Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Moises: Compassion International

Here is the letter I wrote to you, Moises:

Dear Moises,

I hope that you are well today!  I am so glad that a dentist came to your village and talked to y'all about brushing your teeth.

Do you still love soccer?
And cars?
How is your family doing?
When you come to the Community Center, what is your favorite thing to do?

My Henry still plays soccer, just like you.
My Svea and Corinne don't play soccer but love stickers (so here are some stickers for you).
I read that it is cold where you are, but in our neighborhood it is usually hot. So hot that we don't wear sweaters or hats. The sweater in your picture looks very warm.

Please know that between letters, we pray for you and hope you laugh everyday and play and run and know that you are loved.

More soon,

Here is the letter that I DID NOT WRITE, BUT LIVES IN MY HEAD:

Dear Moises,

I am sorry that I am such a terrible Pen Pal.
When everyone at the Community Center in Bolivia gets a letter from his/her sponsor and you don't, I am so so so sorry. I am paralyzed at the concept.
I love writing you; I hate WHY I am writing you.

I hate that a world exists where some children's faces are on a bulletin board, a web site and a radio station looking for sponsors from people whose children will never know true need.
That gap is disheartening and preventable.
Humans are so difficult.

The faces on this particular display could very easily have been my own:

I am sorry that I tried to send you gifts and that is not possible with the Compassion International agreement. I am glad that I can send you stickers.
I feel thankful for automatic debits so that you can receive our financial gift each month ($38) to hopefully boost your local economy and not rely on my forgetful, guilty and over-everything nature.

Hooray for a dentist coming to your Center!
I would like to know how many teeth you have lost, does your culture have a Tooth Fairy, what you thought of the toothpaste flavor, and what your Mom has to say to get you to brush your teeth at night. I struggle with that.

Hooray for soccer!
Who is you favorite team?
Do you like to score or assist?
Have you ever been the Goal Keeper?

Do you ever feel like you have had to grow up too soon?
Are you tired of the cold?
Will we ever be more than donor/recipient?

I wonder if you sleep on your back or your you prefer spicy foods or sweets...what do you like to read...what is your favorite expression when you score a goal...

Again, I am sorry that I am lame in my letter-writing consistency.
Please know we love you from here to there, from up to down, and all over the soccer field.

Thank you Compassion International,
Moises' Sponsor,

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Re-blogging Glennon - for the Momastery love...

I don’t want a new, better life in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already staggeringly beautiful. Tweet: I don’t want a new, better life in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already beautiful. @momastery
I don’t want to be a better mom in 2016. I just want new eyes to see that the miracle is not good better best — the miracle is that these people are mine and I am theirs. Full stop.
And I don’t want to be a BETTER ME in 2016. Screw that. I don’t want to chase after some imaginary more fabulous version of myself. I AM what the people I love need. I already AM. And when we are always BECOMING we have no room to BE. So I’m done striving. I’m fine, thanks. I’m showing up to love my people and you and the world this year JUST AS I AM.
Self-improvement is just another hiding place. DON’T TRY TO BE BETTER. JUST NOTICE THAT IT’S ALL GOOD ENOUGH ALREADY.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sitting In The Weird, With Brene Brown's Cool-aid, Re-Inventing Every Year.

A friend who recently became a parent asked me some questions the other day:

As Christmas approaches, we are having discussions about what to do about Santa. 
I don't love the idea of him. Though, I do love the idea of St. Nicholas. I don't want to squelch magic and imagination in my kid, and I don't want him to feel left out. I also don't ever want to lie to him and hate the idea of good=presents, bad=nothing. There's also the whole point of privilege of Santa and children whom he doesn't visit because they are poor...what do you do in order to help yourselves think through this process. Care to share?

So I wrote her back:

I am writing you right now.
And I am distracted by how long it took me to reply to this as I have thought of it every day and felt Not Ready. I am in the grips of "doing it all wrong" so to have you ask me specifics feels particularly vulnerable and on point. I do not enjoy the hype of Christmas as much as I do not enjoy Halloween.
For the first years with Henry and Svea I could blame it on living in Indiana since we traveled during the holidays and "reindeer food" and "Christmas Morning" just looked different. Then we joined a church and Christmas looked like "why is Daddy never home". Ouch. Then I started enjoying the Advent preparation and Xmas Eve services which meant negotiating with tired children and just throwing the towel in at the end of the night, hoping to stay up long enough to tell Brian I was proud of him.
This year, I have no idea what it will look like.
My Henry (11yo) loves Target. He loves shopping. He is methodical and meticulous. When he walks into Target, he is overcome with the smell of newness. This is how we taught him about Greed. Greed is how you feel when you enter Target and want to live there.
At this point, today, I am trying to teach Henry how to personify Christmas (as Santa, St. Nicholas, Etc.). I want him to be SO EXCITED about Jesus' birth that he wants to buy gifts for OTHER PEOPLE. Which is totally scandalous for a greedy 11yo. He will tell me I am so weird and to please not walk next to him and why am I wearing black pants that are normal.
Svea, my 10yo, has made presents for everyone and wrapped them while singing lullabies into the process and does not understand the concept of greed. She's using her artwork from school as gifts and recycling materials for wrapping paper...and hoping for more time watching tweeny shows on Disney Channel.
Corinne, 5yo, thinks Christmas is about performing with microphones and costumes and altars and stages and why is everyone NOT looking at her?????

(do you see why I struggle with "doing it all wrong"?)
All I have to say to you, dear friend, is that I have no idea. I re-invent every year based on sleep deprivation, nutrition, anger, love, tradition, what I need to "get over" personally and what I need to ask those around me to "get over." 
In the meantime - I want you to hear this - YOU CAN DO THIS AND ONLY YOU KNOW HOW.
Is this ever so unhelpful?

And she wrote me back:
I appreciate your taking the time to answer me, though, despite your feelings of doing it all wrong and embracing your vulnerability. I appreciate your vulnerability more than you know. Maybe I've drunk too much of the Brene Brown cool-aid, but I continue to believe it is the only way we can truly CONNECT to one another.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” - So says Brene. I think I agree.
I do not enjoy Christmas. Hence, my crisis of not wanting to influence my son with such feelings unnecessarily. (Though, I'm aware he is too young for that this year. He is merely content to play with an empty water jug, look at himself in the mirror, and make ridiculous pterodactyl noises). I do not enjoy obligatory gift giving (though, I love giving gifts when I am not expected to do so). I do not enjoy pressure of getting everyone together because WE JUST HAVE TO (though, I do enjoy stress free quality time with those I hold dear and even those I don't yet).
In my own vulnerability, I think my questions about Christmas stem from larger questions of purpose and meaning that are brought on from many different facets of this phase of life. I found this article about why Krista Tippett is not doing Christmas this year and it was helpful.
So, in the meantime while I sit in the weird, I find the prospect of bread baking and potential pottery classes grounding.
Peace, love, and advent blessings (or something).

I read the Krista Tippett article and love her final paragraph:
As I said, we need each other. And that impulse, surely, is deep in the original heart even of the most secular things like Santa Claus and surrounding your home with lights: examining what we are to each other and experiencing that, sometimes when we do this, something transcendent happens.

For now, for today, I will "examine what we are to each other" and stay present with that...and believe that something transcendent will the form of clarity and connection and the crazy story of a baby in a manger...

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

DNR - JTI: Take 4

Dear Negative Internal Chatter, 
I get it, the double chin is here to stay and the chin hairs are stout.
Why do you have to be so LOUD? You should be nicer already, extend some grace or something.
Do Not Respond - Just Take It.

Dear Precious Middle Child, 
Though your ears turn to stone when I begin to speak, and your nose assumes a permanent stank-smell position, I still love you. You are partially screwed because I am a female middle child too and I 50% feel sorry for you and 50% require you to suck it up. Did I mention I love you so much I text you in my mind when you are at school all day? 
BTW, that stank smell is your armpits - wear deodorant already.
Do Not Respond - Just Take It.

Dear New Kittens, 
When you bat at the Christmas ornaments, they will fall. Every. Single. Time. 
It's called Gravity. 
And I bought a Christmas Tree Smelly Candle to combat the aroma of the 17 litter boxes you now fill...and I scoop. But when you purr on my neck and cuddle on my arm and make muffins on my lap, I am smitten, weird kittens.
Do Not Respond - Just Take It.

Dear Niece Who Is All Tween-ish, 
I did, in fact, finish The Mazerunner. There were days I missed the characters and worried about their survival. I felt embarrassed about that. 
I was intrigued at the word "inventions" of shuck and klunk...and how once again a novel about Basic Needs and Survival has gone viral with teen lit MAYBE because the teens reading said novels do not have to worry about Basic Needs and Survival? Wondering how popular this novel would be in Syria or Uganda? 
Hashtag Just Sayin'.
Do Not Respond - Just Take It.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Take a Seat. Connect with Ginkgos.

Childhood memories + Ginkgo trees + MS Society + Berte Family = Outdoor Classroom in the Key of Bronze.

So I have this baby brother (big fat baby). Maybe he's not so good at spelling and I used that against him for awhile...but perhaps he is a brilliant sculptor who finds meaning and connection in un-before-seen ways.
(the mock-ups):

We used to climb Ginkgo trees as small children (soft bark, low branches, plenty of leaf coverage) and yell at faculty and students who would come out of buildings at BSC where Higher Learning was taking place.

We thought we were funny. Most likely, we were annoying.

But it's part of our fabric of childhood memory.

Fast forward some decades and baby brother submitted a proposal for an outdoor classroom of bronze seats in the shape of ginkgo leaves to be positioned within the Grove of Ginkgos at BSC.

And he did it.

Ginkgos are their own beast. You can read it here, and get into the dinosaurs and atomic bombs. They can survive, connect, re-connect, and survive.

Just like those of us with MS. You can survive, connect, re-connect, and survive.

The message of the Outdoor Classroom Bronze Seat Ginkgo Leaf Installation is that through connection we can DO this. We can strive for an MS-free world, we can believe in the Ginkgo, we can form connections through conversation while sitting on bronze leaves under ginkgo trees.

See more awesome-er pictures here.

Or go climb a tree. Feel the bark. Sense the connection.
Survive, re-connect and then survive again.

Peace and love and ginkgo to you all...