six. They crave undivided attention or at least a pretty good chunk of your focus. They find lots of ways to place themselves in the middle of whatever you may have planned on doing so that you have to notice them. Sometimes they do that by being cute and snuggly. Sometimes they grab you with a great story about their day. If you have been particularly absent, they break things or rules to get noticed. Whatever the tactic, the end-goal is the same. They want to be seen by you. We all want that.

I am not one of those people that says you have to build some contrived ritual to have one-on-one time with your offspring…that sells books and keeps capitalism rolling along. Doing the dishes together is perfect. Walking the dog, folding laundry, raking leaves, cooking dinner…anything can provide some time to just hear one little voice for a while. They will keep looking over at you to see if you are paying attention to their recounting of who said what to whom at recess and what happened next. Luckily, listening is all they are looking for. They want to be listened to. We all want that.

So, child #5 had both of us. She knew we were not going anywhere and if she could keep talking quickly enough, we would probably stay awake for most of what she wanted to share. She started a new school recently and really misses her friends. She likes the kids she is meeting but they just aren’t the same…they don’t know what is guaranteed to make her laugh, they don’t know that she loves tiny things and doesn’t like edamame, they don’t have jokes that they have told one another forever. She needed us to shut-up and sit-still long enough to hear her. Getting to what is really bugging her takes a little time and she had been working up to talking through this for a while. She didn’t want us to solve this…just to listen. She didn’t need us to change anything…just to care. She needed us to lay there and give her the stage for as long as she needed to get all the feelings out. Then she needed us to hold her and walk the careful line between it’s-ok-to-feel-sad and you-will-definitely-feel-better-soon (that is a tricky maneuver). She wanted empathy. We all want that.

Somehow, none of the other kids burst into the room and we were able to keep our eyes open long enough and I didn’t say anything too stupid and neither of us slipped off the edges of the bed….her needs were met. Undivided-attention happened, sardine-style. That one grace-filled moment was perfect.

One of our family’s favorite books was The Biggest Bed in the World

If you run across it, its a fun one. If y51nxrq3kf5lou have little ones, I promise that they will like it. If you ever had little ones, I promise that it will remind you of those nights of bedtime rituals and all the shenanigans that come as you try to find your perfect balance between getting sleep and parenting…HA…there is no perfect balance:)

This really is not far off what our bed looked like some nights…except that I never wore rollers in my hair and they have one more kid than we do…and one more cat…I am far enough from this stage of life to look at this fondly and see all the grace-growing that happened in tightly-squeezed nights. This is attachment. We all want that.

Matvei

We drove across town in the fresh snow and I distracted him with chatting about airplanes and farm animals and bridges and tunnels and anything else that popped into either of our minds.It felt like a race to keep one step ahead of his questions about where he was going and why. She did not want him to know. She was so afraid. She thought that he would worry the way that she was worrying and she wanted to spare him that distress. A whole team of people knew that he was coming and they had been making a path for him for months.

Connections… The family support worker at his kindergarten is connected to 360 Communities and they are connected to folks who care enough to make sure that a little boy who has rotting teeth and dangerously infected gums can be connected to a dental surgeon who donates his time and is connected to a clinic with nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors and a lovely woman who brings a therapy dog to visit patients who have trouble connecting.

20161123_100853

That’s where we met Getty. She was a perfect distraction from what was ahead. He smiled from ear to ear as he patted her with his blackened teeth showing for the last time.  He was guided through changing into hospital clothes and selecting his favorite chapstick flavor for his mask and touring the room with the stars in the ceiling while the interpreter quietly spoke all the details of the procedure into his mother’s ear. He was the picture of naiveté. His innocence and trust kept him in the dark even as he was squarely in the middle of all that was about to happen to him. All of the connections has been seamless.

He took the mask to his mouth and breathed hard in and out until he fell into a deep sleep. That’s when she crumbled. I held her as she cried and cried and cried. She had not been shielded from any of the worry. She knew that her boy was going to have almost all of his teeth extracted and those which were left would need to be emptied of infection and crowned. She now knew that he had been in so much pain for years and it had been so constant that he did not even know that he could feel different.

She cried for him.

She cried for herself.

She cried for the life that he had been born into and the ways that she had failed him because she was poor and had not been adequately connected.

Two hours passed.

A new boy was presented to her with new teeth, no more infections and a needle in his arm that he kept trying to rip out. He knew why he was there now. He was so scared and confused and angry. He kicked and cried and blood dripped out of his nose where the tube had been placed for him to breathe during the procedure. I took him and helped him to settle. She passed out. Now the two of them laid in tiny beds across the room from one another each worn out, each wanting this long day to be over, each sipping juice boxes and slowly gaining color in their cheeks.

When I checked on them, they were snuggled up into his twin bed in our basement. I thought of the fragility of each connection that brought her to our home. They could so easily be back on the street, be back in the hands of people who were not out for their good, be back to being alone….unconnected.

 

 

 

Just another manic Monday

Busy times of day feel a little bit like a symphony to me. Crescendos and decrescendos of voices moving both independently and in concert with one another. Solos fight for attention by beating back the competing sounds. There is harmony that binds it all together as if a conductor were guiding the players.

Today we have dad on the phone doing a consultation in his deep, calm, clear ‘therapist voice’, Scout meowing piercingly at the door to be let outside, child#4 singing a refrain over and over in his newly-aquired bass tone, children 5 and 6 providing percussion as they knock insistently on the bathroom door, child#3 drives the soprano line over all with an aria of complaints and miseries. Opening and closing of silverware drawers, blowdryers driving background line, bowls meeting tables, sliding of chair legs, tumbling of ice cubes, faucets on and off, tap tap of Stella’s paws moving stealthily along the kitchen floor to scoop up any discarded crumbs….then…it all freezes….the alto line from child#5 takes over the piece with a cry of anger

“Stop pretending there is hair in the food. You know that really makes me want to puke!”

The room is quiet.

Giggles bubble up and grow to fill the room for a rousing finish and resolve the dissonance like the chorus of happy strings at the end of a concert.

The bus arrives. They are out of the door. The house is silent. The piece is over.

beethoven_ninth_symphony-sheet-music-wikiversity-dot-org

The road less travelled…post-divorce happiness

Child number six is memorizing Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken for school and i am typically her spotter as she recites it. This has always been a personal favorite and revisiting it through her eyes is a nice reminder of how its meaning changes as one ages. If you are not familiar with it, or even if you are, i would like to share it because it is well worth sharing.

The Road Not Taken  by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
And sorry I could not travel both 
And be one traveler, long I stood 
And looked down one as far as I could 
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 
Then took the other, as just as fair, 
And having perhaps the better claim, 
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 
Though as for that the passing there 
Had worn them really about the same, 
And both that morning equally lay 
In leaves no step had trodden black. 
Oh, I kept the first for another day! 
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, 
I doubted if I should ever come back. 
I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.
At different stages of my life, this has borne different meaning. As a child, it was all about adventure. Finding a secret path or hidden door was deeply planted in my imagination from The Secret Garden and the Narnia series. As a young adult, i remember stumbling across it and was struck by the expanse of choices in life and how they were all in front of me sort of like the choose your own adventure novels. Now, i smile to myself and think of the last stanza and how true that has been as i scroll back through the past forty years of full-throttle living.  Taking the road less traveled has been a tremendous blessing. i see this as i look at my divorce in particular.
Somehow, divorce has a script attached to it where you are positioned in an adversarial role with each other, then friends and family are cast as supporters of you or him, depending where their loyalty falls. It is kind of drawn along the same lines that seating at a wedding happens: you are either a guest of the groom or the bride for the we-are-so-mad-at him-or-her ride for the foreseeable future. It is easy to find people to be on your team if you want to bash your ex or complain about him. it is harder, i have found, for people to be comfortable with you remaining friends with him, much less entwined in his life. The less-travelled road that i have been fortunate enough to be on is one of new relationship with my ex-spouce that is rooted in our friendship and fueled by our commitment to each other as co-parents. We are further gifted with my husband’s support of our relationship and commitment to parent with both of us. This is not a path which has gotten as much space in the movies or TV shows or novels (that i know of), and catches people very much by surprise when they encounter it in us.
It has, however, made all the difference. 
You know the phrase that states that it takes far more muscles to frown than it does to smile, right? i don’t know if it is true or not, but the message is one that i resonate with. i know that it feels better when i am happy and definitely feels nicer to be at peace than to be angry. To a small degree, at least, one can choose to travel down the angry road and get wrapped up in negativity instead or moving toward forgiveness and contentedness which promotes positivity. For me, i have found veering away from the all-too-familiar path of marinating in negativity post-divorce has been the gift that just keeps on giving. i get to have another adult who has my back, can be trusted with my kids, shares my load, has known me forever, calls me on my crap, and wishes me well. i know that this is not possible for all but suspect that it is possible for far more than are taking advantage of it.
If you see, ahead in your journey, two roads diverged in a wood, i highly recommend taking the one that moves you toward compassion, reconciliation, and peacefulness even though it is not the popular route…it’s just nicer…i promise…

Dear, Walnut Grove….can we be friends? neighbors?

Child  #4 (number coding has been my posting practice for my offspring on Facebook..i’ll continue it here) unearthed a long-lost and forgotten copy of  Little House on the Prairie. i have a warm spot in my heart for this show and wanted to share it with the kids. Children #s 2, 3 and 4 were not enthusiastic about starting the series (#s 5 and 6 are still pretty malleable and #1 would have hated it but she’s away at college) so i reached deeply into the-trusty-mom-bag-o-tricks and bribed them with Ajiaco soup (if you have not had this soup, here is a recipe. If you are a parent and have never bribed…i don’t believe you).

The far-from-insignificant other, who happens to be a licensed psychotherapist, told me once that bribery can be re-framed as positive reinforcement…i LOVE a re-frame that works in my favor. As they sat and slurped their soup, i entered into the show with an adult lens for the first time. think that i wanted to share this because there was something that felt so good about watching this family highlight what is best about our human nature. i probably want the not-so-subtle messaging to rub off onto our offspring or to at least echo some of the better things we have tried to teach them. The show is sort of corny and has lots of historical holes, but it served its purpose this evening, and i like it…so stop rolling your eyes….

harvest1

i forgot how Laura shared a gem of wisdom at the end of the show…this one was perfect… “That day, Pa harvested a crop he didn’t know he had planted…a harvest of friends.”

i can see where the seeds of relationships have been planted throughout my life. Most have been tested by all sorts of conditions, varied levels of attention, and have been transplanted over and over again as i have moved and grown. Some friendships have withered and died…The ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ messaging has been loud and clear ever since i was very little and that was often tied to lessons about being a good friend.

i am graced with an abundance of true-rooted-strong-healthy friendships and a long list of fantastic neighbors from the many places i have lived. This is not because i have been a perfect friend or neighbor. Truthfully, there have been many times when i was a terrible friend, two-faced, gossipy, manipulative, dishonest, selfish, fake, weak, unreliable, insensitive, and on and on… most of my friendships have been afforded to me because of the luxury of a naturally outgoing personality, a privileged position in society, and many more circumstances that were beyond my control.

i want to remind my kids to think of the un-friended or the under-friended as well as the ways to nurture friendships and to think of everyone as a neighbor. In this episode, Pa is a stranger in his community with no money, no position, no references. He struggles. He barely escapes ruin. His salvation is, as Scarlett O’Hara would say, the kindness of strangers. The men-folk of Walnut Grove live in a nice little packaged town where they see into the windows of each other’s lives and can see each other’s virtues closely enough to want to jump in and involve themselves during times of struggle. Planting friendships and being neighborly is far easier in this make-believe world.

Back here,

     in real-life,

          we are kept at a distance from each other by our cars, our culture, our garages, our houses, our affiliations, our fences, our fears, our prejudices, our insecurities…Mostly, our personal struggles go unnoticed and we are encouraged to keep them to ourselves so that we don’t appear weak or vulnerable.

i can promise you that the deepest friendships and greatest neighborly-relations were grown the most when i was brave enough to share my weakness. They grew when i left my door open, set aside my preconceived notions, took risks.

My capacity to be friend and neighbor has also swelled up in the grace-filled moments when i stopped for a stranger who seemed to be struggling, reminded myself that we all have far more in common than not, and tried to love my neighbor well. Since i will never really live in Walnut Grove with the Ingalls clan, i need to be intentional about planting seeds of friendship-neighborship right here, right now. i hope my kids will too…

Let’s do it together!