Thursday, March 31, 2011

To A Nap

The question came up the other night:

If you could lead a group of people...

where would you lead them?

To a nap, Neeny said.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our Natural Channel

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people's models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.

- Shakti Gawain

Just for today, sail on your natural channel...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roosting Together

A few weeks back, a large flock of wild turkeys tiptoed through my muddy yard. It was a dark, rainy day; those birds got me up out of my chair, cheering.

Then today, this one guy following his gal into the woods had me pulling off the road. 

My peeps are back...

Many believe that the turkey cannot fly, but this is not so. The turkey is capable of quick take-offs and can fly up to 50 miles per hour for short distances. They also run well upon their stout legs. They also perch in trees at night for safety, roosting together; and they will change their roosting nightly. They find strength in numbers and thus reflect the energy of sharing.

- from Animal Speak by Ted Andrews

A Tuesday shout-out and welcome to the newest members of the This Being Alive flock!! If anyone calls you a turkey, say thanks.

Here's to strength in numbers, the energy of sharing...

and roosting together.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alway Change My Mind

One summer, many years ago, I was brought to my knees by a terrible depression; a phantom that came in through the window. 

It swooped in, dark and heavy, and would not leave. 

Until I surrendered.

I was living with my daughter, Jesse, in a little farmhouse in town. Her father had died the summer before, tragically and much too young, due to complications from alcoholism; the fall-out from his life and death didn't really hit me until a year later. 

And still the after-shocks.

I made it through the school year, then I crumbled. Food shopping was a huge effort. When the phone rang, I'd flinch. 

In August, Mom came to visit and help with Jesse's birthday party. It's all a blur, paper cups, burgers on the grill, girls. I couldn't stand the smell of food. I remember the day Mom was leaving. I watched her putting her bag in the car. I felt frozen inside, not able to speak, but then I said, "I need you to stay a bit longer, Mom. I'm afraid to be alone right now." She stayed. 

I was very concerned about not being able to go back to my teaching job. I had lost a lot of weight, was weak, and tired. How could I possibly handle a room full of second graders, faculty meetings, the principal. 

I was always afraid.

I remember being with a friend. We were walking slowly around my neighborhood. I walked very slowly that summer, turtle-slow.

"I'm not sure what to do. I don't know if I can go back to school. What if I can't handle it?" I said.

"You don't need to worry about that right now. School doesn't start for three weeks. Right now, let's walk. And when you have to make a decision about school, you will. Remember this, you can always change your mind. Always."

This memory bubbled up on my morning walk with Chewy. Not in a sad way, no. More a noticing that the honest and kind things we do for one another ripple on for years, washing over us in a fresh way.

That long ago summer, I died to my old self, and rose, out of the ashes to a new one. I returned to my classroom and got stronger as the fall turned to red and gold. It took a couple of years to come back fully from that experience and there are times I fear the phantom's return. It's less likely to get its claws in me as long as I speak up, ask for help, and know I can always change my mind.

Go ahead, say it out loud. 

I can always change my mind.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

To Live Content

To live content with small means,
to seek elegance rather than luxury,
and refinement rather than fashion,
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich,
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly,
to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, 
with open heart,
to bear all cheerfully,
do all bravely,
await occasions,
hurry never -
in a word, to let the spiritual, 
unbidden and unconscious,
grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

~ William Ellery Channing

from Earth Prayers from Around The World

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Apes In Capes

After a week of head colds and snow storms, Claire and I finally got down to visit Dad today. In spite of the neck collar and over two weeks in a hospital setting, he is doing great. He ate lunch like a truck driver, these wild blueberry muffins aren't bad, while we caught him up on news from home. I was jotting down a list of things I could bring him...

"So Dad, would you like some books on tape?"
"Books on apes?" he said.
"Apes in capes?"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quickly Be Saved


is trying to tell us something?


I would encourage him to pace himself.



A little panic attack-ish, don't you think?

Claire said, "How do you get saved, Mom?"

"I don't know, buddy. Going to the river?"


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Keep Coming Back

notice where your mind is right now...
if it's scurrying here and there, like the White Rabbit,
try gently saying something like:

worrying worrying
planning planning 
thinking thinking

take a long inhale, filling up the belly
then a deep, relaxing exhale, 
slowly emptying all the way out.

come back to the breath,
the dog at your feet,
the child in your arms,
the beating of your own heart,
the blue sky...

keep coming back.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

We Hold Each Other Up

You know the world is a giant heart, in spite of all its weirdness, when your kid's teacher takes the time to send a box of chocolate-covered strawberries and green apples to your kid's Pop Pop with a note:

Heard you took a fall. Here's to a speedy recovery. Get well soon... ~ Tom Trauschke

I was still feeling *Star-Trekian when the chocolates arrived, bringing on a small, but much-needed weeping spell. Unexpected kindness does that to me. 

With Dad (aka Pop Pop) still in the hospital we are desperately trying not to eat them before bringing the box to him.

Dad said, "Go ahead, eat them, hon! I'm getting three meals a day in here...And you gotta give me Mr. Trauschke's address so I can write him a note!!"

The next day, Neeny, our long-time fairy god-mother, left a care package on our front porch containing: two sesame bagels, two spring scarves, two fancy forks stamped with joy and peace, a running jacket for Claire, and other assorted goodies. She also left a voice mail saying that our cat, Owen, had left us a fat mouse as well. Oh.

This time, instead of weeping, I toasted half a bagel, smothered it with cream cheese (included in the care package) with a pretty scarf wrapped around my head. Every bite, divine...

All this to say, my cup runneth over. 

I am deeply grateful to be reminded of the many ways 

we hold each other up.

xo b

*Read Not Dangerous/ March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not Dangerous

Lately, I've felt like this snow person. 


I knew my attitude desperately needed to shift when I stepped out of the shower yesterday and blurted, "I've lost all faith," to our dog, Chewy, who was casually licking my wet feet. I knew I had to snap out of this bubble of hopelessness as I stood there, dripping wet, and watched the dog lick my feet

What the hell. I'm a mess. Maybe you're a healer with very big ears. Get the pinky toe while you're at it.

Ever since Dad fell out of bed and cracked his neck, like a skinny Humpty Dumpty, I've been putting the pieces back together, slowly.  

"Wait a minute. Of course, you're feeling low. You were just starting to sink into the fact that Dad lived with you, after a whole year, and now, he's not there! Give yourself a break," Neeny said.

In the midst of Humpty's fall and whole families being swept out to sea in Japan, I caught Michael's very bad cold and felt terrible for the past five days

Zero energy. 

Things change. 

One day, flip-flops and a t-shirt, the next, it's snowing. I woke today more hopeful, not quite so fragmented; my fragile faith had a pulse.
"Does my face look like me again?" I asked Michael.
"What sweetie?"
"My face? I've been looking like one of those outer space people that Captain Kirk would meet on his adventures. Very large head, slits for eyes, scales. Not dangerous, just swollen and weird."
"Honey," Michael said, "That's so not true."

It was so true. Trust me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

For Everything

i thank you God for this most amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes...

- e.e. cummings

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Very Good Place To Start

I stayed in bed this morning, resting. This stuffy head has sucked the chi right out of me. But by 10:30, I knew I had to move. I showered, pulled on my old work pants and grabbed my big girl rake to clean out the small patch of garden by the back door. The air felt good blowing around my head. 

Next, broom therapy on the back steps ~ 

The surprise was landing in the kitchen. It wasn't planned. I was home alone. Read, write, rest. But I opened a drawer instead...

Teri says, "Want to change your day? Clean out a junk drawer."

I cleaned out three 

...and peeled old contact paper off of shelves. Unexpected joy ran through me, sticky paper lifting up in my hands. A Live from the Met opera streamed out of Mom's red radio on the kitchen counter, spurring me on. Kinda dramatica, eh?

If I hesitated over tossing something, I heard her, 

be ruthless, darling. get rid of it.

If I was a giant, I'd turn the house upside down, empty it out, then turn it right side up and stand in the open space. ah.

A junk drawer is a very good place to start.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I'd Do That

When my two brothers showed up to help with Dad,

I crashed... 

That's the way it goes.

Even with all my phobias; 

hospitals, elevators, ICU, neck collars, a *Dad with a broken neck, I was strong like bull the first days after his accident. 

I held up fine. 

Then I got sick and tired and had to cancel yoga today. 

That felt lousy, until I got this email: 

"Take care of yourself. That's what you'd tell us to do." 

That felt lovely.

So, I'm curious. How do you get to be a writer for Yogi tea bags? Do they have a human resource department? I'll stretch out in the window seat with a mug of Throat Coat and watch squirrels poke their paws around in the yard. I'll dream up simple sentences to lift spirits and drop heavy shoulders. I'd do that.

Here's one for you ~ You're fine. 

ps. Miracle of miracles, Dad's doing really fine too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Tiniest House

Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
You will not find me in stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you look for me, you will see me instantly -
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.

- Kabir

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fresh Air Pep Rally

Monday was the PSSA pep-rally at Claire's school. Pennsylvania Standardized Something Assessment. This is freak-out time for school districts. Test scores mean everything so make sure your kid goes to bed early, has protein for breakfast, remembers everything that's been drilled into them for the past 6 months.

How about a massage? (for the teachers...)

"So, we had a PSSA test-taking pep rally, Mom. All the 5th graders were in room 300. It was easily over 200 people. And Mrs. Smith kept asking us to be quiet and respectful to the class representatives who were playing some kind of Jeopardy game. The rest of us were supposed to sit and watch. Quietly. For like an hour and a half."
" A pep rally? I said, "For the tests?!"
"It was a little weird."
"Why not go out and run around outside for an hour and a half? Why not get some fresh air, move your bodies?!! God, I hate it."
"Mom, don't get yourself upset. It was fine."
"It's absurd, Claire. The whole shooting match. Kids stuck inside all day, filling out the right circle, teachers stressed from day one over this test. How about a pep rally with running and jumping? How about a fresh air pep rally?"
"Mom, calm down. Really. Thankfully I was sitting next to Giana. At one point we looked at each other during the Jeopardy thing and whispered, this is kind of awkward, don't you think?"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Especially Laughing

Dad broke his neck falling out of bed.

That sounds so odd, awful really.

But he is bearing up, as we say. He got up to walk to the bathroom today. Here's to baby steps. The doctors say no surgery, but three long months of wearing a neck collar. My throat constricts just thinking about it; my own fear of being held down, closed in, having things strapped on me, is so immense. 

Forget elevators, I always take the stairs.

Fortunately, Dad is not me. Yes, he's feeling the weight of this event, yet still making all the nurses laugh. I don't think they've ever met someone quite so joyful and charming in the ICU. Most of their patients are in very bad shape. 

Definitely not laughing.

Last night they moved Dad to a transitional trauma unit, and after that; we're not sure. He needs to rehab somewhere besides home; we are looking at our options, trusting that the right door will open.

"If we could untangle the mysteries of life and unravel the energies which run through the world; if we could evaluate correctly the significance of passing events; if we could measure the struggles, dilemmas, and aspirations of mankind, we could find that nothing is born out of time. Everything comes at its appointed time."

- Joseph R. Sizoo

Nonsense, you may be thinking. But I am leaning into this idea of right timing and the way things unfold. Looking back, I see how things have clicked into place and moved me forward. And others too. 

Trust the timing of things.

Grace moves in when we release the rope(s) of our life. The holding tight is born of fear. I get it. I've got more than one rope wrapped around my hands:

work/creative life
The dog?

Maybe if I loosen my grip a little, give myself some slack, I'll feel better, not so tired, softer, even laughing...

especially laughing.

*read Thin Ice

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, 
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thin Ice

I don't know what to write about...

everything feels too big to tackle. 

A tsunami slammed Japan while Dad fell out of bed, 4:30 yesterday morning and almost broke his neck. He is in the hospital as I write this. The good news, no surgery. The bad news, a neck brace for three months. 3? 

the earth shifted four inches on its axis, Michael said.

Some days it feels like we're skating on very thin ice. 

Still, I am buoyed up by love:

family and friends, a yoga studio full of arms-wide-open students, Tami, the laughing nurse, Dad's amazing spirit these past thirty-six uncertain hours, and the woman at the traffic light who directed me (and my empty gas tank) towards the Shell station off of Cedar Crest Boulevard.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Next Step

Sometimes the way is not clear...
That is the time to stop, ask for guidance, rest. That is the time to let go of fear. Wait. The path will show itself. The next step shall be revealed. 

~ The Language of Letting Go

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Make A River

"Man, is it raining," I said, "The yard is one giant mud pie. Guys, we can't be throwing the ball to Chewy out there. He's tearing the whole thing up."
"Look at him, Mom," Claire said.

Throw me the ball.
Throw me the ball.
Throw me the darn tennis ball.


"I should just take him out to the river and let him run. Otherwise the boy is a cuckoo bird," I said, "But I don't feel like driving out there. I have work to do and would rather go out back..."
"Well. We could make a river," Claire said, "It wouldn't be that hard."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Soft Place

practice contentment was my word card for the day.

This felt spot on seeing that I'd woken in the dark next to Michael, chest humming with nervous energy, mind at the starting gate. Buzzy, buzzy, buzzy bee mind.

practice contentment

Practice holding myself, this life, in the soft place, allowing things to be just as they are, rather than what I wish them to be. Letting it be enough.

Earlier, before the bus stop and dog walking, I'd said to Michael, "I'm happy in so many ways. Our family. You. Me. We're good. We're for each other. But..."

There was the but.

But... money, uncertainty about work, the future, all the unknowns. 

Drop the but.

practice contentment. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You Can't Build On It

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it; it's only for wallowing in.
~Katherine Mansfield (1888 - 1923) 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kinda Sexy

On Saturday, after I'd gotten home from my yoga class, Michael and I climbed back into bed and buried ourselves under the blankets. 

(Warning! Parents will do this when child is at a sleep-over.) 

At some point, the yard was calling to us, come, my pretties, there's much work to be done! Or, it might've been Chewy whining to go out. We got our butts out of bed and smooshed around the muddy yard with our gardening tools and wheelbarrow. We raked up fallen sticks, pruned a bush, swept off the back porch, stacked wood, and tossed the tennis ball to Chewy eighty-seven times. At least.

All this together-ness had me feeling that warm fuzzy love thing which is like when a really good friend calls. You know, the one you don't touch base with often enough? I found myself gazing at Michael, jeans rolled up over his green boots, rake in hand, thinking God, I love a guy who rakes!
"You know something, Michael?"
"What, honey?"
"I almost like being outside in the yard with you as much as I like being in bed together."
"Are you saying, you prefer my skills in the yard to my..."
He is grinning. "Gosh, honey, you really know how to make a guy feel..."
"No, no! See, I didn't say that right. I didn't mean it like that."
I slid my arms around his waist and leaned my head into his back. My husband is so much taller than me this backwards hug always feel like I'm hugging a tree? I love trees so...
"It's just that it's another way for us to spend time together."
"That's true," he said, "I'm having a very nice time, honey."
"I am too. Yes! And see how good the porch looks, all swept up, not so chaotic looking. It's kinda sexy."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Rain

Simple Sunday.

rain rain rain

1:15 matinee of The King's Speech

(see it.) 

rain rain rain...


more rain.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Come Alive

Don't ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive and
go do it. Because what the world needs
are people who have come alive.

~ Howard Thurman, theologian, educator, civil rights leader

Friday, March 4, 2011

It Won't Be Fatal

Three days ago, I was singing a joyful song, celebrating the one year anniversary of This Being Alive, feeling kicky in my red dress, all smiles, arms wide open. 

Remember her?

Then came yesterday.

"What's the point?" I said to Michael.

This is not a great place to land, but it happens. I wake up and the world feels skewed. I find myself saying I don't know what to do, as if there's some formula for this life, if you just follow these steps, isn't there a pill?

I rarely do this, the guilt alone, but I lay down on the couch in the afternoon and sank into my droopiness. EarlierI'd had a full-blown weep while Michael listened quietly. He is a very good husband this way. He tunes in, especially when I am walking around the kitchen, sponging the counters, sitting at the kitchen table, head in hands, questioning myself, crying. He pays attention. 

"May I make an observation," he said. "A suggestion? Stop waiting to do what you really want. This whole thing is a risk, honey. Going to law school was a huge risk for me. Moving across the country to be here with you and Jesse. A huge risk. If I had failed, I would've done something else. Without risking, you'll never know. Whatever it is, you have to take the risk. If you fail, it won't be fatal."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Everything I Need

Everything I need shall be provided today. 


When I read this, my shoulders dropped. 

Oh, how those shoulders love to cozy up to my ears! 

It felt so good, I read it again. Out loud.

Everything I need shall be provided today. 


Yes, I thought. Okay.
Then a voice, Are you kidding me? 
And another, That's absurd!
And, you don't really believe that, do you?

In an effort to avoid an argument with the committee, I chose not to respond. Wandering with camera in hand, I repeated this mantra quietly to myself, settling my eyes (and lens) on the kitchen table:

tulips, books, Claire's book bag, tea, sunlight.

*Everything I need shall be provided today. 


* from The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Because Of You!

Today marks the first anniversary of 

~ This Being Alive. 

At this very moment, I'm channeling Stephen, my second grader who wrote in his journal... Today I feel happy. I don't know why.

Best journal entry ever.

But I do know why. 

Thanks to an angel from Arkansas, I began This Being Alive one year ago today. He said, For goodness sakes, any idiot can do it, Bets! No, that's wrong; angels from Arkansas would never say such a thing. Nope. They'd send simple directions for a techno-challenged writer on how to start your own blog. A gentle nudge.

Other angels nudged too, but mostly it was my own inner nudging, or thrashing around in a paper bag that pushed me...

off the riverbank and into the river!

If a group of behavioral scientists (or readers) made a line graph of the past 365 posts, they would likely observe dangerous dips of serotonin levels, manic moments of magical thinking, sentimental sinkholes, sadness holding hands with supreme joy and love...

Mix in babies and wild turkeys, Elizabeth and Bean, Mr. Rogers, bumper stickers, balls hanging from bumpers, Jesse, Jesus, Plato, play dough, marriage, Michael, miracles, Claire, prayer, Dad, something called busy mind, mother love, army boots, Owen the orange cat, wrinkles, family, friends, fear, a dog named Chewy, road trips, and a river...and you've got a few things to write about.

Michael insists I'm being a tad dramatic, but I live by this:

Writing can save your life.

It's because of you that This Being Alive is my happy place, even when I'm weeping uncontrollably. 

trust unflinching, I wrote in the very first post.

I'm sticking around. I hope you will too. 

My arms are wide open with gratitude and love!

xo b