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...

Friday, December 04, 2015

Thistle Stop Cafe: You Want To Go To There.

Here's what you do:

Read this book:
The Way of Tea and Justice

Call a few friends and say, "Friends, I miss you. You are important. Let's meet and drink tea and talk about meaningful topics for 14 hours straight. Go."

Then meet in Nashville, TN (no matter where your home is, drive towards Nashville) at the Thistle Stop Cafe.

When you get there, first look around at the decor. Soak it in. Especially the "chandeliers."

Then order food and drink.
Eat and talk, sip, repeat.
Stay three hours.
Buy some merchandise.

Especially for teachers!  We ALL have teachers: in school, in church, at the farmers' market, at the library, next door neighbors. If you are stressing about what to get them for Christmas, consider Shared Trade! Consider Thistle Stop Cafe! Consider Thistle Farms!

Glennon Doyle Melton beautifully wrote about gratitude for teachers on her blog:
Teachers: Please know that we support you. You are doing the holiest, hardest work
on earth.
 Tweet: TEACHERS—WE SUPPORT YOU. You are doing the holiest, hardest work on earth. @momastery Nobody is more important than the ones who hold our babies in their hands and hearts all day.
Thank you, teachers.

After you are asked to leave Thistle Stop Cafe, find a hotel and check in and drink more tea. Then find a great vegan/vegetarian/crunchy granola restaurant and ask the Google Maps lady to talk you to there.
Order food.

Eat and then before it gets too late, drive home on your organic food high and take out your contacts and put on your glasses.
Pour a glass of wine and continue the 14-hour-meaningful conversation.
Tomorrow you can have more tea.

You need to do this people.
For the tea industry, for the teachers (did you notice "tea" is in "teachers"?), for friendship, for your soul, DO THIS people.

For the love and Thistle Stop everything,