Our collective hearts are broken.  Many are calling, once again, for legislated gun control.  How many have to die before we human beings grow up?

How does this happen?  Yes, we need to legislate gun control.  Why on earth does anyone need automatic weapons?  Yes, we need to provide services to identify and care for the mentally ill for their protection and for ours.  And I believe these issues are not dealt with because we have a bigger problem. 

Dr. Sharif Abdullah says we are a society starved of emotional and spiritual nutrition.  He says we are a culture that does not recognize soul pain and society’s role in causing it.  I see this in these ways:

Our souls are numbed by rampant violence.  Cartoons teach our children to blast the enemy with guns and lasers with no apparent lasting damage. Television and movies glamorize emotional and physical violence in sitcoms and dramas.  News programs repeat image after image of war and destruction.  We are deluged by violence in the media because it SELLS. 

Our souls are numbed by lives empty of meaning.  Many are unable to find any work at all much less work that sustains our family and offers a sense of purpose.  We turn to instant gratification and greed and reactivity.  Buy more to be beautiful and sexy.  Buy more to get the latest gadget.  Buy more to fill the voids in our lives. 

Our souls are numbed by loneliness. We run from family dysfunction. We run from connections that once held us. We move from place to place. To whom and to what do we belong?  Where do we turn when life gets us down?  Who comforts us in our loneliness? 

I see these symptoms in the paper every day.  I see the fear and despair in youth I teach.  I hear the loneliness and anxiety in adults I work with.  Where and how do we begin to heal ourselves and our world?

Susan Cain, in the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, reports that the beginning of the 20th century brought the end of a Culture of Character and the beginning of a Culture of Personality.  What that means to me is that as a culture we stopped living lives of meaning, purpose, and integrity and began living lives of presentation and appearance. It’s an interesting distinction.

 Dr. Abdullah offers ways to return to character and meaning.  I urge you to read his article.  I will be offering my own ideas in future postings.



Teaching Children to Pray

December 7, 2012

Like many families, my son Alex has fostered a bedtime ritual with his four year old son Kepler~~two stories and two songs.  One of the songs has been the one I sang to Alex as a child in the 70s, “Kumbaya.”  (Hey, I came of age in the 60s; what can I say.)  After several nights of singing, “Someone’s praying Lord, Kumbaya,” Kepler asked “What’s praying?”  Alex, who is a science teacher, wasn’t sure how to answer.   Like many Unitarian Universalists who don’t believe in the traditional Father God in the sky, he wasn’t sure how to talk about prayer with his child.

Some of us gave up prayer a long time ago and some of us have found new ways of connecting with the Source, or however you refer to the Mystery that traditional folks call God.  Teaching children about that Mystery and how they might pray is a whole other challenge.

Alex asked me to help with this question, and I was delighted to be the grandma who could offer my grandson a way to pray.  Here’s my conversation with Kep at bedtime that night.

Me:  Your daddy told me you have been wondering what praying is.
Kep:  Uh huh.
Me:  Would you like me to show you?
Kep:  Uh huh.
Me:  OK.  People pray when they are worried about something or someone, or when they want to send love to other people, like a friend or mommy or daddy.
Kep:  Uh huh.
Me:  So, who is someone you love?
Kep:  Jake.
Me:  Who is Jake?
Kep:  A friend at school.
Me:  OK.  Here’s what you do.  Picture Jake in your mind. (Pause) Can you imagine him?
Kep:  Uh huh.
Me:  OK, Now say, “Jake may you be safe and happy.”
Kep:  Jake, may you be safe and happy.
Me:  OK.  Can you think of someone else you love?
Kep:  Mommy.
Me:  OK, Picture mommy in your mind and say “Mommy, May you be safe and happy.”
Kep:  Mommy, May you be safe and happy.

We went on to include his dog Padawan and his daddy.  The next night we did it again.  Of course, I had to teach my son Alex too, so he could continue it. You see, I wasn’t a UU when Alex was a child, so he had no religious foundation to draw upon.

Thanks to Rev. Mark Gallagher, who has taught us all the Loving Kindness Meditation which we do regularly at our Care of the Soul service at my church, I found a simple way to introduce the idea of prayer to my grandson.  We can talk about God and other ways to pray later.


April 29, 2010

Yesterday someone whose presence I had been appreciating ended our conversation with, “I used to think you were prickly.”  Inside I felt my heart drop.  “Here it is again,” flashed through my mind.  “I am prickly,” I said letting the spikes rise up.  

Prickly is another version of, “I didn’t used to like you,” or “I didn’t like you at first.”  What is the point of saying those things and how is one supposed to respond?  “Gee, thanks for sharing.”

Yes, I have an edge at times.  Others perceive me as direct and forthright.  My lifelong challenge is to temper my words because I’m aware some people get uncomfortable when I say what’s on my mind.

The truth is that I met this woman when she joined a long-standing group I was in.  She was new and I didn’t know her enough to trust her.  Obviously she picked up on that and labeled me prickly.  Now she is in hospice care and meeting her end of life challenges in ways that inspire me.  Except for the prickly bit.

This is one of those experiences that reminds me I don’t have to say everything that runs through my mind–and neither do you.

On Turning 65

April 21, 2010

Waiting to turn 65 is a little like anticipating turning 21 when I could finally order a bourbon & soda legally.  I don’t drink much anymore.  What I’m looking forward to at 65 is Medicare!  I’m in excellent health and the only meds I take are the occasional OTC stuff.  Having access to Medicare and a senior advantage program to supplement what Medicare covers is a huge relief to our nearly fixed-income budget. 

I take pretty good care of myself:  I participate in regular exercise and eat simple, real food.   Reaching this age in good health and humor is something to celebrate.  It’s a time to let go of most of society’s expectations for 65.  Here’s my story:

As a young woman, I had a lot of negative assumptions about guys who had tattoos.  They either got their “ugly” tattoos overseas while drunk on R&R or they were bikers.   I stayed away from those types.    As a mom, I had no problem with my teenage sons getting pierced ears, but I warned them never to get a tattoo.  Much older now, they still haven’t . . . yet.  

Madam Butterfly

Here’s my celebration!  For me she symbolizes three things: 
First:  Growing up in California, I saw lots of Monarchs.  They are my favorite natives. 
Second:  Butterflies are a traditional metaphor for transformation which has been significant in my life.  As a Spiritual Director, my work is also about helping others transform their lives. 
Finally:  Perhaps you’ve heard of the “Butterfly Effect.”  A butterfly flapping its wings on one side of the world affects the entire earth.  Seeing Madam Butterfly on my arm every day is a reminder to me that how I act has an effect on everyone I meet.   It’s part of my spiritual practice.  When I am kind to others, they are not only more likely to be kind to me, but also to be kind to the next person they encounter.  And so on . . .
Here’s a surprise ~~  When I reach out my hand and Madam Butterfly appears, I suddenly become visible to young people.  “Nice Tat” they say. and we have a conversation of equals. 
And guess who’s thinking about joining the club!  My older son asked his Facebook friends for suggestions for his tat design.   The younger one is disappointed that he has ‘nothing to rebel against’ now. 

Lulu n Me

April 21, 2010

Little Lulu was born in 1935 from the imagination of Marjorie H. Buell.  In the first single panel cartoon in the Saturday Evening Post, Lulu is a flowergirl at a wedding.  As she walks down the aisle, she distributes banana peels.   

Lulu in 1935

I met Lulu when I was about 4 or 5 growing up in the 50s.  At a time when girls and women were kept in their place, Lulu was a beacon of mischievous hope.  She was my first mentor.     

I am much older now, and I’ve had a few other mentors in my life, but Lulu has been with me too, responding to the absurd and keeping my sense of humor alive.  Let’s see how the two of us view the world today. 

Lulu is one character who has not yet been over-exploited by the corporate media.  Several studios have bought the rights to her and attempted Lulu comebacks, and Wikipedia reports the latest reprints of her antics.  

I have searched antique stores for Lulu memorabilia, but only found one original item, a Lulu “piggy” bank for which I paid too much money.  For me she remains unadulterated and a beacon of wit and sanity.  

 An Early Feminist 

      One of Lulu’s constant challenges was out-witting the neighborhood boys.  They had a clubhouse in which no girls were allowed.  Lulu took care of that!  Could this cartoon be the inspiration for NOW ~~ the National Organization of Women? 

      Don’t get me wrong.  I love boys and men.  I’ve slipped on a couple of banana peels in marriage, but my marriage to my “Tubby Hubby” is on solid ground.  (No, he’s not tubby, and he agreed to the nickname for blogging purposes. 

In future posts you may hear how Lulu speaks through my voice.  Wait and see.